Solo Board Games
Who said you could only play board games with a big group of friends? While playing board games is a great way to spend quality time with family and friends, it's also great as a solo activity! Go on a solo date just for you and have fun playing solo board games!✍️ February 20, 2023
- 🔍 Best Overall: Lost Ruins of Arnak
- ☕️ Best Immersive: Coffee Roaster
- 🏝 Best Strategy: Spirit Island
- 🍎 Best Classic: Orchard: 9 Card Solitaire Game
- 🌴 Most Unique: Friday
- 👉 How we picked and tested
In this age of social distancing, being able to have fun on your own can be tricky, but it’s definitely possible! Board games can provide hours of solo fun, and they’re a great way to pass the time while also giving your brain a workout.
With so many different board games out there, our top pick is Lost Ruins of Arnak for its easy-to-learn gameplay, thematic depth, and strategic features. It’s a great game for solo play and brings plenty of entertainment!
To help you find the best solo board game to fit your style, we’ve taken a look at over 15 different solo board games and narrowed it down to our top five. We know it can be hard to choose, so we’ve outlined each game’s features and why it’s perfect for solo fun! If you want to know more about our picking process, read the process behind our selections here!
1. Best Overall: Lost Ruins of Arnak
- Player count: 1-4 players
- Duration: 60 or 120 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 12+
Ever thought about going on an expedition and unlocking the mysteries of an ancient ruin? That’s exactly what Lost Ruins of Arnak offers, and it provides an incredible solo experience with multiple pathways to victory and a unique deck-building mechanic.
Why we love it
What makes this game a real standout in the sea of solo board games is that it strikes a perfect balance of luck and strategic play. Compared to other traditional deck-building games where you’ll often have to rely on luck, this game gives you a decent idea of some of the cards that will be available to you during the round. This means that the game’s easy enough to learn for beginners but hard to master for veterans – making it enjoyable for a wide range of players!
There is also an excellent level of thematic gameplay here – find and explore ruins, search for artifacts and cool items, and overcome your fear of facing the fearsome guardian beasts. The action combos add even more tactical depth to the game, allowing you to collect more resources in place of victory points.
Even better, the components are all top-notch quality, and the game includes a sturdy game board, tokens, cards, and the resource bits that make your gaming experience grander. One of the best archaeology-themed games out there, the setup for Lost Ruins of Arnak can be overwhelming at first, but it’s quite simple once you start playing.
A possible downside is that the game can become stale after multiple solo plays; however, with a new solo print and expansions on the way, this game still has the potential to keep you entertained for hours. We also wished that the game came with inserts to organize all your components instead of just ziplock bags that can tear easily over time.
All in all, this is one of the best archaeology-themed board games and is an excellent solo game for its storytelling elements, strategic play, and thematic depth. If you’re looking for a game that’ll keep you entertained for hours, Lost Ruins of Arnak is your best bet!
How to play
In this game, you’ll be playing against a rival expedition that takes actions determined by the solo action tiles. Your goal is to score more points by exploring the ruins and finding as many artifacts as possible. To set up the game, set up the board as usual, as if you were playing with two players, and block off second-action spaces on the base campsite.
Setting up: Get one gold and one compass for yourself. Take another player board to represent the rival expedition and flip it over to the side with the grey tents. Give the rival all 6 archaeologists of the other colors.
Place the magnifying glass of your rival at the start of the research track, and remember not to use their notebook. Next, build your rival stack of 10 action tiles.
There are 15 action tiles included in the game, and you always use these five without color on them, and the red and the green ones are arranged into pairs, and you choose one tile from each pair to use.
The number of redaction tiles you use is the game’s difficulty level, ranging from 0 - 5. Decide how many tiles you will use, shuffle them, and then choose that many at random.
Then add in the green ones of the types that you are missing. You should now have 10 action tiles. Shuffle them and place them face down on the board of the rival. Make sure the tiles are aligned in the same direction, with the dark part of the tile at the bottom.
Your rival is always one step ahead of you and goes first in each round. On their turn, you first reveal the top action tile from the stack and then, if possible, resolve the indicated action. As usual, your rival and you take alternating turns during the game, but your opponent only passes once they have played all 10 action titles.
On your turn: You may perform one main action plus an unlimited number of free actions. The main actions are:
- Digging at a site
- Discovering a new site
- Overcoming a guardian
- Buying or playing a card, researching
- Passing your turn All of these actions are explained in the player’s rulebook.
At the end of the round, return all of your rival archaeologists to them. Remember, they do not gain any fear cards if they run away from a site with a Guardian. Shuffle the action tiles to form a new stack, keeping them in the same orientation.
End of the game: The rival expedition scores points for the position of its magnifying glass on the research track, any Temple tiles gained, Guardians overcome, and cards purchased.
They score 3 points for each unique face-up idol and two points for every idol in the -1 stack. You add up your score as usual, and whoever has the most points wins! In case of a tie, you use the normal tiebreaker rules.
2. Best Immersive: Coffee Roaster
- Player count: 1 player
- Duration: 10 to 30 minutes
- Ages: 12+
Ready to step up your coffee game? Coffee Roaster is the perfect game for any solo player looking to hone their barista skills! This unique game puts you in charge of your coffee roastery, where you’ll be honing your skills by roasting and brewing the perfect cup of joe.
Why we love it
We just love the excellent storytelling elements of this game with its realistic coffee roasting mechanism. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to increase the temperature, add flavor notes, and remove harmful elements to get the perfect cup of coffee.
This deck-building game has excellent replayability, with each game having a different outcome for you to experiment with. The variability of the beans, flavors, and roasting process keeps the game fresh with every play. It’s quick and easy to play, making it perfect for a light game night or a chill afternoon.
However, because of its deck-building nature, Coffee Roaster may heavily rely on luck. Some turns might not be as beneficial as others, and the game may be unforgiving if you get unlucky and get poor draws. Nevertheless, it’s still an enjoyable experience that every solo player should try!
So, if you’re looking to be the master roaster of your coffee shop, give Coffee Roaster a try! Its blend of strategy, storytelling, deck-building, and resource management will provide you with an immersive experience. And who knows, you might be the world’s greatest barista!
How to play
This game is divided into two phases: roasting and cup-testing. Your main objective is to create the perfect coffee. To begin with, it is important to roast the coffee beans (that are still hard) evenly and screen out unpleasant pieces. The freshly roasted beans are processed, and the decisive cup-testing phase begins.
Game setup: Place the large roast board in front of you on the table. Put the thermostat and toast counter board above the roast board, and move the round cup-testing board so that it fits into the recess on the right of the roast board.
Then, put the roast marker on space “0” of the Roast-counter track. Mix the 5 square Cup-effect tokens face down on the table and place them on the empty square spaces of the roast board; then reveal them. Place the “wild flavor” token on the empty oval space in the center of the roast board.
Place as many “smoke” tokens on the thermostat spaces highlighted in red, and place two and three tokens on the standard side. Choose a type of coffee from the Coffee cards: For a single choice, you choose any one Coffee card and play only this one card.
For your first game, pick a coffee card of roast level group I (light brown), which is recommended for beginners. Once you get the hang of it, you can move on to other difficulty levels.
1. Roasting: During the Roasting phase, you work to improve your bag and get it ready to score points in the second phase. Although roasting typically lasts up to nine rounds, you always have the power to move on to the next stage if you feel ready.
There are six steps in each round of the roasting phase: increasing temperature, drawing tokens, removing moisture, using flavor tokens, roasting, and decision time.
At the decision time, you must decide whether to play another round of the roasting phase, repeating all six steps, or stop and proceed to the cup-testing phase. If you want to keep roasting your coffee, it’s best to do so at a high level, or else you won’t get the rich flavors that come with fast roasts. Unlocking more cup effects will also give you a wider range of options when adding flavor to your coffee.
Remember that the longer you play in the roasting phase, the more you risk negative consequences, such as smoke tokens getting added to your bag and burning your beans.
2. Cup-testing: Draw one token at a time from the cloth bag, and then decide if you want to put it in the cup or cardboard tray. If there are no spaces left in the tray, you have to put it in your cup.
Continue until all ten oval spaces on the “Cup-testing” board are filled or the cloth bag is emptied. If you want your token to be scored, make sure to put it in the cup.
Scoring: To know your roast points, simply add up the value of all of the bean tokens in your cup and compare it to the roast level shown on the Coffee card. After that, you’ll score points based on how well you match the required flavor tokens - which are located on the bottom right side of every coffee card. It’s important to remember that a wild or sweetness token can stand in for any other type of Flavor token.
Finally, you will earn skill points if you have three or more bean tokens with the same roast level. You lose points, though, if there are no flavor tokens in your cup and/or if you did not fill all ten cup spaces. In addition, you will also lose points for every token with a red X (i.e., Burned Beans, Smoke) in your cup.
3. Best Strategy: Spirit Island
- Player count: 1-4 players
- Duration: 90 to 120 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 14+
Spirit Island takes the crown for the best strategic solo board game for its intense yet varied play. In this game, you take on the role of powerful spirits that are defending their island and its inhabitants from the destructive forces of colonization. You do this by using your power to manipulate the environment, destroy enemy towns and cities, and spread fear among the invading forces.
Why we love it
Our favorite part of Spirit Island is its incredible depth and replayability. Because of gameplay’s various difficulty levels and options, no two sessions will ever be the same. So, this game is perfect if you want a night of intense strategic gaming that you can come back to time and again.
In addition, this game has great thematic consistency regarding its art style and storytelling. The game’s narrative is incredibly immersive, making this an excellent choice if you want to be fully immersed in the game experience. The well-made pieces and components also contribute to the immersive atmosphere.
However, this game isn’t for casual players, as it can take hours to complete, and even the most simple setup can be pretty complicated. But that’s part of what makes Spirit Island so rewarding! If you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most satisfying and strategic solo board game experiences around.
How to play
Spirit Island is a complex game requiring a few steps and moving parts. To get started, it’s recommended that new players pick a low-complexity Spirit (Lightning’s Swift Strike, Vital Strength of the Earth, River Surges in Sunlight, or Shadows Flicker Like Flame).
Next, take the Power Progression Card for your Spirit. Set aside all Major and Minor Powers listed and add the next Power Card listed instead when gaining a new Power Card during the game. Do not use a Blight Card, Adversary, or Scenario yet - start with the standard rules.
Setting up the game: The game is usually played with one island board per player, laid out to make an island, but when you’re playing solo, one single board is the whole island. The island board is divided into eight numbered lands, with two of each terrain (Jungle, Mountain, Sands, and Wetland). Most pieces only affect other pieces in the same land, unless specified.
Two lands are adjacent if they’re touching, even if that touch is only at a corner and the lands are on different boards. Also, each board has a stretch of Ocean to show which Lands are Coastal (bordering the Ocean) and which ones are Inland (not bordering the Ocean). The Ocean isn’t considered land or part of play.
On your turn: Once you’re all set up, you can start the game! On your turn, you generally follow five phases: Spirit Phase, Fast Power Phase (Cards and Innate), Invader Phase, Slow Power Phase (Cards and Innate), and Time Passes.
The general principle you follow is to do as much as you can. If any section doesn’t apply to you or can’t be done, feel free to skip it. The only restrictions placed on targeting are in the target bar.
If you don’t want to use a Power that you’ve played, you can bypass its effects altogether. If it was originally a power card, note that you will NOT get your energy back, but you still get to utilize the elements granted by the card.
End of the game: If you meet the current victory condition for the Terror Level at any point, you win immediately. For example, Invaders are automatically at Terror Level 1 when they first start playing. To win, you need to eliminate all of the Invaders from the island. The Fear Cards will allow you to reach new Terror Levels, making winning easier.
On the other hand, you can lose in three ways: if the last Blight comes off the Blight Card, if any Spirit has no Presence left on the island, and if you need to draw an Invader Card (to Explore), but that deck is empty.
A Sacrifice Victory is when an effect causes you to both win and lose. While you are destroyed, the island, Dahan, and many other Spirits survive.
👉 Nothing’s better than strategizing! If you want to share the fun with your friends, check out the best strategy board games of all time!
4. Best Classic: Orchard: 9 Card Solitaire Game
- Player count: 1 player
- Duration: 10 minutes or less
- Ages: 14+
The award-winning Orchard 9 Solitaire Game is a classic stimulating solo puzzle game that will get you hooked from the first play! It’s harvest time in the solitaire orchard, and you must gather as much fruit as possible by matching trees as many times as possible!
Why we love it
There’s just something about the simplicity of this game that we love! This set of rules is simple yet strategic - making it the perfect solo game for any age. With its quick and easy setup yet engaging gameplay, it’s no surprise that this game has become one of the top-rated solo board games.
This game has excellent replayability and is great for developing problem-solving skills, strategy, and planning because you need spatial awareness and foresight to make the right moves. The addictive factor of the game comes through in how you’ll likely try to beat your score each time, and each round offers something new and exciting.
Moreover, you can take and play this game anywhere since it doesn’t require many pieces or a big surface area to set up. And after you’re done, there’s not much to clean up!
While the gameplay is easy to learn, it’s important to note that this game is not kid-friendly due to the difficulty of the puzzles. But it’s great for adults or teens looking to challenge their brains and have some fun! So if you’re up for a challenge, Orchard 9 Solitaire Game is the perfect pick.
How to play
Setting up this game is super simple. Take the 18 cards and divide them into 9 card stacks. Then, shuffle the dice and set them off to the side within easy reach. Pick one of the card stacks and set the other aside to play later.
To start the game, flip over the top card of your chosen deck and add it to the table. Then draw two cards from that deck and hold them in your hand. On each turn, play one of those held cards onto the table so that it overlaps at least one other card already there.
You will place a die of the appropriate color on each tree you overlapped with the played card, determining the number placement by how many times it’s been overlapping. For example, if it’s the first time placing a die on an overlapped tree, it will be placed as a 1. If you overlap the same tree again, you’ll move its die to 3 — and then to 6 for a third overlap. You can still overlap the same tree a fourth time; however, you cannot go higher than 6.
You can make two types of overlaps with the cards: 180 or 90 degrees. Each overlapped tree must be of the same color, except that you’re allowed to play rotten fruit (two black cubes) on non-matching overlap spots. Rotten fruit is worth -3 points each, and you can only use up to two pieces of rotten fruit in total.
After you have placed all the dice/cubes on the board, you draw another card to bring your total number of cards back to two. Keep playing until you have played through all nine cards. To calculate your score, simply add up the numbers on the dice that are showing. You can now push the dice to one side and clear away the cards. Pick up the second deck of nine cards and start playing again!
5. Most Unique: Friday
- Player count: 1 player
- Duration: 30 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 14+
We’ve all heard about games that follow players getting stuck on an island, but what if you’re the one who has to help someone else get off the island? That’s exactly what you’ll be doing in this solo game! In Friday, you take on the role of helping your fellow islander, Robinson Crusoe, get back in shape and prepare for his escape.
Why we love it
What we love about this game is the fun storyline and interesting twist on the deck-building mechanic it offers. Compared to other traditional deck-building games, Friday will only let you partially get rid of your bad cards. Instead, you must use them to build a strategy and complete missions. And even if you do manage to burn some, as soon as Robinson ages, your deck gets replenished with bad cards.
You can find all kinds of immersive experiences in Friday, from building up Robinson’s skill set to overcome obstacles throughout the game. Even though it’s a solo game, you’ll still find yourself feeling connected to the character and his plight.
The game offers a lot of replayability as there are four different levels of play, making it suitable for both seasoned and novice gamers. Plus, after playing this game, you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment as you’ve helped Robinson to freedom!
A significant drawback is the game rules are quite tricky to understand and can be confusing even for seasoned gamers. The game can also be challenging to win, making it frustrating for some players. But don’t let that stop you from trying this fun and exciting game! It’s definitely worth giving it a go.
Overall, Friday is an excellent solo board game with a unique and challenging twist on the deck-building mechanic. The story and character development are intriguing, and the different levels of play make it suitable for various players. If you’re looking for an immersive and rewarding solo game, this one is definitely worth checking out!
How to play
During the game, you will help Robinson to fight one hazard in each game turn. You start the game in the green step when the hazards are still mostly harmless.
Setting up the game:* To get started, shuffle the step cards and place them in front of you. The green card should be on top of the pile—underneath it is the yellow and red cards. Remove the aging card “Very Stupid” from the game.
Sort the remaining 10 aging cards in two piles, shuffle both piles, and place them as a single face-down stack on the aging storage board. Place the normal aging cards on top of the stack. Next, shuffle the 18 starting cards and place the face-down stack on the Robinson storage board in front of yourself. These are your first fighting cards.
Then, get 20 life points for Robinson and place them next to your Robinson stack. Place two more life points as the reserve next to the play area. Lastly, set aside some space next to the Robinson and hazard stacks for their appropriate discard piles.
On your turn: In each game turn, you draw two hazard cards, then fight against the hazard. First, draw the two topmost cards of the hazard pile. Out of the two cards in front of you, choose one to be the hazard. Then, place that card face up on top of the Robinson stack. The other card should go on the discard pile for hazards.
The white box on the left side of the hazard card shows the number of fighting cards you can draw for free to fight against the hazard. You take turns drawing cards from the Robinson deck and placing them face-up on the left side of the hazard card. You can keep doing this until the number equals the value in the white box.
If the total value of your face-up fighting cards is equal to or greater than the hazard value, you beat the hazard and win the fight. Place the hazard card with your played cards in your discard pile. The gained hazard converts to a new fighting card in your Robinson pile—you’ll use this one for knowledge instead.
If you choose to lose the battle and have fewer fighting points than what is shown on the hazard card, then you must pay a number of life points to equal the difference.
End of the game: After you finish the hazard stack a third time, you fight against the two pirates. The remaining hazard cards in the hazard discard pile are not used anymore. You choose one of the pirates, place him in front of Robinson and start the fight.
After you beat the first pirate, draw all of the cards from the fight and place them on top of the Robinson discard pile. You must now face off against the second pirate - there’s no turning back! Winning is essential, if your played Robinson cards don’t have enough fighting points to defeat the pirate, wager life tokens to get more powerful battling cards.
Once you beat the second pirate, you win the game. You lose immediately if you need to pay a life token during the game and do not have any left. Even if you have zero life points, if one more life token is needed, you still lose the game!
How we picked and tested
PsyCat Games is built by people who know how to have fun! We’ve been researching parties and games since 2018 and have published 400+ articles on our website. That’s why we’re confident that we know what we’re talking about!
We want you to have the best time possible and not waste your money on a subpar product. That’s why we spend over three months testing over 15 different solo games. We’ve ranked the games by the fun factor, player experience, and replayability!
Our ranking is subjective, but we’ve tried our best to be as impartial as possible. However, if you stumble upon a solo board game that you think deserves a spot on our list, please reach out to us! We would love to hear from you.
PsyCat Games is supported by readers clicking on our affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we might earn a commission if you buy something through our links.
FAQ about Solo Board Games
1. What are solo board games?
Solo board games are games designed for one player, which can be played without interaction from other players. They offer an immersive experience and give the feeling of playing a game with a real group of opponents. Solo board games can be made up of cards and tokens, or involve physical pieces on a board.
2. What is the top solo board game?
Our top solo board game is Lost Ruins of Arnak. This game offers an intense and thrilling experience, combining deck-building, exploration, and puzzle-solving. You play as an archaeological team investigating the mysterious ruins of Arnak, encountering strange creatures and unraveling a forgotten mystery.
You will need to use your strategic and tactical skills to survive the ruins and uncover their ancient secrets. With each playthrough representing a unique expedition, you will never have the same experience twice.
3. What board games can be played alone?
There are many board games that can be played alone, including Lost Ruins of Arnak, Friday, and Orchard 9 Solitaire Card Game. These games are designed to be played alone and offer a variety of challenges and experiences.
For example, in Friday, you play as the companion of Robinson Crusoe, fighting against hazards and two pirates to survive on the deserted island. In Coffee Roaster, you play as a coffee roaster, trying to make the perfect cup of coffee.
No matter which game you choose, each one offers unique and exciting experiences for those looking to play alone. If you need help figuring out where to start, read our list of the top five solo board games!
4. What card game is played in solo?
Spirit Island is an excellent card game you can play solo. In this game, you take on the role of a powerful spirit who must protect their island from invading colonists. You will use your powers to protect the land, build a powerful spirit engine and defeat the colonists before they can claim your island.
You can also play other card games solo, such as Lost Ruins of Arnak and Friday. These games offer a unique experience to each player as you build up your deck and fight off various hazards or opponents.
📖 Suggested read: Top 5 Fun Cheap Board Games