Finding that solo play isn’t all that I had hoped.

Heavy Soloable Games

Games I really wanted to enjoy Solo

Shortly after entering the world of hobby board games, I quickly realized that my appetite for gaming was larger than my family’s (and especially that of my partner). Games that worked solo, or had single player variants seemed like a great idea – I could play these epic, amazing games on my own, whenever I wanted! So I looked to games that included solo rules, had solitaire variants available or co-ops that you can play multiple characters in – such as Eldritch Horror, Mage Knight, Merchants & Marauders – as well as lighter fare such as Viticulture, Village & Pandemic. This seemed to be the perfect answer for me….but I was mistaken.

The games I mention above are all great and I love them, but playing solo was missing something. Essentially, I was just sitting there shifting cards, cubes & pieces around the table on my own. It felt cold, it felt pointless and I came to realize that the thing I love most about board gaming is the interaction and quality time spent with my family. For me, gaming is absolutely at it’s best when you are interacting with people…this came as quite a surprise, as in general I am pretty introverted and happy with quiet, alone time.

Now, Solo gaming wasn’t a complete failure, I did actually enjoy the Mage Knight Board Game solo…but it was so big, and took so long to play that it was often hard to get out without it interfering with meal-times at the table – and it often left me with a stinking headache! 😉 I also recently acquired the Friday Card Game, and after a couple of plays, this one does seem like it might work well for me….it’s quick to setup, under an hour to play and I find it quite engaging. I think I need to check out the Onirim series (with Castellion and Sylvion) and games of that ilk.

New York 1901

A lighter game that the whole family can enjoy

Last week I sold Eldritch Horror, Merchants & Marauders and Mage Knight (with a limited budget I can’t justify these big, expensive games that rarely get played remaining in my collection)….with the money raised I managed to buy Above & Below, New York 1901, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Cash ‘n Guns, Colt Express, Port Royal and Friday. Many light to medium weight games much more suited to what my family enjoy and therefore, we can all enjoy together.

And surely that’s what gaming is all about? And the rest of the time when I want to game but the family don’t? Well, I read and watch lots of game reviews & news, edit our videos, work on our website and write for you good folks out there. 🙂

I’d love to hear your experiences of solo gaming and recommendations for solo games that I might enjoy, let me know in the comments below.


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19 Responses

  1. Some games just don’t capture solo play. I have looked for a while and the only games I can play solo (short enough but engaging) are Lord of the Rings Card Game and Helionox the Last Sunset. They have the right pacing, level of thought and complexity I want without feeling like they are missing the important part, having to engage with others around a table.

    There are alternatives though, VASSAL for online play is a great way to meet people who are as interested in the games you like. You will find playing these larger games a much better experience with people who actually want to play them.

  2. Zolgar says:

    Personally, I solo games quite readily, and am not left with that ‘cold’ feeling you describe. For me though, I’m also at home in my own mind. I see board games solo much akin to how I see video games, which I also play a ton of.

    Sadly, because of that, I have a hard time offering recommendations for soloing. The Forbidden series might be worth it, as they’re also relatively casual and easier to get less ‘hard core’ players interested in.

    Run, Fight, or Die might also work for you, but I don’t know how it solos (I know it has solo rules, but I’ve never played them). It’s a fairly light, often fairly quick game of zombie survival.

  3. Mick Wood says:

    I enjoy playing Cruel Necessity – it’s a game designed specifically for solo gaming. it’s one of a series but only got that one so far.

  4. Sure, most games need more players to be interesting. Mage Knight: The Board game definitely works as a solo experience in my view though, I find that title very soothing solo.

  5. Mark says:

    Vassal and Boardgamearena! The first you can play mage knight, and save, and as on computer, no table space used! The second is to play with others round the world…. Sorta cheating but sounds like it fits your requirements more!

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks to everyone for the suggestions so far.

      I’ve not tried Vassal, but I have visited BGA and Yucata, Tabletopia and I bought Tabletop Simulator…..but there are two downsides. 1) I am worried about playing online at games I am unsure of, and sometimes I take a while to take a move and I don’t know if I’m any good LOL. I guess I should just ‘grow a pair’ and go find out? 😉 . 2) I much prefer handling wood, cardboard, plastic pieces. I like to get away from the computer…if I go back to computer gaming I’ll end up back in MMOs…and they’re bad for me….so addictive lol. I’ve received many suggestions here and on BGG and Facebook and it looks like the Oniverse (Onirim, Castellion and Sylvion) could be the answer for me….plus I have some other options to check out 🙂

  6. Andrew Baumgartner says:

    Solo gaming to me is escapism… being in another world, like reading a book but you have more interaction… Thats why i love solo gaming for that escapism feeling, getting away from the real world for a short time… Elder sign is good, Mice and mystics, Dungeon Roll are all GREAT for soloing… my list is MUCH longer but those are just a tiny sampling of good choices to try…

  7. I found myself in a similar position. I ended up playing Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. It worked for me because trying to beat the different scenarios felt more like a puzzle I was solving than playing a social game by my self. It also allowed some of my solo time to be figuring out different decks and trying them out.

  8. KEVIN says:

    I enjoy a ton of games solo. The easiest way to get the recommendation is to check the top 100 solo games listing on BGG which is part of the SGOYT forum (solitaire games on your table). A great game that bridges both solo and with the family (slightly older kids) is Hoplomachus. The components are great and is quite fun to play. The Origins game in the series is the best to start with.

  9. I publish games. It is a real passion for me. But the whole reason I pour my heart into it is that it offers something computer media doesn’t. Real social interaction. Face to face fun, you know? I’ll never publish a solo game. I feel you, though. I have more of an appetite for gaming than the folks around me. I can’t always break out a game, even if I’d like to do just that. gatherings and visiting local game/comic shops was really effective for me to find avid fellow enthusiasts in a new city. Maybe give that a shot? Don’t be disappointed with games that don’t play well solo. If they did – they wouldn’t play well with others. And that’s the point, IMHO.

  10. Brad R says:

    Your first few paragraphs captured the state of my gaming as well. I am interested, the rest of the family not so much but willing to play every once in a while if nothing else is going on. Luckily, I was able to scrap together a game group through discovering some other adults who had interest in gaming. I agree with the comments above, if you enjoyed the Lovecraftian theme of Eldritch Horror, I highly recommend Elder Sign. Small footprint, not too much in setup and quick co-po play. Additionally, if you have a tablet, the ports of games like Elder Sign, Splendor etc scratch that multi player itch when no one else is available.

    Congrats on the Mage Knight sale…..the one game I recommend to solo gamers and have played via their purchases, but have yet to acquire myself. Fantastic game.

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks for your reply 🙂 I have tried Elder Sign but it didn’t grab me, But my 9 year old loved it! 😀

      I am looking forward to the new Star Trek game due out this year that is based on Mage Knight…with a theme that grabs me a bit more. 🙂

  11. Dominick Lauzon says:

    There are amazing *True* solo games out there, feels to me you looked the wrong direction, well mostly. I would not start with heavy games for solo, I would rather look towards the Oniverse Series (Onirim, Urbion, Castellion and Sylvion) which are great 30-45 beatufilly designed solo games, which can also play 2P. There is the fantastic little Friday which is also solo. Otherwise, most *Euro or *Amerithrash type games which are coop can be played solo (Pandemic, Eldritch, etc…) but relying on solo variants to play merchant and Marauders or Marco Polo and expecting a good experience…? meh… I also dislike the Rosenberg’s series solo where you only play for scoring. I need concrete objectives to be enthralled by solo games, which is what the Legendary system offers. I favor Encounters Aliens over Marvel for the mechanics but both are quite enjoyable solo. Otherwise, turning to the wargames side of things, DVG and Victory Point Games produces amazgins solos. Dawn of the Zeds and Warfighter are simply amazing and designed for solo play. DVG’s leader series is also awesome. From GMT there is the very narrative and progressive Enemy Coast ahead and the newly released Silen Victory. Take a look at my selections, you may find yourself playing solo again 😉

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks for such a detailed response Dominick! I do now have Friday and fine it quite fun and I think I mentioned in a previous comment that I do want to try the Onirim series. Also on my radar is Dawn of the Zeds (3rd Edition) after seeing it on Ricky Royal’s YouTube channel. I will add the Legendary games to my list too now 🙂

  12. Chris Ritchey says:

    Hmm, games I enjoy in solo mode that are cheap.

    Ghost Stories and Star Realms (solo play expansion required)

    The DVD games series.

    Hornet Leader (for the cthulu expansion)

    Phantom Leader Deluxe (person favourite)

    Thunderbolt Apache Leader (less so but some love it, the terrain adds some neat twists but isn’t as much fun for me)

    Ghost Stories is great as a four player but it is a hard core coop, at times you feel like the group dictates your actions as your constantly shifting to beat the tide. Its a hard game for some groups to play. My wife and I both solo it regularly, and sometimes play 2 players each.

    Star Realms, is a cutsy cheap deck builder if you can find the solo expansion. If not legendary will fill that kind of gap fairly easily but with less replayability for the dollar. (if you have an unlimited budget legendary is far far better)

    The DVD titles someone else explained a fair amount above, but I love them.

    For Ipad games.

    I am a big fan of solo Ticket to Ride, and Lords of Waterdeep.

    Hope this covers some of the fun.

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks for your comment, I apologise but I only just spotted that for some reason it was caught in the spam filter :/ I’m not sure that I’m interested in DVD games, I’d rather just play PS3 or something 🙂 However, I did enjoy Lords of Waterdeep & Ticket to Ride on the iPad for a while against computer opponents. (LoW online play is very slow and frustrating)

  13. arcaded says:

    The beginning of you blog post sounded a lot like me, but the rest not so much. I really do enjoy playing board games solo. Once the kids are in bed and my wife is getting some work done, I can put on my headphones and just check out for an hour or 2 playing through something. You should check out Ricky Royal on youtube, he mostly plays solo games. Now with the addition of app based games, my solo love as gone up. Here are a few of my current favorites and some I want to pick up.

    Mage Knight: Setup only takes 5-10 minutes and there is a ton of content in the box along with user created stuff on BGG. Like side quest decks and more solo campaigns.

    Mansions of Madness 2nd edition: The app makes an already great game even more amazing. It’s a breeze to setup as well.

    Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd edition: In the past you needed a game master (though I understand there was a solo expansion at some point). But with the introduction of the app, that is no longer the case. The app takes on the roll of the Game Master and you just get to play. It’s a wonderful thing.

    Lord of the Rings LCG: This game is hard, but man it plays great solo.

    Arkham Horror: Might take a bit of setup time, and the games might be a little long, but it’s still a great, great game even solo.

    Legendary: I don’t really love the setup and take down of this game, but playing it really a nice way to just play a game for a bit and not have to think too much.

    Want List:
    Arkham Horror LCG
    Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
    Imperial Assault, if they are allowed to create an app for it.
    X-Com the board game
    Ghost Stories.
    Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

    I just take solo gaming as my way to reset from the day. I picked up a cheap 6 foot table that folds in half for easy storage. I can setup a game on there and if I don’t finish it up, it’s not in the way of dinner or other family activities. I can finish it the next day.

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks for such a detailed reply and for updating everyone on what options are available today.

      I have watched quite a few of Ricky Royal’s videos – it’s how I learned Mage Knight 😉 Descent I have, and I play it with my son against the app 🙂 I have Mansions of Madness but prefer to share the experience with others. I’m also looking forward to Arkham Horror The Card Game and the updated version of Robinson Crusoe, but I expect they’ll just be played as a family.

      I did play a couple of games of Scythe solo a couple of weeks ago – I was learning how the automa works before adding it to our 2/3 player games as an extra player…that was quite fun 🙂

      There are lots of great solo games for sure, I think that for me, I just prefer the social side of gaming 🙂

  14. Rizen says:

    I enjoy playing Eldritch Horror or Robinson Crusoe as my solo games and once you learn either and play enough you get comfortable with the rules. I like the LCG’s like Lord of the Rings but the cost is terrible and I cant justify that cost with a family so I just have the base game.

    Throwing another solo game out there on the cheap is One Deck Dungeon.

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