The Top 10 Best Solo Board Games (for Coronavirus Quarantine)

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Board games have been wildly successful in the last ten years. Much of this can be attributed to people’s need to socialize in person. That’s why many are surprised to hear that solo board games not only exist but are very common.

Good thing, too. In 2019, no one could have predicted that we all have to isolate ourselves in our homes to hide front a yet-undiscovered virus. At the tail end of the year, the coronavirus was just starting to spread in Wuhan, China, and now people across the globe are sitting six feet apart, looking for ways to entertain themselves.

Odd little world we live in these days. To help you survive not only the virus but the stultifying boredom of being stuck in your own home, I’ve put together a list of the very best solo board games in the world.

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How I Chose the Top 10 Solo Board Games

First things first, I want to go over how I chose the top 10 best solo board games. As you can imagine, any “top 10” ranking of any sort is subjective by nature. To keep things as fair as possible, I referenced Board Game Geek’s Top 100 best board games.

From there, I started at the top of the list and worked my way down, finding the highest-ranking board games with solo modes. Of the top 25 board games, 12 – almost half – had solo modes. As such, this list has a lot of overlap with The 10 Best Board Games of All Time.

Is there a better way to pick the best solo games? Oh yeah, definitely. And in fact, I’d love to hear your favorite solo board games in the comments below. We’re going to inevitably miss some phenomenal solo games in this article. There are too many to choose from!

10. A Feast for Odin

A Feast for Odin is a truly epic game: it takes a while to play (usually) and it’s got a whopping 3.83 out of 5 complexity rating on Board Game Geek. That means all the satisfying strategic maneuvering that hardcore gamers appreciate is present in this game.

The publisher describes it as a “saga in the form of a board game.” In it, you play as a viking tribe that explores and raids new lands. The end goal: accumulate the most material wealth.

While generally considered a multiplayer game, A Feast for Odin can easily be modified for solo play. In the robust solo mode, your goal is simple: achieve the highest score you can.

9. Wingspan

Photo by PZS69, CC-BY-SA 2.0 license. Source: https://boardgamegeek.com/image/4647501/wingspan

Wingspan is one of the most recent board games published by Stonemaier Games, a name you will see a few more times on this list. Designed by
Elizabeth Hargrave, it is described on Board Game Geek as a “competitive, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game.”

Despite the avian theme, Wingspan has a lot in common with another perennial strategy gamer favorite: Terraforming Mars. It is an easy to approach, relatively quick-playing engine-building game.

In Wingspan, you use the Automa Factory when flying solo. After each of your turns, you flip over Automa cards, resolve the effects, and then proceed with your turn. The effect is that game builds an engine all on its own while you are. It’s pretty challenging too!

8. Viticulture

This is the second of three Stonemaier Games that you will see on this list. Much like Wingspan, Viticulture also has an off-the-beaten path, natural world theme. You and other players now have vineyards to run in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Over the course of the game, you allocate your workers and resources in different ways. This lets you slowly change your vineyard to take advantage of different seasons, create more attractive winery tours, build structures, and plant vines. Your goal: run the best winery in Tuscany.

When playing solo, you again have an Automa deck just like you do with Wingspan. Your goal is to score more victory points than the Automa. What makes Viticulture remarkable in this regard is that there are five different difficulty levels, and you can also use an “aggressive variant” that changes how scoring is calculated. The means you have a remarkable variety of options.

7. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arkham Horror is based off of the terrifying works of H.P. Lovecraft, complete with “mystery, monsters, and madness.” In the game, your characters reside in the New England town of Arkham where things are not quite as they ought to be, what with the haunted houses and hellish creatures…

The game itself is a living card game in which you can create custom decks of cards. The multiplayer game is cooperative. You’re playing against the evils of Arkham.

Now beware, solo gamers. It’s said that playing alone is very similar to playing in a group, but you lose the player interaction. For this reason, it’s said to be very difficult, but very satisfying to win!

6. 7th Continent

Imagine this: it’s the early 1900s and after a sailing voyage, you discover that there is an entirely new continent that no one has ever seen before! But after you visit it, you are cursed and you must go back to the continent to have the curse lifted.

Like Arkham, 7th Continent is a solo or cooperative game. It’s also an exploration game in which you must create tools, weapons, and shelter to survive. It’s also a brutally difficult game that will kill you again and again and again.

Similar to Arkham again, 7th Continent does not change much at all when playing solo. All you lose is the ability to rely on others to back you up. The game itself is largely unchanged!

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5. Spirit Island

Spirit Island is another cooperative game, but what really sets it apart is its unique theme. In this game, you play as an island spirit with unique elemental powers. The villains in this game are colonizers who wish to exploit your lands for profit. (Which they won’t if you have anything to say about it!)

The invaders act in ways dictated by the game itself, spreading across the island and attempting to build an engine. Meanwhile, you spread to other parts of the island, seek to increase your powers, and then eventually wipe the invaders off the map.

While many recommend playing Spirit Island with 2 or more players, it is a perfectly serviceable one-player game. You don’t have to change anything about the game itself in order to play it alone. You just don’t have backup when you may want it!

4. Scythe

The final Stonemaier game on this list is a big one: Scythe. A ton of physical and digital ink has been spilled to describe this game and I don’t know if it’s ever fallen off the Board Game Geek Hotness list in the last four years.

To borrow directly from the Board Game Geek page: “it is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as ‘The Factory’, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.”

This is an engine-building, competitive game at its core. Every single aspect of the game has some engine-building element to it. There is also very little luck in the game, making in the kind of brain-burning, crunchy game that hardcore board gamers adore.

Scythe relies on an Automa deck for its solo mode. Each card specifies what the Automa player gets, does, or deploys. In short, the game builds its own engine while you do the same. Some even describe the Automa as being aggressive, so in many ways, the game will feel like you are playing against other real people!

3. Gaia Project

As if Terra Mystica weren’t a fantastic achievement in board gaming in its own right, Gaia Project is a souped up version IN SPACE. It doubles down on everything that made Terra Mystica brilliant – the complex decision making and the epic theme of expanding civilization. Then it marries the game to a theme board gamers have demonstrated time and time again that they love – science fiction.

Gaia Project is a picture-perfect study on how to “fix something that ain’t broken.” The game’s existence is proof that the creators were listening to feedback on a deep level, addressing gamers’ basic needs while taking the game in a surprising cosmic direction.

The 10 Best Board Games of All Time and What We Can Learn from Them

Gaia Project uses an Automa deck to play solo. The Automa takes one action per turn and slowly builds its deck by adding random cards. Much of the surprise comes in how familiar cards are used in odd and new ways. The clever chemistry between different cards keeps the game fresh for a long time.

2. Terraforming Mars

In Terraforming Mars, you and your opponents play as different corporations. Each corporation does its part to make Mars a more liveable place by raising the oxygen level, creating oceans, and increasing the temperature. You can do this through clever allocation of resources as well as the use of different project cards.

Terraforming Mars has so many unique cards that no two games feel alike. This penchant for creative play is extended to the solo mode as well. The board starts with a couple of neutral cities and greenery, whereas it would normally be completely barren. You have 14 generations to terraform Mars to a livable state. That’s not much time, and you have to be very efficient to make it happen.

1. Gloomhaven

Photo by Daniel Mizieliński. Found on Board Game Geek under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Last but not least, we have the ultimate in all epic games, the #1 on Board Game Geek for two or three years running: Gloomhaven.

Goodness, where do you begin with describing this game?

You play as a wandering adventurer in a dark, menancing world of dungeons and ruins. The story branches and unfolds in unique ways that always feel fresh no matter how many times you play. Many people have likened it to “a choose your own adventure” book in board game form.

Gloomhaven is a cooperative game based on dungeon crawling and hand management. It’s a heady, complex game for people who love complex games.

When you play solo, you act as two or more characters at once. Not only can you play the game with minimal changes to the rules, but you don’t even see many changes to the gameplay itself because you take on multiple roles. Gloomhaven is a formidable challenge in solo mode, and that makes it quite possibly the perfect game to learn while under lockdown!

Honorable Mentions (September 2020 Update)

This post got a bit more attention than I expected when I posted in April 2020. I’m updating this list as of September 2020 since this article is still highly relevant to our current time.

Here are a handful of favorites mentioned by commenters along with their short BGG descriptions. Carl King left a big list, including:

  • Nemesis: Survive an alien-infested spaceship but beware of other players and their agendas.
  • Everdell: Use resources to build a village of critters and constructions in this woodland game.
  • Anachrony: Venture into the wasteland, or back in time, to gain resources & avert the cataclysm. 
  • Rurik Dawn of Kiev: Claim your father’s throne! Build, tax, & fight through unique “auction programming.”
  • Barbarians the Invasion: Enter the mysterious World of Thunmar, a place where barbarian clans rule the wild lands and corrupted civilizations live in their decadent cities.
  • Raiders of the North Sea: Assemble and prepare a formidable crew of vikings to pillage towns and gain glory.
  • Architects of the West Kingdom: Will you be a virtuous or nefarious servant of the king? Build your way to glory.
  • Paladins of the West Kingdom: Invaders are coming from everywhere. Keep the faith and defend your homeland.
  • Bag of Dungeon: A dungeon crawling tile-based game harking back to the good old deadly days of exploring dungeons, slaying monsters and stealing treasure.
  • Mythic Battles Pantheon: Gather your team from the vast Greek pantheon and fight to the death!

Everett So recommended Hellenica: Story of Greece, which is where you “lead your city-state to become the preeminent symbol of Greece in this 3.5x game!” Wicaksono Adi recommended Mage Knight, a game in which you “build your hero’s spells, abilities, and artifacts as you explore & conquer cities.”

Want me to include more games? Let me know in the comments below! I’d like to keep this list updated so that nobody gets bored during this pandemic.





How to Order a Print Run for Your Board Game Kickstarter

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If you find yourself reading this guide after you’ve funded a Kickstarter campaign, congratulations! After an enormous amount of work creating, testing, and promoting your board game, it’s time to send it off to the printers. How exciting!

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Even if you’re not at this stage, this guide will still be helpful. In fact, it might even be more helpful because there are there are three things you want to absolutely nail before you launch your Kickstarter:

Realistic timetables, cost estimates, and specifications are the foundation upon which everything else you do after funding a campaign is built. Campaigning isn’t easy, and neither is fulfillment.

Throughout your campaign, you want to be thinking about what you’re going to do immediately after the campaign. You’ll want to contact your desired printer before you launch the campaign. When you fund, let them know. Every time you hit a stretch goal level, it’s smart to send them a message about it. The point is: you want to keep them in the loop. If this sounds like a lot of email, consider this:

  • You send more email than they need: they mark as read and move on with life.
  • You send less email than they need: “um, we’re going to need four extra weeks to do this.”

It’s also a good idea to see if you can get a jump start and begin printing during the two week period in which you’re waiting for your funds to clear. Depending on your printer, you might gain a week or two on the front-end of your schedule, and that’s never a bad thing!

Naturally, you’ll want to let them know exactly how many games you need to print. You need to definitely print enough to fill your Kickstarter campaign plus 20 or 25%. You should do more than that if you plan on taking pre-orders or selling the rest. Be careful not to be unrealistic when you do this. This industry moves fast and your garage only has a finite amount of space.

Before you complete the order, double check your specs again before you finalize the transaction. You need to make sure you’ve accounted for any stretch goals that you promised during the campaign.

Another interesting thing to point out is that different companies have different payment methods. Some will accept payment through PayPal. Others will insist that you pay by wire transfer. If you’ve never done a wire transfer, this can be an intimidating concept. Your printer will provide you the information you need, and you can go to any place that has a Western Union to do it. Not sure where to look? Try your nearest full-service grocery store.

A Few Board Game Printers You Can Contact

By the time you’re ready to order a print run, you likely know which printer you want to print your game. However, if you’re not sure where to start, here are three companies you can try:

Final Thoughts

You’ll notice that this is a relatively short post of mine. That’s for a good reason. Once you get to this point, the most important factors are preparation you’ve already done and making sure T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. The printer will take care of manufacturing, and in a few weeks or months, it will be ready for you to fulfill – either on your own or through a third-party company.

In the mean-time? Pop open a bottle of champagne – you’ve hit a major milestone!





How to Build a Mailing List and Send Newsletters as a Board Game Dev

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I’m a big fan of mailing lists. Sending email newsletters to well-targeted mailing lists is one of the best ways you can spread the word of your business and keep customers engaged. I spoke about the value of mailing lists earlier in How to Generate Traffic for Your Board Game Kickstarter or Website, but today I want to dive into the details you need to know to get started. As such, this guide will be split into five parts:

  1. Mailing List Basics
  2. Setting up a Mailing List on MailChimp
  3. Creating a Landing Page that Works
  4. Creating a Template that Works
  5. Building Your Mailing List

Mailing List Basics

Before you create a mailing list, you need to understand how they fit into your marketing strategy. I talk about this in How to Choose & Use a Board Game Marketing Strategy that Works, but I’ll recap the basics here. After people are paying attention and interested in your game or brand, you’ll need someplace for them to go before you ask them to take action. The best places I know to send interested potential customers is to an online community or a mailing list. In fact, I personally use both – providing access to an online community in exchange for an email address.

For you, emails are valuable to have because you can push marketing messages to customers. You can persuade people to read your posts, back your Kickstarter, or buy your game. For customers, this is an easy and passive way to stay in touch. Even better, if you’re putting thought and love into your emails, you can make their lives better by reading them. This is what I try to do – spend about 20-30 minutes every week crafting emails that people want to open.

Another thing you need to do before you create a mailing list is get a P.O. box. Yes, that sounds weird, but you need to hear me out on this. In order to be compliant with anti-spam laws, you need to have your business address at the bottom of every email you send out. This is a legal requirement. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in putting my home address – which is ██████████ – on the internet for strangers to find. That’s why you get a P.O. box. For folks based in the USA, that’s as simple as going to the post office and saying “I would like a P.O. box” and then paying them $60-or-so every six months.

Who would have guessed you needed a physical mailbox to send emails?
What do all these numbers mean?

Once you set up your mailing list, you’ll become aware of a number of cryptic-sounding metrics that will tell you about the health of your mailing list. Here are some you need to know:

  • Open Rate – the percentage of your mailing list that opens your email. (25% or higher is considered good.)
  • Click Rate – the percentage of your mailing list that clicks on at least one link in your email. (2% or higher is considered good.)
  • Hard Bounce – happens when you send to an invalid email address.
  • Soft Bounce – happens when your email is sent to a valid email address, but they don’t receive the email.
  • Subscribes – the number of people who join your mailing list.
  • Unsubscribes – the number of people who leave your mailing list. (Ideally, this is 1% or lower.)

By far, the most important metric is click rate. It indicates the number of people who are using your emails to get where you want them to go. If your click rate is low, that means you need to work on your call to action. We’ll talk more about calls to action in the template section below.

As with anything, I cannot give you the perfect answers on how to run the right email campaign for your business. All I can do is give you guidelines and examples. You need to go into this with the mindset of a scientist. Always be experimenting. Always be ready to change when the data says that’s the right thing to do.


A Quick Note on Email Marketing Software

At the time I wrote this article initially, MailChimp was the best system on the market. Now it’s one good choice out of many. I’m leaving most of this article untouched, but I’d like for you to know there are a lot of other good email marketing software providers out there. A few examples:


Setting up a Mailing List on MailChimp

There are lots of sites that will help you set up a mailing list, but the one I use is MailChimp and I really like it. This is what I’ll be teaching you to use. Click that link and then click Sign Up Free. Provide an email, username, and password.

Once you’re logged in, create a list. At the time I’m writing this post, that means clicking Lists then clicking Create List button. You’ll be asked to enter the following:

  • List Name – I use Brandon the Game Dev Newsletter. Short and descriptive.
  • Default From Email Address – I set up one on my web server called no.reply@brandonthegamedev.com. This isn’t hard to do, but it’s out of the scope of this article.
  • Default From Name – I use Brandon Rollins. More personal that way.
  • Remind people how they signed up for your list – I use:
    • Thanks for signing up for my newsletter! You’ll very soon be receiving updates from Brandon the Game Dev.
  • Contact Information – I use my P.O. Box.
  • Enable double opt-in – I leave this unchecked. Otherwise, people have to respond to a confirmation email when they sign up, which lowers sign-up rates.
  • Notifications – I leave all of them unchecked. They get old fast.

Click Save. Then click Settings and click List fields and *|MERGE|* tags. Merge tags are really cool, so you’ll want to pay attention to this. They pull information from your sign-up form and they associate it with each email. For example, when I sign up for a MailChimp campaign, I might see Email Address, First Name, and Last Name. Naturally, I’d enter brandon@pangeagamescompany.com, Brandon, and Rollins respectively. That info is all stored in a database.

Each bit of information is associated with a merge tag.

  • *|EMAIL|* is brandon@pangeagamescompany.com
  • *|FNAME|* is Brandon
  • *|LNAME|* is Rollins

Someone can then write a newsletter that starts out as “Hey *|FNAME|*!” and it will show up as “Hey Brandon!” For my friend Carla, it’d be “Hey Carla!” and for my friend Sean, it’d be “Hey Sean!” This lets you personalize your emails with anything your users provide. You can add more merge tags if you want to customize your emails even more. There is a ton of potential here.

We’re going to stick to the basics today, though, so let’s talk about…

Creating a Landing Page that Works

MailChimp lets you create your own landing pages. You can create forms hosted by MailChimp and you can also get HTML code which you can put on your own website. I’ve used both, but I’ll stick to MailChimp’s basic forms since teaching you how to use custom ones requires you to know HTML. You can learn HTML on W3Schools for free – I used it in my teens and it’s still alive and well.

Click Signup forms. Click Select next to General forms. You can customize a whole bunch of forms, but we’re just going to talk about the Signup form itself since that’s the one you want to get absolutely right. This form will double as your landing page unless you decide to make a custom one and use Mailchimp’s HTML code on your own website.

Customize Your Landing Page

What MailChimp gives you by default isn’t bad, but it’s not pretty either. You can spruce up this form very nicely with a little effort. First things first, though, think about the data you want to gather on your landing page. You need an email address for sure. I recommend gathering at least first name for your merge tags as well. Everything else is extra, so you have to strike this subtle balance. If you ask for too much information, people will drop off your page and not sign up. If you don’t ask for any extra information, it can be hard to segment your mailing list into groups of people with different interests.

Regardless of what you decide to do, click on any fields you need to delete, rename, or relabel – you’ll have options on the right. Click on Add a field and then a button below to add a field asking for more information.

Once you’ve added and removed fields to your taste, click Design it. You can change the colors, fonts, and spacing of every part of your landing page – the page, the body, and the form itself. Click around in there and experiment to your taste. When you’re done, copy the Signup form URL that’s near the top in the screenshot above. That’s your landing page’s address. Share that address anywhere you need to such as your social media or your website.

Here is what my landing page looks like in MailChimp’s editor.

Creating a Template that Works

Click Templates then Create a template. I personally recommend that you pick one of Mailchimp’s featured templates and modify it to your tastes. On the right side, click on the Design button – you’ll see items including Page, Header, Body, Footer, Mobile Styles, and Monkey Rewards. You’ll be given lots of options on how to customize the page, such as colors, font sizes, line spacing, and more. I personally recommend staying pretty close to the original design, but swap out the colors for sure. Once you’re happy with the basic colors, fonts, and spacing of your template, click on the Content button to see all the things you can put into your mailer. What you see in the screenshot below can be dragged and dropped right onto your template.

Drag all the elements you like into your template. If you don’t want something in your template, hover over the item and then click on the trash can symbol on the top right. Once you get all your content items in the right locations, click on each one on the left. Then edit the details on the right. Details can be editing an image, updating text, changing where a button goes, and so on. Make sure to click Save & Close any time you make a change on the right side! When think you’ve got a good template, Preview and Test in the top right corner and then Enter preview mode.

This is an example of my newsletter, with the calls to action highlighted in yellow.
Create a Template that Resembles Others

Now the whole time you’re doing this, you need to be looking at newsletters that you like and imitating their style. Pay particularly close attention to their “calls to action” – any articles they want you to read or buttons they want you to click. When you’re sending out your own mailer, you want to have one very clear call to action somewhere on the mailer. If you don’t, it’s pointless to send out in the first place. I personally put three calls to action in each blog email – one text link to an article and two image/text links to an article at the bottom – I’ve highlighted mine in red.

When you’re done with your template, click Save and Exit and give it a name you’ll remember. When you’re sending out email campaigns, you’ll be using your template. You can then swap out text and images and keep a consistent look and feel between all your emails. Go ahead and sign up for your email list and send out a sample campaign to yourself while you’re the only one on it. Make sure everything looks okay and go back and edit your template if it doesn’t.

Building Your Mailing List

Building your mailing list is a great first step, but it can be utterly defeating to put all this work into making a pretty mailer and pretty landing page only to send it to ten people. That’s why you need to think about ways to generate leads for your mailing list. There are a handful of ways to do this.

Create a lead magnet. That’s basically a fancy marketing term for a good reason for a person to give you their email. You could offer a print-and-play version of your game in exchange for an email, create something useful such as a how-to guide, or you could offer people entry into a contest for a free game. I personally use my Discord server of over 1,000 game developers as a lead magnet because I put the invite link on the confirmation page.

No matter how you plan on reaching out to people, creating a lead magnet is essential. Why would anybody give you their personal information without a compelling reason? A lot of people don’t ask this question and therefore get hung up on the fact that people don’t want to give up their email addresses. You have to give them a good reason before you do anything else.

Link your landing page to your website and social media. Most of the time, my pinned tweets and Facebook posts go to my mailing lists. The same applies to the home pages of most of my websites, which usually contain a catchy line such as “Learn to make board games from scratch. Join my community of over 1,000 game developers, artists, and passionate creators.” Then right below that, I put a big, bright button that goes to my landing page.

Direct messages. Everything I’ve said above is great for passive outreach, but let’s assume you want to play hardball. If you have a social media following on Twitter or Instagram, you can send out personalized direct messages to each of your followers. Say something like “Hi (Name), I saw that you’re interested in (thing that’s relevant to your business). I’m offering (lead magnet). Is this something you’d be interested in?” If they say yes, send them the link and tell them what they need to do next, such as sign up and gain access to the lead magnet on the confirmation page.

Help content creators. I’ve talked about Why and How to Get Featured on Board Game Blogs and Podcasts. One of the best reasons to do that is because you can ask them to link to your landing page. You can often see this in the first or last paragraph of guest posts on your favorite blogs or in the show notes of podcasts you like. This is really solid way of growing your audience for free.

Do giveaway contests. Feeling a little more spendy? The absolute best way I’ve found of generating email lists is by offering something for free on Facebook in exchange for an email sign up. Just create a post like this, take out $20 in targeted ads, and watch the emails roll in.

Advertise. Last but not least, one of the best ways to passively bring in email leads with nearly no effort is to take out a Facebook ad. Target your audience very specifically by age, location, and especially interest. Keep an eye on it and make sure you’re not paying more than a dollar per email sign-up. You can read more about Facebook advertising in my previous post, How to Build up a Facebook Page as a Board Game Dev.


Mailing lists are pretty amazing for businesses. I hope this guide gives you what you need to get started. Come up with something to say, make a pretty landing page, make a professional email template, and bring in sign-ups using the methods I’ve described above. Monitor your metrics and experiment until you find something that works.

As always, feel free to ask questions below 🙂