Board games have always been a popular form of entertainment, providing hours of fun and enjoyment and joining people together in friendly competition to bond and socialize. But board games can be more than that, more than just a quick few hours of thinking and laughter. This is where campaign board games come to mind.
Campaign board games offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself and your friends in an exciting narrative while enjoying the features of a board game.
In this list, I’ve selected some of the best campaign board games in my opinion, from epic fantasy adventures to historical battles. Whether you’re new to campaign board games or you’re a veteran gamer, there’s sure to be something on this list that will capture your eye;
1. Pandemic Legacy
Pandemic was already a hit board game when Z-Man Games announced the release of the first season of the campaign game, Pandemic Legacy. Unsurprisingly, the game caused a stir in the board game community, and thus began a trend of campaign board games and enthusiasts. It is a legacy game, which means that components may be permanently marked or damaged, and cannot be played more than once, but that’s enough.
The game is set in a fictional world where four viruses are rapidly spreading across the globe, threatening to destroy humanity. Players take different roles within the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and work together to find the cures for these viruses and save humanity. At the beginning of the game, players choose their roles such as a medic or a scientist, and their goal is to cure all four viruses before time runs out or they become too widespread.
Usually when you play a board game, whether you win or lose nothing changes the next time you play it. But Pandemic Legacy has surprises all along the way as it’s embedded with engaging story elements. Such as new characters joining your team, significant events like quarantines, and even new items and components that will be revealed throughout the game depending on the players’ choices.
With seasons 1,2 and 0, Pandemic Legacy has won several awards including “Golden Geek Board Game of the Year”, which is proof of its unique approach compared to other classic board games. It is a must-try for board gamers, pandemic lovers, or anybody who wants to experience an unforgettable campaign.
Another coop campaign game that took the community by storm is the massive Gloomhaven. In this game released in 2017, players are mercenaries and adventurers exploring and fighting their way through a dangerous world filled with monsters, challenges, and secrets.
Gloomhaven features a modular board that can be arranged in various configurations to provide different challenges with each playthrough. As players move around the world of Gloomhaven, they will encounter different scenarios that require them to complete objectives ranging from defeating powerful enemies to uncovering secret treasures.
Players control characters with unique abilities and skills, choosing their actions each turn from a set of cards in their hands. These choices are made simultaneously among all players before revealing their actions for the round. Players start out with a basic deck of actions and over time they can add new attacks representing stronger attacks or movements; this is the deck-building aspect of the game. As characters progress through the game overcoming trials and obstacles, they unlock new perks improving their health, attack, defense, etc., or gaining special abilities. This makes the characters stronger but also increases the difficulty level so players’ cooperation is crucial if they want a chance of victory.
In summary, Gloomhaven is a masterpiece of cooperative RPG board games that combines hand management mechanics with rich narratives and immersive character progression. The depth of gameplay options in the game means that it even has near-infinite replayability.
3. Mage Knight
Mage Knight is a popular campaign board game designed by the legendary Vlaada Chvátil that can be played solo or with up to four players. In this game, players each take the role of a powerful Mage Knight – a legendary hero with incredible magical powers. The goal of the game is to explore the fantasy world of the Atlantean Empire, completing quests, defeating monsters, and gaining experience points as you go.
The game board consists of various terrain types including forests, mountains, swamps, and cities. Each player has a deck of cards representing spells they can cast during the game as well as actions they can use to move around the map. Players must strategically manage their resources such as health points, mana, or reputation to gain an advantage over their opponents. Over time players become stronger by building armies or recruiting allies, leveling up their character’s abilities by completing quests or combat achievements, and uncovering new skills and artifacts that provide bonuses in battle.
What makes Mage Knight unique compared to other games in its category, is its use of deck-building mechanics where players start with a very basic set of cards until they progressively acquire stronger ones by either buying them with their glory points, or by randomly drawing one card for every treasure location visited. Overall, Mage Knight offers an immersive mix of strategic movement and combat, and resource management with a great narrative behind the plot of it all.
4. Risk Legacy
Like Pandemic, Risk was also a fan-favorite classic before it entered the campaign game category. Risk is a fairly aged game that gained a huge fan base and has many different versions released. What makes this game unique from the other versions of Risk, is the legacy gameplay. Risk Legacy is played on a world map where players compete to conquer territories and eliminate their opponents using troops, tactics, and dice rolls.
In Risk Legacy, each player represents one of five factions that start with different abilities and headquarters on the board. As they play through multiple games (usually about 15), they will experience permanent changes such as new rules, events, objectives, and factions being eliminated or added to the game entirely based on choices made during gameplay.
At the beginning of each game session, after the initial setup has been completed, there are a series of envelopes instructing players which ones need to be opened at certain points throughout the progressing game session, adding elements like new faction introductions for players who want to join later in the game, or research capabilities that increase possible strategies for players. Additionally, the winner of each match gains bonuses such as naming rights over continents that are effective in the current game as well as future games.
Risk Legacy brings a fresh perspective into playing traditional Risk games while accommodating for varying features suitable to all player levels, thanks to its easy yet flexible rules, while the original goal stays the same; global domination.
5. Betrayal Legacy
Yet another legacy game where the gameplay permanently evolves with each session, Betrayal Legacy creates a unique gaming experience for gamers around the world. A different take on the game Betrayal at House on the Hill, at the beginning of the game, in the year 1666, players take the roles of characters exploring an old abandoned mansion and progress forward through time with each new chapter.
Each game session consists of two main phases, first players move around exploring the mansion, finding new items, and strengthening themselves, until “The Haunt” happens, where one character may betray their friends to become the villain while the others attempt to survive. As players continue through the chapters which represent different years, they will uncover secrets about the mansion’s history that impact future chapters. Paintings on walls could manipulate certain dice rolls, or unlocking doors could grant you access to parts of the house you couldn’t get to before.
Each time you play Betrayal Legacy your character will have unique abilities based on the games you have played before. Once The Haunt occurs, it is recorded as part of your legacy. As you progress further into those later years, more special rules are unlocked adding more layers of complexity compared to previous games.
Overall, Betrayal Legacy is an immersive journey through time filled with exploration and treachery, that up to six players can have fun competing and cooperating amongst exciting storylines.
Charterstone is a legacy-style campaign board game published by Stonemaier Games. It is a village-building game that can be played by 1 to 6 players, with each session lasting around 60 to 90 minutes, and 8 sessions overall.
In Charterstone, players take the roles of competing factions who are tasked with building the best village over the course of multiple games. The game consists of a series of chapters, each adding new rules and elements to the gameplay while advancing the story. At its core, Charterstone is a worker placement game where players place their workers onto action spaces on the board to collect resources, build buildings, and complete objectives. As players progress through chapters they will unlock new buildings and other upgrades for their faction’s charter sheet, which tracks all of their bonuses and abilities.
What makes Charterstone stand out is how it incorporates permanent changes into each session. Stickers are fixed to various parts of the board as well as cards throughout the game, changing them permanently for future chapters. Even the rulebook is almost empty when you start the game, and more and more rules are added in the form of stickers. Even hidden contents are revealed from sealed envelopes, further individualizing each player’s village throughout the game.
Charterstone offers a complex and satisfying village-development experience joined with customizable variables alongside story elements aspects that sets it apart from other traditional board games.
7. Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror is a cooperative LCG set in the Lovecraftian universe of horror and mystery. In the game, players take the roles of investigators who are tasked with solving mysteries and battling eldritch horrors that threaten to consume their world. Each player builds a deck of cards representing their character’s abilities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, and unique talents.
The game is played over a series of scenarios or chapters that form campaigns that can span multiple sessions. During each chapter, players must work together to gather clues about the supernatural threat they face while also managing their resources such as health and sanity. Each chapter also features branching storylines based on the choices made by players during previous chapters. These decisions can have lasting consequences for both individual characters as well as the campaign’s general narrative.
Another notable feature is the use of Chaos Tokens, custom tokens marked with different symbols, which are drawn randomly from a bag to check the result of an action, like fighting against monsters. These tokens add an extra layer of unpredictability to each encounter and enhance thematic immersion by simulating encounters with cosmic horror.
There are expansions that even further expand storyline options, introduce new characters, and place players in different stories set in the world of Lovecraft. You can read more about Arkham Horror here.
In conclusion, campaign board games offer a unique and immersive gaming experience that can keep players engaged for hours on end. From epic fantasy battles to political thrillers, there are plenty of campaigns to choose from that will satisfy any gamer’s interests. Whether you prefer cooperative or competitive gameplay, these games have something for everyone. So gather your friends and family, clear your schedules, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey with a campaign board game!