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Embark on Your Solitary Quest: 5 game recommendations to get started playing solo

A rectangle game box depicting a ritual with candles and the title Aleph Null
Aleph Null box cover — one of my favorite solo games of 2023

Welcome to the captivating realm of solo gaming! Gamers pursue solo play for a multitude of reasons—be it convenience, personal obligations, honing skills, or simply unwinding. Whatever your motivation, you're on the brink of an exhilarating journey that will redefine your perception of board games.

Just as with multiplayer gaming, individual preferences shape the solo board gaming experience. Luckily, the roster of exceptional solo tabletop games expands continuously, ensuring there's a game tailored to every player's tastes. While discovering your perfect match may require some exploration and experimentation, rest assured, there are solo games awaiting your enjoyment.

To kickstart your solo gaming adventure, here are a few recommendations. This list is not exhaustive nor definitive. I encourage you to explore suggestions from other seasoned solo gamers, some of whom I've linked at the end of this article. My selections are guided by several criteria:

  1. These games marked a significant milestone in my personal journey into solo gaming. Many of them served as the cornerstone of my solo game collection, offering insights into the types of solo games that resonate with me, regardless of whether I ultimately adored them or not.

  2. Each of these games boasts distinct mechanics and play styles. I endeavored to curate a selection that spans a wide spectrum, showcasing the diversity within solo gaming and highlighting core attributes or adjustments tailored for solo play.

  3. All the recommendations listed here are readily available on the market and lean towards the more budget-friendly end. You won't find sprawling, campaign-based miniature epics with hefty price tags among them. That's not to say such games aren't fantastic for solo play, but I believe investing over $100 in a game just to test the waters of solo gaming isn't the most prudent approach. At the time of compiling this list, these games are all priced at a reasonable range, mostly under $50.

In no particular order, here are five recommendations to get started playing solo board games:

Multicolored game tiles and wooden tokens arranged in patterns
Cascadia habitat tiles and wildlife tokens


If you're an avid gamer, chances are you've come across Cascadia. Released in 2021, this abstract strategy game has garnered praise for its accessible yet deep gameplay. At its heart, Cascadia is a tile placement game. Each turn, players draft landscape tiles and wildlife tokens, creating interconnected habitats for various animal species. Points are scored based on the size of contiguous habitat areas and completing specific placement objectives for each wildlife type.

Cascadia earns its spot on this list for offering substantial strategic depth with minimal complexity. It seamlessly transitions to solo play without requiring significant rule adjustments. Solo gameplay in Cascadia presents a dual-layered puzzle, challenging players to meticulously craft their habitats while optimizing wildlife scoring. Essentially, it's a beat-your-own-score experience where players compare their performance against a predefined scoring table in the rulebook. While this style of gameplay can sometimes become repetitive, Cascadia mitigates this with optional achievements that add variety and complexity to each session. Although Cascadia's rulebook can be challenging to interpret, its active gaming community provides ample support for navigating intricate scoring scenarios.

If you enjoy Cascadia, you may also like Beacon Patrol, Dorfromantik: The Board Game, Sprawlopolis, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Suburbia.

A solo game of Cascadia in progress using the A-side wildlife cards.
A solo game of Cascadia in progress using the A-side wildlife cards — Fredrik Schulz (2021)

Final Girl

If you're a fan of horror and enjoy classic slasher films, Final Girl is tailor-made for you. In this game, players step into the shoes of the final girl—the iconic cinematic figure who confronts the villain in a climactic showdown. Survival is paramount as players navigate through a night of exploration, combat, and luck. The objective is straightforward: kill or be killed. Gameplay is intuitive, with players utilizing cards to take actions, acquire items, manage stats, and roll dice to determine outcomes.

First game setup (French edition) — Benoit Mialet (2023)
First game setup (French edition) — Benoit Mialet (2023)

The core box comes with components that seamlessly integrate with various Feature Film Boxes, each containing unique playable final girls, villains, maps, and scenarios. Van Ryder Games continuously refreshes the game with regular expansions, ensuring ongoing excitement and variety.

Final Girl earns its place on this list as one of the more accessible solitaire adventure games from a first-person perspective. With gameplay typically spanning 20 to 40 minutes, players can dive into the action for around $30. However, be warned: Final Girl lives up to its reputation for brutality, both thematically and in its challenging gameplay. It boasts low win-rates, a steep learning curve, and significant variability from game to game. Yet, it's precisely this intensity that makes it so compelling.

Thematic immersion is a hallmark of Final Girl. Each expansion box introduces unique themes and tropes reminiscent of various slasher films. From equipping iconic items to rescuing other characters and engaging in visceral combat, the game captures the essence of the genre with relentless fervor.

If you enjoy Final Girl, you may enjoy other narrative games like Sleeping Gods, The 7th Continent / The 7th Citadel, Dungeon Degenerates, or Cthulhu: Death May Die. You may also enjoy other luck-heavy “Ameritrash” adventure games like Zombicide 2nd Edition, Nemesis, Mansions of Madness, or any of the D&D board games like Castle Ravenloft. 

Going into the Void — Michael Hall (2023)
Going into the Void — Michael Hall (2023)

Aleph Null

Originally, I had planned to include Lux Aeterna by designer Tony Boydell in the third spot on this list. However, due to its out-of-print status and difficulty to find, I've decided to replace it with Aleph Null, which serves as its spiritual successor, also designed by Boydell.

Aleph Null is a card management/deck-building game centered around summoning the demon prince Baphomet. Players assume the role of dark sorcerers performing an intricate ritual using magical components and an arcane tome represented on cards. The objective is to draw through the entire deck, discarding or playing each card to summon Baphomet before dawn's first crow, or the end of the sixth round. However, playing and discarding cards require magical power, a scarce resource. Players must identify and sequence card action combinations that generate enough magic power to complete the ritual. Achieving victory in Aleph Null is challenging, even on the easiest difficulty settings.

Vitriol card from Aleph Null card depicting a cup of water with text
Vitriol card from Aleph Null

Aleph Null earns its place on this list for several reasons. Primarily, it's an engaging example of the burgeoning genre of solitaire games, often categorized as deck-building, but perhaps more accurately described as hand or card management games. These games present players with limited resources to navigate through a deck of challenges, striving to survive until the end and secure victory, often by a narrow margin. They're typically compact, consisting of only a deck of cards and a few components, and are generally affordable—Aleph Null retails for $25. 

Furthermore, Aleph Null provides a highly immersive experience. Its dark themes are accentuated by well-crafted components and a coherent aesthetic design. The artist, Alex Lee, expertly captures the eerie stillness and uncanny horror of the macabre ritual components. Additionally, an accompanying soundtrack by Nicholas O’Neill features short scores to accompany gameplay, with each track's energy intensifying as the game progresses, enhancing the overall experience.

If you enjoy Aleph Null, do search out Lux Aeterna as the two feature similar gameplay but unique card sequencing puzzles. You may also like 20 Strong, SpaceShipped, Skoventyr, One Deck Galaxy, and Onirim.


Grab your colored pencils! Cartographers is a map drawing game in which players take on the role of mapmakers tasked with mapping out territories in the Queen's lands. The game unfolds over four seasons, each with unique scoring objectives. Players draw polyomino map segments to construct their maps, strategically sketching terrain types to maximize points. Ambush cards introduce unexpected challenges to the players mapping endeavors. In the solo variant, players still use objective cards to determine scoring conditions for each season. However, instead of competing against other players, the solo player aims to achieve the highest score possible by fulfilling these objectives on their own.

Coloring pencils are essential! — Ramon Mercado (2020)
Coloring pencils are essential! — Ramon Mercado (2020)

Cartographers doesn't feature extensive player-to-player interaction in multiplayer and requires minimal rule adjustments for solo play—mainly concerning how ambushes are drawn. In some way, the really enjoyable gameplay is muted somewhat by a rather conventional beat-your-own-score solo mode. However, Cartographers stands out because it taught me that the satisfaction of solo gaming is directly related to the effort invested.

As a map-drawing game, Cartographers not only engages strategic thinking but also taps into players' artistic skills. It's tempting to hastily sketch basic symbols or scribble colors resembling terrain features just to move forward. However, the act of creative expression is just as crucial in this game as tactical decision-making. Sometimes, purely creative or immersive pursuits are just as important to solo gaming as the puzzle itself. Time and attention given to the act of playing can help lead to a more fulfilling and experiential solitary gaming experience.

If you enjoy Cartographers, you may also like Railroad Ink or Demeter. More open-ended roleplaying, map-making games like Beak, Feather, and Bone and The Quiet Year may also be up your alley.

When playing solo I can take my time on the map :) — Greg W (2022)
When playing solo I can take my time on the map :) — Greg W (2022)

It's a Wonderful World

It’s a Wonderful World is a civilization-building game where players draft cards and generate resources to advance their empire through the ages. In many ways, it follows the typical Euro-style, engine-building format; success relies heavily on the player’s ability to identify optimal card interactions and develop strategies as the game progresses. However, it also serves as a welcoming entry point for new players to the genre, with its low complexity and short playtime (games rarely last longer than an hour). A few years ago, it ranked among my favorite board games. Though I haven't played it recently, it played a crucial role in introducing me to solo variant rules for Euro-style games.

One of the ongoing challenges for game developers is replicating interactive player actions in solo game mechanics, such as drafting cards in It’s a Wonderful World. Solutions often fall on a spectrum: At one end are games using automated simplifications to simulate automated opponent gameplay. These games convert AI or automa player actions directly into set victory points, bypassing many of the usual gameplay steps. Random determinations, sometimes via drawing from a deck of cards, often dictate the automated opponent’s actions and order. On the opposite end are games where players carry out the actions of the automated player’s turns using mechanical devices like flowcharts and board status checks. These games demand more effort from human players to plan informed, somewhat optimal turns for the AI player.

It’s a Wonderful World — Wouter (Tabletopping) (2021)
It’s a Wonderful World — Wouter (Tabletopping) (2021)

Most games fall somewhere in between, requiring simplification of gameplay procedures for solo play while sacrificing the perceived intelligence or intentionality of the automated opponent. While solo players may not engage in cunning card drafting in It’s a Wonderful World, the simplified process doesn't diminish the importance of how cards are utilized. “It’s a Wonderful World has succeeded the best at evoking a solo mode that matches the spirit of the multiplayer experience,” says my fellow game reviewer Stijn of the game “if not its mechanisms.”

If you think you’d like a simpler automated opponent design, look into solo variants designed by Automa Factory, like Apiary or Scythe/Expeditions, or other titles like Terraforming Mars and Carnegie. If you think you’d enjoy playing against a more responsible automated opponent, try out a game like Roll for the Galaxy, a Feast for Odin, or any of David Turczi’s recent designs like Voidfall, Nucleum, or Imperium: Horizons. 

More Suggestions

If none of these titles pique your interest, check out more recommendations for excellent games to get started solo gaming. This reddit thread crowdsourced recommendations from hundreds of solo gamers to determine a top list. This list from Justin Davis includes many great solo games that are not my preferred style so it cuts well with this list. Alternatively, take a look at what the 1-Player Guild on BoardGameGeek listed as their top 200 games to play solo last year.

Happy gaming!

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