The older I get, the harder I find it to gather my friends for a night of board games. That’s why I’ve been looking to expand my collection of single-player board games—and in particular, card games.
Personally, I much prefer the tactile experience of cards over game pieces. You can hold a bunch of them in your hand. They can display a lot more information than tokens or meeples. And they’re a lot easier to collect and stow away when you’re done playing.
Sadly, single-player card games aren’t as common as group card games, and even when you find one, they tend to lack the same gameplay depth and/or complexity you can find in board games.
But there are several fun solo card games out there. Here are some of the best single-player card games you can play alone. Consider adding them to your collection!
Hostage Negotiator puts you in the role of a law enforcement agent who needs to talk down someone who’s taken hostages. The gameplay involves a card-based hand-building mechanic along with dice, and each turn represents a conversation with the hostage taker.
You have to be smart and strategic with your hand, making sure to increase conversation points while lowering the threat level. And there are multiple paths to victory, whether that means successfully talking them down, sending in an extraction team, and more.
There are several expansion packs for Hostage Negotiator that introduce new scenarios and challenges to take on.
Sylvion is a tower defense-style card game where you build a deck by drafting cards, and then play your cards to defend against waves of attacks. As the Fire Elemental bears down on your forest, you must do everything you can to keep your forest alive.
While the game is playable with two players cooperatively, it’s better played alone. It has an easy mode and an advanced mode, as well as expansions and extra challenges if you want to go real hard.
Crystallo is a crystal-themed puzzle game where you place cards to explore the lair of a dragon, and create crystal sets to release magical creatures that are being held captive. You also collect treasure along the way, which adds to your score.
This is a simple, fun, and tactile game that’s mentally challenging but not overwhelmingly difficult. It takes about half an hour per game and has a fair amount of replayability—a great choice for puzzle game fans!
Based on the story of Robinson Crusoe, you play as his companion Friday who’s goal is to help Robinson Crusoe survive the island and prepare to fend off the pirates that are en route.
The gameplay revolves around a deck-building mechanic. As you optimize your deck, you’ll become better at defeating hazards and earning fight cards. But you also have to make sure you don’t lose too many life points, or else he won’t survive!
It’s a superb game for anyone who likes the idea of building and optimizing decks on the fly, mixed with RPG adventure elements.
One Deck Dungeon is the physical manifestation of a card-based roguelike game: you build a character from the ground up while exploring a dangerous dungeon that’s different every time.
Cards represent the obstacles and hazards you encounter, and each one has a commensurate bonus that applies to your experience, items, or skills when defeated. The deeper you go into the dungeon, the more dangerous it gets—up until you reach the dungeon boss.
Forest of Shadows is a standalone expansion that can be played on its own OR combined with the base One Deck Dungeon game. This one has some new mechanics that increase the fun and challenge.
5. Palm Island
Palm Island is an awesome little card game that doesn’t even require a table to play. The gameplay involves gathering resources and curating your island, which consists of all the cards you can hold. This game is true to its name: an island that fits in the palm of your hand.
While Palm Island can be played with two players (both cooperatively and competitively), it’s really the kind of game that’s better off alone—especially because it’s so portable that you can play it ANYWHERE.
Orchard is a clever tile-laying strategy game that only involves nine cards. The goal is to grow your orchard by playing cards in a way that overlaps with the other tree cards already in your orchard. Dice are used to track the harvest of each fruit.
It’s simple to learn but keeps its fun over many plays. This lovely little micro-game only takes 10 minutes to play, making it a great option to bust out when you need a break from life.
In Aerion, you’re an inventor of flying machines who’s tasked to build a fleet of airships. To gather airship components, you roll dice. You can throw away resources to fudge dice roll results, but don’t go too crazy or else you won’t have enough to complete your fleet.
This card game can also be played cooperatively, and only takes between 15 to 30 minutes per game.
Marvel Champions: The Card Game is a Living Card Game that lets you play as numerous iconic Marvel Universe heroes: Iron Man, Black Panther, Spider-Man, and many more. Cards are acquired and used as you explore scenarios and fight against Marvel villains.
Since it’s a Living Card Game, Marvel Champions: The Card Game regularly releases box sets with new cards and scenarios that work with the core set. And while it’s fun solo, this game can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players total.
Street Masters is inspired by classic fighting video games—can you guess which ones based on the box art?—and uses unique pre-made decks, custom dice, and detailed miniatures to represent fighting mechanics and encounters.
It’s a complex game with fast gameplay and lots of scenarios. Does the use of miniatures disqualify it as a card game? Maybe. But cards make up most of the gameplay, and it’s really good, so I included it.
You can play solo or cooperatively with up to 4 players as you take on powerful villains. Expect games to take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, making it one of the longest card games on this list.