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Top 5 Solo Experiences In Less Known Board Games

Solo - Earth

By now you’ve probably already read our first feature “The Top 6 Solo Experiences in Popular Board Games” ( if not, why not? ) where we covered the ‘table for one’ scenarios for such great games as Scythe, Wingspan and Spirit Island but how about piquing your interest in games you may not know?

We have an eclectic collection: Growing green habitats, Building edifices for the royals, Crime solving in a cartoon city, Surviving slasher movie horror attacks and a Table version of a computer point and click for your delectation.

Read on and enjoy!

EarthGillian Lee

Earth is one of the hot (or cold, weather joke) new games of the moment and it’s so easy to see why. It takes on everyone’s favourite mechanic of engine building, turns the heat up and it’s full of beautiful plants. In Earth you’re trying to create a 4x4 tableau of complementary flora to score the most points (but there are lots of other ways to score points too). There are four core actions of the game: planting, composting, watering and growing. And what’s really nice about Earth is that when anyone takes an action, everyone gets to benefit.

The game operates very similarly to the multiplayer game except you have a slightly different board and you play against the Gaia System, who also has her own board and deck of cards. The game ends when you finish your island or when Gaia has gone through her deck of cards twice. Her board also includes space for sprouts and canopies and they look so cute together. Gaia is a worthy opponent, aside from sprouts and trees, she also accumulates lots of points from flora cards and compost. Not to mention scoring the fauna objectives (e.g. being the first to have four mushroom flora), which she’ll run away with if you’re not careful.

Solo Earth shines just like the multiplayer game with all the key characteristics intact. You take one of the four actions, you build your island with the planting action which begins your engine, and after a couple of turns you’re swimming in resources. In your engine, you normally have the option to sacrifice a resource for another, like a sprout for some compost or remove growth for soil. There are lots of ways to gain points and a variety of objectives to work towards. My personal favourite action is growing because you get to grow the little trees and put canopies on them and come on, they’re adorable. Earth is such a beautiful and vibrant production that if solo Earth means you can play more Earth, that’s a very good thing.

Architects Of The West KingdomLuke Pickles

If you’re looking for a nice crunchy solo game involving worker placement, you might not have thought to look at Garphill Games and their Architects of the West Kingdom. After all, this is a worker placement game which thrives at a higher player count because you have more competition and get some backstabbing in whilst you’re building out the kingdom. Because the actions get stronger the more of your own workers you place, you find more player interaction at higher player counts. However, the solo mode of Architects makes up for that.

For starters, you have a deck of Scheme cards that you reveal each turn, which corresponds to an action spot you place a worker out to. These represent the Byzantine architects hired to work for the king. The AI doesn’t gain resources or cards apart from marble, but they do move up and down the virtue track, visit the black market, take the taxes, build the cathedral and, crucially, capture your people… a lot. The AI here acts as a really aggressive player, and it’s really interesting to play against if you’re used to a two-player experience of niceness. You also have to contend with the fact that the AI doesn’t have any restrictions, so resources and virtue won’t stop them from going wherever they darn well please.

The scoring for the AI is a little different too, as they do not score for building cards. After all, they didn’t get any. Instead, you count the number of workers they have managed to place at the Guildhall and award 1 or 3 victory points, depending on how difficult a game you wanted to play.

The solo game is elegant, challenging and really does feel like you’re playing against an aggressive human. It’s very easy to include in the game, and doesn’t add too much extra to your turns that you have to play two different games. What I also like is that you can include the AI deck in a two player game, giving a really tight feeling of a third player adding pressure to a difficult situation.

MicroMacro: Crime City – Pete Bartlam

MicroMacro: Crime City won the Spiel des Jahres Kritikerpreis in 2021. Using a Macro sized map – 75 x 110 cm – it outlines an incredibly detailed cartoon city in tiny, micro detail. Here we find streets, parks, cafes, waterfronts, shops and city blocks teeming with residents going about their business- lawful or otherwise!

And that’s where it gets interesting because depicted in a sort of graphical time-lapse case history way, we see the successive steps involved in 16 different criminal acts, ranging in intensity from prankish Hat stealing to Murder most foul. You are given the outline of a case and the starting location on a card and are invited to search in a Where’s Wallyesque way for the next link in the chain. There may be up to 11 steps to follow as each leads you on to the next until you finally use your “little grey cells” to declare the final denouement.

The details can be hard to spot. You are given a tiny magnifier and are instructed to keep the room well lit. You also need some deductive power to lead you to the right place to look. However all the cases are solvable in a reasonable amount of time. If you like Spot the Difference puzzles or the ubiquitous Where’s Wally you’ll love it.

MicroMacro: Crime City is billed as being for up to 4 players working co-operatively but I couldn’t imagine doing it anything other than Solo! I do a lot of Jigsaws and Crosswords and the last thing I’d want is a crowd of onlookers “helping” me or with the aforementioned Where’s Wally for that matter. The same is true for this.

So go on be the ace Solo detective in Crime City.

Final Girl Rachael Duchovny

Have you ever screamed at the TV “Don’t do that” or “well that’s going to get you killed” whilst watching a horror film! Well now’s your chance to see how YOU’d do it better because with Final Girl you get to be that final girl in the film. The one fighting for survival, the one to end the killing spree and rejoice victorious that you outsmarted the murderous psycho to survive. Or do you? Because in this game, you win, or you die.

Final Girl is a fantastic solo game that brings hours and hours of entertainment. Not for the faint-hearted, with an age rating of 14+, it is a highly thematic horror game. The battles you fight are not easy with each killer and location bringing their own terror cards creating myriad, different combinations of gameplay.

To play Final Girl you need the core box containing all the general components. After that you purchase ‘episode’ boxes. Each episode comes with 2 final girls, a location and most importantly a killer. Final Girl has a series of features available. The first is The Happy Trails Horror: Summer Camp goes very wrong for our final girl, either Reiko or Laurie, when Hans the Butcher comes along, murdering and feasting on happy campers. Others include Frightmare on Maple Lane where Dr Fright turns dreams deadly for our final girls Nancy or Sheila and Once Upon a Full Moon featuring the Big Bad Wolf at the Storybook Woods and starring Red and Gretel.

The truly great thing about Final Girl is how you can mix up final girls, killers and locations to make your own unique feature films, only limited by your imagination… well, and the roll of the dice, luck of the cards and some pretty good strategy. However, if you’re the type who must win every time, be warned… things don’t often end well, you can lose… a lot!

Win or lose it’s massive fun and for solo-playing, horror fans, is simply a must. You can play co-operatively, I sometimes play with my husband, and it can be fun to talk things out and make the story with another person. But remember, this is a solo game, if you choose to play with someone else decisions need agreeing because, live or die, there can be only one!

Do you have what it takes to survive?

Cantaloop Matt Thomasson

As a kid I grew up playing a lot of point and click video games: Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and many more. Combining various items to create something else in often weird ways was always a fun and entertaining gaming pastime. To see this translated, as best as it can, into a board game was a very exciting prospect and why I was very keen to play Cantaloop.

Cantaloop is a three “book” series which contains different pages depicting various locations and scenes covered in numbers. There is an overarching story associated with the game (which I will not spoil here) that spans the three books. You can investigate various locations by looking up the corresponding number in the back of the book. This may reveal a new item that you can collect by pulling the corresponding card from a deck, or a snippet of the story. Various items can also be combined i.e. items 12 and items 25 will give you (potentially) item 1225. By using these various items or combined items you can interact with parts of the scene or people within the scene to progress the story. There are some Funny Easter Eggs that you can combine which adds some humour into the game which I really like. The puzzle of working out which items to use where and which items to combine is very engaging.

The above mechanism works so well. It is simple, it is clear and it emulates that point and click nostalgia feeling in a boardgame. This is a great game to play solo. You can pack it away and get it out again with relative ease and stop playing whenever you want. There is a very good hint system and although it can play multiplayer (up to 4) I really don’t see the need. Sure, you may get some insight in how to progress the story, but the puzzles are not overly complicated and, for me, this is a wonderful game to play solo.