11 Best RPG Board Games

If you ask us, few types of board games provide more entertainment or more value for money than the classic RPG. Done right, the best RPG board games truly transport you to a whole other universe, where you become fully absorbed by the story, taking on the traits of your chosen character as you embark on a heroic quest for glory.

For this guide, we looked at scores of this year’s best-selling RPGs to come up with a definitive list of our absolute favorites, from those suitable for first-time players to those games guaranteed to give experienced RPGers the adventure of a lifetime. 

11 Best RPG Board Games 

1.GloomhavenMost Immersive Game
2.Mice & MysticsBest Beginner-Friendly Game
3.Descent: Journeys in the DarkBest Fantasy RPG
4.Shadows of Brimstone: City of the AncientsBest Game for Replays 
5.Mansions of MadnessBest Horror RPG
6.Mage KnightBest Game for Solo Play
7.Lord of the Rings – Journeys in Middle EarthBest App-Based Game
8.Pathfinder Adventure Card GameBest RPG for Kids 
9.Roll PlayerBest Character-Building Game
10.Star Wars: Imperial AssaultBest Sci-Fi RPG
11.Talisman: The Magical QuestBest Classic RPG

1. Gloomhaven – Most Immersive Game

Cephalofair Games Gloomhaven Multi-Award-Winning Strategy Boxed Board Game for ages 12 & Up, Multicolor

We’re not prone to hyperbole around here, so you can trust that we really do mean it when we say that Gloomhaven is one of the greatest RPG board games of all time. 

Universally-acclaimed, the Dungeons & Dragons game is famous for its enormous box which packs over 95 different scenarios and a wealth of characters and monsters to provide endless hours of seriously immersive gaming.

Gameplay:

An excellent game for up to 4 players, Gloomhaven casts each player as one of 17 fantasy characters, with every character boasting their own unique skills and personality traits.

As a co-operative, your goal is to work together as you move through the open-world environment, playing through highly detailed, captivating scenarios that can often take hours to complete.

Ultimately, the goal is to unlock and level-up more and more characters, but en route, you’ll fight off monsters using an innovative card-based system, complete events, and generally explore the ever-expanding world of the Gloomhaven universe.

What We Like:

Gloomhaven combines everything we like about RPGs into one game. It provides many hours of gameplay, with some scenarios taking several sessions to complete.

The characters are very well thought out, and the gameplay itself is some of the most engaging we’ve ever come across.

What We Don’t Like:

The price tag. The game is so vast that the whole set weighs over 20 lbs and comes in a huge box. The cost is definitely reflective of that. For a board game, Gloomhaven is expensive, but in our estimation, it’s well worth the money.

2.  Mice & Mystics – Best Beginner-Friendly RPG

Mice & Mystics

Another co-op game, Mice & Mystics combines relatively easy-to-follow instructions and a compelling narrative-driven adventure that makes it a great choice for introducing RPG newbies to the genre.

Gameplay:

Mice & Mystics’ backstory offers a unique twist on the classic fantasy RPG. Once humans, you and your fellow players were transformed into mice as punishment for your loyalty to the king.

Your mission? Race through a vast castle to save the king and bring peace to the kingdom. 

Suitable for 1 – 4 players, each character has their own special abilities and you’ll need to join forces to defeat a host of adversaries en route to a final showdown with the boss character. 

What We Like:

With their elaborate game worlds and complex rules, some RPGs can be a little too overwhelming for first-time players. Mice & Mystics isn’t one of those games.

Although there’s a hefty rule book, it’s fairly straight forward to get into and can be over and done within the space of an hour, making it our pick for the best beginner-friendly game.

What We Don’t Like:

Replays can suffer due to over-familiarity with the narrative. 

3. Descent: Journeys in the Dark – Best Fantasy RPG

Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition

One of the most popular RPG board games of all time, the original Descent: Journeys in the Dark has long been regarded as a classic of the genre. This best-selling Second Edition streamlines certain aspects of the game, upgrades others, and generally enhances the overall experience.

Gameplay:

A classic dungeon-crawler for 2 – 5 players, Descent: Journeys in the Dark combines all the best bits of a cooperative game with the competitive edge of a non-coop to create an enthralling fantasy RPG.

If you’re the kind of gamer who likes to take on all comers and ultimately emerge victoriously, you’ll love playing as the game’s evil Overlord, whose M.O is to make life as miserable as possible for the game’s good guys.

If you prefer playing alongside others in a coop environment, you’ll likely enjoy taking on the role of one of those good guys (known in the game as ‘Heros’) as you work together to overthrow the villainous Overlord and conquer evil once and for all. 

What We Like:

The fantasy world of Descent: Journeys in the Dark is incredibly detailed, making the game so incredibly immersive that the 2 – 3 hours it takes to complete it feel like minutes.

What We Don’t Like:

Even if you buy the single-player expansion, this isn’t a great game for solo campaigns.  

4. Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients – Best Game for Replays

Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients

One of the latest editions to the best-selling Shadows of Brimstone series, City of the Ancients combines everything you love about classic dungeon-crawlers with a compelling wild west theme to make for an entertaining game with a high replay quality.

Gameplay:

Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients casts players as one of several wild west heroes.

Working together, your team must journey deep into the mines to recover the elusive ‘Dark Stone.’ 

En route, you’ll battle all manner of demons and the kind of devilish creations that are usually confined to the pages of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Overcome such creatures, and you’ll be able to level up your characters and complete an assortment of missions, some of which can permanently alter the landscape of your game.

Although it plays best with a group of 2-4 players, solo campaigns are fun, and the game can even be combined with another Shadows of Brimstone title, Swamps of Death, to make it a great game for 6 players.

What We Like:

Part Western, part horror, part basic coop, City of the Ancients has something for everyone. What we like best about it though, is the variety. Each new game can be played in a different town and players can even journey to other worlds. There are so many different options and possibilities that you could play this RPG game over and over again without ever repeating yourself.

What We Don’t Like:

The game requires a serious amount of time and effort to set up which can be off-putting if you simply want a game you can unbox and get on with.

5. Mansions of Madness – Best Horror RPG

Mansions of Madness Board Game, 2nd Edition

Mansions of Madness comes from the same team that gave us hit horror titles Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror. That alone should tell you much about the delightfully frightening terrors that await in this hugely engaging cooperative game.

Gameplay:

Though Mansions of Madness isn’t the only title on this list that can be used with a dedicated app, it is one of the few which really doesn’t work without it.

Download it for free, and -much as in Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror- you and your team will take on the role of expert investigators sent to crack another terrifying mystery.

Things can get pretty intense as you work to solve a series of seriously complex puzzles and pit your skills against a cast of horrifying monsters in an effort to collect the clues that will help you solve the case.

What We Like:

With its genuinely scary horror component, Mansions of Madness is a thrilling game with campaigns lasting 2 – 3 hours, making it a great choice for anyone who loves getting stuck into a longer game.

What We Don’t Like:

Some of the puzzles included in this game can be incredibly tough to solve and require a serious amount of brainpower that may not appeal to some players.

6. Mage Knight – Best Solo Game

Mage Knight Board Game

Mage Knight is one of those games that truly does offer something for everyone. You can play coop or competitive, take on the role of a hero or villain, play with friends or launch a solo campaign, with the latter option proving to be the game’s biggest selling point:

Gameplay:

After choosing any of 4 Mage Knights to be their characters, players work their way through a randomly-generated world complete with numerous cities, dungeons, and uncharted regions with the main objective of conquering entire cities.

All the staples of a good RPG are present and correct here. You can increase your abilities, learn new spells, and level-up your characters. You’ll battle monsters, uncover secrets, and get involved in some highly engaging roleplay.

The most unique aspect is that Mage Knight can turn from being a coop to a competitive game at the drop of a hat, and sometimes operate as both at once as some players choose to form alliances and others betray their friends in an effort to reign supreme.

What We Like:

Thanks to its reliance on strategic planning and long turns, Mage Knight is one of the best games out there for solo play.

What We Don’t Like:

This is a pretty complex game that can be a challenge to learn, making it unsuitable for beginners.

7. Lord of the Rings – Journeys in Middle Earth – Best App-Based Game

LOTR - Journeys In Middle-Earth

There are many RPG board games based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendary characters, but Lord of the Rings – Journeys in Middle Earth is undoubtedly one of the best, combining an expansive in-game universe with an incredibly useful app that enhances the entire gaming experience.

Gameplay:

For fans of Lord of the Rings, the addition of notable names like Bilbo Baggins, Aragorn, and Legolas make a welcome addition alongside characters created especially for this highly immersive game.

With the characters chosen, the next step is to use the companion app which, as in Mansions of Madness, is a requirement for this rather than an optional extra.

The app acts as a Game Master but also does so much more, generating the quests you’ll need to complete as you explore Middle Earth, and the fantastic monsters you’ll need to defeat to complete them.

What We Like:

The app really is the big selling point here. It really makes a positive difference to the game while at the same time-saving plenty of time setting up and packing things away. Other than that, we love the rich detail of the character pieces and the stunning artwork on the map tiles.

What We Don’t Like:

The app is great, but if you make a mistake there’s no way to correct it. This can have a big impact on your game, and not always for the better.

8. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game – Best RPG for Kids

Paizo Inc. PFACG Core Set Green

There are many RPGs out there in which intricate details and complex gameplay is all part of the appeal. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is not one of those games. It’s a simple game in the best possible sense of the word and when you combine that with the list of captivating characters makes it the best RPG board game for introducing younger players to the genre.

Gameplay: 

The core Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is fairly basic in its set up but is meant to serve as the basis for other Pathfinder expansion packs like the best-selling Rise of the Runelords.

1 – 4 players chose one of a number of interesting characters and spend time building them up before setting off on a multi-scenario adventure.

As the name implies, Pathfinder exclusively uses cards to dictate how that adventure unfolds, how characters are developers, and, of course, how those ever-present monsters are destroyed.

What We Like:

On its own, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game may seem pretty basic and fairly light on narrative, but that’s exactly what makes it such a great introductory game for kids. Meanwhile, the number of add-ons and expansion packs mean you can easily evolve the game to provide hours of engrossing entertainment as those young ones start to get more experienced.

What We Don’t Like:

The game can start to get repetitive after a couple of play-throughs.

9. Roll Player – Best Character-Creation Game

Thunderworks Games Roll Player Strategy Boxed Board Game Ages 12 & Up, Multi-Colored (twk2000)

If you love the character-building part of other RPGs, you’ll love Roll Player, where leveling-up characters as far as they can go is the whole objective of the game.

Gameplay: 

Character development is a part of most role-playing games, but it’s usually just one part among many others such as combat, world-exploration, and completing missions. 

In this dice-drafting game, the whole purpose is to continue rolling the dice to build up your character’s skills, weaponry, and character traits, building up more and more Reputation Stars as you go along.

At the end of the game, the character with the most Reputation Stars walks away as the victor.

What We Like:

Roll Play is an excellent dice-drafting game that is all about creating Dungeons & Dragons-style characters while offering lots of repay-ability. If characters are your favorite part of classic RPGs, you’ll find a lot to like here.

What We Don’t Like:

The lack of a narrative-driven adventure and minimal character interaction can be a little underwhelming for some players.

10. Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Best Sci-Fi RPG

Star Wars Imperial Assault Board Game Core Set | Strategy Game | Adventure Game | Battle Game for Adults and Teens | Ages 14+ | 1-5 Players | Avg. Playtime 1-2 Hours | Made by Fantasy Flight Games

It’s rare that a game based on a popular media franchise appeals to both diehard fans of that franchise as well as casual gamers, but dungeon-crawler Star Wars: Imperial Assault manages it effortlessly thanks to its combination of over 300 unique missions, expertly-crafted game pieces, and the ability to create your own characters.

Gameplay:

Star Wars: Imperial Assault offers 2 separate modes of gameplay. 

The skirmish mode is all about getting a strike team together and going head-to-head against your opponent to achieve different objectives. It’s great fun, sure, but it’s the campaign mode where Imperial Assault really shines.

In this mode, one player controls the evil Galactic Empire while the other players join forces to create a Rebel Alliance and attempt to take down the Empire.

Characters evolve over the course of multiple missions, so you’re sure to never play the same game twice, with credits awarded at the end of each mission that can be used to buy better weapons and upgrades.

What We Like:

For fans of the Star Wars saga, buying Imperial Assault is a no-brainer, yet there’s enough engaging gameplay here that you’ll still find a lot to like about it even if you’ve never seen the movies.

What We Don’t Like:

Some of the side-missions tend to learn heavily in favor of one side or another which can suck some of the fun out of the gameplay.

11.Talisman: The Magical Quest, 4th Edition- Best Classic RPG

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game, 4th edition

That Talisman: The Magical Quest continues to remain popular decades after it was first released back in 1983 should be enough to earn it consideration for this list, but this isn’t a game to rest purely on its reputation. Now in its 4th edition, Talisman remains as utterly engaging as any of the best RPG board games we’ve featured today:

Gameplay:

Players begin by choosing from a huge list of 14 different characters, all with a different skill set, character traits, and general play styles.

Once characters are selected, they can grow and evolve as they move around the board, thwarting all manner of beasts, demons, and fiendish foes as they journey through magical realms in an attempt to claim the all-important Crown of Command that will help them destroy their opponents and win the game.

What We Like:

The character customization in this RPG game is next-level stuff. As you journey through the game, it’s possible for each of the 14 characters to acquire all kinds of new skills and weaponry to create some true one-of-a-kind characters.

What We Don’t Like:

Talisman: The Magical Quest is a fairly basic RPG that can be great for newcomers, but not so great for more experienced players.

Final Thought: 

Having read through this guide, you’ll no doubt see that what truly makes a game one of the best RPG board games around is all down to personal taste and what you look for in a game.

For those new to the genre, it’s the simplicity of a game like Mice & Mystics that makes it the best while for others its the attention-to-detail and long-term playability of titles such as Descent: Journeys in the Dark that hold the most appeal.

In our estimation though, there really is only one clear winner: 

As intricate and expansive though it may be, Gloomhaven is such an engrossing, immersive experience that hours can fly by without you even realizing it, and if that’s not the sign of a truly great game, then we don’t know what is. 

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