Top 5 Solo Games.

With the recent lockdowns, solo gaming has become a little more accepted! No longer is it frowned upon, being against the social aspect of why most of us game; rather it is seen as the lifeline to our gaming addictions. And having succomed to the dark side myself, I have to say, it can be brilliant! Let's take a look at my top 5. 

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Robinson Crusoe - Best for solo players who don't mind losing!

Age range - 8 and up

Easy to learn? - Medium

Easy to set up? - Medium 

How is it with others? - Great if you like co-ops

Solo satisfaction levels - Very High

Robinson Crusoe is a brutal game! One of the toughest I have played. Not to learn, that is relatively simple; I mean to win! I have now played 10 games and won once! But I have absolutely loved every moment of each game.

Robinson Crusoe is fairly simple to play, although I admit, it does looks complicated at first due to the many moving parts. In short, you are on an island and you need to survive whilst working towards a specific task based on which scenario you are trying. There are seven in the core box, plus lots more in the expansion. There is a new treasure chest expansion that combines all the previously released content in one cosy box too which looks amazing! You can happily replay scenarios over and over again, so don’t think this is a one and done. But with the new expansion recently out, and solo gaming being all the rage, now is a great time to try this.

I don’t want to spoil any of the scenarios, cards or story in this, but what I can say is the game is brilliant! Every choice feels so important. Every turn! There are no shortcuts to victory, and no irrelevant moves. Everything you do needs to be calculated with the precision of a military general. A general who happens to be well known for his astute accuracy and who is having one of his most calculated days where every call they make is coming off. Anything less, and you will die!

Be that that from starvation, not having enough wood to hold off the cold from the snow, or an attack from a wild boar (and that was just my first three games)! Something will get you if you don’t get everything right. And in truth, even if you do, the dice may not roll your way and it could all still go to pot!

In solo, you get the added advantage of having Friday and the Dog join you bringing much needed extra turns in the action phase. This is a nice addition especially as neither eat, so don’t need anything in return for their loyal service! And it does make the solo experience feel a little more social too! Your real friends may not be there to help you in the battles against the elements, but never fear, dog is here!

As I said, there is some luck involved from the dice, as well as which cards your draw, but overall, I feel this is down to good decisions and rolling with what you are dealt with. You need to have a clear plan, but also be able to adapt to whatever the island throws as you. Although I do feel there may be some occasions where mathematically you simply cannot win! But that is what makes the rare victories or moments that you think may be leading towards one, all the more sweater.

Everything is about planning. I know I need to light the fire, and in order to do that, I must visit a mountain range on the island, but before I visit more land, I need to ensure I have stopped the risk of losing my resources due to this flood and made process with my shelter as I know the rain and snow is coming soon! All the while ensuring you have enough food to last the night. It’s like chess. You are thinking 5-10 moves ahead all the time, and I love trying to piece this together, although I rarely do it well. Phenomenal game.  

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Blackout: Hong Kong - Best for solo gamers who want to feel part of a bigger game.

Age range - 8 and up

Easy to learn? - Medium

Easy to set up? - Medium 

How is it with others? - Very good

Solo satisfaction levels - High

Blackout: Hong Kong delivers something from a solo experience that is quite rare. A meaty, thoughtful game that feels like you were playing with someone else, apart from the conversation of course! Although I do find myself talking out loud when I play this solo, a lot. My family are getting quite concerned in fact!

The premise is simple. The power is out, you don’t think the government will sort it out, and you feel there are riches to be earned in a post blackout world if you can be the one to fix all the problems. Sounds satisfying right? And it feels like that as you play.

Everything is linked, so like Robinson Crusoe, you need to plan ahead and think about your moves in stages, not singular turns. It’s a cascading effect to achieve anything and fitting together a five-move plan to achieve a certain task over multiple turns is very satisfying when it comes out as you planned.

Like Robinson Crusoe, some of this is affected by the roll of the dice, but you have plenty of options to manipulate what they dice bring to you, so I feel there is less luck here, and more chance to control your destiny. It is a hard game to win like Robinson Crusoe, but I would say with a 75% win ratio, whereas Robinson Crusoe is more like 10%!

The solo experience is very rewarding and clearly well thought out too. There are five repeatable scenarios for you to try in the box which create a scenario based solo experience over multiple games. Set up and available resources are adapted and the win conditions changes to suit the theme of the scenario. It plays out over a week where you actually try and retore the power. It makes the theme of the game really shine in a way the base version simply doesn’t. The one criticism of this game from other players is the lack on theme in the game, it does feel a bit pasted on. But this scenario really helps with that.  For more reading on this and my full review of the game, check here.

Ripple Rush - Best for sola gamers with limited time!

Age range - 7 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

How is it with others? - Good

Solo satisfaction levels - High

 

Ripple Rush is a flip and write game. There are many in this mould that could have made this list. So why has Ripple Rush made the cut? Well, it’s quite simple really. No! Not the answer as to why it has made the cut. I mean, the game. The game is quite simple. And that’s why it’s here. There are so many gams in this field now, and they all try and outdo each other with clever mechanics or engaging themes. Ripple Rush avoids both of these dangerous traps and instead focuses on fun and engaging scoring. Which is what flip/roll and writes should be about.

There are many reasons why solo gaming is becoming a bigger thing within the community. Largely the elephant in the room that is the nasty C word I wont mention here. But even when we have access to friends solo gaming can still appeal, and it may be that you just want to fill a 10-minute window, which something quick, fun and light to keep you entertained and away from some mindless scrolling on your phone.

Ripple Rush Dice delivers to this brief perfectly! Its an incredibly simple game to learn and play, but offers a lot of satisfaction throughout the game. In short, you flip a card that will show a number and a colour. The colours also show shapes so it works for people with colour blindness. You then simply add the number into the appropriate column. Your only decision is where in the column you place it. The numbers go from 1-25 and each column has eight spaces. You would put the low numbers at the bottom and the high numbers at the top as the only rule is, they must be placed in ascending order.

With four columns and 8 spaces in each one, that’s 32 spaces to fill and in a solo game you only have 20 cards to flip. So, you need to think about how and where you place your numbers. Points are scored from each number in the longest chain of numbers. They do not need to be consecutive, just next to each other without gaps and always ascending. There is also a bonus rule which will give you a specific row to try and complete which if you are successful in achieving, will reward you with a further three points.

Its so simple, but highly addictive. I think the least amount if times I have played this in a row is five! If I plan to get it out for one quick game, it is never the case! I have to play again! I usually use the same cards to see if I can beat my score. Generally, with a terrible score in game one and getting better by game three or four as I learn the cards and know what I have to come. It makes later games completely different. Adding memory into the strategy. I am not sure this what the designers had in mind, but it works brilliant in solo mode and is a lot of fun!

 

Divvy Dice - Best for solo gamers looking for some quiet, relaxing dice based fun.

 

Age range - 7 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

How is it with others? - Good

Solo satisfaction levels - High

Divvy Dice, or Man muss auch gönnen können as it is also known is one of the best roll and writes out there! I spoke with the designers of the game here and you can see how their passion and dedication lead to such a well thought out and solid game. It is just technically perfect! If you were going to explain a modern dice-based game to an alien, this would be the one. Its like they have created the perfect formula for how dice and cards can create pleasure! Although this game feels far from formulaic. Rather, it comes across and fresh and original, but with a brilliant and robust core within its base mechanics.

If anyone has played Ganz Schön Clever or the sequel to this, they will feel on familiar ground. After playing Ganz Schön Clever myself, I felt I had played the best roll and write game ever made. This only changed for me after I played Divvy Dice. The reason I love both games so much is they offer such deep and rewarding decisions throughout the game. Much like Robinson Crusoe and Blackout above, but obviously in a much simpler, scaled down abstract way. But everything you do always has multiple options, and the path you take with your decisions feels like a constant challenge against yourself to deliver the right result. Scaled back design doesn’t need to mean less rewarding decisions.

The other reason I keep coming back to this game over and over is that there is a clear and obvious learning curve to the game. I feel I get better each time I play. It’s like a muscle I am exercising in my body that I can physically see and feel getting strong and fitter each time I flex it. My scores get better and my understanding of what to do for each roll becomes just a little bit clearer each time.

The solo experience is phenomenal as well. I could have included a few roll and writes in this feature. Railroad Ink, Welcome to and Troyes Dice for example are all brilliant and work very well in solo. But the reason Divvy Dice makes the cut is the solo campaign mode. It’s such a simple add on too, it makes you wonder why more games don’t do something similar. You basically need to get progressively better with less rounds and turns each time being given to you. It’s really simple but highly addictive and makes the solo experience so much richer and incredibly rewarding.

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The Coldest Night - Best for solo gamers looking to puzzle somehting out!

Age range - 8 and up

Easy to learn? - Yes

Easy to set up? - Yes

How is it with others? - Good

Solo satisfaction levels - High

The Coldest Night has a very dark theme. It’s night, you are in a cold cabin. Your one single objective is to keep the fire burning until sunrise. Succeed and you win. Fail, and you will freeze to death. That’s the game!

What you get in the box is just a bunch of cards, and the mechanic is incredibly simple. Each card is essentially something you are adding to the fire. Each card has a heat value and an ash value. How much heat it will add and how much ash it will create. The ash value must be equal to or less than the current fire pit heat total which will be made up by a number of cards currently laid on the table.  Essentially you must create more heat than ash.

There are also special effects for some of the cards and “lucky finds” that can bring much needed bonus items like lighter fluid, kerosine or even alcohol to increase one cards heat value. It’s a clever puzzle you need to battle through, thinking about what cards to hold back, what to use, and when to deploy the lucky find bonuses you aquire.

So, with a rather depressing theme, and simplistic mechanic, why is this on the list? Robinson Crusoe and Blackout offer crunchy experiences that you may not think would have transferred over from multi-player versions. Games that last an hour or so and get your brain thinking. Divvy Dice in campaign mode offers something similar with a more abstract theme for when I don’t want the story, just the meaty decisions. Then there is Ripple Rush which is the lighter addition to this list. When all I want is something short, fun and light and don’t care about being immersed. Well, The Coldest Night is the game in the middle of that. Its quick, and light. But absorbing in theme. Let me give this some context.

Robinson Crusoe is The Godfather. You know you will love it if you get started, but sometimes you are not sure if you have the energy to do that. But when you do, you are richly rewarded. Blackout is The Dark Knight. Another brilliantly absorbing film that you know you will love when you watch it, but sometimes you don’t want something so bleak. So, you turn to (inset any Tom Hanks film here). It’s still got a great story and will enrapture you. But it’s a bit lighter. Adds a bit of colour and maybe even makes you smile. However, there are times when even that is too much and you want to watch a sit com. This is where Ripple Rush comes to play. It’s quick, light and will be enjoyable although perhaps not to sustain you for a full evening, but you can always binge watch five episodes! Which leaves us with The Coldest Night. We want something short and simple to understand, but still with a dark theme that take us along for the ride. The Coldest Night is basically like watching the news.

 

Looking for the perfect solo experience?