If you’ve not heard the term before, “Grail Games” refer to an out-of-print or really hard to find game. Unlike video games—which can easily stay around in a digital form—board games require physical components to be played on your tabletop. Due to the cost of printing and storage of games, it’s not unusual for games to go out of print and become very hard to find. This is especially true for licensed board games, which can’t even be reprinted once the agreement with the rights holder expires.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 10 Grail Games that have people constantly looking through dusty bins of thrift stores and garage sales hoping to find for a good price. If you don’t want to pay inflated prices on eBay, you need a healthy dose of luck to score one of these titles. Now, this is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list (or even in any particular order), just 10 games that we have trying to acquire for a long time!
10 Highly Sought After “Grail” Board Games
1. Hero Quest
This is actually the game that inspired me to make this list. Many gamers have a healthy dose of nostalgia when it comes to Hero Quest. For me, this was my first foray into the hack and slash genre and I have fond memories of playing this with my parents at the kitchen table during my youth. Recently Hasbro has decided to bring Hero Quest back using their Hasbro Pulse crowdfunding site with refreshed components (but the same set of rules). But in the meantime, many gamers are still on the hunt for this one.
2. Dark Tower
This game used a digital tower as the centerpiece of the game in an epic quest for players to recover an ancient magic scepter from the tyrant king. Published way back in 1981, the tower housed a small computer that actually did a lot of bookkeeping for the game. Not seen since the early 1980s, game publisher Restoration Games decided to give this one some new life with their Return to Dark Tower board game that was successfully crowdfunded to the tune four million dollars. Time will tell if this new version fills the need for gamers looking to relive the old days.
3. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit
Who would have thought that such a mediocre movie would spawn such a great game. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit is a dice chucker set during the climax of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. In this asymmetrical game, one player controls the trade federation forces attempting to wipe out all the troops in the palace. The other must hold off until Anakin can destroy the droid control ship. The game has players fighting in 4 theatoers of war at the same time and even boasts a 3D palace! Hasbro tried to bring this one back in a spin-off game call Star Wars Risk: Black Box, which was unfortunately just not very good. So for the time being, gamers will have to keep searching the secondary market for this one.
4. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
It’s hard to believe that this game is actually 12 years old, but I still remember the hype from its debut at Gen Con that year. It sold out incredibly fast and really brought the traitor mechanic to the forefront. Due to licensing reasons, I don’t ever expect publisher Fantasy Flight Games to give this one a reprint, so gamers hoping to root out the Cylons from their midsts probably won’t see much relief anytime soon.
5. Glory to Rome: Black Box
Glory to Rome has actually seen a number of printings, all with different art. Yet the most coveted of all is the Black Box version from Cambridge Games Factory. This version received a facelift from artist Heiko Günther. Yet there is a crazy history with this version (you can read up on it here) that pretty much guarantees it will never see the light of day again. Which is too bad, because it’s easily designer Carl Chudyk’s best work.
6. Black Lotus
This one is not so much a game as it is a card from a game. For those not familiar, The Black Lotus is a card from Magic: The Gathering that’s been around since the very first alpha edition. It has also been banned from play for about just as long. The card led to broken combos and rule changes but it also became a slice of history for Magic: The Gathering collectors. Just how in demand is this card? A recent sale of a near mint copy of it went for over $166,000!
7. Cave Evil
Cave Evil is an indie produced head-to-head skirmish set in an underground labyrinth. It’s a fantasy game of fighting, monsters, exploration, and even player elimination. The sheer craziness of the game makes it one of those that really has to be experienced to appreciate. The game can be random, fiddly, but it also is loved by many. And the art alone makes you want to put on some death metal music while you’re playing.
This under the radar title is one that definitely deserves a wider reach. It has a nice mix of card drafting, action selection, and resource management all combined into a city-building game. The game can actually be a bit of a brain burner, but overall it’s not hard to wrap your head around the mechanics in the game. Word has it that there is a reprint for Ginkopolis on the way, so maybe this one won’t need to be on this list for much longer!
9. Starcraft: The Board Game
Thirteen years ago, publisher Fantasy Flight Games took one of the most beloved RTS video games and turned it into a board game. While it wasn’t perfect, they definitely did the licensed justice as the Terran, Protoss, and Zerg duked it out for dominance over the galaxy. Starcraft has long since gone out of print and I wouldn’t expect to ever see it reprinted. And not only is the core game hard to find, but the Brood War expansion is just as sought after.
10. Star Wars: Epic Duels
I actually picked up a copy of Star Wars: Epic Duels at a goodwill store about 15 years ago for $2. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I love Star Wars and figured, what the heck, it’s only two bucks. Who knew that I’d be grabbing a great game of battle between various Star Wars heroes and minions. While the rules haven’t aged that well, it basically let us live out our fan dreams of having Luke and Leia fight Anakin, or Darth Maul take on Darth Vader. While I don’t ever expect to see this one come back, Restoration Games has taken the spirit of the game and brought it back in the form of their Unmatched Game System. Unfortunately, they don’t have the Star Wars license, but they are making some fun battles with it so far.
And that’s all for now. Do you have a grail game you’ve been long searching after? Let us know in the comment below.