Top Pick: Dark Souls: The Board Game | $77 | Amazon
The other day, I came across a news story that temporarily rewired my brain: indie roguelike Slay The Spire is being adapted into a physical board game. There’s something very funny about the idea of a card-based video game getting adapted into an actual card game after the fact. It’s like Gwent going from screen to table, or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla becoming a real dice game (which is apparently in the works too).
While this latest story particularly tickled me, it’s not at all uncommon. Video games are adapted into board games all the time. That’s especially true in the age of Kickstarter, where strange campaigns tend to come to life thanks to devoted fans. It’s so common that many of these adaptations tend to slip under the radar. Back in the Before Times, I used to only find out about them by walking around the floor at tabletop conventions. Eventually, you just bump into something like the Bloodborne board game that makes you stop and do a double-take.
Considering how many oddities there are out there, I wanted to take a deep dive into the world of video games-turned-board games. Even as someone who thought I was somewhat tuned in, I immediately found some mind-boggling adaptations readily available on sites like Amazon. Who would have thought that there’s a Baulder’s Gate themed version of Betrayal at House on the Hill? After all that searching, here are some particular standouts that you can try out today.
This is the Dark Souls of board games. No, I mean, it’s literally the Dark Souls of board games. Like its digital counterpart, the tabletop version is an action-exploration game with an emphasis on difficulty. The game uses a combination of tiles and cards to recreate the experience of traversing one of the game’s dark environments, scavenging for loot, and fighting challenging enemies along the way. Like the game, there’s a stamina stat players must manage to survive. The funniest part about all of this is that the tabletop version sounds much friendlier than the video game thanks to its multiple difficulty levels. If you’ve been dying for an easy mode in a Soulslike game, maybe this is a good option for you.
At first, it’s hard to imagine a game like Resident Evil working as a board game. The horror series derives much of its thrills from surprising jump scares and grotesque enemies. But Resident Evil 2: The Board Game finds a way to take the core ideas of the franchise and translate them to tabletop. Like the video game, the survival co-op board game is about escaping Raccoon City alive. Players traverse through familiar locations from the franchise, all while taking down undead horrors. For fans of the video game series, it’s a treasure trove that shares many familiar staples with its pixelated source material. This is the kind of clever adaptation that sounds strange on paper but manages to capture everything that makes the game fun in a very different context.
Rip and tear (and roll dice). While translating the idea of something as fast-paced as Doom to a turn-based board game sounds blasphemous, this adaptation is kind of ingenious. Doom: The Board Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one team controls a squad of marines who must complete objectives, while one opposing player controls a literal horde of demons. Naturally, that means that there’s a fair amount of slaying to be done. You’ll have to provide your own metal soundtrack, though.
After a while, it starts to feel like you can type in just about any game’s name and find a board game version. Case in point: Fallout. Yep, you can play the post-apocalyptic RPG as a tabletop adventure game. Players traverse a hex-based grid, completing quests and fighting enemies. The game features a fair amount of narrative too with different scenarios based on Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. What’s fascinating about all of these board games is how well thought-out they are. Rather than providing a simplified take on Fallout that uses its setting, this has everything down to faction management considered. The only thing it’s missing is a bevy of game-breaking bugs, but otherwise it’s as faithful as can be.
On a personal level, I have a soft spot for this one. Both Portal games are two of my all-time favorites. Even though its jokes are all entirely played out, it’s still delightful to get to jump back into those worlds now and again. Actually designed by Valve, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Board Game takes the humor and spirit of the games and adapts it into a goofy board game. Players essentially navigate a grid of test chambers and complete a series of experiments. Naturally, the player with the most cake wins, but everyone needs to protect their slices from an incinerator. While it can’t quite simulate physics puzzles, it’s a charming approach to Portal that’s much simpler than the other games mentioned here—a relatively fast game that’s good for a nostalgic laugh. As an added bonus, it comes with a free Steam download of Portal 2.
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