It’s tough to beat Gloomhaven’s massive value and fantastic game mechanics. But other games might also appeal to you. Gloomhaven is a bit of a behemoth, so you might want something smaller or not as intense.
From exhaustive campaigns and immersive storylines to tactical combat and role-playing, the fantasy board game genre is going strong. I’ve reviewed some of the best fantasy board games and detailed their features so you can pick the best one.
Which fantasy-themed board game is right for you? Keep reading to find out.
- 1 Fantasy Board Games At a Glance
- 2 Fantasy Board Game Reviews
- 2.1 Gloomhaven: Best Fantasy Board Game
- 2.2 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Begins: Best Cooperative Game for Families
- 2.3 Small World: Best Area Control Game for Families
- 2.4 Mage Knight Ultimate Edition: Best Role-Playing Fantasy Board Game
- 2.5 Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle Earth: Best Campaign-Based Fantasy Board Game
- 2.6 Spirit Island: Best Resource Management Fantasy Board Game
- 2.7 Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress: Best Sci-Fi Fantasy Board Game
- 2.8 Grimwood: Best Fantasy Card Game
- 3 Fantasy Board Game Buying Guide
- 4 The Last Word: Best Fantasy Board Games
Fantasy Board Games At a Glance
There are several reasons you might be drawn to fantasy board games. It’s helpful to know what game features you like the most so you can pick the right game for you.
Many fantasy board games include role-playing, where players take on the role of fantasy characters. If you enjoy this concept, you might consider Gloomhaven, Mage Knight, Warhammer Quest, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, or Spirit Island.
Another common mechanic is campaign-driven play. Players must complete quests to level up or achieve victory. If that’s your thing, you’ll want to look at Mage Knight, Gloomhaven, Lord of the Rings, or Warhammer Quest.
Tactical combat is another important element of fantasy board games. Small World, Lord of the Rings, and Spirit Island all have strong combat elements.
Lastly, you have to think about the age of the players. If you’re looking for games suited for younger children or families, you might try Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins, Small World, or even Grimwood (if they can handle sabotage!).
Fantasy Board Game Reviews
Gloomhaven: Best Fantasy Board Game
Playing time: 30 minutes per player
Publisher: Cepholafair Games
If you’re looking for an epic fantasy board game, Gloomhaven by Cephalofair Games should be at the top of your list. This Euro-inspired tactical game involves combat in a world of shifting motives.
Players take on the role of wandering adventurers with their own special abilities and motives for traveling. They must work together to clear out dangerous dungeons and ancient ruins.
As the game progresses, players can enhance their abilities, discover new locations to explore and expand the story with each decision they make.
This is not ideal as a single-session game. Instead, I recommend playing this over multiple gaming sessions with a consistent group. The same gaming group is not required, however.
You make decisions after each scenario that determines how the story continues, sort of like a “choose your own adventure” board game.
Players use cards to determine the order of play and what actions a player takes on their turn. If you take too long to clear a dungeon, you may run out of energy and be forced to retreat. There is no dice rolling in this board game.
With over 90 missions to choose from, there’s no shortage of variation in the game. Side quests, branching storylines, multiple levels, and loot galore all add to the possibilities.
Even though this has a legacy format, you don’t have to tear up cards or permanently alter the game. That means you can play it through again and again.
Gloomhaven was a big hit with buyers. They loved the sheer volume of content the game offers. Even though this game is complex, buyers agreed that once you get the hang of the rules, it’s one of the best.
Gloomhaven is an investment, both in terms of time and money. This isn’t a simple rainy-day pick. This game takes several hours to play all the way through. It’s also expensive.
But if you’re measuring hours of play into the cost, this fantasy board game still comes out on top in terms of value.
When it comes to fantasy-themed games, Gloomhaven is one of the best. It’s my top pick for a fantasy dungeon crawler.
- Cooperative game
- Fantasy adventure with strategy
- 90+ missions available
- 17 playable characters (start with 6)
- Immersive story, campaign-driven
- Legacy format but still has high replayability
- Lengthy game, has a learning curve
Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Begins: Best Cooperative Game for Families
Playing time: approximately 45 minutes
You can’t have a conversation about the best fantasy board games and not include Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the game that brought dungeon crawling to the masses, after all.
This version, dubbed Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins, is meant to be a quick entry into the world of D&D. It’s published by Hasbro gaming and can work for players as young as 10.
In this cooperative fantasy board game, players work together as they journey through the lands of Neverwinter. You can choose and customize your hero, and monsters, and experience a new adventure each time.
Players choose a journey for their party of heroes. They can also decide which Boss the group will fight in the end. Choose from Felbris (Beholder), Orn (Fire Giant), Deathsleep (Green Dragon), and the Kraken.
The plastic miniatures show an Elf, Human, Dragonborn, and Dwarf. The players take turns each move being the Dungeon Master, the game’s storyteller.
Buyers agreed this is a great game for families. It’s not complex like other dungeon crawlers, so it’s accessible from a young age.
Of course, this game’s strength is its weakness. Some people felt it was too simple and that there wasn’t enough variation in the abilities of the characters. There were also some reports of missing pieces.
If you are new to dungeon crawling or would like to introduce D&D to your children, I would highly recommend Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins. If you’re a D&D veteran or prefer complex fantasy-themed board games, this one isn’t the best option for you.
- Quick, cooperative gameplay
- Good entry game
- Easy-to-learn rules
- Dungeon Master role is shared
- Great for families
- Lacks complexity
- Not much difference in character abilities
- Reports of missing pieces
Small World: Best Area Control Game for Families
Playing time: 45-90 minutes
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Created by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy-themed follow-up to Vinci, Small World is a game of intense competition that pits players against each other as they vie for conquest and control.
Small World is inhabited by 14 different races of fantasy characters, including dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs, humans, and more. Players choose one of the fantasy races, as well as one of 20 unique special powers.
Players rush to expand their empires by conquering territory, but they must be careful not to stretch themselves too thin. In that case, they must put their race in decline and choose a new race to expand.
Gain victory points by occupying territory and conquering adjacent lands. At the end of 10 rounds, the player with the most victory points wins the game.
One thing buyers enjoyed was the high variability and replay value. Within one game, there are almost countless combinations of races and special powers. And since there’s some randomization in it, you can play it again and again, getting a different experience each time.
Unlike most board games in the fantasy genre, Small World is highly competitive. That can be a plus or a drawback, depending on the person.
It’s also fairly simple. This board game is like a simplified version of Risk set in a fantasy world. If you like war games, this might appeal to you.
If you want an area control, fantasy-themed game, Small World is a great pick. If you want cooperative games or complex rules, you should probably skip this one.
- Requires strategic thinking
- Competitive and fun
- Simple rules, easy to learn
- Colorful components & game board
- High replay value
- Can be cutthroat
- A little too simple for some
Mage Knight Ultimate Edition: Best Role-Playing Fantasy Board Game
Playing time: 60+ minutes
Mage Knight is perfect for the board game enthusiast who prefers role-playing games in the fantasy genre. This tabletop RPG is set within the fantasy world of the WizKids universe.
The Ultimate version of the Mage Knight board game includes three expansions and five new cards. Speaking of, instead of using dice rolls to determine player actions, Mage Knight is a deck-building game.
The game progresses over a set number of rounds according to the scenario. For each round, players complete preparations and then choose a tactical card to determine actions.
The game ends when the scenario’s end game condition is met or when the round limit is reached. This is determined by the victory conditions of each scenario.
Players choose one of seven characters to play. Each character has different powers and special abilities. As players discover new territory and fight monsters, they can purchase new spells to help them achieve their objectives.
If a player gets wounded, they must decide whether to rest and heal or keep going with limited capacity. Decisions abound in this game.
Buyers had rave reviews for Mage Knight. One thing they liked was that this board game works as a solo game or as a group game. Most tabletop games don’t have that range.
Mage Knight does have a lot of rules. They aren’t necessarily complicated, but the volume can be overwhelming for those newer to the dungeon crawler format.
Several buyers did complain about the wasted space in the box. A bit of a random complaint, but you’ll need room for storage or be prepared to rebox this game.
If you like completing quests and fighting monsters, you’ll enjoy playing Mage Knight.
- Works as solo or multi-player
- Good character development
- High variability, multiple scenarios
- Includes three expansions
- Unique wound mechanism
- Complex gameplay
- Box has wasted space
Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle Earth: Best Campaign-Based Fantasy Board Game
Playing time: 60+ minutes
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle Earth is the perfect board game for fans of Tolkien’s fictional world. LOTR is an adventure game of epic proportions set in Middle Earth.
Play as one of the heroes of the Free Peoples, each with their own special abilities to contribute to the Fellowship.
Players must work together to survive the perilous adventures that await. Defeat monsters, discover lost treasures, uncover forgotten lore, and more.
This is an app-supported game, where the app works as a game manager. It assigns a portion of the scenario, tracks strength and abilities, and saves game progress for you.
One of the most important tasks of the app is to assign the map layout. The gameplay is variable so that no two games are the same. There is also a solo player option for those who prefer it.
Buyers enjoyed the campaign-driven play and Tolkein-based fantasy theme. They were also pleased with the quality of the game components. The minis come unpainted for those who enjoy painting their own.
Some buyers wished there were more stories included with the base game. For more storylines, you’ll have to purchase the expansion.
If the War of the Ring is on your bookshelf and you enjoy board gaming, LOTR Journeys in Middle Earth will be one of your favorite games.
- App tracks game progress
- Immersive story-driven gameplay
- High-quality miniatures, components
- Good character progression
- Not too complex, not too easy
- Cooperative play or one-player option
- Requires the app
- Not as many storylines
Spirit Island: Best Resource Management Fantasy Board Game
Playing time: 90-120 minutes
Publisher: Greater than Games
When it comes to fantasy games, Spirit Island is a unique and highly entertaining choice.
This complex and fully cooperative game has players taking on the role of one of eight different spirits. These spirits seek to defend their home from colonizing invaders.
Each spirit has its own special powers. Each turn, players choose which of their power cards to play, paying energy to do so. They must decide which combination of power cards to play.
Each round consists of the Spirit phase, where the spirits gain energy, reclaim used power cards, seek new power, spread their presence, and choose whether to grow and how to do so.
After the Spirit phase, the Invaders expand across the island map. They build in explored lands and form settlements and cities. If they aren’t stopped, the Invaders eventually ravage the land, bringing blight and attacking any native islanders present.
Winning requires destroying every last Invader settlement and city. A daunting task, to be sure, but as the Spirits frighten the Invaders more and more, victory becomes more effortless. This is a board game of momentum.
The four modular island player boards provide a variety of layouts. The four optional scenarios provide even more variability, giving this game a good replay value.
The tactical depth required to manage resources is impressive. If you’re a fan of strategy games, Spirit Island will scratch that itch.
However, that same complexity is a drawback. There’s a steep learning curve to this game. This isn’t the best option for board gaming beginners or those who don’t want to invest a lot of time learning the rules.
- Unique fantasy theme story
- Tactical depth
- Fully cooperative
- Cool artwork
- Great for player interaction
- Steep learning curve
Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress: Best Sci-Fi Fantasy Board Game
Playing time: 2-3 hours
Publisher: Games Workshop
For those who like cooperative tabletop games, Warhammer Quest Blackstone Fortress is a board game based on the Warhammer Quest series of games.
In this tabletop game, each player takes the role of one of four explorers delving into the labyrinth of a vast and ancient space station.
Players must work together to balance their strengths and skills to survive. Players discover archeotech and learn more of the Blackston Fortress’ secrets in search of treasure.
This tabletop game can be played solo or with a group of up to five players. After each expedition, players return to the nearby port city of Precipice to rest. They trade any loot for resources to help them on their next adventure.
With map tiles instead of a single game board, this game has plenty of built-in variation with seemingly countless combinations.
Blackstone Fortress is complex, with a sizeable learning curve. If you like heavy board games, you’ll enjoy the complexity of this one.
The game components are high quality, but they require assembly. You can paint them if you wish, as they come unpainted.
Buyers loved the game mechanics and the cooperation involved. This is ideal for sci-fi fans, and it works well as an entry point for fantasy board games.
If you decide to play with five people, the fifth player controls the hostiles. There is very little decision-making involved with this role, so this would be better for a beginner or someone who doesn’t care about being limited in their actions.
If you like fantasy board games that are specifically sci-fi and cooperative, you’ll love playing this one.
- Has a solo option
- Cooperative play
- Immersive storyline
- Highly variable
- Learning curve, complex
Grimwood: Best Fantasy Card Game
Playing time: 30 minutes
Publisher: Adventure on Games
Although not technically a board game, Grimwood is an excellent card game with a fantasy theme. Grimwood is a highly chaotic, slightly strategic game of competition and sabotage.
This game originated on Kickstarter, so its popularity is a testament to the game’s entertainment value. Grimwood is a great choice for your next game night.
In this card game, players search the forest (the deck) and compete to collect the highest-scoring combinations of animals, settings, or supernaturals, to maximize their loot. The player with the most points wins.
The easy-to-learn rules and fast-paced gameplay is ideal for families and competitive gaming groups. With plenty of game interaction, this is a great card game for bringing people together… until the sabotage commences!
Players can draw from the deck, steal from other players, and unleash the powers of their supernatural to get the most points. The game ends when the last card is drawn.
Buyers raved about the stunning artwork. They enjoyed the shorter game length and the simple rules. Some people said the instructions were somewhat vague. It’s nothing that a few house rules can’t fix, but be aware of those gaps.
Grimwood is a fun game, but it is intensely competitive. If you can’t handle proverbial backstabbing, maybe go for a cooperative board game instead.
If you like fast-paced, competitive strategy games, you’ll enjoy Grimwood for your next game night.
- Quick gameplay
- Plenty of player interaction
- Cool artwork
- Competitive strategy
- Great replayability
- Somewhat vague instructions
- Can get cutthroat
Fantasy Board Game Buying Guide
In addition to the specific game features, there are a few other considerations when purchasing fantasy board games.
First, you want a game with high-quality components. Game pieces that fall apart or outdated artwork can dampen the gaming experience.
Secondly, you might have a preference between dice rolls and deck-building. If you’d rather play cards to determine actions, avoid a game with a set of six-sided dice.
You must also think about the length of play. Make sure you have enough time to play the game you want. Also consider that the first game typically takes longer, as you have to learn the rules beforehand (or as you go).
The Last Word: Best Fantasy Board Games
What’s the best fantasy board game? I recommend Gloomhaven. It just has everything you’d want in a fantasy-themed board game.
But whichever one you choose, several games can have you defeating foes and leveling up fantasy creatures in no time.