If you are starting on your journey as a solo board gamer and do not feel you're not ready for heavier games like Mage Knight or even Spirit Island. Consider getting gateway games with simpler rules and gameplay.
You won't get frustrated and just toss away your dreams of solo board gaming as your new hobby for life. You can lose in these games of course, but that is part of the challenge. The games do not take long to play so you don't feel committed to it. So here goes the list.
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One of my favorite dice chucking solo games. It plays 1-5 players and so the solo game plays differently than the regular competitive rules. The game is about each player playing a galaxy and you must colonize intergalactic planets to gain victory points. You have two types of resources for currency. You need to roll dice to determine what actions you can take during your turn. As the game progress, you need to upgrade your empire so you can get more dice and ships to colonize more worlds and increase your points.
When you play you play solo, instead of competing with other players, you compete with a Rogue Galaxy and you roll dice to determine what the Rogue will do during its turn. It has more abilities and when you roll a certain dice roll, it can do very bad things against you. There are many levels of Rogue Galaxies to play against. Definitely a lot of replayability.
Tiny Epic Defenders, 2nd Edition
Another game in the same series as Tiny Epic Galaxies is Tiny Epic Defenders. The solo rules play like the coop rules except you control two characters by yourself. One character will not be able to do it. You are defending Capital City against a horde of monsters represented by a deck of cards. The Capital City is a large card surrounded by outer regions which are also large cards. Your meeples must go around trying to defend the outer lands and fix it if its threat level gets too high from attacks. When an outer region is destroyed, your Capital City is more vulnerable. There are many characters to with different abilities to choose from. At the end, you must fight the Epic Foe which is randomized and you must defeat the Epic Foe to win.
Star Realms: Frontiers
If you love deck building games, this is the one you should get for your collection. Star Realms: Frontiers is a new stand-alone expansion for 1-4 players. It has 8 challenge cards for solo play and cooperative play as you fight automata Boss opponents with different mechanics and rules from the regular competitive game.
If dice pooling is your game, One Deck Dungeon and its expansion Forest of Shadows is a great solo/cooperative dungeon crawl for you. The is basically a deck of cards. You choose a character like Warrior or Paladin or more and the dungeon encounters are revealed from cards as monsters or traps. Eventually you travel through the deck as a different level and eventually fight the main boss monster. You use a pool of rolled dice based on your abilities and try to cover as many boxes with requirements on the encounter cards as possible. Any boxes left uncovered would cause damage or discard cards from the deck which gets you closer to the end of the level more quickly.
Technically, this isn't a solo game. It's a cooperative game, but all cooperative games can be played solo. Some better than others. This is one where the gameplay is not altered if you play solo. You just play 2 characters with their own decks. This is another deck building game, but has more rules than Star Realms. You fight different villains together who have different abilities to harm you as well. Also there are location cards where you have to prevent the villain from taking over with metal skulls. There are 7 games in this box, and it gets progressively harder. One even adds dice to the game. Also this definitely scratches the Harry Potter itch if you have that love the theme.
Here is a game that is a great race against time. The map is made up of tiles so that the island is different every game. As a solo player, you can play 1-4 characters with different abilities. The island is sinking and you have to collect all four artifacts before everyone has to get back to the helicopter landing before the island sinks into the ocean. You can shore up flooded tiles before they sink and become impassable. It has a puzzle like nature to the game where every action you make counts.
Made by the same makers of Forbidden Island is Forbidden Desert. You're in a desert with ever shifting sands which can cover tiles and also the map tiles change so throughout the game. You're racing to find parts of a flying ship that will get you out of the scorching desert. Like Forbidden Island, you can play up to 4 different characters with different abilities. They are hidden and revealing some tiles will show you the location of each part. If you take too long, you die from dehydration from the sun.
This is the first race against time cooperative game I have played. It has became an iconic game. In this game, the world is plagued by 4 virulent diseases that is spreading rapidly. As a cooperative game, a solo player can play 2-4 characters that have different abilities. You travel around tying to stop the spread in different cities and you also have to work to cure the diseases as well. If you waste time, the diseases spread from city to city eventually covering the whole world.
Wingspan is an engine building card based game for 1-5 players. You are a bird enthusiast trying to attract birds to your wildlife preserve. You win with the most points after 4 rounds There is a dice tower for dice that determines food. The birds you collect lays eggs. There are many strategies to build your preserve of birds. As a solo game, you play against an Automata. The game is more about its strong mechanics than its bird theme. But the illustrations are so beautiful.