Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, usually shortened to MOBA is a video game genre that took the world by storm few years ago. It originated from fan made maps for Real Time Strategy games. MOBA turned them into quick duels with level gaining and equipment collecting, instead of building and making hundreds of new units. The goal is always to conquer the base of opposing team with a party of few allies working together. All characters belong to different classes and serve different purposes. Apart from them, there are tons of computer controlled units that serve as fodder for gaining experience. Maps usually include few lanes leading to the enemy HQ.
Among numerous MOBA games League of Legends is usually considered the king of the genre. There are also some other big ones, with their own loyal fanbases.
There were a few attempts at bringing the MOBA formula into a board game. Have they succeeded? Today we’ll have a look at these projects and check out the newest one, that is coming later this year.
Pledged: €134,578 (=155 816$)
The game has a board, but let’s be honest: cards are the main dish here. And there’s over 600 of them. The number of players is probably the lowest in all tabletop MOBA attempts: only 2 can play the basic version (or optionally 4 in additional team mode). Both players construct their decks to suit their heroes of choice. And there are 30 characters to pick from. There’s plenty of options and strategies available which leads to high replayability.
Cards are really a sight to see here, probably best looking of all games presented on our list. The board has 3 lanes that you progress through, just like in MOBA games. They include towers and some other obstacles to destroy. ELO Darkness also sports a solo variant thanks to one of the stretch goals – a card deck simulates playing like it was a 1v1 mode.
- unique card based gameplay
- 30 heroes
- solo mode
Guards of Atlantis
This one certainly certainly allows more people to play at once. Guards of Atlantis can be enjoyed by 4 to 9 players.
One of the most noteworthy things here is the unusual setting. Game takes place in a steampunk world. Guards of Atlantis heavily encourages team play and players always have to divide into groups. Every person controls only one hero. Players do their best to let their minions reach enemy’s base.
Game has some really good looking and detailed figures in 32mm format. Hero abilities work thanks to cards, but they are not the main focus like in ELO. The board is made of hexes offering lots of movement options and wargame like combat.
- Up to 9 players at the same time
- Rare steampunk setting
- Many movement and combat options
Backers: 1,558 backers
League of Ancient Defenders is probably the most controversial product listed here.
We have a board divided into squares, and tons of figurines. These are really something special. The amount of detail is so high that some people complained that it makes them too difficult to paint. Miniatures were one of the main magnets here. Gameplay is similar to skirmish board wargames. Each player chooses five heroes belonging to different roles like Guardian or Mage.
There were some misunderstandings related to the company hiding its true identity when the project started, which damaged the brand a bit, but it was later clarified. The game ended up mediocre anyway, with samey hero skills and little replayability. It might still be worth it if you’re a miniature collector and don’t mind slightly unfinished mechanics.
- beautiful miniatures
- gameplay can get stale and could use lots of improvements
Battle Arena Show
Pledged €53,513 (=$61 958)
Another MOBA board game with an unusual idea for a story. This time we’re taking part in a reality show where historical and fictional heroes form teams to face against each other. Spartans, cthulhu monsters – anything is possible. Winners will claim the main prizes: freedom and a title of Grand Arena Master (though I doubt they care about the latter).
Battle Arena Show is played in teams, each with 3 heroes: a killer, a tank and a wizard. Every team needs to have one of each type. The board is made of squares and a number of customizable elements made of cardboard. You can get equipment from a shop, represented by a pool of cards dealt from the deck and laid on the table. The game has more focus on minion mechanics than others. You can actually control each of them. Overall, it feels like a really decent attempt to create a tabletop MOBA.
- 3 different roles, each being enforced in a team
- interesting board with cardboard layers representing destruction levels
- bigger focus on minion gameplay
Rum & Bones
Backers: 4,417 backers
“Second Tide” core set / expansion
And last, but surely not least: a duo of games by CMON. Rum & Bones was funded in 2014 with a second core edition coming 3 years later.
Easily the game with the strongest theme of everything we’ve presented here. 2 bands of pirates combat each other aboard their ships. There’s lots of sabers, golden coins and fancy hats. Typical MOBA towers become board guns and cannons, and minions are represented by deckhands and bosuns.
Each player can control 1-5 pirates and there are up to 6 players allowed. Apart from the usual MOBA fare, special card deck can bring surprising elements to the table like an underwater kraken attacking the ship. There’s no “base destroying” typical to the genre, instead player has to destroy enough of key ship features of the opponent to achieve victory. Expansion added more features like a new leveling system and completely new factions to pick (including a band of pirate crocodiles).
- pirate theme adds tons of flavor
- unexpected events spice up the gameplay
- high production values
A Look into the Future:
Champions of Nexum
As we’ve shown above, there are many board game MOBAs. Some feel like their video game counterparts, while others only borrow certain concepts from them.
One really interesting project is about to appear later this year, and will once again attempt to perfect the MOBA to board transition. We’ve had the chance to meet its authors and it seems quite promising. Here’s some prerelease info about Champions of Nexum.
The game is played faster than most of its competitors. One session shouldn’t last longer than 60 minutes. There is also a refreshing feature planned: a mobile based character creator. You will no longer be forced to play heroes, that the designer made for you. Instead you can base one on yourself or even recreate some fictional (or nonfictional) character you like. There will also be cards with premade heroes available, and these seem pretty creative as well, especially the boar one.
Another unique feature is the inclusion of soundtrack, composed to enjoy during gameplay. Here’s how it sounds:
Judging from the testing impressions we’re in for a really solid and fast paced project, faithful to the genre. Will it finally deliver a perfect tabletop MOBA experience? Only time will tell.