Last updated on May 17, 2022
Soulcipher Board | Illustration by Caio Monteiro
You know that Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast, right? Like, the people who make board games like Monopoly (ugh), Betrayal at the House on the Hill, and more? And they make Magic board games, too!
Well, they make them. But are they even any good?
Today I’ll be going over all of the board game-like products WotC has released over the years from an avid Magic player and a board game geek. Are they worth spending your hard-earned money on? Let’s find out!
How I Picked The Best MTG Board Game
Multiple Choice | Illustration by Campbell White
I love board games way more than the average person. I currently own almost 50 board games, and I’ve played even more. You could say I’m into board games.
While I haven’t played every game on this list, I’ve played most of them along with games in similar genres. I’ll be covering how fun each game was to play or basing them on the consensus of BoardGameGeek’s reviews as we go through each one.
What Makes a Good Magic Board Game?
There are a few requirements that I look for to enjoy a good board game:
- Interactivity. How much can I do during a game, and do my actions directly impact other players? Games with low interactivity tend to be boring for my friends and me since there isn’t anything to do when it isn’t our turn.
- Complexity. Does this game feel watered down or too basic? My groups prefer middle to higher complexity for games, but your group might want something easier to digest.
- Replayability. Is playing this game multiple times still fun? One of the common problems with a lot of board games is that they’re only fun for the first few games, then they quickly become dull and predictable.
These aren’t hard rules to live by, but they’re essential to keep in mind just in case. Everybody’s playgroups are different so keep your friends in mind when picking a game because you’ve gotta play it with somebody.
Arena of the Planeswalkers (2015) is a reimplementation of Heroscape, with a few notable changes being new cards and spells that aren’t in the original game. Those familiar with the predecessor will pick this game up quickly, though the game isn’t tough to learn. But the community around this game has all but dried up.
Those who already like Heroscape or Magic will probably enjoy this. I’ve played it a few times and thought it was fun, but it wasn’t a game that I desperately wanted to add to my collection. That said, it leads players who enjoy it to seek out the regular Heroscape community which is much more lively.
- Easy to get into.
- It’s a shorter version of the widely-popular Heroscape.
- It’s basically a retheme of Heroscape with the Magic IP.
- There isn’t much content to keep games interesting without custom characters.
- You can’t customize your teams without expansions, and even then it’s a limited pool.
- Arena of the Planeswalkers game lets players create a 3-D battle arena
- Includes figures, tiles, glyphs, dice and cards for a Magic: The Gathering battle
- Play as one of 5 Planeswalkers: Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, or Nissa
- Includes terrain boards for different battlefields and ruin pieces
- Includes 5 Planeswalker figures, 30 squad figures, 6 cardboard terrain boards, two 3-hex sand tiles, two 1-hex sand tiles, 2 ruins, 4 glyphs, 30 damage markers, 20-sided die, 10 combat dice, 15 army cards, 60 spell cards, turn marker, and game guide.
It’s AotP again, but an expansion! Battle for Zendikar (2016) includes Kiora and Ob Nixilis along with a new game mode where you fight against an “Eldrazi Ruiner” as a team. These new units are neat, and the scenario is unique.
You’d enjoy this if you liked the core game. It mixes well with AotP and adds neat new mechanics like colorless units and 2-color planeswalkers. But it’s just an okay experience since you don’t get as many units to play with, and none of the classic Heroscape terrain.
- The Eldrazi scenario is a fun addition to the game.
- Each new team is unique and mixes well with the base game.
- It isn’t a standalone product and doesn’t offer a lot.
- Introduces 2 additional Planeswalkers, including the first multi-color Planeswalker, Kiora, who can field both green and blue colored creatures and spells.
- Includes the first hero creature, the terrifying Eldrazi Ruiner. The Eldrazi are colorless creatures and can be summoned by a Planeswalker of any color.
- Includes 1 player vs. many battlefield scenario in which players fight against the massive Eldrazi Ruiner to save Zendikar.
- Includes 2 Planeswalker figures, 3 hero figures, 11 squad figures, 15 spell cards, 9 army cards, Battle for Zendikar Board Game Expansion Pack Guide. (Does not include cards from the trading card game.)
The final expansion for AotP before it was seemingly discontinued, Shadows Over Innistrad (2016) added a lot of new stuff and even functions as a great standalone game! This added a ton of new content to the game and gives you more customization options for your teams. But it still lacks diversity in teams unless you buy multiple sets of each and use homebrew rules.
This is a spectacular game if you enjoy Heroscape or the previous entries. But this is the end of the line for this series of games. We haven’t had any info as to whether or not we’ll see more of this, but it’s probably never seeing the light of day again considering there hasn’t been a release in over four years.
- Excellent as a standalone product.
- It adds a ton of content to the base game, increasing replayability.
- Even with all the content the game still lacks enough customization, which is crucial for army builder games like this.
- Players can create a 3-D battle arena
- Includes dual-sided gameboards with multiple gameplay scenarios
- Choose from 4 Planeswalkers, each with unique powers and squads
- Summon unstoppable creatures of the night
- Compatible with Magic: the Gathering AOP Board Game System.Includes 5 Planeswalker figures, 4 hero figures, 15 squad figures, 4 dual-sided cardboard terrain boards, 2 glyphs, 20 damage markers, 20-sided die, 8 combat dice, 13 army cards, 48 spell cards, turn marker, 8 counters, 6 1-hex sand tiles, 3 cryptoliths, 3 cryptolith 2-hex sand tiles, and game guide.
In a strange turn of events, Explorers of Ixalan (2017) is actually several preconstructed decks and some cardboard tiles. It’s designed as a multiplayer MTG experience with some additional rules. The biggest is the exploration mechanic, which speeds up the usually sluggish multiplayer games.
This is a mediocre option at best if you already have friends who kind of know how to play. The added mechanics don’t make this into a unique board game experience but more of a weaker, boring format. I think most players would prefer to play Commander, Planechase, or just literally anything but this.
- The preconstructed decks aren’t terrible to play against each other.
- The game relies on everyone already knowing how to play Magic.
- The added mechanics for multiple players aren’t as fun as Planechase.
- Explorers of Ixalan is a complete, out-of-the-box multiplayer Magic experience in which players search for the lost city
- Contains 4 x 60 card preconstructed decks and much more!
- Players will explore the verdant jungle of Ixalan in search of the Golden City of Orazca and they will discover locations and events from the Ixalan story line along the way.
- English Edition
Finally, a real board game! And an original one at that. Heroes of Dominaria (2018) is a simple worker placement game like Agricola or Lords of Waterdeep set in the world of Dominaria. It’s a typical worker placement game when it starts but it explodes into something way more fun once players start to use artifacts.
This is a great step towards getting into board games and is suitable for people who want to pad their existing collection with a worker placement game that isn’t too crunchy. I enjoyed playing it, but it wasn’t something I’d bring to a table of Twilight Imperium players.
- Simple to understand but remains fun as new artifacts are found.
- Very flavorful for those who play and enjoy Magic lore.
- The game was almost immediately dead on arrival, with no plans for an expansion anytime soon.
- High Quality Miniatures
- Designed for 2 to 4 players
- Based on the Popular Trading Card Game
- Explore Magic’s most iconic plane and experience the trials and tribulations of being a heroic force on Dominaria
Game Night (2018 & 2019)
Game Night isn’t really a board game but more like a multiplayer experience for groups that don’t already play Magic. It fits in as an excellent introduction to MTG in a single box, but not much more than that.
The ultimate “hey, do you want to learn Magic?” experience is solely designed for new players. While it isn’t a bad experience, it isn’t something I’d bring to a typical game night with non-Magic players.
- Five fairly balanced decks designed to play against one another.
- Excellent intro to playing Magic
- This is purely for new players, and existing players would only want this as a teaching tool.
- You and 1–4 friends can START PLAYING MAGIC: THE GATHERING instantly with this multiplayer starter set.
- JUST OPEN AND PLAY. Everything is in the box. 5 60-card decks, 5 dice for tracking life totals, and all the accessories you need to play.
- These five decks were designed as an intuitive way to TEACH YOUR FRIENDS MAGIC.
- BRING MAGIC ANYWHERE. Magic Game Night comes in a sturdy, portable box so you can take Magic with you wherever you game.
- MIX AND MATCH cards to quickly and easily build your own decks for endless replayability.
Similar to Game Night (2018), but silly. Unsanctioned is more aimed at experienced players since it features some silly rules. It is an Un-set, after all. But most players could pick it up and play with minimal issues.
You’ll probably like Unsanctioned if you really like Un-sets. It doesn’t add anything to Magic aside from new cards, so I’d only pick it up if I really wanted to play with the Un-set.
- Fun, engaging Magic experience with Un-cards.
- It’s just a Magic set in a box, and there’s little replayability once you’ve seen all the cards.
- Combine two of the 30-card decks into a two-colored super-deck! Mix and match the decks into new deranged, delirious, and downright preposterous combinations.
- The rules are unhinged, the stadium is unstable, and things are about to come unglued. Unsanctioned is mayhem-filled Magic: The Gathering, ready to play right out of the box.
- Unsanctioned includes 160 Magic cards, including 10 full-art basic land cards—5 foil and 5 non-foil— with gorgeous illustrations, printed here for the first time.
- Unlike most Magic: The Gathering sets, Unsanctioned is filled with special silver-bordered cards that get to do things other Magic cards don’t, like give a creature “infinity” power.
- Unsanctioned is filled with cards from Magic’s “Un” sets, like Unglued, Unhinged, and Unstable, plus seventeen cards that join the “Un” family for the first time. Unheard of!
Honestly? I hope not.
Put your pitchforks away and hear me out, okay? Hasbro is not good at making board games, and neither is WotC. There’s a reason why the majority of Hasbro’s good board games come from Avalon Hill or are shelf classics like Monopoly and Candyland. They just aren’t interested in giving the IP to a designer that would do it justice.
This is further compounded by the fact that all of these games on this list were discontinued almost as they hit retail. The only exception to this is AotP, which got two expansions before being quietly discontinued without an announcement.
Commence the Endgame | Illustration by Noah Bradley
Board games are great, and the idea of a good Magic board game has lingered in the minds of many a gamer for some time now. But it seems WotC can’t help themselves and the subsequent games have been lukewarm, to say the least.
If you’re looking for a classic tabletop board game you can play with casual players, then go with Heroes of Dominaria (2018). And if you want to casually engage with the base game of Magic I recommend Game Night, preferably the newer 2019 version.
How do you feel about Magic’s board games? Are there any here you’ve played? Let me know in the comments below or tell us on Twitter.
As for me, I’ve got some board games to play. See ya!
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