Many people who are new to gaming are confused about whether Dungeons & Dragons is a board game or not. If you haven’t played a tabletop RPG before you may be confused as to what that means, and how it differs from the board games we all know.
In this article, I will try to explain the differences between D&D and other types of board games so that you can make an informed decision on which type of game you want to play.
Is Dungeons and Dragons Considered a Board Game?
No, Dungeons and Dragons is not a board game, it’s a tabletop RPG. Some of the differences between board games and tabletop RPGs are:
- Can be played with one, two or more players
- Gameplay takes place on a flat surface, usually a table
- Most games have strict rules for how you play
- Players take turns playing their cards/dice/meeples
- You don’t need to use your imagination
- Many games have a set number of rounds
- Generally goes for 30 – 120 minutes and for a single session
Tabletop Roleplaying Games:
- Usually requires at least two people (a DM and a player)
- Someone has to act as the dungeon master
- Each player plays as a character (and has a character sheet with matching stats)
- Does not need a board (though you can use one)
- Game sessions can last 2-4 hours, and the game can be played over many sessions
- You roleplay through a story and you need to use lots of imagination
Then What Type of Game Is Dungeons and Dragons?
Dungeons and Dragons is an RPG Tabletop Game, which means that it’s a role-playing game that is played on a tabletop.
In dungeons and dragons, you play through an adventure, with one player being the dungeon master that tells the players what is happening and adjudicates any actions that the players want to do, and the other players are each a character that are members of a party playing through the adventure. It’s a bit like playing an interactive story that the dungeon master is telling the players.
The player characters have statistics that say what they are good and bad at, and the game is played by rolling dice to determine the outcome of your character’s actions. The DM will throw quests, monsters to fight, people to talk to, people to rescue, and all sorts of other interactions into the game for the players to engage in.
Do You Need a Board to Play Dungeons and Dragons?
No, you do not need a board to play D&D. It can play with the theatre of the mind, which means that everything the dungeon master is describing and everything the players are doing is spoken, and there is no physical representation of what is happening, it is all left up to the player’s imagination.
However, it is popular to use a board for dungeons and dragons. These usually need to be quite flexible in what the dungeon master can represent on them, so an erasable battle map is usually used. These are a gridded board or mat that you can draw anything that comes up in the game on the fly and then erase when you change locations.
Some people do get really elaborate with their D&D playing boards, opting for quite elaborate 3D terrain. While this does look awesome, it’s a lot of work and there is no need to do this to play D&D.
What Are the Differences Between the Dungeon and Dragons Board Games and the RPG?
To confuse matters, Wizards of the Coast, which is the company that makes Dungeons and Dragons, also makes a number of board games that are confusingly called the Dungeons & Dragons Board Games, so no wonder new people are confused.
These board games are games made as a spin-off to the Dungeons and Dragons Role Playing Game, which is what people are generally referring to if they say they play D&D.
The board games are like a cut-down, simplified version of D&D. You each get characters, and you play on a board that’s a dungeon rolling dice to fight monsters. It’s a much more restricted experience that will be very similar each time you play, as there isn’t a whole lot of role-playing or a complex adventure to play through.
Using the Board Games as a Gateway to Dungeons & Dragons
The Dungeons & Dragons board games can be a great gateway into the Dungeons and Dragons RPG. For those overwhelmed by all the rules and everything you need to get for D&D, this provides a streamlined way to get familiar with some of the concepts of D&D before jumping in.
But if you are more interested in playing Dungeons & Dragons for the role-playing aspect and the freedom that you get in a role-playing game, we really recommend you jump into proper D&D with the Starter Set or Essentials Kit and that you read our guide on getting started.
That being said if you get the board games they are also great to use later on for miniatures, so it’s not like your money will go to waste.
If you’re playing with someone who wants to experience D&D but may not be ready for the rules yet, such as a group of kids, the board games are a fun way to explore some aspects of D&D without the need to learn all the rules and have someone act as a dungeon master.
But I Want a Board Game – What Board Game Is Most Like Dungeons and Dragons?
There are a lot of board games that have aspects similar to D&D and may be more suitable for you than the commitment to playing Dungeons & Dragons. If you want to learn more, check out our recommendations on the best board games similar to D&D where we go over a variety of board games and how they are similar to D&D.
But if you just want a shortlist of our top recommendations they are:
- The D&D board games – for the dungeon crawling, monster killing aspect of D&D these are great, and they’re also set in the D&D universe so are a great entry point to learning more about D&D. Our favourite of these is the Castle Ravenloft board game, which we compare to D&D in more detail.
- Gloomhaven – for that big cooperative adventure feel, where you and the other players play through an epic storyline over many sessions.
- Mice & Mystics – for that same feeling as D&D of a good dungeon master running you through an adventure.
- Clank! – for the rush of running through a dungeon trying to steal from the dragon’s lair.
- Pandemic Legacy – a very different theme to D&D (you’re saving the world from a global pandemic) but a great option if you want to problem solve with friends.
Even though there is a board game with the same name, D&D is not a role-playing game. When people say dungeons and dragons, they are usually referring to the role-playing game.
The Dungeons & Dragons Role Playing Game and the Dungeons & Dragons Board Games are very different. The board games tend to provide a limited experience that focuses primarily on combat, whereas role-playing games provide limitless options, including storytelling and character roleplaying.