There have always been, so long as board games have been a thing, games of franchised properties. From our very first games as kids, to ones we love to pull off the shelf as adults, there is a series of franchises that just seem to work in board game form. Some of these are one off games, and some are properties that have been used for entire series. From Arkham to Tatooine, the film, book, and TV world is a strong contender in realm of amazing characters that can transition well into the world of games. Of course, there is a financial benefit to using a world that is already popular as well; however, before I get cynical, let’s move on.
This list, compiled by myself and my girlfriend, is of some of our favourite licensed properties that have been made into games, what those games are, and why we love them. For this we have specifically chosen games that have been the spawn of film/book/TV and not the other way around. This means things like Catan aren’t considered, even though there is a film in the works. Yes, you read that correctly – Settlers of Catan is becoming a movie!
More on that closer to the time, but for now, let’s talk games.
There is absolutely no doubt that Star Wars has made its mark on the world. Ever since Fantasy Flight bought the rights to the franchise there has been successful game after successful game taking to the shelves, thrilling the minds of Jedi and Sith alike. What really makes it though is how varied Fantasy Flight have been with their games – from the grid based Imperial Assault, to the ship based combat of X-Wing, to the dice and card based game Destiny. Each one of these is vastly different, whilst taking place within the same universe. Each one, it hass to be said, is as addictive as the last.
Star Wars is probably the biggest franchise on this list; however, the thing that makes it so incredible as a source of game inspiration is just how large it is. There really is a universe to choose from. From Luke to Leia, Lando to Lobot there are plenty of characters to fit into any number of gameplay mechanics.
This is ultimately why Star Wars will always be an awesome franchise for merchandising and thus a franchise where there will always be new games added to the collection. Even as I write this, there is a Star Wars miniature game in the works. This promises to add a whole new dynamic to how Star Wars gaming has been seen in the past. This causes for yet new life to be breathed into the franchise, with new films offering an ever widening interest and scope for where the games can go.
What also helps – Fantasy Flight, who currently make the most Star Wars licensed games, keep making critically acclaimed games that do superbly well. Most have an air of customisation about them, as well as a collectability that ensures that none of the games grow stale.
Although not all the games are huge hits with me personally, and I’m pretty sure my girlfriend can take or leave any of them, I do confess to having been addicted to a couple in the past. I am a particular fan of Destiny and have a fairly decent eLando/ePadme deck that can cause a fair amount of worry on the battlefield. I also have a Rebel X-Wing collection that features a pretty devastating line of B-Wings – I’m less of a fan of X-Wing, but at the UK Games Expo 2017 it is more than possible to see the impact X-Wing (and other Star Wars games) has had on the gaming world. Star Wars and gaming goes hand in hand like Han and Chewie.
Okay, so compared to Star Wars, this is a bit of an odd one to have on the list. So far as I am aware, there is only one X-Files board game. That being said, there only needs to be one as it is absolutely superb.
In preparation for this article, I stood in front of the board game shelf and looked around, trying to see what franchises I would recommend. The X-Files is, oddly enough, a franchise that just works in card game format, with the The X-Files Board Game probably being one of the best games we have played all year. It is competitive, thematic, and offers a decent amount of meta-gaming so that it feels sneaky, encapsulating how you would imagine it to be like Fox Mulder, Dana Scully or (dare I say it) the Smoking Man.
That being said, now well past its prime, the X-Files game never really hit what could be considered “Popular Game” status. Instead, it remains a bit of a cult game in the gaming world, scoring a modest median of 7/10 on BGG, averaging out at 6.4/10. That being said, what really makes the game something special, for us at least, is the strength of the theme. Each mission in the game is based on an episode, each event and action is based on something you can see Mulder and Scully do on a regular basis within the show. There is so much mythology in the franchise so that the game feels like an extension of that franchise in a more intimate way than even the Star Wars games feel about Star Wars.
This isn’t a review of the game (you can read that here) but it has to be said that the X-Files game is a must for fans of the show.
GAME OF THRONES
A latecomer to the “mainstream” gaming world, and one which forced me to put “books” in the title, is Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones is, in many ways, very similar to Star Wars. Like with the Lucas-style universes, Game of Thrones has its own world that has provided a lot of inspiration for games over the past few years. Like with Star Wars again, several of these have captured my imagination over the past year, with the Game of Thrones LCG being a prime example of these. As of late, I haven’t been able to keep up to speed in the same way; however, it still holds a fond place in my heart.
Games of Thrones has managed to, however, tap into an area where Star Wars haven’t yet been successful – and that is the Epic Game. Epic Gameplay, and Game of Thrones, go incredibly well together, with the board game being a game that has been discussed as a regular “must buy” at conventions. There is something attractive about spending an afternoon leading the Baratheon forces to wage war on Casterly Rock.
Of course, CMoN are also releasing the miniatures game which should also be a lot of fun.
Like with Star Wars, and X-Files, in Game of Thrones there are a series of much loved characters that people adore to be able to play as. It is well established as a fan favourite and helps bring people into the gaming world from the outside. This makes franchises like GoT so valuable. They break down doors, and make games (which can sometimes be abstract) accessible for all.
Okay, so I have a few franchised games on my list to play at the moment and so this list may change – hence, this is the list for the time being. That being said, there seem to be patterns arising. Namely, the larger a universe is the more variety you can have with the games. The more variety there is the more the mythos and franchises we love can be built on in game form.
You will notice Cthulhu is not on this list. There is a very good reason for that, but that is for another time.
So, the inevitable ending question – what are your favourite game franchises that originated as films/TV/books? Let me know in the comments below.