In this review article we’ll be covering the best tabletop RPG board games! From fantasy to sci-fi, horror and even pirates there’s a roleplaying board game for every play group.
When Dungeons and Dragons was released in 1974 a revolution was sparked in the RPG arena. More than 40 years later the genre is as popular as ever, but now there is so much choice it’s almost overwhelming to know where to look first. Before getting too deep into individual game reviews, we want to present to you our massive RPG review table that’ll make it easy to pick out a genre and style you really want to play:
Best RPGs Review Table:
|Best Table Top RPGs||Game||Review||Rating||Get it Here|
|Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition||Gold standard of tabletop RPGs, can't go wrong with D&D.||(4.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|StarWars: Force & Destiny||Best sci-fi rpg game on the list, StarWars is a classic and playing it as a pen and paper RPG RULES!||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|The Dresden Files||Great modern fantasy roleplaying game.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Pathfinder||Another one of the greats, up there with D&D - just differences in the expansions and classes/characters.||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Mouse Guard||Did you say mice with swords? Yes please! What a unique and creative RPG. Great child-friendly game.||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok||Good tactical solo and team RPG based on Norse mythology. Great for the viking lover!||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Firefly||Based off the TV series, great for those with no roleplaying experience who want to play a sci-fi RPG.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Fiasco||Best RPG that requires NO game master!||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Dungeon World||Marketed as "light-weight" D&D. Great intro for those wanting to get into RPGs without much experience, or those playing with kids.||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|13th Age||I like the fast-paced combat that zips around Pathfinder and D&D. Great dragon-based world RPG.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Mutants & Masterminds||A cool D20 based superhero and villan RPG! Includes a ton of pre-made adventures and ideas.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Classified||An oldie cold war based RPG game. Great for history fanatics.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Dread||Horror based RPG with jenga built in? Preserve the tower or bring it down on your party.||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|7th Sea||Great pirate RPG that was completely crowd funded - must be good!||(4 / 5)||(paid link)|
|Call of Cthulu||Aged to perfection 7th edition sci-fi/horror RPG great for novices and pros alike.||(3.5 / 5)||(paid link)|
Immersing yourself into a story-line where you can interact with your friends is a great way for game players to pass the time. For those who are nervous at trying out this format for the first time, there is absolutely nothing to be worried about. Times have changed, and role playing has finally shaken off the nerdy tag it was once stuck with. Whether you’re on an adventure in space, or battling goblins in some far-off fantasy land, it doesn’t matter where you are, because it’s incredibly fun. Hours spent in a social setting, losing yourself from reality; solving problems creatively as a team.
The whole idea of roleplaying games is that you can be whoever you want to be. The possibilities are endless. Create your own world, and backstory to your character.
Maybe your talents lie in storytelling. Games Masters mostly use a pre-made adventure where nearly everything is done for you, but you must be able to produce dialogue for the many characters that the adventurers meet on their journey.
For gamers who don’t consider themselves overtly vocal, this is an ideal opportunity to improve your social skills among like-minded friends. This is something those solitary hours playing video games won’t do for you. There is a whole RPG community out there, waiting to be discovered. Local gaming groups are always great places to meet people looking for a game; perhaps you even have a game they’ve never played before.
For children, there are many benefits to learning how to role play. Overcoming shyness is a typical breakthrough. Being able to pretend they are somebody else gives a form of protection, which can make them feel less vulnerable, and once they perceive they are safe, coming out of their comfort zone becomes a lot easier.
Best Tabletop RPG Board Games
The testing team have been busy again, to come up with a list of our top 15 table top role playing board games. Each game has been carefully scrutinized to make sure it appeals to as wide a range of personalities as possible. Customer reviews for each title are almost exclusively positive, indicating a high-quality game.
#1 Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (4.5 / 5)
For Ages: 12+
What better place to start than with the game which started it all. Now onto the fifth edition since 1974, there is no better place to enter a world of adventure and imagination. The game comes with two different rule books for players and the Dungeon Master, and generic advice on how to run the game. Check out my review of the best dice sets you can find.
Recent reviews confirm that experienced players view this new edition as taking the best of all previous releases. The starter pack has the perfect amount of material for new players to introduce themselves to the format, without the full set of complicated rules which can overwhelm the novice. With many different expansions and rule books available the possibilities are endless, and are completely up to you. This is our pick for the best fantasy tabletop RPG.
#2 Star Wars: Force and Destiny (4 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
The best place for aspiring Jedis to begin their role-playing career. Star Wars: Force and Destiny comes with ready-made adventures and pre-made characters, so that within minutes from opening the box you can be firing up your lightsabers and getting into the action. This is our pick for the best sci-fi tabletop RPG.
There is a starter pack which gives you enough to learn the ropes, and once you are fully familiar with the gameplay you can immerse yourself into the complexities of the 448-page rule book, which provides detailed information about the Star Wars galaxy. More rules on character creation are provided to allow you that more personal touch for your adventures.
A separate Game Master kit is available; included are rules for full Jedi-Knight level play to take your Star Wars role-playing experience to the highest level.
#3 The Dresden Files: Vol. One Your Story (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
The Dresden Files offers a world full of magic and imagination, in a modern fantasy environment. First class game mechanics allow you to simulate your setting perfectly; the designers have done a great job in replicating the universe described in the Dresden Files books.
This game is at its best when you have a strong storyteller to act as the Games Master. It is actually leaning towards being as much a cooperative adventure as it is a role-playing game, but this just adds something different to the flavor. Two expansion packs are also available to further complicate the adventure, for those who need a little more to get their teeth into.
Experienced players are consistently rating this series as being firmly in their top five table top role-playing games, making it an outstanding addition to your collection.
#4 Pathfinder (4 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
One of the classic fantasy adventure games available today. Start off your adventure by creating your world with the beginner package which includes everything you need to begin. With more monsters and challenges than you can keep up with, this box set alone can provide you and your friends with countless hours of action packed fun; a great starting point.
Pathfinder is a rich and in-depth game which has an almost endless selection of add-ons to increase your options as you delve deeper and deeper into this magical fantasy world. The 576-page core rulebook is a complete standalone game in its own right, if you are confident with the genre and want to dive straight in.
An Advanced Player’s Guide and Bestiary are the perfect finishing touch, with many more books available to keep your fun fresh.
#5 Mouse Guard (4 / 5)
For Ages: 9+
Mice with swords you say? Don’t underestimate how good this game is, because from nine-year-old children, to the middle aged, the response has been truly amazing. From the minute you open the rulebook and see the fantastic artwork you will be amazed at the world you are about to enter.
Veterans of role-playing are testifying that the gameplay mechanics are better than almost everything out there.
In the world of Mouse Guard, the inhabitants are constantly under threat from predators, and so they form the Mouse Guard to fight off the intruders. The dedicated mice must patrol borders, and find safe paths through dangerous lands to keep their brethren safe.
This is a great choice to introduce your children to the world of role-playing. When you’re ready for more, there are separate adventures which can be purchased individually. Hours of fun for all your family.
#6 Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 12+
This original and interesting game is themed very similar to Norse mythology. Set in a post-apocalyptic world populated by Vikings, skalds, and witches, the sun and moon have been eaten, creating an eternal winter.
The rules are designed for 2-8 players, using mystical runes as the driving force behind the game mechanics. No dice are needed for this game whatsoever. Special powers, spells, and skills are all in here for characters to use as they battle through this deep and engaging world.
Team play and good strategy are rewarded in the tactical combat system which is easy to learn, but not so simple to master.
The core rule-book and add-on adventure books are full of stunning artwork, which won’t leave you disappointed.
#7 Firefly (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 12+
Based on the popular Fox TV series, Firefly is a good choice for those with no previous role-playing experience.
The storyline branches out from elements of the series, allowing the players to expand on the universe they might already be familiar with. The game mechanics emphasize character interaction to further the story development.
Everything is included with the core rulebook to get your group started and ready to venture out into deep space. Planetary system, ship stats, and character archetypes are all covered in great detail.
The Games Master has more flexibility with how he controls the game in Firefly, compared to other RPGs. From assigning plot details to encourage player interaction, to preventing untimely deaths, there is so much that can be done in-game.
#8 Fiasco (4 / 5)
For Ages: 18+
Fiasco is an award-winning RPG with no Games Master required. A game where seemingly ordinary people are the stars of the action.
The idea is to play out ridiculous situations which don’t end well. Maybe greed, fear, and lust are where it all goes wrong. Who knows? People will die, and reputations will be destroyed; will anybody learn from their past mistakes?
The characters are usually people with excessive ambition, but poor impulse control, doing their best to avoid disastrous situations.
Designed to be played by 3-5 people, Fiasco is great fun for people with a creative imagination. Only a few hours are needed to complete a game, which has infinite repeatability. As much fun as you have time for.
#9 Dungeon World (4 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
Designed to be a light-weight Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeon World has done away with all the weightier game mechanics which can bog down the less frequent player. No reference book is needed as all the character data fits neatly onto a two-page character sheet.
The gameplay is more flexible and intense than other RPGs with similar scenarios, allowing for the Dungeon Master to be creative with plotting points and campaigns around the players. While many will recognize elements from D&D, on the whole this is a much watered down version that is much easier to understand.
3-5 players are required to play; some polyhedral dice, and a few hours spare time then you’re away.
All the classic player types are available; Paladins, Thieves, Clerics, Fighters, and Wizards, they’re all there. This is a great, if not one of the best tabletop RPG options due to the price point, ease of play, and availability. Hop right into the action!
#10 13th Age (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
Another game that has many similarities to Dungeons & Dragons, 13th Age isn’t any less complicated though. Adventurers of all the familiar races and classes are available, as elements from many lighter games are included to create a unique gaming experience.
Story-focused rules ensure that you have complete control on how your group wants to play. Adventurers are seeking their fortune in the Dragon Empire, and must ally with powerful characters known as Icons to help them prevent the empire from collapsing. They must also decide who they will oppose in order to lay the groundwork for an epic storyline.
Fast-paced combat rules help to keep the story moving along at a good pace, as you pursue your goals.
#11 Mutants & Masterminds (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 12+
This is a superhero role-playing game brought to you by the d20 gaming system pioneers. A colourful core rulebook of almost 200 pages contains all you need to know to build your character exactly how you want.
Heavily stat based, there is an incredible amount of room for creativity, while still being easy to learn. Obviously more focused on the younger end of the market, there is plenty about this game which can satisfy adult players reminiscing about their comic book days.
More than 100 generic adventure ideas are included for the Games Master, with other fully written adventures available separately.
#12 Classified (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 14+
Classified is a hark back to the cold war days of the 1980’s. Designed to be easily learned and played in a short period of time, this world of intrigue and espionage will suck you in quickly. Set in modern times with a retro feel, you will quickly find just how much fun being a secret agent is.
The Games Master will control the scene as you get involved in high-speed car chases, deal with undercover agents, and try to hack into enemy secret files. Everything about the spy genre is here.
#13 Dread (4 / 5)
For Ages: 16+
Dread is a horror themed table top RPG, one of the more rare varieties. The players take part in a mutual telling of a gruesome story, where somebody must make the kind of decisions that they pray they never have to make in real life. The characters are designed via a questionnaire given by the Games Master, so that they may be perfectly molded to the storyline in mind.
At the start the Games Master will give information to set the scene, as the players ask questions about their own characters. As the storyline unfolds, to decide between success and failure instead of dice being used, players remove a piece from a Jenga type tower. If the tower collapses then the player is removed from the game. Maybe you wish to be a martyr and sacrifice yourself by collapsing it deliberately? You can also refuse to remove a piece, in which case you fail at your action.
This is a good choice for experienced players who can stay in character to maintain a level of tension.
#14 7th Sea (4 / 5)
For Ages: 13+
Who has never imagined what it must have been like to live a life of adventure on the high seas. 7th Sea is the most-funded role-playing game in Kickstarter history, pulling in more than $1.3 million from around 11,000 donors. This fusion of swashbuckling action with a fantasy world brings a totally new flavour to table top role-playing.
Players are seeking their fortune on the high seas while searching for new lands in a world called Theah, which is very similar to 17th century Earth. There are users of magic to spice up the story as well.
This game is brand new for 2016, and with updates planned frequently throughout 2017 we can be sure that this is a series which will be popular with hardcore gamers for a long time to come.
#15 Call of Cthulhu (3.5 / 5)
For Ages: 14+
This is a game set in the world created by horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. A world full of secrets, mysteries, and horror.
The players take on characters who investigate strange and weird places to uncover foul plots involving the terrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. There are plenty of monsters and occultists to fight against as you battle to save the world as we know it.
Now on the 7th edition, there are numerous add-ons to increase the possibilities, with many expanded rules for character creation, skills, occupation etc. A great choice for veterans and novices alike.
Best Tabletop RPG Board Games: Our Recommendation
Even in such a list of great table top RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons stands out as something truly special. For the sake of enjoyment, we all like to change the scene from time to time, but in terms of sheer quality, a game which has been improved and refined over 42 years is going to be tough to beat.
The complexity of the rules can be enough to put some players off, but there is a lot of scope for toning this down a little, adding new concepts for each new game can help to overcome this.
This is a true classic, more than deserving of such a word. Hopefully our guide to the best tabletop RPG board games was useful – if you play any other RPGs or cool systems and you’d like to share in the comments below we’d happily consider reviewing it :)!