Enjoying a good board game can be paired with reliving your favorite book. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and many other books have multiple board game adaptations. The best of those board games make you feel as if you were a character from the book swinging your sword at hordes of orcs and goblins or driving dementors away with a Patronus.
Some board games use book worlds only as a template without really adapting the characters and storyline, but luckily there are a lot of them that are masterfully designed. If you are a book aficionado looking for a good board game based on your favorite novel, you are on the right website. I will tell you about the best board games based on books, and you might find one that is tailored to your taste.
Book worlds are perfect for Board Games
Board games don’t need a story for their mechanics to function. However, board games without an inviting world aren’t as enjoyable. The problem arises when board game designers have to overwhelm players with lore to create a world that players will be able to connect to. This is where worlds already created in books come in handy. Developers of the board games that adapt books can focus on creating good mechanics without having to spend a lot of time on creating the lore of the world.
It is important to adapt the world from a novel well, because nothing feels worse than a badly adapted board game based on a novel. For example, if someone created a board game based on The Lord of the Rings where hobbits skipped their meals, Legolas had the sharpshooting skills of Stormtroopers, and Gandalf arrived early, it wouldn’t feel true to the world.
It takes a lot more than avoiding such mistakes to develop a board game that conveys the nature of a novel. The board game has to make you feel like you are part of the world described in the novel. Thankfully, numerous board games will fully immerse you in some of the most famous novels. Let’s check them out.
Most popular board games based on books
Lord of the Rings board games - Reliving adventures written by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s masterpiece Lord of the Rings is one of history's most popular works of fiction. It has inspired the whole fantasy genre and many board games. Board game adaptations include card games, strategy board games, and RPG board games. There is even a Lord of the Rings' version of Risk.
One of the best board game adaptations of LOTR is War of the Ring. In War of the Ring, players relive the story from the novel. One player represents the Fellowship of the Ring on their journey to cast the ring in the depths of Orodruin, while the other takes the role of the forces of darkness to hunt down the ring-bearer. The asymmetric nature of the board game perfectly conveys the desperate circumstances of the Fellowship of the Ring and the vast amount of resources at Sauron’s disposal.
Those who enjoy Living Card Games will love one of the classics of the genre – The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. The game doesn’t take place inside the narrative of the novel, instead, it explores various locations in Middle-earth through various custom scenarios. Players use heroes such as Aragorn, Gimli, Gandalf, and many other good guys that appeared in the novel to fight well-known monsters and complete various quests. Although the board game isn’t based on the novel's plot, the heroes and quests are true to the LOTR lore. The Lord of the Rings fans who don’t mind venturing outside the story framework will enjoy exploring different scenarios in the already familiar world.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth is an excellent game both for people who enjoy campaign games and miniature collectors. This board game is an RPG adventure that takes place between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. The element that feels the truest to the novel is how this game treats equipment. As you gather lore and your skill with a weapon increases, you find out that the normal sword you had was a masterfully crafted weapon from the past. This conveys the mystery and glory of past ages in a way that feels similar to the novel.
Harry Potter board games - Excellent for younger generations
Harry Potter is a book series many of us grew up with and still enjoy revisiting. If by some miracle you haven’t heard about Harry Potter, it is a story about a young wizard attending Hogwarts, a school of witchcraft and wizardry. This charming world full of witches and wizards is perfect for board games.
If you are looking for a board game that spans the entire book series, you should check out Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. Hogwarts Battle is a cooperative deck-building game where players take the roles of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville. Each character has a custom deck that is a good representation of their skills in the books. The decks grow through the game, representing the characters’ growing knowledge and skill at wielding magic. The game comes in 7 boxes, each representing one year at Hogwarts. From components to game design, this game has perfectly captured the feeling of the book series. If you want an immersive Harry Potter game, you needn’t look further than Hogwarts Battle.
Those who played any version of Munchkin already know how thematic this quirky game feels. Munchkin is a game that can be adapted to any universe, but the Harry Potter world fits the unusual nature of Munchkin nicely. Spells, monsters, artifacts, and Hogwarts houses from Harry Potter feel natural in this game. If you are looking for a silly game to play on the beach, this is the game for you.
You don’t like trivia games, but you want a board game that will let you compete with your friends in the knowledge of Harry Potter lore? If that is the case, you should check out Codenames: Harry Potter. This game doesn’t immerse you in the Harry Potter world, but it will let you showcase your knowledge of the lore as you team up and try to find fifteen members of The Order of the Phoenix before running out of time or running into a Death Eater.
A Song of Ice and Fire board games - Excellent for diplomacy and tactics
George R. R. Martin’s novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, also popularly called Game of Thrones, is bustling with complex political intrigues, plenty of wars and battles, memorable characters, and absorbing locations. These elements make A Song of Ice and Fire an ideal setting for strategy board games and wargames.
A Song of Ice & Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game is developed under Marin’s direct supervision, so it is little wonder that it is an outstanding adaptation. The game is a wargame where players build their army from the pool of familiar ASOIAF units and characters. The game features beautiful miniatures and masterfully captures skill sets of all units and characters from the novels. Unlike some other wargames, this game reflects how the skills and endeavors of political figures affect the course of a military battle. Schemers like Cersei and Tywin Lannister won’t lead your troops in person, but they will influence the battle through their actions in the political sphere. Playing your favorite factions feels true to the novels Dothraki are all about fast movement on the board, Lannisters are excellent at breaking enemies' morale, and the Night’s Watch is grizzled and enduring.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game is a complex area of control strategy board game that includes a lot of negotiation is a game that captures everything that goes down in A Song of Ice and Fire. The board is a map of Westeros. Every player represents one of the houses and vies for control over territory through combat and negotiation. Just like in the book, many unexpected events regularly occur and force players to adapt their strategies. One downside of the game is that it sometimes takes too long to finish, which is unusually fitting for the game based on a novel by George R. R. Martin.
Dune board games - Backstab your friends without feeling guilty
Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most famous science fiction novels of all time. The story takes place on the desert planet Arrakis, the only place where much sought Spice Melange can be found. Since the spice is vital for space travel, Arrakis is the center of the political conflict between noble families. Conflict is made more complex by the ever-present figure of the Emperor, machinations of the religious sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit, and the protective nature of Arrakis natives the Fremen. This vivid world is the basis for several political and strategy board games.
The first board game based on Dune shares the name with the novel. The original board game was released in 1979 and remade 40 years later. Fitting for Dune adaptation, the board game utilizes negotiation, bluffing, alliances, dirty tricks, and asymmetric setup. Each faction has unique abilities true to the lore of the novel. The Bene Gesserit can use the Voice to force your opponent to play or not to play certain cards, while Fremen units won’t be devoured by a Sandworm appearing in a territory where they have forces. The danger of traveling Arrakis and collecting the spice is also well translated through constant sandstorms and appearances of Sandworms that devour your troops. The only element that isn’t well translated is the direct involvement of the Bene Gesserit and Spacing Guild in conflict for control of Arrakis. However, those two factions are extremely fun to play in the game, so I believe this misstep from the lore can be overlooked.
Dune Imperium is a worker placement board game where players represent leaders from one of four available Great Houses of Landsraad. The Emperor, the Spacing Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Fremen exist in the game but not as playable factions. Their roles in the lore are well translated through the mechanics of the game. For example, the Spacing Guild lets players transport an abundance of troops for a high price and use the Fremen to find water. Avoiding directly involving the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild in the battle for control over Arrakis was a call that feels true to the novel. On the other hand, one element this game lacks is backstabbing. Without backstabbing, it is hard to truly get in the shoes of one of the Great Houses.
Lovecraft board games - An opportunity to explore the fragility of human sanity
H.P. Lovecraft’s works take place in a horror world full of mysteries and intrigue. The main theme of Lovecraft’s work is the irrelevance of mankind in the face of cosmic horrors. A mere glimpse of the Great Old Ones deteriorates the minds of humans.
In Arkham Horror, players represent residents of Arkham in 1926. As a consequence of a cult attempting to awaken one of the Great Old Ones, disturbing things have started happening across Arkham. Residents have started noticing something is afoul and started investigating. Arkham Horror does a great job depicting madness caused by Lovecraft’s eldritch horrors. Characters are ordinary librarians, lawyers, salesmen, or any other of the many backgrounds available who start going insane as they encounter mysterious events and monsters from other realms. The game features an intense race against time when, with every action, players must choose between endangering their character's sanity and letting the cult further their goals of awakening the Great Old Ones.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is another game set in the Arkham city, but it approaches Lovecraft’s world through a combination of LCG and a storytelling game. The moments of hope when drawing a monster token and moments of despair when faced with insurmountable obstacles translate the tenacity of mankind and the magnitude of cosmic horrors present in Lovecraft’s world brilliantly. Despite the randomness, the game manages to have all encounters and creature cards match the scenario you are playing. This game is a storytelling masterpiece and one of the best adaptations of a world from a novel.
Dungeons & Dragons - The perfect match of playing and storytelling
Dungeons & Dragons is a storytelling game with numerous interesting stories and characters across various Dungeons & Dragons settings. There are numerous novels written in D&D settings, but the point of the game is for players to create and play out their own stories. This game brings together the world of games and word of fiction, unlike any other game.
If you never played D&D before, I believe that the best way to learn how to play it is to just start with the basics and learn as you play it. Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set is excellent for new players to start a simple campaign. I understand that some people like to learn by watching. If you belong to that group, the best option is to check out some of the best D&D streams.
The original Dungeons & Dragons game is just one part of the Wizards of the Coast games. There are a bunch of board games set in Dungeons & Dragons world. Some are inspired by famous characters, such as Drizzt from R. A. Salvatore’s novels, while others are just based on Dungeons & Dragons settings. We already have a whole article about Dungeons & Dragons board games, so feel free to check it out if you want to know more about them.
Author – Ante Radoš