Did your friends bail on you again tonight? Man, they are the worst! Turns out you don’t need them, though, because these one-player games will give you all of the thrilling and fulfilling adventures you could dream of, be it crawling through a dungeon or donning your detective hat!
Because solo games don’t require any other players for you to compete against (or team up with, depending on the game), they tend to be focused more on the mission. Some of these games are dedicated single-player titles, while others can be played either solo or with a small group. For the latter, the game mechanics have been refined to feel balanced for solo mode. This means you won’t be stuck playing dummy characters or dealing with other gimmicky compromises—the solo modes feel just as good to play as their multi-player versions do.
There are a ton of games styles and themes to choose from here as well, so we’re pretty sure you’ll find a game (or three) that you’ll love playing. Friends, schmends, right?
The time? The 1920s. The place? Alternate-history Europe. The situation? You live in a time of unrest, in a capitalistic city-state called “The Factory,” and the ashes of the first great war are still settling at your feet. The Factory fueled the war with heavy-duty mechs and has caught the attention of other nearby countries.
Your job in Scythe is to build more mechs, work the land, continue exploring The Factory, and protect your land against the mechs from other factions while leading your faction to victory. This engine-building game is for anyone age 14 and up, and gameplay lasts anywhere from 90-120 minutes. While it can be played with as many as five players, it has an outstanding single-player mode and has won a ton of awards. There’s so much to do and manage in Scythe, you won’t even notice there aren’t any other players around.
Lead your faction to wartime victory with this clever mech-centric area control title.
Gloomhaven is an iconic board game renowned for its massive scale and for its terrific dungeon crawler mechanics. The manufacturer describes the game as a “Euro-inspired tactical combat in an evolving campaign,” and in it, you play a wandering mercenary who is tasked with the job of clearing out the region’s many forgotten ruins and menacing dungeons. Along the way, you’ll upgrade your abilities and inventory, and get to explore and enjoy a fantastic world.
In the game, you will fight against monsters using its clever card system, which determines the order of play and what happens on any particular turn. Eventually, though, you’ll permanently lose cards from your hand—say, if it takes too long to clear a dungeon and you get exhausted and are forced to retreat. Gloomhaven is similar to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, as the story is continuously fueled by your decisions.
Perhaps the only downside to the game is its staggering over-$100 price tag. Gloomhaven has a ton of components and unlimited replayability, so it’s a purchase you’ll have to be sure you want to make. We think it’s worthwhile, for what it’s worth.
Want a more affordable alternative? Check out Mage Knight, for about half the price. Mage Knight offers a similar fantasy RPG experience, based in the ever-changing world of the Atlantean Empire. Here, you’ll work to build armies, defeat enemies, and conquer cities in the name of the Void Council. This deckbuilding game packs lots of adventure and plentiful components to play with.
You're a mercenary, and you've been tasked with clearing out ruins and dungeons ... if you're up to the task!
Whether you’re a fan of space or of civilization-building games, we’re sure you’ll love trying your hand at Terraforming Mars. In this game, it’s the year 2400, and Earth is overrun by a staggering human population. Several giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, are racing to make the Red Planet habitable for part of the human population. You’ll need to bring your best strategy skills to the table for this game, too, as you work to raise the planet’s temperature and add oxygen and oceans and become the most successful corporation.
You’ll be awarded Victory Points for your contributions in those categories, as well as for each bit of advanced infrastructure you donate and for doing other commendable actions. And, of course, the player with the most Victory Points wins. Be mindful of where you place your tiles and how you play your project cards, however—a reckless misstep might set your corporation back and cost you the game! Terraforming Mars has a well-balanced solo mode for anyone ages 12 and up, but it (and its many expansions) can also be enjoyed with up to 5 players.
Can your corporation do the best job turning the Red Planet into one that's liveable?
Coffee Roaster is a must-play game for anyone, but especially for those who love coffee as much as we do. The solo-only title is a pool-building game for players aged 14 and up and will have you working to create the most perfect cup of java ever made. You’ll need to choose the best coffee bean, roast them perfectly, then double-check that they taste delicious.
Beware, though, that this simple list of tasks won’t be as easy to work through as they may seem. A lot of the elements here—including choosing your coffee bean variety from the 22 available tokens—are left up to chance. Other tasks will require a little finesse and a bit of luck, like evening-out the roast level for each bean without spoiling that variety’s flavor. And just like coffee, this game is deliciously addictive and we think you’ll enjoy it down to the last drop!
Drinking coffee is easy. It's making a great cup of coffee that's challenging!
In Under Falling Skies, alien ships are darkening Earth’s skies, filled with angry aliens bent on seeing the planet’s destructions. Humanity is forced to retreat to underground bunkers, and will need one hell of a great plan to fight back and defeat the invaders!
Each turn, you will balance shooting down alien ships and digging out your underground base to expand your capabilities. You’ll need to do so strategically, however, as each passing turn also brings the ships closer to the city you are trying to defend. And watch the die—higher rolls give you more powerful actions but also help the alien ships descend faster. You’ll need to use your precious few rerolls carefully if you’re to save the planet! This fast-paced game has a design dedicated to solo mode, but you can scale it up for additional players if you so choose.
Under Falling Skies
Remember that "Independence Day" movie? This is the board game version. Well, minus Will Smith.
Civilization building board games are fun and all but have you ever played one centered around settler destruction? Spirit Island is just that, and it’ll require your strongest strategic ideas in order to win. You play as the powerful Spirits of a beautiful, isolated island, which have lived in peace alongside the Native Islanders, known as the Dahan. But now, the island has been “discovered” by colonist invaders from a far-off land, and now they’re disturbing the natural balance and the presence of the Spirits.
You’ll need to successfully grow your elemental power and strategically play your Power Cards to gain bonus effects that’ll help you defeat and banish the attackers. Some magic effects work faster than others, though, and some take more time to gain energy, so you’ll need to carefully plan ahead. Spirit Island has a ton of game components to manage—like cards, tiles, markers, dividers, and a variety of other pieces—so there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Gameplay usually takes about 90-120 minutes, and the game can be upscaled to work with as many as four players ages 14 and up. The game boards are also modular, so you can shake things up each game, and there are multiple tiers of Adversaries for additional challenges.
Become the most powerful spirit and destroy the invaders attacking your island!
Is there anything more satisfying than solving a high-profile criminal case? Heck no, which is why Detective is so much fun. In it, you play an Antares National Investigation Agency member and tackle five cases, each affecting the next. Antares wants you to investigate a scandal to determine whether a Nazi war criminal was hiding in the United States after World War II.
The modern detective simulator game tests your skills of deduction, and while the cases are fictional, they are set in the real world. It will also require you to go online to view select clues on Wikipedia or Google Maps, just like you often do mystery subscription boxes if you’ve ever played one of those. You’ll also have physical components to work with, like tokens, tiles, cards, markers, casebooks, and a game board. Single games last for two to three hours (if not more), and should only be played by those age 16 and up due to some of the content.
Put on your best detective cap and get to work solving this immersive mystery game.
Want a game that’s a little sweeter and softer? How about one with quilts and cats, like Calico? Yeah, we thought so. Calico is a tile puzzle game that has you working to sew a cozy, enticing quilt pattern while simultaneously trying to lure a cute, cuddly cat to lay on it.
You’ll want to create a quilt that is aesthetically pleasing, using a variety of colors and following a good pattern combination. Each turn, you’ll take a Patch Tile from your hand and add it to your quilt. You’ll also need to replenish that spent tile. If you are able to create a color group, you can also sew a button onto your quilt. The game is won by brutally slaying your enemies! Just kidding—it’s by adding the most buttons and enticing the most cats to come over and cuddle on your cozy quilt (and its beautiful, unique pattern).
Gameplay takes about 45 minutes and can easily be scaled to as many as four players. To get a well-balanced solo mode, Calico’s manufacturer uses one of the game’s many scenarios to scale down tiles, cats, point minimums, and button requirements in order to be considered victorious.
Love cats? Love quilting? Boy oh boy is this the game for you!
Love H.P. Lovecraft’s writing and his horrific zoo of cosmic Ancient Ones? With Arkham Horror: The Card Game, you can dive deep into that dark and fascinating lore, and possibly even come (card) face-to-face with terrifying eldritch monsters like Gnoph-Keh or a Proto-Shoggoth. The game takes place in the sleepy town of Arkham, Massachusetts, and you will play as an intrepid investigator trying to uncover and vanquish the sinister menace threatening the town.
Beware that cosmic creatures won’t be your only adversary—your character will also need to face their personal demons and fears throughout the game. And while you do, the line between the card game and roleplaying will continue to thin. This game is super immersive and tons of fun for anyone who’s a fan of Lovecraft, detective stories, and things that go bump in the night.
The cool thing about Arkham Horror is that it’s a living card game, meaning additional new cards and adventures are released by the manufacturer (Fantasy Flight Games) on a regular basis. If you’re interested, and we suspect you will be, these additions will allow you to continually customize the core game set and create original decks. Gameplay is immersive and balanced, and games last about 1-2 hours. Arkham Horror is a popular favorite in the board game community, and once you play it, we think you’ll understand why!
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
This massive game is a perfect choice for anyone who loves H.P. Lovecraft's writing and creepy cosmic monsters!
Washing up on a distant island somewhere would suck, and that’s exactly what happened to our friend Robinson in Friday. In this game, you’ll (try to) help Robinson survive on an island by fighting off enemies and successfully handling a variety of hazards. In the beginning, Robinson isn’t exactly what you’d call skillful; as the game continues, you’ll work to help him improve his abilities and get rid of some not-so-good habits.
Robinson is represented as a card stack filled with different behaviors, and your goal is to improve that stack. As each game of Friday continues, however, Robinson gains experience but also starts to age and get gradually more clumsy. You can collect cards at the end of the game to give Robinson the best odds at survival (including against some crafty pirates!).
Help Robison, who washed ashore on an island, not just survive but thrive!