best adventure board games

Best Adventure Board Games – My Top 7

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Everyone loves a good adventure. (Un)fortunately, real lives are most of the time not overly exciting, so we must resort to other sources to get that adventure fix. It may be books, movies or, you guessed it – board games. This article is the result of my research on which are the best adventure board games on the market.


Table of Contents

To quickly jump to different parts of the article, click on the links below:

Games are listed by the complexity of their mechanics – from the simplest to the most complex.

If you click on an affiliate link, it will take you to the Amazon store. If you then buy something, I will earn a commission – I am a member of the Amazon Associates program.


Mansions of Madness (Second edition)

Best Adventure Board Games mansions of madness second edition box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 1-5, plays well with all numbers.

Playing time: 120-180 minutes

Complexity: low/medium

What’s the adventure?

A group of investigators has just arrived at a cursed mansion in Arkham. Every player will play as one of the investigators and your goal is to find out what is going on.

Traveling the corridors of the mansions, you never know what lies behind next door: could be a clue, puzzle, useful item, a weapon, or perhaps a scary monster trying to kill you. Will you be able to complete your objective in time or will you lose your mind?

Best Adventure Board Games mansions of madness board set up

How is it played?

Mansions of Madness is a cooperative game. That means all players are on the same team and they are playing against the game and the challenges it presents.

The gameplay is divided into turns. Each turn has two phases: the players’ phase and the game’s phase. In their phase, players get to move, explore, interact with objects, and attack enemies.

After the players are done, the game will perform scenario-specific events (progressing story) and play monsters.

Each scenario has a different object for winning, which is discovered during play. It’s in the best interest of investigators to discover this as soon as possible by listening to the narrative and searching for clues and complete it – if they take too long, the game wins. Or if everyone dies, the game also wins.

Compared to the first edition, the gameplay is highly assisted by the phone app, making playing a breeze. Puzzles, that the game throws at you, are also solved on the app.

Strong Points

  • Narrative scenarios, full of mystery make for a very immersive horror experience.
  • A powerful app, working as a game master makes the game very accessible and easy to learn.
  • A lot of available expansion

Weak Points

  • A high price tag for the base game, which contains only four scenarios.

Is it for you?

Mansions of Madness offers one of the best adventure experiences available in board gaming. Its only drawback is the lack of scenarios for the base game. For the price of the game, it should offer more content.

There is much more content available in numerous expansion – if you can swallow the combined price. If I forget about the pricing, this one is a 10/10 adventure.

Click here to check out the price of Mansions of Madness on Amazon


Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Best Adventure Board Games star wars imperial assault box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 2-5, plays well with all numbers.

Playing time: 60-120 minutes

Complexity: medium

What’s the adventure?

Do I have to explain Star Wars to you? I mean the original trilogy, not modern blockbusters. The Force? Jedi vs Sith? Rebels versus the evil Empire, heroes like Luke, Han, Leia, and others against the inexhaustible forces of the galactic behemoth? I didn’t think so.

Like said, the game is set in the original trilogy and you play either the Rebels or the Empire. As Rebels, you will go on missions to harm the Empire, acquire information, or sabotage things. Standing against you will be only one player controlling the Empire’s forces.

How is it played?

Imperial Assault is a 1-vs-many dungeon crawler type of game. It takes its game mechanics from Descent, a very successful dungeon crawler with countless expansions.

Missions are connected into a campaign, so it’s not just a bunch of skirmishes (although you can play skirmishes too), but a cohesive adventure, where your characters progress, acquire new skills and items, and make important decisions on how to spend money between missions.

The other side is not just a game master, but an active player, trying to hinder Rebel’s progress by throwing enemies at them. But he has to carefully weigh which soldiers will he enlist. The cheapest storm troopers or something more powerful? Maybe save some more, offer players a side mission, and activate Darth Vader? Hard, but not impossible.

Gameplay in missions is pretty straightforward. You activate a unit and spend two action points. Most of the time, you’ll move and attack, because Empire will more often than not outnumber you. Combat (both offensive and defensive) is resolved with custom dice, taking into account character stats, abilities, and items (weapons).

Missions are a combination of fighting your way through the forces, not trying to kill every Empire troop (that’s hardly possible) but to get to the objective and complete it before the Empire overruns you. This creates tension up to the very end of a mission, as you never know if you’ll succeed or will all of your Rebels become wounded (fancy word for dead).

Strong Points

  • An engaging experience for both sides where your decisions really matter.
  • Star Wars theme creates a fun and tense experience.
  • Game mechanics are not overly complicated. (And also vastly improved compared to Descent.)
  • Plenty of expansions available.

Weak Points

  • Game mechanics are not as refined as with some other games and there are still some issues dragging from Descent.

Is it for you?

If you’re into dungeon crawlers and Star Wars, this is the game for you. It may not have deep and complex game mechanics like Gloomhaven, but it does not care about that. It cares about having fun. And blasting through storm troopers while you’re speaking to your buddies with Yoda’s voice is just that – fun.

Click here to check out the price of Star Wars: Imperial Assault on Amazon


Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Best Adventure Board Games Arkham Horror The Card Game box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 1-2, ideal for two, but not bad as a single player either.

Playing time: 60-120 minutes per scenario.

Complexity: medium

What’s the adventure?

Arkham Horror combines a typical Lovecraftian horror story with refined gameplay of a living card game. Adventure lies in the campaign mode – this game is not just about playing the cards but also about discovering a story through narrative event cards. Writing is at a very high level, creating a strong horror atmosphere.

How is it played?

This is a cooperative game. With the base deck, two players can team up as investigators, taking on the horror from the other world in a city, we’ve saved so many times, but just keeps being terrorized from these creatures.

The base game campaign contains three scenarios, with results and decisions affecting subsequent ones. That offers some replayability, but after that, you have to look at expansions that offer new campaigns.

The game focuses on the act deck and agenda deck of cards. Act deck tells you what the current objective of the investigators is, while the agenda deck represents the forces of evil.

As you progress through the decks, you advance the story on them. Your goal is to get through the act deck before too many doom tokens collect on the agenda deck.

During the turn, players have typical options like drawing cards, playing cards, moving, investigating, or initiating in combat.

Board consists of cards representing locations on which the players can move and explore. Cards are partially hidden and are only fully revealed when an investigator arrives on them for the first time. They offer different challenges, like investigating or spawning enemies, and performing that requires you to pass a test.

Investigation tests, combat, and other tests are performed by drawing chaos tokens, which add an element of luck and unpredictability. You can weigh the draw in your favor with abilities, allies, or items. But success is never guaranteed and sometimes it may be better to run away from an enemy, only to return stronger a couple of turns later.

Strong Points

  • Strong story with great atmosphere and artwork.
  • Simple, yet engaging game mechanics.
  • A lot of expansions available.

Weak Points

  • Limited replay value of the base game.

Is it for you?

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a re-implementation of a well-known theme, this time as a card game. It does its job with excellency, especially the immersive story.

Yes, the campaign is not that long – but the base game pricing is very affordable. Just be aware that for fresh campaigns, you’ll eventually have to reach for an expansion or two.

Click here to check out the price of Arkham Horror: The Card Game Amazon

For a list of 7 best horror games, click here.


Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Best Adventure Board Games Robinson Crusoe adventures on the cursed island board game box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 1-4, plays well with all numbers.

Playing time: 60-120 minutes

Complexity: complex

What’s the adventure?

It’s one of those themes everyone one should be familiar with – survival on a lonely island. If you haven’t read the classic novel by Daniel Defoe (then do it!), you’ve surely seen the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. It’s the same thing, only in modern times.

Robinson Crusoe the board game differs only that now there can be more people stranded. It is a cooperative game for up to 4 people. Their goal is to survive long enough to complete the scenario objective, while the island is throwing all sorts of obstacles in their way, like diseases, hunger, wild animals, weather, cannibals, etc.

Best Adventure Board Games Giving the unforgiving Robinson Crusoe board game a second chance with some props on stage.

How is it played?

You start by choosing a scenario. There are 8 available, but even if you finish one, it still offers high replay value. Each has a specific story with goals and special rules, special items, special weather, etc.

Scenarios are so unique, they almost fell like a new game. Some examples: saving a person, defending from cannibals, lifting curses from the island, sheltering against a volcano, etc.

There are four characters available, each with his (or her) special abilities and characteristics: cook, carpenter, explorer, and soldier.

Game is divided into rounds and each round has several phases, like drawing event cards, producing, deciding on your actions (exploring, building, gathering, hunting, resting, etc.) and finally resting for the night. The last phase requires you to spend food and have some shelter or you will pay dearly (in health or resources).

Taking actions is not a given. It can be if you dedicate two action tokens to it, but usually, that’s not a luxury you can afford. Instead, you will only place one token and decide the outcome by dice. Anything can happen now: you can succeed, get injured in the process, or have an adventure in which case you draw an adventure card and resolve it. And they are almost always bad.

Rounds continue until you either complete your objective or die. And the latter is not that rare to occur. Robinson Crusoe is a very hard game and you’ll be on the verge of dying all the time. But even when you think you have everything under control, an unlucky dice roll or an adventure card will collapse your plans like a stack of cards.

On the one side, you love drawing event and adventure cards, since they continue the narrative and there is always something new, but on the other hand, you dread it like the devil, since they are usually not good for the health of your characters.

For more strategy games you can play solo, click here.

Strong Points

  • Deep and complex game with a lot of things to consider.
  • Very good narrative thematic experience.
  • Good replay value.

Weak Points

  • Very difficult game.
  • Luck plays a large role.

Is it for you?

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a very good game. Adventure of being stranded on an island never felt so pristine. But the might with which this island is fighting back, trying to destroy you, never felt so pristine as well.

You might take the difficulty as a challenge or it may be a negative for you. Or it just might be how it feels being stranded – at mother nature’s mercy.

Click here to check out the price of Robinson Crusoe on Amazon


Gloomhaven

Best Adventure Board Games gloomhaven board game box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 1-4, plays equally well with all numbers.

Playing time: 60-120 minutes per scenario

Complexity: complex

What’s the adventure?

Players assume the roles of wandering adventurers, traveling and discovering the dark fantasy world of Gloom with the city of Gloomhaven in the midst of it.

You will travel the map to cities, ruins, and dungeons, clear them out in tactical combat and in the process, improve your abilities and equipment, discover new locations and make decisions that will affect the story and the world around you.

Best Adventure Board Games We Played A LOT of Gloomhaven

How is it played?

Game is divided into scenarios (over 90 available in the base game). A scenario is technically a dungeon that must be cleared out. Action cards are the core of Gloomhaven and they decide everything a character can do: move, fight, loot, or heal.

At the start of the scenario, every character starts with a number of action cards in their hand (this number depends on the character and his stats), and each round they can play 2 action cards. When the action cards for players and monsters are played out, you look at the initiative number, which decides the order in which the actions are carried out.

It’s the combining of these cards that make a very compelling puzzle as you try to progress through the dungeon. Use weaker cards and go before the monster? Or vice-versa? Use your powerful cards now or save them for later? Have you taken your mate’s actions into account? Maybe you can work together and both benefit … But don’t take too much time or you may run out of action cards – scenario will be over for you.

When you’re done with a scenario, you will make decisions, that determine how the story and adventure are going to progress and affect the world around you.

Strong Points

  • Although expensive, there is a lot of value in the box. You can easily sink 100 hours into this.
  • Refined game mechanics.
  • Character’s story and progression build a strong bond with the player.

Weak Points

  • Complex game mechanics may not be for everyone.
  • Large footprint – you need a big table and it takes some time to set-up.

Is it for you?

Gloomhaven is not for casual players. But for players willing to dedicate their time and effort, it will deliver one of the best board game experiences of our time.

p.s.:

If you like the idea of Gloomhaven but are scared away by the number of components and complexity, look up for Jaws of the Lion, its younger brother. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion takes the best bits of Gloomhaven, simplifies the rest, and makes itself accessible to less-hardcore players.

Click here to check out the price of Gloomhaven on Amazon


War of the Ring (Second Edition)

Best Adventure Board Games war of the ring second edition board game box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 2-4, ideal for 2 players.

Playing time: 150-180 minutes

Complexity: complex

What’s the adventure?

The list wouldn’t be complete without the most epic of all the adventures, the father of modern fantasy, Lord of the Rings. I’m sure you know the story of Frodo and his mission to travel to Mordor to destroy the Ring.

This is the story in War of the Ring as well, but you won’t play solely as Frodo or any other specific character, but you’ll be looking at the story on a much larger scale. Of course, all famous characters are included: Gandalf, Frodo, Saruman, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Ents, Grima, Eagles, Balrog, Sauron, etc. Full license guaranteed.

War of the Ring is a grand strategy war game played on a map of Middle Earth. You will play either as Free People or Shadow Armies. You are fighting each other on two fronts; meaning there are two ways to win this War of the Ring:

  1. Military victory, fighting with units on the map.
  2. Bringing the ring to Mount Doom or corrupting the Fellowship and prevent that.

Best Adventure Board Games War of the Ring Collector's Edition 01

How is it played?

To determine what you can do each turn, you will first roll action dice, which will show possible actions. This means, there is an element of luck, but you will always have several options available, so the luck part is not critical. It’s down to player choices, luck ensures no two games will be the same. Or that the events will not unfold the same way as in the books/movies.

Possible actions may be: play an event card (that drives the adventure part), move armies, engage in battles, hunt the ring, move the fellowship, etc.

Gameplay revolves around balancing your actions. Factions are asymmetric. As Free People, you will juggle between planning an effective Fellowship’s route to Mordor and allocating forces fighting military battles.

Shadow Armies, on the other hand, are much stronger military speaking, but they must divert a certain number of Nazguls to search for the ring, weakening them.

It’s this tactical back and forth that drives the game and with a couple of good players, it can turn in a glorious duel, spiced up with well-implemented lore.

Strong Points

  • Huge game with a lot of strategic options – with a strong narrative on top.
  • This is the ultimate Lord of the Rings board game experience.
  • Designed with 2 players in mind.

For more thematic games, you can play alone, click here.

Weak Points

  • Setting up and playing takes a lot of time and dedication.

Is it for you?

There are a couple of terms, you must fulfill for this game. First, you must be a fan of Lord of the Rings (who isn’t?). Second, a complex board game must not scare you. Now, if you have a like-minded friend, you’ve got a winner in the War of the Ring.

Click here to check out the price of War of the Ring on Amazon


Mage Knight

Best Adventure Board Games Mage Knight box

Link to BoardGameGeek page

Players: 1-4, best played with 1-3 players.

Playing time: 60-240 minutes per scenario

Complexity: complex

What’s the adventure?

You are a Mage Knight, a powerful warrior/wizard. You will explore a picturesque hexagonal-tiled board, filled with natural (forests, plains, deserts, mountains …) and artificial (villages, monasteries, cities, mines …) features.

But you are not alone. Creatures of all shapes and sizes, city garrisons, and even other Mage Knights are there with their own agendas. Will you work with them or against them?

Best Adventure Board Games exploration in mage knight

How is it played?

Mage Knight is played by independent scenarios. There are several available, each with different objectives. But even if you play the same scenario again, you will go through a different experience, thanks to the modular game board and other randomizing factors. Plus, its an open world, so it’s always your choice what to do and where to go.

Performing actions is a matter of juggling with action cards. Each turn you will draw a certain number of them, and combining these cards will determine how far will you move, who will you attack, will you recruit minions, etc.

Trying to figure out what to do with your cards and how to do it optimally is the core of Mage Knight and is a strong game mechanic that is second only to Gloomhaven’s.

But you could argue, they are more side by side, since they are different – Gloomhaven’s is designed for a limited time in a dungeon, while Mage Knight’s action cards are re-drawn after each round and are designed for an open-world game.

Best Adventure Board Games Arythea on of the mage knights

Mage Knights are powerful from the start, but as they level up, they only get stronger. You will obtain special skills, draw stronger, action cards, increase your armor, and have the ability to lead several minions into battle with you. You can use them to defeat the enemy – or as a meat shield.

Strong Points

  • Action cards management mechanics are top-notch.
  • Strong theme.
  • High replay value.

Weak Points

  • A lot of downtime in between turns – I highly recommend playing with fewer players or even solo play to avoid it.
  • Only four characters to choose from, and they feel very similar, especially in the beginning, when their skills are not yet diverse. Three more characters are available with expansions.

Is it for you?

If you’re looking for an open-world adventure with exploration, fighting, and character development, topped with excellent deck-building mechanics and high replay value, you won’t regret buying Mage Knight.

I recommend buying the Ultimate Edition with all the expansions included.

Click here to check out the price of Mage Knight on Amazon


Conclusion

As honorable mentions, I have three games, that all have one thing in common: they are hard to find, especially for a reasonable price. That’s why they didn’t make it on the list, but if you’re able to snatch one on a used market, don’t hesitate. There’s a link to BoardGameGeek pages on them if you want to find out more about them.

  • 7th Continent is a narrative exploration adventure on a massive scale.
  • Kingdom Death: Monster, a combination of strategy, role-playing game, and tactical combat.
  • Nemesis, a survival horror game similar in theme to the original Alien movie (shame on you if you don’t know what that is!)

If you waited for my personal favorite, I must disappoint you, because this time I don’t have one. Why? Because the games are so thematically different and frankly, I love all the themes here. So its best to have them all and play whatever feels the best in a given moment. ):

There is Imperial Assault for Star War fans, War of the Ring for Lord of the Ring fans, Gloomhaven for fantasy dungeon crawler fans, or Mage Knight for fans of a more open-world fantasy game.

Should you prefer horror, Mansions of Madness and Arkham Horror: The Card Game are both excellent choices. Or for something completely different, Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island.

If I really have to single out just one as the best, I’d go with War of the Ring.

Check out the price for War of the Ring on Amazon

Do you have any favorites of your own? Do you agree with my list or would you add or remove something? Please leave a comment below.

Vasilij

Further read:

8 thoughts on “Best Adventure Board Games – My Top 7”

  1. These are all amazingly creative and immersive games and I don’t think that I could pick just one, either!  I do lean more towards the D&D type games so a few of them stand out.  I really do like the look of Gloomhaven and then I go back and read about one of the others again and I can’t choose!  Excellent picks for games, especially right before Christmas!

    Reply
  2. Hello Vasilij;
    I was excited to read your review, because I am a fan of games, especially adventures. It was video game that developed this passion in me, but now I’l looking to get into board gaming too. 

    I like to have a general understanding of the game before the purchase and your list was very helpful to me. Robinson Crusoe looks most appealing to me, because I like his story from the book and i’m considering buying it.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi. I’m glad you liked my article and found it useful.

      You’ll have a hell of an adventure with Robinson Crusoe, just beware: surviving on a lonely island isn’t easy – but probably it’s better to experience that in a board game than in real life. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hey thank you for the awesome post! My wife and me love playing board games together. I particularly like Arkham Horror: The Card Game and the way it sounds. It’s so hard to find card games like this for just two people. We don’t have a lot of friends where we live as it’s a new town.  I may get this for her for Christmas!

    Reply
  4. I love adventure board games.It kind of takes me into a fantasy world.
    It’s the unknown that’s invigorating.
    I’ve played a lot of games over the years and these all seem awesome.
    The Robinson Crusoe Adventure would be my top pick because I love the show survivor. I love this kind of adventure the most.
    But I would choose some of the other games too because I like variety.
    Out of the 7 which is your top pick and why?

    Reply

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