The Top Ten Solitaire Boardgames of All Time

Oh, holy hell. I ordered last friday and just got word my copy of Apocrypha won’t arrive till July 7.


Atlantis Rising is pretty straightforward: worker placement on an island that’s crumbling into the sea, and the most efficient action spaces are in the areas that are most likely to collapse. You’re gathering resources that will let you build new, more powerful action spaces, and eventually the portal that will let you escape the island before it sinks entirely.

Like many solitaire/co-op games, it’s a race to achieve the win condition before the virus/necromancer/colonizers/etc overwhelm your world. I think that many people who play a lot of board games would find it too light, but I am a simple man with simple tastes.

I’d say it’s part of the appeal. You have to really know a game inside and out, and you have to concentrate on it, and you have to be willing to stop and look stuff up, and even keep notes. It’s an exercise in focus, very nearly meditation, a way to really dive into a game design.

Part of why it’s so different from multiplayer (and co-op) is that you’re not also including the social element of hanging out with your friends. It’s just you, the components, and the game design. When I play a boardgame with friends, it’s me, the components, the game design, my friends, our social dynamic, our unique interactions, how some of the players are slower than others, how some are really good and I need to be on guard particularly against them, how some players won’t really pay attention to the rules, how are more or less invested. There’s a lot more going on than just the game, and that’s the point, in a way. There’s a lot more complexity and interactive breadth in a non-solitaire game, but a lot more focus in a solitaire game. I love both elements of the hobby, but they offer very different kinds of experiences.

But, yes, it’s easy to forget rules. You have to work harder to know and track a solitaire game, definitely. I also tend to incorporate little interface “mods” when I play solitaire because when I look up a rule or concentrate on a decision, it’s nice to let go of remembering certain things. For instance, I keep a little marker to show whose turn it is, and I move the marker between player boards when it’s some between-turn stage. Or I’ll have a set of cubes to remind myself how many actions a character has left. That sort of thing.


Not at all weird. I’ll throw in my own two cents and say that I certainly do blunder rules and overlook important things. What helps is being in a distraction free environment, and that’s what I essentially find so meditative about solo board gaming. A quiet environment, I can generally talk aloud to myself and get lost in my own thoughts as I keep track of various pieces, rules, exceptions and the like. I’ve found that when I do stuff up, it is easier and just more enjoyable to move on and recognise the problem for what it was, as something to be more mindful of in future. I find the difficulty in solo/co-op games to be hard enough as it is, so any small comprimise here or there helps.

Well, now you’re really making it sound appealing! This is why I took up bonsai this summer… but you’re telling me I can get that vibe from boardgames!?

Haha. Mm. Yes. Trying to figure out where that distraction free place is in my house with four kids…

Because I just played it tonight, I’ll add that the solitaire version of Pax Pamir 2e is really, really good. Like playing a regular two-player game, except your opponent is a really powerful crazy person.

Yeah I love that too. I’ve never played it with anyone else so don’t know what I’m missing there. If I had a list that would be on it! :)

Me too. Orlando to Washington…ugh

Hi Tom,

A big omission to your list is Star Trek: Frontiers.

It removes a good amount of fussiness and fiddly rules from Mage Knight (for example, no day/night cycle), and blasting Borg Cubes never gets old.

The base game is excellent for solitaire players in its use of a “dummy” player (essentially used as a timer), but it reaches sublimity with the “Return of Khan” expansion.

The expansion has you fighting Khan - who has survived the events of Star Trek II and now commands his own Dominion starship - and enables you to play as the U.S.S. Enterprise-A, which includes a card for Captain James T. Kirk himself.

Khan has his own AI deck, making solitaire play a blast with no upkeep necessary for the AI.

@Terry welcome, first off. Just didn’t want you to lost in the shuffle of a bunch of newcomers that swarmed another thread to review-hate.

I’d heard good things about the ST:F version of Mageknight. I think Tom’s review even mentions it. If I had the room that is something I’d probably be all over. I’ve had Gloomhaven for over a year and still haven’t unboxed it. 5 teenage kids between me and my wife means there is maybe 1.6 square feet of available tabletop at any given time. If I’m lucky. :(

Thank you, lostcawz. As a newcomer, I appreciate the warm and friendly welcome!

That sounds great! I’d skipped Frontiers because I’d already played tons of Mage Knight and had almost no Star Trek context when it came out. I’ve seen a bunch of Star Trek at this point and playing vs an AI deck of Khan is pretty dang intriguing.

Welcome to Qt3, @terry.

Welcome! Stick around. Talk tabletop games with us!

BTW, those of you waiting for Apocrypha to ship, here’s the best tutorial video on youtube I could find. It’s very thorough and a little too dry at times, but he hits up the rules well.

And then when you’ve absorbed that, Tom Chick played one of the Candlepoint scenarios:

Cool. Thanks for those. Started reading the fan made rules file on BGG. Then stopped. Videos will be better.

BTW, go to @tomchick’s excellent playthrough to hear and watch the rules invoked correctly and explained nicely.

Stay to hear him charmingly refer to Dr. Zeez by his proper last name throughout…

It’s bizarre that they go to the bother of making a pre-built tutorial deck, and then don’t do a proper tutorial with it. Even the official “how to play” video for it doesn’t actually tell you how to play. I gave up on it half way through and watched this instead, which is infinitely better even though it’s not using the tutorial scenario.

Hey, @Terry, glad you brought up Star Trek: Frontiers, because I am definitely a fan! Maybe not Top Ten of All Time fan, but still a fan. Andrew Parks is a truly talented designer, and if there were any solitaire play in the Marvel minis boondoggle he’s making, I’d probably be all over that. But when Parks adapted Mage Knight into Star Trek: Frontiers, he did a fantastic job breathing life into the game, and addressing a lot of my Mage Knight complaints.

I do think it gets a bit weird with the theming, and I say that without even really knowing much about Star Trek. But I seem to recall weird counter-lore things happening and thinking that Star Trek fans would might strenuously object. Stuff like, uh, Romulans teaming up with Ferrengi or whatever, or Wharf working on the USS Deep Space Nine. That sort of thing.

Uh-oh, there’s an expansion? Damn you, @Terry!


You can tell I like a game when I keep accidentally using the lore.