Maps come in all shapes and sizes! These maps aren’t based on traditional war games but provide some variety. Travel the map to expand the economy, build an empire, or eliminate a deadly threat… the options are plenty.
If you want war and world domination, check out these 5 Board Games Like Risk. And if Ticket to Ride is more your style, try one of these Ticket to Ride versions and expansions.
But if you’re a map-lover who needs a little break from the usual war battles and train games, we have you covered! Our top picks for the best map-based board games are here. So read on to find the map that suits your gaming needs.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Map-Based Board Games
In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.
Playing time: 100 minutes
The Roman Empire is expanding quickly! As a trade representative, you aim to make connections and build a vast network to sell goods across the region.
But it’s not all about making money. The player with the most victory points will get you a win! Scoring can be a little tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of games. Points are awarded for the value and types of goods, cities, provinces, and colonists you earn throughout the game.
Concordia is a historical economic expansion game. It’s well designed both in its mechanics and artwork. The colorful map is both pleasing to the eye and makes gameplay more intuitive.
The game moves at the right pace to keep you engaged without feeling rushed. While the end goal is competitive, the player interactions are quite friendly. Overall, it has a nice balance and flow to it.
Playing time: 60-120 minutes
The Industrial Revolution is exploding in northern England. As a citizen of Birmingham, you’re in the epicenter and ready to seize the opportunity.
Race around the board and take action throughout two eras, or rounds. Cards dictate what actions you take, but you’ll need resources to complete them. The currency in Birmingham is coins, coal, and of course, beer.
Points are awarded for selling buildings and placing links as you go. Like most economies, having a connected network will take you far. A capitalistic spirit is required in Birmingham. You’ll need to roll with the punches and adjust to your competition.
It’s a fairly complex game with high player interaction. If you’re looking for a deeper economic game, capitalize on Brass: Birmingham!
The Fury of Dracula (Third/Fourth Edition)
Playing time: 120-180 minutes
Beware! The Fury of Dracula is not limited to Transylvania! His goal is to spread evil all over Europe. That is – unless hunters can stop him in his tracks.
In this All vs. One board game, one player takes on the role of Dracula, and the rest work collaboratively against him. Players move across the board, collecting clues to uncover Dracula’s whereabouts. However, Dracula’s moves are hidden. You won’t know precisely where he travels, and he’ll either hide out or leave traps for the hunters as he goes.
The Fury of Dracula plays to its theme well. Different actions can occur during the day versus the night, and the traps may include an attack of recently converted vampires. The eerily designed board and cards add to the dark and fearful vibe.
Will you lift the veil on this vampire in time… or will evil prevail?
Playing time: 45 minutes
In Pandemic, you are a group of qualified individuals fighting off a global disease. Players work collaboratively with their unique set of skills. Researchers might have vital intel, while doctors can heal the sick.
Pandemic utilizes the world map well. The virus realistically spreads one country at a time, while people can hop on a plane to travel the globe. However, if the deadly virus spreads too wide, it’s game over for humankind.
Deadly diseases are hard to fight. Playing Pandemic will require strong teamwork and clever thinking. If you like collaborative, challenging games, Pandemic may be a good fit – and if you’ve already mastered the original, try one of the Best Pandemic Expansions.
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Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)
Playing time: 120-240 minutes
The world of A Game of Thrones is captured well on this Westeros map. Each player is fighting for power over the continent. You must gain control of 7 territories within 10 rounds to achieve this.
In A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, each round has three phases. The Westeros Phase involves picking random event cards. The events are similar to what might happen in the story — conflicts may arise between houses or a wildling may attack. All Players have armies, and in the Planning Phase, secret orders are decided.
Can you guess what plans your opponents are carrying out? No worries if not… all will be revealed in the Action Phase. Players show their orders and resolve the actions. Actions may be raids or marches, supporting nearby armies, or consolidating power.
The reigning power gets benefits throughout the game, but power can change hands quickly. And in the end, there can only be one seat on the throne. Will it be yours?
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War of the Ring (Second Edition)
Playing time: 150-180 minutes
If you’re a Lord of Rings fan, you’ll love this board game adaptation. War of the Ring uses beautiful artwork and excellent storytelling to bring this battle to life. Pulling from its strong theme, War of the Ring plays on a map of Middle Earth with miniatures representing the various characters.
In this war, it’s a duel between the Free People and The Shadow Armies. The Free People are initially hesitant to fight, but all they need is a little prodding. Once the motivation is there, the battle is on between these two groups!
The Shadow Army uses military force while the Free People use their collection of elves, dwarves, and men to bide time… until the ringbearer completes their special mission.
“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” Gandalf gives good advice – and we’d be wise to use it in this Lord of the Rings-inspired game!
Playing time: 40-80 minutes
This world isn’t big enough for the both of us! There’s only room for one species in Small World. Maybe that will be wizards, dwarves, giants, or even humans.
Small World is a survival of the fittest game. Species are each assigned a special advantage that trumps all other rules. Choose a species and begin conquering the land. Taking turns, players will place tokens around the map and may or may not attack the opponent’s regions. You’ll have ten rounds to build your power.
Everything is ruled by coins, tokens, and a little luck of the dice. So manage your resources wisely and take calculated risks to win territory and victory.
Small World is a fantasy game with high replayability and direct player interaction. Species get matched with different advantages in every game, and the game comes with several boards depending on player count.
Arkham Horror (Third Edition)
Playing time: 120-240 minutes
Arkham Horror reenvisions the roaring twenties as a dark, Lovecraftian world. The game board is a map of Arkham. Once a seemingly normal American town, it is now overrun with alien creatures known as Ancient Ones.
You are the only hope to save the town from an alien takeover. Your team of detectives must fight monsters and close the gates to the city — before the leader of the Ancient Ones makes its way in.
Arkham Horror is a cooperative game with a strong theme and characters. Each player will choose a character, gathering unique skills and abilities to battle the beasts. Work together and play your cards right! If you survive long enough, you just might be able to save Arkham from destruction.
Lewis & Clark: The Expedition
Playing time: 120 minutes
It’s 1803, and the Pacific Northwest has yet to be colonized. Following the Louisiana Purchase, President Jefferson assigned two explorers to inspect the area. As Lewis and Clark, this adventure is yours for the taking.
In Lewis & Clark: The Expedition, you race across the U.S. map to reach the Pacific Northwest first. Character Cards make up your unit, and you’ll add to them as you encounter Native Americans and trappers en route.
The Expedition is a balancing act. The size of your unit – and your resources in tow – may be an advantage but might also slow you down. It’s a game of hand management, racing, and map positioning. Are you up for the task? Pack those bags and go!
Playing time: 60 minutes
Thebes is an Indiana Jones-style adventure across Europe.
Players are archeologists out to gain fame and prestige. Start your travels bouncing around European cities, collecting the knowledge, resources, and assistance you need for the great excavation.
When you’ve gathered enough, head towards a digging site such as Greece or Egypt. Hopefully, you’ll uncover treasures to gain more fame – and subsequently victory points – than your peers!
The map comes with a handy timekeeper. The numbered track around the board’s edge symbolizes the 52 weeks in a year. Various activities take time, and you won’t want to dawdle. Getting to the excavation site first means a better chance of striking gold.
So what are you waiting for? Dig in!
There are so many great map-based board games out there, it’s so hard to choose just 10! So we had to include a few extras in our “honorable mention” section to expand the list just a bit. Click on the links for full and in-depth reviews of these other excellent map-based games!
Read the full review of Sleeping Gods.
Read the full review of Twilight Struggle.
Read the full review of Terra Mystica.
Read the full review of Twilight Imperium.
Civilization: A New Dawn
Read the full review of Civilization: A New Dawn.
Read the full review of Terraforming Mars.
Lords of Waterdeep
Read the full review of Lords of Waterdeep.
Star Wars: Rebellion
Read the full review of Star Wars: Rebellion.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best map-based board games! If you enjoy area control board games, traveling, building routes, or if you just love maps – these board games are for you!
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
Cheryl is a teacher, writer, and board game fan. She likes incorporating games into all areas of her life, from classrooms and family nights to lively parties with friends. While she’s played too many to count, her favorites have always been classics like Codenames and chess.