Editors note: Contest is now closed. The lucky winner is Glenn D!
Hi Folks! Dang, making a top 10 solo board games list isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I had to scan my collection thoroughly and browse BGG a bit to make sure I didn’t leave out any studs or obvious contenders. My top 10 has some classics, some shoe-ins, and some surprises.
To celebrate my top 10 I am giving away a free game! Post a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a brand new copy of one of the games on the list(your choice).
Tell me about a game that isn’t here but should be. Tell me about a game on my list you hate. The contest ends in two weeks on June 22nd. The winner will be contacted via email. Tell your friends!
On to the list.
10. Space Hulk Death Angel
What is it? A small box card game where the player takes a team of space marines through the creepy halls of a spaceship(Space Hulk). The space marines are attempting to complete their objective before being eaten alive by the swarming alien like genestealers.
Why do I love it? The hallmark of all Space Hulk games is that they capture the asymmetry and tension that is felt between the space marine player and the genestealer player. The space marine player is powerful but fragile and has to move cautiously because he doesn’t know exactly where the genestealers are but he still has pressure to complete his mission in a certain amount of time.
This game automates the genestealer side with a simple and effective card activation mechanism. You never know quite where, how, or if the genestealers are going to move. The position, facing, and team composition of your space marines is important in all the Space Hulk games and that is reflected here as well.
The best part about this game is the cards the player uses. You cannot play the same card twice in a row but you always feel like you need to use every card on every round–but you can’t! Deciding which cards to use, taking the risk of only using 1 or 0 combat cards this round, and spreading out your limited resources to account for the random genestealer movement or protecting your most important marine are some of the tough choices the game presents to the player.
9. Conquest of the Planet Earth
What is it? Conquest of the Planet Earth is one of the dumbest, most random, arbitrary, and fiddly games the human species has ever devised. But what can I say, it is pure unadulterated fun. You play as aliens trying to vanquish humanity. There is a cooperative and competitive mode. I have only every played the cooperative game.
Why do I love it? Sure, my 3 headed aliens riding on mechanical spiders didn’t blow up the poor seaside town, blast a superhero out of the sky, and sink a aircraft carrier by mind controlling the crew because of my SKILL or how WELL I played; but who cares, that is friggin’ awesome. One could compare this to games like Agents of Smersh or The Hunters and you would be close minus a heaping dose of ridiculously bad sci fi movie knock off action.
This is a great game to play when you are tired after a long day or work or after you have had a couple beers and don’t want to manage your resources efficiently in a tight euro style game. Beer and pretzels style game?–no, beer and laser beams.
8. Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom
What is it? A one vs many game where 2-4 players play as superheroes from the Sentinels universe and face off against a super-villain like Baron Blade or Omnitron(a scary robot with lasers, think Ultron). Not normally soloable, but I have found no trouble playing 2 heroes and a villain at the same time.
Why do I love it? Takes what Sentinels of the Multiverse (see #2 below) does well, removes some bookkeeping(but not all!) and adds cool miniatures and a board.
The best thing tactics has going for it is the scenario books are real life comic books and the missions are interspersed in the story. Instead of watching and reading about the fights in the panels, the players interrupt the story to battle it out themselves–an amazing idea.
7. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
What is it? A cooperative deck building game set in a generic fantasy universe. Your hero slowly acquires new skills, equipment, and spells the more you play.
Why do I love it? Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game is not a brilliant design.
It is not clever.
It is not innovative.
I hate to say it, but its true.
Why is is so popular then? And why is it my #7?
PACG is just what the doctor ordered sometimes. It is a fast playing, easy(almost too easy), cooperative game with some RPG elements. It doesn’t make me want to jump on twitter and exclaim to the heavens how amazing it is, but time and time again I am drawn back in to play a few missions, see what new equipment or spells I get, and buy the new packs.
This fits into category of mindless fun along with Conquest of the Planet Earth. The decisions are barely there and rarely matter, but the tiny amount of story and fun comes through regardless.
I skipped Skulls and Shackles but am considering getting the new base set. My main fear is that they are afraid to add anything that shakes up the formula too much. I am not convinced a d20 will be that different, but we will see.
6. Hoplite: Warfare in the Greco-Persian Age
What is it? A tactical ancient warfare game that depicts some of the famous battles of this era. Marathon, Plataea, Mycale, Mantinea, and more! Part of the Great Battles of History series of games.
Why do I love it? Perfect introduction into a relatively complex but deeply rewarding system. Allows you to relive some of histories greatest moments.
5. Glass Road
What is it? A resource management, engine building game focused around glass and brick making in the Bavarian Forest.
Why do I love it?
- Unlimited re playability. The building draw gives the game unlimited re-playability and new strategies to explore every time but it can also make comparing scores between games meaningless.
- The card mechanism. One of the two main selling points is the way cards are played in Glass Road. Each player selects 5 cards from 15 and everyone plays 1 card face down per turn. If you play a card that no one else did, you get to two things. If you have a card in hand and someone else plays the same thing, then you get to do 1 thing from that card. Since there are only 3 turns not every card will get played unless you have some overlap with your opponents. The solitaire game preserves this in a decent way. While the mechanism is changed slightly, the FEELING you get knowing you won’t get to play all your cards and hoping the ones you REALLY need get played is preserved.
- The glorious production wheel. If Glass Road would have been published 5 years earlier it would have had 100 different pieces and charts and tables and spaces to handle how raw materials are turned into bricks and glass. Instead, couple pieces of cardboard, a simple board, and a few discs per player.
Managing, fighting with, and manipulating this wheel is a major part of the game. A beautifully complex idea executed with minimal components–now that is board game design.
Start building your glass blowing empire today and help support the blog.
What is it? A small box deck-building game. You play as Friday trying to help Robinson Crusoe learn to survive on the island and eventually fight pirates to escape.
Why do I love it? Friday is the flagship solo game for our little subsection of the hobby. Portable, affordable, deep yet easy to learn, there is a lot to love with Friday. The crux is you need to get better cards to survive but the more cards you spend the more negative cards enter your deck(then you have to cull those later as well!). The balance of culling cards, earning new ones, and taking the risk to draw more is highly addicting.
The theme is barely there but that is OK. Friday takes 15-30 minutes to play and has 4 difficulty levels although the first one is hard enough for most people. This is the game that makes me believe that solo board games are viable, marketable, and a growing undercurrent in our hobby.
I wish I had statistics about how many games sold less copies than Friday and ask the publisher, do you wish you made a solitaire game? While that doesn’t mean they would have done any better with a solitaire game, it would still be interesting to gauge their respect and appreciation for solitaire games. I know Van Ryder Games is on the solo bandwagon, but I wonder how many other publishers are?
P.S. Fantasy Flight please release another solo/co-op LCG thanks!
3. Flash Point: Fire Rescue
What is it? A cooperative game about rescuing people, dogs, ferrets, and other household pets from a burning building(or plane, submarine, or garage if you have the expansions).
Why do I love it? I feel like a firefighter when playing. Simple. Or when playing solo, I suppose I feel like a team of firefighters. I have heard criticism that the game is too random but I think that randomness is actually the game’s biggest strength. I understand that a fire burning will operate in some predictable ways because of science but there is also the unknown. The wind could shift, a gas can could explode in the garage enraging the blaze or the building next door could catch on fire. These are all incredibly thematic moments that are captured well using a dice roll or two. Some games are guilty of using randomness solely for re-playability or because they couldn’t think of anything better. Flashpoint is not one of those.
Also, the dog is the best special character in any cooperative game ever. It is so fun to run around jumping in and out of walls dodging smoke and fire. His powers and limitations make so much sense. The dog can’t open doors, for example, but he can squeeze through partially broken walls that firefighters can’t fit through.
Finally get your kids to play games with you by grabbing this gem off Amazon.
2. Sentinels of the Multiverse
What is it? A cooperative super hero card game set in an original comic book style universe. 3-5 super heroes fight a super villain(or sometimes a team of super villains).
Why do I love it? Most games that have special abilities or different races/characters give you a cool special thing, maybe a better navy, or 3 actions instead of two. Not here. In SOTM, your hero has an entire deck of cool cards that give you more powers, let you draw cards, help your teammates, mess with the villain, interact with the environment, etc. Every hero is unique and can adjust their play-style a bit to the situation.
For example bunker can go all out with weapons and turret mode to be an damage dealing machine or use some defensive equipment and card draw powers to get a huge hand. The naturalist has 3 different forms which give him more utility, more damage, or defensive abilities based on what the situation calls for.
I have played over 100 games of Sentinels and only played each villain 2-3 times. While the game does have some notorious downsides such as having a ton of modifiers active and being swingy in difficulty, their is no other game like it and I as well as many other players can overlook those flaws for the pure fun present in this box.
1. Mage Knight: The Board Game
What is it? A Fantasy exploration game. You play the role of Mage Knight who is a powerful sorcerer-warrior-general type dude or dudette who is trying to capture some cities or defeat an evil bad guy.
Why do I love it? I did a more detailed post about the 5 reasons Mage Knight is a masterpiece, but to put it succinctly, it is the total package. The creme de la creme.
Endless re-playability, a billion and a half tough decisions to be made, beat your high score or a win or lose type game(with the Lost Legion expansion), awesome theme, brilliant mechanics, and fan support(new scenarios, ~10,000 rules questions answered so far on the forums). It is the ultimate solitaire game in existence and if you are reading this and don’t own it, stop everything you are doing and add it to your collection.
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My Top 10 Solo Board Games – Conclusion
There you have it, my top 10 solo board games of all time. What do you think?
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