Boardgames for solo play (including conversions)

(This post is part of the COVID-19 stay home activity series)

Stuck at home and your family isn’t interested in boardgames? Some genres of boardgames are just fine when played solo, even if it’s not indicated on the package instructions.

Photos: My setup and result for Elder Sign solo play, controlling 2 characters. The game ran smoothly and was enjoyable to play alone.

Best for solo play: Purely cooperative games

Essentially, for a purely cooperative boardgame with no hidden information, you can just take the roles of multiple players. Solo play is fine, even if the package officially states “2 to N players”. Treat it like a turn-based RPG where you control all the characters in the party.

Require modification: Cooperative games with a competitive element

Such games may or may not be suitable for solo play, depending on how important the competitive element is.

For example, Dead of Winter could probably be played solo by converting it to a fully-cooperative game (this variant is covered by the rule book), ignoring any secret objectives. Then you can just play all the characters in the game, as above.

Competitive games against random/AI opponent

This game mode will usually require the publisher to design it as part of the game e.g. Scythe and Tiny Epic Mechs.

Otherwise you can try simulating an AI opponent by rolling dice or drawing cards (like Takenoko’s panda), but it won’t work for games with a strong strategy and planning component.

For example, Sushi Go might involve randomly drawing a face-down card for your simulated opponent. Not much of a challenge, but at least it’s unpredictable.

Test play or “high score”

Abandon any notion of competitive play, surprise, or the concept of “winning”. Just take all players’ turns. This is essentially play-testing to try out the game mechanics, different roles and different strategies.

This mode should be applicable to nearly all competitive or strategy games e.g. Seven Wonders.

NOT SUITABLE FOR SOLO PLAY: Games where hidden information or guessing is a core element e.g. Coup and other social deduction games.

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