cover image for an article about board games that can be played solo as a single player, with examples

Best Modern Single Player Board Games: Your Ultimate Guide

Best Modern Single Player Board Games: Your Ultimate Guide

In recent years, the board game arena has witnessed a remarkable surge in single player games. Gone are the days when board gaming was synonymous with gathering around a table with family or friends. Today, the solo board game scene is thriving, offering a myriad of options for those moments when you're your own best company.

Disclosure: This article is not a review. It is a quick overview of these games. The article includes games based on our own opinions. We have played some of the games, but not all of them. The games are not sorted in any particular order. If you want to learn more about a particular game, click on the included links!

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woman playing a single player card game

Built For Single Player Experience

Hostage Negotiator (1 Player only)

Hostage Negotiator offers a pure solo experience where players take on the role of a law enforcement agent negotiating with a hostage-taker. The game uses a combination of cards and dice to simulate the tense negotiations.

What makes it innovative is the psychological aspect it brings into play, combining strategy with the unpredictability of human behavior. Each scenario provides a unique challenge, requiring players to adapt their strategy to save the hostages.

Under Falling Skies (1 Player only)

Under Falling Skies is a dice placement game where you defend Earth from an alien invasion. What sets it apart is its scalable difficulty and the way it integrates dice rolling with strategic decision-making.

Each game session is a tense, strategic puzzle where you manage your actions, research, and base defenses against the alien threat. Its innovative use of dice to simulate the escalating invasion and player actions offers a unique and engaging solo challenge.

Friday (1 Player only)

Friday is a solo-only, deck-building game, is Robinson Crusoe's best friend. The game’s genius lies in its evolving challenges, ensuring that no two games are the same. Its simplicity is deceptive, offering depth and replay value in spades.

Deep Space D-6 (1 Player only)

This is a solo worker placement game where you manage the crew of a spaceship facing various external threats. Deep Space D-6 is designed explicitly for solo play, emphasizing strategic decision-making as you respond to the threats that arise each turn.


Innovative Solo Mechanics

The Lost Expedition (1-5 Players)

The Lost Expedition offers a refreshing blend of strategy and survival. As you navigate the perilous Amazon, each decision can mean life or death. It's a solo adventure that keeps you on your toes with its unique gameplay mechanics.

Renegade (1-5 Players)

In this cyberpunk-themed game, players act as hackers fighting to save humanity from malicious corporations and their AI. The game is notable for its use of deck-building and tactical movement across a network (board), simulating hacking operations. Its puzzle-like gameplay, combined with the theme and strategic depth, offers a unique solo experience where each decision feels impactful and thematic.

Aeon's End (1-4 Players)

A cooperative deck-building game that stands out in solo play due to its unique approach to deck management. Unlike typical deck-builders, in Aeon's End you don’t shuffle your discard pile, forcing you to plan your strategy with careful consideration of card order. This mechanic, combined with a variety of nemesis bosses and the need to protect Gravehold, creates a deep strategic layer that’s both challenging and rewarding for solo players.


Thematic Depth

This War of Mine: The Board Game (1-6 Players)

This game brings the harrowing experience of civilians in a war-torn city to your table. It’s not just a game; it’s an emotional journey that challenges your moral compass, making it a standout for its storytelling and immersive gameplay.

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (1-5 Players)

A campaign-driven, app-assisted board game that brings Middle-earth to life. Players embark on epic quests, battle formidable foes, and make choices that affect their journey. Although, it can be played with up to 5 players, many fans recommend particularly the solo mode. The game’s thematic depth lies in its faithful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world, integrating lore and narrative into every aspect of gameplay, making players truly feel like they are part of the Fellowship.

Gloomhaven (1-4 Players)

Although it shines in many aspects, Gloomhaven's thematic depth is particularly noteworthy. Set in a dark and evolving fantasy world, players take on the role of wandering mercenaries with their own personal goals and stories.

The depth comes from the rich backstory of its world and the development of characters over time, making each session part of a larger, unfolding story, making a great solo experience, as well as with friends.


Great Solo Mode

Scythe (1-5 Players)

Scythe's solo mode, powered by the Automa system, simulates opponents in a way that feels fresh and challenging with each play. The game’s combination of resource management, area control, and strategic planning, coupled with the unique abilities of factions and the modular board, ensures a high degree of replayability. Every solo game feels like a new puzzle to solve, making it a standout for strategy and replay value.

Terraforming Mars (1-5 Players)

Each game of Terraforming Mars presents a new set of corporation cards and project cards, creating different strategic paths to victory. Altough, Terraforming Mars is better with friends, its solo mode is also fun and hard to crack. But many players say that the solo mode does not have much replay value after you beat it once. Read our non-solo review here.

Spirit Island (1-4 Players)

In Spirit Island, players take on the role of powerful spirits defending their island from colonizers. The variety of spirits, adversaries, island configurations, and scenarios provides a deep well of content to explore. Each spirit offers a unique play style, and the game's scalable difficulty levels ensure that players are always faced with new challenges, making each solo playthrough a unique strategic puzzle.

Viticulture: Essential Edition (1-6 Players)

A strategic management game set in the pastoral world of winemaking. What makes Viticulture stand out for replayability is its mix of seasonal worker placement and strategic planning to create the best vineyard. The solo mode, against the Automa, provides a challenging and varied experience due to the variability in visitor cards, vine cards, and the Automa’s unpredictable actions.



Quick Solo Sessions

Onirim (1-2 Players)

Onirim is a labyrinth of dreams in a card game. It’s average playtime of 15 minutes makes it perfect for quick sessions, requiring you to strategically navigate your escape from a dream world. Its easy-to-learn mechanics and short playtime make it a fantastic choice for a quick game fix.

One Deck Dungeon (1-2 Players)

Specifically designed for solo or cooperative play, offering a compact dungeon crawling experience. One Deck Dungeon's mechanics and challenges are tailored to provide a fulfilling solo adventure, making it a standout choice for individual players. And you can play it within half an hour.

Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (1-4 Players)

Roll Through the Ages offers a solo variant where players aim to achieve the highest score possible by managing their resources, developing their civilization, and dealing with disasters. The game's dice-rolling mechanics ensure that each solo playthrough is unique.

Tiny Epic Galaxies (1-5 Players)

Tiny Epic Galaxies is known for its robust solo mode, where players compete against a rogue galaxy controlled by the game. The AI's actions are determined by a unique dice mechanism, providing a dynamic and challenging solo experience that mirrors the competitive gameplay. It can be completed in 30-45 minutes.

close up of elements of a board game, rolling dice, map, figures

Embracing Solo Gaming: The Appeal of Single Player Board Games

Why the shift towards single-player board games, you ask? For starters, they’re a godsend for the strategic mind that seeks challenge without the need for a counterpart.

They cater to a wide array of players - from the seasoned veterans looking for a deep, thematic dive to the curious newcomers eager to explore the vast ocean of board gaming without needing an opponent. Whether you're looking to kill time, improve strategic thinking, or simply enjoy an immersive narrative, there’s a solo board game out there with your name on it.

Criteria for the Best Single Player Experience

Our search for the best solo board games didn't just stop at any game you can play alone. We looked for games that bring something special to the table (literally) - innovative mechanics, deep thematic elements, replayability, and sensible session durations. So, if you’re looking for a quick escape or an evening-spanning adventure, you’re in the right place.

The Evolution of Single Player Board Games

The evolution of single-player board games is a fascinating narrative that reflects broader trends in gaming and society. Initially viewed as simple diversions or training tools for more complex multiplayer games, solo board games have burgeoned into a diverse and sophisticated genre.

Innovations in game design have ushered in a new era where solo games are meticulously crafted to offer deep strategic gameplay, rich narratives, and dynamic challenges that adapt to the solo player's actions. This transformation has been propelled by the gaming community's growing appreciation for personal storytelling and the satisfaction of overcoming strategic puzzles.

Moreover, the rise of solo gaming has been facilitated by the development of digital platforms and apps, which offer AI opponents and virtual play spaces, further enhancing accessibility and variety. Publishers and designers now regularly include solo modes in their board games, acknowledging the demand for quality solo experiences.

This shift challenges traditional perceptions of gaming as a predominantly social endeavor, highlighting the value of introspection, personal achievement, and the unique joy of immersing oneself in a game's universe, alone. As a result, solo board gaming has evolved from a niche interest to a vibrant and integral part of the board gaming world, offering endless possibilities for exploration, strategy, and personal growth.

close up of an orange d6 rolling die, the number six is shown to the camera


As we've seen, the evolution of single-player board games is a testament to the creativity and innovation of game designers who've expanded the horizons of what board games can be. These games are not just pastimes but doorways to worlds awaiting conquest, mysteries yearning to be unraveled, and battles needing to be fought. They challenge, entertain, and sometimes even enlighten, offering a rich tapestry of experiences that resonate long after the game is back on the shelf.

So, whether you're a seasoned solo gamer or a curious newcomer, there's never been a better time to dive into the world of single-player board games. These games are your companions in solitude, your adversaries, and your portals to other worlds. Each game beckons with untold stories, challenges, and adventures. Answer the call, set the table, and embark on your solo journey. Who knows what victories await or what tales you'll tell? 


- FAQ Section -

1. What makes a board game good for solo play?

A good solo board game typically offers a deep and engaging gameplay experience that is tailored to challenge and entertain the player without the need for additional human opponents. Key features that make a board game suitable for solo play include innovative mechanics that simulate multiple players or game-driven adversaries, thematic depth that immerses the player in the game's world, replayability to ensure each playthrough feels fresh, and session lengths that are manageable for a single player. The best solo board games offer a balanced combination of these elements, providing a satisfying and fulfilling experience that rivals multiplayer games.

2. Can multiplayer board games be enjoyed solo?

Yes, many multiplayer board games can be enjoyed solo, either through official solo modes designed by the game's creators or through fan-made variants. These solo modes often introduce automated systems or AI opponents to simulate the presence of other players, allowing for a challenging and engaging experience. Games like Scythe and Terraforming Mars are excellent examples of multiplayer games that also offer robust solo gameplay options.

3. How long does a typical solo board game session last?

The duration of a solo board game session can vary widely depending on the game's complexity and design. Some games, like Onirim, are designed for quick sessions that last around 15-20 minutes, making them perfect for a brief escape. Others, such as Mage Knight, offer deep, complex experiences that can take several hours to complete. The beauty of solo play is the flexibility it offers, allowing players to choose games that fit their available time and desired level of engagement.

4. Are there digital versions of these solo board games?

Many solo board games have digital versions available on platforms such as PC, iOS, and Android. These digital adaptations offer the same strategic depth and thematic richness as their physical counterparts, with the added convenience of automated setup and bookkeeping. Additionally, digital versions often include online leaderboards, achievements, and the ability to pause and resume games, making the solo board gaming experience even more accessible. Games like Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion and Spirit Island are examples where digital versions provide an alternative way to enjoy these adventures.

Looking for a new card game to play with your friends?

The Spheres of Life: Mythical Forest is a new competitive fantasy card game for 2-7 Players. From stunning design to fun gameplay, this exciting game can be a fantastic addition to your family and friends' game nights!

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