Love Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D)
, but looking to shake things up? Below, you'll find a bunch of magical board games that are similar to Dungeons & Dragons. From the game's RPG aspect, to the dice-rolling component, to the cooperative spirit, my picks tick many D&D-like boxes that should appeal to you and your fellow heroes.
While there are a few variations of Dungeons & Dragons, my recommendations are based off
the Starter Set, which comes with pre-generated characters, a rules booklet, and pre-planned adventures. If you’ve played any version, you probably already know D&D is a fantasy cooperative dungeon crawl game where players collaborate to navigate adventures their Dungeon Master generally develops. It’s considered to be a tabletop role-playing game (RPG), but that doesn’t mean non-RPG board games can’t mimic some of the things that make D&D so fun.
To recapture the classic, choose
fantasy board games with a role-playing component and perhaps a dice-roll mechanism, but also pay attention to game complexity. Board Game Geek gives the D&D Starter Set a rating of 2.50, making it one of the easier role-playing games around.
The D&D Starter Set can accommodate up to six players, and my picks can accommodate anywhere between one and six players. Some of the games below are for older age brackets than D&D's Starter Set, which is for ages 12 and up, but one of my picks is for players as young as 8. Finally, the D&D Starter Set can take about an hour to play to start (though D&D itself is often an ongoing adventure), but some of my picks can take just 20 minutes up to two hours or more. So, consider which similarities are priorities for you.
Scroll on to check out the best
adventure board games like Dungeons and Dragons. 1 A Strategic Fantasy Board Game
Gloomhaven is a role-playing game full of fantasy scenarios and fantasy races. It’s also a collaborative, battle-driven game where strategy is key and players work together on campaigns — like clearing out dangerous dungeons and ancient ruins. Amazon reviewers give this pick a whopping 4.8-star rating, after 4,700-plus reviews, a true testament to just how liked this game is on the site.
This game uses miniatures and battle cards to move game play forward, but no dice are included. It’s also significantly more difficult to play than D&D, with a
complexity rating of 3.81, but like most campaign-driven legacy games, Gloomhaven does require some role-playing skills — each turn, one player must choose two cards to play from their hand; the cards determining both their initiative for the round as well as the power they’ll use. The world of the game is constantly changing with each move the players make, meaning every session is new and exciting. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Just played this for the first time tonight at a friends house and holy smokes it was one of the best board games I've played in a long time. It reminded me of a pre-set Dungeons and Dragons but in a board game style. [..] If you like intellectual, strategy, cooperative, in depth [...] quests that can continue each week with friends get this game.” The Basics: one to four players, for ages 12 and up, with 60 to 120 minutes of game play 2 A Dice-Driven Board Game With A Twist On The Dungeon Master Role Descent: Journeys in the Dark is a quest-driven, collaborative fantasy board game with a role-playing component that focuses heavily on adventure, exploration, and fighting. Not unlike D&D’s Dungeon Master, one player takes on the role of evil overlord while up to four other players must take on the roles of courageous heroes who go on quests and adventures — though their goal is to ultimately defeat the overlord rather than follow their lead.
Also similar to D&D, Descent takes players to dangerous caves, ancient ruins, and dark dungeons. Players’ actions are determined largely by the game’s dice-based system: Players tailor-build their dice pools to meet the abilities and weapons of their characters, and each dice affects an attack in different ways. It's a bit easier than my first pick but still more complex than Dungeons & Dragons,
with a complexity rating of 3.20. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “My husband and sons play Magic and occasionally D&D. They got this [...] because it's a game in the same vein but has the option to use the app so none of them have to DM the game. This has already proven to be hours of enjoyment for them. I highly recommend this for others with similar interests who enjoy these involved games.” The Basics: two to five players, for ages 14 and up, with about 120 minutes of game play 3 A Card-Based, Character-Driven Fantasy Board Game D&D and Lord of the Rings are frequently linked, and it’s really no surprise. D&D co-creator Gary Gygax even admitted that the LOTR trilogy had a “superficial” effect on the creation of D&D. That’s one reason why Lord of the Rings: The Card Game seems like a natural selection for this roundup — it’s a two-player card game in which players get to immerse themselves in classic Middle Earth scenarios with three heroes of their choosing.
The game comes with three scenarios, 12 characters, and four pre-constructed player decks; however, players can also build their own decks if they want to from the four "spheres of influence" which include leadership, spirit, tactics, and love. Players choose from 12 of Tolkien’s most popular characters — from Aragorn to Legolas to Eowyn — and each round consists of players sending their heroes out on various quests or battles. There are no dice-rolling components, but at each turn, players have to choose between focusing on their quests or attacking enemy forces to keep them from gaining power.
The game has a
complexity rating of 3.16. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Let me start by saying, the art to this game is completely phenomenal. Simply put, the art is some of the best in all of gaming... bar none! Also, the cards are of nice stock and have a nice texture to them.The game play is solid. [...] LotR-CCG is not a deck building game or a collectible card game either, instead it uses cards like a Dungeon Master and events and enemies pop up and how your heroes deal with... that is up to you. It feels like a dungeon crawler to me sometimes or a 1-2 man massively simplified D&D game (without the character customization).” The Basics: two to four players, for ages 13 and up, with 30 to 60 minutes of game play 4 A Dice- & Deck-Driven RPG Bundle
Pathfinder board game bundle combines the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Core Set with the Curse of the Crimson Throne expansion. Many of the central elements of the Core Set are in line with those of D&D: Pathfinder includes role-playing, adventure, fantasy, fighting, cooperation, dice rolling, and a heroes’ quest against monsters and villains — but with a card component added. Even its complexity rating, at 2.75, is relatively close to the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set. Players build decks full of equipment, magic, and allies before embarking on an adventure with their fellow players to become the heroes of their endangered Belhaim.
The Curse of the Crimson Throne expansion can accommodate two more players, and ups the
complexity rating to 3.00. Rather than defending Belhaim, players have to fight to save the city of Korvosa — which is cursed to never see its ruler live to old age, making it a city always on the cusp of anarchy and ruin. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “I never quite found a card game with some good dice rolling with a sense of adventure. That's until I finally made the purchase of Pathfinder in its most recent rendition that we have here. The game is excellent overall. I really enjoy the gameplay and the fact I can play solo, is the icing on the cake. Deck building is fun and rewarding. The adventure book that comes along with the game, directs you on how to set up the scenarios where you will aim to complete each one before progressing to the next. Along the way you will level up and gain new items etc. I really enjoy the RPG elements of the game.” The Basics: one to four players (with the Crimson Throne expansion, six players), for ages 13 and up, with about 90 minutes of game play 5 A Character Creation Dice Game Roll Player is a highly competitive pick — pitting players against one another — and the end goal is to create the ultimate RPG hero with elements like race, class, alignment, skills, traits, and equipment all in play. The dice-heavy game (there’s actually 73 in total) is divided into four different parts including the roll phase, dice phase, market phase, and cleanup phase. At the end, the player with the greatest reputation wins the game.
While the competitive nature of this game differs from D&D, this pick does have plenty of elements that overlap, notably the complexity (which is
rated at a 2.41), character building, play time, and use of dice. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “This is a thinking game, and has now become one of our favorite games to play. Play is fast, but it requires some planning and some thinking. Luck is definitely a huge, huge factor. [...] Lots of fun, especially if you are into D&D!!” The Basics: one to four players, for ages 10 and up, with 60 minutes of game play 6 A Cooperative Deck-Building Game
With its rich narrative,
Aeon’s End Legacy is a cooperative deck-building game that fans of D&D will find highly engaging. At the start of each game, you’ll receive 10 basic cards, and along your journey you will gain additional cards in your deck (these feature more powerful spells, relics, and gems) in order to fight the Nemesis and its minions as you defend Gravehold. The campaign is played over a series of chapters — starting with chapter one, and so forth from there — and as the game progresses you’ll have to choose upgrades for your character (the legacy component of this game). At the end of the campaign, you’ll have access to a bunch of new and unique characters, nemeses, player cards, and more, to play with.
complexity rating of 2.83, this pick is similar in difficulty to Dungeons & Dragons — and the play time can be about the same as a one-shot D&D campaign, too. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Legacy games are built around a fascinating premise. You grow the game as you play it. Things change that are unique to your copy of the game and when you're done, in this case, you have four unique characters that you can use in the rest of the Aeon's End universe. I'm only a few scenarios into this game, but it's a real treat uncovering new game elements as you play the game. Hours and hours of entertainment in this large box of cardboard.” The Basics: one to four players, for ages 14 and up, with 45 to 90 minutes of game play 7 A Simple Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Game
While a much simpler game overall (with a
complexity rating of 1.22), Legacy Of Dragonholt has certainly won over Amazon reviewers, including those that are fans of D&D — this pick boasts a solid 4.5-star rating overall on the site, after 275-plus reviews.
Set in the Runebound universe, this choose-your-own-adventure game requires players to assemble together (like D&D, it’s a cooperative game) to investigate the death of the heir of Dragonholt. Along the way, you’ll face a number of different enemies (like bandits and vicious monsters) and will need to work to grow the character that you’ve created — you get to design elements like their race, class, backstory, and skills — giving them new skills, stamina, and more.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book mixed with Dungeons and Dragons. My wife likes how we can both be on the same team and play cooperatively even with just the two of us. Having a great time with it!” The Basics: one to six players, for ages 14 and up, with 60+ minutes of game play 8 A Highly-Rated Cooperative, Horror-Themed Board Game
While thematically much different than D&D,
Betrayal At House On The Hill is wildly popular on Amazon — with a stellar 4.8-star rating overall, after 12,600 reviews — and many reviewers have commented that it has a bunch of similar-feeling elements including quest-like objectives, mostly-cooperative game play, and tons of player decision-making that greatly impacts the outcome of the game. With 50 different scenarios available, players must get through dozens of dangerous rooms with the goal of defeating the traitor in their midsts. Suspenseful and spooky... you’ll want to add this pick to your game night rotation ASAP.
This pick has a similar complexity rating to D&D —
Board Game Geek gives it a 2.39. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “This is a Great family game for those who love some plot twists, quick strategy development and an hour or two to spare. Since Avalon Hill paired with WOTC on this, Dungeons And Dragons players will feel at home with this board game in terms of movement, opposed dice rolls and some plots/story-lines. This is truly an AWESOME game!!!!!!!!” The Basics: three to six players, for ages 12 and up, with 60 minutes of game play 9 An App-Assisted Adventure Game Destinies offers a RPG-like board game experience that’s enhanced by digital storytelling through the game’s app. This pick boasts five unique, adventure-filled scenarios where players must take on the role of a hero with the ultimate goal of fulfilling their destiny. Along the way, players must make crucial decisions about how they want to interact with other people and creatures, as well as tackle different challenges they face. With different modes available — like solo mode or challenger mode — this pick has plenty of replayability, so you’ll enjoy it for years to come.
While this pick has plenty of similar elements to D&D, there are some notable differences. For example, no game master is needed, and it’s a competitive pick. The complexity is simpler, too —
Board Game Geek gives this game a 1.90. Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Absolutely love this game. Gives you the feeling of a deep and involved tabletop RPG without all the hassle. This is a great game for hard-core players and new comers alike. The card interactions are very logical and even non gamers know how to succeed. The app really elevates the experience and makes this feel like a video game you can touch!” The Basics: one to three players, for ages 14 and up, with 120 to 150 minutes of game play 10 A Quick Fantasy Game That The Whole Family Can Enjoy
For a fun, fast-paced, and fantasy-filled game that the whole family can enjoy, look no further than
Dragonwood, which has a complexity rating of just 1.37, so it’s suitable for kids, too. In the game, players must collect sets of adventurer cards in order to earn dice, which can then be used to roll against foes like a grumpy troll, angry ogre, or menacing orange dragon. Strategy is at the heart of this game; you’ll be forced to make some tough decisions along the way — like whether to fight smaller creatures immediately or save up for a big attack — to end up victorious.
With a knockout 4.8-star rating, after 4,200-plus reviews, Dragonwood is certainly enjoyed by Amazon reviewers — many even commented that this pick has dungeon crawler vibes, but it’s simple enough for all to play.
Enthusiastic Amazon review: “Looking for a quick dungeons and dragons fix. Cool family game, but also fun as a 2 player game. Good mix of chance and strategy. The dice rolling and card play work out very well.” The Basics: two to four players, for ages 8 and up, with 20 minutes of game play
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This article was originally published on
Dec. 28, 2019