Campaign adventure boardgames -- the new hotness?

There sure seem to be a lot of these nowadays. I’m going to list the ones I’ve played, own, or know about, or at least that I can remember. Please comment on these or add more! I do dig these sort of games, so I’m interested in finding out which ones are good!

Gloomhaven – I guess I have to include this most popular one. Full co-op (1-4 players), linked tactical dungeon combats using a campaign overworld. Card-driven, pseudo-deckbuilding style combat (characters can upgrade/replace cards when they level up). I’ve played the early access digital version. I find the fights to be a bit claustrophobic, the choices a bit constrained, and the combat a bit random. I can’t speak to the campaign, since the digital version doesn’t include it yet, so I don’t know how much actual story there is to it. Anyway, it’s super popular, so I guess there must be something going for it.

Tainted Grail – Another very popular one, but I don’t know much about it. Full co-op (1-4 players), campaign built of linked chapters. Deckbuilding (each character has a combat deck and diplomacy deck, I think). It does contain what I think is a paragraph book.

Middara – This is a kickstarter that just shipped. Full co-op (1-4 players), tactical combat encounters linked by a HUGE campaign book. There is an app which has recorded audio of all the campaign text, and also a Tabletop Simulator module which is fully supported and very easy to use. Dice-driven combat, cards to represent equipment/spells/etc. No idea what the campaign is about.

Sleeping Gods – The latest Ryan Laukat game. Full co-op (1-4 players, which is odd since there are 9 characters, all of which are used in every game). A single campaign which can be saved and continued at any time. Uses a paragraph book. Actions resolved using card draw to get a random number.

Near and Far – since I mentioned Sleeping Gods, I’ll also mention this previous Ryan Laukat game. This one is fully competitive, and has a series of linked games (each of which occurs on a different map) that comprise a complete campaign. A paragraph book contains adventures and side-quests which may carry over from game to game, and characters can buy minor skills between games of the campaign. This one was a surprise hit with my group, and is notable for being one of the only fully competitive games in this genre (although it does have a co-op mode, I’ve never tried it).

Forgotten Waters – 3-7 player semi-cooperative game (all players can lose, but if you complete the adventure, some players can win more than others). This is an app-driven game with fully voice-acted adventures. There are several adventures which are semi-linked into a campaign (the stories are connected, but there’s no character advancement between adventures). I own and have played this, and it’s pretty cool (although it maybe leans more on narrative storytelling than strategic depth), although it does have some serious flaws – first, that it is very likely you will die right before the end of the adventure, which means you don’t get to find out how it ends (unless you cheat), and then you’d have to start all over from the beginning going through mostly the same adventure to try again. Secondly, you might lose based on some random choice you made earlier in the campaign. Basically, my advice is – don’t care too much if you win or lose, just go with it.

Sword & Sorcery – 1-5 player full co-op, tactical encounters linked into a campaign. Dice-driven combat. Characters level up and gain skills. The campaign book has some story text. I’ve played this, but it was a while back and don’t remember much. I think it was alright.

Journeys in Middle Earth – 1-5 player fully co-op. Linked adventures into a campaign. Characters use deckbuilding mechanics to level up between adventures. This is another app-driven one. I own and have played this. I found the adventures to be a bit bland, especially considering the LotR license. I kind of like the way the deck-based resolution works, but leveling up isn’t as exciting as it ought to be.

Imperial Assault – Ok, this one is a bit older, but I own it and have played it, so I’m including it. Semi-co-op (1-4 rebels vs. 1 imperial), tactical combat encounters linked into a campaign which can have side-adventures. Dice-driven combat. Does have a campaign book which has some text to read before and during encounters, but there’s not a huge amount of story there. There’s also an app-driven mode for full co-op or single player (the app is clearly related to the Journeys in Middle Earth app). There’s also a head-to-head skirmish ruleset, but that’s not what this thread is about!

Magic Realm – 1-16 players, semi-competitive (multiple players can win, but one is the “victor”). Ha ha only serious. This game is over 40 years old and has an incomprehensible 300 page rulebook, making it effectively impossible to learn or teach. Also it sort of doesn’t belong on this list in that it doesn’t really have a campaign – each game is independent, and characters don’t really develop over the course of a game (although there are optional rules that let each character level up from 1 to 4 during the game, and you can run a game for as long as you like). However, I’m mentioning it here because there are things in this game that still no other game in this genre has done. Combat can involve any number of characters, hired denizens, unhired denizens, (any of which can be on horses, have armor, melee or ranged weapons), and monsters (which can be player-controlled). Any of them can be attacking any other of them. You might be teaming up with another player to take down an enormous troll, only to have them backstab you in the end. Fighting a pack of wolves feels completely different than fighting a dragon. The 16 included characters all play very differently. The magic system is subtle and interesting (although admittedly many of the spells are so situational as to be useless). The victory conditions are garbage, but that’s why somebody invented the Book of Quests. I’m not really recommending you play this game, but I’d like to see some of the ideas modernized instead of just filed off.

What did I forget? What have you played? What’s good?

Betrayal Legacy - Coop then Coop against 1 player across time. Familial persistence with some items becoming associated with your bloodline.

The Initiative - Still trying to get a handle on the persistent aspects. Seems to be fully cooperative. Haven’t played yet, but I like the basic rules a lot.

I really want to try sleeping gods, but it’s sold out.

I really want to try Sleeping Gods, which is on my shelf at this very moment, but my friends are out of stock.

(Once everyone’s fully vaccinated, tho…)

There’s a Tabletop Simulator module!

Is the idea that you have to have some sort of persistent progression across multiple play sessions? Do single-session games like Hexplore It and Mistfall count? What about standalone dungeon crawlers like Deep Madness and Zombicide: Black Plague that have a series of scenarios without persistent progression? I like both of those a lot, and I say that as someone who doesn’t generally like dungeon crawlers. Also, the latest 2nd edition of the modern day Zombicide has a campaign mode.

Apocrypha and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game are a couple of my favorites. Dungeon Degenerates is also a real standout for me, but it’s a pretty sloppy gameplay system. Doompocalypse doesn’t link across multiple play sessions, but it’s something I can say about too few games of its ilk: it’s unique.


The rules are a little grey, I admit. Hexplore it has no campaign at all outside a single game; but neither does Forgotten Waters, really. I guess I’m just looking for narrative adventure games (which may or may not use a paragraph or campaign book) which have character progression and some sort of meta-narrative. I’m not a stickler.

Oh, and I forgot some:

Destinies – I think this is another kickstarter that is shipping now. 1-3 player (only 3 players?) fully competitive, app-driven with dice-based combat. A series of adventures which comprise a campaign, but I don’t know if there’s any character progression between adventures. Seems a bit choose-your-own-adventure-y.

7th Continent – does this belong? I’m not sure. 1-4 players, full co-op, card-driven event resolution. Different adventures are available in the world, but no campaign or character progression, really. I enjoyed this one enough to kickstart the sequel (7th Citadel) even though it doesn’t come out for another year at least.

Forum game?

I presume you mean character progression across multiple play sessions? Magic Realm doesn’t have this. I don’t think Sword and Sorcery does either, but I haven’t played in forever, and it was only the first scenario. I’ve bounced pretty hard off Ares games, but only after going all-in on Galaxy Defenders. Ugh. Anyone want to buy a cheap set of every Galaxy Defenders release ever made?

Does Pandemic Legacy fit? In which case the legacy version of Aeon’s End is worth mentioning as a huge improvement over the non-legacy version. What about living card games Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror and the Lord of the Rings games?

RE: 7th Continent

Does it ever! This is about as meta-narrative as a game can get.



Should Mage Knight and Champions of Hara count?

Gloomhaven (physical version, on hiatus from the campaign), JiME, and Descent. Thanks for doing this thread.

Descent is the ancestor of Imperial Assault, so yeah, similar deal there. I would say Mage Knight doesn’t count, but that’s probably mostly just because I don’t like it. I don’t know Champions of Hara!

Legacy games seem to me to be a sub-genre of campaign games, so yeah. I haven’t really found any I like yet though (I haven’t played Pandemic Legacy). Well, ok, I liked Charterstone well enough, but that doesn’t seem to fit here.

This kind of seems like a different boat altogether. But I haven’t played them, except for a tiny bit of Game of Thrones back when it first converted from a CCG to an LCG.


Generally a page or two per scenario. There’s not a strong plot arc, or if there is we missed it because you generally have 10 different scenarios open at once and we didn’t remember which were which plot thread if any.

Tainted Grail:

A huge one.

Hexplore It:

One is in development (and super extensive) for volume 1, with campaigns planned for at least the first three volumes. If you backed Sands of Shurax they’re distributing PDFs of the WIP version as they finish chapters. Everyone else is out of luck until the hardcover ships with Domains of Mirza Noctis fulfillment.

Imperial Assault:

Descent got an app, people clamored for IA to get an app so eventually they did, and those were so popular they made Mansions of Madness 2E entirely app based and now JiME and the upcoming Descent thing are both entirely app based also.

There isn’t. Also it’s not so much dice based combat as dice based skill checks, which occasionally is a physical conflict. It’s not a hack-n-slash game and there’s not (from what I’ve seen) a lot of direct fighting.

You buy advanced skills with XP and have permanent “discovery” upgrades and stuff so I would call that campaign and character progression. There is no between-curse progression other than you learning the continent layout better, but those are basically different campaigns.

It does. Your characters can (over the full campaign) progress as high as Soul Rank VII and get stat increases and get to pick new skills as they gain ranks. (Plus of course there’s gear and I think the new Ancient Chronicles campaign has more progression systems besides.)

No, except in the sense that Mage Knight games can last several hours. They’re single session games.

Arkham LCG hits all the notes you mention, but I think it’s the only one that really does.

A couple others:
Etherfields - the second big narrative campaign game from Awaken Realms, based on navigating a dreamworld and unlocking mechanics along the way. Haven’t played enough to have a clear sense of where it’s going.

Chronicles of Drunagor - a big KS dungeon crawler with multi-level terrain trays, little pamphlets representing what you find when you open doors, picture book interaction displays, and an interesting cube-allocation action system that is fulfilling either now or imminently. I didn’t back it at the time but watching playthroughs I vaguely-but-not entirely regret it.

I’m not sure I’d call either narrative, but it’s possible that Kingdom Death: Monster or Shadows of Brimstone would be close enough in that they have lengthy campaigns with substantial progression elements. KD:M is more about settlement meta progression (with arbitrary death for your individual survivors) and boss fights, and Shadows of Brimstone is a long form semi-roguelike sort of dungeon crawl with loads of random elements - it reminded me of what I understand to be how classical Warhammer Quest worked, also.

Oathsworn: Into the Deepwoods - campaign based boss fighting with character progression and unique classes - some narrative elements but not heavily story-oriented.

7th Citadel - more story-oriented followup to 7th Continent

Aeon Trespass: Odyssey - kind of a combination of KD:M and 7th Continent style map exploration and storybook stuff, in a wild sort of sci-fi ancient Greek setting.

ISS Vanguard - the third Awaken Realms narrative campaign game, about interstellar exploration

Stars of Akarios space tactical combat but also a progression based narrative campaign. beyond that, dunno really, I didn’t back.

Primal: The Awakening - I don’t think there’s going to be loads of story, but it is a campaign with big monster fights and gear progression at least.

Myth: Dawn of Heroes - this hasn’t even hit KS yet but Ulisses Spiele took over the Myth license and is planning to reboot it in a more campaign-oriented design that looks like it’s way more coherent and functional than Myth ever was in the hands of its original creators. And will still in theory work with stuff poor suckers like me got back in the day.

The Isofarian Guard chip-based bag-builder campaign game with loads of narrative stuff (including professional audio narration), crafting, etc. I hadn’t heard of it until I started hanging out on a coop game discord but now I’m planning on late backing (available until 6/30).

My only LCG experience is Arkham Horror LCG, and it definitely fits the bill as your characters advance by building better decks created with xp from earlier scenarios. an AHLCG cycle is typically 8 campaign scenarios that normally take an hour or two to complete at a time.

Let’s fix that.

Ah, good to know. Thanks, malk! I think I was making assumptions based on their Galaxy Defenders game. Although, come to think of it, I think that has character progression, too?

Can you tell neither of those games made much of an impression on me? :)

Did you like Sword & Sorcery? How do you feel that rates compared to other similar games? As I mentioned, I only ever played the first scenario.

Oh, lordy yes, on both counts!


For the record, I’m currently broken up with Champions of Hara. The designer and publisher have pretty much scuttled my interest in the game with their lack of post-release support – talk about death of trust – not to mention being actively assholish to me for trying to resolve the situation.


This looks interesting. What’s not clear to me is, is this a campaign game? Or do you play through it in one go?

I kinda love the idea that Magic Realm is listed as playable for up to 16 people.

Has there ever been an era in the 45 years since AH originally published it that 16 people who had full and total fluency in how to play Magic Realm ever existed within some reasonably accessible geographic area all at the same time?

First two non-Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers games I spent my own lawn-mowing money on as a 7th/8th grader: Luftwaffe and Magic Realm. That is an amazing hit-rate on historically janky rules systems in boardgames.

ISS Vanguard is definitely a campaign game.

Galaxy Defenders has a little bit of character progression, yeah, but not much.

And I like what I’ve played of Sword & Sorcery but I haven’t played very far into it. I don’t think I feel strongly about it overall? The setting has not demonstrated any reason for me to particularly care about it, nor has the story so far. I do think it holds up pretty well in the overall pack of fantasy dungeon crawlers, and I certainly like it more than my time with Descent (not least because it has full coop without an app). I think the enemy AI design is fairly clever, I like the class designs (and the way each character can go in two related but distinct directions usually based on alignment is neat and increases replay) and the timer mechanics on active skills. It does a decent job of branching and revealing story content. Being able to float around and mess with stuff as a ghost when you die is a unique idea. It’s challenging. But also, it’s still dice and minis and pretty generic fantasy, and I think it’s got a lot of competition that does more innovative or noteworthy stuff, like Gloomhaven or Middara. As well as a lot of competition that is doing very little of note, like Descent or Dungeon Saga. YMMV. Ancient Chronicles sounds to have added quite a few interesting wrinkles but I haven’t got my copy yet and may have opted for wave 2 shipping.

I should note by the way that I have one (1) play of Middara under my belt (on TTS) and while that single play has ignited an enormous craving to play more more more, I don’t want to be like “this is the next great thing” until like, scenario 5 or 6 at the earliest. But if you can tolerate TTS at all the Middara mod is one of the most luxurious mods on the workshop and it is fully supported and authorized by the publisher so it is totally worth a try.

(I have a very very heavy Middara box still in shrinkwrap on my shelf with a bunch of addon nonsense but nobody to play in person with yet, so, TTS.)