GameCentral takes a look at some of the best Zoom-friendly board games based on movies and TV shows, from The Shining to Harry Potter.
New video games may be thin on the ground at the moment but if you fancy a change of pace then there are a lot of board games and tabletop role-players out there, that can be just as entertaining. Just like video games, a lot of them are based on movies and other properties, which can help to ease you into what can be some unfamiliar concepts.
Not all tie-in games need to be a mind-numbing version of Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly, so we’ve picked some newly released games, and some older favourites, that are more than just cash-ins and still work well as stand-alone experiences.
So get your bubble together and take on the role of your favourite TV and film characters in games available across a range of price, skill, and nostalgia levels. And, if you can, try to support your local board game shop or café when you buy online, as they’re forced to stay closed during lockdown.
The Shining: Escape From The Overlook Hotel
Maybe you can’t escape the house right now but as cabin fever sets in you can certainly try and escape the Overlook Hotel. Coded Chronicles games using code revealing gameplay mechanics to create an escape room style experience where you work cooperatively to unlock the story. You play as Wendy and Danny trying to avoid insane Jack and escape from the sinister hotel.
The game sets an appropriate horror tone from the start and manages to draw you into the narrative early on, as it’s split over two acts which take over an hour to work through. The gameplay involves setting up rooms with instructions from the included journals and working through clues and abilities, such as Danny’s shining, to reveal puzzles that must be solved to progress toward your escape.
Like several real-life escape rooms, this is a difficult game, and not only because some of the clues can only be read with a magnifying glass. Our top tip is to make sure you check and recheck the numbers on your cards. Suitably spooky and menacing, The Shining: Escape From The Overlook Hotel is recommended if you’re looking for an escape from the more traditional board game formats and want a game that’s playable with your friends over Zoom.
Price: £75, Ages 14+
Peaky Blinders: Faster Than Truth
Due for release at the end of February, the Peaky Blinders: Faster Than Truth card game sees you suit up, put on best your flat cap with hidden razorblades, and practice your Brummy accent as you take part in 1920s gang warfare and help the Shelby family try to maintain their often-precarious empire.
For two to six players, with a quick and deadly playtime of around half an hour, you’ll need to gather or steal resources to beat your rivals and use cards to make money as well as outwit your opponents. This game is all about bluff and intelligence and, of course, family, as you play to make and break alliances with underhand dealing using muscle and prestige. Everyone looks good on the cards, that contain sharp stills from the TV series, and resources that look like antique playing cards.
Price: £15, Ages 14+
Night Of The Living Dead: A Zombicide Game
Didn’t take social distancing seriously and now you’re hunkered down in a house with hordes of lurking ghouls outside? George A. Romero’s cautionary film now has its own standalone game in the already established Zombicide board game franchise. This game perfectly captures the black and white 1960s aesthetic in its creepy miniatures and the slow burn atmosphere of a tense psychological thriller.
Watch out for a new style of zombies called breakers, who’ll try to smash down your door. There’s also a new mechanic which invokes Romero’s directing style of confused claustrophobia in the double-sided character cards, where you start weak and unskilled but depending on how you play you have a chance to flip the card from Romero to Zombicide mode – where your inner zombie killer comes to the fore. Even though this is essentially a co-operative game you have the ability to sack off religious Barbra and family man Harry and go it alone.
Price: £60, Ages 14+
If you’ve had enough of Joe Wicks’ second coming a great way to exercise your brain and keep the kids busy is a few rounds of super-fast party snap game Dobble. There’s enough familiar faces from the worlds of Pixar to make you want to splash out and renew your subscription to Disney+, but this special edition is surprisingly good value for money.
No one has an advantage in this two to eight player game, where you’re constantly involved trying to find a pair of characters. It’s not that easy though, as Dobble mixes things up by varying the sizes of the symbols from card to card, which inflicts an unexpected strain on your brain and makes this family game competitive and fun. Cheap as chips and also suitable for pub play – when they reopen.
Price: £15, Ages 6+
Munchkin: Rick And Morty
Munchkin has been around since 2006 and often provokes a love or hate reaction. For a fast-paced game it can sometimes go on for too long and Munchkin fatigue is definitely a thing. Using the Rick and Morty animated TV show for its tie-in is a good fit for the game’s kick down the door/loot the room mechanics. Plus, dimension-hopping anti-social characters such as Rick, Morty, Summer, Gerry, Beth, and Mr. Poopybutthole make for some humorous and other worldly encounters.
As in the standard Munchkin, the goal is to get to level 10 by fighting monsters and collecting gear. In this Rick and Morty version there is a new mechanic called the parasite effect, from the episode Total Rickall, which means monsters with the parasite symbol can multiply into soon overwhelming numbers. There’s many versions of Munchkin out there but we wubba lubba dub-dub this one the most.
Price: £20, Ages 17+
Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising
This Christmas just didn’t seem complete without a visit to the cinema for some Wizarding World fare and it looks like we will have to wait till 2022 for the next instalment and the video game. Keeping you firmly in touch with everything Hogwarts is Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising, which has Voldemort pointing his wand menacingly at you from the centre of the board. Time to get Dumbledore’s Army together and cast some spells, but you won’t be able to confront him directly until you’ve done away with his minions.
Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising is a cooperative game for two to four players, with a play time of about an hour. You’ll be paying a lot of attention to rolls of the dice and trying to avoid rolling a dark mark. On each turn, your team of wizards travels to a location where you can try to recruit a wizard or damage a Death Eater. Surprisingly this can be a frustratingly hard game, especially if you can’t recruit enough wizards early on. Because of this you might only want to commit to this struggle if you’re a massive fan of the franchise.
Price: £40, Ages 11+
Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game
Even though Po always manages to take centre stage in the animated films the board game version of Kung Fu Panda is designed as a co-operative game. Break through doors and walls with lucky dice rolls, watch out for the spawning enemies, and don’t forget you’re against a sand timer as your chaotic mob bounces from room to roof unleashing special moves. But beware rolling claws that will trigger the Dial of Destiny!
A fun, fast-paced afternoon adventure with familiar furry friends as you play with recognisable miniatures of the Furious Five, there’s also two impressive boss miniatures of Tai Lung and the Wolf Boss. Kung Fu Panda encourages you to work together to complete missions, such as saving villagers, and is the perfect game for younger players.
RRP £30 Ages 8+
Star Trek Adventures
The season finale of Star Trek Discovery has just left our screens so there couldn’t be a better time to immerse yourself in the ongoing roleplaying series Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius, which has just released a dedicated Klingon edition.
The core rulebooks for Star Trek Adventures are hefty tomes sometimes running to 400-plus pages but they are excellent quality, with stunning images of all your favourite characters from the Star Trek canon. Star Trek Adventures runs on Modiphius’ signature 2d20 system and starter packs come with neat colour D20s sporting Star Trek logos.
They have created a living campaign, meaning there are constant free updates on the Modiphius site and the company are committed to responding to input from Games Masters and players to push the game forwards and give it real depth. Star Trek Adventures is a complex but rewarding commitment, once you learn how to play (which could take around three hours) and this could keep you busy for years, especially if you paint up the range of suitably geeky miniatures. We can assure you dry brushing Andorian antenna is a worthwhile lockdown activity.
Price: £20, Ages 14+
Aliens: Another Glorious Day In The Corps
If you played the Alien Isolation video game in 2014 you probably didn’t think you’d be feeling a similar claustrophobia just from a board game. Reliving the tension of Aliens, and including many of the same characters, you and your team of Colonial Marines must head into the terraforming facility of Hadley’s Hope to find survivors of a xenomorph attack.
The double-sided game boards have your miniatures searching the facility and alien nest for weapons to survive and fight their way out. There are six different missions available and these can each be played as stand-alone encounters. Or, if you’ve got all day to work though the four missions of the campaign mode, you can enjoy a more feature-length experience that’s great at recreating the tension and tactics of the movie.
Price: £50, Ages 7+
Game Of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood Of The Watch
You may have been disappointed by the final season of Game Of Thrones but tabletop gamers are never disappointed by Catan. It is so successful because it’s such an easy game to learn. There are terrain tiles which give up to five different resources on the roll of a die – wool, grain, ore, brick, and lumber – and allow you to build roads settlements and cities to score 10 victory points for a win.
There’s no dragons here, but this Game of Thrones version is a must for fans of the show. You play the Night’s Watch and must defend the wall against the wildlings that are gathering to try and breach it and attack Westeros. There are three pages of additional rules added to the base game that introduce the heroes and wildlings, who are randomly placed face down ready to attack. The wall included won’t put up much resistance, as it’s physically quite small, but the beautifully painted cards make this a must buy for fans of both franchises.
Price: £60, Ages 14+
Star Wars: Rebellion
There’s plenty of new Star Wars on its way at the moment, as the franchise goes through a massive expansion, and that includes board games. Star Wars: Rebellion is almost the physical manifestation of Disney’s aggressive expansionism, as it stretches across two game boards, so be prepared to sacrifice your whole living room to play it.
There’s three (count ‘em!) Death Stars and two Star Destroyers included in the impressive 153 plastic miniatures that come in the box. We love the tiny AT- ATs, as even the most sinister Empire war machines look cute when they are this small.
In Star Wars: Rebellion, two players face off against different objectives: dominate the galaxy if you’re on the side of the Empire or free it if you’re on the side of the Rebel Alliance. This is a long game, and you’ll need to commit a whole day to this galactic war. Casual gamers should think twice but if you’re a devoted Star Wars fan you’ll learn to appreciate the energetic gameplay and variety of entertaining missions that justify the price tag.
Price: £75, Ages 14+
By Lucy Orr
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