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Best Role-Playing (RPG) Board Games

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

When you think of role-playing games, you may think of Dungeons & Dragons, dressing up in costumes, and speaking in funny accents.

We love those kinds of RPGs… but today we’re going to talk about the best role-playing RPG board games.

Our Top Picks for Best RPG Board Games

01/25/2023 12:00 pm GMT

Before we even begin this list there’s a daunting task ahead of us, and that is to answer the question, “What makes an RPG an RPG?”.

I’m going to tell you all right now… there is no concrete answer. A good portion of the definition is going to come from your own personal experience and your own ideas about games. So, the first thing we’re going to look at is the most basic definition.

RPG Instruction Graphic

The first thing an RPG needs is a role. Players will need to be able to assume some kind of role and be able to put themselves in the shoes, tentacles, or claws of a character.

Second, players will need to be able to play that character and be able to make decisions based on the character they are assuming.

Third, it’s a game. It should be fun for everyone involved and have some kind of rules to follow. Whether they are deeply intricate and require a tome, or whether they’re a loose system to guide the players, rules are an important part of a game.

Our criteria for best RPG board games:

  • Players choose a character or role.
  • Allows for character customization.
  • Contains shared storytelling elements.
  • Level progression system.
  • Substantial lore or worldbuilding.

For this list, we chose specifically RPG board games. That doesn’t include Dungeons & Dragons or traditional Pen & Paper RPGs, but I wanted to find games that made me feel like I was playing something similar. I wanted to have control (if only a little bit) over what I could do and how my characters evolved.

Best RPG Board Games

  1. Gloomhaven
  2. Mice and Mystics
  3. Descent: Journeys in the Dark
  4. Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition
  5. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
  6. Mistfall
  7. Shadows of Brimstone
  8. Sword & Sorcery
  9. Talisman (Revised 4th Edition)
  10. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
  11. Warhammer 40k Kill Team


Gloomhaven Best RPG Board Games

Gloomhaven has topped numerous lists since it first hit the board game scene. Anyone who has played it (or even taken a look at the box) can see why.

RPG Elements:

  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Player-Led World-Building
  • Substantial Lore

Characters & Level Progression

Players can choose from a variety of characters/classes from the beginning, which by the end of the 70+ scenario campaign will be completely customized and leveled up. One of the iconic aspects of RPGs is the leveling and customization of the characters.

Being able to control the path and specialties your character has gives a sense of ownership and kinship with the character. It also helps immerse players in that role.

Gloomhaven does a fantastic job with this and you honestly can’t go wrong with any character. They’re all fairly balanced and have an interesting mix of abilities without anyone becoming too overpowered.

World-Building & Scenarios

Gloomhaven has a substantial number of world-building mechanics built into the game. As players progress, they’ll begin to explore different regions and locations in Gloomhaven.

Through a legacy style mechanic, players will place stickers and locations on the map board, so every campaign will be different based on player choice and experience.

There are approximately 90 scenarios total in the campaign But in a single campaign, players will only encounter about 70 of them, which gives players the choice to affect the world that they are building.

Worth the High Price Tag?

The price point is a little high, but the amount of gameplay you’ll get out of the one box is incredible. It includes legacy elements, which are great for getting a feel for the world.

While playing, you’ll feel as if your characters are truly a part of the world and not just random characters are thrown in.

Don’t be intimidated by the legacy system either, because it’s completely resettable. There’s no destruction of cards or components like some other legacy games.

$165.00 $105.98

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01/25/2023 09:48 am GMT

Mice and Mystics

Mice and Mystics RPG Board Game

The prince and all his loyal followers have been imprisoned and locked away in the dungeon. What’s a ruler to do during a magical coup? Why, turn everyone into mice and escape through the sewers, of course.

RPG Elements:

  • Character Progression
  • Slight Level Progression
  • Highly Thematic
  • (Also, great for kids)

In Mice and Mystics, players take on the role of one of the Prince’s loyal followers and must scramble through the sewers and castle to undermine the usurping witch. Each of the characters lends itself to a particular playstyle, and there’s minimal level progression throughout the entire campaign.

Instead of having a monster character sheet with a ton of stats, each character remains relatively unchanged throughout the campaign. They will, however, be able to gain new equipment they collect from one scenario to the next.

The Power of the Story

I absolutely love the story-driven gameplay of Mice and Mystics. The entire game is designed like a fairy tale and is riddled with cute and adorable components. The major story elements of the game will be read through in the scenario book before and after each game.

I personally love doing readings like this and made up voices and attempted a dramatic reading of each scenario.

With this style of story and world-building, it can seem like players are being railroaded through the story, but there are also optional quests and missions that can highly affect the outcome of subsequent missions.

Ready to play Mice and Mystics? Check out our full review here.

Mice & Mystics
$63.99 $60.79

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01/25/2023 11:00 am GMT

Descent: Journeys in the Dark

Descent: Journeys in the Dark Board Game

You get to trudge through a dungeon and fight monsters controlled by an all-powerful dungeon master player, known as the Overlord.

RPG Elements:

  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Mechanics that Mimic Pen & Paper RPGs

Descent is a classic dungeon-crawler, and personally gives me the feeling of playing a very competitive, angry version of Dungeons & Dragons.

In Dungeons & Dragons, the Dungeon Master (DM) is supposed to create and explain the world that player characters exist in. Very often the DM, instead of being the neutral overseer, becomes a bloodthirsty monster that tries to kill player characters at every turn.

Descent takes out the middleman and the DM equivalent in Descent only tries to kill other players, so everyone at least knows what to expect.

A Dungeon-Crawl RPG

Descent is a classic dungeon crawler experience. It made the RPG list because it takes so many of the great aspects of traditional Pen & Paper RPGs and distills them into one game.

Players each choose a Hero character and then a specialized class for that character. As the players progress through a campaign, they will have customization options for their characters.

In Descent, classes even have different branches, so by the time a player is finished with a campaign, their hero will be completely unique and full of awesome equipment and abilities.

The game levels up more slowly than some of the other games on the list, but scales well throughout the game, and is designed to be played over and over again. The game is so much fun that I’m sure you won’t notice the pacing.

The DM & Monsters Buff Too?

The Dungeon Master is also going to be leveling up, so it won’t just be wanton slaughter on the part of the heroes. The DM will have a whole menagerie of monsters to choose from to hurt the heroes and will gain some pretty nasty cards throughout the game.

This actually substitutes very nicely as a leveling mechanic. It’s a good thing there are so many monsters to choose from because the DM can’t just spawn a giant dragon in every room.

They’ll have to alternate some of the bigger monsters out, and the game even accounts for some recurring monsters that will become more powerful every time they come to the table.

The story itself might be relatively light, but the drama that you’ll watch unfold on the table between the heroes and the monsters will be epic.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd Edition)
$199.95 $159.11

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01/23/2023 08:12 am GMT

Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition

Mage Knight Ultimate Edition Board Game

RPG Elements:

  • Highly-Customizable Characters
  • Level Progression
  • Good vs. Evil Character Choices
  • Highly-Customizable Campaigns

Skills FTW

Mage Knight started out as a miniatures game and Wiz Kids revamped the lore and world into an incredible board game. Mage Knight gives players a ton of options to play with.

Attacks and actions are made through a deck-building mechanic where players will build their decks throughout the game, customizing what goes into them as they level up. They also draw skill tiles, choosing from two different skills.

The discarded skill is then put into a pool that can be picked up by another player during their level-up, which again gives a lot of different options for character customization.

Role-Playing Freedom

Mage Knight gives allows players a lot of freedom in what they want to do as well. There are no rules stating that you have to do things a certain way, allowing for some significant RP moments.

Players are not shoehorned into a set alignment. If it would benefit you to attack another player to gain an advantage there’s absolutely nothing stopping you but your conscious.

Are there peasants distracting you from glory in battle? Nobody says you need to save them. This is all handled through an alignment tracker in-game.

Good actions will move you up the board, but bad actions will drop your alignment down. This can affect how in-game characters react and could have negative or positive encounters, depending on the situation.

Leveling Mechanics & XP

There are a ton of options within the game as well. Along with the campaign, there are (almost) unlimited ways in which the boards can be set up, adding a lot of replayability and allowing players to feel as if they have a bit of control over the world.

The leveling mechanics are also rather interesting. It’s handled through a board that keeps track of experience points (XP) throughout the game.

The first few levels only require 3-4 experience, but as players get into the higher levels the XP required scales up drastically, ensuring players simply don’t skyrocket into power.

Don’t Be Scared

If you’ve been intimidated by Mage Knight because of its reputation as a rules-heavy behemoth, I urge you to give it a try before you write it off. There’s so much amazing storytelling that comes out of a game of Mage Knight that it’s well worth the slight learning curve.

The rules are a lot, but they do an excellent job of breaking you in slowly. Don’t expect to know absolutely everything before you start playing, but be ready to learn as you go.

Intrigued? Delve deeper into Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition in our full review here.

Mage Knight: Ultimate Edition
$124.99 $104.00

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01/25/2023 12:00 pm GMT

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

Star Wars Imperial Assault RPG Board Game

RPG Elements:

  • Story Progression
  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression

Imperial Assault is a Star Wars RPG played with two opposing sides. There are the Rebels, which control powerful hero characters, and an overlord which controls all of the Empire’s forces. The base game comes with 12 scenarios that are used in campaign play.

Character Progression

During the campaign play, the Rebels are able to earn XP to level up and gain new abilities. Players will have the option to save up for more powerful abilities or go for the cheaper ones in hopes of gaining more XP later in the game.

After each successful mission, players will also receive a number of credits (currency) to use to purchase new equipment.

May the Force Be With You

The characters in Imperial Assault are all interesting and come with cool backstories. This makes it easy to get into the mindset of a character. The Star Wars universe has such a vast store of lore to draw upon so it’s easy to get into the setting.

Who doesn’t want to be an angry Wookie, tearing off stormtrooper arms and beating them with their own limbs? Nobody that’s who.

Included in the roster of playable characters are an outcast Jedi, a Wookie, a soldier, a plucky rogue, and a mercenary. The expansions add even more characters and scenarios.

The Imperial Overlord

The overlord can really get into the role of the master overseer of the Empire as well. After each mission, they will also be able to upgrade and level up abilities. Whether a single boost or persistent boost, the overlord can even bring out some tough hero characters of their own.

A mission that seems to be going well for the Rebels could be in serious jeopardy when Vader enters the scene.

Can’t get enough Star Wars? Check out our favorite Star Wars tabletop board games here.

Star Wars Imperial Assault

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01/28/2023 02:30 pm GMT


Mistfall RPG Board Game

Mistfall is set in the world of Valskyrr where a band of heroes will be fighting eldritch terrors, and monstrous beasts, and trying to save the land before the world is swallowed by the mists.

RPG Elements:

  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Thematic Gameplay

Mistfall is one of the more oddball selections on this list. It does some things very well, however, and needed to be mentioned. Like Pathfinder, Mistfall is a card-based adventure game with RPG elements. Mistfall made it higher on the list because of one unique mechanic, the location board.

The Location Board: Valskyrr

The location board in Mistfall simulates the world of Valskyrr, where characters will travel to defend and assault. This gives the game an awesome feeling of scope when traveling to and defending locations.

If players don’t respond quickly enough to attacks, then certain locations will become overrun.

Each location has different attributes and stats. For example, Hearthfire Inn (the starting point) is an excellent place to heal and is immune from attacks (or being overrun). Every good adventure starts in an inn, right?

Here’s Where Your Imagination Comes In…

The game comes with 8 whole pages of an appendix that explains the world of Mistfall and adds all the fun lore into the game. Unfortunately, that’s where most of it ends up.

After the initial front-loading of the world and lore, it’s up to the players to truly make an impact on the story and narrative.

Characters that Grow and Level-Up

The leveling system in Mistfall is very streamlined. Throughout each game, players will gain renown points (XP) for killing monsters and will then purchase new abilities using their renown to add to their decks between rounds.

It scales excellently so that at the beginning of the game, players will most likely be fighting giant rats in a cellar and slaying world-ending dragons by the end of the game, without it feeling rushed or gimmicky.

Each character will have their own starting deck of cards and advanced feat deck of cards, customized to their character.

Math FTW?

The gameplay system is highly reminiscent of old-school Pen & Paper RPGs. There are a lot of numbers and specialized terms used in the game. There are also a lot of cards in the game with associated keywords.

It reminds me of the 3.5 Edition of D&D where players had to do a ton of math. At first, it seems extremely overwhelming and complicated, but after your first game, you’ll realize it’s very intuitive and easy to manage.


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01/29/2023 02:34 pm GMT

Shadows of Brimstone

RPG Elements:

  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Story-Driven Scenarios
  • Lore & World Building
  • Highly thematic

Shadows of Brimstone is still one of the wackiest mashups of genres that makes me shake my head every time I see it, yet still manages to mesh so well together.

Shadows of Brimstone is a horror-themed Western with Eldritch monsters. Those genres should never, ever meet… yet somehow, you’ll feel right at home pulling a six-shooter on a tentacled horror in a dark mineshaft.

Flesh Out Those Character Sheets

Shadows of Brimstone introduces some very interesting characters that are all customizable and upgradeable as the campaign progresses. There’s actually quite an elaborate system of charts and paths that players can choose for their character, giving players some rather interesting choices.

Players have even created some character sheets that look awfully familiar to Pen & Paper RPGs, and the level of detail on a character sheet is 100% necessary. Every monster killed and item carried can change what your character does and how they grow.

The Town Phase

After each mission, comes the Town Phase, which is one of the unique phases in Shadows of Brimstone. Remember all the little items and monster kills tacked onto the character sheet?

The Town Phase is where players will get to upgrade all of their equipment. It might be new weapons, specialized ammo, or any number of upgrades.

There is a campaign associated with the game, but the system it’s built on is easily adapted to making a custom campaign and telling your own story.

Ready to give it a try? Check out our in-depth review of Shadows of Brimstone before you buy!

Shadows of Brimstone: City of The Ancients
$108.46 $101.16
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01/26/2023 08:30 am GMT

Sword & Sorcery: Immortal Souls

Sword & Sorcery RPG Board Game

RPG Elements:

  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Lore
  • Highly Thematic

Darkness has come over the land. The cries for help ring out and once more the heroes of old are awakened. They will need time to recover to full strength to return to their former glory… but the forces of darkness will give no such reprieve.

Heroes Awaken to Fight Encroaching Darkness

In Sword & Sorcery, players assume the role of one of the ancient heroes of old to combat the sudden rise of the forces of darkness.

As players move through the campaign, their hero character will regain strength. Players will then be able to choose talents and abilities to truly turn them into epic heroes.

I love the backstory that’s given in Sword & Sorcery. The idea of ancient heroes awakening to fight again sets off the epic music in my head, which makes me want to pick up a sword and shield and run screaming down a hill, charging an enemy…. Maybe that’s a little much but you get the idea.

Respawning Heroes?

Sword & Sorcery is relatively easy to learn and does an excellent job of scaling character levels and abilities throughout the game. I really like the system they use for respawning hero characters as well.

Every time a hero dies, they become a spirit that has to return to a checkpoint (usually at the beginning of the board). At a checkpoint, the hero respawns and has to run back to the fighting, where they died.

This creates a makeshift timer of respawning and getting back into the fight.

Epic Moments

If a hero dies early, they can still get back in the fight relatively quickly. But if they die during the final boss battle, they’ll have to travel back to the beginning of the map and run all the way back to get into the fight.

If all players are spirits (have died) then the game ends in a loss. This leads to some very tense and heroic moments, where a single hero is holding off the final boss alone, trying to give the other players time to respawn and get back to the fight.

Sword and Sorcery: Immortal Souls
$79.99 $59.99

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01/24/2023 04:45 am GMT

Talisman (Revised 4th Edition)

Talisman RPG Board Game

Talisman is a classic and a serious powerhouse in the board game world. It is actually older than me. It was first published in 1983 is currently being reworked for 5th edition.

RPG Elements:

  • Level Progression
  • Lore & World Building
  • Player-driven interaction/battle

What the Heck is Going On Here?

The gameplay and storyline in Talisman set the stage for an epic battle. Players each choose a character and build their strength by moving around the outer ring of the board.

As players gain strength and power, they will move closer to the center of the board by moving toward the inner rings.

During the game, characters will encounter difficult quests that reward players with Talismans, which are needed in the center of the board.

When a player has acquired enough strength (talismans) and has defeated the guardians at the center, they will be rewarded with the Crown of Command that will slowly kill all other players on the board. Every player will then need to rush the holder of the Crown or risk dying a slow death.

It’s the Struggle That Defines You

The roleplaying elements of Talisman come in the form of the epic struggle between the players. There are, of course, character elements of RPGs within the game including customizable characters and leveling systems, but the story and scale of the fights (and how players deal with them) are where the game really shines.

As players move to the inner rings of the board, the encounters become increasingly more difficult. However, the rewards get more impressive, making the game strategic in how players plan their actions. Should they stay back and build up strength, or push forward as soon as they can?

The playable characters in the game aren’t typically what you would imagine either. The player character could be a horrible mutant, a mighty knight, a merchant, or a dirty guy riding a pig.

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game (4th Edition)

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Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Rise of the Runelords RPG Board Game

RPG Elements:

  • Story Progression
  • Character Selection
  • Level Progression (abilities and in the form of deck-building)

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is based on the traditional Pen & Paper RPG of the same name. Pathfinder is one of the few RPGs to give Wizards of the Coast a run for their money.

For a short while, it even knocked Dungeons & Dragons off the bestseller list. The adventure card game is set within the Pathfinder RPG’s fantasy world.

A Bit Light on Story…

Story progression comes through flavor text on the scenario cards. It also comes out depending on what scenario boss you’re facing. I really enjoy the game, even though the story elements can seem lighter than others on this list.

…Heavy on Character Progression

Character progression really stands out in Pathfinder, however. At the beginning of the game, players choose a preset character. Throughout the campaign, they’ll receive various rewards for completing scenarios.

The game is entirely card/dice-based, so certain skills will allow players to have more cards in their hand, increase their deck, add extra modifiers to dice, and make characters overall more effective in combat.

The shared storytelling is going to be coming primarily from the players themselves. There’s no explicit reading portion of the story other than a quick blurb at the beginning and end of a scenario.

However, when players are all injured and struggling to defeat the boss before time runs out, it creates a dramatic narrative in its own right, without explicit flavor text or storytelling.

Besides the two base sets, there are tons of add-on expansion decks, with new characters, magic, and equipment for each version!

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords
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01/24/2023 09:00 am GMT

Warhammer 40k Kill Team

Warhammer 40k Kill Team RPG Board Game

RPG Elements:

  • Character (faction) Selection
  • Level Progression
  • Lore and Worldbuilding

I didn’t include Kill Team in the ranked portion of the list because I’m still not 100% convinced it’s a board game.

The world of 40k has always primarily been a miniature wargaming/hobby, and Kill Team is seemed like Games Workshop designed a gateway game to get players into the massive hobby that is Warhammer 40k. Games Workshop does create a lot of fun box board games, but this one seemed too much of a hybrid to list it as a traditional board game.

Not Really a Board Game, But Still Cool

That all being said, I would still highly recommend checking it out. Instead of the massive armies that 40k is known for, players will be leading an elite squad (a kill team, if you will) against another squad in small-scale missions.

The new rules encourage players to customize their miniatures and make each one distinct. It’s not necessary, but as everyone knows miniatures that are painted better will roll better in-game. It’s science.

Each individual miniature has its own character sheet that levels up and gains powerful abilities throughout each campaign.

What’s in the Box?

The base set comes with everything you’ll need, including two sets of opposing miniatures. That’s nice and all, but what I think is particularly awesome is that the core rulebook comes with options for using (almost) all of the 40k line of miniatures.

So if you’ve always wanted to play 40k but have nobody else to play with or don’t want to invest several hundred dollars into miniatures, Kill Team gives you the option to get into the game, and complete a round within an hour.

After all that and one round through the game, I still don’t know whether this is a board game or an awesome marketing gimmick from Games Workshop to get more players into 40k, but I do know that it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Are you keen to give Kill Team a go? WAIT. You better read this first and we’ll tell you how to build a viable kill team for less than $50. You’re welcome.

Warhammer 40k: Kill Team Starter Set

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01/25/2023 05:17 am GMT


The amount of customization and options in board game RPGs are never going to be able to compare to a traditional Pen & Paper RPG, but they’re also not designed to be. They are designed to be quicker and still give players the chance to become mighty heroes and saviors of a realm within a short amount of time.

We left out one of our favorites but that’s because it has its own very own post.

The Challenge

It’s simply impossible to account for everything that a player can do on in a Pen & Paper RPG, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It limits the “murder hobo” style of play for example.

I can’t tell you how many carefully constructed campaigns I’ve created in D&D only to have the whole thing destroyed by a player trying to either seduce, pickpocket, or murder everything in sight. Board games give a bit more structure and they are much quicker and easier to get players into.

Get In-Character

None of the games on this list explicitly have rules for roleplaying in the form of getting into character and physically acting out the role, but that honestly never stopped me. The shared storytelling comes with the actions that players take and the customized options that make a normal stock character feel personal.

Even in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which is highly card-driven, makes your character feel personal, and I played Balthazar the Chicken Summoner much differently after taking him out for a few games. He kicked some serious butt and almost died several times! …And the thought of my character dying changes how I play.

I’ve said this in multiple articles, but my favorite aspect of board games is the drama and shared storytelling that comes along with games, and RPG board games give players the opportunity to create amazing in-game moments.

Trying to define such a huge genre as RPGs is a daunting task, and I’m fairly certain my definition of what makes an RPG will be different from other players. We hope you enjoyed our picks for the best RPG board games.

If you have any other recommendations, see something I missed, or just want to talk board games leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.


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$165.00 $105.98

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01/25/2023 09:48 am GMT