Top 10 – Campaign Games
Recently I did an article talking about the different types of games, and one that I mentioned was campaign games. These are games that tell a story throughout as you play them and you are playing scenarios that tie together over time and create one big narrative. Campaign games can be Legacy games but don’t need to be destructive or changing in nature, it can just be a grand story that is told throughout.
Let’s get to the list:
10 – Sword & Sorcery
This is a big dice chucking ameritrash campaign game where you take your group of heroes of old who have been brought back in the nations time of need. You get to level up, get new skills and attacks and generally be pretty awesome as you chuck dice and go through a pretty simple story. The game really gives you a lot of dice to chuck and a lot of cool abilities to use. Just in the base game there are plenty of characters to checkout and you can get a whole lot more in small character expansions or in the bigger box story expansions. This is probably one of the most classic in terms of story that you’ll find for a campaign. It is a bit fiddly, but the upkeep and monster actions are fairly simple and the story is small enough that you don’t feel like you’re spending all your time adjusting the board and looking up story elements in the book, but the initial set-up can be pretty slow.
9 – Risk Legacy
Probably the campaign that has the least amount of story in it. However, the board changes in a legacy style as you play and you can unlock things as new things happen in the game to create even more weird challenges. The story of this game really comes from the players as you face off against each other over and over again for points in this Risk based game that allows you to win not from taking over but by getting victory points for taking out your enemies bases and completing missions. Each game goes pretty fast, which is enjoyable, and you feel like you’ve gotten that Risk dice chucking combat done, but without it overstaying it’s welcome. Plus, unless an odd situation happens, you’re always going to be able to hope back into the game and possibly mess someone up and get back into contention, versus being eliminated. Not a ton of depth to this campaign, but a fun time.
8 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault
The Star Wars dungeon crawl, Imperial Assault offers you two ways to play. First, you can do it with someone running the empire and working within the game to create scenarios and a story that you play through. Or you can be completely cooperative and play through the game using an app that helps you with your book keeping as to everything the empire needs to do. This was the precursor to Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth in what it was doing with the app. The story is fun, and what I really like about this story is that it’s adjacent to the original trilogy story, at least out of the core box. So you don’t play as Luke, Leia, or Han, and you can’t kill of Darth Vader or the Emperor, but they might show up in your story as someone to help you or someone to run away from. It’s fun to see how they can weave that together and create a fun experience of a campaign.
7 – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Another not that story driven one, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, has you play through a campaign of the books, getting new threats that you’re raising to finish and new bad guys you’re trying to beat. This is a deck building game that builds on itself as you play more and more games of it, there are seven total games to play out of the base box, one for each book, and you gain new abilities and new cards to build you deck in each one. It starts out simple, but eventually has you focusing more into what you can do really well. You get to play the main characters the base box has Neville, Ron, Hermione, and Harry, and take them through their times at Hogwarts. A downside is that while the game is simple, the longer you go, the more bad guys you have to beat.
6 – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
One that I just got into recently but this game has so many things that I love. First, there is a digital component, not that that makes the game so amazing, but because it makes it more immersive as you’re trying to “solve” the case put in front of you. Then with that, you’re also using your own deduction skills, I really like using deduction and puzzling through things, even if I’m not great at figuring out the puzzle all the time, right away. There is so much going on in this game, story wise, that you feel like you’re in it trying to actually solve this case. It reminds me a bit of procedural crime TV shows, but you get to be the main characters. And while I’m not a huge fan of those shows, being a character in that show is fascinating. And while we were investigating, we were getting cards and things to be added into future cases because of what we’d studied before so out of the base box, with five cases, you develop a whole story as these cases tie together.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror is an interesting one to put on the list, because as a Living Card game it’s getting new campaigns and parts to old campaigns pretty often. Out of the base box, you have a three part story where you do the first scenario and what you do in that causes changes for future scenarios. There is a lot that I love out of this game, first you get to play through a surprisingly immersive story for something that is done just with cards. You have interesting and different characters as well in the story. And even with just cards, they do wildly different things at times. Add in that you can do some deck building in this game, not during the game but before or between, you can develop the strategy that you want to take into a case, it might be a strategy of more fighting or more investigating, or blending and balancing the two depending on your style, and unlike some of these campaigns where eventually you’ll have played through it, this one is still getting new content all the time.
4 – TIME Stories
This one has less of a through story than a lot of the campaign games, but there are certain elements that tie it together. You are always worried about another time agency that is trying to mess with time and multiverse in it, and thus far, I’ve really enjoyed every scenario. I feel like they’ve managed to change them up a bit, and while you often have combat or things that are just rolling dice and hoping to get lucky, it does work very well. Each scenario has very strong story elements to it as well as you are trying to figure out a puzzle and an optimal path through the game to win, but with that, you’re exploring and uncovering elements of the story as well. I really like the fact that you are put into “vessels” and that’s how you time travel in the game, and sometimes, you don’t do well enough and your “vessel” dies, but jumping back into the past, you can join the game again and do another run to try and solve the puzzle. It can get a bit repetitive for some, but I haven’t found that to be an issue.
3 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Second Legacy game on the list, and I will toss in Season 2 as kind of continuation of this if you want more content. Pandemic is a great cooperative game where you are trying to cure diseases. Pandemic Legacy offers much of the same with that, but story and a changing and expanding rule set as time goes on. The game never feels too complex, but it is more challenging than the regular game. I really like how they manage losing in the game, you continue on if you lost twice in a month, and help you balance that out by getting more useful cards back in your deck that allow you to bend the rules. And the story, while not complex is good, and it has a nice twist to it. I don’t think that the twist was all that surprising, but definitely changes up the game.
2 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
This game just screams epic campaign game. You get to level up and improve your character and you get to explore a massive story as you travel through the lands of Avalon. There are some things I really enjoy about the game, first is the story element. You get to delve into so much of a massive exploration journal and find out so much about the world. This is a dark world as well, and I really appreciate that the storytelling is set in that and that there is a survival element to the game as well. This can be a punishing game that makes you travel around places and do the same things multiple times, but that’s kind of the point of the game as you are traveling through this grim dark Avalon facing off against monstes, trying to hold the Wyrdness at bay by keeping Menhir lit, and struggling to find food. It’s played out over several chapters and you definitely don’t see everything in the game, so it’s a campaign you can come back to again and explore more to see if you can do better.
1 – Gloomhaven
My #1 game of all time, no surprise it’s at the top of the list. Gloomhaven just is a wonderfully massive game. It tells a good story, I wouldn’t say as good as Tainted Grail, but beyond that, the mechanics are amazing, I love the card combat and movement that you have in each scenario as you try and puzzle out what is going to be the best and what the enemies might do. And there’s just so much content in the game, not just scenarios, but also monsters to fight and characters to play as. I love that you have to retire characters at certain points, and that then gives you a new character that feels different from other characters, there’s just so much interesting things going on in the game and there are apps to help make it faster to get to the table that are great. I’ve talked about this a lot, so I’ll stop there, but it’s amazing.
One thing I’ll point out about this list, with the exception of Risk Legacy, all the games on the list are cooperative. It’s fairly rare for there to be competitive campaign games, that I’ve seen, though there are some out there with the likes of Charterstone, which is fun, and Seafall, which is long. But most are going to lean cooperative, so think about that, if you don’t love cooperative games and you want to play a campaign game. And I have a lot more to play and coming than I’ve already played. I really want to get the likes of Betrayal Legacy, Clank Legacy! and Aeon’s End Legacy to the table as well sooner rather than later, because all of those are campaigns based off of games that I already love. Also, I left Dungeons and Dragons off the list, because, I want to keep it board games versus adding in RPG’s which are great but different experiences.
What are some of your favorite campaign games? What are some that I should checkout?
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