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Published on June 6th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen


Top 5 Video Games That Play Like Board Games

While we play a ton of board games (really?) here at Across the Board Games we also play a lot of video games. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the video games we play are similar in a lot of ways to board games. These are not digital versions of board games, but rather, video games that scratch an itch similar to a board game. Do you have a video game that fits this description that we didn’t list? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!

civilization revolutions

Civilization Revolutions

Sid Meyer’s Civilization is an iconic entry in the history of video games. One of the most popular “4X” games to have been produced, the Civilization series has set the standard for complexity and mechanical refinement in strategy games for several years. 4X style games are games where the gameplay consists of exploring, expanding, exploiting and exterminating. This means that you scout the map, grow your area of influence, gather resources and attack your enemies- activities that you may already associate with a style of board games.

What Civilization Revolutions does differently from the main Civ titles makes it perfect for this list. While the main titles in the series take advantage of the ability to give the computer complex math problems to be able to calculate complex battle scenarios and very detailed micro-managing of your cities, Revolutions shies away from that. What Revolutions does instead is simplify the complexity of the game so that turns move at a faster rate, and it’s easier to wrap your head around the action. In fact, they took the roots back to about the complexity of a board game.

Get Civilization Revolutions if you like the idea of recruiting a famous cultural leader, researching technology and expanding an empire to rule the world. This is a great game if you like 4X board games like Tiny Epic Kingdoms.


banner saga

Banner Saga

One of the most popular ways to make a table top game into a video game is to make an RPG that replicates grid-based squad tactics in a Northern European fantasy environment. Banner Saga takes that formula and adds in gameplay elements that traditionally stay out of TRPGs. The game follows your group of traveling people who form a caravan of warriors and it’s this device that draws in the non-combat game elements. There are aspects of resource management like in that old Oregon Trail game that was on seemingly every public school computer in the United States. Banner Saga also includes diplomatic decisions that you must make, all of which have the potential to come back to haunt you.

By taking a note from other established game genres, Banner Saga feels more like playing in a table top RPG than most other computer or console RPGs. In a lot of ways this reminds me of a Dark Sun campaign set around a caravan that I played in. The resource management aspects and the tough decisions reminded me of old-school DMing at its best, and I really enjoy what I’ve played so far. Despite there being numerous entries into the genre of not-D&D tactics games, Banner Saga does a lot to make itself distinct from the crowd.

Get Banner Saga if you like resource management games, micro-managing, or squad based tactics. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing Dungeons & Dragons with minis, this is a great game for you.


clash of heroes

Heroes of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes

The puzzle game genre is a great start for people looking for video games that play more like board games, but even in that genre Clash of Heroes makes a name for itself. The game setting is pretty standard European fantasy, with elves, mages, knights, skeletons and demons and it does nothing new or particularly interesting in that regard. What Clash of Heroes does do well is its main gameplay mechanic.

In Clash of Heroes you have a pool of troops that you use to attack the other player, in an effort to eliminate their life total. To do this you have to match three troops of the same color on top of each other to form a stack. Each stack has a “charge time”, the number of turns it takes before it attacks. The longer the charge time, the more powerful the unit is tends to be, but the more susceptible that unit is to the attacks of units with a shorter charge time.

When playing against another human opponent the game really shines as each player attempts to determine the best way to block the attacks of their opponent without sacrificing their ability to do damage. Each faction has different strengths and weaknesses, mostly displayed in the troop types they have available. Each faction also has a second leader with a special ability that differs from the main leader’s ability, there is also a special troop unit for each faction- both of these are unlocked by playing the main storyline, which isn’t horrible.

Get Clash of Heroes if you like brightly colored fantasy or puzzle games about matching and set collection. This is a great game for people who enjoy Battle Line.




I can’t imagine any one who has been on the internet over the last couple months and not seen mention of Hearthstone somewhere. Taking a hint from WotC’s  Duels of the Planeswalkers, Blizzard simplified the CCG that has been most recently published by Cryptozoic and turned it into a video game. Admittedly, the original WoW CCG was the unfortunate product of Upper Deck, and not the most coherent product ever made, but it was slowly getting better under Cryptozoic. Regardless of the quality of the previous product, Hearthstone has proven popular with video game nerds.

Both players of Magic, Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh and those who have never played CCGs are Hearthstone‘s target audience. Its simple rules, cartoony graphics and easily digestible setting make the idea of buying cards that don’t really exist easier to swallow. The game IS free to play, and just by signing up you can to choose a Hero class and get some cards for free to start with. As you level that hero you unlock other class cards that will help you play the hero more effectively.

You can spend money to buy packs of boosters for your deck, and you can then “disenchant” the cards you don’t want into components for crafting any card in the game (bar certain promos). This eliminates the really toxic ultra-rare card effect that Magic the Gathering has, because everyone has equal access to any card, provided they earn enough Arcane Dust to forge one.

(Gregg has a more detailed post about Hearthstone here)


skulls of the shogun

Skulls of the Shogun

While there are a ton of unit and squad based tactics video games on the market, I wanted to call attention to this gem. Most video game tactics games are based on a grid, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, and all movement revolves around that grid. Skulls of the Shogun moved away from that and instead made a free-form movement game, more akin to tabletop tactics games like WarMachine. The art of the game is very highly stylized and cartoony, as is the humor- which I think works to its advantage.

While the game’s dialogue may not take itself too seriously, the mechanics do. Seemingly simple, the strategies involved in Skulls of the Shogun get more complex than simple positioning. There are shrines to activate, rice paddies to control, skulls to eat and so on. Eating the skulls of downed enemies will heal your unit- eating three will turn a unit into a super-special demon version. Balancing your unit composition, placement, and resource management is key to success.

Get this game if you like games with simple rules but complex strategies, humor that doesn’t take itself too seriously and beautiful background art. Fans of free form battle games like WarMachine may like this more than others.

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About the Author

Luke Turpeinen

was raised by lava wolves deep in the Vesuvian sulfur jungles. He played board games with his family often. The discovery of games like Risk led him to the 1993 TSR classic Dragon Strike which fueled a life long love of games. Luke tends to like games that have high production values, quick-to-learn rules and hard-to-master strategies. Current Favorite Game: Argent: the Consortium.

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