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Board games have been making a resurgence lately—and it’s not just classics like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. Interestingly, many new games released in the past few years have taken their inspiration from an entirely different kind of game. Board games based on video games might seem like a strange concept, but it can work really well. Grab one of these games from your favorite game store, and you’ll be hooked!
Fantasy Flight’s Gears of War is a two- to four-player game that sees players cooperating to fight off the Locust horde and complete specific objectives, just like in the classic first-person shooter. Although Gears isn’t generally considered to be much of a strategic shooter, the board game manages to combine action with enough strategy that it will appeal to just about everyone.
It takes a while to set up, and you’ll need at least one playthrough to get the hang of it, but once you get going, it’s a ton of fun. The missions in the game are highly varied, giving the game a lot of replay value, and the battles provide more tension than you’d expect for a board game.
Another great entry from Fantasy Flight, the tabletop version of Civilization will appeal to long-time Civ fans as well as newcomers to the series and board game enthusiasts. The idea of the game is the same as it has been in all Meier’s previous games: take your civilization from a fledgling, backward village to the foremost empire in the world.
As in the real-time strategy game, you’ll get to choose whether you want to focus on culture, war, technology, or amassing wealth, each with its own unique challenges and path to victory. With a wide variety of different game mechanics, Civilization might take a while to learn, but no two games will ever be the same.
Although deck building games are technically card games, and not board games, they’re usually included in the same category, so Resident Evil gets a mention here. If you’ve played Ascension (one of the best card games on iOS) or Dominion, you’ll know what I mean by “deck building”: you build a deck of cards as the game goes on and use those cards to try to win—in this, by staying alive in the face of an onslaught of Infected.
Not many board games have different game modes, but Resident Evil has three: story, mercenary, and versus. In each of them, you’ll need to collect weapon, ammo, item, and action cards to help you stave off the undead assault, and you’ll need to do it quickly, before your opponents grab those cards first!
Yet another Fantasy Flight game (seeing a pattern here?), StarCraft is based on one of the most popular real-time strategy games of all time, and the transition to the board is a successful one. The “board” is actually modular, and players get to choose where to place planets, making for a fun setup process that can vary quite a bit from game to game.
After choosing a faction from the Protoss, Zerg, or Human races, players compete to meet victory conditions specific to their faction or by gaining enough victory points from controlling planets on the board. Researching new technologies to improve combat decks, executing orders, thwarting opponents’ plans, and careful planning of turns need to be successfully combined to earn victory.
(Author’s note: this game is crazy expensive on Amazon, but you can find some better prices on eBay. It’s a popular game that’s hard to come by, so you might have to shell out to get it!)
In addition to your favorite alien-invasion-defense themes from the XCOM video game series, the board game adds a unique feature in that it requires the use of an app or online tool to control the actions of the aliens in the game. The app will randomly choose an invasion strategy, choose which intel gets transmitted to the players, and can also alter the phases in each turn, creating new and unique challenges. It also allows players to take on three different difficulty levels (though “extremely unforgiving” isn’t one of them).
Through attacking the alien fleet, deploying soldiers to complete missions, researching alien technology, and managing your resources, up to four players will work together to repel the alien invasion and save the Earth from certain doom. Did I mention that this is yet another game from Fantasy Flight?
To win this game as either the Founders or the Vox Populi, you’ll need to take control of as much area as possible while completing objectives and dealing with the issue of Booker and Elizabeth running around wreaking havoc. By stealing objectives, assassinating leaders, influencing decisions, and destroying strongholds, Columbia will be yours.
Although this game is stated as being playable by two to four players, you should note that a four-player game is just a two-on-two team game, so this is probably best for two-player action. Beyond that, though, it’s a fun way to reimmerse yourself in the BioShock Infinite universe.
The Arkham video games are fantastic, and this board game continues the streak of fun Batman-inspired action. If you prefer to play as the villains in video games, Arkham City Escape will let you do the same thing in board form. One player plays as Batman, while the other takes control of 20 different villains trying to make their escape from Arkham—when Batman apprehends a villain, a battle ensues to see who comes out on top.
Batman earns points by re-capturing villains, and the villain player earns points by helping them escape. According to the game designer, the challenge lies in winning as Batman . . . but if you like the Joker or the Riddler more than the dark knight, you might prefer to play the “easier” side anyway!
Designed by the same crew that made the hugely popular Portal video games, the board game maintains the same sense of humor that contributed to the original games. “The Lab is an ever-changing conveyor belt of death and dismemberment,” according to Cryptozoic Games, and you’ll need to teleport your test subjects around to keep them alive (or not).
When one of the lab rooms plunges into oblivion at the end of your turn, you have the chance to earn rewards for the test subjects that perished, potentially including cake. But you’ll need to protect your cake after you earn it, as your opponents will try to steal it and leave it to perish with the lab rooms!
Most of the games on this list take their inspiration from recent video games, but Boss Monster is different. Instead of leaning on a single game for its content, it takes inspiration from an entire genre of games: old-school 8-bit dungeon crawlers. Instead of playing as the hero, though, you’re the boss monster!
Build your dungeon and fend off heroes that are coming to kill you to win the game, but be careful; your opponents will be casting spells that help the heroes in your dungeon, and the heroes get stronger as the game progresses! This is one of my personal favorites among all table games, and I highly recommend it. (I also recommend the Tools of Hero Kind expansion, as it makes the base game a bit more balanced.)
And don’t miss the entire Boss Monster bundle, which includes Boss Monster, Boss Monster 2, Tools of Hero Kind, and 14 bonus cards!
Your Favorite (Video) Board Games
These are some of the best board games based on video games out there, but there are plenty more available. Let us know in the comments if you’ve played any of these or if your favorite didn’t make the list! If you have recommendations for other great games, let us know so we can try them out.