You have a lot of options if you’re looking for board games that are similar to Dungeons and Dragons. Because Dungeons and Dragons is so free-flowing, you won’t find a board game that replicates everything, but whether you enjoy heavy strategy, RPG and roleplaying, adventuring, or cooperative gameplay, there are many board games that are fun to play and do these things even better than D&D.
These are also a great alternative for something different when you just want a break from D&D, or if your dungeon master needs a break, or if you’re playing with a different group and don’t want to go over all the D&D rules.
While I love Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve been playing eurogames for much longer than I’ve been playing D&D. As a result, I have extensive experience with a wide range of board games, having played a large number of them over the past 15 years.
Why Play A Board Game Instead of D&D
- There are several reasons why you might want to play a board game rather than D&D:
- There is no need for a DM, and everyone can participate.
- Simpler rules (well at least some of them are)
- Change of pace
- There is a solo mode in some games.
- You don’t need the same group every time, so there’s less commitment.
- Less preparation is required.
The Type Of Board Game That’s A Heavy Hitter
If you enjoy D&D because of its complexity and depth, then these games are for you. They each offer a substantial amount of gameplay, with rich worlds and rulesets to sink your teeth into.
Some stats: It’s the top-rated game on Board Game Geek, with 1-4 players and a playtime of 1 to 2 hours and has a high level of complexity.
The premise: The town of Gloomhaven is troubled by evil, and you and your companions band together to figure out what’s going on. You take on the roles of various monster-fighting character classes.
What’s special about this game: It’s a cooperative game in which you work together (though each player has their own set of goals). There are several scenarios to play through in the game, as well as over 100 missions, so there is plenty of content. Like D&D, you’ll want to play with a regular group so you can all follow the storyline together.
The cons: It’s a challenging game with a lot to learn. It’s also quite pricey, but you get a lot of bang for your buck here, with a lot of replay value.
How does it compare to D&D: It has the feel of a eurogame version of D&D, distinct from D&D but with a strong D&D vibe. Fighting is a big part of this game, and it’s a lot more puzzle-based than D&D. Although there is a plot, it is not a role-playing game so maybe give this a pass if that’s what you are looking for.
Some stats: Mage Knight is ranked #29 on BGG, it is a very complex game that takes anywhere from one to four hours to finish. The game is designed for 1-4 players, with solo play being particularly satisfying.
The premise: You are one of four powerful mages who must assemble an army in order to conquer a region of the universe.
What’s special about this game: The game can be played in two modes: cooperative and competitive. It’s a card-based game with abilities and actions (you collect a deck of cards and draw from it for your abilities) and has complex ways to develop your character’s abilities.
The cons: It’s very complex, so it’s worth looking into if you’re a bit more hardcore and want something more complex and number crunching than D&D 3.5e, especially if you’re playing solo.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a combat game in which a lot of the focus is on capturing cities, which is quite different from D&D. While it has complex abilities for characters, it doesn’t offer much in the way of roleplaying or adventure.
Kingdom Death: Monster
Some stats: This game is ranked #50 on BGG, and it takes 1-3 hours to play for 1-4 players. It’s a complicated and demanding game.
The premise: It’s a cooperative game in which you’re tasked with establishing a new settlement in a terrifying world. Fighting monsters, crafting gear, and stories with battles are all included in this game.
What’s special about this game: It has it all: a plot, character development, combat, and a solid premise. This is definitely the one if you’re looking for something as complex as, if not more complex than, D&D.
The cons: It’s big, it’s complicated, you’ll need a group committed to playing for several sessions, and if you’re doing all of that, you may just prefer to stick with D&D.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s not a dungeon crawler like D&D, but rather a narrative campaign in which you build a settlement.
Sword and Sorcery
Some stats: It’s #348 on BGG and has a great solo mode as well as accomodating 1-5 players. It takes 1 to 3 hours to play and has a high level of difficulty.
The premise: It’s a dungeon crawl in which you progress through a campaign, becoming epic heroes and fighting monsters.
What’s special about this game: It has the feel of classic D&D, with a lot of player freedom, a good campaign, and interesting decisions to make that feel RPG-like.
The cons: It’s complicated, and there are a lot of rules, which turns off a lot of people! Some people may find the story’s puns and cultural references to be distracting. Replayability is also limited because you only get one campaign to play through (which can be expanded through purchasing expansions).
How does it compare to D&D: It’s probably the game that feels the most like D&D, but unless you’re looking for something you can play solo or with a group without a DM, it’s hard to see why you should choose this over a D&D campaign.
The Type Of Board Game That Has RPG And Adventure
Is the aspect of role-playing a character going on an adventure that appeals to you in D&D? These are the games for you:
Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
Some stats: BGG #80, it can be played by 1-4 people, but it’s best with 1 or 2 people. It takes 60-120 minutes to complete and is on the more difficult side.
The premise: The land appears to be corrupted, with starvation, sickness, and conflict, and it’s up to your characters to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it.
What’s special about this game: This game has a lot of story elements and character development. The game’s exploration is fantastic, you get the feeling that you’re in a world where you can explore and discover new things.
The cons: The combat and diplomacy systems are both complicated (though they do have a lot of depth if that’s what you’re looking for). Because it’s a single storyline, it has limited replayability once you’ve played through it.
How does it compare to D&D: You’ll want to play through the campaign’s 15 chapters, so you’ll either need a dedicated group or you’ll have to go it alone. This game is fantastic for rich storytelling and open-world RPG, and it’s a fantastic choice if you want to play solo or with a dedicated friend and don’t want a DM.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth
Some stats: It’s #90 on BGG, and it takes 1-2 hours to play for 1-5 players. It’s a medium-weighted game, and it’s one of only two on this list that I haven’t played yet (though I did interview some friends who have for this article).
The premise: With an evil threatening the land, you must travel through Middle Earth, completing quests and fighting foes.
What’s special about this game: This is an app-based game in which you complete a campaign (each game is an adventure within the campaign, so you’ll need a dedicated group). You get to an immersive world, exploration, and role-playing as epic heroes.
The cons: Because of the app, you must play the adventures in order and cannot replay just one of them. It comes with a single campaign, so you’ll have to buy DLC for the app if you want more content.
How does it compare to D&D: It is set in the Lord of the Rings universe, but it is otherwise quite similar to playing D&D. This is a good option if you want to play a campaign but no one wants to be the DM.
Mice & Mystics
Some stats: This game is ranked #374 on BGG, lasts 60-90 minutes, and is designed for 1-4 players. It’s a fairly light game that can be enjoyed by adults or children.
The premise: You’ve been transformed into mice and must defeat Vanestra and save the king.
What’s special about this game: It’s similar to playing a D&D campaign, with an epic story laid out for you in a book and you get to play as the heroes.
The cons: The game is a little repetitive, there isn’t much variety between the characters, they’re slow to advance, and the combat system is basic. It is quite expensive, but it does come with a lot of cool miniatures.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a simplified D&D that’s great for kids or new players, but if you’re used to regular D&D, you’ll grow tired of it.
Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Some stats: #142 on BGG, with 1-5 players and a playtime of about 2 hours. It’s a bit more difficult, and I’ll confess that it’s one of only two games on this list that I haven’t actually played.
The premise: One player assumes the role of overlord, while the other players take on the role of heroes tasked with stopping the overlord by fighting monsters and solving traps and puzzles in caves, ancient ruins, and other D&D-like settings.
What’s special about this game: Heroes, quests, dungeon crawling, and monster fighting are all present. There are 32 scenarios to play through, each with its own set of objectives for both the heroes and the overlord, and it’s meant to be a fantastic dungeon crawling experience.
The cons: The winner receives more loot, so over the course of 32 quests, either the heroes or the overlord can gain an advantage. To complete the campaign, you’ll need a dedicated gaming group.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s an RPG with a progressive campaign that feels a lot like D&D’s dungeon crawling with a storyline, though not as much freedom as D&D. If no one wants to be a DM but you still want the feel of D&D, this is a great alternative.
The Type Of Board Game That Transports You To Another World
Do you enjoy feeling as if you’re in another world, one filled with fantasy and magic? If that’s the case, here are some board games to consider:
Some stats: Spirit Island is the #9 board game on board game geek, it’s for 1-4 players, has a fantastic solo mode, and lasts between 30 and 120 minutes.
The premise: It’s a cooperative game in which each player is a spirit attempting to protect a region of the island from European colonists who are trying to take over the Island (it’s an area control game, so you place tokens on the board to control different areas of the island).
What’s special about this game: This game is engaging to play, there are a lot of strategic decisions to make, and it’s a fairly deep game with a lot of replayability. The game includes a variety of spirits, each of which plays differently, similar to how D&D classes differ from one another.
The cons: It’s a difficult game that’s not suitable for beginners or for a lighthearted, casual game.
How does it compare to D&D: Mechanically, it is very different from D&D, but the reason I recommend it to D&D players is that it has a lot of depth, and it transports you to a different world, where you can be a spirit and save the world from some bad guys (a bit like the feeling of being a hero in a D&D world).
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Some stats: It is ranked #24 on BGG. It is a game for 1-2 players (or 4 players with 2 sets) and has a great solo mode. The game takes 1-2 hours to play and is considered a complex game.
The premise: Something is wrong in Arkham Town, and you must solve mysteries, fight monsters, and save the town as you progress through the story. It’s set in the Lovecraftian universe, so it’s a supernatural horror story.
What’s special about this game: You create a character and a deck of cards for them, which is a lot of fun to play. The story is immersive, and the overarching plot captures the imagination.
The cons: The story is limited, so the game can feel a little on rails. For more stories, it relies on expansions, which can be costly.
How does it compare to D&D: The closest thing to a complete RPG in a box. Much like D&D, you can immerse yourself in the character you’re playing, upgrade them, and feel like you’re a part of the story.
Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror are also worth checking out if you like the Lovecraft/Cthulu theme and are looking for coop board games.
Mansions of Madness
Some stats: It’s ranked #43 on BGG and is suitable for 1-5 players. It takes 2-3 hours to complete and has a medium level of difficulty.
The premise: It’s a cooperative game set in the Arkham mansion where you play as investigators trying to figure out what’s wrong with the mansion by collecting weapons, solving puzzles, and fighting monsters.
What’s special about this game: There is an app that will guide you through a dungeon crawl, and it has fantastic storytelling that will make the experience very immersive.
The cons: Because there aren’t that many campaigns to complete, the game’s replayability is limited.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s not like D&D in that it’s a horror/Lovecraftian game with very little character development. That being said, it’s a very immersive experience that makes you feel as if you’re in another world! While the stories are more linear than a D&D campaign, the app captures the immersive feeling of having a DM with fantastic voice acting and music.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Some stats: This game is ranked #52 on BGG, is for 2-5 players, but it does have a solo mode via an app. It’s a medium-complexity game that takes 1 to 2 hours to complete.
The premise: It has a campaign mode as well as a skirmish mode (where you fight each other). In the campaign mode, you play as part of a rebel fighting team against a single player controlling empire units in a series of linked adventures. The campaigns consist of a series of missions with a number of objectives for the players to complete.
What’s special about this game: There is narrative and character development in this game. Special dice are used to move and attack, and it feels very similar to D&D combat.
The cons: Because the campaigns are interconnected and the characters grow over time, this game requires a dedicated gaming group. It’s also only partially cooperative because you’re all playing against one player rather than all together. It also has a lot of expansions, but the base game is excellent on its own.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a fantastic way to tell a Star Wars story without having to run an RPG game, and the campaigns are much shorter and require much less preparation than D&D. It’s a Star Wars-themed game rather than a fantasy game, but it feels a lot like D&D with one player running the opposing team (as they’re separated a bit like a DM).
Lighter Board Games Than D&D
When you’re looking for a lighter version of D&D, these are the type of board game for you. Maybe you’re tired, maybe some players didn’t show up, maybe you’re playing with a new group of people or kids, and explaining D&D is a little too much. Whatever the case may be, these board games take elements of D&D, most notably the dungeon crawling aspect, and make them more approachable than D&D.
Some stats: Aeon’s End is currently ranked #64 on BGG and is suitable for 1-4 players, though it is best for 1 to 2 players. It’s a medium-complexity game that takes about 60 minutes to complete.
The premise: It’s a cooperative game in which you play as a group of mages tasked with defending the city from extradimensional threats.
What’s special about this game: It’s a deck builder in which you create a deck of spells, relics, and gems (the game’s currency) from which you can play actions and improve your character’s stats.
The cons: There isn’t much room for roleplaying, and the adventure itself is fairly limited in that you only fight one enemy per game (though the enemies can be quite varied), and there is no real plot hook.
How does it compare to D&D: Similar to D&D, the game allows you to try a variety of different play styles, and each player can specialise in what they do. And the characters grow in strength as the game progresses, gaining special abilities.
It’s almost the ideal game to have on hand for when only a couple of people are available to play that night, rather than trying to run a game for only one player, you can both play something fun together that scratches the monster-fighting itch, and then return to D&D the following week.
Some stats: It’s ranked #68 on BGG, and it’s a lightweight game that takes 30 to 60 minutes to play for 2-4 people (no solo mode).
The premise: You’re attempting to get into the dragon’s lair in order to steal the dragon’s artefacts while avoiding being destroyed by the dragon.
What’s special about this game: It’s a dungeon-crawling deck-building game in which you collect skills (to get new cards), swords (to fight monsters), and boots (to move). There aren’t a lot of rules and it’s lots of fun.
The cons: It has player elimination, which I dislike in board games because it can leave the person who is eliminated bored for the evening.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a storyless dungeon crawler, but it’s a fun filler game for casual board gamers.
Clank! Legacy is a legacy game (meaning you can edit the game as you play it) that is ranked higher than the base game. It’s more like D&D in terms of plot and character development, but you’ll need a regular group for this one.
One Deck Dungeon
Some stats: On BGG, it’s ranked #718, but it’s a very light game, and rankings are always skewed towards heavier games. It takes 30-45 minutes to complete and is designed for 1-2 players.
The premise: This is a basic dungeon crawl game in which you must navigate a dungeon created with a deck of cards that you draw from as you go, culminating in a boss fight.
What’s special about this game: It’s cheaply priced and comes in a small box with everything you’ll need for a dungeon crawling adventure. There are monsters, traps, hazards, and boss fights, as well as characters with various stats and upgrades.
The cons: Because the bosses are still fairly difficult to defeat, it may not be appropriate for children or those who are new to gaming.
How does it compare to D&D: In comparison to D&D, it scratches an itch for combat and dungeon crawling while still allowing you to roll a bunch of dice (though it feels more random than D&D). However, it lacks the storyline and depth of an RPG.
Here to Slay
Some stats: It’s ranked #1663 on BGG, but don’t let that deter you, it’s a great game for casual play, with 2-6 players and a play time of 15 to 90 minutes.
The premise: You are a party leader attempting to assemble a successful party, to win the game, you must either slay three monsters or build a party with six classes.
What’s special about this game: It’s a card collection game that’s both well-themed and entertaining. It’s extremely light, and it’s the type of game that both non-gamers and gamers will enjoy.
The cons: Because it’s a party/filler game, there’s not much depth. There is no real plot, no roleplaying, no dice to roll, and no epic battles in this game.
How does it compare to D&D: The theme is similar to D&D, you are putting together a party and killing monsters. But that’s where the resemblances end (well, except that you are still spending a good time with friends).
D&D Themed Board Games
If you love D&D, the world, the lore, and everything else about it, and want to play a board game set in the D&D universe, here are a couple of options that aren’t RPGs but still fit the bill.
The Official D&D Board Games
Some stats: There’s a few of these, Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Temple of Elemental Evil. They’re all for 1-5 players and take about 60 minutes, and are pretty light games.
The premise: For each game you play a dungeon crawler with different scenarios, you get premade D&D characters and a premade dungeon to play through.
What’s special about this game: It’s like playing D&D light with no need for a dungeon master. It’s official D&D material, so very on-point for feeling like D&D.
The cons: You don’t get all the choices of D&D, it’s only really a dungeon crawler with a basic story that feels like it’s on rails.
How does it compare to D&D: If you want a light version of D&D with much simpler rules, and without the freedom that an RPG provides, this is a pretty fun game. We have a full comparison of D&D vs Castle Ravenloft if you want to read more.
Tyrants of the Underdark
Some stats: It’s ranked #179 on BGG and takes about an hour to play. It’s a medium-complexity game for 2-4 players (so no solo mode).
The premise: You lead a house of drow and want to conquer the Underdark. It’s a competitive deck-building and territory control game, where you build a deck that gives you the power to place troops on the board.
What’s special about this game: It’s a great experience that combines deck building and area control, and your power and conflict ramp up throughout the game for a dramatic end.
The cons: There’s a lot of luck involved, there’s no solo mode, and the production quality of the board game isn’t the greatest.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s nothing like D&D mechanically, it has no storyline, no character development or roleplay. But it is set in the Forgotten Realms setting and it’s very thematic.
Betrayal at Boulders Gate
Some stats: This is a game for 3-6 players of easy to medium complexity that lasts about an hour and is listed as #1153 on BGG (though the game it is a retheme of Betrayal at House on the Hill which is #565).
The premise: Set in Baldur’s Gate, the shadow of Baal has summoned monsters from the darkness. You need to work with your party in order to get gear ready to survive, and then halfway through the game the haunt starts and you are in survival mode. Except that one member of your party may have turned traitor!
What’s special about this game: There are over 50 scenarios, and each scenario has different rules, and you get to move around exploring, collecting items, and fighting monsters – there’s a lot of mayhem. There’s also a lot of player interaction and it’s pretty immersive.
The cons: This game doesn’t work that well with fewer players, it’s best played with a 4-6 player group. The setup phase before the haunt can be a bit boring (once the haunt starts there’s a lot of action), and with 50 scenarios if you play a lot it could get repetitive.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a great D&D themed game, but it doesn’t really feel like D&D, more akin to a horror escape. It’s not a particularly deep game but it’s very friendly for casual gamers and is a lot of fun.
Lords of Waterdeep
Some stats: It’s ranked #77 on BGG, is for 2-5 players, has a medium level of difficulty, and takes 1-2 hours to play.
The premise: You are a lord of Waterdeep, and you want to become as powerful as possible. You do this by sending agents on quests to build power, by expanding your city, and by hurting the other lords (so it’s a competitive game).
What’s special about this game: It’s a simple worker placement game (in which you try to take over as much of the board as possible), and it’s simple enough for new players to pick up, but it still has depth and replayability, and it runs smoothly.
The cons: It’s very eurogame-like (think a focus on strategies and tactics rather than storytelling and roleplaying), so it’s not really suitable if you wanted, and it’s on the lighter end of the board game spectrum, so it’s not something to sink your teeth into.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s set in the D&D universe, but it doesn’t play like D&D at all. However, if you enjoy D&D’s power and politics and want to explore them from a different perspective with a strategic focus, this could be a good game for you to try.
Board Games That Are A Bit Different To D&D
All of these games are mechanically different from D&D, but each is a fantastic game that shares something unique with D&D that makes for a fun night of gaming with friends.
Some stats: BGG’s number two! This game is for 2-4 players and takes about 60 minutes to play. It is light to medium in complexity.
The premise: You’re a group of specialists cooperating to fight a disease that is taking over the world. It’s a legacy game, so you work through a story arc through a number of sessions (you’ll want the same gaming group for this).
What’s special about this game: Pandemic is a great game, where you work together to cure diseases. The legacy version is even better, as you get to play characters and work through a story that is one of the best board gaming experiences your group is likely to have.
The cons: It’s a legacy game, so you get 12-24 sessions and you destroy the game as you go, so it’s not replayable after that (though there are more seasons if you want to keep playing). You’ll also want the same gaming group for this, so not great for an off-the-shelf casual game.
How does it compare to D&D: It’s a very different theme and feeling. However it shares the working together aspect, and with the storyline of the legacy version and each character having a unique role and abilities, there’s a lot here that will appeal to D&D fans.
Zombicide: Black Plague
Some stats: It’s a coop game for 1-6 players that takes about 1-2 hours to finish. It has a medium complexity rating and is currently ranked #202 on BGG.
The premise: Experience the zombie apocalypse in a fantasy medieval setting, necromancers have released a zombie invasion and you need to survive.
What’s special about this game: The premise is so cool, you get to play as a paladin, dwarf, knight or magician and use weapons and magic spells similar to that in D&D to fight zombies!
The cons: It’s quite tough and there is a lot of luck with the zombies that come up, so unlike having a DM control the combat level you can end up being wiped out early.
How does it compare to D&D: You roll dice, you level up, and you fight zombies, it really hits the target for feeling like fighting in D&D, and it’s got even more action than D&D! There is no storyline and no character development or roleplay opportunity though.
If you’re more into a post-apocalyptic setting, there is the original Zombicide game that doesn’t have any fantasy tropes.
Some stats: It’s a game for 1-4 players with a great solo mode, and it’s #1089 on BGG. It’s a medium-complexity game that takes about 2-3 hours to complete.
The premise: Similar to the video game, you are a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world and you need to improve your skills, fight enemies and complete quests to survive.
What’s special about this game: It’s a competitive game with a lot of character development and great world-building, as well as a narrative-driven storyline that will keep you engrossed.
The cons: It’s competitive, which is appropriate given the post-apocalyptic setting, but the quests make me feel like there should be a cooperative mode.
How does it compare to D&D: It has a completely different theme than D&D, but it still has the same feeling of fighting monsters to stay alive. You get to play a different character in a different world, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s good because, while it satisfies the same itch, it’s also very different from D&D if you’re looking for a break from fantasy.
Call to Adventure
Some stats: On BGG, it’s ranked #847. It is a light game that takes 30-60 minutes to play and is suitable for 1-4 players.
The premise: It’s a competitive game in which you’re all competing to tell the best adventure story and become the greatest adventurer. You do this by drafting adventure cards and then attempting to complete that adventure successfully.
What’s special about this game: It’s a nice short game that tells a story, with easy-going mechanics that is fun to play.
The cons: It’s a bit of an abstract game in that you don’t actually play through an adventure but instead you collect and complete them.
How does it compare to D&D: You get to build some thematic stories, but it’s not really an RPG where you go on adventures and can feel like you’re in another world. However, if you want to play something thematic with your D&D group, it’s a good, fun fill-in game.
I’ve gone over a lot of games, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many good board games out there that cover various aspects of D&D that it would be impossible to list them all.
I’ve covered some of the most popular games and tried to select a variety of games that cover various aspects of D&D that you might enjoy in a board game.
This is one of my favourite topics, and I’m always looking for new games to try out, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion for a game that you feel should be included on this list.