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…
Tag: Mansions of Madness
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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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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Another mechanic that I really love, action points/allowance is basically how many things you can do on your turn. Now, I want to say that this differentiates from something like Monopoly or Clue where you can do multiple things on your turn, possibly. I doubt…
After a busy Thanksgiving with a fair amount of driving, I’m back to posting. We’re onto Cyber Monday, but I don’t have anything that I’m really looking for, so let’s talk about some games that you can give to that solo gamer in your life, or possibly some games you can ask for if you are the solo gamer.
Aeon’s End: War Eternal – This one showed up on the epic list as well, but it works in both spots. I’ve actually only played this one solo, and I had a lot of fun with it. In this game you are playing as one or more breach mages (I’d recommend more as it’s easy to play multiple), who are defending the town of Gravehold from the monsters that are attacking it. It’s a cooperative deck building game with an interesting mechanic where you don’t shuffle your cards, so if you are smart, you can set-up a good turn. I’m not to that point yet.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game – While I think that Mansions of Madness can be good solo as well, it’s a big game, so it’s nice to have multiple players for helping track everything. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a smaller footprint of a game and really plays well solo. In multiplayer, between book keeping and turn down time, it might be a little bit slow, but as a solo game, you can go through the story fast. The story in this game works well, the only downside is that it’s a living card game, which means they are coming out with new story packs often.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger – Hence forth this game will be known as CYOA:HoD. But this is a really fun game and one that you can easily play solo. Now, with solo play, I think you lose some of the laughing around the table, but if you want to get through a game quickly, solo play is going to be great as you make choices going through the story and push your luck rolling the die. This game is really just a CYOA book with a little bit added to it, so you could just check out the book, but it’s a good time and works well in game form.
The Dresden Files: Cooperative Card Game – So many long names of board games to type out, but The Dresden Files is worth putting on the list as it’s a fun and challenging puzzle. This one is definitely for a fan of the series, though I do know of someone who played the game first and then read the series because of the game. It’s challenging to solve enough cases while beating enough bad guys, but if you have to come down to a roll at the end, it is every more tough. A well balanced game that does a good job of setting up different player counts and works well as a solo game.
Gloomhaven – Now, to be fair, I haven’t played this solo and I’ve loved it at a three player count. But I know of a lot of people who have played it solo and like it. This is a massive story driven dungeon crawl style game that plays a bit like a video game. It’s challenging, it’s grand, and to me, that’s probably the downside of solo. We just started using the app, but I can’t imagine not using the app if you are playing solo. There’s so much set-up and tear down, that without the app, it would be hard to manage everything, with the app, which is free, it shouldn’t be too bad. This is the spendiest game of the list, so just be aware of that if it sounds interesting.
Onirim – After the biggest game on the list, we have the smallest on my list. This game technically can play two, but it’s really a solo game. It’s a fun solitaire puzzle as you are playing down cards trying to find doors in your dreams, while also hoping not to pull a nightmare. If you do get a nightmare, you have a few choices of what to do, but none of them are good. It’s an abstract game, but it’s one that works well and it’s small so it’s easy to play solo in a lot of different settings. The version I got of the same comes with “expansions” as well, though I’d more call them modules that you can either add to your game or take out. They give a few new things that add to the challenge. Definitely a good small one for someone who might be interested in solo gaming.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Now, maybe you have someone who prefers Star Wars or at least Sci-Fi to fantasy, Imperial Assault is the game that they can solo. It’s a bigger game where you take your group of heroes through an app driven story. It’s a good dungeon crawl game, just with a fantasy setting, and it feels like Star Wars. In it, you are playing adjacent to the main storyline of the original trilogy, but it works well that way. What’s nice as well is that the app has a tutorial that gets you up and running also. Overall, it’s a fun dungeon crawl style game and for someone who doesn’t like fantasy, it’s going to be a great option.
Sword and Sorcery – But, maybe they do like fantasy, but Gloomhaven is just too much to jump into. Sword and Sorcery provides a good option for slaying monsters in this story driven dungeon crawl game. It has a good challenge level, though the treasures that you find can swing it to your advantage as time goes on. Definitely has a bit of a video game feel to it, and the death mechanic, in particular, works really well. This game offers a more limited campaign than Gloomhaven does, but at a much lower price, and it has monster minis as compared to cardboard standees like Gloomhaven. Definitely a fun, dice chucking, dungeon crawl game.
Unlock/Exit/Escape Room Games – I am basically putting a category here, but I believe that all of them can be played solo, I’d just double check on the box. Any of the escape room style games works well, because you are racing against a clock trying to solve a puzzle to escape a room, but instead of it costing $20 per person to go and play in a group in a physical location, you can get the same thing through Unlock or Exit for around $15. The games are challenging and a good time as you try and puzzle through how you can combine items to get what you want. I really like the Unlock games because they are non-destructive, which means that you can pass them on once you are done.
Village Attacks – Those pesky villagers are at it again, attacking you “peaceful” monsters with their pitchforks and torches. It’s your job to drive them back in this cooperative game. I had a lot of fun with this game in a group, but I think it’s going to be strong as a solo game as well, either controlling multiple monsters up against the villagers, since turns are pretty simple, or one monster holding them all off. It’s a bigger game again that requires some set-up, but once you get going, the game moves along nicely and offers a really good challenge.
Welcome To… – It’s hard to create a list without putting a roll and write on it as they generally offer you a chance to hit a certain score total. Welcome To… for me is the best solo play as it offers a good limited time crunch in the game, and forces you to make some tough decisions about what you’re going to do. The game also has more depth to it, which I think a lot of solo players will like as compared to some simpler roll and write games. The theming works in the game, but mainly it’s a fun puzzle to crack as you try and get your houses into order and build your perfect neighborhood.
There are a ton more games out there. Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, I’ve heard is a good solo experience. I know that Mage Knight is a game that people love to play solo, and I have several others sitting on my shelf that I haven’t gotten to yet, such as Tainted Grail. It’s a good time for solo gaming, and if you have someone who likes to relax and unwind with board games, some of these might be great options for them.
What is a solo game that you like? Are there any that I haven’t played or don’t have on my list that you think I should check out?
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It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the…