This is a follow up to My 10 greatest sci-fi board games of all time. That post generated a pretty good conversation on facebook that led me to thinking at least one follow up post was worth doing. So here are my 10 greatest fantasy board games of all time - in no particular order. Note - I have a fair amount of fantasy games in my collection but not a lot of the newer games, so this list is based on games I've played. Sure I've heard the new Mage Knight is awesome but sadly I've yet to get to try it.
Warlock of Firetop Mountain - This old bookshelf game was almost a re-theme of the classic TSR game Dungeon! You picked a character and started at the bottom of the mountain and entered the dungeon. You would move room to room collecting treasure and leveling up in preparation for the final battle at the top. For it's time this game had great components and awesome looking board and great gameplay. It did a descent job of simulating an RPG feel on a board. For those wondering, yes this is based on the fairly famous Fighting Fantasy book of the same name. I couldn't tell you if it follows the story or not as I never played that book, but I have to assume the people and creatures in the game came from somewhere.
Chaos in the Old World - a game where you get to play one of the four Ruinous Powers and try to take over the Warhammer Old World? How cool is that! Besides the epic theme this is one of the best four player games I own (five with the Skaven expansion). One of the coolest parts to this game is that each of the four factions you can choose from plays differently from the others. Not only do you have different units and cards and powers you also have different victory conditions. Somehow Fantasy Flight managed to balance that and make it work very well. The biggest problem with this one is trying to sell it to people who don't know the Warhammer World. Even if you don't know it, trust me and check this game out.
Small World - other than the fact that the name gets a certain Disney song stuck in my head, Small World is a fantastic game. It's one of those brilliant oh so easy to explain but oh so hard to master games. The way you match up races with attributes is just brilliant and I love seeing things like Conquering Halflings and Flying Wizards. Gameplay is quick and fierce. It plays long enough to give you time to hatch plans but then is short enough that when the game is done you always want to play another round. Added to that is how nice the components are. Nice thick cardboard chits and a storage tray that is actually designed to hold everything for the game.
BattleLore - this one was originally released by Days of Wonder but has since swapped to Fantasy Flight's hands. I have the original. For two player quick and intense wargames I love Richard Borg's Command and Colors system. BattleLore is the fantasy version of this system. One of the things I really dug about BattleLore is that you can play it straight up with just human Knights, Archers and Infantry on each side or you can toss in Goblins, Dwarves, Heroes and Monsters. There are lots of expansions that add more troop types and scenarios. There's even an RPG element to this where you can make your own cast of Heroes to assist your army.
BloodBowl - fantasy races getting together to play an over the top game of Football. Well actually it plays a bit more like Rugby, sort of. I had great fun with this game back in the day even hosting tournaments at the local game club. I think the main reason this one belongs on this list is the fact that it's still going strong. I have friends that participate in national championships every year. The rules are still been supported in what they call the Living Rule Book. Also the game has spawned a bunch of knock offs, the most recent being the recently kickstarter DreadBall
Ascension: Storm of Souls As of right now Deck Building is all the rage. Since Dominion came out (which I really debated putting on this list except the only fantasy element I could think of was The Witch) this new game mechanic has been spreading across the industry. Ascension Storm of Souls is a fantasy knock off of Dominion done right. Multiple factions and having to balance the ability to defeat monstrous foes with hiring heroes and building constructs ads a ton of replayability.
Shadows over Camelot This is one of my favorite games to bring to public play boardgaming events. It plays up to 8 players and and players can drop in and out at any time. In this game each player plays a Knight of the Round Table and works with the other knights to try to defend Camelot from a host of threats including an insane Lancelot, an ongoing Siege, the Black Knight and rampaging barbarians on two fronts. At the same time there's a lost sword to find as well as some cup. This is a co-op game with a twist. One of the knights just might be a traitor.
Heroquest I don't know many gamers who don't remember this one fondly. For one year there the planets aligned and Games Workshop worked with Milton Bradly to put out awesome games like this and Space Crusade. A board game RPG where one player plays the evil Wizard Zargon and the other players each take on the roll of a hero. Simple, quick but awesome with some of the best bits ever made for a boardgame. This game has inspired a ton of newer games like Descent and the newer Dungeons and Dragons boardgames.
Magic the Gathering I will admit that I don't play anymore. But I don't think you can do a best fantasy game list without including this game changer. Magic came out in 1993 and changed the face of fantasy gaming. Is it expensive? Yep. Is it a time suck? Yep. Do new sets make old sets invalid? Yep. Do hordes of gamers flock to local game stores every Friday night for Friday Night Magic? Stop in to your FLGS on a Friday and try to get through the throng. Is it a good game? Absolutely. Even though I don't currently play I still think Magic is a fantastic game if you can afford to keep up with the latest releases. Plus, what other tabeltop game can you actually make a living playing if you are good enough?
Talisman when I was young this game was IT. There was no other game. Nothing compared to the sheer awesomeness of Talisman, especially with all the expansions. I loved this game to death. I used to bring it to family gatherings just in the hopes to get in a few rounds with my cousins. I would plan entire Talisman weekends where all we would do is play Talisman over and over. Heck we even finished a game where our self imposed goal was to "Kill every creature in the adventure deck." Amazingly Talisman is still supported today. It looks a little different to my beloved 2nd edition but the gameplay is still basically the same. Having now grown up and played a ton of other games I do have to say that Talisman is no longer the bright star in my fantasy gaming universe, it takes far too long to play due to a very extended middle, leveling up stage, that I find rather boring now, but it will always be one of my favorite fantasy board games of all time due to what it mean to me years ago.