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Five SFF Board Games With Excellent Lore


Five SFF Board Games With Excellent Lore

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Five SFF Board Games With Excellent Lore

From eldritch horrors to dragons and spacefaring bees, if you love a good story, these games are for you...


Published on March 1, 2024

Photo by VD Photography [via Unsplash]

Close-up photograph of a generic board game and a six-sided die.

Photo by VD Photography [via Unsplash]

Read. Game. Read. Game. Repeat… Once I’m finished with work on any given day, that’s how my evening usually goes (unless I am locked in on a season of Love Island, which may or may not currently be the case). Point is, I’ve always been a big reader and a big gamer. Lately, I’ve been driven by an insatiable urge to cross the streams and combine my two favorite hobbies by playing board games that draw you into a world filled with deep and intricate lore.

Fortunately, this concept is far from novel, and board game creators have been crafting lore-heavy experiences for ages. After discovering a handful of classics and some new favorites, I decided it was time to take to Reactor and share my findings with all of you. So, do not pass go, do not collect $200—instead, just read on for my list of five SFF board games with particularly fantastic lore.


Published by: Stonemaier Games
Designed by: Connie Vogelmann
Art by: Kwanchair Moriya

While you’re learning the rules of Apiary, your brain will be abuzz with the game’s intricate and varied mechanics. Luckily, designer Connie Vogelmann has taken this into account with the game’s theme.

In Apiary, players compete as hives of spacefaring bees called the Mellifera. Humans disappeared from Earth long ago… (Were they destroyed? Did they leave? The answer is unclear.) The Mellifera have combined the ruins left behind by humanity with their own technology to become a sentient species taking off to the stars.

This background slots neatly into the game’s mechanics. The primary board (which is very large) is accessible to all players at all times, though each competitor has their own private hive where they can store resources, earn points, and expand their colony. In other words, both the game’s lore and play mechanics tell the story of a species that works together despite differences. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Arkham Horror

Published by: Chaosium
Designed by: Richard Launius, Nikki Valens, and Kevin Wilson
Art by: Justin Adams, W.T. Arnold, and Anders Finér

There was a time when I wasn’t super into board games. I was in college, and a friend invited me over to learn Arkham Horror with a few others. I vaguely remember liking the game. Ten years later (so, just a few months ago), some fellow gamers came over to re-teach the game, and this time I became completely obsessed.

Arkham Horror’s lore isn’t just flavor text. It’s the core gameplay. Investigators in Arkham, Massachusetts, travel through the town seeking evidence of ghastly Lovecraftian beasts and strange happenings. As players discover clues or suffer setbacks, the game branches into different portions of the narrative. Throughout the game, you’ll read new cards that advance the story and hurl new horrific things your way.

I’ve never played a game that so handily transports me into the emotional state it’s meant to evoke. Arkham Horror is a tense and fearful experience, where, more often than not, you feel like you’re two steps behind the eldritch and otherworldly beings nipping at your psyche.


Published by: Cephalofair Games
Designed by: Isaac Childres
Art by: Alexandr Elichev, Josh T. McDowell, Alvaro Nebot

Gloomhaven incorporates many influences SFF fans are likely to appreciate, including Dungeons & Dragons and countless fantasy adventure stories. The game puts each player in charge of a single wanderer with distinct powers. The world of Gloomhaven is dangerous (I remember my group suffering repeated defeats in our first few scenarios) and packed with plenty of compelling lore.

Every player card comes with a backstory and powers to fit the character’s ethos. Over time, characters can level up, gaining strength and additional abilities. The deep lore of Gloomhaven makes the experience feel completely immersive, like you’ve been plunged into a dark fantasy world and tasked with battling horrific monsters.

The Gloomhaven box is gargantuan for a board game, thanks to the sheer amount of content it offers. Suffice it to say I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game’s lore and mechanics, here.


Published by: Stonemaier Games
Designed by: Connie Vogelmann
Art by: Elizabeth Hargrave

I have two things to say. (1) I love dragons, and (2) I haven’t actually played Wyrmspan yet. I mention the first thing in the hopes of summoning forth your own love for winged, fire-breathing fantasy creatures (I assume is something we probably share, if you’re reading Reactor). I make the second admission hoping you’ll already be too distracted by the “I love dragons” thing to pay much attention…

Anyway, Wyrmspan makes this list because I’ve never been more excited for a board game. It’s a follow-up to Wingspan (2019). Elizabeth Hargrave designed Wingspan and developed Wyrmspan, while Connie Vogelmann designed this sequel. Instead of birds, players place dragons into unique environments. That was really all they needed to say for me to immediately lock in a preorder with upgraded pieces.

Wyrmspan will take a few pages from Wingspan’s book, I’m sure, which means we’ll get factoids and lore drops about each dragon in the game. I doubt it will be core to the gameplay, but that extra sprinkling of lore makes for a compelling game, in my book, and I can’t wait to play it!

City of the Great Machine

Published by: CrowD Games
Designed by: German Tikhomirov
Art by: Maya Kyrkhuli, Anna Laryushina, Nikolai Mitrukhin, Nadezhda Penkrat

Head to a Victorian steampunk world where heroes are at odds with an artificial intelligence called The Great Machine. The game can be played in a one-vs.-many format or as a cooperative experience.

The Great Machine’s goal is to perfect the human race (hint: not good), and the heroes have to stop it. The AI opponent controls a flying city composed of platforms that can change with every playthrough. The game’s lore comes into play in the mechanics: Players try to conceal their plans from the Great Machine in order to avoid capture or major setbacks. The problem? Any planning the players do can be heard by the Great Machine (this is especially fun if you’re playing the one-vs.-many format).

Each playable character comes with stunning artwork and a mini-fig to match. Everything in City of the Great Machine is designed to advance its aesthetic. It’s eye-catching to look at and even more fun to play.

You know the drill, folks! What are your own favorite board games with solid lore? Let me know in the comments… icon-paragraph-end

About the Author

Cole Rush


Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. For the most part, you can find those words at The Quill To Live. He voraciously reads epic fantasy and science fiction, seeking out stories of gargantuan proportions and devouring them with a bookwormish fervor. His favorite books are the Divine Cities Series by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.
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