While there is ample crossover between fans of tabletop games and video games, finding a game that has successfully crossed the border from one medium to the other is difficult. The formats they each use are fundamentally quite different, and adapting one into the other usually requires undergoing a lot of changes and potentially losing the core of the original.
Due to this, most gaming franchises simply resign themselves to slapping their name on a Monopoly board and calling it a day. However, occasionally, the right board game producer will win the rights to a beloved franchise and pull something exceptional out of the bag that everyone can enjoy. A tabletop experience that captures the essence of the video game in question creating a game that players can enjoy regardless of how well they know the source material. These 8 tabletop games best exemplify their video game counterparts.
8 – Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game
Portal is a game with an instantly recognisable style. The clean and pristine white of the chambers contrasts with the little silhouetted workers in a quirky style that fits the game’s dark humour. Turning this into something physical was a no-brainer, and this Portal tabletop game does a great job of keeping the tone of the games consistent. At its core, this is a game about screwing each other over as much as possible, but it’s always in a kind of petty way.
The game’s board is made up of multiple chambers, which players move their workers through while placing new ones on the board. At the end of every turn, a section of the board falls away and gets placed at the other end of the board. Whoever had the most workers on that space when it fell gets rewarded, potentially with slices of cake. These slices of cake must be placed on the board somewhere and can be picked up and moved by both teams. So, if the opponent moves some of your cake onto a space that falls away, it’s gone. The movement and strategy are fun, with a little bit of portal action to add layers to things. It’s a game of petty revenge that’ll bring laughs out of both players when things go wrong.
7 – Small World of Warcraft
Normally, when a franchise slaps its name onto an existing popular board game, it’s little more than a cheap cash-in, but Small World Of Warcraft proved that it isn’t always the case. Small World is already a fantastic strategy/management game. Players control multiple races and gain points each turn depending on how much territory they control. If a race is getting beaten, players can give up on it and get new races on the board with new special abilities. It makes for a constant back-and-forth between players vying for control that very frequently comes down to the wire.
Small World Of Warcraft gives this a nice WoW flavour. It doesn’t make many changes to the Small World formula; however, it does just enough to feel like a proper standalone expansion rather than a cash-in. The board is more modular than the original, which can be nice for replayability. Additionally, it was clearly made with care for the lore of WoW. Special abilities make sense and the races all feel like genuine versions of their counterparts.
6 – XCOM: The Board Game
This game, designed for four players, is a real-time resource management game set in the world of XCOM. Interestingly, rather than making some kind of battle sim in the XCOM world, with its turn-based combat style, it went for the other side of gameplay and focused on the base-building and researching side. It seems like an odd decision on the surface, but it makes for a unique experience that feels true to the games but is still something new.
Each player takes one of four roles. The Commanding Officer runs the game using the app, places UFOs on the board and sets up satellites to help defend against UFOs. The Chief Scientist assigns new tech to be researched to strengthen the XCOM cause. The Commander is in charge of managing the group’s finances, resolving Crisis Cards and launching Interceptors. Finally, The Squad Leader deploys the XCOM soldiers on missions to quell panic and gain rewards.
The game is run through an app, and players are constantly under pressure from a ticking timer. This makes efficient communication essential, and everyone goes back & forth to push back against the aliens.
5 – This War of Mine: The Board Game
A dark and honest examination of how ordinary people can do horrible things to survive in a war-torn world, This War Of Mine has an unapologetically dreary tone and an atmosphere of a constant struggle against the world. This game is a close tabletop adaptation of the video game. While some things are tweaked to work better in the format, it stays true to the basic gameplay loop of the video game, making it a more tactile and slightly more strategic experience.
Players must manage their extremely limited resources to sure up their shelter, create tools and patch up the mentally and physically wounded to keep your group of survivors warm, feed and safe until the war is over. This involves sending able-bodied survivors out on missions to gather more resources. Some of these will be clean-cut raids on bandits, but more often than not, some unique characters and scenarios will be encountered. These involve difficult choices that require balancing morals and basic human needs that will force players to interrogate themselves and how they view war and those suffering from it.
4 – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice
A big box for a big price, this is a legacy-style game that will keep players going for a very long time. Players each take control of one of four brand-new assassins, each with unique abilities, as they look to expand the Assassin’s influence in Renaissance Venice. With tonnes of figures and some rather lavish components, it’s a luxurious game (which the price tag attests to), but it’s a fantastic experience for Assassin’s Creed fans. It has some great stealth elements that take a bit of getting used to but are tons of fun when pulled off properly; creating tense standoffs as someone might be seen, as all hell breaks loose.
Story has never been a strong suit of the franchise and this is no exception. It’s nothing bad, but nothing special either; however, it’s not particularly important as the missions are fun enough on their own that all players need is a goal and a direction. As with most legacy games, there are many missions and elements hidden away in boxes and envelopes at the start that will slowly get revealed as missions progress. It means the game is constantly adding to itself, and that’s not even counting the Rome and Tokyo expansions that are also available.
3 – Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn
There have been a lot of tabletop games under the Civilization banner over the years, going always the way back to 1980. A New Dawn is the most recent one and will be most satisfying to players familiar with the modern entries in the video game franchise. Unlike previous Civilization games, the map is modular and assembled from sets of tiles before the match, giving a greater amount of replayability. The game also has great systems for including things like Barbarians and City-States, features that were somewhat pushed to the side in previous iterations.
A board game can never truly accomplish the grand scope of a 4X strategy (because there is too much complicated math involved with those), so this game steers away from simply being a lesser imitation. Rather than letting players loose to conquer the world however they see fit, each player will be given a random victory condition at the start of the game. While some players won’t be a fan of this kind of restriction, it stops people from spreading themselves too thin or giving them too much to worry about. It manages to stay true to the feel and fundamentals of Civilization, while successfully adapting the formula to work in a tabletop setting.
2 – Fallout
Bethesda RPGs are known for two things: Insanely deep lore, with endless interesting side-quests, and being just a little bit janky. Behold, the Fallout board game, which kind of does both, although mostly the first one. There are many valid criticisms of this game, but for fans of Fallout, they won’t matter. The levelling up systems can be a bit much and trigger at really annoying times, but for board game fans who like working that stuff out (and a fair bit of reading), it’s all by the by. The main draw of this game is how wonderfully it captures the questing and side-questing that make Bethesda RPGs so hard to put down.
Like any of their games, you start out in this one with a single objective that will take the whole game to complete. Then, as you begin to explore, you’ll find new areas with new NPCs that give new side-quests to get distracted with. Unlike in the video games, players will still have to take steps toward completing the main quest along the way, but that feeling of one goal expanding into many alongside the world is captured perfectly.
1 – Dark Souls: The Board Game
To say Dark Souls is famous for its difficulty would be an understatement. The franchise was so innovative and popular that it spawned a whole new genre based on its core mechanics. Turning this slow-paced and tough push through area after area with constant set-back and off-the-cuff decision making as to whether to push forward or retreat back to safety was a tall task. This game does a really good job of it, though.
This is a dungeon-crawling game where each room is only revealed when players enter it. Inside can be a few smaller enemies, a mini-boss or eventually, a proper boss. Several of these bosses are iconic fights from the games, and they all have incredibly well-made and detailed figures to go with them. Fights are turn-based, and each player must decide where they’re going to move and how they’re going to attack, and everyone has a stamina bar to worry about alongside their health. Each fight requires clever strategy and no enemy will be easily brushed aside, meaning players are constantly on edge.
Much like in the games, there is a bonfire system, where players can retreat in order to heal, level up & upgrade their gear. However, doing this respawns the enemies in the dungeon. It’s a brilliant push and pull of going forward as far as possible before running back, healing up and coming back stronger than before. It’s a brilliant adaptation of the Soulslike ethos that accounts for the different settings of a tabletop, multiplayer experience over a video game, single-player one.