Top 10 Fantasy Themed Games
One of the more common themes for board games, and for so many nerdy things is fantasy. This can be from sword and sorcery to epic to urban, I’m not going to be picky with my tastes as generally I really enjoy fantasy in books, two of my favorite series are The Dresden Files and Stormlight Archive, or in movies as I like Lord of the Rings, Last Witch Hunter, and more, the same goes for my taste in board games.
Before I get to the list, let’s talk about some of the criteria, if it’s mythological, is it fantasy? Generally, unless there is that more fantastical element that the game leans into, then I’d lean towards it being a fantasy game, but if there’s less of that, then not. Also, if I liked Dominion, it has a witch, it has curses, technically those are fantastical type elements, but Dominion is medieval and themeless, so it wouldn’t be on the list even though it has some of those fantasy adjacent elements. Or something like Lost Expedition won’t be on the list even though you have the Fountain of Youth and a werebeast in the expansion. Finally, if it’s clearly more of another genre and some elements are just fantastical at times, Betrayal at House on the Hill, for example, it won’t be on the list. Yes there are magical and fantastical things that can happen, but that is a horror themed game.
But with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the list.
10 – Ascension
Now, theme is going to be a bit of stretch for this game, not that it doesn’t have a fantasy theme, but that the theme really matters all that much. In this game you’re doing deck building and creating combos to buy better cards and then defeat monsters. So it’s kind of themed around your slinging spells, fighting horrific monsters, and playing out magical constructs, but it’s really much more just cards. That said, this is a really fun game, I love the changing market as people buy cards and defeat monsters new cards and monsters come out. There are different strategies you can take in the game, and while some are extremely powerful, depending on when you see cards it can really change up how things go. Definitely a fun one with a lighter fantasy theme.
9 – Village Attacks
In most fantasy games you’re playing the epic heroes who are going to be able to take on anything and everything. In this one, you’re playing the monsters who after a hard day dealing with uncooperative villagers just want to relax and enjoy their evening. Then the villagers show up with pitchforks and torches and they are just going to make this a long night, you know. And you must protect the magical heart of your castle where you are able to regenerate, because if you don’t and you die, you will never be able to come back. It’s a fun twist that uses a fairly horrific looking art style, but plays much lighter than it looks in terms of theme.
8 – Deranged
I’m really waiting for this horror fantasy game to come out. I think that this one walks the line more so than Betrayal at House on the Hill does. In Deranged you are fighting off monsters as you are trapped in this remote village, but not just because of it’s remote location but because a magical force is keeping you trapped in the town, but there is a way out. Unfortunately to leave, you cannot be cursed, and you are cursed. But if you die, you become a deranged monster which can help you stop someone else from escaping but is going to end up giving you more curses. This game has really interesting card play and was supposed to be coming out in the US quarter one, but I’m hoping will be coming out here in quarter two.
7 – The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
I have already talked about that this is one of my favorite series, so I was excited for a game that let me play through the books in the series, and this one gives you that feel of the series. It’s tricky, you’re probably not going to win on the first try, and there’s luck to the game, and that’s a lot of how the books feel as well. This is straight up urban fantasy that leans into the fae and fae courts for some of it’s magical history as well as an interesting take on the 30 pieces of silver that were given to Judas to betray Jesus, and other fantasy elements, including unique vampires. The book series is amazing, and the game is good, but probably best if you’re a fan of the series.
6 – Dice Throne
You’ve been summoned to a tournament, the winner will get to face off against the emperor who has been undefeated for over 5000 years, I believe. Are you going to have what it takes to rise through the ranks? That’s the backstory for this game that is really more of a one on one dice chucking battle game where you could play a raging barbarian or a pyromancer slinging fire spells to a vampire or a cursed pirate. This one tells less of a story than a lot of fantasy games, more just pitting fantasy characters against each other to see who might come out on top. The quality of this game is off the charts, and the characters feel like they are unique even though a lot of what you are rolling for is similar, straights, matching numbers, etc.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Hard to put on the list, but there’s another Lovecraftian game coming up. This one feels more investigative than it doesn’t fantastical, but you’re still fighting eldritch monsters and crazy cultists bent on summoning in elder gods to destroy the world. And you can sling spells if you want to or focus on more conventional means of investigating. And the system lends itself to going more fantastical or less fantastical, it’s up to the scenario that you are playing through. Definitely one that just made the list, but has strong enough elements of fantasy and in particular urban fantasy.
4 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
You’re mages of the breech who are tasked with the job of defending the town of Gravehold against the mighty titans and their monstrous minions. Can you hold them off, this is a spell slinging cooperative game where each player plays as a breech mage. These mages are fairly standard looking, but have interesting powers and there are a lot of them in the base game. Plus, you get several Titans all who have their own different minions and schemes that you have to go up against. This game really is interesting and works well, the world that they’ve created for the series is fairly tightly focused but they’ve done a good job of creating lore around it, and I’m excited to try Aeon’s End: Legacy coming up here sometime.
3 – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon is not a magically heavy, but it definitely has heavy elements of fantasy with crazy monsters that have been warped by the Wyrdness, magical Menhir that are driving back the Wyrdness giving the humans a chance to survive in a little pockets. It’s a grim fantasy setting but I really have enjoyed how it can be dark, but not too dark, and that it is very hard. The story is well written as well, I say that some of these games have more generic style fantasy stories, but this one, even though it’s based on Arthurian legend feels fresh and unique and horrifying, but it always leaves you wanting to explore more and find out more in the world that Awaken Realms has created.
2 – Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
This one might surprise some people to be on the list, it’s not the epic swords and sorcery fantasy, but as the investigators, you can sling spells around, you are dealing with fantastical monsters, some from other parts of the universe or dimensions. There’s certainly an urban fantasy element to the game that shapes a lot of the stories that you get in it. And the whole idea of these Eldritch horrors is very fantastical in nature. I do think that you get more of a sense of adventure and investigation than you do fantasy from the game, but it doesn’t lean heavily into any theme more than the fantasy element to it, it’s just a different type of fantasy than what we normally think of.
1 – Gloomhaven
A big epic fantasy game in a box, Gloomhaven has a distinction of having it’s own original fantasy theme. Now, that’s not to say that some of the others haven’t done their own interesting things, but Gloomhaven is almost completely unique. The Cragheart, Quatryl, Vermling, and more are all unique to the world that Isaac Childres has created in the game, and that’s impressive to take such a big thing as world building and turn it into something that is specific and unique for a game the size of Gloomhaven. Each class and race feel unique and you get an interesting fantasy tale, I won’t say it’s the best written, but it’s good and the game play is great.
There are a lot of other games that I considered. Grimm Masquerade with it’s fairy tale theme just missed and Lord s of Hellas walks that line of fantasy and mythology and missed the list as did Blood Rage. One that I really strongly considered was TIME Stories. Why I kept TIME Stories off the list is that not all of the scenarios are really that magical. There’s definitely some of that, but Prophecy of Dragons is the main one that really leans into the magic.
Fantasy is certainly a popular theme in board games, and a popular theme in games that want to have that heavier story to it and even border on role playing, though if you want to go that way, you can just play Dungeons and Dragons, another highly recommended game. What are some of your favorite games with a fantasy theme? What are some that I should checkout?
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