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There’s something comforting about licensed board games. Learning yet another game’s rules can sometimes feel like an absolute chore, but when it’s for something you know, the familiarity you have with the thing it’s based on can be enough to see you through.
Although you can easily pick up a branded version of a classic game – like Risk: The Lord of the Rings Where Monopoly: Halo – and call it a day, there are plenty of awesome games directly inspired by popular franchises and series. If you’re looking to add another game to your sagging shelf and don’t mind something familiar, here are some board games we recommend you pick up that are inspired by video games, movies, and more.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest pop culture franchise of all time offers many different board games. The general vastness of star wars means there’s a lot of variation when it comes to what people like about the series – not to mention everyone’s different tastes when it comes to board games. To try and cover as many bases as possible here, we’re going to recommend our two favorites.
If you prefer strategy games, you’ll want Star Wars: Rebellion. You play as either the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance and command your respective armies to overthrow your opponent. As an Empire, you will be in charge of a powerful fleet, with the aim of sniffing out the rebel base and eliminating them. While the Rebels focus on swashbuckling operations, preferring to perform well-planned critical strikes to overthrow the Imperial forces. This may seem to be biased in favor of Empire, but you’ll be surprised at how balanced and constantly flowing games can be.
If your gaming taste leans more towards Hero Quest Where XCOM, Star Wars: Imperial Assault is an excellent strategic dungeon crawler. As the name suggests, you play as a rebel soldier tasked with undertaking a mission against the Empire.
Imperial Assault is like a stripped-down version of a tabletop RPG, where your success and failures will affect your next missions, and there’s enough wiggle room to role-play with the preset character given to you. Missions usually take an hour or two to complete, so it’s an easy pick-up and drop-off game.
Let the spices flow. Originally released in the 1970s, not to be printed until very recently, Dunes is a fantastic strategy board game. Whether your only exposure to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi universe is Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy adaptation or you’re a lifelong fan of the original novel series, you’ll enjoy these games.
You play as one of six factions – House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Bene Gesserit, the Padishah Emperor, the Fremen, and the Spacing Guild – as you vie for the power to control Arrakis. To claim your share as the rightful ruler of the desert planet, you’ll need to expand your territories and win battles. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.
For a game created over forty years ago, it lacks the tightness and polish of more modern board games, but that’s part of the fun. In our review of the game, we praised how great a game of Dunes East:
“I can’t remember the last time I laughed and gasped and swore like I was playing Dunes. The way alliances can be made and then broken, the elastic nature of basic victory conditions, and the betrayal behind every decision made it seem like every player was always one step away from victory but at the same time a battle of total ruin at the same time.”
Before his final season burns through the goodwill he’s earned, like a dragon’s fire on an army of Lannisters, game of thrones had a stranglehold on pop culture. And while some of us would like to forget parts of it, you can’t deny that when thrones it was good, it was very good.
During this period, we spent a lot of time playing the second edition of Fantasy Flight’s board game. Much like the source material, the purpose of A game of thrones is to secure your rightful place on the Iron Throne and become ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. To do this, you will play as one of the Great Houses and start planning a strategy to conquer Westeros by increasing your army and the territory you control.
It’s probably no surprise that table politics and stratagems play a major role in this game. If you don’t stab someone at the end of the game, then you’re not playing well.
A game can take a few hours and can be incredibly frustrating at times, but A game of thrones can be a rewarding experience that reminds you why we all fell in love with the series in the first place.
Based on the famous sci-fi horror film by John Carpenter, The Thing: Outpost 31 Infection perfectly captures the claustrophobic paranoia of its namesake. You play as one of 12 characters trapped on a desolate base in Antarctica, complete various missions and find out who has been infected before the outpost is overwhelmed by shapeshifting monsters.
It’s a cooperative game until it’s not. Secretly, a player will be a copycat in an effort to slow the spread of their infection throughout the base. As things heat up and contamination spreads, paranoia will set in and you’ll start judging everyone’s motives and actions. Nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired.
If you are a big fan of Betrayal at House on the Hill and how it suddenly turns one of your comrades into an opponent, you will have a great time with The thing – even if it causes serious trust issues between you and your friends.
This dungeon crawler is the dark souls board games.
If you’re a fan of tabletop RPGs, but can’t fully commit Dungeons & Dragons countryside, The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth is a happy medium. In Kotaku’s review of the game, we called it “a fast, streamlined dungeon crawler, a great way for a small crew to spend a night (or a few weeks, the app saves your progress, of course ) on an adventure together”.
Middle-earth-inspired board game lets you play as one of JRR Tolkien’s iconic heroes as you and your party adventure through the kingdom, visiting familiar places like Gondor and the Mountains Grey.
Journeys in Middle-earth uses a companion app to distribute quest scenarios while keeping track of your progress. The app also acts as a game master, so everyone has the chance to play as their favorite Middle-earth hero.
Based on Steven Speilberg’s iconic blockbuster, Jaws: the board game is designed for two to four players, with one of them taking on the role of the shark while the others can choose from Brody, Hooper and Quint. The game has two phases – the first takes place on Amity Island, where player characters must determine the shark’s location while rescuing swimmers from its toothy maw.
The second phase takes you to The Orca to face the monstrous Great White. Your success in the first phase will affect the second, and it’s entirely possible for the shark to kill his pursuers and emerge victorious.
The rules are fairly easy to learn and a game usually lasts around an hour, making this a great option for those who love board games but aren’t able to carve out a lot of time for themselves. Twilight Imperial, it’s not. The game itself is also quite compact, so don’t worry, you won’t need a bigger table.
If you are a fan of Mike Mignola Hellboy comic, you’ll want to pick this up. In this dungeon crawler, you play as a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and are tasked with solving cases straight from the comics. You’ll explore various locations where you’ll face occult threats, discover mysterious artifacts, and throw fists with dozens of gruesome monsters.
The rules are fairly easy to master and the game works as both a one-time adventure and an ongoing campaign. Hellboy includes fantasy miniatures of Big Red himself, various BPRD agents like Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, and a few monsters. The game also uses Mignola’s original comic artwork, which is always a sight to behold.