10 best fantasy board games
These fantasy-themed board games are perfect for ye olde tabletop.
Sometimes we want to escape into a world filled with ancient mysteries, incredible magic and extravagant headgear - and that’s exactly what the best fantasy board games provide. Whenever reality seems just a bit too much, imagining yourself as a plucky adventurer sneaking through a dragon’s lair in search of treasure or the leader of a mighty clan of orcs or elves can help to provide some respite. Fantasy-themed games are a perfect source of escapism because they rely on recognisable tropes that provide comfort, as well as allowing players to embody a heroic character capable of performing amazing feats.
Board games have been inspired by fantasy stories and worlds for decades. Some of the most beloved tabletop classics - such as Talisman and HeroQuest - have plucked ideas from authors such as JRR Tolkien and Tamora Pierce. Other releases have come from existing universes, such as the most popular roleplaying game of all time, Dungeons & Dragons, which has produced its fair share of board games alongside the RPG. Fantasy board games might draw from a similar well of inspiration, but there is still plenty of variety to be found in terms of setting and mechanics.
Best fantasy board games
- Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion: The latest entry in the dungeon-crawling series strips things down to provide an accessible adventuring experience.
- Small World: A classic area-control game featuring a greatest hits of fantasy creatures - from goblins to halflings and kobolds to skeletons.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon: What fantasy games list would be complete without a title set in the world of D&D?
- Munchkin: This classic party game pits players against one another in a brutal race to level up their characters as quickly as possible.
- Legends of Andor: A co-op game that has players protecting a realm from an incoming horde of monsters, whilst experiencing various adventures along the way.
- Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure: How deep into the dragon’s lair are you willing to go to grab a bit of treasure in this push-your-luck game?
- Terra Mystica: A weighty board game about strategy and terraforming that has players gradually forming their own fantasy kingdom.
- Catacombs: One player competes against the others in this dexterity game where a group of heroes attempt to defeat the dreaded Overseer.
- Shadows Over Camelot: King Arthur’s Round Table of knights must protect Camelot from invading darkness and a possible traitor in their midst.
- Welcome to the Dungeon: Can your hero make it through the hordes of vampires and goblins to reach the end of the dungeon? Find out in this fast-paced party game.
All the games on this list might share various thematic elements - dragons, dungeons, magic, monsters and more of the expected - but they differ vastly in terms of vision. Some of the titles here are grand campaign-style experiences that players are expected to spend multiple sessions exploring, whereas others are much smaller affairs that aim to provide 15 minutes to half-an-hour of fantasy-themed fun. Whether you’re looking for an immersive dive into an impressive series of dungeons or a silly romp in a lair populated by haunted gazebos, there is something for everyone in this selection of the best fantasy board games.
1. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
A bite-sized version of the immensely popular dungeon-crawling game
The original Gloomhaven made quite the splash when it first hit store shelves in 2017, enchanting players with its epic worldbuilding, enormous campaign and intriguing card mechanics. Since then, we’ve seen the incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign launch of its upcoming sequel - Frosthaven - and a spin-off title called Jaws of the Lion. Set sometime before the first game, Jaws of the Lion sees players becoming members of a mercenary band made up of four characters.
As mercenaries, these particular individuals are only really after one thing: payment. Luckily enough, there happens to be a whole cavalcade of people rich in coin and desperate for a team of able-bodied adventurers willing to face off against hordes of monsters. As in the original Gloomhaven, Jaws of the Lion is a dungeon-crawling game that sees players venturing into various dangerous locales in order to complete a series of quests. During these quests, players will encounter enemies that they’ll have to defeat in a turn-based combat system where actions are decided by whatever cards a player has in their hands.
Jaws of the Lion greatly simplifies the original game’s experience by squeezing 25 scenarios into a book that doubles as a game board. Players can still use their character’s special abilities to defeat monsters and make narrative decisions, but it’s a much more accessible experience to get budding adventurers into the series.
Buy Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
2. Small World
When push turns to shove, players will have to throw their weight around in this area-control game
It can be hard to get along with your neighbours when they insist on muscling over to your home and kicking you out of it. This is the dreadful nightmare land that beginner game Small World presents to its players. Populated by a colourful retinue of creatures, some clearly inspired by classic fantasy - such as orcs and halflings - whilst others are a little more off-the-wall (those ghouls are definitely zombies), Small World is a very chaotic area-control game.
Players combine one of the various cultures on offer with a litany of special powers, such as the ability to benefit from squatting on certain types of land. Other powers are on the wackier side, including one that allows your people to fly and another that gives you control over a dragon. Through these combinations, players take turns to spread their chosen peoples across the game board, conquering whatever land they can lay claim to. But as the forces of each army begin to thin, players might find themselves losing interest in their gradually decreasing culture.
This is where Small World’s decline mechanic comes into play, as players can choose to put one of two possible peoples into the bin at any point in the game. By pushing an army into decline, the player can benefit from whatever that army achieved and gain a brand new combination of culture and special power to begin conquering with anew. Small World is a fast-paced and easy-to-learn fantasy game that also has rat people in it, which should be enticing enough for anyone to give it a go.
Buy Small World on Amazon UK.
3. Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon
>An exciting roleplaying adventure squeezed into a smaller board game experience
Fantasy has been irrevocably altered by Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop RPG where players make their own characters and venture into a world of magic and monsters. Aside from the fact that D&D is rather popular, it also boasts a fantasy universe ripe for spawning various spin-off games for players looking to get a taste of adventure without having to invest in a full-on roleplaying campaign.
Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon serves this exact purpose, providing players with a co-op experience set in the world of the RPG, but featuring pre-built characters and a scenario designed to last around an hour. Turns out this land is populated by dragons - who’d have thought? - and one in particular is causing some trouble. Ashardalon the red dragon lurks within a labyrinth of caves winding their way through a fiery volcano, which the players have decided is worth looking into - presumably for loot.
Depending on which character players decide to embody, they’ll have access to unique skills that they’ll be able to improve as they venture further into the volcano and vanquish more monsters. As players discover new rooms, they’ll find opportunities to gather loot and experience, all of which will go a long way to helping them in their final confrontation with the mighty Ashardalon waiting at the heart of the dungeon. Dive into the grand-daddy of fantasy with the D&D adventure board game.
Buy Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Prepare to ruin friendships in this brutal fantasy-themed card game
Munchkin is a party game that celebrates the many tropes of the fantasy genre. Player characters levelling up? Check. Acquiring new equipment that boosts their stats? Check. Monsters to fight and treasures to acquire? Check. Experience gained by boiling an ant hill? Now, wait a second! Whilst Munchkin does contain a lot of what you’d expect from a fantasy board game, it also has a sense of humour that can result in some surprising elements. It’s this bizarre and cheeky tone that has enabled Munchkin to become such a beloved tabletop title, alongside its accessibility and several licensed versions - including Disney and Critical Role editions.
In Munchkin, players begin with a hand of cards that may or may not give them various advantages. These cards could be class cards - rogues, fighters, wizards and such - weapons, wearable equipment or other items, but they won’t necessarily be beneficial. The chaotic nature of Munchkin means that players may be forced to carry pieces of equipment that lower their power stat, which is the main way characters can beat monsters - or do other nasty things. Alternatively, rival players can boost the power of enemies you face just to mess with you, because Munchkin is that kind of game.
With every enemy you defeat your character can gain a level and take precious loot, which you can choose to share should you require the assistance of another player. The first character to reach tenth level becomes the winner, which usually means that players will save up their meanest cards for your final battle in an attempt to thoroughly screw you over before inevitably getting screwed themselves. It’s this potential for chaotic backstabbing and hilarity that makes Munchkin an excellent choice for any evening of frivolity.
Buy Munchkin on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
5. Legends of Andor
Team up to rescue a castle from an incoming army by completing quests
This co-op board game begins in a fairly predictable fashion: a kingdom is threatened by war and a band of brave adventurers must protect its people. However, Legends of Andor has more than a few tricks up its sleeves to make it an exceptional fantasy gaming experience. Even though the initial setup might appear to lean into a lot of tropes, Legends of Andor presents players with a challenging scenario built around prioritising quests and making difficult decisions.
In Legends of Andor, players have a limited amount of time to ensure that the borders of their home are secure before its enemies arrive. With five scenarios to finish, players are working against the advancing army to complete as many objectives as they can to give the castle a fighting chance. As players make their way through the game a legend marker will gradually move forward, with cards being drawn with every advancement. These legend cards can change the entire course of the game - both narratively and gameplay-wise - and, depending on how players react to these alterations, can lead to a completely different final scenario than expected.
Whilst each of the first four scenarios in Legends of Andor are pre-determined, the final confrontation with the invading army differs in relation to any heroic acts performed by the players. Therefore, despite the setting of the game being mired in the usual tropes, Legends of Andor introduces plenty of twists and turns in how it deals with player choice and an overarching plotline. Which should make it worth any fantasy enthusiast’s time.
Buy Legends of Andor on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Sneak into a dragon’s lair to steal treasure in a push-your-luck deckbuilder
Deep underground there is a dragon who happens to be guarding a very large collection of gold coins and priceless artefacts. The goal of Clank! is to snatch as much of this collection that you can carry before sneaking back up to the surface - preferably not ending up as a pile of smoking ashes. This is easier said than done, as the longer players spend in the dragon’s lair, the more likely it is that they’ll make a cacophony of noises.
As a deckbuilding board game, Clank! primarily revolves around players discarding and gaining various cards. These cards are what enable players to do absolutely everything in the game - from moving and fighting to buying more cards - and despite being completely essential, cards also happen to be the main way players gain clanks. Certain cards will give the active player a clank - representing the noise they’ve made - after being bought, whilst others will give clanks after being played. You can even give your enemies clanks. Thanks to the fact that players have to play every card in their hand on their turn, it is inevitable that they’ll be clanking up quite the storm before long.
For every clank a player makes, one token of their colour is placed next to a bag. Every so often, certain cards showing a dragon symbol will pop up in the shared market - which means any clank tokens next to the bag are placed inside it, mixed about and randomly drawn. Players take damage for each matching token drawn, with the number drawn depending on exactly how angry the dragon is at the time. Make it out alive with the most treasure and you’re golden. Make too much noise and get eaten by a dragon? It’s hopefully obvious why that’s not a good thing.
Buy Clank! on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
7. Terra Mystica
Form entire civilisations by terraforming the land in this epic fantasy board game
The world of Terra Mystica is a diverse one. There are 14 different cultures spread across its seven unique landscapes, each with dreams of spreading out and further developing their cities. With this many people all sharing the same ambitions for expansion, there’s bound to be some competition involved. This competition is what Terra Mystica is all about. There can only be one king of the hill in this particular fantasy land, and players will have to carefully manage their resources and upgrade their structures to claim the title.
However, it’s not as straightforward as simply walking across to another landscape and laying down the foundations for a new building. Every culture has a particular type of environment that they’re used to living in. You can’t have the giants wading around in lakes, for goodness sakes! They’re most comfortable reclining on a nice boulder in the wastelands. And don’t even suggest putting a halfling in a swamp. This means that players will have to terraform any lands that aren’t suitable for their chosen people before they can begin moving in and building there. Luckily enough, constructing temples can give a player the ability to teach their culture the terraforming skills they need to begin muscling into other territories.
Alternatively, players can focus on upgrading their existing buildings to gain better benefits from them, such as turning a dwelling into a trading house - which provides monetary funds to the player. Deciding which buildings to construct, what to upgrade and where to go is all part of what makes Terra Mystica such an engaging fantasy strategy game.
Buy Terra Mystica on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Flick tokens to fight enemies in an underground labyrinth
Being a hero doesn’t have to be all about how you brandish a sword or whether you can shoot a fireball out of your hand. It can also be down to whether you can successfully flick a wooden disc at another wooden disc. This is the reality that dexterity game Catacombs posits to its players. Whilst some of the players in Catacombs are heroes, one of them must take on the role of an evil overseer who takes control of the various fantasy monsters that lurk in the tunnels beneath the town of Stormtryne.
A semi-cooperative game, Catacombs sees the heroes moving from dusty room to dusty room, clearing out the beasties that reside within. Players can choose to perform a basic attack on an enemy - as long as they manage to hit their target with their piece - or attempt to cast a spell or shoot a missile in hopes of inflicting damage and causing an additional status effect. Players can acquire new items and equipment from a merchant that happens to be doing business in an underground crypt. They can even upgrade their existing stuff to improve its damage output or enable them to do new shot types. As soon as the heroes successfully kill all the monsters in a room, they can move further into the catacombs.
However, the overseer isn’t going to give the heroes an easy time. After all, they win if they manage to kill off all the other players. Which means that they’re going to need to control every one of their monsters in the best way possible, surrounding their enemies and carrying out brutal shots. Regardless of who wins, the players are bound to have a lot of fun flicking tokens and fighting their way through Catacombs.
Buy Catacombs on Elzra.
9. Shadows Over Camelot
Be transported back to medieval times - sort of - in this fantasy co-op game about Arthurian legends
It’s time to travel to a period of history that has remained an immensely important source of inspiration for the fantasy genre: the Middle Ages. The reign of King Arthur is one so steeped in mythology that it’s easy to believe that there were actual dragons flying around and maidens living in a lake. (It’s certainly better than the reality, which involved a lot more disease.) It’s this fanciful aspect of English history that semi-co-op board game Shadows Over Camelot chooses to focus on, with each player embodying one of the legendary knights of the Round Table. However, not all the knights in Shadows Over Camelot are necessarily the valiant and chivalrous characters that we’re familiar with - as one of them has turned traitor.
Shadows Over Camelot sees players working together to complete various quests, such as retrieving Excalibur from its resting place under the lake and finding the Holy Grail, but it also features a competitive element. Hiding amongst the players is a traitor attempting to subtly thwart the others’ plans. Throughout the game, players will have to discard cards in order to further quest lines and prevent the city from being destroyed by war machines. Players do not need to show exactly what they’re playing and can claim to be discarding any card they like, which allows for a traitor to meddle with the heroes’ attempts at success.
This is far from an easy game for the heroic knights to win, as they’ll have to contend with both the traitor’s efforts and the fact that they’re on a pretty strict time limit. Take too long gathering enough successes and Camelot can quickly be overwhelmed by siege engines. What’s more, players will have to decide to enact evil every round - choosing either to increase the likelihood of a failed quest, lose health or place a war machine - with the traitor able to use this opportunity to further their goals. However, outing the traitor is incredibly satisfying and goes a long way to making Shadows Over Camelot a tense but thrilling game to play.
10. Welcome to the Dungeon
Easy to learn and fun to play, people of all ages will get hooked on this silly fantasy game
What’s a fantasy story without a dungeon to explore? This party game happens to be all about that dungeon-delving lifestyle. Welcome to the Dungeon sees players attempting to prepare a brave hero to venture into an appropriately monster-invested lair in the hopes of making it out alive. Each character in the game is based on a classic fantasy game archetype - the rogue, the wizard, the barbarian and the warrior - with their own set of equipment and abilities designed to deal with the challenges ahead.
In the first phase of the game, players take turns to draw a card from the monster deck and decide whether to put it in the dungeon. Any monsters placed in the dungeon will need to be defeated using one of the heroes’ pieces of equipment or abilities. Heroes lose health points if they are ever unable to vanquish an enemy, and are killed if they ever run out of said health points. Players can choose to not put a monster in the dungeon and instead remove a piece of equipment or ability from the hero’s arsenal, in the hopes that they won’t encounter any monsters that require it to be defeated. Alternatively, players can pass their turn and do neither of these things.
Players can even choose to deliberately remove a piece of equipment or an ability from a character in order to dissuade their rivals from deciding to venture into the dungeon. When all players have passed their turn except for one, that remaining player must take charge of the second phase of the game by gradually revealing each monster card in the dungeon. Should that player successfully kill all the monsters in the dungeon, they make it out and win that round. Succumb to a monster and the player returns home in disgrace. Any player that achieves two successful rounds wins the entire game. Games of Welcome to the Dungeon can get pretty tense, with successful runs earning a rousing applause and failed attempts ending in groans and/or laughter. Whatever happens, Welcome to the Dungeon is certainly a worthy fantasy-themed addition to anyone’s tabletop library.