If the corona pandemic has underpinned a playful trend this year, it is that of single-player games. Solo board games are appearing more and more frequently, but at least board games with a working solo mode. The times when fans had to pick up the clipboard themselves and come up with rules are over: Authors and publishers take over this and often equip their works with working solo concepts from the factory. Also this year there were some top-class representatives of the genre. 


In fact, board games were not originally intended to be played alone. The focus was always on the interaction with other players, emotions, anger factors or stories - that has changed in the meantime. Ambitious projects usually contain a solo rule from the ground up, as long as the concept of the game allows it. This year, in particular, it became clear that it is a great opportunity to bring board games to the table, even though nobody else is there to play along. A real trend has developed from this - and quality.

Place 10: Friday

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (7)

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A lonely island, a Robinson and a player who slips into the role of “Friday”: that's all you need in Friedemann Friese's solo adventure of the same name. And not a lot of material either. The handy box contains various cards and some wooden life tokens. Oh, and what would a game like this be without pirates? I agree.

As of Friday, it will be the player's turn to help Robinson survive on the island and against nasty pirates. In the deck building game you have to stand against dangerous cards by using combat cards from your own deck. Defeated cards enrich your own deck. The strategic counterpart: You lose and are relieved of one life point, but may then also remove played cards from the battle deck. In this way you build up your powerful deck of cards in rounds in order to ultimately kill pirates on two ships - then with the beautiful prospect of being able to leave the island with these ships. Step by step, the player builds a real pirate killer from a weak battle deck.

With the corona pandemic, “Freitag” from 2011 experienced something of a revival. Friedemann Friese's actually simple idea is perfect for short solo rounds of play. Overall, the course of the game is not particularly complex, but it surprises with its quite present claim. Yes, in terms of looks, Friday is not a hit, but the functional design supports the concept. The rules seem confusing at first, but you quickly find yourself settled. When you visit the lonely island, it will usually not stay that way: The game hardly forgives mistakes, but allows them to be recognized well. This is how you stay motivated.

9th place: Spirit Island

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (10)

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Another island, but this time anything but lonely. On the contrary: haunted people flock to the island en masse and it is up to the solo player to defend his land mass. The solid setting is garnished by magic, which not only significantly enhances Spirit Island thematically, but also leads to an enormously complex strategy that is hidden behind this board game, which is suitable for 1 to 4 players.

The fact that R. Eric Reuss' idea also works so well as a solo board game is largely due to the fact that Spirit Island is a cooperative game anyway. Whether you twist your brain in a group of four or alone, hardly matters to the fun. Spirit Island was already published in 2017, but was able to prove its strengths as a solo board game in view of the corona pandemic: the title is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the crisis year.

More or less predictably, the intruders spread across the island. The solo player uses powerful spells and slips into the roles of different ghosts, each equipped with individual skills. That makes Spirit Island not only challenging again and again, but also varied. Ideal: Anyone who has already tackled Spirit Island together with other players will have no problems enjoying the title as a solo game. There are no new rules, just no outside input - and that's sometimes the greatest of all challenges in a board game that doesn't make it easy for you anyway. The solo game can even be made easier or more difficult, depending on whether you go into the field with one or two ghosts.

Alternatively, this title is also available as a digital version.

8th place: Marvel Champions: The Card Game

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (6)

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Marvel Champions: The Card Game is one of Fantasy Flight Games' newer dime diggers. In this country, the cooperative card game has been published by Asmodee in a localized version, as has the now countless additional content. The idea is simple and familiar from the comics: Heroes band together to turn off the lights of a nasty head villain and his lackeys. The Living Card Game is not easy, especially because different opponents and levels of difficulty provide appropriate challenges.

The basic rules are straightforward, the strategic options are sometimes complex and there is more than enough variety thanks to the countless available comic heroes. The basic game already has a certain, albeit limited, longevity. A replay value is therefore also available without extensions. The superheroes, each with their different skills, offer a strong basis, as does the license itself. Driven by shallow storylines, solo players strive towards the final battle in every game.

Marvel Champions: The Card Game is a solo title that had to be on your screen in 2020 as well. This is not least due to the small-scale marketing strategy: supplies are rolled out at regular intervals, so the cooperative card game remains up-to-date.

7th place: Scythe

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (11)

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Scythe is one of those board games that are believed to last for decades. The strategic title is in demand again and again and lands on the gaming tables at home at regular intervals. This is not least due to the unusual setting that an alternative Europe made use of around 1920.

A total of five nations are trying to take control of Eastern Europe. Scythe owes its striking style by author Jamey Stegmaier to the illustrator and painter Jakub Rozalski, who never tires of bringing retro-futuristic worlds to life. Jakub Rozalski laid the foundation stone for Scythe with his extensive collection of works on “1920+”, that fictional alternative world in which armed conflicts are the focus. Scythe can be played with up to four other opponents, but also alone. As a solo board game, Scythe stands out because it is almost as exciting with the Automa cards as it is when interacting with human opponents.

The tactical depth is enormous, the strategic decisions are diverse and the recognizable style of this board game, which was published in this country by the publisher Feuerland Spiel, makes Scythe a kind of evergreen even for solo players. Although the localized version of the title is around four years old, Stegmaier's idea of ​​a full-length strategy game is still in demand today.

6th place: Onirim

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (5)

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As a dream-goer, you walk through a mysterious labyrinth, always looking for the gates that will save you. Small but nice: The card game Onirim, which was published by Pegasus Spiele in this country, belongs to this category. The solitaire card game can also be tried out cooperatively with another player, but the title proves its true strength in solo mode. With a playing time of 15 minutes, Onirim is also a game for in between, but the degree of challenge is not to be despised. Depending on the selected “extension” you influence the level of difficulty, variety is then provided anyway.

The concept of patience is behind the idea. you place cards and at the end the display must open. That sounds simple, but it turns out to be a demanding and thematically coherent dream trip. Even if the luck factor is noticeable, Onirim relies on a predictable course of the game within the framework of its conceptual possibilities. However, this is always unpredictable if the cards don't fall as they should. The card game draws part of its appeal from this, because no two games are the same.

5th place: Gloomhaven

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (5)

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The heavyweight among the solo board games and just because of the epic dimensions of the equipment, one might think that it would be better to share this board game experience with others. That's right, but if there is nobody to play, Gloomhaven remains a recommendation as a solo title. Especially in the Corona year, when it is not days but weeks and months of partial isolation that is old, Gloomhaven unfolds a special charm. A board game like a TV series: Gloomhaven could be “bingen”. And because Tierra del Fuego games has taken on the localization, you shouldn't miss this exceptional title.

Around 100 scenarios attract players, all of them are there - sometimes more, sometimes less connected, or at least built into the framework as a random gimmick. The story-heavy dungeon crawler is particularly impressive because of its map-driven combat system. This invites you to experiment, is tactically profound and can also be implemented as a solo player in a balanced way on the game board. Because the opponent's AI proves its qualities, Gloomhaven is a welcome challenge as a solo board game.

At every corner you can feel a “too much” in this board game from the luxury segment, in a positive sense. Solo players particularly benefit from this, because the single player version is in no way inferior to the multiplayer experience in terms of both the story and the course of the game. If you are not afraid of the investment, Gloomhaven is a board game that will make you forget the lockdown.

4th place: Dawn of the Zeds

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (12)

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The publisher Frosted Games has already written it on the packaging of Dawn of the Zeds: “Excellent solo game”. The story is known from film, television and video games: In a small American town, good citizens turn into man-eating zombies. Annoying, especially when you are the operations manager of a manageable hero squad who have to stand in the way of the horror.

The material is ok, the illustrations are atmospheric, the game play impaired by the luck of the dice - there is a lot of action, tasks and of course the classic “z” etting as a treat.

The replay value is high enough to spend many hours alone at the gaming table with this board game, the thematic density of the game is a refreshing alternative to the zombie horror film that has since become boring. Different levels of difficulty are available, each one is worth playing. One of the greatest challenges, however, is to deal intensively with the set of rules.

The second of the challenges: getting through the length of some solo roles. It can take many hours - sometimes even more than five - for a game of Dawn of the Zeds to come to an end. At the same time, the following applies: The game picks up speed the higher the level of difficulty. Conversely, that means: there is plenty of long-term motivation here.

3th place: Calico

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (12)

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Cats! The board game about the cute fur noses and their colorful patchwork blankets is undoubtedly one of the surprises of 2020. Even if the board game was financed by crowdfunding a year earlier, the current year is the calico year! There is hardly a board game that cannot be found on the well-known online auction platforms within a short time after the Kickstarter delivery phase: In this regard, calico is a rare commodity. Players everywhere are looking for this title, nobody wants to give up the board game.

Is it because of the cats? Also. However, it is primarily the tricky gameplay that makes Calico not only an entertaining board game, but also an excellent solo board game. In the end it's all about collecting points again, but the incentive to get better with each game is noticeable. Various tricky challenges ensure fun, the great illustrations take care of the rest. The basic rules are quickly learned, the game principle is puzzle-heavy, but with the need for foresighted planning. Of course, there is a significant luck factor due to the pulling of the tiles, but this is beneficial to the playful concept.

A solo part only lasts around 20 minutes. There is nothing to complain about in production, the topic has been implemented perfectly, the laying boards are gradually becoming DIY blankets for cats of all breeds. The only drawback: the availability. The retail sector will remedy the situation in the coming year, namely that Calico will be localized for the German market.

2nd place: Cities Skylines

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (12)

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Cosmos city building board game so high on the list? Granted, that's surprising. As a board game for several players, the adaptation of Paradox Interactive's video game Cities Skylines is solid to good, but as a solo board game the title proves its true strengths. Various scenarios provide variety and long-term motivation, the illustrations closely follow the computer game template - and the game sequence, which has been reduced to essential core elements, ensures entertainment within a manageable timeframe.

A strength of Cities Skylines: The board game is interesting for up to four players, as a solo game, as an introductory title or as a board game for connoisseurs. The city building game proves to be a real door opener into the world of board games. Comprehensible rules meet a demanding, but not overwhelming complexity. The playful requirement is noticeable, boredom does not arise even after several games. Cities Skylines compensates for the fact that there is no communicative factor in the solo version by requiring internal monologues about the strategies when it comes to rethinking the respective effects of its building projects on the cityscape.

In the past year, Kosmos has shown a good hand several times when it comes to publishing high-quality board games. Cities Skylines is just one example of the successful year that the publisher has Kosmos with a significant increase in sales will bring to an end.

1st place: Mage Knight

Best Solo Board Games of 2020 (12)

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You have to allow yourself time resources to derive a playful charm from the epic dungeon crawler Mage Knight. The setup of the solo game takes time, as does studying the rules - and a game of the board game, which in the Ultimate Edition includes the base game and all three expansions, can take many hours. In the end, this is especially worthwhile, but not only, for solo players.

Mage Knight by Pegasus Spiele combines a classic table game with role-playing elements and deck building. Author Vlaada Chvátil has created a special work that offers more of everything, presents itself as an epic adventure - and in the end it is exactly that. The game is played exclusively with cards which, as a deck, also simulate the day-night rhythm. The Mage Knight always does what it does best: beat up opponents. Thereby one gains strength, can beat even more and far more powerful opponents.

There is more to the concept, however: Mage Knight is a well thought-out strategic board game in which solo players can get lost in the details. One advantage: Nobody complains when a move lasts ten or more minutes. The rules are complex, but always logical and correspond to the tactics that players know from fantasy and medieval templates.

The seemingly spartan equipment is amazing, at least if you use the playful complexity as a yardstick. That has its price: the comprehensive game box costs around 130 euros.


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Pegasus Games 51844G - Mage Knight Ultimate Edition Pegasus Games 51844G - Mage Knight Ultimate Edition * 200,00 EUR

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Last updated on 4.08.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API