Best Campaign Board Games

How does injecting your run-of-the-mill board game with adventure, decision making, storytelling, and plot twists sound? Amazing, right? This is what campaign board games are offering to board gamers today.

Rather than playing a single game and ending it there, campaign board games offer the chance to play the same game over multiple sessions, each game-changing slightly and contributing to an overarching storyline.

There are a lot of campaign board games out there. From adaptations of board game classics like Pandemic to wholly original and exciting legacy games like Gloomhaven, there really are too many to choose from.

That’s where this guide comes in handy. This rundown of the very best campaign board games out there has everything you need to know before making that big purchase and starting a board game adventure with your friends or family.

Bottom Line Up Front

You’re here for the best campaign board games so here they are. These games will get some in-depth discussion in this guide, but I’ll also throw in some honorable mentions at the end of the guide too.

  • Gloomhaven – Best overall campaign board game.
  • Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 – Best campaign board game for beginners.
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game – Best mini campaign game.
  • Mice and Mystics – Best campaign game for families.
  • Charterstone – Best city-building campaign game.
  • Betrayal Legacy – Best adapted campaign board game (a board game that was originally non-campaign).
  • The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine – Best sci-fi campaign board game.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth – Best fantasy campaign board game.
  • Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Best classic campaign board game.
  • Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Best campaign board game based on a movie.

What are Campaign Board Games?

Gloomhaven

A campaign board game – also known as a campaign style game, a legacy board game, or a story game – is a board game that consists of multiple games that are linked together by an overarching story.

Typical campaign board games consist of at least 10-12 individual games, so expect to play over several sessions. Campaign board games are often co-operative, but there are some competitive exceptions (such as Charterstone).

Campaign board games are great because they sit somewhere in between traditional, standalone board games and fully immersive TTRPGs (tabletop roleplaying games) like Dungeons & Dragons.

That means if you want immersive storytelling and a fun narrative with your gaming, but you’re not ready for or simply don’t enjoy the roleplaying side of TTRPGs, campaign board games offer a fun middle ground.

Selection Criteria

These are the best campaign board games, so you can be certain that overall gameplay and quality are high. But there are some other factors to consider when buying a new board game. In addition to my review, each game will receive a score out of ten for the following selection criteria:

Theme

Theme is especially important in campaign games, since you’ll be in their setting for some time. I’ll rate the overall success and quality of the game’s theme out of 10.

Art

The beautiful art found in board games is what attracts many of us to them. That’s why my rankings always include a rating out of 10 for the game’s art.

Difficulty

How easy is this game? I’ll score the difficulty of these games on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 10 (very difficult – experienced gamers only).

Family Friendliness

Are you a family of gamers of all ages. Alongside an age rating, this guide will rate out of ten how family friendly each game is.

Replayability

Once you’ve played through this campaign board game, can you (and will you want to) play it all again? Many campaign board games involve permanently altering the board and components, so they cannot be played again.

Best Campaign Board Games

Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playing time (per game): 60-120 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Isaac Childres
  • Publisher: Cephalofair Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 10
  • Art: 8
    • Credit to Alexandr Elichev, Josh T. McDowell, and Alvaro Nebot for their consistently awesome art in Gloomhaven, which ranges from cool character art to a stunning board.
  • Difficulty: 7
  • Family friendliness: 3
  • Replayability: 10
    • You can play Gloomhaven all over again and, if you make different decisions, it can be an entirely new game. My top tip? Make sure you buy some removable Gloomhaven stickers so that you can play this campaign board game more than once.

The Review

If you love campaign board games, you can’t go wrong with Isaac Childres’ epic legacy game, Gloomhaven. If you’ve stepped inside a board games store in the last two years, you’ve probably spotted Gloomhaven – the box is huge, after all. Gloomhaven may have a higher price tag than almost every game on this list, it’s well worth it. Let me tell you why.

Gloomhaven is a dungeon-crawler board game that replaces dice rolls with hand management. You are your fellow players will work through scenarios as part of a larger story set around the city of Gloomhaven.

You’ll uncover secrets, make difficult decisions, and build your character’s deck of cards to gain more abilities as you play. The gameplay itself is balanced and elegant, with enough difficulty to intrigue seasoned gamers without frustrating them.

With 17 characters to choose from (four to start and eleven unlocked over the course of the campaign) and the ability to retire your character and choose a new one, you’ll never get bored playing Gloomhaven. 

The game is also filled with secrets, twists, and events caused by decisions made throughout the game. Gloomhaven is sometimes described as the board game version of Dungeons & Dragons, and I’m inclined to agree.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Pandemic Legacy Season 1

The Essentials

  • Players: 2-4
  • Playing time (per game): 60 minutes
  • Age: 13+
  • Designer: Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock
  • Publisher: Z-Man Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 10
  • Art: 5
  • Difficulty: 4
  • Family friendliness: 7
  • Replayability: 1
    • In Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, you’ll be writing on the board, cards, and adding stickers. That means this game doesn’t have a replay value – but don’t let that put you off, this game is definitely a great one-time experience!

The Review

Have you played Pandemic? Matt Leacock’s 2008 co-operative board game that has players race against time to control and cure global disease outbreaks is one of those games that converts people to board gaming.

So in 2015, Leacock and Rob Daviau released the first campaign version of Pandemic Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 – and it’s been topping board game charts ever since.

Pandemic Legacy builds on the basic gameplay of Pandemic. Players each take on the role of a medical expert and must move around a global map on the board to remove cubes that represent different diseases and collect cards to find the cure for every disease. If the pandemic goes on too long or the diseases get out of control, the players all lose the game. In the Legacy version, the game takes place over 12 months, with players adding material to the board and gaining new abilities with every game.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is packed with decision making, tense gameplay and even some plot twists. The plot isn’t as exciting or nuanced as Gloomhaven, but has plenty to enjoy. Pandemic Legacy is a great campaign board game for beginners, so if you’re new to the world of campaign games, why not give it a try?

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arkham Horror The Card Game

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-2 (or 1-4 with two core sets)
  • Playing time (per game): 60-120 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Nate French and MJ Newman
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 10
  • Art: 10
    • Fantasy Flight Games have fantastic art and Arkham Horror: The Card Game is no different. With unique and detailed art work on every card, Christopher Hosch and co.’s awesome art makes this game even better.
  • Difficulty: 8
  • Family friendliness: 3
    • This is one of the more difficult and, if the name gives anything away, scary games on this list. Older teens will enjoy but not one for the kids.
  • Replayability: 7
    • With plenty of monsters and expansion packs out there, you can play Arkham Horror: The Card Game again and again.

The Review

Nowadays, any board gamer who loves H.P. Lovecraft or has a Cthulu mug has a range of board games to choose from. Arkham Horror: The Card Game is easily one of the best Lovecraftian games out there, and it has a mini campaign element with three scenarios that can be played as standalone games or as a short campaign.

This is perfect for anyone who wants to play a campaign board game but can’t commit to months of gaming.

In Arkham Horror, you and your co-investigators will move around the town of Arkham, trying to solve mysteries and uncover secrets related to their otherworldly creatures and forces lying beneath the surface.

The story is told through decks of cards and each player will have their own deck full of useful resources and tools. As the campaign continues, the characters must also deal with the growing trauma attached to seeing so many horrors.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game has the perfect balance of mystery, horror, and exciting, co-operative gameplay. With so many expansions out there, you can keep on playing. That said, you have to be willing to spend the money on those expansions, so most frugal gamers may want to stick to games they only need to buy once.

Mice and Mystics

Mice and Mystics

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-4
  • Playing time (per game): 60-90 minutes
  • Age: 7+
  • Designer: Jerry Hawthorne
  • Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

The Eatings

  • Theme: 8
  • Art: 8
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Family friendliness: 10
  • Replayability: 7

The Review

Adventure, excitement, and cuteness? Look no further than Mice and Mystics. The plot of the game is that players are knights loyal to the king, but a curse has transformed them into mice. They must make their way through the castle, battling smaller foes than usual – cockroaches, spiders, rats, and the worst of them all, the household cat.

Mice and Mystics is the lightest game here, making it perfect both for newbies and families. Each game provides a different scenario and a quest that must be fulfilled.

Sometimes this means escaping the castle or sending a message while other times an enemy must be defeated. Gameplay is very simple, with most actions requiring dice rolls and flipping tiles. You’ll level your character up and follow a fun story over the course of this campaign.

Mice and Mystics may be easy to play, but that doesn’t make it any less rewarding. With fun art by JJ Ariosa, Chad Hoverter, and David Richards, a great theme and well-balanced gameplay, there’s plenty to love here.

Charterstone

Charterstone

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-6
  • Playing time (per game): 45-75 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
  • Publisher: Stonemaier Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 6
  • Art: 8
  • Difficulty: 4
  • Family friendliness: 6
  • Replayability: 7

The Review

I was lucky enough to be given Charterstone as a birthday gift a couple of years ago and it’s always stuck with me as one of my favorite legacy games. Published by Stonemaier Games – also known for great board games like Wingspan and Scythe – Charterstone is a fun and unique city-building, competitive campaign board game.

The plot is simple – you and your co-players have been asked by the Forever King to build a town. The gameplay follows standard worker placement rules that fans of Scythe and Viticulture will enjoy. Over several games, you build your skills, workforce, and town, adding stickers to the map and scratching cards to reveal info as you go.

Like many of the best campaign board games, the gameplay starts off very simple with limited choices, but gradually grows more complex and challenging. That means that Charterstone will suit gamers of a range of abilities and although the age range is 14+, I think with adult help gaming kids over 12 could enjoy this too. Charterstone is a delight to play and has the bonus of lots of enjoyable art by Lina Cossette and David Forest.

Betrayal Legacy

Betrayal Legacy

The Essentials

  • Players: 3-5
  • Playing time (per game): 45-90 minutes
  • Age: 12+
  • Designer: Rob Daviau, Noah Cohen, JR Honeycutt, Ryan Miller, Brian Neff, and Andrew Veen
  • Publisher: Avalon Hill Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 9
  • Art: 8
    • Shout out to Scott Okumura and Ben Oliver for their perfectly eerie art.
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Family friendliness: 7
  • Replayability: 6
    • Betrayal Legacy is a one-time play as you’ll cover the components in writing and stickers. That said, once you’ve played the campaign you can still use the game for standalone games of Betrayal, with you campaign additions adding extra flavor to your games.

The Review

Plenty of the campaign board games on this list are adapted from a standalone game. Not every campaign version of a standalone board game does it successfully, but when it goes right it’s beautiful to see.

That’s where Betrayal Legacy comes in as my top pick for a campaign board game converted from a standalone game. Rob Daviau (also known for Risk Legacy) and co.’s Betrayal at House on the Hill was already one of my favorite board games, so I was very excited to play Betrayal Legacy.

Betrayal Legacy has players take on roles in the various families who inhabit a haunted mansion over several centuries – from 1666 to present day.

So while each game you take on new characters, the horrors that unfold in the previous games continue to affect future games, giving this generational horror game a true legacy feel.

The rules are mostly similar to those of Betrayal at House on the Hill. Players explore the mansion one tile at a time until enough omens have been seen to trigger a ‘haunt’, which usually means one players becomes a traitor and the other players must work to defeat them.

Betrayal at House on the Hill always knew how to tell stories and this is the strength of Betrayal Legacy as well. With lots of narration, stories to be read aloud on cards, and the Bleak Journal to guide you through the game, fans of horror will love this campaign board game.

The legacy aspect also means, like in any good horror story, events of the past become uncannily familiar as your characters traverse rooms previously characters met their doom in.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

The Crew The Quest for Planet Nine

The Essentials

  • Players: 2-5
  • Playing time (per game): 20 minutes
  • Age: 10+
  • Designer: Thomas Sing
  • Publisher: KOSMOS

The Ratings

  • Theme: 9
  • Art: 7
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Family friendliness: 8
  • Replayability: 9

The Review

It’s worth starting off by stating that The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine can be played as a highly replayable standalone game or as a campaign with 50 scenarios – let’s call it a campaign-hybrid board game.

This also means you get more bang for your buck, since you don’t have to commit with one group of players and can get lots of fun out of this game with anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, sci-fi card game.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s dive into what’s so awesome about The Crew. This is a co-operative trick-taking card game. What do I mean by a trick-taking card game?

This is a style of card or tile game that takes place over several rounds (known as tricks) with players trying to win each round (take a trick). This often involves each player playing a card from their hand each trick and the highest scoring card wins the trick.

The Crew complicates the traditional trick-taking card game by making it co-operative and limiting communication. Players are dealt cards and everyone has specific tasks that they need to complete, usually involving winning tricks in certain ways, in order for everyone to win the game.

This means the game is essentially a more complex (and rewarding) version of limited communication games like The Mind.

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth

The Lord of the Rings Journeys in Middle-Earth

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-5
  • Playing time (per game): 60-120 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Nathan I. Hajek and Grace Holdinghaus
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 9
  • Art: 9
  • Difficulty: 5
  • Family friendliness: 4
  • Replayability: 7

The Review

I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan, but the world of Lord of the Rings board games has been a mixed bag at the best of times.

Fortunately, Fantasy Flight Games’ The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth (which I’ll just refer to as Journeys in Middle-Earth) came along in 2019 and (along with the very good The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game), made all us LOTR-cum-board-games fans very happy.

Journeys in Middle-Earth gets my top pick for fantasy campaign board games for a few reasons. Journeys in Middle-Earth is, at its heart, a really slick, cooperative deck-building game with a modular board.

All things I love. Players take on the roles of iconic (and a few not-so-iconic) LOTR characters for a campaign taking place between the events of The Hobbit and those of The Lord of the Rings. You will travel through Middle-Earth, defeat enemies, upgrade your skills, and make decisions that will alter the world around you.

Journeys in Middle-Earth is also an app-supported board game – just like Fantasy Flight’s other hugely popular app-supported game, Mansions of Madness.

Now I know some gamers find apps a turn-off, but hear me out. Journeys in Middle-Earth is rich in narrative and gameplay, and the app contributes to that.

The app adapts to your player numbers, your characters, and the decisions you make along the way, making tracking the game way easier. It also makes set up way quicker and reduces the amount of table space you need for a game this epic.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)

Descent Journeys in the Dark

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-5
  • Playing time (per game): 120 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Daniel Clark (I), Corey Konieczka, Adam Sadler, and Kevin Wilson
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 7
  • Art: 6
    • The art is nothing to write home about but if you love miniatures, look no further than Descent.
  • Difficulty: 7
  • Family friendliness: 2
  • Replayability: 9
    • Core set has a great replay value but there are also lots of expansions for Descent that, once you’ve started playing, you’ll be desperate to get your hands on.

The Review

You can’t talk about campaign board games without talking about Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Originally published in 2005 but with a new, slicker second edition in 2012, I often say before there was Gloomhaven, there was Descent. 

Descent is essentially a dungeon crawler, so fans of Gloomhaven and Dungeons & Dragons are sure to enjoy. One quirk that makes Descent unique is that each game, one player will take on the role of the Overlord while the other players are the heroes who must overthrow him (and grab some loot and cool new abilities along the way).

A different player should be the Overlord each time, making this game semi-co-operative in a similar way to Betrayal.

Heroes move around a modular board, chucking dice to defeat monsters along the way. Generally speaking, the rules are easy to pick up and intuitive, but my higher difficulty rating and lower family-friendliness score are linked to some rules that still feel a bit clunky in comparison to more streamlined games on this list.

Descent has a Line of Sight rule that takes some time to get your head around, along with a few other small rules that are easily forgotten the first few games. That said, the second edition and newly improved app make tracking your hero stats, items, and so on way easier.

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars Imperial Assault

The Essentials

  • Players: 1-5
  • Playing time (per game): 60-120 minutes
  • Age: 14+
  • Designer: Justin Kemppainen, Corey Konieczka, and Jonathan Ying
  • Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Ratings

  • Theme: 10
  • Art: 6
  • Difficulty: 6
  • Family friendliness: 5
  • Replayability: 7
    • While I’ve never rushed to replay a particular game of Star Wars: Imperial Assault or try out the standalone ‘skirmish mode’, there are an insane amount of expansion packs so you can keep on playing through new stories.

The Review

Sure, there’s a few games on this list that adapt movies or books into a campaign game, but I’ve never seen it done quite so slickly and faithful to theme than Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Imperial Assault is yet another Fantasy Flight game (proving themselves to be the top dogs of campaign board games, even if they didn’t make Gloomhaven).

Much like DescentImperial Assault is a cooperative dungeon crawler game in which one player in each scenario will take on the role of the Empire while the other players are Rebels who must defeat them. Imperial Assault uses dice for combat and has some smoother and slightly easier to pick up rules than Descent.

You will build up your characters, gain new equipment and forces to help you over the course of the campaign, all while the Imperial forces get stronger and stronger.

Imperial Assault doesn’t have the wide range of decisions that other games on this list have, so it feels less personalizable. That said, where Imperial Assault wins out is on theme.

If you love Star Wars and Star Wars board games, then Imperial Assault is the campaign board game for you. You’ll get minis of various species and spaceships to tinker with, epic, strategic battles, and a satisfying story to follow, making this a movie-worthy board game.

Honorable Mentions

Now that I’ve given you some reviews of the very best campaign board games out there, let’s have a quick overview of our honorable mentions.

  • Aeon’s End Legacy – super fun adaptation of Nick Little and Kevin Riley’s co-operative warlock game, Aeon’s End.
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – when it comes to best campaign board games for beginners, best for families, and best movie adaptation, the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle board game was a close second on all fronts.
  • Clank!: Legacy – Acquisitions Incorporated – A slick campaign version of Clank!, this game is great for casual gamers and families.
  • Sleeping Gods – A new and rather beautiful campaign game that I haven’t got my hands on yet, luckily we’ve got a full Sleeping Gods guide here.
  • Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion – Thinking about buying Gloomhaven but want to try before you buy? Jaws of the Lion is a mini Gloomhaven campaign that introduces you to the game.
  • Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile – From the folks who brought you RootOath is the top of my to-buy list. Everything from the art to the story looks stunning.

FAQs

Question: What is the Best Campaign Board Game?

AnswerGloomhaven. Look, there are plenty of amazing campaign board games out there, but there’s a reason for Gloomhaven‘s meteoric rise to the top of every board game ranking list out there. Amazing story, slick gameplay, and lots of personalisation make this the best campaign board game out there.

Question: Are Campaign Board Games Fun?

Answer: Campaign board games offer a middle ground between board games and TTRPGs like Dungeons & Dragons as they incorporate storytelling and an overarching narrative into multiple board games. If that sounds like your thing, you’ll have plenty of fun playing campaign board games.

Question: How Many Players Do You Need for a Campaign Board Game?

Answer: This varies from game to game. Some campaign board games need at least three while others can be played with just two or even on solo mode. The important thing is that you have a consistent group of gamers so that you can play multiple games to complete the campaign.

Question: Are Campaign Board Games Good for Families?

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Campaign Board Game
Choosing a campaign board game is a big commitment. They are usually more expensive than standalone board games and you’re committing to hours of game play. So to conclude this guide, here’s what you should bear in mind when picking your first or next campaign board game:
Replayability: Do you want to play through this campaign with different gaming groups or even with the same group once you’ve finished? Campaign board games have varying levels of replayability, but for many, you can buy removable stickers or recharge packs so you can play all over again.
Age and family friendliness: If you’re playing with younger players, it’s essential you consider how family-friendly your game of choice is. Look at the suggested minimum age and look out for online reviews specifically from family gamers.
Setting: With a campaign board game, you’re going to be stuck in one setting for a while, so it’s important that you choose one you’ll enjoy. Finding games set in fictional universes you already love or in a fantasy or sci-fi setting that always suits you will help you find the right campaign board game.
Adaptations: Already got a favorite board game? With so many campaign adaptations out there, there’s a good chance your favorite may have a campaign version.
With so many campaign board games out there, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Luckily, all of the games on this list are fantastic and the best of the best, so use the above tips to figure out what will suit you and your regular gaming group best, and go start an adventure together.

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