2021 saw continued growth in the number of people interested in solo games, and luckily there were plenty of great solo titles out there for gamers to try. These aren’t multiplayer games that can be played with just one person; these are games specifically dedicated to the single-player experience. Without other players to drive the game forward or provide interaction, a good solo game needs to provide enough interesting decisions to keep the player engaged for the entirety of a session. It also needs to reward multiple plays, either through a high difficulty level or by having a lot of content to explore (or both!).
The Diamond Climber Awards are in their 4th year, and with each year we’ve grown and changed, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Because our team has such a wide and diverse taste in games it was tough this year to come to a consensus on a single game that really fit the category. So this year we’re presenting multiple picks for Best Solo Game, written in the words of each author who loved this category. We feel this will better represent the breadth and diversity of the games on the market, and offer a more genuine selection for our readers.
So without further ado here are our picks for Best Solo Game from 2021.
While Hadrian’s Wall does allow for multiple players, the game is so minimally affected that I’m giving it my vote. I don’t like most roll & writes, since they lack the interactivity that brings me back to the table when a game doesn’t require much in the way of thought. Hadrian’s Wall is a hefty, hefty game, with player sheets that overwhelm on first glimpse, but give it a little time and it becomes second-nature. One of only two roll & writes I’ve ever played that feel like they have *strategy*.
Final Girl’s second season is live on Kickstarter, and there’s a reason why it will likely raise more than $2M when the smoke clears from its incredible campaign: the base game and first season content is stellar. Taking the foundation of Van Ryder Games’ Hostage Negotiator, Final Girl takes every single element and makes it better. Better cards. Better dice mitigation tools. Better theme. Better artwork. Better production, featuring optional miniatures, a handbook of scripts to read whenever random Victims are killed, a beautiful dual playmat and magnetic boards that are used to package the game and serve as location and Killer boards. Did I mention that Final Girl is also affordable, with the Core Box and additional scenarios available for $20 a box? It’s the easy winner for 2021’s best solo experience.
Bob Pazehoski, Jr.
In ROVE, players assume the role of an endangered space vehicle, shuffling and shifting various card modules in an attempt to overcome non-descript mishaps. This little spatial puzzle from Button Shy is tightly designed and beautifully presented. Six cards represent the modules that each feature unique movement. The remaining cards can serve three purposes, depending on the moment: to show the next layout that must be achieved, to provide movement for the vehicle’s modules, and to build a gorgeous panoramic landscape as the objectives are complete. This one is a winner inside and out.
Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms
Not having played any of the Valiant Defense series, Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms (SiPU) was something of a revelation to me. Wargames might feel unapproachable for many board gamers, but SiPU manages to condense all the tension of a historical wargame into a convenient solo board game that’s playable in an evening. Despite an intimidating rulebook, turns are quite pacy and time melts away as you figure out how to keep your poor civilians in the fight against an overwhelming enemy force. It truly feels like a last stand as you desperately shuffle your pieces around their limited space, with never enough weaponry or ammunition or safe places to hide when the artillery begins to boom. Saving even a single civilian feels like a major accomplishment unmatched by most games and new tactics emerge with every playthrough. Despite its grim setting, Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms could keep solo players engaged for years as they try to turn a horrific tragedy into triumph.