Now that the holidays are at an end, I think many dread that dreary trudge back to work. Getting back in the swing of things after a long break can really take it out of you – so every day for rest of the week, I’ll be posting these “holiday hangover cures.” These are fun little lists to help get your mind off the cold, and keep you feeling cozy and together while you spend some evenings near a warm fire. It’s time for a self-care week.
Solo Board Games
For many people, the holidays mean traveling away from home to visit family. Usually, this is a fun, albeit stressful vacation, where you end up required to juggle the interest of multiple family members and their zealous questioning about your life.
When you finally get back home, you probably just want to spend some time alone. Maybe fantasize what it would be like to just lay on a beach somewhere…
So here are three fun, totally solo-able, board games; for when you just need some time to yourself.
Note: All the links to the games below are affiliate links, so if you decide you’re interested in one of the items recommended below, you can click on that link, buy it, and I’ll get a small kickback from your purchase. Thanks!
Friday (published by Friedemann Friese) – $15 (approximately 30 minute playtime)
This game was designed to be played alone. You play as Friday, and Robinson has crashed on your island, ruining your peace. Your job is to help Robinson get off the island, so you can get back to your peace and quiet. To help Robinson, you work to improve his survival abilities, which is illustrated by choosing which cards to put into the deck that represents Robinson’s behaviors. Some of his behaviors are beneficial, but others are downright idiotic (there is literally a card that says “Stupid -1”).
While Robinson is on the island, he will face multiple hazards that you will help him defend against. If he wins the fight against the hazard, he improves his abilities (gaining the card he just defeated). If he loses in the fight against the hazard, he could get rid of a bad habit (permanently discarding a Stupid card). Of course, the longer he’s on the island, the more time passes, and Robinson will get older, weaker, and clumsier (illustrated by the addition of “aging” cards to your deck, which hurt a lot more than they help – clearly Robinson does not gain wisdom with age).
The game is fun, and designed to take half an hour to play through the whole thing. At the end, Robinson takes on two pirates, and if he wins, he commandeers their ship and sails for home. Your first time through will probably take around an hour. A potential downside to this game is that it is designed for solo play, so you can’t play it again with other players if you decide to be more sociable. The upside is that it has multiple difficulty levels, giving you lots of replayability.
Unlock! The Nautilus’ Traps (published by Space Cowboys) – $20 (approximately 60 minute playtime)
Actually, this is just one game of many in the Unlock! series of games. They’re all fun, and they’re all different. They’re single use adventures that each take around an hour to complete (although they will take less time if you’re clever at solving the puzzles). They’re based on Escape rooms, where you are physically placed and locked in a room with a bunch of friends (or strangers), and must discover and decipher clues to figure out how to escape.
In this game series, the room you’re trapped, the clues you must uncover and the actions you can complete to proceed, are all represented by a single stack of cards, each with a number on top. As you explore the area around you, you reveal more cards. The cards you reveal might be a location, with numeric hints on certain objects, prompting you to reveal more cards. The card might also be an object you can use to interact with other objects. Once used, it is discarded. You play through the cards, but are guided by an app (which is free to download, and usable offline). To finish the game, you might, for example, type a code into the app – unlocking the door and allowing you to escape. The faster you figure out how to escape, the higher your score. If you don’t end up finishing in the allotted time, you can still keep trying to escape, but your score ends up suffering. Each Unlock! adventure comes with a small tutorial deck as well, so you can pick up any of the games in the series without fear of spoiling or hindering yourself on any as yet unplayed adventures.
The biggest downside to this game is that, like the Escape rooms it was inspired by, each adventure is designed to be played only once. The upside, of course, is the low price point and the multitude of adventures that have already been released (with more anticipated). In this specific adventure, you went for a solo dive (never a smart idea, but you were on that island alone, remember?), and your submarine was attacked by a giant octopus, and must find a way to escape before your air runs out (or the creature crushes you, whichever comes first, really). If you enjoy this one, you can always check out the other games in the series and play them alone or (gasp!) with friends.
Spirit Island (published by Greater Than Games) – $80 (approximately 120 minute playtime)
Unfortunately, that price point is pretty accurate. High quality games are getting expensive these days. And while this is the most expensive game on my list, it’s also one of the largest and most robust, and in my opinion, that price point is totally worth it. Essentially, Spirit Island is the thematic opposite of Settlers of Catan. You play as one of several spirits inhabiting the island (that part was probably obvious from the name, but stick with me), and use your spirit powers to attempt to drive off the settlers who are trying to colonize your island.
As the explorers make their way across the island, they explore different areas each turn, build in those areas next turn, and ravage them on the third turn. Once the area is ravaged (read: colonized and farmed), blight appears on the land, damaging your spirit. There are multiple spirits you can choose from, and each have their own way of playing the game. An ocean spirit might let you rise the tide and flood out cities and drown explorers, while the earth spirit might focus on defending areas from ravaging. As a spirit, you also have the help of the local Dahan tribe (who, sadly, can be pretty easily wiped out by the colonialists). As your presence increases on the island, you become more powerful and start to generate fear in the colonists, eventually (hopefully) driving them off the island.
The game is totally customizable, and bursting with replayability. Aside from the multiple spirits to choose from (all of which play extremely differently), there are extended scenarios that let you play against English settlers, or Prussian settlers, or French settlers. It gives you the option to increase your own difficulty level, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s a game that has a lot going for it, but it also has a lot going on. This is not a light game, this is at least a midweight game. The downside is that playing this game easily takes longer than two hours thanks to my analysis paralysis, but the upside is that it never feels like it’s taking too long. And while it can be played alone, you can easily (and enjoyably) play this game with another player (or two, you social butterfly you).
Hope that all those sound like fun ways to pass the evening. If you enjoy hearing about these games, feel free to look me up on Board Game Geek – my username is itsbrynanas.
Tomorrow, prepare to scare! Which just means it’s time to curl up with some cozy mysteries.