Thematic Solitaires for the Spare Time Challenged

A blog about solitaire games and how to design them. I'm your host, Morten, co-designer of solo modes for Scythe, Gaia Project, Wingspan, Glen More II, and others.
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My top 10 solo and non-solo games – Part 2

Morten Monrad Pedersen
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Board Game Designer
Automa Factory
Automa Factory
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Today I’ll finish my top 10 list – if you haven’t read part 1 then I suggest that you do so first.

5. The Mind (multiplayer)

A group of people sits down each with a hand of numbered cards and without communicating they must play the cards in numerical order. It shouldn’t work, right? But it does and with the right group The Mind gives tension with a kind of poker face in reverse and high-five moments when alternating players put down close numbers in rapid succession and win the round with just 1 life left.

That said, you need to go into it with the right mindset. Just one person who thinks it’s silly is enough to spoil the experience for everyone.

I did make a solo mode for this one for the challenge and the sheer silliness of the idea, but as a solo mode designer I must begrudgingly say that the game is best in multiplayer ?.

Board Game: The Mind

The Mind. Image credit: Wieland Herold.

4. Spirit Island (solo and multiplayer)

If Pandemic and Magic the Gathering had a child created to be the thematic counterpoint to Catan, then the result would be Spirit Island.

It’s a coop game where you gradually increase your power and play satisfying combos of cards with special abilities to keep the metaphorical fires on the board in control long enough that you can claw your way to meeting one of the victory conditions.

In my opinion the game works best with multiple players because of the increased opportunities for combo plays and the increased play area. You can play it multi-handed solo to achieve the same. That becomes just a tad too brainburny for me, so I prefer this game in multiplayer, but still placed it as my number 10 in my vote for the People’s Choice Top 200 Solo Games in 2019.

Board Game: Spirit Island

Spirit Island. Image credit: Susa Huhn.

3. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (solo)

I know I said that I left out games from the same series from the list and I already have a Pandemic game on the list, but given the legacy nature of this one, I feel that it’s OK to include it.

Given the campaign and legacy aspects of this game a major part of the experience is to play all the way through (12-24 games). Since it’s much easier to get your gaming group together when said group has a size of 1 I could to blast through the campaign without forgetting where I was in the story and which new rules were added during the previous plays. That’s much harder to do in multiplayer and if you should get bored, no one will be angry if you stop playing in the middle of the campaign.

The evolving rules, permanent effects of your actions, and story during the campaign gave me one of the best board experiences ever with a nice cinematic feel.

Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 – non-spoiler image . Image credit: John K.

2. Onirim (solo and 2-player)

When I want to unwind there’s nothing better than Onirim. Its card-play hits the sweet spot for that kind of game between trivial and brain burn. That sweet spot and the whimsical, dreamy artwork helps create a calm and cozy feel that I love.

When I’m in the clutches of a depression this combination of features has made the game just right for distracting me from the black pit in my mind without overloading my mental capacity that’s reduced during those times.

The game comes with 7 mini-expansions and has 2 promo expansion available. You can play with any combination of them which mixes up the core game’s set collection mechanism enough to keep it interesting for a loooong time.

Do note that the art is very divisive, and a lot of people find it childish to the point where it detracts significantly from the game.

Board Game: Onirim (Second Edition)

Onirim 2nd edition. Image credit: Brian Hoier.

1. Dawn of the Zeds (solo)

While zombies have been done to death many times over, this tower defense game nails the zombie genre an order of magnitude better than any other game I’ve seen and I’ve never played a game that feels so much like being in a movie.

It’s hang-by-the-skin-of-your-nails tense with tons of interesting decisions and it has both strategy and tactics.

The cost of all this awesomeness is the ton of special case rules and lots of output randomness that is common for heavy Ameritrash and wargames.

Board Game: Dawn of the Zeds (Third Edition)

Dawn of the Zeds 3rd edition. Image credit: Constantine Veze.
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