Mage knight ultimate edition which will include all the content is $125 retail store or $90ish online. Pretty sure this is also replacing the current printings so would be the only way to get it unless you like star trek.
Mage Knight is wonderful! It's the single most engaging solo game I own, and I'ver tried quite a few.
Most solo games work are really co-op games where you have to pretend to be several players in order to get the real fun out of it. But with Mage Knight you get to play with almost all the moving parts with only one hand of cards and one miniature.
It's also hell of a game, with a lot of toggles, scenarios and fiddly bits, that makes it playable for a long time.
I lose more often than not, but that's beacuse I suck at it. Good players have to up the difficulty to get a proper challenge.
Takes me about three hours, from taking out the box until I put it back in again. Definitely RPG elements, with leveling, skills, allies and lots of stuff. Deck handling, with some deck building. Mostly skill based, diceless, but with a random board.
Yeah, Mage Knight is great. Personally, it runs a bit longer than 3 hours for me, but it's a meaty game and it's great to go from a basic deck to an unstoppable juggernaut with army and spells to demolish a city's defenders. You need to manage building your deck by fighting monsters to level up, hitting locations to get different types of cards, advancing across the board to find cities, recruiting your army (units are essentially cards that stay out, but get tapped when you use them instead), while keeping wounds from ruining you. The deckbuilding aspect plays out much more slowly than the standard type, since you are limited in how many times you can go through the deck, but each card has multiple functions and 2 levels of effect.
It's on the expensive side (but the ultimate edition does seem like a better value than getting the game+expansions separately, although that's of little import if you end up not liking the game), and the long play and set up time does make it troublesome to get to the table. I like Mage Knight, and it was one of our greatest coop hits for a time. But the duration and lack of differentiation between characters (characters end up very different, but that's much more strongly a property of which cards you pick than some inherent playstyle to each character).
I love solo games! Some of my favorites (trying to avoid repeating games already named in the thread):
- Very good deckbuilder with some story: Lord of the Rings LCG. It has the LotR vibe in the missions and cards, but if you optimize your decks to win, you end with not so LotR combinations.
- Good deckbuilder with good story: Arkham Horror LCG. Each mission is excellent and varied. Super fun, super thematic, but also super hard. Although, in a good Cthulhu tradition, running away is a good call pretty often. The campaign mode is light but well designed.
- Good deckbuilder with a lot of replayability: Aeon's End. The combinations of mages and market are nearly endless. Each bad guy feels pretty different. At some point, you can't do random combinations of cards, as the last bad guys are too hard for that.
- Adventure game, more for the experience/story: 7th Continent. Very long game (but with a good save system, that you actually have to use to replenish some cards like hunt places). I haven't beaten the first curse yet, but every playthrough has gone to pretty different places.
- Big long campaigns: Gloomhaven, Kingdom Death: Monster. Both are great in their own ways, and they will keep you entertained forever. KDM requires a lot of miniature building so it's not for everyone (you could skip the minis no probs, but I think it's part of the game appeal and price).
- Other dungeon crawlers: my favorite dice chucker dungeon crawler is Swords and Sorcery. Imperial Assault and Descent are good too (although I like S&S much more than Descent for fantasy). For a lighter card based dungeon crawlers you could go with Heroes of Terrinoth (or Warhammer Quest).
- Wargames: Hornet Leader, Warfighter. I really enjoy the XYZ Leader games, it's fun to build your own squadron, loadouts, pilots, and missions are always pretty tense. Warfighter is similar but with special forces squads.
- Hex and chit wargames: Space Empires 4X + Rise of the Replicators (+ Close Encounters), Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear + Eastern Front. Space Empires solo is a pretty deep and challenging game and gives you the full 4x sci-fi experience (explore, colonize, design ships, build, research, kill stuff...). Really good if you like hex and chit wargames (it has a lot of number tracking, but the rules aren't very hard). Conflict of Heroes I haven't played with the solo expansion, just normal 1vs1, but it's a good game and the solo expansion has good reviews.
My biggest suggestion for a compact and cheap solo game is Friday, which is a solo deckbuilder that has you managing Robinson Crusoe, thinning the deck to get rid of bad cards, adding good cards to the deck. But what's interesting is that there's a lot more choices and tradeoffs than in a traditional deckbuilder. e.g., to thin cards out, you have to fail against obstacles (which costs life points), and the faster you go through your deck, the more quickly you accumulate "aging" cards, which are really bad. On the flipside, the only way to acquire new cards is by defeating them as obstacles, so you have to pace yourself at the cost of taking on less-effective cards. Really cool puzzle in a box, but I'd understand if it doesn't tick your "RPG" box as much as you'd like.
I've played a bit of Navajo Wars, but that's a really intricate and heavy solo wargame that has a lot of fiddly upkeep and takes a long time, so it's not for most people.
Dunno how you are on pure deckbuilders, but Marvel Legendary provided me with a ton of fun once I added in the Dark City expansion. As a solo game, you can challenge yourself to beat specific masterminds on different difficulty levels with different combinations of heroes, which is a neat way to mark self-improvement, and it turns the uneven power balance between heroes into a strength, by letting you handicap yourself.
It's a little off genre, but give Mintworks a try. I've only played multiplayer, but the single player mode is built around four AI cards. Each AI has a distinct personality in terms of how they act, which would give you a major advantage were it not for them also getting to cheat in the most blatant way possible, which also feeds into their personality (there's the moneybags, who has infinite funds and makes massive purchases whenever possible, there's the speed freak who just get to take two turns to your one and immediately gets in the way of all the easily blocked moves, there's two more that are a little harder to understand without knowing specific mechanics).