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.
However, it could be heavy on the wallet for most people, which is why we’ve singled out Scythe: Rise of Fenris as the best option overall.
|Scythe: Rise of Fenris
|Dungeons and Dragons
Related post: Best Board Games For New Gamers
- Best Campaign Board Games
- 1. Best Overall — Scythe: Rise of Fenris
- 2. Best Legacy-Style Game — Gloomhaven
- 3. Best Budget Option — Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set
- 4. Best Value — Raiders of the North Sea
- 5. Best Cooperative Game — Zombicide Black Plague
- 6. Best for Legacy Players — Pandemic Legacy
- 7. Best Miniatures — Conan
- 8. Best for 2 Players — Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition
- 9. Best Adventure Game — The Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle-Earth
- 10. Best Themed Pick — Star Wars Imperial Assault
- 11. Best for Kids — Mechs Vs Minions
- What to Consider When Buying a Campaign Game
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Campaign Board Games
1. Best Overall — Scythe: Rise of Fenris
Scythe: Rise of Fenris
Scythe was already a big name in the board game community for the base games tactical challenge. Rise of Fenris adds an engaging campaign to the board game classic.
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.
2. Best Legacy-Style Game — Gloomhaven
A deep and combat-based roleplaying adventure with hundreds of hours of gameplay.
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 they’re 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. (And that shouldn’t take long now! The game is scheduled to hit the shelves by this Christmas.)
3. Best Budget Option — Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set
Dungeons and Dragons
An awesome board game where you can flex your own imagination and encourage creativity among players.
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 the price!
4. Best Value — Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders of the North Sea
A game that offers a classic flavor with impressive gameplay and great design.
Raiders of the North Sea stands out with its rich storytelling that offers the right balance between complexity and fun. One of the best features of the game is it delivers an equally enjoyable experience with 2, as well as 4 players.
Each player is placed in charge of a raiding party and needs to gather the necessary resources to defeat the opposition. What makes it even more fun is the excellent artwork.
The main objective of the game is to gather the most victory points by plundering or making offerings. Basically, the game is simple and the idea revolves around worker placement.
Since you need to draw cards, there is also a factor of luck involved. What I especially like is you can explain the game to new players in just a few minutes and get them playing.
Based on your choices, every game will move in a different direction. So, the replayability is also high. While it’s not a brain burner, there are enough challenges to keep things exciting and the pace never drags.
Admittedly, Renegade Game Studios has done excellent development work to provide the best experience to the players. The overall quality of the components is top-notch. The game rolls on at a fast pace and since it can change quickly, making decisions can be challenging.
If you prefer a board game with a high dose and adventure and thematic storytelling, Near and Far is a great option. Considering the price, we have no second thoughts about marking it as the best value choice.
5. Best Cooperative Game — Zombicide Black Plague
Zombicide Black Plague
A fun hack-and-slash with multiple well-supported versions depending on your genre preferences.
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.
6. Best for Legacy Players — Pandemic Legacy
One of the classic cooperative games turns into a campaign based legacy experience to save the world from threatening viruses.
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.
The game keeps changing and all actions have different impacts on the characters. Moreover, you will find new challenges and rules as you keep playing.
Either way, legacy games offer a unique experience for a core group of players, and if you think that is something your playgroup would enjoy, Pandemic Legacy season 1 is a great place to start.
But keep in mind, this is a standalone game and can’t be combined with the regular Pandemic.
7. Best Miniatures — Conan
Conan packs a lot of fun with excellent miniatures and solid combat at an affordable price.
Let’s admit it. Conan the Barbarian is a name that everyone seems to know. This game uses in that popularity an incredibly clever way to blend combat with resource management. It can be played by 2 to 4 players.
To start with, the miniatures used in this game are awesome. The materials used and the amount of detailing is top-notch. The boards supplied are fantastic too.
The main characters are Conan and the villainous Overlord. The three other characters include three pals of Conan. Each character is allotted shiny energy gems that represent their health or endurance. So, the management of these gems is a crucial aspect of this game.
Any action the heroes want to perform requires gems. The same applies to the Overlord. In addition, each hero and even the monsters have special abilities.
Even though the combat system is dice-based, it’s exciting. Also, the combat is thematic and keeps you focused on the story.
The game also gives you the choice to contemplate the strategy or spend all the gems for an all-out attack. In short, it has just enough complexity to make you play “one more round” with your friends.
Overall, this is a gorgeous game that keeps you engaged with a solid strategy. On the downside, a few of the artworks may not be inappropriate for younger audiences.
8. Best for 2 Players — Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition
Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition
A story-driven campaign game that involves gripping combat and excellent exploration mechanics.
If you want an all-out struggle against an opponent, Mage Knight is a good choice. Basically, this is a classic game that offers engaging play that works best between two players.
The players are enigmatic warriors who explore the Mage Knight universe, which is in a deep crisis. The cards you draw will control your actions in various ways. As you level up and gain more powers, you compete with other Knights who are on similar quests.
One of the best aspects is the right balance between fun and complexity. The quality of the components is top-notch too. In fact, the game brings life to the fictional world very effectively.
Keep in mind, the game comes with a steep learning curve. If you are new to the game, it’s best to take it slow, or else you might find the expansion content overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong though. The design of the game makes it player-friendly and the basic rulebooks are separated from the expansive content to make it easier for new players.
Completing the full game can take some time, but the game offers an extremely rewarding experience at all levels. Besides, the character progression is also great.
While it comes with a relatively high price tag, the Ultimate Editions expands over the base game in many ways. In short, this is the best version of the game you can get.
9. Best Adventure Game — The Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle-Earth
LOTR Journeys in Middle-Earth
An awesome adventure game with a great design that Tolkien admirers will enjoy.
If you are an admirer of Tolkien, then this game provides an excellent opportunity to form your own fellowships and set out on a grand adventure. As expected, the theme is similar- a great darkness is rising to engulf Middle Earth.
The game can be played by a maximum of 5 players. However, you can play it in solo mode as well. The game has multiple rounds and each round has three phases. Basically, the game needs you to make smart decisions, instead of engaging in battles at all times.
Adopting a Middle-Earth theme can be challenging; especially when it comes to meeting fan expectations. From that aspect, Fantasy Flight Games has done a great job with the artwork and the other fine details. However, purists may not be satisfied with the design of some of the “iconic” characters,
What makes the game unique is the companion app that guides you through the adventures. The best part is that the app adapts the storyline to match the number of players. It also considers the decisions made by the players.
Initially, the app integration can feel overwhelming for some players. But it doesn’t take much time to get used to it. Besides, the app is well-designed and works smoothly.
With various characters, fantastic multi-configuration map tiles, and a great story, Journeys in Middle-earth is solidly entertaining. The Lord of the Rings fans can surely try this one out.
10. Best Themed Pick — Star Wars Imperial Assault
Star Wars Imperial Assault
An immersive game with a superb design and exciting storyline that captures the essence of Star Wars.
With tense battles and an exciting storyline, Star Wars Imperial Assault is another great product from Fantasy Flight Games. Even though the game comes with a different theme, it can be considered another addition to the Descent series from Fantasy Flight Games
As expected, Imperial Assault is based on a conflict between a group of rebel fighters and the Empire. Up to 4 players can play as the rebels and 1 player will represent the Empire. The game comes with high-quality modular boards and some amazing miniatures.
The rebel players need to complete various tasks and their performance in each mission will have an impact on the next ones. Since the gameplay is extremely fluid, speed and mobility are the keys for the rebels.
The combat is resolved by the use of custom dice and there are different dice colors with different purposes. What most players like about Star Wars Imperial Assault is the highly balanced gameplay. No matter the side you are playing for, you need to fight hard for every inch.
Keep in mind, Imperial Assault is a massive game in terms of storylines and characters. While that can be excessive for some players, the variety ensures that you never feel bored by familiar missions.
For lovers of the Star Wars universe, this game will provide an immersive experience and tons of fun. If you are in the mood to blast away some stormtroopers, this is the perfect campaign game to choose.
11. Best for Kids — Mechs Vs Minions
Mechs Vs Minions
A spinoff of League of Legends made by Riot Games.
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. In other words, it doesn’t suffer for only having two players, unlike a lot of the other campaign games on this list.
Another reason why I recommend it despite the relatively lukewarm response in the community? It’s 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.
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 2022-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API