Old school: The best video game board games

From Pac-Man power pills to Doom with dice, these are the best analog takes on virtual games.
Old school: The best video game board games
Old school: The best video game board games © BoardGameGeek.com
By Stuart Houghton

From Scrabble to Dungeons and Dragons, the world of video games has long taken inspiration from tabletop board gaming. It’s not just a one-way street however. Just this week, a team on Kickstarter smashed their fundraising goal to bring a Mega Man board game to life, raising a huge $415,000 along the way - you can see it in action in the video below. And would you believe, it’s not even the first Mega Man board game.

© Jasco Games

 Modern boardgames increasingly look to their digital ancestors for innovative ways to present scores and keep track of stats and some video games have even made the leap back to the tabletop. Here's our list of the ten best - and weirdest - board games based on video games.

World Of Warcraft

© Blizzard Entertainment

 World of Warcraft (the MMO) was based on the early real-time strategy wargame Warcraft, which in turn owes a debt to tabletop games like Warhammer. What goes around comes around though as there's now a tabletop version of WoW that uses boxes full of miniatures, several decks of cards and more dice than you can comfortably hold in one hand.

Players form teams representing either the Alliance or the Horde and complete quests for experience, gold and special cards. Shouting "LEEEROY JENKINS!!!" is entirely optional.

Q*bert the board game

© Parker Brothers

Let's be honest, if you got this in your Christmas stocking instead of an Atari VCS, it wouldn't just be Q*bert saying, "@!#?@!". It does look like it might be fun though - two players face off, one controlling Q*bert as he jumps around his pyramid collecting plastic pegs and the other rolling dice to make the various monster enemies home in on the foul-mouthed freak.

On the plus side, the TV advert for this game is a masterpiece of 80’s rapping.


© MB

The Pac-Man board game is a straight analog conversion of the video game that pits two to four players against each other and the Ghosts that haunt the Pac-Man maze. The game is essentially a sort of free-roaming Hungry Hungry Hippos with large Pac-Man shaped playing pieces that gobble up white marbles from the board on the roll of a dice. A second dice controls the random movement of two Ghosts (sadly lacking the personality of Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde from the real game) around the board.

Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game

© Fantasy Flight Games

Sid Meier has apparently spent some time over the years denying that his classic PC simulation was based on a once-popular board game of the same name (it isn't - Meier based his game on Sim City). Now you can play a brand new game based on the PC game Civilization IV. To muddy the waters further, there was also a game based on Civilization III but let's just pretend that didn't happen as we’re confused enough already.

THIS Civilization board game features random terrain tiles that are turned over as players reach them (simulating the 'fog of war' from the PC game). Players must build cities, explore the world and engage with rival civilizations - either in diplomacy or war. You win in the same way you do on the PC, by elevating your culture to the maximum level, amassing enough wealth, conquering your enemies or advancing science research until you can leave the planet.

Street Fighter II

© Milton Bradley

Enter the "Exciting 3D Battle Zone!" by moving cardboard cutouts of Street Fighter II characters around the 3D game board (actually more like a 2D board with some cardboard boxes on it) and throwing down against the SFII bad guys in dice-based battles.

Every successful fight gains you strength to take with you into a final battle with M Bison. Again, only tenuously like the arcade original, but a decent cash-in.

Settlers Of Catan: ROCKMAN EDITION (Megaman)

Settlers Of Catan: ROCKMAN EDITION (Megaman)
Settlers Of Catan: ROCKMAN EDITION (Megaman) © BoardGameGeek.com

What better fit for the classic Settlers of Catan board game than a 'total conversion' mod based on the equally-classic Rockman video games? That's right - practically anything. That didn't stop Capcom releasing this in Japan, however.

Rockman is better known outside his native Japan as Mega Man and this oddity (published by Capcom no less) takes his brand of frenetic platform-jumping action and grafts it on to a game based on trading and careful resource management. All the traditional Catan gameplay is there, with resources like Ore and Lumber replaced by elements (Fire, Water, etc.) and the Void, which corresponds with the Desert in the original game.


Asteroids © BoardGameGeek.com

No, really. Where the 1979 arcade cabinet offered pin sharp vector graphics and a throbbing minimalist soundtrack that racked up the tension, this board game conversion uses dice, rulers and card models to create a (vaguely) similar experience.

Essentially a single-player wargame, you use dice rolls to take out the asteroids using your laser cannon with each hit splitting the rock into smaller chunks. Oh, and the dice is made of cardboard too.

Crysis: Analogue Edition

© Crytek/Queen Games

Wow! These graphics are so realistic I could swear that was an actual dice. Oh. It is.

Yes, the retina-shredding 3D graphics of Crysis are now available in handy cardboard form. Crysis: Analogue Edition is a simple hex-based skirmish wargame that uses cards to specify weapons and special abilities. 2-8 players adopt one of two teams (CELL or the US military) and duke it out as plastic miniatures on a grid based around the game's jungle locations.

It’s surprisingly well done with high quality models and board and a clever “player interface” with sliders and a rotating ability selector to keep track of your stats and toggle armour and stealth mode. Gameplay is a combination of dice rolls and cards representing weapons and special moves.

Doom: The board game

It’s hard to imagine a game less suitable for board game conversion than the classic first-person shooter Doom. Surprisingly, Fantasy Flight Games have pulled it off in style with a two to four player game that manages to take most of the memorable features of the PC original and rework them into a turn-based game with light roleplaying elements.

One player controls the legions of Hell and reveals the game board (different each game according to which 'scenario' or level you are playing) as the players controlling Space Marines move around the map. It's a complex affair with plenty of skill cards dice and rules to learn. You can even play Death Match games of Marine vs Marine.

Doodle Jump

© Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH

The casual platformer Doodle Jump makes the leap (ho ho) from iPhone to dining table rather well thanks to its simple 'just keeping going up' mechanic.

It's a fast-moving game based on dice rolls where you use the sum of one group of dice to 'jump' to a certain height and a special 'symbol' dice to change direction. Landing on certain tiles earns you powerups that you can play at any time to give you a boost or re-roll and there are monster tokens to avoid or fall foul of to make things more challenging.

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