Jelle de Boer (38) from Amersfoort has been addicted to board games for eight years now. He has eighty, he plays one almost every night and he also makes explainer videos about it for his YouTube channel ‘Spelle Jelle’. “For me, playing gives a campfire feeling. It is something physical, you all sit around it and make contact, without telephones and the online world.”
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But since a year or two something new has been added: the solo board game. “At first I thought: how strange. It sounds contradictory, a board game is meant for connection. But when I tried one, I was hooked.”
There are roughly three variants, he says. The first is about improving your high score. Then you have variations where you try to achieve predetermined goals and outcomes. Finally, you have games where you have to beat an ‘opponent’.
In recent years, more and more solo board games, or solo variants of board games, have appeared worldwide. There are no exact figures, but if you rely on game forums and vlogs, you will see that solo play has been on the rise, especially since the pandemic – and the associated isolation. The trend is also in line with the increase in single-person households; that is currently three million, according to figures from the CBS, ten times the number of this group in 1947. De Boer: “It started small: game fanatics started to come up with their own rules for existing games on forums. For the past two or three years, more and more board games have offered a solo option and single-person games have appeared.”
De Boer prefers to play after a busy day, at the kitchen table, when the children are in bed. “Then I can choose to turn on Netflix. That’s the easy option. But then I flip a switch in my head. I turn on some music, add mood lighting and coffee, away from the digital. I put my brain to work and then I felt like I was on an adventure all evening.”
Games for yourself
It’s a Wonderful World
In a sci-fi world you build a resource empire.
Geronimo Games, 1-5 players, €40
In this strategic game you design a modern zoo. The goal: to become as successful as possible.
White Goblin Games, 1-4 spelers, € 74,95
The survivors of an invasion have taken refuge in the underground city of Gravehold. They use spells to defend themselves against monsters.
Indie Board Games, 1-4 players, €51.95
Architects of the Western Kingdom
As an architect in the year 850 you try to impress the king by building in conquered territory.
White Goblin Games, 1-5 spelers, € 47,95
In this 1997 classic, it’s traffic jam. It’s up to you to make your car escape in a strategic way.
Thinkfun Games, 1 player, €22.49
As a viking you will hunt, trade or plunder: you try to collect new land, get food, get treasure and loot.
White Goblin Games, 1-4 spelers, € 56,84
In the year 2400, mega-corporations try to make Mars habitable. As a company you have to win from the competition.
Intrafin Games, 1-5 players, €54.99
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
This creepy card game is set in a gothic American town. In a horror world you unravel mysteries and conspiracies.
Fantasy Flight Games, 1-4 spelers, € 54,90
In this puzzle game you try to sort your cards within seven rounds, and candies and coffee keep you awake.
999 Games, 1 player, €14.95
As captain of a lost steamship in 1929, you must survive on exotic islands.
Keep Exploring Games, 1-4 players, €74.95
As a cartographer, Queen Gimnax gives you the task of mapping out a northern border area.
Thunderbirds Games, € 33,52
Under Falling Skies
Spaceships with aliens are trying to conquer the earth. It’s up to you to defend your city.
In this game you take on the role of a Roman general and build a castle with defensive walls.
Renegade Game Studios, 1-6 players, €64.75
The 7th Continent
You are an explorer at the beginning of the twentieth century and stumble upon a new continent. You must lift the curse upon it.
Serious Poulp, 1-4 spelers, € 69
You are the only one on an island, your peace is disturbed by a castaway. You teach him the skills to survive and leave.
999 Games, 1 player, €13.90
Marvel Champions: The Card Game
In this card game you take on the role of one of the Marvel superheroes and fight against evil villains.
Fantasy Flight Games, 1-4 spelers, € 67,35
Overpopulation has made the earth unlivable. The solution: underwater cities.
Delicious Games, 1-4 players, €43.95
Before the gates of Loyang
In this game you try to earn as much money as possible by growing fruit and vegetables.
999 Games, 1-4 players, €55.95