Find Your Next Solo Board Game Obsession: Our Picks for the Best 20 in 2023

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Here we have the 20 best solo board games in 2023 for you to enjoy. There have been a few changes since last year with the top three games remaining unchanged in Spirit Island, Mage Knight, and Marvel Champions. 

There are some changes in rank further down and we say goodbye to some games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and hello to some new games like Ark Nova.

There is something here for everyone. Whether you want to fight demonic monsters, be your favorite superhero, or even make a quilt.

I’ll provide a quick overview of each game to give you the flavor. There will be a link to the full board game review if you want the full low down. As I write them you will also find links to helpful strategy guides and how to play articles.

If you have found this article and had no idea that you could play board games on your own. Then I have written Can you Play Board Games by Yourself which explains all you need to know about solo board gaming. There are also some more games suggested there too that you might want to try playing on your own.

I have tried to give you enough detail in this article to give you a really good feel for the game. This has resulted in quite a long post. To make it easier I have a table of contents that will link to each game so you can jump around and a ‘back to top’ link to jump back to the contents.

Hopefully this will make it easier to jump around and investigate the games if you are only interested in a few. Without further ramblings, happy reading and let’s begin with the awesome Spirit Island below.

Table of Contents

1. Spirit Island

Starting off with the number one solo board game we have Spirit Island. This is an awesome game that can be played with 1 to 4 players.

Spirit Island is a Euro style game where you are the island. Colonists are settling on your island and running amuck. This is leading to your island becoming blighted. Your indigenous islanders called the Dahan are also getting bumped off to boot.

Greater Than Games Spirit Island Core Board Game, 4 players

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If you know Catan then this game has a great twist and turns Catan completely on its head. If you are unfamiliar with Catan your goal as settlers is to settle on an island. In Spirit Island your goal is to repel the settlers.

You can read my full Spirit Island Board Game Review for the full expose. As an overview the invading settlers are exploring, building towns and cities. As they do they spread blight across the island. There are three ways in which you can lose:

  • Blight overruns the island
  • A Spirit is destroyed
  • Time runs out

This game is all about strategy and as such is rich with choices and variable play. In multiplayer each player selects a spirit. Each spirit has varying complexities and difficulties so best to start with the special beginner spirits first. 

As a solo player you typically play one spirit. Any powers that target another spirit are reflected back on you. The exception is when the powers are better when used on another spirit.

Once you get the hang of playing with one spirit there is nothing actually stopping you from soloing with more. From what I have read many play with two spirits when soloing which does enable you to select spirits that complement each other’s weaknesses.

As the game progresses you inflict terror as you attack the explorers, towns and cities. This will result in a higher terror level which in turn changes the win condition and makes winning easier.

The game itself has a steep learning curve. However, there are ways in which you can simplify it by removing elements of the game. As you get the hang of playing it you can then add each element back in, increasing complexity and adding variety and replayability to the game.

If you can play through a few times with friends to learn the mechanics this will help. Especially if one of them has played before. Once you learn the basics it will make solo play easier.

This is a challenging game to play and will seem like you are losing. Stick with it and if it suddenly becomes easier 50-70% of the way through the game then you could be in for a win. As the terror levels increase the dynamics of the game do change.

Spirit Island currently has three expansions released along with a fourth expansion said to be in development as of updating this article. 

  1. Spirit Island: Branch and Claw
  2. Spirit Island: Jagged Earth
  3. Spirit Island: Feather and Flame

Spirit Island: Branch and Claw adds an additional two spirits for you to play. Its real strength is that this expansion adds event cards which adds a level of unpredictability to the game. It shows that Greater than Games are learning and wanting to improve the game.

Spirit Island: Jagged Earth brings 10 more spirits along with oodles of components to add to your game. It also enables the number of players to be increased from 1-4 to 1-6 players. Which is great if you have more friends than me!

Finally, Spirit Island: Feather and Flame adds four new spirits for you to get your teeth into. Along with two new scenario panels along with a new adversary. It also provides 5 aspect and fear cards.

On the whole this is a great solo game that has lot’s to keep you engaged in the game as you play. The base game will keep you occupied for quite a while and there are plenty of expansions to add new adversaries to play against and spirits to play with. 

It feels like it is a challenge to play which is a good thing. As it makes it that much more satisfying when you see the settlers disappear over the horizon never to be seen again.

2. Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition

Mage Knight was originally released in 2011 and is still one of the best games to play solo. I have chosen Mage Knight Ultimate Edition (released 2018) for this review as it comes with the Lost Legion expansion. 

The Lost Legion expansion has a great automated enemy that will make things more interesting for you when you play solo. This, in my opinion, makes the ultimate edition a good buy for solo players.If you are interested in finding out more about Mage Knight then you can read my full review in Mage Knight Board Game Review.

Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition Board Game | WizKids

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Mage Knight has an aspect of deck building to it. As you build your deck your character levels up to become more powerful as you explore the realm. The deck allows for multiple use of cards which really adds to your choices when coming to take your turn and defeating enemies.

This game will take some time to learn and so be prepared to do some reading. It is my advice to roughly read the rules until you understand enough to set up the game and move around.

Then dive in and start playing and enjoying, reading and learning as you go. Expect to make mistakes and don’t worry about them too much.

Mage Knight is played from a set of scenarios that you can choose from. These are more like templates to set up the game. You will find that you have the freedom to move around the board freely and make choices about where you go and what you do.

There is one singular scenario for the solo player in the official rules. However, you can find a whole book of solo scenarios compiled by fans and available on Board Game Geek. You can download the Solo Scenario Book  and you will find lots of variations that will keep you wanting to come back for more.

The game has land pieces that are shaped in a cluster of 7 octagonal shapes that make up the tile. They look cog-like in shape. 

You start the game on a special starting tile that is surrounded by water except along one edge. Two other tiles are placed down face up against this to begin to make a wedge shape. So you don’t get to see the whole map from the beginning and will need to discover the land as you move through it.

The tiles are added from a draw pile which is made up of randomly shuffled tiles. The instructions explain how to build this deck according to each scenario.

This is where a great part of the variability of Mage Knight comes in as each of the land tiles are hidden except the three initial tiles. As you move out beyond those initial tiles you will draw new tiles and discover what lies on them.

You can discover places to visit such as Towns or encounter roaming enemies that you will need to defeat. You may also come across things like Magical Glades, Crystal Mines, Keeps, Mage Towers and more.

What will you do next? Will you go over to that Town and talk to the locals, or perhaps see if you can recruit some units to your deck? Nah, let’s go and take out those irksome Wolf Riders and earn some fame whilst gaining reputation from the local townsfolk.

The choice is really yours as you begin to delve into the territory you will find yourself making plans beyond the current turn. You will also have to think about nightfall which is slowly getting closer.

This game has Spells, Siege Attacks, Range Attacks and Defense that you can use as part of your actions and this all feeds nicely into the gameplay. In order to hit the win conditions you will need to become more powerful and add better spells to your and become a mightier  Mage Knight.

As you succeed in defeating Rampaging Orcs or other foes you will gain fame and either gain or lose reputation. As you gain fame you will level up your character and as you reach certain points you will add to your current deck from the advanced action deck. Thus building your strength and capability.

Mage Knight is rich in strategy and choice and is really engaging as you choose where you want to explore. There is plenty to do and plenty to fight as you manage your reputation and focus on building your abilities. 

It also has excellent replayability in solo play and when you get bored there is a whole book of additional scenarios you can enjoy. The exploration design in the game makes each game different as you reveal tiles as you go through your heroic journey to restore peace and stability. 

This is an epic solo game and highly recommended. If you like deck building and exploration games then you will love this game. Whilst this is a solo list it is worth noting that this is just as great with some friends too.

3. Marvel Champions: The Card Game

At number 3 in my list is Marvel Champions: The Card Game which was released in 2019. It is a great solo card game. However, it is not quite at the caliber of Mage Knight when it comes to playing with friends.

The game says it is for 1-4 players but solo and 2 player is definitely the best. Playing with 4 players really slows the game down. Which makes it perfect for this list.

Marvel Champions The Card Game (Base Game) - Superhero Strategy Game, Cooperative Game for Kids and Adults, Ages 14+, 1-4 Players, 45-90 Minute Playtime, Made by Fantasy Flight Games

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Anyway, this article is about the best solo board games and this is a respectable entry for playing by yourself. If you are into Marvel then this is a really good choice. Also, if you love comic books then this may just be the game for you. Let’s have a look at why.

This is another deck building game that allows you some level of configuration of your decks. You will choose a hero to play and a villain to try and beat. Each comes with their own deck. So Peter Parker/Spider Man will have a deck and the villain Rhino will get their own deck.

Flight of Fantasy sells this as a living card game (LCG). There are multiple campaign expansions that you can add to the game too that will change and develop it. Each with a new deck of villains or heroes for you to play with. Currently released are:

  • The Rise of Red Skull
  • The Galaxy’s Most Wanted
  • The Mad Titan Shadow
  • Sinister Motives
  • Mutant Genesis

Fantasy Flight Games also release Hero and Scenario packs. The Hero packs come with a full set of cards for a particular hero. The deck will allow you to build your hero with all their unique powers.

The scenario packs come with two new scenarios to play along with a new villain. These will allow you to play your current hero selection against the villain in new scenarios.

One of the great things about Marvel Champions is that the decks can be modified and by doing this you can increase or decrease the difficulty. To start with the decks are prebuilt to get you going so you can dive straight in, select your hero and villain and play.

Along with the hero and villain you also can add additional scenarios such as a bomb threat to make the game a little more interesting. This works really well and you will need to make decisions on where you need to concentrate your focus.

Finally the villain naturally has their evil scheme they have hatched. You must work to foil this also as it is another way in which you can lose.

The game play is really fast and you will find there are times when the game board reflects a comic book. With you taking multiple actions during a turn that will be fast flowing with multiple objectives.

Marvel Champions: The Card Game is a great deck building solo game that you will love, especially if you love the Marvel comics. You will get to be your own superhero and defeat your selection of villains. If you want to find out more then read my full review of Marvel Champions: The Card Game.

4. Arkham Horror: The Card Game Revised Core Set

Another living card game in Arkham Horror: The Card Game but this time in the rich and frightening lovecraftian world. Again this game is great for playing by yourself.

You can read my full review of Arkham Horror: The Card Game Revised Core Set Review. It is very similar to Marvel Champions in that each character (in Arkham’s case investigators) has a deck of cards. The slight difference is that this is a campaign based game and as such you will follow a series of scenarios to complete the campaign.

Fantasy Flight Games Arkham Horror The Card Game Revised Core Set | Horror / Mystery / Cooperative Games for Adults and Teens Ages 14+ | 1-4 Players | Avg. Playtime 1-2 Hours | Made

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You take on a character investigating curious happenings and attempting to prevent the end of the world. With the revised set you get 5 investigators to choose from and one campaign of three scenarios. 

Each scenario has an Encounter Deck, Agenda Deck, and Act Deck. The Encounter deck is pretty obvious and contains the things you will come across as you play.

The Agenda deck is the thing that defines the enemies plans. As they gain ground the cards will be read and discarded. If all the cards in the Agenda deck are discarded then you have lost that scenario.

You can win the scenario by finding three clues that will allow you to turn over the Act deck. Each card will add to the story. If you discard the last Act card before the Agenda deck runs out then you have completed the scenario.

If all of the investigators die then you will also lose that scenario.

For solo gaming you can either play two investigators or one. The choice is yours but I recommend playing with two a couple of times to get the hang of the game. Then have a stab at playing with one investigator.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game will engulf you in the world of Lovecraft and you will be immersed into terrifying scenarios that are in the classic genre style and difficult to play. The great news is that even if you completely fail then this becomes part of the narrative. You can move on to further scenarios and deeper into the mysteries.

However, this might be it’s shortfall as this is probably the shortest game play available so far. With the revised core set you get the Night of the Zealot campaign which comes with 3 scenarios for you to play. There is plenty of replayability with the fact that you will have variable character decks and the Mythos deck has enough cards for you to not see the same ones. 

Saying all that your first play through a scenario is most likely going to be your best. Which means that you will want to get more scenario expansions. There are quite a few campaign expansions for you to choose from:

  • The Dunwich Legacy cycle
  • The Path to Carcosa cycle
  • The Forgotten Age cycle
  • The Circle Undone cycle
  • The Dream-Eaters cycle
  • The Innsmouth Conspiracy cycle
  • Edge of the Earth cycle
  • The Scarlet Keys cycle
  • Standalone scenarios
  • Upgrade Expansions
  • Investigator Starter Decks

So you will not run out of new content for quite a while. 

If you enjoy the Night of the Zealot Campaign then you will probably be more than happy to get another expansion or even a new set of characters to play. If that is the case then I would recommend The Dunwich Legacy as your next step.

5. Too Many Bones

This popular game proves the saying, “You can’t have too many dice in a game!” This game sells itself as a dice builder RPG. And for good reason. You get a ton of dice.

Your objective in this game is to defeat tyrants. Each tyrant will have their own minions that you will need to wade through in order to reach them.

Chip Theory Games Too Many Bones: A Dice Builder RPG

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1-412+60-120

There are four distinctly unique characters known as Gearloc’s. Each Gearloc has multiple dice that record their stats and build their characters abilities. You can read more detail in my full Too Many Bones Board Game Review.

The characters come as neoprene mats with holes in places where the dice can fit. As an example there are four stats printed on the Gearloc mat for Health, Dexterity, Attack , and Defense. 

Next to these are holes where the stat dice can be placed to record increasing stats as the game progresses. So, Picket starts with 5 health and can then have additional 1-6 on the dice. This is then added to the 5 health. So if the dice shows 2 then 5 + 2 equals a total health of 7.

You have to be careful how you deploy your dice as there are a limited number. So you must think carefully about what ability you want to use.

At the beginning of the game you select a tyrant to try and defeat. These dictate the difficulty of the game and also the length of time it will take to complete. This is likely 2 to 4 hours so make sure you have enough time.

Once you have selected a tyrant you don’t dive in straight away and fight them. The game has layers of enemies for you to defeat first. This is dictated through an encounter deck that will build according to instructions specific to the tyrant. This will give you the right kind of enemies to face.

Not all the encounters will be enemies, there are also special encounters. Often you will flip over the encounter and there will be choices for you to make. You will choose which reward you gain from the encounter and this will affect the game going forward.

You cannot have a game like this without the bountiful loot. There are different kinds and very varied. Some you will even have to roll for so that you can pick the lock. You can see that there is a lot of variety in this game.

The various monsters, the tyrant and your character all have health points going into an encounter and these are symbolized by chips that sit under your character chip. As you, or the enemy, receive hit points you knock off a chip from under the character. Once they are all gone you or the enemy have died.

It is difficult to explain this game as it is so fantastically quirky and nicely made. However, the rules are expansive where every character, enemy and tyrant have their own rules attached to them. Every encounter may have specific rules too. There are dice rules and ability rules. It is vast and you will find yourself reading a lot.

My best advice is to read enough to get going and then start to play. You will always need to pick up the rulebook in this game so get used to it. The variety and uniqueness of every encounter makes this an awesome game so it is worth the reading.

There is also the cost to consider which as time of writing is more than Gloomhaven. However, Too Many Bones was my number 7 last year and is gaining popularity in the solo gaming arena. Hence my increasing it to position 5 this year.

This is an incredible game and is so much fun to play but if the cost is prohibitive then I would consider something like Arkham Horror: The Card Game instead. It is around a third of the price and will give you some great evenings of soloing.

Saying that, this is still an incredibly popular solo game that has so much character to it. It is still worth a consideration at number 7. If you like the sound of many varied encounters and choices galore then Too Many Bones would be an excellent choice.

6. Gloomhaven

OK, so we now have the game that still sits at the very top of the Board Game Geek leaderboard. Gloomhaven is a massive tactical dungeon crawler style game that you play as a campaign.

The game revolves around the town of Gloomhaven where you pick a character to play as a paid mercenary seeking her/his fortune. In the classic dungeon crawler style you will go out from Gloomhaven and explore the land around you. Fight dragons and monsters and pillage dungeons for their infinite riches.

Cephalofair Games: Gloomhaven, Award-Winning Strategy Board Game, For 1 to 4 Players, 60 to 120 Minute Play Time, For Ages 14 and up

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-414+60-120

There is a full review of Gloomhaven in the article Gloomhaven Board Game Review | Everything you need to know.

The game starts in the usual place for this genre, the Gloomhaven tavern. You are approached by someone and asked to retrieve some stolen documents. Your first scenario is set and you will explore the Black Barrow.

The game is rich with great writing and atmosphere and you will need all your wits to defeat the foes as you work your way through the campaign. Once Black Barrow is complete it will open up another location for you to explore. Once completed more locations are opened up as you slowly discover more of the Gloomhaven surroundings.

The great thing about the campaign is that you will have to make careful choices about your path. Each location can have prerequisites that must be fulfilled before you can play them. For example Inox Encampment has a global event that must be incomplete for you to play it. It is possible to go via a different route of scenarios that will lead to a decision that will prevent you from playing Inox Encampment.

This makes your game truly unique depending on your choices. In the game you get a map of Gloomhaven, 18 miniature characters, 240 monsters, map tiles to create the scenario from, and 155 overlay tiles to add to the scenario.

As you move through the campaign you will make changes to your character and to the game. For example, as you reveal locations there are stickers that you can place on your map showing their location. 

You can also enhance your character to make it more powerful. For more information you can read all about enhancing your character in A Guide To Gloomhaven Enhancements.

Each scenario lasts up to around an hour and if you fail you can play again. The campaign has hours and hours of scenarios for you to play through. It is designed to be played through once. 

However, if you plan to play the campaign again then I would recommend sleeving your cards and getting stickers that you can peel off again. There are several around sold as reset packs. The official sticker set Sinister Fish Gloomhaven Removable Sticker Set can be found at Amazon.

This is another game that is fantastic as a solo game and also great for playing with friends. There is also a casual mode that will allow you to play any scenario without gaining the end of scenario awards.

All in all this is a great game with hours and hours of playtime for you to battle monsters and seek fame and glory.

7. Terraforming Mars

We now have one of my favorite games to play solo and that is Terraforming Mars. This was released in 2016 and is also high up on the Board Game Geek leaderboard. This game is for 1 to 5 players but is an excellent choice for playing by yourself.

I have a full board game review in my post Terraforming Mars Board Game Review. You take on a corporation that seeks to terraform mars. This requires you to create the things that sustain life. So you need to raise the temperature, create oxygen and fill some of the surface with water.

Terraforming Mars Board Game - Award Winning Strategic Space Adventure Game for Family Game Night, Competitive Play & High Replay Value - Adults, Teens and lovers of Board Games by Stronghold Games 

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-512+90-120

Obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day and Mars wasn’t terraformed over a weekend. So the game is played over generations in which to complete the terraforming process. In the solo player you have 14 generations to do this.

You also play with the Corporate Era cards included in the deck. Plus two neutral cities and greeneries added to the board.

You can win by maxing out the temperature, oxygen and completing the ocean tiles. If you don’t achieve this by the end of the 14th generation then you lose. This will require you to manage your resources very carefully. In multiplayer there are Milestones and Awards which are not used in the solo game. Finally, you have an imaginary other player that has no effect other than when you draw a card that affects an opponent you can use it against the virtual opponent.

You will find that at the beginning the oxygen and temperature will hardly move. However, as you get your engine working and start generating you’ll find these will increase rapidly. Before you know it the game will end so make sure you keep an eye out and get that terraforming rating up before the end.

To terraform is no cheap task. So you will need to manage your mega credits and the production of your resources wisely. In doing so you will slowly increase production of your resources and move towards raising the temperature and oxygen levels and place water tiles onto the mars map.

As you progress towards this goal you will also earn a Terraforming Rating which is effectively victory points. In solo this is quite nice as you can keep a score tracker and see if you can beat it next time you solo. It adds a little something extra.

Terraforming Mars has some great expansions too and you can find my recommendations for these in my Best Terraforming Mars Expansions article. Currently there are:

  • Hellas and Elysium
  • Venus Next
  • Prelude
  • Colonies
  • Turmoil

If you like building engines and calculating which are the best cards to play in order to maximize potential then this will be a great game for you. You’ll love developing the dusty barren Mars terrain with forests, algae, animals and inspects.

8. Aeon’s End

Aeon’s End is another cooperative fantasy deck builder released in 2016 by Indie Boards & Cards. You are a breach mage who is attempting to defend your town of Gravehold against various enemies. For a full run down you can read my full review of Aeon’s End here.

In the base game you get 8 breach mage characters and 4 nemesis to defeat. You get to choose the character that you play and which nemesis you wish to fight.

Aeon's End 2e - Cooperative Deck Building Card Game for Game Night, 1 – 4 Players Teens, 14+ and Adults - Science Fiction & Fantasy Strategy Board Game - 60 Min Play Time - Indie Boards and Cards

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Each Nemesis has an amount of life assigned to it on the card. You get a life dial that you can dial in the number on the card and track as the life is reduced. If the Nemesis’ life reaches zero then you have defeated it and saved Gravehold.

Each Nemesis also has its own effect that can be unleashed upon your breach mage along with any additional rules for that particular Nemesis. You can also modify the difficulty against the Nemesis by following the instructions on their card.

A Nemesis comes with its own deck of cards and flipping over the Nemesis character card will provide a back story and instructions on setting the Nemesis up. The Nemesis deck cards are how the Nemesis attacks, unleashes its minions, or uses its powers against you.

The Nemesis deck provides some variation as there are enough cards that you will have a different experience every time you play against that Nemesis.

As your Breach Mage name suggests you have breaches in which it can create and cast spells. Initially you will only have 1 breach available but as the game progresses you may unlock the breaches to a maximum of 4.

As you unlock your breaches they may have an effect such as +1 damage when a spell is cast.

This is a fairly normal deck builder where you take a hand of cards from your deck and then play them. Drawing more cards from the deck as necessary. The nice thing in Aeon’s End is that as you discard your cards you can put them in the discard pile in any order. 

Once the draw deck is depleted you just turn over the discard pile to become the new draw deck. Which means that to a degree you can decide how to build the discard pile so that useful cards will be on top of the next draw pile. This adds a nice touch and allows some strategy and decision making in how you discard and draw your cards.

We know that depleting the Nemesis Life to zero will be a win. You can also win if the Nemesis has no more cards in its deck and there are no minions or powers still active.

There are two conditions for losing. The first is that Gravehold simply gets overrun with the enemy. The second is that you become exhausted and can no longer fight which kinda means that Gravehold gets overrun with enemies.

The player will become exhausted if their life is reduced to zero and Gravehold will be overrun once its life also reaches zero. A player’s life is recorded using tokens on their player mat. With a token removed as life is depleted. Gravehold has its own life dial that records its life.

This game is very simple to learn and in fact the publishers have done an amazing job with the instructions. They have examples for each of the rules and turns which really makes things clear. They have also pre-built the decks for you, so you can literally open the decks and start playing.

If you think that the more complicated games like Gloomhaven, Too Many Bones are too much to get your head around then Aeon’s End would be a great option. It has great replayability and variability and is much easier to learn. 

The solo play is very simple. You can either play multiple mages as per a multiplayer game. Alternatively you can modify the game slightly and play one mage. You build the Nemesis deck according to the table on page 9 of the rules.

The game uses a turn deck to decide the order of turns for players and Nemesis. As solo you shuffle three player cards and two Nemesis. Whenever a player card comes up it is your turn.

The one final thing for solo play is that you are your own Ally. So any effect given to an ally from your deck instead is given back to you.

That’s it, this is a typical deck builder that shines in its simplicity. However, whilst you build your deck and become more powerful. The Nemesis also increases in power. So this is no walk over. It is a great challenge.

This is a solid deck building game that is really easy to pick up and play. Beating it is a different matter. But that is part of the fun right.

9. Ark Nova

At number 9 we have a game that has been described as a cross between Wingspan and Terraforming Mars. It is a card drafting, tile laying game which pulls from a lot of other games to make it what it is. If you like Wingspan and Terraforming Mars then read on as this game is for you.

As a proud owner of a zoo you need to make it as successful as possible. As with all great Zoo’s you must also be a conservationist and do good deeds.

Capstone Games: Ark Nova Card Drafting, Hand Management Strategy Board Game, 1-4 Players, 90 to 150 Minute Play, Multi

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The game is quite complex and is for up to 4 players. It also has a solo mode for you to enjoy. It involves you creating environments and buildings for your animals, getting animals, making money from visitors and furthering conservation.

Each player will have a board for their zoo which will have bonus spaces that are released once covered. There is a large central board that has the tracks around the outside. In the center are spaces for the animal deck and 6 face up cards.

There are three tracks on the board. The first blue track runs up the middle of the board and tracks your reputation. The other two tracks run in opposite directions around the outside of the board.

The second is the conservation track and the third tracks how appealing your zoo is. Each player has two tokens. One that travels along the conservation and one along the appeal track. Once a player’s tokens pass each other (they are traveling in opposite directions) the end game is triggered.

There are two main decks. The first is a huge deck of animals and the second is a deck of supporting cards. 

The animals speak for themselves and in order to play the animal you must have an enclosure of the right size and suitability. Suitability would be like having water for swans for example. 

The supporting cards are various and contain cards that will help you with your zoo. Cards such as an ornithologist or even a side entrance. These cards give you buffs and bonuses as you play.

There is a lot to this game including currency, engine building and quite a bit of decision making. The game’s weakness is probably in the competitiveness and that sometimes this can be down to the luck of the draw of a single card.

Don’t let that put you off though. If competition isn’t your priority then this game is fun. You’ll build your own award-winning zoo with big game, cute bunnies and everything in between.

This is a fun game that will keep you enthralled for hours building the Zoo you will be proud of.

10. Gaia Project

Gaia is the personification of Earth. This game is similar to Terraforming Mars except instead of Terraforming one planet you are setting out to turn multiple planets into Gaia planets. Habitable and just like Earth.

Again this is a complex game and is going to take you a while to learn and master. When playing you will be constructing buildings to gain resources and managing power.

Capstone Games: Gaia Project, Strategy Board Game, A Follow Up Game from Terra Mystica, Includes a Challenging Solo Mode, 1 to 5 Players, Ages 14 and Up

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-412+60-150

As you play the game you will gain resources enabling you to build infrastructure. When you start you can build Mines and these will free up more resources. 

As you progress you can then upgrade Mines into Trading Stations. At which point those trading stations can either build Research Labs or the single Planetary Institute. 

Finally the Research Academies may be upgraded into Academies. Each building you construct will provide additional resources and enable you to do more.

All working towards turning planets into Gaia planets. Depending on the planet you are trying to terraform this may be easier or harder. A barren planet will be the hardest to convert into Gaia.

At the start you choose a race that you want to be and each race has different abilities. This is a resource management game and so you will have credits along with managing and building up your power.

You also have various Tech Trees that you can develop providing more resources and abilities.

This is a long game that can last between 60-150 minutes and you only have 6 rounds in which to complete the game. Within the 6 rounds there are 4 phases:

  1. Income Phase
  2. Gaia Phase
  3. Actions Phase
  4. Clean-Up Phase

The solo game has an Automa which acts as an AI opponent. The Automa does not have credits, ore, knowledge, power, federation tokens, tech tiles, or Quantum Intelligence Cubes (QIC’s). Which results in it never gaining components where your player will. 

However, it will gain Victory Points. The Automa has its own deck of decision cards. It also comes with 7 faction cards and a double sided terraforming reference card.

There is also a neutral player that sits on the Affect Final Scoring track of the scoring board.

At the end of the 6 rounds you will calculate your victory points and if you have beaten the Automa then you are a winner.

I know that the detail in this explanation is a little light and that is because this game is so complex. There is just so much to think about but that is part of the magic of this game. 

The rules are well written and they go through a simplified setup which will help you play through your first couple of games. Which really helps.

This is a very highly rated game for playing solitaire and I would highly recommend you get a copy.

11. Dune Imperium

This game is based on Frank Herbert’s Dune where interplanetary houses manage planets. The houses are always jostling to manage the planet Arrakis with its unique and most valuable spice. 

In Dune Imperium you are a leader of one of the great houses and your job is to ensure your house comes out victorious. This will be done through combat with other players, forging alliances or gaining political influence. All adding to your Victory Points.

Dune: Imperium

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-414+60-120

Your objective is to reach 10 victory points or when the end game conditions happen to have the most victory points. In a tie the player with the most spice wins.

If you are familiar with the Dune universe then you will be glad to hear that there is spice to be gained and battles for resources to be won. How you place your workers and manage your cards will be key to becoming the overall winner.

Dune imperium is a deck building worker placement board game published by Dire Wolf games. It was released in 2020 and is increasing in popularity for solo players. Hence making it onto my 20 best solo board games 2023 here.

For solo players you basically set up the game as you would for three players. However, the other two player actions are determined by an additional House Hagal. Who have their own deck to simulate the other player’s turn. 

As your automated opponents get to their maximum level of resources these are converted into points. There is a table in the rules that defines how much resource the players need before they convert to VP’s.

On the whole Dune Imperium is a great solo game. The automaton players do everything that you do and truly compete. They will also gain Victory Points at an alarming rate so you will have to think hard to gain the upper hand.

If you like deck building and are into the Dune universe then this is definitely a game you should try.

12. Under Falling Skies

At number 14 we have a game that is released as a solo player only! Yep, the big green aliens are attacking Earth and the only one between Earth and total annihilation is you.

This is a dice rolling game that can be played as a single game or part of a campaign. The campaign is played over four chapters which equates to about 10 games.

Czech Games Under Falling Skies

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
112+20-40

The campaign is packed into the box in order and designed to reveal the next chapter once you have finished the previous one. This will allow you to discover the story as you play through. Once completed the campaign can be played through again with some differences to keep the interest.

In the standard game you only use the contents that are above the campaign notebook. These are:

  • Research marker
  • Energy marker
  • Damage marker
  • Excavator
  • 2 White and 3 Gray dice
  • 2 Blue dice
  • Mothership tile
  • 5 Purple ships
  • 4 White ships
  • 1 Orange ship
  • 4 Sky tiles
  • 3 City tiles
  • 3 Base tiles

There are quite a few options when setting up the game which allow you to vary the game’s difficulty. Each of the sky tiles can be turned over to make it a little more difficult. You can turn one or all of the tiles over.

There are three different cities you can defend. Roswell is the base and has no additional powers. However, Washington and New York also have additional powers that can help or at least change the game play a little bit.

If you lose a game then there is a nice little mechanism for replaying that game. If you lose you can flip over the city and start again. Typically the other side of the city has a bit of a boost to give you a chance to win this time.

The mothership starts at the top of the board and launches its fighters down at the city. From your tunnels beneath you will defend the city. As you play the game you will start with a few rooms in which you can play your dice. 

You do this by rolling the dice and then using each one to activate an action by placing it in a room. Some rooms are large and require 2 dice to activate them. 

The board is divided into 5 columns down which the Alien ships descend. Once you activate a room the number rolled on the dice will be the number of spaces any alien ships that are in that column move down.

As the ships dive down they will encounter spaces that will either move them left or right to an adjacent column or have an explosion on them. If they are on an explosion and you activate a room with your fighter jets in them you will destroy all those aliens. They are then returned to the mothership to be respawned.

Each alien fighter that makes it to the city level causes damage. This increases the damage by 1 until it reaches a red skull. The alien fighter is then returned back to the mother ship to be respawned.

As you play you can extend your tunnels to give you more rooms and actions to take. You do this using a little excavator and one of your dice.

This will only happen if the number on the dice is less than or equal to the number on the aliens’ space.

After each turn the mothership moves down the board and activates something bad. This may be the excavator moving back some spaces, closing off some rooms or it may be launching the white ships.  Either way it’s bad.

There are three phases to a turn:

  1. Dice phase – Place the dice and move any alien ships.
  2. Rooms phase – Resolve the effects from the rooms.
  3. Mothership moves down one and the action is resolved.

There is one way to win and that is to raise your research to a level that will find a way to defeat the aliens. Your research is increased by activating rooms that will increase it.

There are two ways in which you can lose. If the mothership reaches the skull marker then you have been invaded and you lose. The second way you can lose is if your defense marker reaches the red skull.

This is a really fun game and requires some thought about how to deploy your dice. You will have the reward of something being activated that will help with your defense. However, make sure it is the right thing as the flip side is those pesky fighters will always be moving closer.

The game is pretty easy to learn and has good replayability.

13. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Previously at number 10 we have a survival board game in Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on Cursed Island down at 13. In the solo game you randomly choose your character along with their special abilities.

As you would imagine from the title this is a classic survival game. You will have scenarios in which to survive and a few friends to help you too.

Portal Games Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island Board Game

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-414+60-120

It is recommended that you choose the carpenter, cook, or explorer as these work best in solo mode. Shuffle these three together and draw your character.

Luckily, and to make the game work better, you also have a dog and Friday to keep you company whilst you battle the elements and struggle to survive. Friday and the dog do not count towards building costs amongst other things mentioned specifically about them in the rules.

Once you have chosen your character you now choose the scenario you want to play. An example scenario is where you are castaway and trying to signal passing ships to be rescued.

Each scenario will have a story and a number of rounds in which you have to complete the objectives in the scenario. If you don’t then you fail and the game ends with your death. In castaways you have failed to build enough wood to make a fire big enough to signal the passing ship.

There is an awful lot to this game where you must gather your resources, explore the island by placing new hex tiles, and building shelter. This all revolves around your health and morale which can go up or down. 

Your character always goes first and you will be constantly making choices on where you should focus on. Should you build your shelter up or go explore. Perhaps you will need to hunt for food and may fight off infection. All these things need to be balanced in order to maintain your health and not die.

Each round is broken up in 6 phases that need to be resolved in order. 

  1. Event Phase
  2. Morale Phase
  3. Production Phase
  4. Actions Phase
  5. Weather Phase
  6. Night Phase

So those are the phases per round. As all good survival games should be there is one way to win and three to lose.

Winning

  • As soon as you fulfill the scenario goal you have won the game. Congratulations. Of course that is unless the scenario dictates something different.

Losing

  • If your character dies then you obviously lose.
  • If the last round ends and you haven’t fulfilled the scenario goal then you lose.
  • If your camp/shelter is located on a tile you cannot get to anymore then you lose.

This game is quite complex and there are a lot of rules that I have glanced over here.

Conclusion

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a massive game and is going to take anything from 60-120 per scenario. Along with all the previous things discussed you also need to build tools and items to help you survive.

This game is really fun and also hard. You are truly trying to survive and especially solo. If you like a challenge then this is a good choice for you.

Each of the scenarios are different and fun to play. Each one will require different focus and present different challenges. 

You will have a myriad of choices to make but front and foremost you will need to decide which ones will give you the best opportunity to survive.

If you like survival games and a challenge then this is a must for your collection.

14. A Feast for Odin

We have had quite a few deck building board games in this list so far. This game is a nice change as A Feast for Odin is a worker placement board game.

If you haven’t played a worker placement game before then you basically have a number of workers. These workers can then be placed in areas that will then create an action.

Z-Man Games A Feast For Odin Board Game | Viking Game | Strategy Game | Fun Family Board Game for Adults and Teens | Ages 14+ | 1-4 Players | Average Playtime 30-120 Minutes | Made by Z-Man Games

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-412+30-120

In A Feast for Odin you have over 60 options to place your Viking workers to hunt, get food, animals, equipment, or even pick up a boat to go whaling. Each of these can also be upgraded.

You will have a home board and these resources can then be used to feed your people at the banquet. You can also place goods over your board to increase points. Your unused workers will also sit here.

Each type of goods is a different size and color. There are green items which cannot be placed next to each other. Blue colored goods can be placed next to each other and when you upgrade green goods they turn into blue. This part of the game can very quickly turn into a type of tetris.

As part of the game you can also choose to explore and there are several islands that you can go to. These have a value of points and you will also need to cover areas to increase your score. Some Islands provide resources of their own too.

One game is split into rounds and you can decide how many rounds you wish to play. Either a long game of 7 rounds or a short game of 6.

Within these rounds there are no less than 12 phases:

  1. A New Viking
  2. Harvest
  3. Turn Exploration Boards and Placing Silver
  4. Draw an New Weapon
  5. Actions
  6. Determine Start Player
  7. Income
  8. Animal Breeding
  9. Feast
  10. Bonus
  11. Update and Add New Mountain Strips
  12. Remove Placed Vikings from the Action Board

There are also occupation cards and weapons cards. At the beginning of the game you will draw an occupation card. You’ll also get a bow and arrow card, snare, and spear along with a mead goods tile.

There are so many choices to make and this can be a little overwhelming when first starting. The occupation card is really good as it guides you in a direction and helps you to make the first few decisions.

If you like worker placement games then this is one of the best and is a great solo option. There is a bit of a steep learning curve but this is a game with longevity that you will enjoy playing for a long time. Each game is going to be different and you will have different choices.

15. Scythe

Scythe is a Eurostyle game where factions are fighting to gain power over the lands and gather their fortunes. Set in an alternate history during the 1920’s you will be a faction that is seeking to build your territories and wealth. 

You do this through gathering resources and deploying your military power to overthrow the other factions. You even have 4 cool dieselpunk Mechs that you’ll need to deploy in order to raise your combat ability.

Stonemaier Games: Scythe (Base Game) | an Engine-Building, Area Control Strategy Board Game Set in Dieselpunk 1920s Europe | for Adults and Family | 1-5 Players, 115 Minutes, Ages 14+

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-514+90-115

The game was crowd funded through a kickstarter campaign that managed to raise $1.8 million. When it was released it proved very popular and was listed by many as one of the best games of 2016.

In the solo game you play against an Automa. You can pick any faction for you to play as and any faction for the Automa. First games should definitely keep the Automa as far away from yours as possible.

The Automa comes in the form of its own simplified rules and an Automa deck that is turned over to dictate the actions that the Automa will take. The Automa does not need a player mat but does use the faction mat.

It also has a Triumph track card with a token to keep track of progress. You select which difficulty you want the Automa to be by choosing different levels of Triumph track. The track will progress each turn and slowly build the Automas abilities like being able to cross rivers and lakes.

Each card in the Automa deck has two halves I and II. When starting to play you use the I half of the card. The deck is set in a draw pile and you turn over the cards and take actions when it is the Automa’s turn.

You will eventually arrive at a II on the Automa Triumph track and at this point gather up the Automa deck, reshuffle, rotate the deck 180 degrees then set down as the new draw pile. From now on you will draw and play the II half of the deck.

There is also a set of help cards. As you work through the Automa cards you will need to take several move actions like Non-Attacking Move Mech. You can find the help card relating to this and it will lead you through the steps to complete that move. 

These are really useful and you should consider sleeving them as they are going to get used…a lot. You can read up on sleeving in my article Do you Sleeve your Board Games? It explains the pros and cons of sleeving and also gives you a great tip on shuffling cards that are sleeved.

Scythe is different from many of the other games in that it has no rounds or phases to turns. You simply play through taking your turn then the Automa then back to you. This continues until the 6th start is placed on the board at which point the game immediately ends. There is a final accumulation of the end of game coin. Then the player with the most wins.

Each player gets 6 stars that are placed on their player mat. For the Automa place them on the faction mat. In Scythe there is a Triumph Track which basically indicates goals for you to achieve. These goals are:

  • Complete all 6 upgrades
  • Deploy all 4 Mechs
  • Build all 4 structures
  • Enlist all 4 recruits
  • Have all 8 workers on the board
  • Reveal 1 completed objective card
  • Win Combat (up to 2 times)
  • Have 18 popularity
  • Have 16 Power

As you play, if you achieve any of these then you place a star on that Triumph. The Automa will place a star if it reaches the 16 Power level and also if it defeats you in combat up to 2 times. 

The other 4 stars will be awarded as indicated on the Triumph track. Once the Automa has completed all the stars then game over.

There is a lot more to this game than the overview above. You will build buildings, gather resources and occupy territories as you seek to gain wealth.

Finally, the quality of this game is fantastic. Each faction has a beautifully crafted character and 4 mechs along with the worker meeples. The artwork is superb and created by Polish visual artist Jakub Rozalski. 

Rozalski was already creating a world through his art and was asked to help create the artwork along these lines. This has resulted in some amazing artwork that draws you into the theme.

This is a great game for solitaire and has a worthy place at number 15 for you to add to your collection.

16. Wingspan

Wingspan is a fantastically unique game where you own a wildlife preserve. Your objective is to attract birds into three different habitats in order to gain the most points.

You will need to gather the right kinds of food to attract the birds and if you are lucky they will lay eggs.

At its heart Wingspan is an engine building game.  The game comes with player mats, eggs, food tokens and an amazing dice tower to throw the food dice down.

Stonemaier Games: Wingspan (Base Game) | A Relaxing, Award-Winning Strategy Board Game About Birds for Adults and Family | 1-5 Players, 40-70 Minutes, Ages 14+

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-510+40-70

There is also a deck of 170 exquisitely drawn birds. Each favoring their own habitat and providing powers and end game rewards.

The solitaire game is one of the best Automas available and makes the solo play really fun. The Automa consists of 11 Automa cards, 2 End-of-Round Goal Scoring cards, 2 Action Summary cards, and 1 Current Round Tracker card.

The Automa cards have one that is called the Automubon Society card. This should be removed during your first few games. Wingspan solo is a challenge and adding the Automobon increases the difficulty to expert level. Leave that until you are confidently beating Wingspan.

I have a great article on How to Play Wingspan Solo that will explain the game for solo players. It will explain in more detail how the Automa works.

For a quick overview, in Wingspan solitaire there are 4 rounds. In each round you go first then the Automa, the round continues till all your action cubes are used and the Automa has finished its turn.

Each turn you can make one of four actions:

  • Play a bird
  • Gain food
  • Lay eggs
  • Draw bird cards

In order to play birds into one of your habitats you need the right type and quantity of food. You will also need some eggs. You will need to balance between drawing birds, getting the food and eggs you need and then playing the bird into your habitat.

When you want to gain food, lay eggs or draw bird cards you will place an action cube on the row of your choice. Each habitat (or row) provides either food, eggs, or birds.

Place the cube on the first available space on that row that does not have a card on it. You will gain the benefit of that slot. For example the Wetland habitat allows you to draw cards.

You also move the cube one column to the left activating cards and powers. COntinue this till the cube is leftmost on the mat. Once it reaches this point your turn is over.

The Automa will go next and you will turn over a card from the deck. Each Automa card has multiple actions depending on which round you are playing. You will now resolve the action.

Once you have completed the actions on the Automa card the turn returns back to you. Once you have placed all your action cubes the round ends and you perform the end of round scoring.

After completing all 4 rounds the game ends and you do the End of Game scoring. Add the scores up and if yours is higher than the Automa then you win.

The game is challenging and there are variable difficulties to keep you engaged as you develop your skills.

Wingspan is a worthy game to be on my list of best solo board games for 2023. The design and component quality is superb. The artwork is exceptional and if you are even slightly into bird watching then you will love the numerous different birds available in this game.

17. Nusfjord

From birds to fish with Nusfjord which was released in 2017 and designed by Uwe Rosenberg. The game is a resource management and worker placement game. 

There are elements to this game where you need to build fishing boats to gain more fish, build buildings, and manage your forest.

This game is very similar to the number 14 game, Feast for Odin. It is a bit simpler and shorter to play though.

Nusfjord

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-512+20-100

The nice thing about Nusfjord is that it has several variations on solo play. So you can pick one you like or even vary it up a bit.

The game requires you to manage your resources in order to build ships or buildings. You can also gain elders that will help you build.

For example 1 elder is called the Pond Builder and will allow you to Distribute 4 fish plus 1 fish per building. Another is called the constructor who allows you to build a ship or building.

Elders have a cost and you will need to provide an upkeep for your elders from your supply. 

You can also use fish to serve up a plate. Each plate you serve up will give you a gold coin per round. 

In the basic variation of the Nusfjord solitaire game you play two color worker sets. You then play one color per round leaving them in place until you have played the second round. This then blocks you from making the same choices for the next round as you did the first.

So a typical set of three rounds would start with the red workers placed out in the first round. The second round you would place the blue whilst the red is blocking the previous actions. Then in the third round you would leave out the blue but gather in the red tokens to use in that round. In this way the colors are cycled.

The aim of solo is to get as many victory points as possible. If you score 30-40 victory points then that makes you good. You can see how much you can score.

There are two other variants of this basic Nusfjord solo gameplay. The first Advanced Solo Rules use three colors and allows you to use the 5 player copy options of the game. 

There is a final variation which has a nice ranking system to it which I think is really good. The Campaign variation uses the advanced rules over three games. You add up your victory points after each game.

Your goal is to gain 100 points from the Campaign which will get you on the ranking system. If you get more then this will be your rank. So, if I played a campaign and scored 115 then my rank would be rank 15. If I played the next game and scored 110 then my rank would remain at 15. If however, I scored 104 then my rank would drop back down to 4.

If you score 10 victory points less than your current rank then you will be demoted. It will take you a few games to even get on the rankings in my experience. This is a really nicely thought out feature and way in which you can compare with friends or compete against yourself to get your rank higher.

Nusfjord is a great game and really fun playing solo. With the three versions of solitaire you will have a bit of variety too. Depending on your mood you can play the basic 2 worker colors or a more advanced 3 color game. Finally, to work on getting that rank up you can play through an entire campaign. If Feast of Odin seems a bit large and daunting then Nusfjord is a strong alternative for you to choose.

18. Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write

Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write was released in 2021 so is a very new game. It is a dice rolling worker placement kind of game. You are the owner of an island where you are setting up a Dinosaur park.

Your goal is to build the best Dinosaur theme park. You do this by gathering resources in the form of DNA. You must also hire specialists, build attractions and other buildings so that your visitors have a great time.

Dinosaur Island Rawr and Write Board Game - Build Your Dino Theme Park! Strategy Game, Fun Family Game for Kids and Adults, Ages 10+, 1-4 Players, 30-45 Minute Playtime, Made by Pandasaurus Games

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-410+30-45

Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write have two sheets that represent your park. One has a grid space to fill in your buildings and enclosures along with areas to record your dinosaurs and DNA. It also records the cost of the three buildings you can build plus two spaces to record unused coins and roads that you can use later.

The second sheet records your attractions, specialists, Dino Tour, and ominously the death toll. It also records your final score. In the Specialist area is a place to record the cost of your specialists.

In the solitaire version you set up as two players but only have one park sheet. You then play against an AI opponent. This comes in the form of its own deck. 

The game is split into 3 seasons, with each season having three phases. There is a 1st Action Phase, 2nd Action Phase and finally the Run Park Phase. 

For solo games you use 6 dice. The dice have various resources on their faces along with threats.

You roll the dice and then turn over the AI card. The AI card will show two resources. It will then take two dice with those resources on it and place them on the action spaces indicated on the card. The AI does not gain anything from this, it just stops you from gaining the resources.

You are now left with 4 dice and you can select 2 of these. You will get the resources from the dice. 

There are two remaining dice. You can select one to give you an additional resource and the other dice threat will be applied.

You can then select which action space to put the dice on from the following:

  • Make Dinos
  • Raise Funds
  • Extract DNA
  • Duplicate
  • Build 3 Roads or 1 Attraction

You will only be able to select any of the above but if you place your dice on top of one of the AI dice you must also take on the threat.

As you play, build your enclosures and make your dinos you will gain points. At the end of the 3 seasons you add up your score and score yourself against the following table.

Victory PointsAchievement
0-49Let’s Try This Again
50-69Not Bad
70-79You’re Getting the Hang of This
80-89Promoted to Supervisor
90-99Management Material!
100-109You’re Ready for Your Own Franchise!
110-119Franchise of the Year!
119-129PARK of the Year!
130+Lifetime Achievement Award!
Final Scoring

These are a very brief overview of the rules to give you an idea of gameplay. There is a lot more in this game.

Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write is a great solo game where you will enjoy planning where to build your buildings and roads and how to make the most of the visitors’ tour.  Obviously this is a dangerous place and so you will need to keep your deaths as low as possible.

This may be difficult as the game wouldn’t be the same without disasters. These can come in the form of destroying a paddock, or 3 roads. Or perhaps losing 4 stored DNA.

If you fancy running your own Dinosaur Island then this will be a worthwhile addition to your collection.

19. Cascadia

Cascadia is another new game which was released in 2021 by Alderac Entertainment Group. It is a puzzle tile laying and animal token draughting game. The aim of the game is to create the most diverse and beautiful landscape in order to populate with wild animals. This basically equates to creating patterns that will gain you points.

The game is simple to learn and quick to play so it is a nice short game that lasts about 30 minutes.

AEG & Flatout Games | Cascadia - Award-Winning Board Game Set in the Pacific Northwest | Easy to Learn | Quick to Play | Ages 10+

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-410+30-45

The game play provides points by grouping the different habitats together as you place tiles. The bigger the habitat the more you score. You also have to place your animals to make shapes. For example the Salmon needs to be placed in habitats that create a line of them.

Bears can gain points by being on their own with no bears next to them, in pairs, or in threes. Each of them provides more points. There are cards that you can draw that will vary this for each animal and this really helps with game variation.

There are 5 types of animal in the game:

  • Bear
  • Fox
  • Elk
  • Hawk
  • Salmon

So you are trying to place habitat tiles out that will enable you to place animals as they come up into the pattern you have created in the habitat. Whilst also trying to create the biggest habitats possible.

You draw a habitat and then an animal and place them on the table in a pair. This is done so there are 4 pairs on the table for you to then draw from. There are also nature tokens that provide you with an option to take an animal and habitat that are not paired on the draw.

At the end of 20 turns the game ends and you can do your final scoring. For the solo game there are also some achievements to attain which makes this a little more interesting and gives you a goal to beat.

On the whole this is a lovely simple, fast playing game that will have you thinking hard about where to place everything and when to use your nature tokens. It is really fun and a great game to pull out for a chilled gaming session.

We are into the last two games of my top 20 list. Cascadia and the next game are similar in some respects. Where they differ I think is that Cascadia is a little more accessible to new players whereas Calico is a little harder.

So I think the choice would come down to Cascadia if you are newer to board gaming with a secondary preference on the theme.

20. Calico

For our final entry we have Calico which was released in 2020 again by Alderac Entertainment Group. The game designer is different from Cascadia and so is some of the gameplay.

Calico is another pattern matching game but a little more complicated. Whereas with Cascadia you lay tiles and your options on where to place other tiles increases. In Calico your options are diminishing.

AEG & Flatout Games | Calico - Award Winning Board Game for the Whole Family | From the Creators of Cascadia | Easy to Learn | Quick to Play | Make Quilts and Attract Cats! | Ages 10 and up

PlayersAgePlaytime (m)
1-410+30-45

In Calico you are attempting to make the coziest quilt you can. There are also cats for those cat lovers out there. You need to design the quilts to attract some very special cats.

You select 3 cats from the 10 cats available. These come in the form of 5 double sided cat scoring tiles. You then select two random patterns for each cat and these will show their preference in quilt design. You then need to select three special pattern hexes and place them on your quilt board. 

There are a variety of ways of earning points as well as the pattern matching. You can get points by achieving the goal on each of the cats. You also get points if you manage to match the pattern around the tile to the one shown on it.

As you achieve points there are cat and button tokens to place on the quilts to show as a reminder. You draw 3 quilt patches from the draw pile (or bag) and place them on the table in a line. In the solo variation you select and pick up 1 patch and place it in your quilt.

Once you have finished your turn the patch furthest away from the draw pile is discarded then the remaining tile is moved to the furthest position away from the pile. So it is the next to be discarded if it is not used. Then draw two replacements from the pile one at a time and place them in position 2 and then 1.

This gives you more to think about when selecting your patch. It may make you pick a patch closer to the end first in order to use another patch later. It gives an extra dimension to the game.

That is pretty much it. The game is nice and light and has a fun theme that will appeal to some.

It is similar to Cascadia but a bit more of a challenge as you will find the game gets trickier and your decisions harder as it progresses. This is due to the reduction in spaces available as you place patches.

The artwork is beautiful and quaint and you will find it very satisfying to have created the quilt at the end. Especially if you have bagged some serious points and achievements.

All in all this would be a great little game to pull out and play on a Sunday afternoon when you haven’t got much else to do. You’ll find yourself having a couple of games and still wanting more.

Conclusion

Well that is my 20 best solo board games for 2023. I really hope you find something that piques your interest. Whether it is an epic dungeon crawler like Mage Knight and Gloomhaven or the fight for survival with Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island you will find hours of enjoyment. Not only that but the knowledge that you have defeated some badass monsters or survived where others have lost.

Finally there are the habitat building games of Cascadia and Wingspan which maybe more your thing. Whatever you find I wish you the very best year of solitaire gaming and all the joy that may bring.

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