Looking for solo board game recommendations

I’ve hardly touched board games since Stratomatic Baseball and APBA football in my childhood and Shoots and Ladders with my children. In truth, I had written them off because computer games seemed far better and vastly more suited to solo play. (It would be a totally losing proposition for me to buy a game that depended on others to play on any reasonably regular basis.)

But in looking at upcoming computer games, I came across Gloomhaven, which led me to investigate the board game that it is supposed to eventually replicate, and not only does the board game look incredible, but I see that lots of people love it solo. Which has me thinking, hey, maybe I ought to be giving board games another look. I should probably not pick Gloomhaven, given that I can play it on the PC in a year or so. But I wonder about others’ experiences with soloing board games.

My tastes:

  • Simplistic, breezy games are not going to do it for me.
  • It’s a plus if there is a game world that continues from gaming session to gaming session, and a bigger plus if there is some mechanism by which that world evolves
  • Not much into games about sci-fi or future worlds
  • Good with fantasy (even cliched), good with history especially if it is pre-WWI
  • Good with war and battles, but prefer that not be the only focus of the game
  • Games with maps tend to appeal to me
  • I have a reasonable amount of room to set up a game and leave it set up most of the time

I’d appreciate any recommendations you might offer, or comments about the titles that have been mentioned to me – Lewis&Clark, The Gallerist, The White Tribe, Mistfall, A Feast for Odin, Kingdom Death:Monster


Storm Above the Reich should fit the bill, although maybe not perfectly. I have the first one, and it is great. This one has made its p500 goal so will probably be out sooner than the 2nd printing of Skies. I did a short campaign write-up on a different forum which you can read here if you are interested.

I am also a fan of Comancheria. You can continue from scenario to scenario with that one, but I don’t think I would say the game world evolves, exactly, although as history advances certain things about the map do change.

White Tribe I like but didn’t love as much as Brooski and Navaronegun.

I’ll add Nemo’s War to your list.

I am really, really digging the two volumes of Hexplore It that currently exist and there is a third currently funding on Kickstarter. They offer classic fantasy questing and exploration with tons of content and systems to interact with, and they’re not afraid to reward you with really potent toys - after all, you won’t consistently have access to most of them, and you’re constantly having to make decisions about what to prioritize. They tend to run long (and have “Marathon” modes that run even longer) but if you can leave them set up, that’s not an issue. And you can add them together for an even more sprawling adventure where the two villains compete for domination. (Volume 3 will also support mixing with either of the existing volumes. Plus there will be narrative campaigns to play through.)

Gloomhaven, obviously. It’s fantasy, interesting card-driven combat, persistent, a huge campaign that goes in different directions. I play solo with three characters (which can be a bit of a chore book keeping wise), and leave it setup for weeks on end. Tom didn’t like it, but who cares what he thinks.

Nemo’s War is great, as is Robinson Crusoe, Cursed Isle (both are enhanced by their add-ons).

You don’t want simplistic, but I really dig the little card games The Lost Expedition, and its reskin Judge Dread: The Cursed Earth. Both are tight and elegant, and are so easy to set up.

Don’t discount digital board games as out of hand. Not only are they cheaper, there’s no setup or keeping track of pieces. Plus you never have to look for an opponent - if the AI doesn’t do it for you, you can usually find people to play with on line, usually asynchronously.

Knowing your gaming tastes pretty much align with my own, I would recommend:

Twilight Struggle
Through The Ages
Terraforming Mars
One Deck Dungeon

I have thoughts!

You said “board game”, so I’m not sure where cards fit in on things, but…

the Pathfinder Adventure Card Games are pretty terrific. You can play the first adventure set on the Steam/iOS app. But be aware: there’s a bug – that will never be fixed, apparently – on the Steam version that requires you to go through some extraordinary measures to finish the full campaign.

The physical boxed versions are very good though, if a bit pricey as you add each card set.

I will echo the sentiment for Robinson Crusoe. Just be sure you get the Portal Games version, as it has rules that are actually readable. What’s weird with Crusoe is that the first expansion – which was for the Z-Man Games version, but is perfectly compatible with the later edition – is pretty terrific, and offers the campaign play/persistent setting you’re looking for, and the rules mostly make sense. The second, big box Crusoe expansion is filled with beautiful components and great ideas and a theme that looks and feels amazing…and an absolute farrago of poorly written rules that are every bit the issue that the original rules to the game were. Getting through even a first game here has been a slog as a result.

Arkham Horror LCG is also all cards – but plays very much like a boardgame. Just know going in that if you get hooked on the game, you’re going to be buying regular installments of cards for new campaigns and scenarios. With that being said, I am now willing to take up the unpopular opinion that this game is VERY replayable. I’ve played through the first two campaigns (the one in the core box, and the Dunwich campaign that follows) at least a half-dozen times, trying different investigators, deck builds, etc. And I’ve enjoyed the replays a great deal. Though I know what’s coming in the story beats, there’s enough variety in the way the game plays with different investigators/builds and campaign scenario branching paths that none of my campaigns have played out anywhere close to the same way.

Nemo’s War is amazing. Get it while you still can.

Now let me champion an underdog of a solo game that stupid Tom got me hooked on: Elder Sign. Let’s be clear on this: it is absolutely, positively Cthulhu Yahtzee. And the thing is, for as simple as the core box physical game is, the computer versions are even more simplified.

But here’s the thing on Elder Sign: the yahtzee mechanic is kind of fun, but the core game feels really sort of empty. It’s not well-married to its theme. But then with Elder Sign’s expansions, something kind of crazy happens. So, the big criticism of Fantasy Flight is that they expansions their games to death, almost literally. Arkham Horror became exasperatingly unplayable with all the expansions tacked onto it. Ditto for Eldritch Horror, which is a GREAT solo game if you stop shortly after the first small-box expansion.

But with Elder Sign, the rules are so minimal anyway at the start, and the game so kind of lacking in narrative and theme that it ends up the rare exception: it’s the Fantasy Flight game that gets better with the expansions. For instance, the second expansion, Unseen Forces, really dresses up the basic game play a bit with more cards, investigators, and a cursed/blessed mechanic. Then Gates of Arkham comes along and REALLY kicks things ahead with a new Adventure system that gets you out of the museum, and a bunch of new tactical and strategic choices in cards that help to add narrative and theme…and also increase the number of interesting decisions you have to make in the game. And then you get the three “narrative” expansions, the “Omens of…” boxes that are set in arctic Alaska, the oceans deep, and Egypt. These are narrative heavy, campaign-feeling expansions that offer the tightest feeling of the Arkham theme.

I really like playing Mage Knight solo (although it’s been a while since I took it out last) - it’s like playing Heroes of Might and Magic on a board game.

Dawn of the Zeds play well too

Gloomhaven is king of the hill when it comes to the continuing campaign and tense battles during each dungeon, as far as I’m concerned. Plus you get to unlock stood as you go, which keeps things fresh. You seem like you should be ok with its footprint and overhead.

I recommend visiting the solitaire thread for discussions on a lot of the games mentioned above:

I love Kingdom Death Monster, and it fits your list to a T, but can’t really recommend it due to the price and the hit and miss customer support than seems more focused in minis than the game. It’s also getting heavily expanded with new systems soon, so perhaps not a good time to jump in anyways.

Spirit Island and Dawn of the Zeds are pretty cool and meaty, in two very different styles, but there’s no evolving world. They are perhaps my most played games after KDM.

So far I’m also really liking I’m liking pathfinder adventure card games (new core set + the crimson throne) with their persistent characters, but simpler experiences (not simplistic, though).

Just for more ideas, there is a whole thread about it:

Big thumbs up to this. I think it does a great job of covering the OP’s tastes.

Feast for Odin is a nice worker placement game. There is a new expansion recently released (The Norweigians) that seems to have improved the game a fair bit. I have picked it up, but failed to put onto my table yet because another game occupies it. The solo game is a case of beat your own highscore. Boring? Yeah. On BGG though, there is a group who set up a bunch of scenarios which gives an alternate way to play in order to beat high score. The website is now down, but the file can be found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/150973/feast-odin-solo-booklet and the thread for the scores here https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1664063/feast-odin-solo-competition-now-playing-sea-shinin

The game that has occupied my board gaming space of late is a VP game called Darkest Night. I have the second edition that essentially comes with a lot of stuff. That stuff is replayability, but not in the bloated sense that a game like Eldritch Horror dishes out. 29 different characters, all with their own skills and play style, quests, variation in the necromancer deck, a huge pile of hard to find artefacts, buffs to the necromancer. Yet each turn is relatively simple to play out. And that is important I find for any solo adventure is how much brain power is needed to process every little thing each turn. With Darkest Night, I’ve also tweaked the rules that VP Games kindly share in their rulebook so that I have all characters starting with all their basic skill cards, but at the same time the game is going to be swamped with quests (the increased quests variant).

I mentioned Eldritch Horror. I like it. The base game is incomplete without the first expansion that was released. That’s a fact. How much you choose to buy into the FF model is up to you. There’s a lot of gameplay I have with my Eldritch Horror collection but it suffers in the solo play experience when managing more than a couple of characters when it comes to mythos events. Each character can have a bit to keep track of. The last expansion included a campaign style variant which was poorly received (and for good reason). Remembering that now still makes me angry. But there are ideas floating around I’ve seen that try to make Eldritch Horror into a fan campaign. Given the number of Elder Gods, the general vulnerability and bad-assness of investigators and the constant struggle to work against time, there is potential.

Thank you all! This gives me lot of ideas, and I’ll do some sampling of You Tube videos and then pick one out to start with.

You don’t say.

Yeah! What Strato said!

The 2nd Edition Darkest Night box is a lovely thing. Collects the original game and all expansions into one package. The components are top notch, and this is another game where the basic original game has such minimalist rules, that expansions that added a quest system and the like felt like they were simply adding some much needed meat to the bones of a solid system.

Ah you had mentioned it! I was skimming. Sry.

EDIT: a mention for one of my personal favorites: Yggdrasil

I bought Mage Knight to play solo. The one time I took it out I got bored after the crazy long time it took me to get through the instructions. I should try again.