In my last post, I talked about my favorite games for game nights and groups from Gen Con, the original, longest running, and best attended gaming convention in the world, which took place in Indianapolis August 4-7. I continue sharing the best games I discovered below with my favorites for solo and two players. In my experience, many people don’t realize that there are tons of board games that can be played solo, so I wanted to shed some light on some of my favorites! Also, I realize that not everyone has a large group to game with, so the two player options below are also tons of fun. Below are brief descriptions and links to more information from BoardGameGeek. The games are in no particular order.
The Best Games for Solo Players from Gen Con 2016
Grimslingers: 60-90 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $30 / End of September Release Date
This was one of the sleepers of Gen Con. On the first day, no one knew this game existed. By the second morning, the line for it was well over 100 people long, and it ended up selling out. This game can be played solo, but it can also be played with up to six players, depending on which “mode” you select to play. The theme is a magical Forgotten West, where you are a “Grimslinger,” imbued with metal, machine, and elemental powers. In this sci-fi fantasy western themed card game, there are two “modes”: “Versus” mode, where 2-6 players go head-to-head in teams or individually, and “Co-Op” mode, where up to 4 players can work together. “Co-Op” mode is where the solo play comes in. This mode is more like an RPG, where you work through a narrative campaign composed of four 60-90 minute sessions, gaining levels, scoring loot, overcoming challenges, and exploring a very unique and magical wild west. If you like games with great theming and story, you’ll love this game. And with so many different ways to play (including a specific two player version that I’ll mention below), it’s super versatile and has good replayability. Play alone or with friends!
Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave: 20 Minute Play Time / MSRP: ~$35 / Not Yet Available
Hostage Negotiator took the tabletop gaming world by storm when it was released last year, and this is the first full standalone expansion. Think solitaire, but better. In the original game, you play the part of a law enforcement agent responsible for conducting negotiations for the release of hostages from a crazed madman. The expansion takes that base and well, expands, on it. Each turn represents the conversation you’re having with the madman, and you play cards and roll dice to release hostages, decrease the threat level, and increase the conversation points. This expansion includes new Conversation Cards, Terror Cards, Pivotal Events, and Abductors, each with new rules and new demands. You can play the expansion on its own, or you can combine it with the original. Much better than playing solitaire on your phone.
Midnight Legion: Operation Deep Sleep: 30 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $25 / September Release Date
People who like books as much as I do will likely love this Choose Your Own Adventure meets RPG solo game. Technically, you can play it with two people (where one person acts as game master and one acts as player), however, this is really meant to be a solo endeavor. The set comes with blueprints, dice, a rule book, and the RPG book. It’s designed so that all you have to do is open the book and start reading. The story takes place in a distant future, where you’re forced awake after years of being in stasis. You know you have a mission, but you’ve lost your memory, and you have no idea what your mission is. First, you build your character, RPG style. Then, you wake up and start making decisions Choose Your Own Adventure style, with each choice leading you somewhere different in the book and affecting the story. There are puzzles, combat, diplomacy, and role playing elements in this game, and the cool part is you can choose how to solve your problems – either through solving puzzles or by recovering your memories for clues. Anyone who likes books or yearns for those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories will foam at the mouth over this game.
The Maze of Games: 30-60 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $50 / In Stores Now
Similar to Midnight Legion, The Maze of Games is a novel with a twist. The story involves two teenagers, a brother and sister, in England in the year 1897. During a visit to a library, they discover a dusty book called The Maze of Games. Of course, as true to basically everything like this you’ve ever seen, when they find the book, they summon a skeleton guardian dubbed “The Gatekeeper” who throws them into a series of super dangerous mazes, which are, as you might guess, filled with monsters and bizarre puzzles. As you read, it’s your job to help the teens solve the puzzles, as only by solving their way through will they find their way home. If you’re into ambiance, there’s also an audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton, an e-book, and a soundtrack, all of which enhance the experience. Oh, and this game is done by Mike Selinker, who is also responsible for Betrayal at the House on the Hill, so you know it’s going to be weird, creepy, and awesome.
The Best Games for Two Players from Gen Con 2016
Agility: 30-45 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $25 / In Stores Now
My husband and I stumbled upon this game, and I’m so happy that we did! In this game, you play as dueling dog trainers, drafting pups, acquiring obstacle courses, and training your pups to make it through the courses. The first person to get three dogs to complete obstacle courses wins. The game employs cards that both provide resources and give you actions, as well as a cool, customizable wheel where you select those actions. As in any good two player game, you must plan cleverly and time your moves just so in order to stay ahead of your opponent. Plus, super cute and colorful dog meeples and wooden treat resource pieces. If you ask nicely (and pay a small fee), the designer of the game may customize some pieces for your own pups! This is a quick, fun, strategic two player game that will definitely appeal to dog lovers (especially lovers of dog shows/agility competitions), but will also appeal to others who love a good competitive strategy game.
Dreamwell: 30 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $30 / September Release Date
This game is worth playing solely to admire Tara McPherson’s artwork. My goodness. The game can be played with up to four people, but I found that it works very well with two. In this game, you’re trying to rescue your friends who are lost in the Dreamwell, a surreal world inhabited by weird creatures and dreamy landscapes that intends to keep the souls of your friends. The “Dreamwell” is represented by a 4×4 grid of tiles, randomly oriented, each featuring a creature and a landscape. Each player gets two pawns and two cards to start, and you use the pawns to locate the creatures and environments that match your cards in order to save the friends represented on the cards. The first person to locate seven friends triggers the end of the game, and when the round is over, points are tallied and a winner is determined. This is a game of intense matching, and it seems very simple and innocuous at first, but as you play, you realize there are many layers and a lot more strategy to this game than it seems. Plus, I’ll say it again: THE ARTWORK IS SO AMAZING.
Lotus: 30 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $30 / September Release Date
This is another game that’s worth it for the artwork alone. Renegade Game Studios has put out some of my favorite games, including Fuse and Lanterns, so I was really excited to visit their booth. Lotus is a game that can be played with up to four players, but works well at two, and in each game, you’re creating a unique work of art, which is really cool. The goal of the game is to grow flowers in your Lotus garden to their full potential, then pick them to gain wisdom and enlightenment. You play petal cards to grow your flowers, and you can enlist the help of native creatures to take control of the garden. At a $30 price point, you don’t get much better quality than this. I got a brief demo, but unfortunately wasn’t able to play a full game at Gen Con, and they didn’t have any copies available to purchase. So I’m really excited for this game to come out at the end of September!
Nantucket: 20 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $10 / In Stores Now
I absolutely love Dice Hate Me Games, because I feel like they just nail theming. Their “rabbit” games are bite-sized, coming in packages small enough to carry around in a purse or book bag, but they all pack a punch, and Nantucket is no different. In this game (a miniature version of New Bedford, a larger game), players go whaling during the early American whaling industry. The object of the game is to build out your whaling town and send out ships to catch whales. You play until the last whales are taken, supplies run out, or the town is fully constructed. The best captain (with the most money) wins! This is a compact card game that’s great to carry around, fast, and cheap, which is my favorite kind of game.
Grimslingers: Duels: 30 Minute Play Time / MSRP: $10 / September Release Date
I mentioned Grimslingers above in the “Best Games for Solo Players” list. Grimslingers: Duels is the two player version of that game. In this game, players face off using a unique dueling system where everyone plays at the same time. You must manage your resources and plan carefully to win this super competitive card game. Duels is a standalone game, but it can also be combined with Grimslingers and used as an expansion to the original game. For more information about Grimslingers, see the description above in the “Best Games for Solo Players” list.
Stay tuned on Wednesday for the final list: The Best Games for Advanced Players!