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The 10 Best Dungeon Crawler Board Games You Can Play by Yourself

Embark on a solo quarantine adventure with these epic games. 

dungeon crawler board games
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  • Photo Credit: Mice & Mystics

More people than ever are playing Dungeons & Dragons. And now that COVID-19 makes it impossible to gather in-person for game nights, “virtual tabletops” like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, where people can play games like Dungeons & Dragons online, have received a huge influx of visitors. 

For some, however, there’s no substitute for the real thing – moving little plastic or metal miniatures around on dungeon tiles or battle mats or the bare table. Luckily, for those of us who love to go dungeon delving but for whom online just isn’t the same, there are plenty of fantasy dungeon crawler board games to recreate the experience, even if you’re playing them all by yourself.

Here are 10 dungeon crawler games you can play solo to get your fix of exploring dark tunnels, vanquishing skeletons, and raiding treasures!

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Descent: Journeys in the Dark – Fantasy Flight

For years, Descent has been the gold standard of dungeon crawl board games. Now in its 2nd edition, Descent retains its top-flight status thanks to plentiful and characterful miniatures, an immersive yet familiar setting, lots of sturdy dungeon tiles that interlock nicely, and gameplay that is both streamlined and robust. 

Unfortunately, it is designed to be played by at least two players, with one taking on the role of the “Overlord” (the equivalent of a dungeon master) and controlling the monsters. You can play Descent solo, but doing so requires a free-to-download app and doesn’t make use of the entire range of the game’s options.

PROS: Nice minis and dungeon tiles; easy to set up and play; lots of available expansions.

CONS: Not actually playable solo unless you download the app, which doesn’t utilize nearly everything the game has to offer.

Massive Darkness CMON

Created by the same designers behind the popular Zombicide series, Massive Darkness – which just completed an extremely successful Kickstarter for a 2nd edition – uses many of the same mechanics as that game, along with similar tiles. In fact, expansions actually allow you to play characters from the fantasy-themed Zombicide games like Black Plague or Green Horde in Massive Darkness, and vice versa. 

If Descent nicely captures the feel you expect from a Lord of the Rings-esque “high fantasy” then Massive Darkness is its slightly grittier, sword-and-sorcery shadow, complete with artwork that looks like it came off Liquid Television in the ‘90s. 

Unlike Descent, however, it is fully co-op from the jump, and offers a quick game in which character advancement (“leveling up”) happens on the fly in the middle of each quest, rather than only between sessions.

PROS: Unique and distinctive tiles; plenty of monsters; cool minis; quick gameplay where leveling happens mid-game.

CONS: Was funded via Kickstarter, like several other games on this list, so many expansions and add-ons are hard to find or prohibitively expensive.

D&D Board Games – Wizards of the Coast

These officially-licensed dungeon crawl board games seem like the best possible way to get your specific D&D itch, right? And in some ways, they are. 

Certainly, the flavor and the worldbuilding will be familiar for D&D fans. Several of the boxed games even reproduce specific D&D adventures, such as Tomb of Annihilation or Dungeon of the Mad Mage. But the experience you get is going to be more like a stripped-down version of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, not the current 5th, which may confuse some players. Also, the dungeon tiles tend to be pretty dull compared to some of their competitors, and character advancement is extremely limited. 

The games do offer three major benefits, though: they’re relatively inexpensive, they’re cross-compatible so that each one can be played with any other one, and they seem to be optimized for younger players, so the whole family can potentially join in.

PROS: Low price tag; familiar branding and world-building; easy for younger players.

CONS: It may look like your favorite D&D game, but it will feel more like the previous edition; boring dungeon tiles.

Mice & Mystics – Plaid Hat Games

Speaking of younger players, Mice & Mystics jettisons some of the usual trappings of fantasy, trading elves, dwarves, orcs, and goblins for mice and other pint-sized protagonists (and antagonists). 

If you like your fantasy to be a little more Redwall and a little less Lord of the Rings, then this may be the dungeon crawl board game for you.

PROS: A different take on a fantasy dungeon with some appealing minis and floor tiles mixed with immersive game play.

CONS: Some balance issues and complex rules may frustrate the younger players who might otherwise be drawn to this storytelling game.

Gloomhaven - Cephalofair Games

One of the most popular dungeon crawl board games to come out in recent years is Gloomhaven, which upends the traditional model to create something that feels more like an actual tabletop RPG packaged into a (HUGE) box. 

Crammed with literally hundreds of tiles and cards – a lot, even for this kind of game – Gloomhaven offers a genuinely immersive experience, dropping players into an evolving world where their decisions affect future events in the game. Sometimes, though, that isn’t what you want, and the box will cost you a pretty penny to find out.

PROS: Probably as close as you’re going to get to actually playing an RPG via one of these board games; immersive and unique setting.

CONS: Relatively expensive (you’re going to drop more than $100 on the core box alone) and filled with lots of fiddly pieces, which may not be to everyone’s tastes.

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Sword & Sorcery - Ares Games

If Gloomhaven reinvents the dungeon crawl formula, then Sword & Sorcery – another game funded by Kickstarter – is a proud throwback to it. 

Here, you’ll be playing the usual complement of noble heroes who go down into the dungeons to stop bad villains from doing bad things. Which isn’t to say that the game doesn’t do some new stuff, too. 

When heroes die, for example, they aren’t knocked out of the game, but instead become “ghost soul” versions of themselves, who have unique abilities until they return to life. It comes with plenty of brightly-colored plastic minis and dungeon tiles, but also enough fiddly things to keep track of that it can bog the game down and make it take longer than it should.

PROS: Relatively low price point; nice miniatures and dungeon tiles; familiar gameplay with just enough innovation to keep it interesting.

CONS: Games can run long and require a lot of tracking tokens and other small bits and bobs; core campaign is fairly short without buying expansions.

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Super Dungeon Explore/Arcadia Quest – Soda Pop Miniatures/CMON

These are actually two different games, made by two different companies, but their aesthetics are similar enough that I’m lumping them together here. While most of the other games on this list draw their inspiration from pen-and-paper games like Dungeons & Dragons, these two are emulating classic enemy-slaying video games. 

Everything from the top-down tiles themselves to the miniatures, which are all represented in the old-school video game “chibi” style, to the fact that one of the two ways of playing Super Dungeon Explore is called “arcade mode,” these want you to think button mashers, not dice rollers.

PROS: Cute, colorful style that doesn’t look like any of the other games on this list – except one another; lots of miniatures.

CONS: You have to want what they’re peddling, which isn’t always what you’re looking for when you sit down to play. Speaking of pricey, Super Dungeon Explore can potentially run more than $200 retail.

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Mansions of Madness – Fantasy Flight

Not all dungeon crawlers are aiming to reproduce the experience of playing Dungeons & Dragons. There’s also Call of Cthulhu as an option, after all, and Fantasy Flight’s Lovecraft-flavored dungeon crawler Mansions of Madness is a bona-fide hit, with plenty of expansions and add-ons available. 

Unfortunately, it can also be maddeningly (at least it’s thematic) difficult to wrap your head around, and a game of it can take several hours.

PROS: A more eldritch gaming experience; fun minis and map tiles of both familiar and unfamiliar Lovecraft monsters and locations; lots of expansions available.

CONS: Rules can be labyrinthine; games often take a very long time.

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Shadows of Brimstone – Flying Frog

For those who want Lovecraftian horror with a somewhat different mise en scène, there’s Shadows of Brimstone

The core game is a weird western, with classic Wild West archetypes going up against tentacled monsters and other squamous critters. But one of the most interesting aspects of the game is that portals open up throughout it that can transport you to other worlds – including other places and times. 

These are represented by some of the other game options, including one core boxed set (and several expansions) that take place in feudal Japan, not to mention at least one expansion on a derelict space craft.

PROS: An extremely different setting than most of the rest of the games on the market; big, impressive map tiles and plenty of variety.

CONS: Again, the games can be pricey (because they are huge) and complicated, and models need to be assembled and glued before use; funded via Kickstarter so expansions are sometimes tough to find.

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Hellboy: The Board Game - Mantic

Adapted from the comic books by Mike Mignola, this board game provides a lot of interesting twists to the typical dungeon crawl experience. Play is 100% cooperative, with players taking control of characters from the pages of the comics and spending action cubes in order to move, fight, or use special abilities. 

There are plenty of monsters to smash, but you also need to search for clues and otherwise try to keep the doom track from advancing and ending the game prematurely … and not in your favor. It manages to capture a lot of the tone of the comics, but may be a bit obtuse to those who aren’t familiar with the source material.

PROS: Innovative “action cube” system makes the game surprisingly easy to keep track of when a lot is going on; captures the feel of the comics well.

CONS: Funded by Kickstarter, a lot of its best features aren’t available in the core game, which offers limited missions and play options.