It's a new year, and you might be thinking about trying new things. If you don't play solo board games already, I highly recommend the experience. In fact, this post will be a list of 5 easy, cheap board games that can be played solo. It's aimed at those of you who want to put a toe in the water of solo gaming goodness, but aren't sure if you're ready to dive in.
I had three main criteria when I created this list. 1) The games must be inexpensive ($30 or less). 2) The games must be easy to learn. 3) This is the obvious one: The game has to be fun.
Because of the criteria I chose, my list will be missing some of the mainstays of solo board gaming like Mage Knight or Robinson Crusoe. These games are amazing and you should absolutely play them. If you already play them with friends, by all means try them solo! But I would under no circumstances recommend these as first forays into solo gaming unless you're really hardcore and/or have a lot of disposable income.
So without further ado, here is my list of starter solo games:
1) Friday by Friedemann Friese
($13.64 on Amazon and $13.99 on CoolStuffInc at time of writing)
Yes. That alliteration is deliberate. Friday is a simple, readily-available solitaire card game that you should be able to purchase for less than $15. The concept of the game is that you are Friday, and the clueless and annoying Robinson Crusoe has washed up on your island. Your job is to help him learn the ropes, escape the island, and give you some peace by encountering various challenges in the jungle and then successfully battling some evil pirates. I've previously reviewed Friday on this blog.
2) Onirim by Shadi Torbey
($22.49 on Amazon and $16.99 on CoolStuffInc at time of writing)
Onirim is another simple solitaire card game (although it has co-op rules if you want to add a second person). In this game, the cards represent a labyrinth within a dream world, and you are navigating it while you sleep. Your goal is to escape the labyrinth before you run out of cards, but there are nightmares hiding within the deck that will halt your progress. Onirim is a meditative game with beautiful card art. The box also includes several expansions, so you can try several variations without making any additional purchases. Zee Garcia of The Dice Tower adores this game and has filmed a concise video review.
3) Sylvion by Shadi Torbey
($24.23 on Amazon and $16.99 on CoolStuffInc at time of writing)
Sylvion is a solitaire game set in the same universe as Onirim, but it plays completely differently. Sylvion is a tower defense game in which you control woodland creatures trying to save their home from a forest fire. Each card has a different effect, so you have to choose which strategies to deploy at which moments. To play most of the cards, you have to discard others from your hand, which makes every decision more meaningful. In the advanced version of Sylvion, you draft cards before actual play begins, which provides an additional strategic challenge. I really like this one.
4) Ascension: Deckbuilding Game by John Fiorillo and Justin Gary
($30.34 on Amazon and $27.49 on CoolStuffInc at time of writing)
Ascension is a two-person deck building game that was designed by pro Magic: The Gathering players. Official solo rules were not published until the Storm of Souls expansion, but you can buy any version of the game that you want and download a .pdf of the SoS rules. For me, it scratches that collectible card game itch, but everything I really need can be contained within a single box. You can try out different factions, experiment with how different card mechanics work together, and acquire or defeat increasingly powerful cards. I have discussed Ascension on this blog here.
5) Castle Panic by Justin de Witt
($22.49 on Amazon and $23.99 on CoolStuffInc at time of writing)
Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defense game with official solo rules. The goal of the game is to defend your castle against attacking hordes of trolls, orcs, and goblins, and you win when the last monster is defeated and at least one of your castle towers is still standing. Castle Panic is a great introductory co-op or solo game and it has one of the clearest rule books I've ever read. Even better, if you try the game and like it, you can purchase expansions that vastly improve upon the original concept. (The Wizard's Tower expansion is essential.) I have previously reviewed the game on this blog.
6) Bonus Suggestion: Any Co-Op Game You Already Own and Like
A lot of solo players enjoy playing co-op games on their own by controlling multiple characters. Have you ever wanted to make all of the decisions in Pandemic without feeling like a jerk? This is your chance! Other excellent choices include Sentinels of the Multiverse and Eldritch Horror. If it's already in your house and it's a co-op, you can probably enjoy a solo play session.
If you're curious about solo board gaming and are looking for somewhere to start, I hope this list has been helpful for you. The world of solo gaming is increasingly vast and exciting. Perhaps we will soon be playing alone, together!