So, I’m going to do what I did with Frosthaven when that was announced and talked about on videos, I’m doing a video breakdown. This Fantasy Flight In-Flight report is normally a big deal, kind of a kick-off for Gencon to find out what Fantasy …
Tag: Arkham Horror
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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We’ve all seen Simpsons Monopoly and Monopoly for a specific football team or baseball team, national parks, or city. Those are all IP’s put onto Monopoly, intellectual properties. Those aren’t going to make this list, I’m looking at my top 10 favorite games that are …
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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Now, let me set a few ground rules. The game must have an official solo version, it can’t be something like Pandemic Legacy Season 1, which I played solo, but officially, by the rules, isn’t a solo game. I will say though, I haven’t played all of the games on this solo, but it is an official option, and I’ll call out when I haven’t done it, might be for one of several reasons including I started it not solo, so for a game on the list, that’s the only reason I haven’t played it solo. But as we’re in a time when for some people solo gaming might be their only option, here are 10 games from my favorites that can be played solo, officially.
10 – Onirim
Technically you can play the game with two players, but it’s a solo game through and through. It’s a fun puzzle type of game as you are trying to escape or sort a dream before the nightmares can get you. But to do that, you need to play down colored cards in pairs of three of the same color, you just can’t have the same symbol back to back. And beware the pesky nightmares, that can ruin a good hand or will you push your luck in other ways to deal with the nightmare? The game plays fast, and app for it is great, but I like playing it with the physical game, even though there can be a lot of shuffling. There are also a lot of expansions/variations that you can play out of the box as well, so it gives you good variety in the game.
9 – Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
The name is a mouthful, but the game offers a lot of interesting fun solo. In it you play as Harry Dresden and two other characters when solo and you build out a hand for each of them. So really it’s a multihanded game at that point, but compared to the normal three player game, I believe that you end up with less cards to work with, and in a game where cards are at a premium, it makes is very tough still even with perfect information. The game is definitely a puzzle to be solved at that point in time, and with a few lucky die rolls maybe it’ll be an easy solve, but you never know. If you’re a Dresden Files fan, I’d say that it matches the books well, if you’re not, I think the game is interesting, but probably not as strong.
8 – Welcome To…
This flip and write offers you an interesting game that you can do solo as you build up your perfect Stepford, I mean perfect town. It does one thing that isn’t my favorite in a solo game, it’s a beat your best score sort of game, but it works well as a solo game. You have a lot of choices to make as you have to use two cards from a combination of three. Now, this is the solo mode that comes out of the base box, I do believe that they created another solo variant for the game at a later time that might be even better or give you another challenge for winning besides just trying to beat your best score. It’s a good solo filler game.
7 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
This is the game that a future game on the list is loosely based off of, but this one holds up well on it’s own. In this game you construct a deck for your investigator and then you send them off to investigate some weird goings on and solve the mystery that is happening. I like it solo because as compared to some where you are just trying to beat a point total, in this one, you have a clear objective and with only one player, the game moves along really nicely. I have played this one player and two player, and while two player is fun because you can share the story, at one player you have no downtime. And there’s a ton of content for this, so you’re not likely to ever run out of material to play in the game.
6 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
One of a few deck builders or deck constructions games, Aeon’s End: War Eternal is a really fun game and works really well solo. On Malts and Meeples, I played through a game of it solo and it worked well to play it two handed. You can play up to 4 breach mages, but I think that two works fine and is easy to keep track of. But because you aren’t shuffling the decks that are being built ever, it keeps the downtime of not playing the game to a minimum because you’re always just flipping for the next turn. The game has a lot of cool mechanics, and I think that the not shuffling the deck is one of the coolest, and I really like the turn order mechanic as well where you’re just flipping from a deck so you never know who is going to go next.
5 – Xenoshyft: Onslaught
I’ve played this one solo, kind of, I’ve played it solo in the app, and while the game worked well solo, the app is horrible and I’d strongly recommend not playing it that way. It definitely doesn’t work on a phone and maybe would on a tablet. But it’s a game that you can find and have a variety of how you play it depending on which character you pick. I expect that it’d be more challenging solo, though, you only have to make it through 3 rounds at each difficulty level. The downside is that the health of your base is way lower. The game offers good challenge and I like the somewhat silly nature of the game because it reminds me of Starship Troopers and a bit of Ender’s Game as you’re defending a base against bug monsters.
4 – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
The downside to putting this one on the list is that it’s going to be extremely hard to find. It was a Kickstarter at the end of 2018 that delivered at the end of 2019. There are going to be some copies on eBay, but I’d expect them to be expensive, but I really like this game solo. It’s a massive story driven survival game where you are sent out from your little farming village after the real heroes of the town have gone out and not come back. Can you fend off the Wyrdness that is creeping across the lands of Avalon and solve the mysteries that the game presents to you. The game is done in chapters, and I find the chapters to be a solid bite of the game that you can play in a sitting or two and get interesting and good story. It’s going to be spendy, but it’s really good.
3 – Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
When you want a mystery to try and solve, Mansions of Madness: Second Edition gives you that. I have played this solo once I believe, and I thought it worked pretty well. Board Game Geek users don’t think it’s bad at one, they just like it at higher player counts, and I think the most heavily story driven games I find that to be true, but it works well in a pinch. As you’re playing against the app which is laying out the mystery, you might find that you’re not having enough time to do everything, and that’s even the case with multiplayer. The app lays out the board and mysteries as well, so even if you’ve played a scenario once and lost, you can play it again and you’ll notice little things that are different about it. I really like this game, and because of the app integration, it’d be a really good solo game.
2 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
I’ve played this one solo a few times and while I’ve only beat it multiplayer, that is because I was learning it more so playing it solo. The game is a lot of fun, you feel like the superhero that you’re supposed to be playing with the actions that they have and equipment. The deck building aspect is interesting as well because you can really change up the character with the aspect that you give them, maybe you want Iron Man to be defensive or a leader or aggressive, by swapping out some of the generic cards, you’re able to build the character so that they focus in a unique way. If you’re a Marvel fan and a board game fan, I’d say that this game is a really good choice, and the solo mode for this time works extremely well.
1 – Gloomhaven
This is one of them that I haven’t played solo, but you can, even though you need to play it two handed solo. I can see the solo working really well and I know it’s very popular solo, because you can really work on synergies and strategies that you might not be able to do in a multiplayer game. They recommend in the rule book for solo that you play up a level of difficulty for that reason because you’ll know precisely how fast both the characters are going. Now, with Gloomhaven , playing is solo, I’d say that the Gloomhaven Helper app is a must, and I’d even think the Foreteller app with the 51 base Gloomhaven scenarios and coming soon the side scenarios being read to you, it’d offer more feeling of discovery and immersion. Now, Gloomhaven is, of course, massive, so I’d recommend getting an organizer and even leaving it set out if you can.
What are some games that you like to play solo? I know that I have more on my list, such as Aeon’s End Legacy, Folklore The Affliction and 7th Continent that I need to play. Plus there are games like Sword & Sorcery and Legends of Andor that’d work well solo but didn’t make the list for me. Now is really the time if you can dig into a bigger adventure game to tackle one of those solo as we probably won’t be able to have many in person gaming experiences for a while.
Are there any games that I should checkout for solo play? Do you think that any listed don’t work well solo?
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