There are actually quite a few original board games out there that focus on TV series as their inspiration. I’m not saying that all of those games are good, as many of the shows that spawned those games were not good either, but there sure are a lot of them. I enjoy heavier games that involve plenty of player interaction, combat and a fair bit of negotiation. Plus, I really love Sci-Fi themed games, so that will most likely explain at least two entries on my list. With that in mind, my list will be vastly different from yours but here are my favorite three games that use TV series as a theme.
3. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games
Remember, I said I like games that have plenty of player interaction. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is a game about lying, hiding your identity, forming partnerships and trying to be the last player standing. In the game, players will take on the role of one of ten characters from the show. Each character has their own abilities and weaknesses, and must all work together in order for humanity to have any hope of survival. But, the really interesting part is that one or more players in every game secretly side with the Cylons. Over the course of the game, players will try to expose the traitor in the face of various crises, such as fuel shortages, food contaminations, and political unrest which will threaten to destroy the fragile crew. I really enjoy the co-operative element of this game as you work together to try and perform various actions that will gain skill cards that can then be used to foil the crises that arise. All along though there will be the dastardly actions of the Cylons. Did they have the right skill card to overcome the crisis but didn’t play it? Was the mistake they just made intentional? Are they one of the evil Cylons? You will only find out by accusing them, and you must accuse often and loudly in this game. Great fun that can be very tense and dramatic. I love the TV series from the 70’s, but also really enjoyed the shows brief run on the Sci Fi Channel in the early 2000’s. My only real concern with the game is that it can take quite a long time to play, sometimes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, especially with a very chatty group. But, the enjoyment you get out of the game will come from your investment in the roleplaying and if you are enjoying yourself, 2-3 hours will simply “jump” by!
2. Firefly: The Game from Gale Force Nine
I must admit that I was never really a rabid fan of the Firefly television show from 2002 that lasted only one season but I have to admit I love it now as I have played Firefly: The Game and have been able to dive into the characters and setting for this too soon cancelled show! With that interest, I have purchased and played the game several times and really enjoy it’s take on Pick-up & Deliver. The game is designed for 1-5 players who are in charge of a Firefly-class ship and travel around the ‘Verse from planet to planet, hiring crew, purchasing ship upgrades, and picking up cargo or passengers to deliver (jobs) all in the form of cards. Some crew and cargo are illegal, and can be confiscated if your ship is boarded by an Alliance vessel but can pay off very handsomely if you are willing to get your hands dirty and misbehave. I really like the method in this game to mitigate risk and randomness. Each crew member hired has a set of skills denoted by icons. Some are good at mechanics rolls, some are good with weapons and some are good with diplomacy. Each of the symbols on the crew cards give a bonus to rolls so even hard tasks can be accomplished with the right mix of crew skills. This requires you to build a well balanced crew that can tackle, or have a reasonably good chance, at accomplishing most missions.
The true luck aspects of the game are the events as you travel from planet to planet looking to complete jobs as well as the dice rolling. The flight cards are drawn and there is not much you can do when one tells you that you have to stop. Some of these stops are able to be avoided by using spare parts in your hold or burning more fuel, but you can get stopped, while the luck of the draw can allow your opponents to have smooth sailing to their locations. I wish there was a better method to deal with this aspect of the game but I really like the theme and the gameplay is fun and engaging. My only real concern or complaint with the whole game is that it can run a little bit long. Overall though, this game really pays homage to the tv show and I really like it.
1. Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery from Gale Force Nine
I absolutely have enjoyed my few plays of Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery. Each player takes on the role of Dominus, or the head of a rising house in the ancient Roman city of Capua. Each house is competing for Influence to gain the favor of Rome. Through a combination of political schemes, that are carried out with card play, and battles on the arena sands your house will rise in fame and stature. As Dominus, you have a variety of resources at your disposal. Guards will protect you from schemes launched by rivals. Slaves run your household and earn gold. Gladiators compete to bring glory to themselves and influence to their Dominus.
The game is played out over three different phases. The Intrigue Phase is when players are allowed to play their Schemes cards that will either assist them in various ways, such as raising extra gold to be used in the upcoming Market Phase, or by causing trouble for their rival houses by stealing their funds, causing them to lose Influence or exhausting their most important assets amongst their Gladiators and Slaves. This phase is very interactive as players will play cards against their rivals, and sometimes see them play Reactions to stop those cards or see them deploy a hidden Guard card to stop your schemes. I also love the element of negotiations and bribing of other players in this phase, If you don’t have the Influence needed to play a certain card, you can pay another Dominus to allow you to borrow their Influence. When you make these deals, you must remember that there is no rule against backing out after payment is received so you must be cautious and also have a long memory.
The Market Phase is when players buy, sell and trade Assets, including Gladiators, Slaves, Equipment and Guards. This phase has players bid against each other to acquire these new Assets at Auction. But it is important to not overpay for Assets that you really don’t want because there are more important things that might come up later in the auction as the cards are hidden from view.
The Arena Phase is when it gets exciting and very tense. The players will also bid over who will Host the games, and this right gives all the power to that Dominus as they will choose which Gladiators fight in the arena as Gladiators from two rival Houses are pitted against each other in combat using well sculpted miniatures. Each different Gladiator will have various numbers of different colored dice. Red are Attack dice, blue are Speed dice and black are Defense dice. Players will fight until one of the dice colors are eliminated after being whittled down to one of each color. Even if your Gladiators are not included in the games, all players are allowed to bet on the outcome of the fight. Fighters who emerge from the arena victorious gain Favor and their Dominus gain Influence. But, you can make good coin on the sand by betting on the right Gladiator and by taking a chance on whether they will be wounded or even beheaded.
The end goal of the game is to become the most influential house in Capua, and this comes from a combination of the use of your Dominus and their special abilities, the proper play of Scheme cards, defense of your Influence with the use of Reaction cards and Guards, and of course, winning your share of matches in the arena. I love this game but I can see why some would not. It sometimes drags, especially if you don’t secure the Host for the games or get to participate in the arena fights. But, you are never really out of the game as you can then focus on building up your Influence through cards and the use of your special abilities. A great thematic game that is very interactive and has lots of opportunity for fighting your opponents face to face, or winning the game by backstabbing. The expansions make the game ever better as they add new Gladiators, new Schemes and new houses to play.
I hope that you enjoyed my look at the Best 3 Games with…TV Series! I almost included Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats and Star Trek: Ascendancy to the list but haven’t played each more than once. They are both good though and deserving of being on this list with a few more plays. I also have had my eye on The Expanse Board Game but have yet to acquire a copy. What are your thoughts on the games out there that use TV Series as their basis and do it well? Let us know in the comments.