Campaign board games are a unique experience for players. They ask you to come back night after night to enjoy and engage with unique stories, evolving mechanics, and fun gameplay. They are a wonderful subsection of board games that strays away from each session feeling the same.
We’ve played and tested tons of what’s claimed to be some of the best campaign board games and we have them listed here. Our favorite of the bunch is Gloomhaven because of the sheer amount of content within it and the challenging and unique gameplay it offers.
Related post: Best Board Games For New Gamers
- Best Campaign Board Games
- What to Consider When Buying a Campaign Game
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Campaign Board Games
Best Overall – Gloomhaven
When it comes to campaign games, Gloomhaven is still the king of the castle. There is a reason that its followup Frosthaven raised over 12 million dollars on Kickstarter, and it’s because Gloomhaven is the unrivaled champion of campaign-based board games.
Gloomhaven is a dark story about your band of adventurers diving into the complicated and dangerous town of Gloomhaven; beyond that, the rest is up to you. After each ‘chapter’ of the board game, players will make choices that lead to the next battle within Gloomhaven. This means that the game is part role-playing and makes the game almost infinitely replayable.
One element that makes Gloomhaven so infamous is that it’s hard, like sweat-on-game-night hard. It’s easy to lose an encounter if you play fast and loose with your cards, and it’s even easier to accidentally have a character get absolutely demolished from a bad turn. Players need to be careful and calculated if their going to survive their sessions in Gloomhaven.
Did we say sessions? That’s right. Gloomhaven is a long game that’s well worth the price tag. Each dungeon takes several hours to complete, and that can mean that a full ‘campaign’ of Gloomhaven can take over a hundred and fifty hours. Gloomhaven is a long term commitment, but you’re going to get fantastic time value while playing the game.
If you’re looking to play a fantastic board game with a long and deep campaign, you can’t do better than Gloomhaven. At least you can’t until Frosthaven comes out and challenges it.
Best for PVP – Scythe: Rise of Fenris
If you’re looking for a game you can play with or against other people, Scythe: Rise of Fenris is our pick. The base game of Scythe is a tactical multiplayer competitive experience; the Rise of Fenris is still competitive but has the players working through the campaign to the end goal. Additionally, it adds an oft-requested element to the base game of Scythe, a co-op mode. If that’s what players want.
One of Scythe’s cool parts is that it’s playable with one to seven players (or five without the Invaders from Afar expansion). This means that the campaign games can be played alone, between siblings, or among friends, a rare treat in a world that demands 4+ players fairly often.
Scythe: Rise of Fenris also specifically avoids being a legacy game. There are no stickers on the board, cards to ruin, or anything that would prevent you from resetting the Rise of Fenris and starting with a second group.
Overall, Scythe as a game oozes style and is an epic exploration of adults and older children’s imagination. It was designed as a premium tabletop experience that is rules heavy but an amazingly fun experience. Adding the campaign onto an already great game is what makes Rise of Fenris so unique.
Best Value – Zombicide
Zombicide, Zombicide Fantasy and Zombicide Sci-Fi are all equally fun hack and slash adventures through an impossible amount of zombies and their scarier empowered brethren. Depending on the version you buy, you can role play as the Walking Dead, the crew of Alien, or a Hardcore version of the Lord of the Rings characters to stop the zombie horde from spreading.
The game plays similarly from the beginning to the end of the campaign as players level up, gather loot, and overall gain power to triumph over the next level in the campaign. One fantastic part of the board game is that each of the characters plays extremely differently, meaning that the same playgroup could play the campaign multiple times without feeling ‘same-y’.
The reason that Zombicide is one of the most value-packed campaign games out there is that it comes with an incredible amount of quality content in the box. Lots of games like Zombicide use tokens or cards to represent the bad guys, but Zombicide games come with (at minimum) 71 high-quality miniatures for use in gameplay. These minis are so good that we often use them to supplement other games like Dungeons and Dragons.
Additionally, the creators of Zombicide, Guillotine Games, have additional missions added for free on their website, and they keep publishing them! Zombicide Season 1 came out in 2012, but Guillotine games released a new free online mission for the game in August 2020.
Zombicide may have a fairly steep price tag, but it’s impossible to deny the value you get for each dollar you spent on it.
Best for Legacy Players – Pandemic Legacy
For best legacy games, we suggest Pandemic Legacy for a challenging and thrilling experience that has multiple rides to go on, with Season 0 (the third expansion) releasing in late 2020.
Legacy games are a controversial idea in the board game community. Some players enjoy the unrivaled experience of a board game that can only be played through once, but some players prefer to run through a campaign multiple times.
Pandemic Legacy will ask players to destroy certain game pieces based on their choices at points in the campaign. Sometimes this can be viscerally satisfying as a victory celebration, and sometimes it’s a solemn admission to a loss during the campaign. Either way, legacy games offer a unique experience for a core group of players, and if you think that is something you’re playgroup would enjoy, Pandemic Legacy season 1 is a great place to start.
Best for Two Players – Mechs Vs Minions
Mechs Versus Minions is a spinoff of League of Legends made by Riot Games, but you don’t need to play the video game to enjoy the exciting and engaging gameplay that the game offers or the high-quality miniatures it comes with.
There are multiple games on this list that can be played with two players, but Mechs Vs Minions is among the best board games for two players; but Mechs Vs Minions doesn’t suffer for only having two players, unlike a lot of the other campaign games on this list. That’s what makes it the premium two-player experience on this list.
Mechs Vs Minions is also a fantastic teaching tool for children who are interested in programming. Unlike many other popular games, the turns during Mechs Vs Minions have each player placing cards in order, and then the ‘mech’ they control follow instructions placed that turn and the turns before. It is a fantastic way to introduce programming order to interested kids without making them read a textbook.
Best Budget Option – Dungeons and Dragons
No discussion about board games and campaigns would be complete without discussing the classical campaign’s originator, Dungeons and Dragons. If you’re looking to flex your own imagination or encourage creativity from your children or friends, Dungeons and Dragons is the greatest ‘board game’ of all time.
The biggest hiccup for Dungeons and Dragons games is that one player needs to act as the ‘dungeon master’ and end up running the game more than playing it. Many players love being the Dungeon Master and will want to take on the role every time you suggest D&D, but this can be a roadblock to some players looking to start playing the game.
When it comes to campaign games, none match the length of D&D. With only the Players Handbook, you can technically play an infinite amount of games for as much time as you want. Still, there are also additional books that offer extra options for players or fully build campaigns that are ready to play.
Each of the pre-built campaigns will offer almost a year of playtime if you’re meeting for your campaign game once a week for about four hours. That’s a comedic amount of content for just 30 dollars.
What to Consider When Buying a Campaign Game
Most games have elements of both role play and traditional gameplay. Depending on the group you have, you may seriously prefer one style of game over the other. We find that Gloomhaven is a fantastic mix of the two that doesn’t ask much of the player role-play wise, but rewards players who engage with that part of the game.
For groups who are uncomfortable with role-playing, we’d suggest Sythe and Zombicide off this list. For groups who want to try role-playing, Gloom Haven and Dungeons and Dragons are both fantastic options.
Some of the games on this list offer a lot of value because of the length of the campaign, but many of them also demand your attention for longer continuous periods to avoid having to ‘pause’ in the middle of a session. If you’re unsure about getting a group together for longer periods, games from this list like Mechs Vs Minions would be a better choice for you.
When considering different games, it’s essential to keep in mind how many players you want to take part in the campaign, and whether they are going to be consistently able to play together. Organizing game night can be hard and sometimes the flexibility of swapping a player out or adding someone in mid-campaign is a great asset.
For players who might need a little less rigidity in their roster, we’d suggest Zombicide or Mechs vs Minions; neither of these games needs to have the same number of players or the same players involved at each session. As you move forward through the game, you’re progressing through a story, but it’s not hard to bring new players aboard or let people take a break.
If you can handle having the same people play every week, Gloomhaven rewards that enough to make the commitment worth it.
Though there is only one Legacy Game on this list, your interest in them needs to be an essential consideration when shopping for campaign board games. Pandemic is our choice of the best legacy campaign game, but there are many other options out there on the market.
If playing a game one time and then having it on your shelf as a testament to that campaign game sounds like a treat, you might enjoy legacy games. If you’d prefer to play a game more than once and want to experience your campaign games more than once, steer clear legacy games.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to play all the levels of a Campaign board game?
Mechanically, you don’t need to play every level of a game; you can always just skip a level! There aren’t board game police out there making sure that you follow every rule. One main consideration is that most of these games are carefully tested to ensure that players are readied for each level by beating the previous one. If you start skipping levels, you might find the game becomes too hard because of your lack of playing experience.
Are there campaign board games I can play alone?
Absolutely! Some games are made specifically as a solo experience. That said, the best game on this list for a single player is Scythe. Playing the Scythe: Rise of Fenris campaign solo is a perfectly intact experience; the campaign doesn’t suffer from you missing your friends as opponents.
Can I replay a legacy board game?
Yes and no. By design, legacy board games are meant to be played once, with stickers added or certain game pieces getting destroyed during the run. Technically nothing is stopping you from setting aside the pieces that the game tells you to destroy (Like we mentioned above, no board game police), but it does take away some of the uniqueness of playing legacy games. They can be played as standard board games, but that is not the point of them.
Why are campaign games so expensive?
Whether they are on this list of not, a lot of campaign games can cost over one hundred dollars or close to it. This can seem like a lot, considering it’s almost double what many other board games cost, but there is a reason for it. Campaign games come with sometimes hundreds of hours of unique content for players to play through. This is very different from traditional games that have 1 set way to play them and significantly raise the development cost of these games.
Additionally, campaign games are a niche within the board games community that tends to have very high production value items, like detailed miniatures and glossy rule books. This raises the games’ price but ensures that game pieces won’t break or decay even if you own them and use them regularly for years.
Last update on 2021-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API