|But in the meantime...|
#1: Betrayal at Baldur's Gate
|Probably the only time some tables will have PvP in their games.|
The game starts in the tavern (as all the best adventures do), and the players explore the city. They deal with random encounters, find treasures, and lay out tiles to construct a unique map. Then, when enough Omens stack up, the true adventure begins! Will the half-orc paladin be possessed by a blood cult and try to slay the city? Will a flood bring a tentacled horror from the depths? And most importantly, will the party stand together to face the encroaching threat, or will one of their number betray them?
Seriously, take notes. You can get some great campaign ideas out of this one.
#2: The Red Dragon Inn
|All the carousing, none of the adventuring!|
If you want to get pedantic, this is technically a card game and not a board game, but The Red Dragon Inn should definitely be on anyone's must-have list. Rather than going out on a perilous adventure, this is what happens when the party comes back to the tavern to celebrate their latest victory! You have to drink everyone else under the table, avoiding getting sick, knocked-out, or going broke before you're out of the game. There are more than half a dozen expansions to this game out there, and if you're looking for one I'd recommend the upgrade with the troll alchemist, as I have a soft spot for him. And he's a powerhouse when it comes to staying on his feet until the end of the night.
#3: Lords of Waterdeep
|For the machinators among you.|
Rather than taking on the role of an individual adventurer, Lords of Waterdeep casts you in the role of a faction in the City of Waterdeep. Mustering men-at-arms, rogues, wizards, clerics, and of course wealth, you earn victory points to propel your faction to victory. A game that's as much strategy as it is luck, the sheer number of factions and quests currently available (since this one also has a few expansions), can keep your games feeling new and fresh for a long time to come!
#4: Tyrants of The Underdark
|For folks who want an evil version of #3...|
Most of the games mentioned up to this point cast the players in the roles of heroes. You're a standard fantasy party, and in those there are rarely truly wicked characters. Tyrants of The Underdark, though, is all about seeing who is the baddest of the bad. Each player takes on a single house of Drow, and compete to recruit the worst monsters, to make the most calculated political maneuvers, and to infiltrate the most spies into their enemies' territories. And when the dust settles, whoever controls the largest number of the subterranean realm's environs is declared the Tyrant!
#5: Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Games
|A campaign in a box!|
Rather than making #5 an individual game, I figured I'd mention the cooperative DND-themed line of Adventure System Cooperative Board Games that Wizards of the Coast has been putting out over the years. From the above-pictured Wrath of Ashardalon, to the classic Temple of Elemental Evil, up through Castle Ravenloft and Tomb of Annihilation, there are all kinds of options to keep on your shelf.
These games feel like the modern descendant of the classic Hero Quest, with multiple PCs, several different scenarios, and the ability to reach conclusion in roughly an hour or so. And while they aren't cheap, you get a lot of parts and pieces with your purchase that you can turn around and use in your regular tabletop campaign (including a free d20), so it's got double the value for those who run full RPGs on the nights when everyone can actually make it.
Would You Like To Know More?
My groups have had some troubles getting full attendance the past month or so, and as a result I've been trying to expand my range of alternative games. I've got a few other lists like this one I could post in future Moon Pope Monday updates, if folks would like to see them? If you've got strong opinions on the subject, please leave them in the comments below along with any games you feel should have made this list, but didn't!
Preferably games we can actually buy without getting a lucky, out-of-print find, if you please.
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