18 July 2018
The best video game adaptations around at the moment.
Unplug and give those square eyes a rest: plenty of digital games have made the leap into the analogue world, but the results can be varied. If you’re looking for a high score, though, you won’t go wrong by getting the download on these.
1. Mechs vs Minions
Set in the universe of the ridiculously popular League of Legends, Mechs vs Minions doesn’t try to copy the inimitable gameplay of the multiplayer online battle arena game. Instead, it takes the team-based format as a leaping-off point for an electrifying series of co-op scenarios that see the powerful mechs fending off scores of the minions, with players programming their robots with series of command cards, Robo Rally-style. It looks great, plays beautifully and deserves a place not just among the best video games on the tabletop, but board games as a whole.
2. Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn
Sid Meier’s long-running series of computer strategy games was originally inspired by tabletop classic Civilization, so its own transformation into a board game was a homecoming of sorts. The latest effort based on the epic history-spanning series decided to go its own way with impressively streamlined card-driven gameplay and a play time that could be measured in minutes rather than hours. It’s not quite as grand or deep as past Civilization games, but A New Dawn may very well be the best of the bunch – it’s certainly the easiest to squeeze into an evening.
3. Bloodborne: The Card Game
Although not quite as high-profile as the board game based on its spiritual predecessor Dark Souls, Bloodborne: The Card Game is arguably the best tabletop take on the Souls series to date – little surprise given it’s a design from Blood Rage master Eric Lang. Set in the nightmarish city of Yharnam, Bloodborne sees players’ hunters competing to satiate their bloodlust by killing horrific monsters. The players have to work together to take down the powerful beasts, but are competing to collect the most blood. If they push their luck too far (or suffer a betrayal) and die, they lose it all. Dark, intense and challenging, it’s a bloody good time.
4. Mega Man Pixel Tactics
The original Pixel Tactics is full of references to retro games, so it was little surprise when one of video gaming’s icons made the leap into the head-to-head card-battler. Players have identical decks, but the card they select as their leader drastically changes how the rest of their cards function, opening the game up for plenty of strategic moves and tense matches. The turn-based battles are a far cry from Mega Man’s platforming, but Pixel Tactics’ core gameplay remains a joy and the ability to combine the sets together makes it a worthy contender.
5. XCOM: The Board Game
Bridging the gap between the digital and analogue worlds with its companion app, XCOM pits its human players against both the alien threat and time, with a ticking timer driving the real-time tension. It focuses more on the management aspects of the PC classic than its turn-based combat, but still manages to capture the excitement of deploying planes to intercept and shoot down UFOs, researching advanced tech, and assigning soldiers to missions. If you were unsure before, after a playthrough you’ll want to believe.
While not based on a single classic video game, Boss Monster channels the spirit of hundreds of retro games in its dungeon-building cardplay. Instead of crawling the dungeons yourself, you’re trying to dispatch hapless adventurers attempting to steal your treasure by creating ever more elaborate traps and monsters. You need more treasure to attract the would-be heroes to your dungeon rather than those of your rivals, but must be sure that they won’t survive and deal your big baddie a wound. Gamers will get a particular kick out of the boxes that the game and its expansions come in too, which parody iconic video game packages.
7. Doom: The Board Game
Just as the gore-splattered shooter returned with a bang onscreen, the tabletop revival of its mediocre 2004 board game adaptation refused to be ignored. One player takes control of the very forces of Hell, with the rest blasting their way through a series of missions as a team of hardened marines. Like the video game, it’s not exactly the deepest experience in the world – but you won’t care as you rip and tear.
8.Elite: Dangerous Role Playing Game
Set in the universe of the innovative sci-fi sandbox, the Elite: Dangerous RPG does a fantastic job of embracing the open-world nature of its digital cousin, allowing players to blast off into the galaxy and explore, fight or whatever as they please. A flexible character creation system and huge diversity of options make up for a slightly loose set of rules, with a simple resolution system – driven by a single d10 – making it easy for first-time roleplayers to jump onto the tabletop.
9.This War of Mine: The Board Game
Grim, distressing and unforgiving. This War of Mine: The Board Game is a faithful recreation of its virtual sibling and effectively delivers the same gut-punching oppressive atmosphere. Set during the Bosnian War’s Siege of Sarajevo, it’s an essential playing experience that shows that games can be more than just ‘fun’ – they can tackle tough subjects to tell real, important stories.
Post-apocalypses aren’t hard to find in games, but the nuclear-scarred wasteland of the Fallout roleplaying games remains a uniquely enticing end of the world to venture across, discovering hidden vaults, mutated creatures and fellow survivors who may or may not be trusted. The board game boils down the RPG elements into an entertaining couple of hours, with a clever deck of story cards allowing actions and decisions to have a real impact on future events during each playthrough. The competitive rules are a little iffy, but if you’re happy to just explore a radiated landscape, few games have done it better.
This article was featured in the July 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.