Let’s talk about IP Games! I tend to love board games with strong themes I can get into. I like tons of themes, and I’m a-okay with games that build their own worlds. But, if I see a game tied to an IP I’m familiar with and a fan of, you can bet I’ll be looking to learn more about it! For this list, I picked some of my very favorite IP games, and tried to focus on games that I thought used the theme well; I tried to avoid games that merely did a re-skin of a game (like Clue). Let’s check them out!
10. Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion
What Is It? – An escape-room style game where players are cooperatively exploring a mansion, solving a mystery, and figuring out if there really is a ghost in the mansion!
Why I Like It – It really feels like an old school episode of Scooby-Doo, which I’ve always been a big fan of. It’s silly and has some jokes, but it also has a solid game behind it that does it’s theme well. The only downside that it has is the large volume of reading. But beyond that, it’s a great choice for a Scooby-Doo fan!
Favorite Character – Shaggy! (Everyone tells me I’m pretty good at his voice, haha!)
9. Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
What Is It? – A one-vs.-many hand management game where a team of heroes is trying to defeat the Thanos player before they can collect all of the Infinity Stones.
Why I Like It – The Love Letter system is smooth and excellent to begin with, and while there were already other themed variants of it, this one stands out. I really like how they used this theme to change up the original mechanics of the game so that it’s similar but still feels more like heroes versus villain. It’s easy to play and a lot of fun!
Favorite Side – I prefer being Thanos because when you win you snap your fingers to signal the game’s end, and it’s super satisfying.
8. Fairy Tale Inn
What Is It? – A pattern building game with a vertical board akin to Connect Four where players drop various fairy tale character tiles into spots trying to fulfill the character’s individualized scoring criteria.
Why I Like It – It’s a super cute and simple game that anyone can play, but still has a good amount of strategy. There’s the randomness of when certain tiles come out (a player has 4 to choose from each turn, but some will cost them gold, which is points), but you can still try to set yourself up for decent scoring, or try to block your opponent from getting more points. I also like the variety in a different set of characters being used each game.
Favorite Character – I really like The Big Bad Wolf, who gives you three gold coins for each row where you have the most Big Bad Wolfs at the end of the game. If you’re sneaky enough, you can steal a few rows from your opponent to score big!
7. Sonic the Hedgehog: Battle Racers
What Is It? – A racing, hand management game where everyone plays as a Sonic character with their own unique ability. You are trying to collect the most rings and defeat the most badniks to score the most points before the race ends!
Why I Like It – I wasn’t largely into Sonic video games as a kid, but my husband is a fan, and I’ve seen a lot of the gameplay. I feel like this really gives you that feeling of the racing and collecting rings, right down to the tragic loss of rings if you take too much damage. It does the theme excellently, and while the rules are kind of monstrous, the gameplay is unique and entertaining.
Favorite Character – I haven’t had the chance to play all the ones that came in this massive pledge, but I did have a great time playing as Super Sonic!
What Is It? – A strategy combat game that mixes together IPs like Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Golden Girls, and more! Players spend action points each turn to move around the board, interact with board elements, and attack opponents. Players have unique teams of characters with all different abilities and they will spend ability tokens on their cooldown track to activate those abilities to best score themselves points.
Why I Like It – I like that each box that has 2+ characters has all the components that you need to play a standalone game, but I also like how flawlessly you can combine all the characters and play the wildest teams against one another. Will Sophia from Golden Girls punch a velociraptor? You bet! The assigned abilities tend to fit very well with their character personalities, which only adds to how well the theme(s) work in my opinion. Plus, gameplay is smooth, and even when you get new expansions, you don’t have a large learning curve to mix everything together.
Favorite Character – Ian Malcolm. Not only do I love Jurassic Parts and Jeff Goldblum, but his extra chaos die is also a really cool addition.
5. Disney Villainous
What Is It? – An asymmetric hand management, take-that game where players take on the roles of different Disney villains and play cards from their own decks to hit unique win conditions. The asymmetry works really well here – you play in your character’s “world” (i.e. Neverland or Wonderland) and try to gain power, fight heroes, and do whatever you have to to reach your end goal, all while also trying to mess up opponents through fate cards which get played to their domain.
Why I Like It – It features a lot of my favorite villains, as well as some less popular ones, which I think is neat. While all the play styles and win conditions are slightly different, they still feel very thematic to their characters, and the asymmetry really lets you get more immersed in your own board and what moves to make. However, the fate option still allows for plenty of player interaction to slow down your opponents.
Favorite Character – I love so many, but my favorite is probably Yzma because of the cool way her fate deck gets split up.
4. Marvel United
What Is It? – A cooperative, hand management game where players team up as various Marvel superheroes (with variable player powers, naturally) and fight off some iconic Marvel villains. Players are able to use some of the actions from the player before them, and they must do their best to coordinate their actions to beat thugs, save civilians, thwart threats, and take down the villain.
Why I Like It – I’m not usually big on co-ops, and when I got this game, I didn’t think it’d make the list. But there’s something about it that just works! The characters’ cards all feel very thematic and the theme and mechanics mesh together well too. It can get tricky, but it just adds to the atmosphere of being a hero.
Favorite Character – Absolutely Ant-Man! I love his special cards that help him avoid damage and let him take a card out of the story-line to replay (great for getting a double wild back!)
3. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
What Is It? – A semi-cooperative deck building game about recruiting heroes to your team (deck) to defeat the mastermind. Players want to get combos of cards in order to activate certain abilities, but also want to focus on attacking the mastermind because if they aren’t defeated, nobody wins.
Why I Like It – I think it’s so cool to put together these teams of different superheroes to see how well (or how poorly) their powers work together. I just feel like it’s fun, and a bit silly, to imagine them really teaming up to take down some random bad guy that you may have never seen them cross paths with in a comic or movie. Plus, a lot of the keywords / abilities feel very thematic to the characters they are associated with.
Favorite Character – Definitely Deadpool. I love that there’s a few different versions of him, how he has silly half star/attack cards sometimes, and how his humor is incorporated into both the flavor text and some of his abilities.
2. Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis Deck-Building Game
What Is It? – A deck-building game with variable player powers (which are themed to fit various CN characters) where players are trying to collect the best characters to buy more cards, build a combo-worthy deck, target opponents, and collect plenty of points.
Why I Like It – Like Legendary, I love being able to mix together the different characters from all the cartoons I’ve loved for years; I think it works really well and creates that sense of silly chaos that you know these characters are capable of, especially if they all got together! The keywords and abilities also work really well with the characters / shows that they go with too. If you love Cartoon Network shows, this just feels super familiar and fun.
Favorite Character – I like Fiona and Cake a lot because I love playing the cards that make me fist bump other players!
1. Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade
What Is It – A deck-building game with variable player powers where players are building their deck while also moving from planet to planet attempting to capture criminals and eventually defeat the number one bad guy – Vicious. Players can use each other’s special abilities, but still need to be sure to build their deck appropriately to combo their cards together for some big moves.
Why I Like It – I feel that the special abilities and the focus of each character’s cards fit their personalities really well. On top of that, though the deck-building feels familiar, the movement mechanic is unique, as is the way you work to defeat criminals, and have to balance which planet you go to in hopes that the person you’re working on doesn’t escape. It plays really smoothly, and really gives you the feeling of running around and trying to take down criminals while managing your fuel, for movement, and money, for buying more cards.
Favorite Character – I love playing as Jet because he makes getting rid of wounds so much easier so that they aren’t stuck in my deck and slowing me down.
So, I had a few more IP games I thought were worth mentioning. Even though they didn’t make my top ten, they’re still good games that do their theme pretty well:
- Steven Universe: Beach-A-Palooza Card Battling Game – I love Steven Universe. Like, will always rewatch it and constantly listen to the music level adore. This game does a great job with the theme between abilities, fusions, and more, and, it looks great. The downfall of this one is just that it’s rather slow and long, and just doesn’t feel like it should be for such a light game, plus it has some vague rules which can cause confusion.
- The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game – After pretending I thought this movie was lame as a kid (sorry, mom) The Princess Bride has remained one of my favorite movies for years. This game is super cute and really brings you into the world as you work your way through the storybook. The randomness is just what keeps this from being more of a favorite.
- Bob Ross: Happy Little Accidents – This game is just so genuine and cute and really focuses on the fun way more than being any good at art whatsoever, which is very true to Bob Ross fashion. Great little party game.