Unique Solo Games Beyond Traditional Board Game Boxes

March 23, 2020 | Articles | 2 comments

Learn about a few unique solo experiences that aren’t quite board games, but still provide interesting challenges.

The world is a little terrifying right now with social distancing, self-isolation, and scary realities. At the same time, it offers a good opportunity for solo play! That’s not to make light of the situation, though: It’s quite serious, but I hope that some of these ideas and recommendations can brighten some days. There are Calico Critters near the end, too!

Non-Board Game Games

Most of my solo time is spent on conventional board games. Sometimes, I branch into something that might be classified as a card game or roleplaying game.

However, there are even more possibilities out there! I took a look at my collection and gathered up a few options.

I do seem to have a rather eclectic mix of everything! My tastes sometimes ebb and flow over time, which explains why I might not necessarily dive in right away.

Never heard of the options shown here? Be prepared to learn a little more about these non-board game games!

Playtime in Your Head

I’m going to start off with one of the most unusual options here! This book, titled Top Ten Games You Can Play In Your Head By Yourself, is amazing for the right player.

Aside from the book, the only other required component is your brain. That’s it! The games include the following:

  • Adventure: I can confirm it’s adventurous.
  • Dungeons: Does it involve dungeons? Probably.
  • Space: Yes, space exists and is pretty wide open.
  • Trucks: Is there a truck involved? Maybe.

As the title suggests, there are a total of 10 games to try!

Why the Vague Game Descriptions?

My explanations above are meant to be vague for a reason. Discovering the secrets and nuances of each game is part of the enjoyment! Many session reports include spoilers so as not to ruin the surprises for new players. I sat down and read through most of the book over the course of a few days. There are so many interesting elements!

The Visitor is the name of one game that is totally unexpected. I’ll leave it at that. Even the game titled Chess is an interesting concept. Why? Because every game exists within your mind. It’s a really odd concept to think about. The protagonist is typically you, or a character you create. But the twist comes in the form of the antagonist…

Sample Instructions

No spoilers here! This photo only shares the basics of how to use the book. Each game includes its own rules and starting point. Then, it’s up to you to continue.

Admittedly, this won’t be for everyone. It possibly won’t work for the majority of solo players.

The open-ended nature requires some creativity and effort. Some call it guided daydreaming. Some don’t understand the concept at all and wonder why this exists.

At this point, I’ve played through the tutorial exercise. I thought it wasn’t working, and then it ended amazingly!

Fabled Lands Books

It’s practically criminal how I’ve barely scratched the surface of this series. The Fabled Land Gamebooks span 7 paragraph-style books with a vast amount of content.

In contrast to linear adventure books, these feature locations that can be revisited. A character can also travel between books, which is pretty amazing.

There are multiple versions of the gamebooks available. I highly recommend the large format editions shown here!

For those who prefer digital play, 6 of the 7 books are available to play for free at Java Fabled Lands. Nice!

Fabled Lands Resources

Eventually, I plan to update a few of the resources I’ve made available. These PDFs provide ways to keep track of everything and replace the play sheets in each book. I also made a list of all paragraph checkboxes to make it easy to play without marking up a physical copy. These resources include the following:

I recommend using sheet protectors or a laminator to save paper. Or just write very lightly… Characters are apt to die!

The Crusoe Crew

Puzzles? Adventures? Multiple playable characters? The Crusoe Crew has continued to surprise me over the course of my many plays. It’s adorable, yet quite challenging.

The interesting premise is that it includes 4 similar books. Most of the panels and pages are identical… But not all.

Each character has his or her own unique abilities. So a hidden number might show up for one, but no one else.

The artwork might make it look like a children’s game, but many of the puzzles continue to stump me! I’ve been playing since last year… It’s not at all boring for me.

Graphic Novel Books

This idea is a little embarrassing for me. I currently own seasons 1 and 2 of the Graphic Novel Adventures. 10 books!

How many have I played? A whopping 3, and I liked each one for what it was. A few of these are a little more mature and not suited for all audiences.

However, most are appropriate and can be enjoyed by many types of players! I really need to play more of them…

These play out like gamebooks, but feature unique themes. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries are some of my favorites, yet I have a lot more to explore with them! Soon…

Tiny Adventures

Leave it to the Calico Critters to prepare for an adventure! Most of these ideas require a little imagination, and potentially a writing utensil. These critters were ready!

Perhaps you’re wondering if any of these options are better than solo board games. Maybe, maybe not.

Sometimes it’s difficult to reserve table space. Sometimes it’s hard to pack up a huge box to play elsewhere. These are just some out-of-the-box ideas!

In fact, just writing about the options makes me want to play some of these in the near future. Go figure. Ha ha!

Gamebooks Galore

As I quickly learned, I wasn’t the only one with a giant collection of unplayed gamebooks! The Calico Critters have been busy all this time, ready for adventuring.

I’ll close with a few kind words. As with the global crisis, solo games have the ability to bring us together or move us further apart. It’s easy to cocoon or fully isolate.

Yet as the 1 Player Guild’s motto says, “Together, We Game Alone.” Distance might keep us apart physically, yet there are always ways to connect online!

I wish everyone the best. We’ll get through this together!

Continue the Conversation

Have you tried any of these gamebooks? Do you have any recommendations for other solo experiences that might be non-board game games? There are a lot of unconventional options out there, though that’s not to say that solo board games should be discounted. The bottom line is that there are a lot of ideas to keep our minds busy. Stay safe!


  1. I have bought a game book but have yet to crack it open. It looks interesting as it has Lovecraftian undertones. The one I got from Amazon.com is Echoes in the Stream of Time: A Gothic Adventure Gamebook (Radiance Gamebook). There is another one in the series called Night Journey of the Soul. I thought Crusoe Crew might be just for kids, but after reading your review, I may have to look into it again.

    • Very interesting, Marita! I have a small but growing list of other gamebooks to look into. This sort of solo adventure is really unique and provides a nice break from deeper board games. I always love to read, too! I’ll have to keep an eye out for more recommendations, too. Thanks!

      I should work in a play of the Crusoe Crew sometime soon. I agree with you about the presentation: It looks like it’s geared towards children, yet it has some puzzles I simply can’t solve. Very challenging! I also love how the content is all non-violent and friendly. That might not be everyone’s style, yet it’s very relaxing… Even when I can’t seem to figure something out. Ha ha!


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