Best Role Playing Board Games

Best RPG board games cover image

Writing a list featuring 10 of the best role playing board games is difficult for endless reasons.
Above all, role playing games are my favourite type of games! So there are simply too many of them that have to be left out from this list.  

The main reason why I love them is probably the fact that you can escape from your real life and take the role of a character you’ve always dreamed to be.

I’ve lost count of how many times I imagined myself fighting through the streets of Novigrad, drinking a pint in one of the pubs in Blackwater or riding a Chocobo through the lands of Ivalice.

There are dozens of games that could be listed here, seriously!
But for the purpose of this best role playing board games list, I have only chosen the ones that have the characteristics that I always want to see in an RPG game:

  • character development and progression;
  • consequences on the story based on the actions you take;
  • a story-driven campaign.

Shall we begin?


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BEST ROLE PLAYING BOARD GAMES

Gloomhaven
1-4 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+

Mage Knight
1-4 players | 60-240 mins | Age 14+

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth
1-5 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+

Star Wars: Imperial Assault
1-5 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+

Blood Rage
2-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 14+

Descent: Journeys in the Dark – Second Edition
2-5 players | 120 mins | Age 14+

Call to Adventure
1-4 players | 30-60 mins | Age 9+

Legacy of Dragonholt
1-6 players | 60+ mins | Age 14+

Mice and Mystics
1-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 7+

Legends of Andor
2-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 10+

Gloomhaven

Evolve your character and vanquish the enemies during the path to your destiny

Gloomhaven role playing board game cover image

Currently ranked #1 on BGG Gloomhaven has everything needed for an amazing gaming night experience, such as deck-building, tactical grid movement and resources management.

It is a cooperative dungeon-crawler game, where the story changes based on the actions you perform during the adventure.

You basically take the role of a wandering mercenary who embarks on a journey to gain honour, profit and reputation.
Each member of the team has unique traits and pros/cons, so you must cooperate to be able to win each scenario.

After a scenario is completed, you and your friends will gain rewards and can decide which mission you will follow next.

The game box is big and heavy and filled with an enormous quantity of components;
the rules book is very long to read and it’s recommended to be played with someone who likes managing cards, tokens, stands, sleeves, tiles, discs and other amenities! Let’s be honest, the table will be full of these items in a blink of an eye. 

But don’t you worry, because the game, once learned, is amazing and the sense of progression is hugely satisfying!

(I’ve also included this game in the other article of the best strategy board games of 2021).


Best Role Playing Board Games: gloomhaven

GLOOMHAVEN
1-4 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+


Mage Knight

Take control of a Make Knight Hero and build your own legend

Mage Knight board game cover image

Mage Knight board game is an epic game of exploration and conquest.

You take control of one of the four powerful Mage Knights and play different scenarios with the aim of building your own personal legend.

Conquer a mage tower and learn potent Spells, explore a dungeon and discover hidden Artifacts or recruit powerful units to fight by your side!

Through your journey, you must pay attention to every decision you make as they will improve or impede your ability to accumulate Fame and acquire legendary loot.

This game mixes RPG and deck-building game elements, and I think it works really well!
The random factor on scenarios and character makes the game different every time you play it, giving it a huge replayability.

The game has a very steep learning curve and it’s possible that new players could be disappointed by the huge amount of rules to learn… but, as I have written for other games, don’t let the rules stop you. 
Mage Knight is brilliant and you can play it tons of times without feeling bored.

And if you’re running solo, this game is perfect for you!


MAGE KNIGHT
1-4 players | 60-240 mins | Age 14+


The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth

Embark on an adventure in the Middle Earth to defeat shadows and corruption

The Lord of the Rings board game cover image

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth is a cooperative game that can be even played solo

During the game, a group of heroes embarks on perilous adventures, working together to explore and survive the vast and epic fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. 

Throughout their journeys, heroes battle powerful foes, discover lost treasures, uncover forgotten lore and customize their skills according to their role within their Fellowship. 

As darkness is rising, unifying evil, shadow, and corruption, it is the time for the heroes to take a stand and begin their journey in Middle-earth.

Each individual game is a single scenario in a larger campaign. 
You’ll explore the endless landscapes of Middle-earth, fight enemies and loot treasures until you succeed or lose your mission.

The aim of each adventure is to complete a set of objectives before the threat counter gets to the max.

The game must be played with a free downloadable app, which requires a good internet connection.
This app determines the challenges and content that you will encounter during the game, from tile and token placement to enemy behaviour.

Overall I think this game is really well done and rich of interesting mechanics.
It’s definitely a must-have for a LotR fan!


THE LORD OF THE RINGS: jOURNEYS IN MIDDLE-EARTH
1-5 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+


Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Play as a Rebel or the Imperial Forces to determine the fate of the galaxy

Star Wars Imperial Assault board game cover image

Imperial Assault puts you in the midst of the Galactic Civil War between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire after the destruction of the Death Star, with 2 separate game experiences.

The campaign game pits the limitless troops and resources of the Galactic Empire against a crack team of elite Rebel operatives as they strive to break the Empire’s hold on the galaxy.

The skirmish game invites you and a friend to muster strike teams and battle head-to-head over conflicting objectives.

In this game one player controls the forces of the vast Galactic Empire, commanding everything from squadrons of Stormtroopers to iconic villains, such as Darth Vader. 

All other players work together as a team, each controlling a hero of the Rebel Alliance.

The campaign mode is composed of several missions played on a modular game map and thanks to the many choices that influence the game, each mission is different every time you play.

Players play these missions in order, growing in power and experience until facing off in a climactic final mission that determines the fate of the galaxy. 

There are also other two ways to play the game:

  • Cooperative mode, in which one to four hero players must work together to overcome the challenges presented to them by the companion app (that can be downloaded for free).
  • Skirmish mode, in which two players create armies using their favorite Star Wars characters. The armies then face each other on the battlefield in a winner-takes-all skirmish mission.

This game is brilliant! It works really well in each different modality. 

Rules are relatively (and strangely) straightforward for this type of game, overall it feels well balanced and I would say the value for money is pretty good.
Setup the game takes a while but it’s well worth the effort!

A huge round of applause for the miniatures, the quality is super high and, once properly painted, they’re gonna look outstanding! 

For sure a must-have for any Star Wars fan!


STAR WARS: IMPERIAL ASSAULT
1-5 players | 60-120 mins | Age 14+


Blood Rage

Viking clans pillage and battle in a quest for glory at the end of the world!

Blood Rage board game cover image

Ragnarök has come, and it’s the end of the world! It’s the Vikings’ last chance to go down in a blaze of glory and secure their place in Valhalla at Odin’s side!

Writing this little review is super exciting, not only because I’ve finished watching Vikings last week – just in time to enjoy the new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – but also because I still remember the day I’ve seen this game appearing on Kickstarter.

Back in 2015 a younger myself was in the middle of reading the Edda and on the hunt to find everything Norse Mythology related. 
A day, while passively surfing over the internet, I bumped into Blood Rage’s Kickstarter page and it was love at first sight.

I had to wait a heck of I-don’t-remember-how-many months before getting my hands on the game, but the wait was well worth it!

Let’s talk about it then, shall we?

In this fast-paced strategic game, each player takes control of a Viking clan, with its own warriors, leader and ship.
The game progresses through three Ages, as Ragnarök slowly consumes the world. The player with the most glory at the end is the winner.
There are many pathways to glory: you can invade and pillage the land for its rewards, crush your opponents in epic battles, fulfil quests, increase your clan’s stats, or even die gloriously in battle.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward and everything seems well balanced, although it can happen that a player can feel to be a bit behind the others from time to time.

The biggest weakness for me is the replayability. The game doesn’t have a huge depth and the lack of variety kicks in quite fast, even though you can play a lot of games before feeling it repetitive.

The quality of the miniatures though is really top notch! I think they are some of the best ones ever produced for a board game.
You will just want to keep them in your hand while playing.

Shortly, I think Blood Rage is a solid game! A game that combines pretty simple rules and such amazing components that it recompense you with strong feelings.

Ragnarok is coming, be prepared!


BLOOD RAGE
2-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 14+


Descent: Journeys in the Dark – Second Edition

Gather with your fellow adventurers and stop the Overlord’s evil plan

Descent second edition board game cover image

This is a one vs all RPG board game in which a player takes the role of the Overlord and the other players take the role of brave heroes.

It is a classic old fashioned dungeon crawler game with pretty straightforward gameplay and awesome miniatures.

At the beginning of the game, you have to choose your Hero with unique special abilities and pair it with a class that can be further diversified from the other heroes meanwhile playing the game. 

During each game, the heroes undertake quests by venturing into dangerous caves, ancient ruins, dark dungeons, and cursed forests. 
Along the way, they will battle monsters, earn riches, and attempt to stop the Overlord from carrying out his evil plot.

The heroes will either win or lose as a team – by completing specific objectives – while the overlord wins or loses individually.

You can also play this game fully co-op without an Overlord, using the Road to Legend app.

Finally, you and your friends will no longer have the difficult task of having to choose who’s going to be the villain for that gaming night! Thank (Over)Lord!

I truly think that, even though there are tons of dungeon crawler games out there, this is one of the few that can’t be left outside of your collection.
It can easily become your benchmark when you compare other similar board games.


DESCENT: JOURNEYS IN THE DARK
2-5 players | 120 mins | Age 14+


Call to Adventure

From zero to Hero in this character building game

Call To Adventure role playing board game cover image

This game is a bit different from the ones listed above.

Call to Adventure is a Hero-building Game where players craft their heroes, from their humble origins to mighty destinies. 

Your hero’s story begins with its Character cards: Origins, Motivation, and Destiny. These cards give you starting abilities, special powers and the Destiny card tells how you’ll score your game.
The game takes place in three acts, during which players acquire traits and abilities, face challenges, gain allies and vanquish foes.

At every step of your hero’s journey, you’ll have to choose between immediate rewards and long-term potential, so think about your strategy more than once before making your choices! 
At the end of the third act, players will sum up their triumph, experience and tragedies to decide which Hero is the most remarkable

While each hero will have an epic story, only one will win: the player with the most Destiny points!

I wasn’t too sure the first time I tried this game, but after the first run, I completely changed my mind. 
This game is really fun, with simple gameplay, amazing runes and stunning artwork!

On the other hand, the rulebook is not very clear and there are missed explanations all over the place.

Replayability is good. 

The number of cards is high and there are a lot of possible combinations between them, but to avoid getting similar paths I’d probably suggest you buy the two expansions:
Call to Adventure: Name of The Wind
Call to Adventure: The Stormlight Archive

Of course, at the end of the game each player has to tell the story of their Hero!


CALL TO ADVENTURE
1-4 players | 30-60 mins | Age 9+


Legacy of Dragonholt

An immersive story to be shared with your best friends

Legacy of Dragonholt role playing board game cover image

Legacy of Dragonholt is a cooperative narrative adventure game for up to 6 players.

You take on the role of a Hero, a brave adventurer who seeks fame and fortune, either by performing acts of good and honour or simply by seeking out monsters to battle or villagers to save.

Design your own hero to go on an epic adventure. 
Choose your race and class, develop your personal backstory, and select the skills you think you’ll need on your quest.

But be wise! The decisions you make will have far reaching consequences that ultimately affect the outcome of the story.

As the game progresses, your character earns experience which manifests in increased stamina, new skills, and even newfound fame. In time, you can face the ultimate enemy.
The game comes to an end when you reach the story’s natural conclusion. What that conclusion is, however, depends entirely on the decisions you make on your adventures.

What to say? 

This game resembles a travel experience more than a board game.
The story and the world in which you play are very immersive and well written.
The character creation is deep, covering many aspects of your Hero such as background, motivations, interests, personality traits and of course skills and abilities, which then will be useful throughout the adventure.

During the campaign, you will face multiple forks and hundreds of decisions have to be made, remembering that each one of them will impact the story.
The game is also very long, probably around 20 hours if you don’t rush to the end.

Being a single campaign means that the replayability is very limited; this is a game that you buy and keep (for collection) or sell (to buy another game!).

Overall, this is more an experience to share with your friends or to be faced alone (yes, solo adventure here is super recommended and fun!), more than a board game.

It doesn’t really have a winning goal, you just have to sit around the table, let your emotions flow and enjoy the adventure.


LEGACY OF DRAGONHOLT
1-6 players | 60+ mins | Age 14+


Mice and Mystics

Work together with your fellow mice and save an imperiled kingdom

Mice and Mystics role playing board game cover image

Mice & Mystics is a cooperative adventure game for 1-4 players in which they take on the role of adventuring mice. 
Using teamwork, courage, and a little luck, the mice will explore their way through a series of interactive chapters as their story unfolds.

When playing Mice and Mystics, players will choose a chapter to play through from a storybook. 
Each chapter has its own victory conditions and to win the game; players must complete these victory conditions before the hourglass marker moves onto the chapter end marker on the chapter track, located on the story control board. 

I hesitate on this board game for far too long, until I got convinced and tried it out.

Dear Lord, how wrong was I!

A very well written story, awesome miniatures and fairly easy gameplay, are the components for a fun board game that can be enjoyed by adults and kids.

The rulebook is quite long and probably needs to be read more than once to get your head around it.


MICE AND MYSTICS
1-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 7+


Legends of Andor

Stand with your friends and protect the land of Andor

Legends of Andor role playing board game cover image

The land of Andor is in danger. From the forests and mountains, enemies are advancing towards the castle of old King Brandur. 
Only your band of heroes stands in their way. 

Will you succeed in defending the castle and protecting Andor?

Legends of Andor is a cooperative board game for 2–4 players. 
Each player takes on the role of a dwarf, archer, wizard, or warrior (each with unique skills) and all must work together to battle the enemy forces.

There are 5 separate scenarios in the game (called “legends”) and two boards showing different locations.
To win the game you have to complete all of them.

Legend 1 is very easy, more like a tutorial with rules slowly introduced while progressing the game.
Legend 2 it’s still easy but from Legend 3 the difficulty starts to increase and this is where the real fun starts. 

It requires you to make strategic choices, solve puzzles and plan ahead in order to be able to win. 
It’s definitely not a smash-and-vanquish-enemies-to-win type of game!

If you enjoy satisfying and difficult board games, this one will not disappoint you!


LEGENDS OF ANDOR
2-4 players | 60-90 mins | Age 10+