Video Games that Would Make Awesome Board Games

I love video games and a couple of weeks ago we saw the news that Plaid Hat Games where producing a board game based on the lore and setting of Bioshock Infinite. It’s a shame that there's not more games based off of video game properties. Board Game Quest covered all the bases of the best video games that exist but there's a rich compendium of video games just begging to be transcribed into cardboard and dice. Here's my top picks for which video games would make brilliant board games and which already existing board games come close.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown

Hailing from the land of dragon’s and warm beer that is the UK I’m more used to calling this series of games UFO but the X-com / UFO series of games has always been a hybrid management sim, with research trees and training troops, matched with a turn based tactical shooting game similar to Laserburn or Jagged Alliance. As commander of X-Com forces your aim is to fend off the invading aliens while simultaneously reverse engineering their technology and conducting autopsies on the alien scum you’ve managed to shoot down.

So how would it work?
Hot Plasma Death!
X-Com’s blend of management and tactical combat lends itself to two distinct versions of game and balancing both types into a single board game would be difficult. How about a global management game where you are training your squads, developing technology, managing your finances and sending troops and jetfighters around the globe to stop the alien menace? Or if you’re more action oriented you could have a squad level skirmish game, either board based or scenery based where you send your squad of alien busters against a team of extra-terrestrial horrors. The interesting fact here is that X-Com: Enemy Unknown was developed using a board game to prototype the mechanics  so the work has practically already been done. It just needs some shiny miniatures and we’re off.

Is there anything close?
Pandemic is the first game that comes to mind when thinking about managing a global crisis. For the skirmish games, Dust Tactics, Sedition Wars or Infinity.


I'll come clean, I've tried DOTA2 and I don't have a clue what's going on.
Games like League of Legends and Defence of the Ancients 2 (aka DOTA2) are currently some of the most popular games in PC gaming. Commonly referred to as MOBAs (multiplayer Online Battle Arena) they involve two teams of mighty heroes whose goal is to destroy the opposing team’s base. To aid them are creeps, low level monsters who act of their own accord travelling along three lanes. The player’s aims are to support these creeps in their attack while at the same time attacking enemy characters and generally causing a nuisance for the opposing team. Characters level up and can buy new equipment during the game and there are literally hundreds of characters to choose from.

So how would it work?
Converting a complicated video game like DOTA2 into a board game that doesn’t take days to play is going to take some abstraction; and that’s where a MOBA style board game is going to live or die. That being said you can see how dungeon crawlers, such as Descent, or fantasy adventure games like the World of Warcraft series can be utilised to take the heroes, levelling up and skills side of things. It’s either that you take a more high level approach where the creeps are merely tokens and they game becomes more abstracted like Stronghold.

Is there anything close?
There’s really nothing on the market at the moment that matches a MOBA in board game form. If you know of one let us all know in the comments.

Elite & EVE online

Lots and lots of Space!
One of my favourite games of all time was Elite 2 on the Amiga. I was too young to appreciate the original BBC micro version but just the right age to appreciate Elite 2 with its open ended gameplay, stock market trading, ship to ship combat and an entire galaxy that could fit on a single floppy disc. The game being so open is what made it so fascinating; you could mine for ore, shoot down pirates, go on military missions for one of the various factions and even become a pirate yourself. Choosing the right ship and upgrading you weapons and crew compartments was all part of the fun. Over the years the genre has gone through many iterations but biggest has been EVE Online; a massively multiplayer galaxy full of pirates, corporations, miners and traders. The scope may have increased, and the graphics improved but the same universe of possibilities exist. Long live the Panther Clipper.

So how would it work?
The main aim of any game in this genre would have to be multiple paths to victory. You would have to give the players choice in how they win and all the options from trading to military strikes would have to be included. Players could upgrade or buy new ships with larger cargo holds or bigger guns. Any game would need a strong combat mechanic but methods for players to win without firing a single shot. Most importantly, for the true Elite or EVE experience, the game would need to be huge!

Is there anything close?
Merchant of Venus almost Elite in board game form but games such as Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert also capture that feeling.

Viva Piñata

Don't let the bright colours fool you, this game is ruthless.
Okay, bear with me here. I haven’t gone completely bonkers. Viva Piñata was a cute and cuddly game about building a garden and using it to attract brightly coloured candy based animals. It all seems rather cute and aimed at children until your realise one thing; this is the most ruthless strategy game in existence. Getting the higher tiers of animals required huge amounts of resources, strategy and careful management of your existing animals. You would be forced to make tough decisions and every turn and as times even required to kill of existing animals to make room for your goal.

So how would it work?
When it comes down to it Viva Piñata was a game of resource management and set collection. You can imagine combining card based set collection games with a heavy farming euro such as Agricola but without the whole starving children thing. How about a deck building game where you need combinations of cards to buy the better cards? To fully capture the theme a Viva Piñata game would have to be deceptively simple to learn but fiendishly difficult to master.

Is there anything close?
Not to my knowledge

Pac-Man image used under Creative Commons:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


  1. Cool article. Isn't there an Eve Online board game out already though?

    1. You're right! EVE:Conquest

      I've never heard of that before and by the looks of it, it's been out of print for some time.