Want to engross yourself in a dystopian universe with lots of corruption and where people are just trying to survive? Dystopian board games are a great way to reflect on the problems in society and experience the thrill of survival in a much more interactive way than books or movies.
Dystopian settings are one of my favorite settings for movies and books, so it’s great to be able to combine the feeling of a bleak world or post-nuclear setting with a good board game.
There are quite a lot of great dystopian board games. Some are just themed to be set in a dystopian setting, while others give a full dystopian experience. Read on to find out my top 10 picks:
Best Dystopian Board Games – Quick Comparison
|Rank||Name||# Players||Time||Complexity||Good For|
|#1||Barrage||1-4||1-2 hours||Complex||Best Overall|
|#2||Radlands||2||20-40 minutes||Medium||Best Two Player|
|#3||The Resistance||5-10||30 minutes||Light||Best Party|
Best Social Deduction
Best Big Group
1. Best Overall: Barrage
Barrage is a complex game for 1–4 players that takes about 1–2 hours to play.
This game is set in the dystopian 1930s, where we’ve used up all the fossil fuels and need to build hydroelectric power. Each player is an industrialist trying to build an energy empire. You do this by fulfilling contracts and building power stations on a board made up of rivers. There is quite a puzzle-like element to the game, as the rivers all flow in a certain way and you need certain buildings on a river to generate power.
This is a tight game that really makes you think. My only complaint is that the dystopian theme doesn’t really shine through that well. You could have been building an energy system in any other setting.
- Decent solo mode
- It’s a great puzzle-style game
- Has good player interaction
- Punishing for early mistakes
- Prone to analysis paralysis
2. Best Two Player Competitive: Radlands
Radlands is a game for 2 players that takes around 20–40 minutes to play and is of medium complexity.
Radlands is a dueling game similar to Magic the Gathering, but it is self-contained. You don’t get all the card collecting and deck building, just some great dueling where you are using card synergies to get really powerful combos.
This game feels super thematic. The artwork is very dystopian, you are defending your camp, and the abilities are on point, being things like destroying other camps, healing people, or using raiders. The resource used is water, and it makes you really feel like it’s limited, you have to use your water really carefully.
- Tight gameplay with hard choices
- Fantastic artwork that is very thematic
- Very competitive gameplay (some people like this)
- Very competitive (some people don’t like this)
- You never feel powerful
- No deckbuilding element
3. Best Social Deduction: The Resistance
The Resistance is a board game for 5–10 players that takes around half an hour to play and is pretty easy.
The Resistance is a social deduction game where you are carrying out missions against the empire, but there are spies among you trying to make the mission fail. If the operatives successfully finish three missions, then they win, otherwise they lose.
My group has played this game many times, and it’s always a hit. While the dystopian theme is pretty light on (it’s really just resistance vs spies), because everyone suspects everyone, it really sets the mood at the table.
- Fun game
- Really sets in the atmosphere – feels like you are spies
- No player elimination
- Highly dependent on the group
- Very light strategically
- Strong theme but doesn’t necessarily feel dystopian
4. Best Worker Placement: Anachrony
Anachrony is a game for 1–4 players that takes about 1–2 hours to play and is complex.
After an explosion destroys most of the earth, players need to go through time rifts to time travel back and warn themselves of what’s coming and send back resources (but there is a paradox penalty for time traveling).
This is a competitive worker placement game where you place units on spaces on the board to gain resources and exosuits in order to survive and win the most victory points. There are quite a number of different ways to win victory points, such as increasing morale in your faction, building things, completing objectives, and being able to successfully evacuate before the asteroid hits.
This game’s artwork is amazing (especially if you buy the expansion with the miniatures), and it’s a deeply strategic game with so many options and different ways to score victory points. It’s dripping with theme, and the time travel element is really well implemented and very unique.
- Great solo mode!
- Lots of different choices and strategies
- Each faction plays differently
- No direct conflict
- Lots of rules and mechanics to learn
- Takes a lot of table space
5. Best Interactive: Imperial 2030
Imperial 2030 is a game for 2–6 players that takes 2-3 hours to play and is quite complex.
The game is set in the year 2030, where the world has been divided into six major regions, and the players are investors in the background who fight to gain control and become the most powerful by taking different actions each turn. The actions consist of things like building factories, producing, maneuvering to fight, importing to improve their military, investing in countries, or taxing the people to make money.
The game can be described as a “cross between Risk and Monopoly” but it’s good. You are fighting other countries on a board and blocking each other’s factories, but the way this game is won is through economic dominance, by buying bonds in order to control countries and get the most taxes.
- Deep strategically
- Highly replay value
- Lots of player interaction
- Long game
- The economic theme is not for everyone
- Bad decisions at the start will lead to a bad game
6. Best Battle: Neuroshima Hex! 3.0
Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 is a tactical board game designed for 1-4 players (yes, it has a solo mode) and is of medium complexity. The game typically lasts around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of players.
Neuroshima Hex takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that is quite well established. Each player controls a different group that is fighting for control of a destroyed city. They do this by using different units, tiles, and strategies to outwit their opponents.
One of the main benefits of playing Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 is its replayability. With multiple factions to choose from, each with its own unique abilities and strategies, and randomized tile draws, no two games will be the same. The game’s modular board system also lets each game have a different layout, which adds to its variety.
Players who enjoy battle games, tactical gameplay, and strategic planning will appreciate Neuroshima Hex! 3.0.
- High replayability
- Variety of factions to play
- Strategic depth
- Can be difficult for new players to be competitive
- Some factions are stronger than others
- Luck can play a significant role
7. Best Complex Two Player: Android: Netrunner (or NISEI)
Android Netrunner is a game for 2 players that takes approximately 45 minutes and is quite complex.
I should start by saying that Android Netrunner itself is out of print, but Project NISEI has picked up where the publisher left off and is making great core and expansion sets to get started with and grow with.
The basic premise of the game is that each player controls one of two factions in a futuristic cyberpunk city called New Angeles. The players are either the megacorporations that are trying to control everything or the runners (hackers) that are trying to stop them. This is an asymmetrical game, so each faction has its own way of playing.
This is quite a strategic game with deep decisions, but it is also very fast-paced. It can get quite tense, as you always feel like you don’t have enough information and resources. It’s got a lot of rules to learn, but it’s a game that once you learn it, you will keep playing for many years to come.
It’s an LCG game, which means the cards are collectible, and this type of game can often get expensive. With the game being out of print, the original is now a ridiculous price to buy secondhand, but the cards from Project NISEI are actually very reasonably priced.
If you like card games you can really sink your teeth into, you will love Android: Netrunner. It’s a fast-paced game that can keep you entertained for hours. The theme is also very interesting and combined with the great gameplay, it makes the game stand out.
- Suitable for 2 Players
- Great Theme
- High Replayability
- Not suitable for new gamers
- Difficult rules
8. Best Strategic: Dune: Imperium
Dune Imperium is a medium-complexity game (though on the more complex side) for 1-4 players that takes around 1-2 hours to play. It’s also the highest rated game on this list on Board Game Geek (being 12th overall at the time of writing), so it’s definitely worth checking out!
Dune Imperium is a strategic board game that takes place in the world of the famous Dune series (which is somewhat dystopian). Players take on the role of leaders of different houses competing for control over the planet Arrakis. The integration of the Dune theme is well done and will be appreciated by fans of the series.
The game combines deck-building mechanics with worker placement, making for a unique gameplay experience. One of the biggest benefits of playing Dune Imperium is the depth of strategy involved. With multiple ways to earn points and a variety of cards that can be added to your deck, each game will play out differently and present a new challenge.
Dune Imperium is a great choice for players who enjoy strategic gameplay and are fans of the Dune series.
- High replayability
- Very strategic
- Dune themed
- Complex gameplay
- Long game
9. Best Thematic: Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a strategic board game designed for 2–6 players that takes about 60–90 minutes to play and is of medium complexity.
The game is set in a dystopian society where players take on the role of a faction leader working towards achieving the most influence and power. The game involves resource management and worker placement. The worker placement mechanic makes use of a really cool dice rolling mechanic in which the workers are the dice and must roll for that worker (and these are possibly the coolest-looking dice I’ve ever seen in a board game). If the worker gets too high on the knowledge track, they realize how you are using them, become unhappy, and leave.
Euphoria has engaging gameplay with lots of different options each turn. There are lots of paths to victory, and players must balance managing their resources, workers, and building up their faction while competing against others.
- Well designed mechanics, easier to understand than this games complexity rating on BGG
- Theme and storyline are unique, the game components also bring this to life
- Lots of different choices and paths to victory
- Complex gameplay can be difficult for new gamers
- Some recruit cards can feel unbalanced
- Long gameplay time
10. Best Survival: Arctic Scavengers
Arctic Scavengers is a deck-building game set in a dystopian future where the Earth’s polar ice caps have melted and resources are scarce. It’s a good game for those who enjoy a classic dystopian setting, as it requires players to survive and defend against other players while competing for resources. It is a medium-complexity game that can take up to an hour to play.
Players start with a small deck of cards representing their tribe and resources. On each turn, players draw cards from their deck and use them to recruit new tribe members, gather resources, or launch raids against rival tribes. By adding new tribe members, players can add more cards to their deck, get new skills and options, and earn victory points.
Unlike other deck builders, the game is very thematic and has quite a bit of player interaction. It has a lot of replayability, as the cards available and the abilities of the tribe members change with every game.
This game is a must-have if you already like deck builders but want more interaction and theme than the standard engine building that is involved in most deck builders. You really feel like you are trying to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
- Lots of replayability
- Thematic – unique theme and quite different from other deck-building games which can be quite dry
- Challenging and strategic
- Has player interaction
- Tactical – lots of decisions but not a whole lot of ability to future plan
- Requires a lot of table space
- Not a great first deck builder
- Need the expansions – the base game is a bit boring on its own
- Wasteland Express Delivery Service – This almost made it into the top 10 because I love the theme, you are delivery drivers in the last delivery service left on earth in a post-apocalyptic world, and you have to deliver goods to various outposts and earn victory points.
- Android – Android is a futuristic murder mystery game where players take on the role of detectives trying to solve a crime in a dystopian world. The game has a great storyline with multiple paths and a variety of gameplay mechanics, including deduction, resource management, and strategic decision making.
- Grifters – Grifters is a fun, fast-paced game of deception and strategy. It’s a hand builder (think deck builder without actually building a deck, everything is available to play immediately). Players must assemble a team of criminals and use their abilities to outsmart their opponents and complete missions in a race to become the top grifter.
- Fallout – Fallout is a board game based on the popular post-apocalyptic video game franchise of the same name. In this adventure game, players assume the roles of various characters and must complete quests, fight enemies, and gather resources in order to be the first to reach the end goal. It’s got pretty mixed reviews, so I’d only really recommend it if you’re a hardcore fan of the video game.
Dystopian board games offer players the chance to immerse themselves in a world that is often dark and chaotic, and being so thematic can provide a bit of an escape from reality.
Two of the best competitive 2-player games ever created are dystopian-themed. Radlands is a lighter, self-contained version of Magic the Gathering, and Android: Netrunner (now Project NISEI) is a complex game into which you can sink your teeth.
If you’re looking for a challenge, this category offers some of the best complex board games on the market. If you like puzzles, you can’t go wrong with the thought-provoking game Barrage, or if you prefer a strategic worker placement game, try Anachrony. And if you’re in the mood for an adrenaline-fueled competition, check out intense battle games like Imperial 2030 or Neuroshima Hex 3.0.
There are also some lighter fairings, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a fantastic worker placement game, and Arctic Scavengers is a very thematic deck-building game that is unlike any other you’ll play.
There’s even a party game, The Resistance, if you just want a quick filler in the theme but want something anyone can learn to play quickly.