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The Solo Board Game Gift Guide

“Solitude, quality solitude, is an assertion of self-worth, because only in the stillness can we hear the truth of our own unique voices.”

-- Pearl Cleage, African-American playwright, essayist, novelist, poet and political activist.

So many of us, Black girls, suffer from FOMO! But whether you're a people person or a full-on introvert, alone time is essential. Not only does it give us time to take care of our basic needs (like laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning up), it can also be super fun—as fun as you make it! Personally, I love the thrill of a solo board game, and I’ve listed my favorite ones below, organized by minimum age level.

1. In a forgotten time when magic could move mountains, the Kingdom of Caladale was home to people of all kinds, living in castles of unimaginable beauty — but on one fateful night, an ancient spell of great power was cast by one unable to control it. By daybreak, all of the castles were destroyed, their walls and towers torn apart, twisted together and scattered across the land. In Castles of Caladale (ages 8+), you must rebuild the kingdom and reclaim the glory of Caladale. About $38.84.

2. House of Danger (age 10+) is a gamification of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series from the 80s. Although the box advertises a “cooperative adventure,” House of Danger is really designed to be a solo game, similar to the CYOA book series after which it is themed. I do recommend this story-driven game of choices, although you may find that it has little replay value. The good news is, another game exists in the series: War with the Evil Power Master. About $24.97.

3. In War with the Evil Power Master (also ages 10+), you take to the stars and stop the Evil Power Master from doing his evil thing! You use your galactic map to chase down clues to his whereabouts and explore the many planets in the Lacoonian System. You lead the Rapid Force crew around the galaxy, using their unique character abilities to conquer the challenges thrown at you. This game has many multiple endings, many different paths, which gives it incredible re-playability. About $24.99.

4. I’ve also enjoyed the Adventure Games: Discovery the Story by Kosmos, despite their generic names. Both The Dungeon (ages 12+) and Monochrome Inc. (ages 16+) are thrilling choose-your-own-adventure style games, and they are replayable, a fascinating story unfolding with each action. In The Dungeon, you wake up in a dank dungeon and devise a plan to escape, leaving no stone unturned. The game is replayable, with enough story content to play approximately three times with different stories each time. About $19.95.

5. This one is not a board game, but I couldn’t resist. What would happen if you were bitten by a mysterious Count? How might you repel a particularly malevolent vampire? VampireSmarts (ages 12+) has the answers, and you can play alone (maybe with a clove of garlic by your side). The box, neat and gothic, includes interesting question cards with elaborate answers on the back, a score pad, and a small “vampire guide” booklet. Tongue-in-cheek and entertaining. About $8.54.

6. As you’ve probably figured by now: I’m big into story-driven games. And the Grimslingers (ages 14+), a strategic, sci-fi fantasy western themed card game, doesn’t disappoint. The co-op mode allows you to play alone, battling strange creatures, overcoming intense challenges, collecting loot, gaining levels, and exploring the Forgotten West. There is an expansion to the game, too: Grimslingers: The Northern Territory. About $41.81.

7. Aeon’s End (ages 14+) is a deck building game for 1-4 players that feels like an epic video-game boss battle. The survivors of a long-ago invasion have taken refuge in the forgotten underground city of Gravehold. You are to defend Gravehold from The Nameless and their hordes using unique abilities, powerful spells, and, most importantly of all, your wits. Expansions are available, including The Nameless, The Depths, and many others. About $39.56.

8. I’ve also acquired A Midsummer Night by Time Stories Revolution (ages 14+), but TBH, I haven’t played this one yet and I’m curious to see how the single-player campaign unfolds since the box indicates that you can explore the alternate parallel time frame on your own. I asked Jamey Stegmaier about it, and he said, "I haven't tried playing [a TIME Stories game] just myself, but I think it would work well. I've compared TIME Stories to movies you can participate in, and watching a movie alone works just fine, so I think solo play would too." According to the publishers, you’re on a mission to save humanity and reality becomes a fluctuating concept; you will have to unravel the true from the fake in this adventure built like a great game of mirrors. Another Time Stories game you might be interested in: The Hadal Project. About $34.95.

9. Arkham Noir (ages 14+) is a solo game inspired by the interconnected stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors, re-imagined as noir detective stories. The different cases are not easy to find—Amazon, for example, only has the German version of Case #1 (which I was lucky to find at Past Present Future, South Florida’s Premier Comic and Game Chain), and the collector’s cases are limited availability sets. In Case #1, The Witch Cult Murders, you play the role of private investigator Howard Lovecraft, and you investigate events based on the stories “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1933), “The Thing on the Doorstep” (1933), and “The Unnamable” (1923). In Case #2, Called Forth by Thunder, you examine the events based on the stories “The Diary of Alonzo Typer” (1938) and “The Lurking Fear” (1923). Gameplay consists of adding cards to open cases, creating lines of investigation in an effort to solve them. The ultimate goal is to score five “puzzle” clue cards in order to piece together the big picture before running out of time or mental stability. About $16.99.

10. Monochrome Inc. (ages 16+) is part of the Adventure Games: Discovery the Story series by Kosmosset. It is set in the headquarters of a biotech company with some nasty secrets. After you manage to get inside, you have to explore spaces, combine items, find clues, and talk to people. About $19.95

Remember: Self-love is built in solitude. Solo board games are on the rise, with an increasing number of the best board games including a solitaire variant. Ranging from $16.99 to $41.81, the board games on my list are not cheap. But they are so much fun, and the art makes them irresistible!

-- A creator of safe spaces, and an initiator of difficult conversations, M.J. Fievre, B.S. Ed, spent much time building up her Black students, helping them feel comfortable in their skin, and affirming their identities. Her close relationships with parents and students led her to look more closely at how we can balance protecting our child’s innocence with preparing them for the realities of Black life. When―and how―do you approach racism with your children? How do you protect their physical and mental health while also preparing them for a country full of systemic racism? She began to research the issue and speak to school counselors and psychologists to find (and apply!) strategies parents and teachers can use with their children to broach uncomfortable but necessary topics.

M.J. is the author of Badass Black Girl, a daily dose of affirmations for Black Girls

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