Become those who songs are sung about in the epic dungeon crawler from Steamforged Games. Pros Quick to set-up Non-standard fantasy races/classes Dungeon crawl Session Length Campaign Game Price Cons Dungeon Crawl D20 based Very much D&D inspired Price The Page I think that they …
For a lot of people board gaming is a social activity, but 2020 has made that less likely and harder to do at least in bigger groups. For some people with serious medical concerns or just general concerns about Covid, that isn’t an option, or maybe with their work, or whatever it might be, so for them, and for the people who just don’t have a game group around for other reasons as well, solo gaming can be a great option. I’m not going to repeat the two, Gloomhaven, and Onirim that I’ve already talked about, so let’s talk about some other games that are good solo and might make a great gift.
This is probably my favorite solo game right now, and it’s fun because you can customize it for the person you are getting it for. Marvel Champions is a Living Card game put out by Fantasy Flight Games, where you take on the roll of a hero (or you can play up to 4), and you face off against a villain, their henchmen and their schemes. You have two sides you can play as a superhero, you are either in your alter ego side, T’Challa, Tony Stark, Peter Parker, etc., or you are in your hero side, Black Panther, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc. When you are in the alter ego side the villain only schemes and won’t fight you, when you are in your hero side, they’ll scheme slower, and fight you. It’s a balancing act changing between the sides of a hero. What works well in this game, is that it’s a living card game, that means that Fantasy Flight is supporting it by putting out new heroes, villains, and scenarios for it. So if someone is a huge Black Widow fan, you can grab the base game and the Black Widow expansion pack and customize for them. And there are a ton of different character options. Great for a superhero fan if you life, but also just a really good game.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
So, I’m going with another living card game here. If you try and get someone everything for these, it’ll get extremely expensive, but Arkham Horror: The Card Game, is a great solo game, and worth talking about. In this game you are taking an investigator through a series of story where the choices you make can and will make a difference. If you kill a monster, save a person, find out all the cultists, that’ll adjust your scenario, story, and rewards going forward. This game is a really nice puzzle of a game where you are trying to find clues, pass tests, and fight monsters, using cards that are either equipment or abilities, or spending them for resources to make it more likely you’ll pass a test or so that you can buy one of the cards. It’s a really interesting game system that allows itself to tell so many stories in so many different ways in something that is just a card game. Very smartly made and really enjoyable. This is for someone who loves to try and optimize and solve a mystery/challenge the best that they can.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
While the other two have been good gamery games, Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, is basically just a choose your own adventure book, with some cards and some challenges. This one has a ton of nostalgia to it as you play through what is a completely insane story seeing how well you can do, trying not to die, and reading great story. And by great story, I mean that it’s very crazy story but that it’s a lot of fun. It’s written in a very light way and really interesting and enjoyable. This one works well solo because you can kind of just flip through the cards, make decisions quickly, roll dice when needed for the challenges, and continue. None of the decisions you make seem like they have a massive difference in how the game will go, they mainly will get you stuck in areas or having to deal challenges which you’ll probably eventually defeat. This one is good light fun for a solo gamer who is just looking to have a good time.
First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet
For your sci-fi solo gamer out there, there is First Martians. In some ways this is almost Martian, the book and movie, the board game. You are on Mars, setting up the first colony there, and things are going to be breaking down. You need to think about food, oxygen levels, you might be out exploring the surface, building things to improve your base. This is a pretty challenging game with a not that well written rule book. Fortunately you can learn to play by watching it on the Watch It Played YouTube channel, Rodney Smith does a great job there. First Martians also gives you a number of ways to play. You can pick one off missions focused on different things, such as exploring Mars, building and adding on to the station, or just trying to make a broken station survive. But then there are also campaigns where you play through a few games in a row. Overall this game, while it has it’s flaws, is so much fun to play and offers quick experiences and longer campaigns depending on what you want.
Aeon’s End Legacy
So I mentioned campaign games above, and I think it’s fitting to wrap up this list with a game that has a campaign to it. There are a lot that I could have picked, Mage Knight, Deep Madness, Folklore the Affliction, Sword and Sorcery, Reich Busters, and a whole lot more, but I’m picking Aeon’s End Legacy because I like deck building games, and I think that the game play offered in Aeon’s End is really interesting and easy to solo. By that I mean that in lot of these games you can’t just play them true solo, even something like Gloomhaven you have to control two characters, so you’re doing more “house keeping” and keeping track of leveling up multiple characters. Aeon’s End Legacy isn’t true solo, you do have to control at least two characters, but the game play is much simpler. You don’t need to think about 10 different stats, what weapon or dice to use or roll. Instead, you are just playing your hand of cards when the turn comes up. I’m a big fan of Aeon’s End: War Eternal, so Aeon’s End Legacy is one that I have on my shelf that I need to play, but that I’ve heard great things about and that I can recommend knowing the system well.
Now, there are obviously a lot of other games I could mention, Mansions of Madness, which I’ve talked about before, really most cooperative games can be played solo. I’m even playing through, or will be soon, Pandemic Legacy Season 2 solo. So even games that aren’t truly solo, as long as there isn’t hidden information, can be played solo, but I think that hopefully these are some good options. I basically went with cooperative games, but there are solo variants for things like Alien Artifacts and Scythe out there as well, they just need a bit more house keeping in what is done.
What solo game would recommend for a solo gamer? Or if you are one, what would you want to get?
I’ve done a competitive person games list for that person who might be just a bit too competitive. Yesterday I did a stocking stuffer list. Today I’m looking at games for that person who loves to work together and like cooperative games. Dead of Winter …
One of the most important parts of a board game is the board, not really. But a board is a really good spot to start to talk about, because that’s going to influence a few parts of the design.
Like a lot of dungeon crawl-esque games, this game isn’t going to have one central board that you go around. In fact my current thought process is that you will have no central board that you play off of. Instead, we’re going to use what something that I’ve seen in games like Forgotten Waters, Stuffed Fables and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, which is a book.
There are a few reasons for the book, but the biggest is that we want the different levels to feel varied. The amount of tile pieces would be epically high to make a completely varied board. There are a lot in Gloomhaven, and those can seem somewhat limited at times, so to make something feel truly unique for different levels, you’d need a ton of pieces of terrain, and map tiles, and more to really keep it varied, but in this, I want to make it so that each level can be unique. Especially for the boss battle, I want to work with the idea of space in the game. I think that the new Descent game does an interesting thing with that where you build up vertically at times and can push people off of towers and things like that, I want to be able to do that. And some of that can be done with negative space on a map that’s drawn easier than map tiles that just create more random empty space on the table.
Besides the boss battle, it’ll help me be able to change up the level part of the floor, where players can go on quests, fight monsters, shop, and recruit to their guild. I could completely drop off one of them if I wanted, or I could add in additional spots where players can send people to go questing. This will allow each level to again feel different than the previous ones and give hints as to what might be more important for a level, or I really like the idea that some levels might not allow you to do things, maybe like recruit, so you need to plan accordingly, and you might not get that researched or figured out, but you need to have that in your mind that the next level might not have everything you want, or it might mean you can all go questing and pick up story and lore of the world.
But there are going to be a few actual boards in the game. The first will be the player boards. Each character is going to have their own board. This will have their stats as to what they are good at on it. Those stats are going to then influence how good they are at other things. Someone who is average at everything might do okay on all the tasks and tests, but they aren’t going to get the best outcome and I’ll be talking more about that in the future. But players will have ways to keep track of their stats, but along with that, this is where you’ll keep track of skills and equipment, conditions, and things like that which are common for dungeon crawlers. In my mind I want something closer to the Neoprene mats from Midarra versus something like the paper board from Sword & Sorcery. Gloomhaven does it a little bit better, but I want to build even upon that, because I’ve seen some nice custom ones for Gloomhaven that would hold things better. Also, with cool down and tracking skills, I feel like that’s something that Sword & Sorcery tries to do decently well, but ends up not really doing that well, so I’m curious to see how I can improve upon that.
The other board is going to be the guild board, and this one I have more of an idea of what I want on the board. This board is going to be fairly simple. You are going to keep track of a very few things on here. The two primary ones are going to be guild members and morale. Morale is going to be important for a few things, it’ll be about the attrition that you have with the guild or maybe how it’ll grow naturally. The better your morale the more that you’ll also be able to recruit on a floor. The other big thing, as I said, is guild members. Tracking them will be important because as you hit numerical points, that’ll give you more groups of guild members to use on levels. So if you have a ton of them, you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground, but you’ll also be sacrificing opportunities to level up by doing that. Again, building that tension, but also we’re on boards here, so that’s going to be important to track for that reason. Finally you’ll be tracking a few other things, gear level of the guild, statuses that you’ve found, deaths in the guild, and population left in the world. The statuses that you have found as a guild pertaining to the game can influence your options going forward. Gear will make a difference in battle, deaths in the guild will influence left total in the game, so important things, but will be less often you’re checking those things.
For a game this large there was always going to be a bunch of things to keep track of, but I want, with the book for the board, to make it so that part of the game is an easy flip out and play because that’s going to make the game way more accessible to players if they only have to keep track of their own stuff instead of helping set everything else out. I do think that there’ll be some tokens for the boss battle, such as placing on terrain, though I’d love to be able to make as much of that 3D terrain as possible, either 3D molded terrain, but that might be an add-on if it goes to KS or carboard pieces that can be put together to create height and visual appeal. I might pull a bit from what Oathsworn is doing where you can either get minis for the bosses or you can standees as well, but keep the bosses, and any terrain items, hidden away in either envelops with punch out stuff, or something like that, but ways to bring more surprises to the game. But that’s probably something for another time to talk about.
What do you think of the game thus far, definitely still in concept phase with this one, but I’m going to try and tackle some more specifics this week.
We’ve made it through another list this year. No spoilers as to what’s to come, what might have moved up, what might just be a new game on the list, so let’s get into this.
Plus a few notes on how I’ve put together the list:
- These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100
- If a game you love isn’t on the list, it might be be coming, I might not have played it, and if I have, it’s 101
- If a game looks cool, I have links to buy it from CoolStuffInc or Amazon, or you can grab most at your FLGS
- There are a few games, Destiny 2 Player versus regular Destiny where if they are basically the same thing, I only do one of them
Starting here, we have a game that has dropped a little bit for me. Some of that is because I haven’t played it recently nor is it one that I can play more often than once every three or four years, because it is a legacy game. So there is a story element to the game that even when I played it the second time, I generally remembered the story and when the moments happened, though not always perfectly. The game play is really good, and even though it’s a legacy game, it is very much worth playing. It is a good building off of the main game, and it adds in surprising moments and some good twists along the way. The game is mechanically sound as well with nothing really throwing the game out of balance. Overall, it’s a game that is a great experience every time you pull it out while playing through the story, and at the end, even though you can’t use the board game, it doesn’t feel like a waste and you feel satisfied with how much you’ve played it.
Last Year: 3
9. Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
New comer to the list, and one that I want to get to the table more. It might be the game that we play next after Gloomhaven because I think we’ll be able to play it pretty well over Zoom. In Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon, this is a dark fantasy game where you are exploring story, going across maps and finding new lands, fighting monsters, all of this while trying to survive and keep giant statues, Menhir, lit, to hold back the Wyrdness that is threatening the land. This game has so much story to it and it is really well written, the minis are great in the game, the game mechanics are really interesting, most of them are pretty straightforward, but the combat and diplomacy encounters are done in a really interesting way. This game really shines because of how much it offers in story, and with two more expansions coming from this Kickstarter, there is going to be tons of hours of game play to get through the whole story of this world. I’m very excited to get it back to the table.
Last Year: Not Ranked
This one shot up a long way, but I think that last year while ranking, I might have left it lower because it is just a light and silly game. But ICECOOL is a game that I love playing every time I get to the table. Whether it is just having a goofy time at a board game night or playing it somewhat more seriously at GenCon in a tournament, ICECOOL is always a blast. What is basically just a little flicking game, this game just works so well. The box is incredible as it comes apart to make this 3D high school (Ice cool, get it). The little penguin pieces are really nice, and the whole flicking thing just works so well. This is really a kids game, but it’s a lot of fun for adults, for kids, and for basically any setting. This is one that I’d definitely recommend to anyone, gamer or not, as a really fun time.
Last Year: 21
7. Dice Throne
Another one shooting up the list, this is one of my more played games last year. And it helps because there is a nice TTS (Tabletop Simulator) version that works well, and I was bummed because I was hoping to do a tournament of this game this year amongst my friends, but with Covid that hasn’t happened. Dice Throne is a battling dice chucking game where you are playing different types of characters, you might be something as simple as a Barbarian or a Paladin, you you can play a Seraph or an Artificer. While core mechanics might be similar in what you are trying to roll or what rolls are better, the game play for each character seems different. You’re looking for different things and trying to get that set-up right and the statuses on players at the right time or get them off yourself before you’re taken out. I like this game at two players probably the best, but I’ve been playing a lot of “King of the Hill” style with three players and that has been amazing as well. The game plays fast, and you feel engaged with it throughout. I am also really excited to see this battling style board game turned into more of an adventure game in Dice Throne: Adventures coming real soon.
Last Year: 19
Another new game to the list, and almost into the top 5, I’ve played Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game exactly 5 times, once for each case in the base box. And with that, I can’t really play the base box again. Well, I could, but I would more have to run the game for other people, which I think could be a lot of fun, make it into an almost role playing style experience for them. But even with that this game has expansions, I have two of them, and the game play and story itself were so good. You feel like you are in an NCIS or some sort of show like that, but while watching 13 season of something like that can get dry and repetitive, these feel unique and interesting. This is much more than just a procedural sort of mystery, it’s an experience as you unravel story old and new, and the database that you use, being able to look up real events online, and the story deck, all of it just works so well. If you like deduction/mystery style games, I cannot recommend this one highly enough, and if you want something that is easier than five tied together stories, there is a Season One with fewer cases and ones that aren’t intertwined as well.
Last Year: Not Ranked
Moving up a few spots, we have Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition. This game, every time I play it, shows me something different. Yes, I can play different scenarios that are obviously going to be different, but even playing the introductory scenario, while I might know the story, how the places are laid out is different. This is my highest ranked Lovecraftian game, though I do want to try Death May Die, and I have Arkham Horror 3rd Edition waiting to get played on my shelf. This one I love because you have stand alone scenarios of different lengths and difficulties, and you can just pull out an app and tell it what you have, it’ll show you what scenarios are available and you can jump into playing so quickly. Now, there is some work when it comes to the set-up of characters and you’ll have to spend time to the board, but the app walks you through that and you discover and explore more as you go. This game has just been consistently good for me, even though my win loss record isn’t that great.
Last Year: 8
Now for a lot of people, this game will seem way to high. There are scenarios that aren’t that well balanced, it’s true. If a betrayer has all the good items or none of the good items, it’ll be over quickly when the haunt happens, also true. But there is just something about this game that I like so much and that just works for me. Some of it is because it just feels like a campy horror film as a group of misfits whom never should have gone into a haunted house together just have everything go horribly wrong and find something disturbing around every corner. And I like both parts of the game, the exploration part and the haunt when it happens. This game just scratches that bit of a horror in gaming itch that I have pretty often and that most games can’t scratch.
Last Year: 4
New one to the list, will be it be the highest, yes it will. But Marvel Champions has been a wonderful game for me. I won’t lie, I have a little bit of bittersweet feeling around it, though I do love it every time I play it, because it was the last time playing a game at a game shop before everything got stopped because of Covid. Even with that, I have played it a few more times, and I most certainly have picked everything up for it. This game is the superhero game that I wished Marvel Legendary was and completely knocked Marvel Legendary off my list. It’s not that I don’t have room for multiple superhero games, I do, and I love the Marvel theme, this one just makes you feel like you are playing a superhero instead of having a team of them that you build kind of at random. Here you can still have allies that help out, but you’re really playing Spider-Man/Peter Parker or Black Panther/T’Challa. You can flip between the two sides, hero and alter-ego, and you can play them in different ways. I haven’t gotten into the deck construction yet, but I know that’s something I want to explore as well. This game just is what I’ve been looking for in a superhero game.
Last Year: Not Ranked
2. Blood Rage
Not moving at all from last year, we have Blood Rage. This game is just an amazing game. There is area control, there is conflict, and there is card drafting, you go on missions, you recruit monsters and send them in to wreck your enemies, all of this while trying to balance out increases to your action points and to be able to get more troops on the board and get more glory for the battles that you’ve won. I also like that there are some different strategies you can take in this game, maybe you can draft missions well and end up scoring a lot, maybe you’ll get many a point in victory in battles. Or maybe you’ll do the Loki strategy and get into battles and let your clan die and go to Valhalla and get points from them when they leave. Depending on what you draft, that can determine what you’re going for in an age, and while you might want to focus on something, the other players can also draft to block you. This game is always fun for me and even having played it a number of times now, it feels like there is still so much more to explore.
Last Year: 2
Staying at #1 as well is Gloomhaven. This game is just about perfect to me, and most of the issues that I have are from the Forgotten Circles expansion which I’ve just about wrapped up, we’re on the final scenario. This game has so much that I love, there is a massive story campaign, there is a dungeon crawl focus and interesting monsters. It’s fully cooperative, and fighting in a given scenario is so interesting based off of the character that you have. You level up your characters getting different combat cards in, unlocking new abilities and generally changing up how you play until you retire and then you play a new character and get to discover everything they can do and how they play all over again. I think I’ve played over 200 hours of this game, probably easily over 200 pushing 300 at this point, and we haven’t done all the side scenarios or all the scenarios and story in the expansion, so there is just so much in this game. I can’t say enough good things, and honestly, I hope by the time I’m doing this next year, this is bumped to #2, because I’m so excited for Frosthaven and the city building piece of that as well.
Last Year: 1
So we have the top 100, I’m going to be putting up another article today with links to all the Top 100, look at what is new on the list, what is are the biggest movers and ask you your favorites overall. But in my Top 10 games, what are your favorites?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
Now, this isn’t something that I’ve gotten into much yet, but I think it’s interesting to talk about because it’s definitely a part of our growing hobby. Like any growing hobby or popular thing, eventually people create the fancy version of something or some sort …