Board Game Inspiration

As those who watch my Instagram feed, I play a fair number of board games. One of the interesting trends that has come about with the explosion of hobby board gaming is the increasing variety in themes. In the 80’s board games tended to be either based on war/conflict or were abstract in nature. There were exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say the majority fell into these categories).
Sitting in front of me right now, I have four board games I’ve been playing with my kids – none of which use war as a central theme! What are some good examples of war-free themes that we might steal for our own odd campaigns?
  • Hostage Negotiator – Players are members of an elite task force within the city charged with defusing hostage situations. In the board game, (one of the few solo-only board games, there are many different hostage takers. Sample hostage takers include hard-up blue collar workers, corporate bigwigs on the run, political idealists, etc. This sort of campaign has lots of options for antagonists and great opportunities for interpersonal drama.
  • Thornwatch – (this is a Kickstarted-based project based on the Penny Arcade property that hasn’t made it into distribution yet) The Thornwatch are a group of spirits summoned during times of need to protect the people from the wilderness. These spirits incarnate in different manners over the years and aren’t always benevolent.
  • Teraforming Mars – In this game, players are terraforming the surface of Mars for future life. While the board game takes place over decades/centuries, a campaign could take place over a single generation. This would allow players to deal with the day to day struggles of settling on a dead world.
  • Robinson Curusoe – The characters are castaways, trying to survive on a savage island. The board game often plays like a RPG, with events taking place over time and having more lasting ramifications.
  • The Castles of Mad King Ludwig – While the board game is really just an excuse to play a complex version of Tetris, the theme is really interesting. Essentially, you are the servants of a mad king currently focused on building out a series of castles. This could be converted into a game where the players are counselors (or even rivals) of the king managing the kingdom through the king’s madness!

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