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…
Tag: Lord of the Rings
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 themed around an IP, we’ll have to see which IP’s make the list.
10 – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Do you want to play through the Harry Potter books? That’s what Hogwarts Battle gives you as you can play from Ron, Hermoine, Neville, or Harry himself as you go up against he-who-shall-not-be-named. Though, you need to deal with the likes of Crabbe and Goyle, Quirrel, and others first. To do that, you need to build up your deck so that you can deal with the threats before the plans of the villains get too tough to deal with and you lose the game. The game grows in complexity as you advance through the various books until you get your NEWT’s and you can specialize your skills even more. And there are more challenges that you need to tackle. There’s even an expansion to add in some of the monsters that live in the forest and Luna as a playable character as well.
9 – Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate
D&D Theme here which is kind of odd to have a game that’s based on an RPG and Video Game. But there’s a game that is actually based on Betrayal at House in the Hill. In this game you’re going to explore the city of Baldur’s Gate and there are odd things going on, crazy events, and omens, and items. Eventually someone is a traitor and everyone is going to have to deal with their betrayal. You get that classic D&D sort of feel as you have all your different character classes that you can play and all of them do something special that makes sense for their class. The cleric heals, the wizard has magic missiles, and it’s a very fun time. While it is a big generic in terms of what people expect from fantasy now, the game is a lot of fun and more balanced than Betrayal at House on the Hill.
8 – Lord of the Rings
There are a number of Lord of the Rings games, this isn’t the Living Card Game or Journeys in Middle Earth, this is the game that came out in 2000. This one is all about playing cards in a such a way that you can complete legs of Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring. It allows you to go on that journey and play as Pippin, Merry, or Fatty Bolger if you’re playing with five players. It’s fairly abstracted but overall a bunch of fun and punishingly hard as you reach towards the end of the game. The artwork in the game is beautiful and fully cooperative, though, there is a Sauron expansion where someone can control Sauron.
7 – Hats
Not all games with an IP are going to have a ton of theme to them. Hats is definitely one of them as you’re trying to create you best collection of hats. Now, that’s all around the Madd Hatter’s tea party and his hat collection and which hats you should be wearing, but it’s really a card based game where you are collecting hats and trying to set yourself up to score the best that you can. It’s a fun abstract game with a vague Alice in Wonderland aesthetic to it, but that’s about it. It’s a fun fast game that has some clever things around it when you consider which hats you’re trying to collect and which you’re playing down that might help your opponent. Definitely a stretch for an IP, but technically it has one.
6 – The Grimm Masquerade
There are a few of these that are using public domain IP’s. The fairy tale characters that you get in this hidden role game are all out there for anyone to use, but they are a theme that has been added to the game from a previous work. In Grimm Masquerade, you are at a masquerade, unsurprisingly, and you are trying to figure out who all the other players are. You do that by giving them gifts and taking a gift for yourself. If you’re Cinderella you want to get a glass slipper, but there is one that is going to be bad for you and if you get that, it outs who you are as a character and you’re out for the round. But you don’t have to just give gifts, you can accuse as well. And if you correctly guess who someone is, you get more points. There’s an interesting amount of strategy to this generally lighter style of game.
5 – Star Wars: Rebellion
Star Wars in a box, this game is all about playing that original trilogy and seeing of the Empire is able to find and destroy the rebel base or if the rebels are able to sabotage the empire’s plans and outlast them. You get to play with iconic characters and write your version of the trilogy. Maybe it’ll be Yavin that gets blown up or Endor. Will the rebels capture Darth Vader, or maybe the Emperor himself will be leading the Death Star into battle. It’s a big game of cat and mouse that takes a while, but it feels like a Star Wars movie each time you play it.
4 – The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
Probably one of the more abstracted games on the list, the theme still comes through well, especially if you’re familiar with the books. You are taking your team of investigators, combatants, and possibly werewolves to try and solve the case from a given Dresden Files book. Each book has it’s own balance of advantages you can get, obstacles you can overcome, and most importantly cases to solve and villains to beat. If you can solve more cases than there are villains left, you win, but you might be dealing with the final encounter where you can use some abilities, but hope that you got things close enough so that with a lucky roll you can defeat that last villain you need to defeat or solve the last case at the last minute.
3 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
One of two Lovecraft games on the list, and since you haven’t seen the other one, you know that it is going to be higher. This game allows you to play through scenarios, trying to avoid going insane and be able to solve the mystery presented before you with basically just cards and a few tokens. It has some good mechanics some of the randomness and mechanics, and I really like that you can tailor your experience where if you want to enjoy the story more, you can play on easy, if you want it hard, you can play at an extremely difficult level. It works well, with that, for like I said if you just want to experience the story or for learning the game, being able to play on an easier level.
2 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
The second game on the list based around Lovecraftian mythos and they come back to back. Mansions of Madness just does a better job with it’s app integration for doing the book keeping of moving the story along nicely. In both of the cases, you can play very different types of stories, but they are all set in the Lovecraft mythos, or at least adjacent to it. Lovecraft’s works were less pulp detective than the Fantasy Flight Lovecraftian games are, but it still has some of the theme of the monsters, and a game that is just about madness and dread wouldn’t work extremely well, you need something for the players to do.
1 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
Top spot goes to Marvel, this game a lot of fun, and it really uses it’s IP well. You have your superhero, Spider-Man for example, fighting Rhino. Well, if Rhino has been hitting Spider-Man too much, he can always flip over into Peter Parker, and Rhino will stop attacking and go back to scheming on his great plan to rob a bank. So it really feels very thematic and you come in with a web swing and kick Rhino to eventually beat him, it feels like you’re playing as Spider-Man. The art helps the theme as well, and even the graphic design on things like the “Tough” and “Stunned” cards have a great comic book look and feel to them.
There are a lot of fun games with good IP’s on them that don’t have to be a generic fantasy or sci-fi setting. A lot of these games, while some are a bit more complicated are going to be good things to get people who maybe aren’t big game players who really love a theme. I think that all of these are fun games, and I really wish, looking at the list, that I had some time to play some of them right now, but thankfully some of them, Marvel Champions, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle can be played solo, or with Lord of the Rings, my wife enjoys that game as well. There are a lot of good games with IP’s now after it just being generic roll and move games.
What are some of your favorite games with an IP?
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So I’m picking this one again because it’s one of my favorite themes and feelings in games. Also, the Dice Tower did a Top 10 list recently as well, so you can see how mine compares to theirs. But I am taking a slightly different approach to mine as they rejected some off their lists, that I’d put on mine. What I’m looking for can be some exploration, but also games where you feel like you’re going on with a journey through the game, whether it’s exploring, solving a mystery or puzzle, some sort of journey in the game. So let’s get to the list.
10 – Dead of Winter
The zombies have taken over and you need to find a cure, get enough fuel to move, or one of several more scenarios, but can you trust everyone in your midst? Probably not, and should they fully trust you, probably not. In this game you play as survivors of the zombie apocalypse who are just trying to survive against the horde of zombies in the town, but there might be a traitor in your midst. There’s a sense of adventure in this game as you feel like you’re playing through The Walking Dead or other zombie time story where it is more focused on the survivors and if you can really trust them. Plus, the crossroads cards offer you a lot of tough decisions to make as well, maybe you can save someone and add them to your team, but will there be enough food to feed them? You’ll end up having to make choices like that throughout the game, and often times with no easy answers or right choices for the colony.
9 – Star Wars: Rebellion
A massive around three hours long game, Star Wars: Rebellion pits the rebels against the Empire in a battle for the fate of the galaxy. Taking from the original trilogy, you feel like you’re playing through it but shaping it your own way. Can you crush the rebel fleets and find where there base in hidden? Or will they be able to sow enough descent around the galaxy that the Empire crumbles away. And you get to send major characters out on missions to places, maybe Han Solo will get captured by the Emperor or Darth Vader will lead troops into battle against Admiral Ackbar on Tatooine. You can rewrite the original trilogy in this adventure and you won’t know how the story will end up until you’ve played.
8 – Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
I was debating about this one on the list, is it really an adventure because it’s fairly abstracted away with trying to solve cases and fight bad guys just by putting tokens on them. But I feel like the puzzly nature of how you have to do that, and the fact it brings me back to the books and series, there is that sense of adventure for me as I get a chance to relive and play through those books myself. And there’s always a struggle to win in this game. Sometimes you can just win without getting into the final confrontation, but that’s extremely rare. Instead, so often you are hoping for a lucky last roll to take out the bad guy, which is thematic to the books, because through sheer stubbornness and sometimes force of will, Harry can prevail, and that’s how it works in the game as well. Less of a grand epic adventure than some, but still a fun one, especially for fans of the series.
7 – The Lost Expedition
Now, this is probably not a game that a lot of people would have thought of when they were thinking of an adventure game. It’s a small game, it’s only cards and very few tokens, and all you’re doing is going on a hike each morning and evening trying to make it to the Lost City of Z. However, there’s a sense of adventure to it as you are all cooperatively trying to play down cards in a way that makes sense without being able to communicate. But then, once the cards are down and your path is ready, you can all discuss as how to best go through it. It always feels like a close game and you have to decide when it’s worth it to sacrifice a guide in order to move ahead or to keep another guide alive. This game isn’t going to give you a big adventure, but it’s a fast adventure in a little package that won’t break the bank.
6 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
The first of a couple of Fantasy Flights Arkham Chronicles games, this one has a very interesting adventure feel from what I’ve played, which admittedly isn’t a ton of it yet, but you get the sense of exploring, just from the first scenario in the first box, a house that is being twisted and warped around you. Then in the second one, you get a chance to run around the town and look for cultists who might just be hiding in the shadows. And all of this builds, so depending on what you do, scenarios or perks you’ve gotten will change, so it feels like a big unfolding adventure. And I like that it doesn’t come in a massive box, it’s just cards with a few tokens and you can have an epic adventure.
5 – T.I.M.E. Stories
This one is interesting because there’s a smaller level of adventure in the game since each scenario is it’s own mystery or puzzle to solve, but it always feels like something new as you unpack what’s going on. You could be in a mental hospital at the start where a time incursion is about to happen or maybe a town that has been quarantined for some reason or in ancient Egypt. While you might know where your adventure is going to take you, you don’t know how it’s going to unfold or what body you’re going to be put into. I really enjoy this as an escape room type of engine where you have to figure out the puzzle in the box, but it’s not as straight forward as a lot of the Unlock and Exit style games are, because why they might be fairly consistent in what they do, T.I.M.E. Stories is not.
4 – Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
I need to play more of this adventure, but what I’ve played thus far has been great. There is just so much story happening, and it gives you a different sense of adventure because it adds in such a strong survival element as well. So not only are you going out into the land of Avalon and searching for ways to keep the land from falling into the Wyrdness, you have to figure out when to fight, when to run away, what path you want to go, the fact that there’s a branching story in a game that is so long and so big is pretty amazing. It’s also a really good solo experience. When a game offers you so many choices as to where to go, what to explore there, what you might run into, who you can help and side mysteries that you might want to check out as well, it’s very much an adventure game, and it’s one of the best I’ve come across.
3 – Betrayal At House on the Hill
Now, I know this game isn’t for everyone, but I love it. And for me it’s a great adventure game because I get to see what horror film I’m in. Am I going to be the final one standing in the end or the person who betrays everyone else. Will I have to play chess with death or maybe it’ll be the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I never know. Plus, I get to explore the house and have it unfold before me, and I never know in what room the haunt might happen, so I can basically always play a new scenario. I have Betrayal Legacy waiting for me at some point in time coming up here when we can start to get together in groups again, because I want to have the adventure of playing through a house year after year and watch the house change and unfold a new adventure. Now, I know that this game isn’t for some because it’s not always the most balanced, but I like that aspect as it works well in a horror setting because some horror movie monsters are just better than the college students.
2 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Adventure games don’t have to be on a super grand globe trotting scale, they can be in a small town or even in a mansion that is full of madness. But you’re unfolding a story and a mystery that gives me a sense of adventure because playing a scenario once, I don’t know what is going to happen and where cultists might show up or what my main goal is even sometimes. As the game unfolds that and explains it to you and as you unravel the mysteries, it just makes a great gaming adventure experience. And even if you play a scenario once, because of the app, you can go back and play it again and things might end the same, but the house will be set-up differently and there will be still be some adventure to the game. Mansions of Madness just really gives you that immersive experience of exploring and solving a puzzle/mystery unlike so many other games.
1 – Gloomhaven
I believe that this was left off someone’s list on the Dice Tower top 10, because it didn’t have enough exploring, though, I feel like Forgotten Circles expansion definitely has more of that feel. But I would argue that there is a sense of exploring through the story as you complete the various dungeons and you unlock more story and more places to go. Plus, even though you’re a mercenary team who keeps retiring, you still feel the progression of story and adventure that I’m looking for and love in a game. It has that RPG-lite feel to it with leveling up your characters and getting better at what you can do, so the whole thing feels like you’re taking those characters on epic adventures. While the mechanics for combat can be a bit crunchy as you figure out what tops and bottoms of cards to use and what order to play them in, the whole thing just works really well for me.
Now, I could have gone with more as well, Sword & Sorcery just missed the list. The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth or Lord of the Rings board game would work as well. Even something like Pandemic Legacy I considered for the list, but that one doesn’t give me as much sense of adventure. And I have more adventure games waiting for me to play, Apocrypha, Folklore: The Affliction, Aeon’s End Legacy and more are waiting for me to give into, plus more coming in the mail at some point in time like Oathsworn, Dice Throne Adventure (it says it in it’s name) or Frosthaven next year. So clearly I love these big epic sort of games.
How about you, what are some of your favorite adventure games? Are there any on the list that I should checkout?
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I’ve talked about a lot of games that are about that epic adventure for a small group of characters. Birthright is about epic things, but not on that smaller level. Birthright is about great leaders going to battle against other nations, probably with other world…
There are times when you stumble across a game on sale and you don’t know anything about it. But because of the theme or a look of the game, and how big the sale is, it is worth checking out. This was the case with The Hobbit game, I got it on a winter inventory clear out sale at a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store).
The Hobbit is a semi-cooperative game where players are bidding with dwarf cards to see how far they move on a board, but it’s done at the same time, each spot has a different skill or ability that you can raise the level of, so that when you reach locations in the Hobbit story. There you need to complete challenges, and the person who is doing the best gets first crack at them, but those challenges can be difficult and do you want to push your luck further into the pile to get more treasure early or hope to gain it late. At the same time, as a group you need to complete these challenges otherwise Smaug will advance towards Esgaroth (Laketown). You have to work together to make sure everyone is building up their skills, but you can’t discuss how you’re bidding. This leads to people getting something they don’t need at times or someone being under powered, so you have to be careful with that. But in the end, the dwarf with the most gems wins.
This game is interesting because it’s not that complex. You are playing a card, moving on a board, and getting skills. But the semi-cooperative nature adds in some depth to it. You want to get your skills high fast so that you’re able to collect more gems that’ll win you the game. However, if you do that at the expense of others, then Smaug is going to move more and that can cut short the game. So if someone hogs all the skills early in the game, they can get early gems but those might be worth less than later challenges which would give more gems so even in a short game trying to push the end you could still end up losing. For some people, this semi-cooperative nature isn’t going to work, but for me, and the times that we’ve played it, it’s been fun. Everyone can see what everyone else needs so you’re trying to be strategic getting the skills that you need, but not getting it too out of balance, and inevitably it does with someone being extremely cunning but having no power, and that makes it hard to beat some of the challenges. This semi-cooperative nature can be enhance by adding in the rule that if Smaug reaches Laketown the game is over and everyone loses.
A downside to the game is that it can be a little bit simple. I think the rule that everyone loses if Smaug reaches Laketown is almost needed in the game. Otherwise it can have someone rush to get as much treasure as possible and it’s possible that they will end up winning just because they are the only ones with enough skills. There is still luck with that, though, because to defeat these encounters, you are rolling dice and then supplementing with the skills that you have. I’ve pulled off a win by passing on all the smaller treasure encounters and only grabbing the big ones, and I’ve seen that cause people to lose as well if they get a really poor roll while going for those bigger treasures. I think that first blush the game can be a bit simple and the die rolls a bit too random for some people, but there is more strategy hiding in the game than one might expect.
Let’s talk about the theme a little bit. I think that the semi-cooperative nature works for The Hobbit because while Bilbo isn’t after anything more than an adventures, the dwarves want to get as much as they can and to take back the mountain for the riches that are in there. The greed is what is driving them, and that’s what drives the players in the game. You are trying to get the most gems, because that’s how you’re going to win. For that reason I’d say that it’s fairly thematic, but there’s also just this abstract push your luck piece to it as well. It’s a game that you can bring the theme into it, but one that won’t feel like it has as much theme as it might compared to some other Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth themed games.
Finally, let’s talk about the components. The artwork on the game is really nice. It’s very much art that was done before the movie, so if you’re expecting to see something that’s similar to that, it’s not going to tick that check box for you, but it’s classic Hobbit/Middle Earth art. But the game has plastic little gems which is what really makes it shine on the table. They are very cute and actually very thematic because as players, you want to have the games just to play around with. It’s the same mold that’s being used for other games, like Century: Golem Edition. Beyond that, it’s just a well done production of a game.
Overall, this is a fun game. It’s a light game, as much as I liked to talk about how there is more depth than it first seems, it never has a ton of depth to it. Can you workout where you want to be and get that certain ability or land in a certain spot to make your dwarf better? There’s both luck of the dwarf cards that are dealt to you, which you use to bid, and luck as to what everyone else plays. But the game says it only takes 30-45 minutes, which seems right to me, and so for a lighter game, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I’d recommend this game to people who like Lord of the Rings/Hobbit/Middle Earth, as it has a decent thematic feel to it, and even if they aren’t gamers, it’s pretty easy to understand.
Overall Grade: B-
Gamer Grade: C+
Casual Grade: B
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