Ah, board games: a great way to get to know your friends and enjoy their company in a group setting. However, now that group settings are temporarily null and void due to COVID-19, you’re probably wondering if there’s any way you can still play. Especially if you’re on your own or it’s just you and your roommate (and maybe your pets, who actually aren’t particularly helpful in such situations). Don’t worry! Some of your favorite games, plus some games you may not have heard of, are easily playable with one or two players.
Ticket to Ride – 2-5 players
Days of Wonder
Ticket to Ride for 2-5 players runs on a fairly simple concept: collect train cars and build routes from one destination to another. Each player receives train cards, route cards, and a bag of train cars they’ll inevitably set up in elaborate patterns between turns. To build a route’s segment, the player must collect however many cards equal the number of cards in the segment, all in the color matching the segment.
The goal is to complete all your routes—composed of those segments you claimed. Whoever’s routes are worth most reigns victorious. Routes you miss are counted against you. If you’re into it, you can get a number of different Ticket to Ride games and expansions. My favorites are Europe and 1910 (Big Cities), respectively, but all versions have their charms.
Arkham Horror – 1-2 players
Spooky single players, rejoice! Arkham Horror, with its multiple decks, three-part campaign, and seemingly infinite turn phases may look intimidating. However, once you start your journey through the New England town of Arkham, you’re going to have a hard time getting out—for better or worse. Arkham is a suspiciously quiet town with more than a few secrets, all of Lovecraftian nature.
It’s up to you as an investigator to puzzle out what’s going on and help keep the Old Ones at bay. Once you get the hang of the rules, you can easily spend an hour and a half making your way through each individual playthrough. Not only is it time-consuming, it’s intellectually stimulating. Think of it as a welcome break between rounds of Rocket League and watching the second season of Fleabag for the sixth time.
Stratego – 2 players
The X-Files introduced me to Stratego, which Fox Mulder and his sister Samantha are playing when she’s abducted by aliens. Naturally, that has nothing to do with the game itself, but it’s of note to me. In the game, you and another player face off, setting up armies on opposite sides of the game board. Each soldier piece is assigned a different value. So when your opponent sends one of their soldiers to infiltrate your forces, you’ll be able to determine whether you’ve succeeded in that individual combat.
This is all in pursuit, and to protect, your two flags. Whoever claims the other player’s flags wins. As its name indicates, Stratego is entirely driven by strategy. That’s why I’ve never won a game. But I love it anyway. It’s a classic for a reason.
Mage Knight – 1-4 players
If you’re in the mood for something fantastical, then Mage Knight will scratch that itch. You, the titular Mage Knight, cast spells, slay monsters, storm castles, and, generally, forge your own path through an epic landscape. It’s possible to play with multiple people, but Mage Knight is ideal for a party of one, thanks in large part to the solitary nature of the character you’re taking on. Also, it’s long. A single session can go for hours on end as you blaze your own trail, opting for adulation, notoriety, or some combination thereof. When the Discord you’ve been relying on for Dungeons & Dragons inevitably encounters server issues, you can turn to this.
Love Letter – 2-4 players
Love Letter features the tagline “5 Minute Fun!” And while that is accurate (it is, indeed, fun for five minutes), that says nothing of how clever it is.
Driven by both luck and strategy, Love Letter includes seven kinds of cards. Each card has a different action and comes in various quantities: the more common, the less helpful. You’ll use actions to claim your opponent’s cards, and whoever claims seven cards first (signified by tokens) wins. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s infinitely replayable. Plus, it comes in different fandom-friendly editions, so if you don’t want to go with the Victorian-inspired original, you can opt for Adventure Time, Archer, The Hobbit, or, my personal favorite, Batman.
Spirit Island – 1-4 players
Greater Than Games
Area-control games have been a staple since Risk, and Spirit Island builds on that basic model in innovative ways. It transports you to an alternate history in which colonizers are attempting to disrupt the tranquility of your island home. It’s up to you, a spirit, to defend the land, sometimes with the aid of the peaceful, respectful islanders living there, sometimes in spite of them.
You can choose from eight different spirits, and make your way across the island, reclaiming the land as your own. It may sound more esoteric than something like Ticket to Ride, but it’s just as easy to get into (and possibly get obsessed with). Plus, it’s particularly well-suited to solo play, as many co-op board games are.
Sushi Go! – 2-5 players
I’ve saved the cutest game for last. Sushi Go!, a game just as fun for two players as it is for more, is a card game featuring adorable illustrations of sushi with different point values and powers. The object is to gain the most points. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. That and coo over the illustrations, debating which is the cutest. I vouch for the dumpling, but there’s an argument to be made for wasabi.
Featured Image: Christy Admiraal