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Top 5 Board Games Based on a Video Game


Top 5 Board Games Based on a Video GameRight now one of the hot board games on the horizon is BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia. From all appearances, this is shaping up to be an excellent board game. It’s not often that a license can produce both a fantastic board game and great video game.
So this got me thinking, dangerous I know. Just how many other great board games are out there that are based on video games. The answer is, not many. Or late least not many good ones. Tossing out any game that’s only a reskin of an existing game (risk, monopoly) left us with only a handful of options. Of those, a good amount were shovelware. However, I was able to find some really good options in the group. Some of them are quite well known, while others have been forgotten since falling out of print.
So without further ado, I give you our Top 5 Board Games based on a Video Game.

Honorable Mention: Doom: The Board Game

Doom Board GameIn 1993 doom was taking the video game world by storm with its first person shooter game play. It only took another 11 years for a board game based on this popular title to be published. In the PC game Doom, a player had to fight through hordes of demonic invaders in the cramped confines of a Martian base. Gun play, carnage and a maze of halls and rooms defined this hit PC game.
Similarly, the board game puts most of players in the role of Space Marines while the other player takes on the role of the demonic invaders. Players must work together to survive the claustrophobic rooms of the Martian base as the demonic invaders attempt to kill them. Along the way, players will find new equipment, weapons and more monsters to battle. Complete the mission objectives and they’ll defeat the invader player.
How does it compare to the video game?
Other than the fact that you are taking a single player game and making it work for 4 players, Doom: The Board Game is clearly inspired from the video game. The Doom video game was all about killing monsters, finding weapons and survival. And that’s basically what the board game is about. There is exploration, items to find and a whole lot of combat. This game did a great job of laying the groundwork for Descent, one of the best dungeon crawlers ever. I do wish Doom was more like Descent, but if you are looking for a SciFi “dungeon crawler”, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one.


5. Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery

Age of Empires 3 Board GameAge of Empires III was a real time strategy (RTS) video game publishing in 2005. It followed the classic RTS formula of building up your civilization from a lone base until you could find and eliminate the opposing players.  Resource management, tech advancement and combat are the basics of this game.
In the board game, you are playing the role of a colonial power seeking to make their mark in the new world. You will be colonizing, trading and amassing wealth. The game board is divided into 2 sides, one side with a map and the other with a series of boxes that denote which actions you can take on your turn. While you can build an army and attack in this game, engaging in warfare is usually counter-productive.
How does it compare to the video game?
Not much at all. While the video game was a RTS focusing on eliminating your enemies by building a strong army, the board game has much more of a eurogame feel to it. Fighting your enemies might even put you at a disadvantage in this game. On your turn, you will try and get a boat, explore, colonize the new world and score victory points. The board itself and the game play are much more abstract than the original video game.
If you were expecting a translation of the popular RTS game, you will be in for a big disappointment. But if you are in the mood for a solid eurogame with a fun theme, It’d be worth giving a try. Even though it basically has no ties to the video game (other than the name), Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery is still a really good game.


4. WarCraft: The Board Game

Warcraft: The Board GameBack in the early 90’s Blizzard released a RTS game called WarCraft. It went on to become a huge hit and eventually would spawn the colossal behemoth: World of WarCraft. While there is a board game based on World of WarCraft (forget it, it’s bad), most people don’t know there was also a game based on the original WarCraft series. The video game WarCraft has the human player fighting against the Orc player (and later, other factions) in a real time battle to eliminate their opponents. Building your army, upgrading your troops, dealing with the “fog of war” and expanding your empire were all hallmarks of this game series.
The WarCraft board game attempts to follow in the same vein. Players choose a faction and start a battle with their home base and a couple troops. Using a modular board, players can customize the battlefield each game. Players will be able to build new structures, upgrade their forces and eventually battle the other players using a card driven combat system. WarCraft: The Board Game is fun, tactical and much better than its World of Warcraft counterpart.
How does it compare to the video game?
Surprisingly well actually. While Age of Empires III was similar in name only, in WarCraft Fantasy Flight Games did a good job of capturing the feel of the source material. Armies are recruited, troops are upgraded, new buildings constructed and resources are depleted. These are all game features that will feel similar to the video game fan.
One of the main criticisms of the WarCraft board game is the abstract troop tokens. Instead of molded plastic army units, they went instead with generic wooden pieces. While I would have preferred to see more representational units, it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game. But I could see some people being turned off by the simplicity of the components. Still, WarCraft is a really fun and faithful representation of the original video game. It has easy to learn rules and plays fairly quickly for a war game.  If you decided to got it, I’d recommend also grabbing the expansion. It adds some new game options, one of which addresses a big complaint from of the original game: how the resource depletion was handled. Both will make for a great WarCraft experience.


3. Gears of War: The Board Game

Gears of War Board GameGears of War is a popular 3rd person shooter from Epic Games. Players take on the role of COG soldiers trying to fend of the locust horde. The video game features some expansive environments, a host of unique weapons and a lot of intense combat.
The Gears of War board game attempts to recreate this game atmosphere on your tabletop. Gears of War is fully cooperative game, so it’s players vs. the game in this one. As a coop game, the difficulty has been ratcheted up a few notches. Players must work together to compete missions that are inspired from the video game series. Gears of War is a pretty solid meat grinder as well. If you don’t utilize good tactics in the game, it will chew up the players and spit them out. I think I’ve won twice in about a half a dozen plays.
How does it compare to the video game?
The board game is a somewhat faithful representation of the video game and there are a lot of tactical similarities I noticed playing them both. In both games, staying in cover is essential to your survival. The endless locust hordes will destroy you if you stay out in the open and players quickly learn to duck in and out of cover. The game also features custom plastic figures that look remarkably like their video game counterparts. The artwork on the cards and tokens are also taken from the video game.
While the game is a constant battle, it doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the video game. But that’s to be expected. The video game combat chews up a lot of ammo and comes close to being non-stop. It would be hard for any tabletop game to represent that. Still, as a combat focused board game, you will spend a lot of time mowing down the locust hordes with familiar weapons like the lancer and the bolo grenades. In the board game, it almost feels like a rarity to get a breather as players will feel like they are constantly under attack. The game also features some unique mechanics to deal with player hit points and combat that I found to be pretty interesting.
If you enjoyed the Gears of War video game than I’d say you’ll really enjoy the tabletop version. It’s close enough to the video game where you’ll feel that you are getting a pretty good Gears of War experience. I love the challenge of this game and find it to be a lot of fun, even though I lose a lot.


2. StarCraft: The Board Game

StarCraft: The Board GameIn 1998 Blizzard followed up on their immensely popular Warcraft RTS game with the SciFi hit StarCraft. StarCraft went on to become one of the most popular RTS of all time. For those who never played, StarCraft pits 3 factions (Terrans, Protoss and Zerg) in a battle for supremacy of the galaxy. StarCraft did a brilliant job of perfectly balancing 3 opposing factions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. StarCraft also brought us some really memorable combat units, such as the Siege Tank and the Zerglings.
The StarCraft board game attempts to recreate that RTS feel of the original game with the same 3 factions. Apparently, learning from the criticisms of their Warcraft game, this time Fantasy Flight decided to include 180 plastic miniatures to represent their video game counterparts. Using a modular board of planets, players can creature different galaxies each game for their battle. Combat is card drive and the game allows players to upgrade their forces by researching new technology. This is not a lightweight game and will probably take you a couple of hours to play. But there is a nice mix of planning and combat in StarCraft to keep the players entertained.
How does it compare to the video game?
The PC game is a lot more intense, but that’s to be expected with any RTS translation. You have to think fast because the clock is ticking and when you’re not doing something, your opponent most likely is.
In the board game, real time is no longer a concern. Instead of having to make those hard decisions on the fly, you get the time to think about them. But, like in the video game, you will still have to divide your attention. With only 4 orders per turn, each decision you make will matter. You have to decide each turn where you are directing your attention. Neglect one area too long and you may come to regret it. The game also retains the fantastic faction balance between the 3 opponents. The Zerg are cheap and quick, the Protoss expensive and strong and the Terrans fall right in the middle.
StarCraft comes with a ton of detailed miniatures and when combat happens, it can be bloody. Just like in the video game, tech upgrades and troop build up will be important to your survival. Players will have to build and expand their bases and also keep an eye on their resource level. While translating a RTS game to the tabletop is a hard task, I feel that StarCraft does an amazing job of recreating its video game experience. If you can find a copy of this out of print title, it’s worth grabbing. StarCraft also has an expansion out that that adds in leadership cards, heroes and scenario play. Great to get if you can find it.


1. Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game

Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board GameWhich brings us to Sid Meier’s Civilization. Taking the first spot in our rankings, Civilization is a board game based on the incredibly popular video game of the same name.
The computer game of Civilization has been around since 1991 and has spawned 5 different versions and as many expansions. Civilization 5, being the newest, came out in 2010 and is the basis for this version of the board game. Civilization tasks players to build their Civilization from an early settler and warrior into a great empire expanding the globe. The video game requires players to manage their empire by handling the needs of each of their cities while also paying attention to what their opponents are doing (when they finally discover them). Civilization is one of the most well know games of the 4X genre (Explore, Expand, exploit, and Exterminate) also one of the best.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game isn’t the first attempt at recreating Civilization on the tabletop. A few companies have tried it in the past with mixed results. However, this time they seem to have gotten it right. Players each choose an empire and begin by founding their first city. They have to slowly expand and discover the world. Each turn they will explore, research and advance their civilization. Much like in the video game, players can win through culture, technology and even good ole’ fashion conquering.
How does it compare to the video game?
Of all the civilization board games, this one hits the closest to home. Based on the newsiest version of the computer game, Civilization does a great job at recreating the feel of the turn based strategy game. Players will found cities, work up the tech tree, deal with their encroaching neighbors and advance their culture. All this feels in the spirit of the computer game. Obviously, some things had to go to keep the board game from being unwieldy. A lot of the micro management of cities has been done away with, which is not a bad thing in my opinion.
Probably the most controversial is the way combat is handled. I think that combat is more abstract than most people would have liked. Ambiguous army tokens represent your forces marching across the land while combat is handled by card draws. Not a terrible implementation, but less then ideal in my opinion.
Civilization also has some great production values. The game comes with many well designed tokens, pieces and boards to represent all aspects of your civilization. Considering the price point of this game, you get a lot of great pieces in the box.
In my opinion, for a civilization building game, this one does a remarkable job of both tying in with the source material and being an excellent game in its own right. You have a lot of options on your turn between movement, building, research, city planning and trade. Players will have no shortage of options each turn to occupy your time.
If you decide that you do like this one, there is also an expansion out. The Fame and Fortune expansion adds in new map tiles, 4 new civilizations to play, great person cards and components for a 5th player.
While there are a lot of great games on this list, I think Civilization stands above the rest of being both an excellent game and remaining faithful to its source material. Get your copy today.


So there you have it. Our Top 5 Board Games based on a Video Game. While we couldn’t include every game out there, I think these are the crème of the crop. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.



  1. Although they’re not officially connected, some would say that Civilization was a board game FIRST, and the video game was largely based on the board game. Certainly they have a large number of similarities, enough so that every player of the board game thought of the video game as an adaptation when it was released.

    But your review makes me more interested in this adaptation; I’ll have to see if I can try it sometime.

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