Solo board games have experienced a massive rise in popularity over the last few years, as player tastes and behaviours have changed. While a need for solo titles was boosted by the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic, the desire for single player experiences has long grown in the tabletop community. The entire industry has risen to meet this demand, with an excellent range of solo board games launching over the last few years.
From the high fantasy questing of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Adventure Game to mind-boggling puzzles and dinosaur-filled parks, there’s now plenty of fantastic solo board games available for single players of all experience levels. Here’s a few of the GamesHub favourites, and why you should try them out.
Solo Board Games – Our Top Picks
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Adventure Game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Adventure Game is fairly described as an advanced adventure, suitable for those who’ve played RPG-style board games before, or anyone who loves a challenge. You’ll need to set aside an afternoon to learn the rules, given this is one solo board game governed by a hefty amount of minutiae – but once you’re rolling through Skyrim, the slow learning process will feel totally worth it.
In this adventure, you’re essentially replicating the action of the game; going on sweeping quests, travelling through dense lands, fighting enemies, and levelling up along the way. You’ll discover new items with each turn, take down hordes of roaming monsters, and achieve a welcome sense of satisfaction with every completed milestone. You can play it with friends – but solo, it’s an engaging and gratifying experience.
Marvel United: X-Men
Marvel United or Marvel United: X-Men could easily slot into this list of the best solo board games – but we’re going with the newer X-Men board game for nostalgia, and because the X-Men have always been way cooler than The Avengers. In this solo or co-op battle game, you embody classic X-Men heroes (Wolverine, Professor X, Jean Grey, Storm, Beast, and Cyclops) as you work to fight off the advances of the Brotherhood of Mutants (Mystique, Magneto, Sabretooth, and Juggernaut).
In each round, you’ll need to play unique cards from a deck, working to fight against a villainous master plan that typically involves threats to civilians. Plan your moves, address each threat in turn, and you’ll eventually wind up saving the day with your prowess.
The great thing about the Marvel United series is these actions are very easy to learn – and with highly visual cards, tokens, and character models, each game is also simple to understand, and exciting to watch.
Frostpunk: The Board Game
- Check out Frostpunk: The Board Game on Amazon.
If you’re looking for more complex solo board games to jump in with – ones that’ll engage every sense, and keep you hooked with tense survival gameplay – then Frostpunk: The Board Game should be on your list. This massive (really massive) board game tasks you with controlling a tribe of citizens stuck in a desolate, post-apocalyptic land where survival is determined by a rickety generator. You’ll need to keep everyone alive in your game by managing a number of systems, all of which require attention as you work your way through a light story campaign.
Here’s what we had to say about Frostpunk in our review:
‘While the game feels impossibly hard at times, and only gets harder with new society rankings and scenarios, this feature feels by design. It encapsulates raw frustration and terror in the same way the Frostpunk video game does – and while this may alienate players who desperately search for wins and satisfaction in their tabletop gaming, there are plenty who will appreciate the struggle for a solid victory.’
- Check out Parks on Amazon.
Parks is a board game inspired by treks through the national parks of the United States – and it’s a wonderful-looking adventure. In the game, you’re playing a hiker collecting memories along an increasingly beautiful trail, represented in colourful art cards. As the seasons change, so do your pathways, allowing you to gather particular resources that will aid the later legs of your journey.
Each trail in Parks feels a bit magical, thanks to the art style of the game. Those missing travel, or just looking for a relaxing afternoon escape will find a hefty smidgen of joy in each step of Parks.
If you’re looking for a similar experience, you should also check out the brilliant Cascadia, which tasks players with creating and maintaining an ecosystem filled with natural wildlife.
Stardew Valley: The Board Game
Stardew Valley: The Board Game is near-permanently sold out – but it’s for an important reason. It really is that good. In this solo or co-op board game, you play as a young hero taking the reigns of a growing farm, much like in the video game of the same name. In rounds, you’ll decide how best to grow your land, while also fulfilling a number of set quests.
Sometimes, you’ll be looking to maximise your profits. Other times, you’ll be rearing new animals like chickens, ducks, or cows – or fulfilling your obligations to the magical Junimo creatures, by giving them an array of special items. Along the way to achieving these goals, you’ll get to know your fellow villagers, fight in the local dungeons, and build a life in the iconic Valley.
Check out the GamesHub review of Stardew Valley: The Board Game.
Tiny Epic Dungeons
Tiny Epic Dungeons is a very portable dungeon-crawling adventure board game where you control an army of heroes as they band together to explore ever-growing caverns filled with loot and monsters. Beyond being cute and pocket-sized, Tiny Epic Dungeons has a lot of unique charm. It’s extremely easy to learn, making it accessible for players of all experience levels. It’s also got a bright and colourful art style that makes every tense card flip a lovely surprise.
Each round, you’ll find new loot and high-powered foes in your slowly-growing dungeon, adding a welcome sense of randomness to your journey. Tile-by-tile you’ll dive further into danger, revealing a map littered with handy and hindering obstacles. No two games of Tiny Epic Dungeons are the same, so you’ll never really know what to expect in your journey.
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth is the perfect solo board game adventure because it creates a hybrid physical-digital experience that players can journey through at their own pace. Through the use of an app, this board game lets you travel through an original Tolkien story set in the iconic Lord of the Rings universe, fighting orcs and discovering mysterious items as you cross terrains and valleys.
It uses the same engine as another title called Mansions of Madness, and can be played with up to five players, but the solo experience is incredibly dynamic, and features a twisting story to keep you going. Once you’re done with the base game, there are several equally-excellent expansions to continue your romp.
If you’re more into horror than high fantasy, Mansions of Madness is another great solo option.
- Check out Dinosaur Island on Amazon.
Dinosaur Island is a complex strategy game where players compete to create the most exciting, exhilarating and ‘safe’ dinosaur park around. While it’s designed for 2+ players, it does also come with a very good solo mode that’s great for players who prefer playing alone. Here, you’ll work to complete a number of tasks before your rounds are up, giving your ‘dinosaur park’ aspirations clear goals outside of simple competition.
This game is fairly difficult to learn because there’s several systems at play – you’ll need to spend time on DNA extraction, park building, research, investment and meeple placement – but playing solo reduces the need to spend hours explaining the game. It can be very fun playing it with a larger group, but solo play means it’s more relaxing, goal-oriented and better-paced.
Exit The Game: The Sacred Temple / The Deserted Lighthouse
- Check out the Exit The Game puzzles on Amazon.
The Exit The Game series is great for ‘escape room’ type parties – but the Thames and Kosmos jigsaw puzzle range is even better for solo board game players. Rather than just offering a simple escape room, these more hearty adventures require players to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and then solve the clues they piece together.
They’re great fun, and perfect for diving in with on a quieter afternoon. While technically the game asks you to time your escape, they’re actually much better as head-scratchers you can check out and revisit when you need. The puzzles included in these first two adventures will definitely be a challenge, but the moment of triumph when you finally solve them is worth all the frustration.
MicroMacro: Crime City
- Check out MicroMacro: Crime City on Amazon.
MicroMacro: Crime City isn’t your standard board game. There’s no real ‘board’ and you don’t play with tokens. Instead, you’re given a massive map, a deck full of quests, and a magnifying glass. Here, your task is to look at the intricate, beautifully illustrated drawings, and work out how certain crimes have occurred. The game will ask you ‘who murdered the burger shop owner’ and it’s your job to locate the shop, find the victim, and determine who the criminal is.
It’s an extremely original puzzle concept, and one that’ll have you pouring over tiny illustrations for hours, marvelling at just how much detail is packed into the game. Playing with friends will help speed up your detective work, but playing solo is extremely rewarding, and will certainly keep you distracted for a good long while.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger is a board game adaptation of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure novels that uses choices to create a unique, branching narrative. It’s described as a co-op board game, but House of Danger works excellently as a solo adventure. In this narrative-based game, you’ll travel through a haunted mansion filled with strange beings and magic, making choices about which paths to go down.
Some will end in your death. Others will yield great rewards, including enchanted objects which you can use further into your story. Essentially, this title ‘gamifies’ the classic Choose Your Own Adventure story mechanics by making them more involving, and constantly surprising. Your journey may not end in triumph, but you’ll have a blast with this game.
Detective: City of Angels
- Check out Detective: City of Angels on Amazon.
Picture this: it’s 1940s Los Angeles, and you’re a classic noir detective fighting for what’s right in a city plagued by deadly crimes. This is the brilliant set-up for Detective: City of Angels, a dense board game filled with crimes to solve, damsels to save, and suspects around every corner. As a detective, it’s your job to fight for what’s right, and stand up for people who don’t have a voice themselves.
Like other games on this list, Detective: City of Angels isn’t strictly for solo play, but it works best when you’re going solo and working against the game’s AI. It’s a complicated game, and it may take some time to master – but the deeper you involve yourself in its strange world, the more you’ll find yourself lost in one of gaming’s biggest and most interesting stories.
The 7th Continent
- Check out The 7th Continent on Amazon.
The 7th Continent puts you in the shoes of an explorer travelling through a hostile world, and uses tile-based cards to make every step a ‘surprise’ reveal. When you lay out cards, you have no idea where you’ll end up, and this mystery will push you forward as you attempt to discover where you are, and how to cure the strange curses that plague you.
With each tile placement, you’ll have choices to make. Do you head into more dangerous lands, with the hope of uncovering unique tools to help in your survival? Or do you attempt to remain safe on the well-trodden path, and take the slow road? Groups will need to make these decisions together, whereas solo adventurers will find decisions are more dynamic, and higher-staked playing alone. As far as adventure-focused solo board games go, The 7th Continent is one of the absolute best.
Whether you love solo board games or you’re looking for a more involved experience, there’s plenty of fantastic titles out there. Check out the GamesHub list of best co-op board games for more inspiration, or see the rest of our board game lists below:
- The most relaxing board games for quiet afternoons
- The best board games to play at a party
- The best puzzle-based board games
- The best spooky board games to play on Halloween
- The 8 best dungeon crawler board games for adventurers
- The best story-based adventure board games
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