Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

Board games that take a page out of your favorite books

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After years of dominance in the war for shelf space, the upstart DVD clan has faded into obscurity, supplanted instead by a far older rivalry: books vs board games. The battle has been long, and many a rulebook has fallen in the crossfire. But now, at last, we may finally have found a way to make peace. 

Rather than watch two of our favorite hobbies duke it out forevermore, why not aim to unite them? Collected below are some of our favorite book-based board games available to play today. We could have also looked into books based on board games, but that’s for a list of a future day. Onward, now, as we highlight four great board games for bookworms.

Dune

Best board games based on books Dune

What’s it all about?

Dune was originally published in 1979. Meaning, it’s basically the great, great grandparent of the board gaming world -- a relative so old that everyone had all but forgotten they were still alive. Thankfully, publisher Gale Force Nine stopped by the cardboard care home long enough to blow off the sands of time, and their 2019 re-release takes this elderly game of war and diplomacy for one heck of a makeover.

The design may be dusty, but it remains painfully sharp. Each of the six factions vying for control of Arrakis has access to a unique power so broken that, upon first explanation, you’ll find yourself reaching for the rulebook in disbelief. What do you mean I have to pay Liana to deploy troops? How can that possible be fair? And Steve can force me to answer a question about every single battle we fight? You can’t be serious.

Suffice to say, Dune is not for the inexperienced board gamer -- or the betrayal averse. To claim a seat in this contest, you need to be comfortable smiling and shaking hands with a friend, all while subtly sliding a knife to their mortal enemy under the table.

Similar to the book?

 Very much so! Betrayals, schemes, and oh so much spice.

The Lord of the Rings

Board games for bookworms

There are so many Lord of the Rings board games at this point that even the Silmarillion would struggle to fit them within its weighty tomes. It’s a shame, then, that most focus solely on the grand battles. We love slaying Uruk-hai as much as the next ranger, but the heart of Tolkien’s novels is a tale of unassuming folk achieving great things through bravery and fellowship. To that end, let’s turn the pages back to Reiner Knizia’s The Lord of the Rings

Arriving before Peter Jackson’s trilogy had even finished airing, the game follows your favorite hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Fatty -- no, we don’t remember him either -- on a quest to carry the one ring from the Shire to the steps of Mount Doom. That all sounds cheery, but in practice The Lords of the Rings is brutally hard. 

It doesn’t take much for Sauron’s steely eyed influence to bring down the party, and many games will end with one beleaguered hobbit staggering into Mordor only to collapse at the first glimpse of the orcs and final trials in his path. Sacrifice is common. But that only makes the victory even greater.

Similar to the books?

We don’t remember Frodo dying quite this often, but the spirit of the story is there.

Parade

board games that take a page from your favorite book Parade

What’s it all about?

“The characters of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are having a Parade!” That’s it, the entire setup for Naoki Homma’s card game, ostensibly set in the mad universe of Lewis Carroll. So the narrative connections might be flimsy, but as an excuse to decorate cards in the gorgeous art of the Z-Man edition, we’re more than happy to take it.

Played with a group, Parade appears to be a light entry game about adding cards to an ever-growing line of figures, praying that when your turn rolls around there will be an option that lets you avoid adding cards to your score total -- fluffy, silly and ultimately frivolous. Cut that player count down to two, however, and you’ll find that fluff compacts down into a razor-sharp battle of minds. 

As both players attempt to suss out one another’s hands, the surprisingly tricksy scoring rules force both to mislead and hide their intent. At its end, Parade delivers a brilliant climax as both sides reveal their hands and settle the totals, often in surprising fashion. If you don’t mind the paper-dressing theme and are up for a challenge, Parade is well-deserving of a place in your 1v1 catalogue.

Similar to the book?

The characters are here. That counts, right?

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Great board games for book lovers sherlock holmes consulting detective

What’s it all about?

We’re not sure who Sherlock Holmes is. We looked him up and honestly the whole thing just sounds like a rip-off of Knives Out, but people seem to love the guy, so here we are. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a mystery-solving genius then, well, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is not for you. 

Rather than fill the boots of the great detective, you act more as his band of groupies, desperately piecing together a crime’s narrative before turning to Holmes in the hopes of an approving nod. After days straining your brain from interviews and investigations, you lay the entire story on the table, pointing the finger at who must be the guilty party. Then Holmes walks in and explains in intricate detail just how wrong you are. 

Whlle it will make you feel stupid, the puzzles in Consulting Detective are anything but, and they and play out in a fantastically freeform way as your party of wannabe-detectives uncover revelations based on the order of the people and places you visit. It won’t make you into Sherlock Holmes, but Consulting Detective will let you give it your best shot at an impersonation.

Similar to the books?

Did you ever think Watson seemed kinda dense in the Sherlock stories? Well now you’re Watson, and you’re also dense.


Prefer to digest words in audio form? Have a listen to the Going Analog Podcast! We do the speak good, honest. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter if you like -- we’d love to hear your favorite bookish board games (and yes, we do know there’s a Game of Thrones board game).