About 5 or so years ago I listed out my Top 5 Board Games based on a video game. Back then the pickings were so slim I couldn’t even make a top ten list without resorting to “shovelware”. Fast forward a few years and we have many more choices. This year and next are scheduled to have some high profile releases such as the Assassin’s Creed Board Game from Tritor Noir and Horizon Zero Dawn from Steamforged Games.
But there are actually already some really good games in this category. Games that were not only inspired by a video game, but actually do the source material justice. And on that note, I’m also only going to include games that actually try to use their theme. So while a game like Mega Man Pixel Tactics might be fun, the theme is 100% pasted on so it won’t be making its way to this list.
Honorable Mention: Sanctum (review)
I’m going to include Sanctum as an honorable mention because it’s not officially based on a video game. However, this is clearly publishers Czech Games Edition attempt to bring the much loved Diablo to our tabletops… they just didn’t pay for the license. But everything from the Diabolique demon on the cover to the loot piñata style gameplay harks back to the classic game of hack and slash.
2-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 90 minutes • $40
10. Jetpack Joyride (review)
This little puzzler, based on the mobile game of the same name, will have players trying to make their way across a level in their jetpack. They’ll be grabbing polyomino shaped tiles in realtime to create their path across the lab. Players must successfully navigate obstacles all while trying to collect coins and accomplish missions. Jetpack Joyride is a fun little filler game that does its source material justice.
1-4 Players • Ages 8+ • 20 minutes • $20
9. Starcraft: The Board Game
This long out of print title will have up to six players fighting it out for control of planets in the galaxy. Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg forces will harvest minerals, recruit troops, and fight large battles. Players can also research new tech that will improve their combat deck in what was an early precursor to deck buildings games! If you were a fan of the RTS game Starcraft, then it doesn’t get any better than this.
2-6 Players • Ages 12+ • 180-240 minutes • OoP
8. Doom: The Board Game
This 1 versus many game will have a single-player controlling the forces of hell, while the rest of the players jump into the shoes of a space marine. While Doom is a non-stop action shooter in its digital form, the board game takes a much more tactical approach. The soldiers have some kind of mission to accomplish, while the invader must try to stop them by throwing legions of demons at them. Doom: The Board Game is a really good dice chucker with some amazing looking miniatures as well!
2-5 Players • Ages 14+ • 120-180 minutes • $54
7. Fallout Shelter: The Board Game
I only played the Fallout Shelter video game a little bit, because timer-based F2P games really aren’t my thing. But I will admit that it’s definitely less predatory than most in that category. That being said, Fallout Shelter: The Board Game is really well made. It’s a light worker placement game that will have players building out their level of the shelter trying to earn the most happiness. In addition to building rooms and managing resources, players must also contend with hazards that pop up in the form of rad roaches, fires, and other monsters from the wasteland.
2-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 60 minutes • $33
6. Gears of War: The Board Game
This cooperative game will have players controlling one of the iconic COGS from the Gears of War video game. They will then embark on one of the handful of missions in the game that usually has them fighting off hordes of the Locusts. Gears of War wasn’t easy to win, but the gameplay, which used your hand of cards as your health, was a lot of fun. However this one has been out of print for a while, so you’ll need to head to the secondary market to find it.
1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 60-180 minutes • OoP
5. Fallout: The Board Game (review)
I’m going preference this one by saying if you get the Fallout board game, you definitely need to get the New California and Atomic Bonds expansions. This will turn Fallout from a competitive game into a cooperative one… which is where it should have been all along. From a thematic perspective, Fallout is great. You’ll explore the wasteland, upgrade your characters, and interact with many familiar faces and monsters from the fallout video games. However, the end game victory points system was not very fun at the best of times and unbalanced at the worst. But as a cooperative game, it’s a blast.
1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 120-180 minutes • $42
4. Rampage (aka Terror in Meeple City)
Was Designer Antoine Bauza trying to recreate the Rampage video game on our tabletops? You better believe it. He got a little too close though as the game had to later be renamed Terror in Meeple City once publisher Midway Games got wind of it. Naming right aside, this dexterity game will have you controlling a monster who literally want to knock over buildings and eat meeples. You will drop, flick, and even blow to crash buildings sending the residents flying across the board before you greedily scoop them up. Rooooaaaarrrr!
2-4 Players • Ages 8+ • 30 minutes • $50
3. Xcom: The Board Game
One of the earliest offerings of a digitally integrated board game, XCom: The Board Game has four players taking control of the earth’s defense against an alien invasion. The game was played in two parts, with the first half of a round in real-time as an app not only counted down the time, but cycled through phases and threw threats at you. In the second half, you had action resolution to see how well… or how poorly your team did. XCom is a tense game that requires solid cooperation from the players
1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 60-120 minutes • $50
2. This War of Mine (review)
This War of Mine is definitely not the most cheery of games to play. It’s harsh, unforgiving, and really brings that survival theme home. It’s loosely based on the Siege of Sarajevo, and you are not heroes in the game, but everyday people just trying to survive. The board game takes the spirit of the video game and really embraces it with a narrative game that is neither quick, nor easy. Yet making it through the 8-hour game (there are save points should you want to take a break) is a really thematic trip filled with stories, resource management, and exploration.
1-6 Players • Ages 16+ • 45-120 minutes • $80
I’m going to put Civilization: A New Dawn here, but you could really substitute it with a few different Civilization titles. A New Dawn just happens to be my favorite because I really like the mechanics of it. Regardless of which empire building title you like, Civilization has been inspiring games since Sid Meier released his classic title in 1991. In most games, you take control of a fledgling civilization and explore the world, upgrade your technologies and maybe even get in a few fights with those pesky neighbors. Civilization games are plentiful and come in many different weights, and that’s great because it’s one of my favorite genres.