When doing lists for different types of board gamers, that is easy for me, I’ve got a lot of games that I love and recommend. But I don’t want to just do board game lists, I want to come up with things for people who …
Tag: Lord of the Rings
I’ve done a competitive person games list for that person who might be just a bit too competitive. Yesterday I did a stocking stuffer list. Today I’m looking at games for that person who loves to work together and like cooperative games. Dead of Winter …
We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find here):
- These are my favorite, you want what people consider best, see the Board Game Geek Top 100
- If a game you love isn’t on the list, it might be be coming, I might not have played it, and if I have, it’s 101
- If a game looks cool, I have links to buy it from CoolStuffInc or Amazon, or you can grab most at your FLGS
- There are a few games, Destiny 2 Player versus regular Destiny where if they are basically the same thing, I only do one of them
Now, I like Small World of all varieties so the other might be higher on the list, but Small World Underground does a lot of fun things. Mainly, I like that it adds in some new combinations and it adds in landmarks or buildings that if you control the area, you get a certain added power. It encourages even more fighting but also keeps it from picking on a player. If you aren’t familiar with Small World, it’s a nice introductory style area control game, I like to call it Risk but fun, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, you have fun and goofy combinations and you still get all of that in this version as well, it just adds in a little bit more, which is a lot of fun.
Last Year: 65
First party game on the list, and as a spoiler, there aren’t a ton of party games. But this one is a classic party game that I think works well still. What I like is that with the randomness of picking different lists and rolling to see what letter you get, and just playing with a different group, you can really see a wide variety of answers. I also like this one because it’s extremely easy to play on Zoom or over video chat. You just need one person with the game and everyone else with paper and pencil. You just show off the list and the letter each time and let people work off of that, it makes it a lot of fun and works extremely smoothly.
Last Year: 69
88. The Hobbit
This game is a pretty simple game, but one that I think is pretty fun, what I like about it is that it’s a semi-cooperative game and I think one that works. You are trying to collect the most gems possible, all while getting to the end before Smaug comes out of the Lonely Mountain and makes it to Lake Town, but the member of the party who has the most gems and money is the winner of the game. So you’re leveling up and then facing off against challenges, but if everyone can’t handle the challenges, that means that Smaug is going to advance and you don’t want that happening. So it’s trying to help people level up their skills enough, but also making sure that you’re in position to get the most and the best gems. I think the combination works and the game plays pretty fast for looking like it has a pretty big board.
Last Year: Not Ranked
Some games are extremely challenging and have a lot of moving parts, this is one of those games, in fact it can feel like there is more going on with upkeep throughout the game than playing the game, for some people, but I like it, not the upkeep, but the game in general, as it’s my number 87. In this game you can play through a series of tied together campaign story as you try and survive in a habitation station on Mars, which The Martian, or you can play one off scenarios that are focused on different things, getting the habitation station up and running or you can go out and explore the planet. The variety of the game works nicely and it feels like there is always more to do than you can. reasonably get done. It’s a good challenging game that might not be for everyone, but is a lot of fun.
Last Year: 72
So just higher than a big heavy game, we have a small little abstract game. This one is a lot of fun because of how simple it is. You want to get to the opposite side of the board. To do that, you move your pawn one space in any direction on your turn, or you place a wall that creates a blocker for your opponent. And that’s the game, but there’s more to the game than that, as you try and set-up traps and let the other person get close and then make them back track a long ways, it’s a very interesting game and one that plays quite quickly. I think it works good at two, but I like it at four because there’s a bit more randomness to the game as you have to plan and keep track of more, but there’s also more teamwork that needs to happen as you need to work to stop people at times.
Last Year: 73
Now we’re back into bigger games with Root, an asymmetrical war game, basically, with different factions of woodland creatures vying to complete their goals in order to win the game. I like how the different factions play, the cats are all about building up and out, the woodland creatures need to take over areas and don’t start really with a board presence, the birds follow a very specific pecking order (all puns intended) of actions that build up over time. And the Vagabond just builds up their own things and can ally with people or become enemies of them. The game has an extremely long teach as you need to explain how each faction works, and that’s definitely a negative for it, but the actual actions and how to play each faction is pretty straight forward. It’s a big game but one that’s very cute on the table and doesn’t bog itself down when it comes to game play, which is a lot of fun.
Last Year: 70
84. Age of War
Age of War is a small little dice game where you are trying to get the correct combinations on your dice in order to get control of castles, creating sets of them, and scoring points. It’s basically a luck based dice rolling game, but there’s something about it that just works for me. First, the game doesn’t generally take too long. If everyone is unlucky, getting the last castle could take a bit, but I haven’t really seen that happen and turns are very fast. What I like about this as compared to just a random die rolling game like a Farkle or something along those lines is that when you get a castle, it isn’t yours, it could be stolen from you, but it’ll cost just a bit more in terms of dice that you need than it did to take it from the middle. But if you get a full set of the yellow, or grey, or whatever color castles, they flip over and give you a few more points and are locked in for you and can’t be stolen. So if you see someone getting close to a set, it could be worth it to steal from them. That just gives the game a little bit more strategy which is a lot of fun.
Last Year: Not Ranks
If you want to play a Star Wars dungeon crawl, this is the game. You play through as heroes adjacent to the main story of the original movies, at least out of the core box, as you can be a Jedi in training, a wookie, or one of several other characters and you face off against the Empire. This game can be played with someone running the Empire side or, which I’ve done, there is an app that works well with a good tutorial that walks you through everything so you can play solo. I like that flexibility for the game play, and I like that it feels like Star Wars without it being so closely tied to the main characters or feel like you’re changing the movies, but it still gives you an engaging story. Overall, this is one that I want to play more of.
Last Year: 30
82. Ticket to Ride
Dropping down a bit this year, I still like Ticket to Ride a lot, it is just a bit lower on the gateway game list. This is one of my preferred gateway games, though, and it gives a lot of options for play. I think that it works well for introducing people and while there is some to keep track of in the game as you are planning and building your routes, what you are doing on a given turn is extremely simple and that makes it very accessible. In terms of truly simple gateway games, this one takes the crown for me as the best of them that people have heard of and I can pull out with basically any group. It’s hard to say more about this one, most people know it, and it’s a fun time. Plus there are lots of different maps if you get board with the base game.
Last Year: 38
So, this one is higher than Star Wars: Imperial Assault, but it feels a bit like a sequel to it or one that is built upon it, and it has smoother game play, but it does one thing I don’t love. Just to quickly talk about it, you can play major characters from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it doesn’t make a ton of sense thematically, in my opinion, I wish they had gone with the archetypes like Imperial Assault did. That said, I like the game play, I like the card play and the deck construction and upgrading it gets that feels like it’s borrowed from Arkham Horror LCG, I think that the combat works well, and overall, it’s just a fun time. The story is cool, and while I haven’t beat it yet, I need to go back and start again and enjoy. I also like that there is part of the game that is on a bigger exploration map and you get to explore new areas, find clues, and things like that as well as fighting, but then there are tactical battles as well in between the explorations. The game feels like there is a ton it can do, so I want to play more. And it has an app that works very nicely.
Last Year: 94
As always, what is your favorite out of this group? I have quite a variety, we have some big games, some small games, party games, and gateway games. So possibly, a little bit of something for everyone.
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It’s that time of year again, and I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m doing and when I’m going to try and consistently do it from here on out. We’re doing my Top 100 Board Games of ALL TIME! Now, this is …
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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