Board games make for one of the best ways to enjoy time at home with family and friends, allowing you to gather round a table, engaging in both competitive and cooperative play. It’s fun. Problem is, not all of us can regularly bring a group of people together to play our favorite board games with, forcing you to resort to video games if you want some recreational gameplay.
Good thing is, there are board games out there that can be played in single-player mode, allowing you to get the gaming bug out of your system without having to fire up the PC, Xbox, or PS5. It’s a great alternative for folks looking to cut down on their screen times, all while capturing your imagination in engaging and imaginative play.
These are the best board games that offer a single-player mode.
Under Falling Skies
This is one of those rare tabletop games that were designed exclusively for solo gameplay. The premise is a classic – you have alien ships descending on a besieged city that’s under your watch, requiring you to protect it, fortify it, and find a way to put a permanent stop to the seemingly never-ending glut of invader ships. Problem is, you can’t do all of them at once, so you have to take turns shooting down ships, building fortifications, and performing the necessary research to let you put an end to the menace. There’s also a campaign mode that lets you combine multiple scenarios together if you prefer games that go a lot longer than a single sitting.
In its standard competitive mode, this game requires up to six players to build their own tiny towns across a 4 x 4 grid, with the player able to put together the most thriving town (determined by points for various types of buildings) winning the showdown. In single player mode, you build a town on the same 4 x 4 grid, albeit with the goal of reaching a specific high score. Lasting about 10 to 15 minutes each, the solo gameplay uses the deck of cards to present different resource challenges for your town-building, creating unique challenges each playthrough, that require serious focus and smart problem solving to come out on top.
Fancy a romp through an island jungle in the middle of nowhere? Experience it here, as you lead a team in exploring this newly-discovered island, placing your personnel in strategic positions and slowly uncovering the once-vibrant civilization that thrived there. While the multiplayer version pits players against each other to discover the island’s secrets first, the solo version has you racing against an imaginary opposing team, whose choices are driven by a deck of cards. The lack of complication when it comes to the virtual opponent makes the single-player experience flow really smoothly. If you want a longer game that will last you through several sit-downs, they also released a solo campaign that you can play with additional input from the companion web app.
Why roleplay building a city when you can build an entire planet? That’s what you’re doing in this board game, which puts you in the middle of Mars’ dusty wasteland, which you’ll endeavor to turn into a planet that can support human life. You know… kinda like what people think Elon Musk will do when he flies off to Mars, but you get to beat him to it. In the game, you perform various projects that seek to progress your terraforming goals, which can range from planting greenery and introducing new animals to hurling a fricking asteroid on the planet’s surface. Your main goals here are to make the atmosphere livable for humans, raise the temperature to below-freezing levels, and build man-made oceans teeming with life, although you’re racing against the clock with your limited resources the entire time, so success is not guaranteed.
While you might think it’s an Aliens game based on that box art, it’s not. This sci-fi horror survival title, however, does feel a lot like an Aliens game, so you can pretend you’re playing with Xenomorphs on the board if you feel like it. In multiplayer, the game gives each character a secret agenda, which becomes one of the central driving forces in the gameplay. Since that doesn’t exist in single player, it becomes a much more straightforward, but no less engaging, survival game that puts you, a lone human, in a large spaceship full of deadly aliens. The miniatures are definitely a highlight here, with wild-looking aliens that you can show off on a display shelf all on their own. A single game can last around one to two hours.
Combining elements of RPG, deckbuilding, and traditional board games, this sprawling fantasy epic is designed for up to five players, but has found its niche as arguably one of the best solo gaming experiences ever produced for the tabletop. Why? Mostly, the game’s multi-layered RPG component and fine-tuned mechanics lead to a lot of “lemme think this through” downtime during gameplay, which can kill the vibe when playing in big groups (once your friends start fiddling with their phones while waiting you out, the night’s close to ending). That, of course, isn’t an issue during solo play, as those same elements keep you engaged from start to finish, giving you as much time to work through the puzzle-like series of actions your spell-casting warrior will need to make in every turn.
If you like dark and complex fantasy dungeon crawlers with monsters at every turn, there’s a chance you may have seen the video game version of this on Steam. Well, it originally started out as a board game for one to four players back in 2017 and has captured plenty of tabletop players’ hearts. While playing with friends makes it a game about cooperative decision making, the solo player version instead tests your strategic ability as you run through the narrative campaign’s branching story and play the card-based combat system, so everything that happens to your character relies entirely on your own decisions. With 17 hero classes and individual solo scenarios for each character, this game not only allows for solo gameplay, it can keep feeling fresh through multiple single-player playthroughs. Do note, this is a large game that requires a hefty time commitment, which, we guess, makes it even better as a single player game, since it’s something you can return to over and over, progressing the adventure as you go.