When it comes to board games themed around sports, there actually aren’t as many games as you might expect. It turns out pastimes like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey, while insanely popular, don’t always translate all that well to your tabletop. It could be that it’s not always easy to replicate the non-stop action of a sport in a turn-by-turn format. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any great options for gamers to check out. Today, we are going to look at my Top 10 Sports Board Games. And just to keep things interesting, I’ve excluded any dexterity games, making this a list more about strategic options.
Top 10 Sports Board Games
10. Thunder Alley
Published by veteran war game publisher GMT Games, Thunder Ally brings the excitement of stock car racing to your tabletops. If you are a fan of the drafting, teamwork, accidents, working laps, and pit strategies of NASCAR, Thunder Alley could be right up your…alley? It’s a card-driven game that does a great job of emulating the feel and strategy of stock car racing. This isn’t a quick-playing dice chucker, but a more tactical game where every decision is important.
9. Freshwater Fly
Is fishing a sport, something to do to relax, or an excuse to drink beer on a lake? The answer is “yes”, of course. Freshwater Fly is all about the sport of angling. Rod, reel, line, and hook merge together as you attempt to catch those elusive fish. Freshwater Fly is a dice drafting and set collecting game with a little bit of push your luck thrown into the mix. Higher valued dice typically earn you more powerful actions but accumulating lower dice totals can earn you free turns. Catching fish though is the main objective here as you try and achieve personal and common goals.
8. Formula D
It’s hard to believe that Formula D has been around, in some form or another, for 30 years! But this game of racing definitely has some staying power. Unlike in Thunder Alley, Formula D has a much simpler approach to things. Each player controls a Formula One race car and is trying to be the first to the finish line. Movement is handled through a series of dice, which higher gears for your car using bigger dice. It’s a great system that balances risk vs rewards.
7. Baseball Highlights 2045
It’s baseball, but years in the future where the rules have changed. Now, the game is shortened to 6 innings, and in addition to fully human players, there are also cyborgs and robots competing. Baseball Highlights 2045 is a hand management game built around this ages-old pastime. Its clever card system has you alternating playing cards with your opponent, trying to score runs. What’s interesting is that the card you use to counter your opponent’s action is then immediately used to try and score for you. It’s a natural back and forth system that works really well.
6. Techno Bowl (review)
It’s hard to be a child of the 80s and 90s and not have a soft spot for Tecmo Bowl. It was an arcade-style football game where Bo Jackson was king. Publisher Bombshell Games sought to bring that action to our tabletops with Techno Bowl: Arcade Football Unplugged. Despite being based on one of the simplest football games ever, Techno Bowl actually has a lot of depth. It’s a game of actions and reactions, all handled through a back and forth set of skill checks.
5. Blood Bowl Team Manager
I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of the Games Workshop behemoth Blood Bowl, but in 2011, Fantasy Flight Games published a little gem called Blood Bowl Team Manager. It’s not a game where you play an actual pitch or building a roster of star players to win matchups. It’s instead a game of deck building and area control with a ton of variety. It definitely takes the football concept and abstracts it into more of a manager role throughout the season, but there is enough variety here for many seasons.
4. Flamme Rouge
It’s a racing game, but on two wheels. Every player controls a team of bicycle riders as they attempt to be the first to cross the finish line. Each of the player’s riders will have their own deck that they use to control their movement, which will deplete as the game progresses. The gameplay even takes tactical elements of racing like slipstreaming into account to help your riders avoid exhaustion. Flamme Rouge is a great game that’s already supported by several expansions.
3. Trick Shot (review)
Finally, a game that gives us a great hockey experience without getting bogged down in the minutia. Trick Shot is an easy-to-learn hockey game that features some quick dice rolling action. Its dice system involves a bit of push your luck, as the more actions you take on a turn, the more difficult they become. The game is played over 3 periods, with each player getting 10 turns. Trick Shot also features minimal downtime as players get reactions when it’s not their turn. If you can find a copy of this gem, it’s worth grabbing.
2. Blitz Bowl (review)
What? No Blood Bowl on this list? That’s right, for me, I’d rather play Blitz Bowl most of the time. That’s because, while Blood Bowl is great, it’s more of a lifestyle game, rather than one to casually pick up and play every now and then. But that’s where Blitz Bowl comes in. It gives you a Blood Bowl like experience in a fraction of the time. The rules are really streamlined: take 3 actions, roll some dice, try and score a touchdown, or claim some challenge cards. Easy peasy. And of course, there is plenty of tackles, runs, and injured players to gloat over.
1. Rallyman GT (review)
It should be no surprise to see Rallyman GT this high on the list as it was my top game of 2019. IT’s a game of rallycar racing that will have you trying to navigate turns, blocked lanes, and spinouts as you race to the finish line. Rallyman GT offers a ton of flexibility including modular track designs, different cars to use, and even the occasional weather changes. It uses a dice-based system that both rewards planning and also has a bit of press your luck. When it comes to games centered around sports, it just doesn’t get any better than this!