There is some really good board games that include a solo player variant in their game play.
I'm terrible at crosswords, and I don't have the room to have a jigsaw out all the time, so I really like playing a solo mode board game as a bit of down time.
I will write some notes on the solo mode board games that I own, and then rank them.
First up: Clans of Caledonia
Clans of Caledonia is a strategic economic game set in 19th century Scotland. Players represent unique historical clans competing to produce, trade, and export agricultural good, as well as their famous whiskey!
In the solo version, you try and achieve the highest possible score and rate it against their scoring key:
0-115 = Newbie
116-130 = Rookie
131-145 = Average
146-160 = Expert
161 + = Genius
I really enjoy the solo mode of this game. You play the same as with other players except you are given 2 solo mode dice that change the market every round on 3 of the goods.
Each solo game takes about 20-30 minutes.
I played 5 solo games of this today! I wasn't planning to. I wanted to try a few different Clans but I kept getting worse scores! I dropped from Expert to Newbie, and I didn't want to end it there, so 5 games later....
In the solo play you use other player tokens to block off all the outer spaces and any land areas that cost $1. It means that land costs you from $2 to $6 to use, and there aren't as many land spaces to use. You also get only 5 contracts to choose from every round. The dice adjusts prices of 3 goods, up or down, up to +3 or -3.
My first play was as Clan Buchanan. No set up is the same even if you play the same clan. The map game board, the end of round scoring, start up resources, and corner bonuses, are all drawn randomly and change every game you play.
I do think Clan Buchanan is a strong Clan, that allows you to gain more than one contract at a time. This is a great help in the beginning of the game when you are paid or not charged to take contracts. Later on you have to pay to get contracts. This game gave the highest score of the 5 plays.
Clan McDonald allows you be fisherman as well as the others. It means you can put your workers on water as well as land. I did okay as this Clan, but it is harder I think only doing one contract at a time.
Clan Campbell allows you buy factories cheaper, so I tried to go into the whiskey business. I didn't really get enough money though to achieve any wheat fields, which made whiskey harder to make. Bad score with this one.
Clan Robertson allowed me to buy land cheaper by loch entrances. This was the worst scoring for me. Just seemed to be really short of money this game. Also by putting your pieces on loch entrances usually mean't I was further away from the corner bonuses.
Clan Fergusson allows you to start with 3 workers instead of 2, though you still have to pay for their placement. This game I went back up to an average score. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with having an extra worker at the start or the contracts just went better.
Here is the look of the final boards being Clan Buchanan and Clan McDonald, (I'm the white pieces).
Clan Buchanan: 154
Clan McDonald : 133
Clan Campbell : 114
Clan Robertson: 110
Clan Fergusson: 137
With 9 different Clans to choose from and the way the game set up changes every time, there is going to be lots of variability to keep this game interesting playing solo. It's going to be a tough one to beat. Really, really like it.