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Top 10 Re-Themed Board Games

re-themed games nightmare productions

The last few years has seen a lot of games being re-printed but with a new theme. Re-themed games can occur for a number of reasons such as the intellectual property licence run out, inappropriate content for a modern audience, more fun or just to get a re-print out of the door. I asked some of my fellow bloggers to give me some of their favourite re-themed games and here is what they had to say.

Nightmare Productions - Neil Proctor

Reiner Knizia games seem to get more re-theming releases than any other designer but I would imagine that is because he has over 700 games credited to him, and more often than not they prove to be very enjoyable and popular. Released at the end of 2022 Nightmare Productions is a re-theming of Silver Screen which is itself a re-theming of Dream Factory.

In this closed bidding economy and drafting game you are competing with each other to produce the best ‘SCARY’ movies. You will be winning props, sets, directors, monsters and other movies essentials to make the best movies in three categories (supernatural, Creature, Slasher). The closed bidding means you never get too far behind your competitors as their winning bid becomes your money to spend next time.

I really prefer the scary movie theme compared to the originals Hollywood golden years especially as this game focuses on the cheesy scary movies of the 1970’s and early 80’s.

Highly recommended for fans of Reiner Knizia or horror movies.

Marvel Villainous - Favouritefoe

Everyone loves a Disney baddie, right? Well the original Villainous gives you the chance to be just that. Captain Hook, Jafar, Prince John…….the wickedness knows no bounds. You’ve got your own decks, board and a wee miniature character that moves around the board generally causing havoc for others (in the best way, of course!). With a unique win condition, each player is out to get the others!.

But does everybody love Disney? Now, I’m more Ultron than Ursuala. In fact I’ve only seen a handful of Disney movies in 40 years. Whereas I’ve watched every Marvel film going. So Marvel Villainous is definitely more my jam! Luckily for me, the game has the ideal re-theme; Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power!

With the choice of Hela, Killmonger, Thanos, and more, you can flex your malevolent mind muscles and strategise your way to super villain status. It’s got the same hand management and take-that play. You’re still moving around and throwing players’ best laid plans into the stratosphere with your awesomely-evil actions.

And of course the double decks are still where your powers to twist fate and deal dastardly blows lie. But with the ability to boost baddies’ special powers and scale the game for difficulty, not to mention high re-playability through asymmetry and card drafting, this is definitely the universe where I want to be Villainous!

UnfathomableLuke Pickles

My only real experience of a re-themed game came at the hands of a gift presented to me last year around my birthday. I then had to wait until I had the right player count and the person responsible for giving me the game to coincide, which happened to be around Christmas time. You know the one, that weird lull where most are off work and you find yourself with nothing to do but lie to your friends whilst trying to sink a ship in 1913… Just me? Or perhaps just the setting of Unfathomable.

Unfathomable is the social deduction game set in the Arkham Horror universe. It has a really interesting system of characters attempting skill checks to protect the ship and solve ever increasingly problematic crisis’s whilst having the opportunity to really mess with the game if you’re the traitor. Now, I’ve never played the game it’s based on – Battlestar Galactica – partly because it’s quite tricky to find these days and partly because it’s a theme I’m not that fussed by. However, throw in two massive minis and a sense of the mystical around it and I’m there!

StupefySam Graven

Now if you're looking for a game for the whole family, gamers or not, and you don't want to take things too seriously (or just really like shouting and pointing wands at people), this quick-fire game of duelling and bluffing is ridiculous (or is that Ridculus?), raucous fun, hitting the sweet spot of working equally well with younger players as tipsy ones. Pass the butterbeer.

A reskin of Ca$h&Gun$, this Potter party game Stupefy, for 4 to 8 players, has you casting a spells over the course of 8 rounds to win points for the house cup. You have a hand of cards, a mix of Stupefy! and Misspells (young wizards haven't quite mastered the art of Duelling, you see). You choose one, and everyone points their wands at the same time; you either play the card (Stupefying an opponent, or Misspelling) or may choose to put up your wand and protect yourself with Protego (which effectively puts you out). If you survived the turn, you draw from the rewards which include extra lessons (so you are less likely to Misspell), potions practice (which gets you bonus points at the end), Favours from teachers, or of course House points! At the end of the 8th round, the house with most points wins.

I love the twins mechanic, so that where you have an odd number of players two of you can team up, Fred & George style. So grab those wands, put on your house colours and win the cup! Expeliarmus!

Splendor MarvelHannah Blacknell

Splendor is a resource management and engine building game where you are racing to 15 points. It is a smooth entry level game that is fun for newbies and seasoned gamers alike. Trouble is though that the theme is pretty dry. You are trying to sway noble men and women with gem collections. However, never fear because it has had a retheme and slight gameplay improvement. Enter Splendor: Marvel.

The cards in this version are all your favourite, and a few of the more obscure, comic book heroes from the Marvel universe. Just like before, there are level 1, 2 and 3 cards which increase in costs but also increase in victory points too. The main difference here is that now you must have built your engine up to contain one card of each gem type, thematically these are the collecting of the infinity stones. To finish you must also have collected a green gem which you gain when buying a top tier card. Personally I think this is a theme improvement but also a huge gameplay upgrade in my humble opinion.

EquinoxNeil Proctor

I am back with Reiner Knizia again and this time with the brilliant Equinox. This is a re-theme of Colossal Arena which is a re-theme of Grand National Derby! How this got from horse betting to betting on mystical creatures nobody knows.

This is a betting game where each of the 8 characters in play all have special abilities which you can control if you have the strongest bets placed on them. All of the powers have the ability to swing the game and combined with secret bets placed fairly early on in the game, makes for a very tense experience.

The game can be quite mean and you can feel as though all of the other players are ganging up on you but as long as you know that is the type of game you are about to play you will have a fantastic time. Word or warning, the cards are tarot sized and will take up a lot of space on your table as your play through the rounds. This is compensated with some fantastic art on each of them making the creatures look amazing.

Skymines Thom Newton

Mombasa is a game I played once many years ago. I remember enjoying it on the whole but found the central concept of exploiting the African Continent a little troubling to say the least. The rules of the game do point this out and even reference some books if you’d like to learn more about what actually happened during that time in history. As time passed the designer of Mombasa, Alexander Pfister, expressed a desire to re-theme the game with something less problematic. Skymines is that game.

Skymines leans incredibly hard on Mombasa as far as mechanics go. There are four companies looking to set up mining operations on the moon and it’s up to you to try and make as much money as possible from that. It keeps the brilliant card play where you will play cards down and then can combine them to take more powerful actions.

On your turn you’ll be looking to buy cards for a bit of deckbuilding. Increase the number of shares you own in each of these companies. Help the companies expand and then gather Helium and conduct research. A lot of these systems are nicely interlinked. Buying cards gets you more resources which can get you more shares of the companies. Helping them expand might get you some one time bonuses, but it could also increase the share value, netting you some more cash. Helium and research both grant points, but doing it a lot will unlock more card slots meaning you can take more actions going forwards.

There is some nice hands-off conflict too. As you can cause the companies to take each other on and replace each other’s outposts. Players don’t own the companies though so it feels a little less confrontational, which is nice!

A game that really needed a re-theme done well.

Pandemic: Star Wars: The Clone Wars Dan (DB Games)

First, let's discuss the differences between this and regular Pandemic of which there are quite a few. In Pandemic Star Wars the droids that you place, like infections in regular Pandemic, do no spread to new adjacent locations if they would go over 3 at a location; instead you add a blockade token to that location and you increase the threat track. Your cards that you gain in hand are crew cards and do not cure diseases but, mostly they aid you in attack, defence or movement. In Star Wars Pandemic you are completing missions instead of eradicating diseases and there is a lot of them which adds great variety into this game.

Each round follows a similar pattern, first you take your player turn which consists of readying any cards used last round and then taking any 4 actions; move, attack drones or the villain, attempting missions or drawing another crew card. After this you activate the main Villain by drawing one of their cards and doing the actions listed on them. Then finally you place droids out, similar to infections in regular Pandemic, depending on the Invasion level.

The components here are excellent; the droids do not all have the same stance (but there are some repeats) and the hero and villain minis are great. Definitely a good set if you want to paint the minis and love Star Wars.

Compared to standard Pandemic there is so much more re-playability in here with the 4 villains play styles, many different missions and the different combination of heroes at your disposal. The gameplay is fun and quick, the card play is simple to understand and you can really become engrossed by the theme due to the excellent components. I highly recommend this to all Jedi and Sith alike.

Libertalia: Winds Of GalecrestAlex Chase

The original Libertalia was a very piratey game of loot sharing, bluffing and card play. Players use cards and powers to try and get as much loot as possible while sabotaging their shipmates in a series of rounds. This might result in characters dying as they fight over booty or chickening out of the division so they survive.

So, how do you re-theme the most piratey game I can think of? A game so piratey that it feels like a parrot should come in every box… simple. Sky pirates. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? What could be more sensible and realistic than sky pirates? Wait… they’re animals too? Uhhh… sure, why not.

The art style has changed too in this re-themed game. Where the normal pirates even had piratey art style, this is much fresher, much more cartoon like.

So the theme has made everything look a lot friendlier, a lot more family friendly. The gameplay on the other hand? That’s still cutthroat. You still use abilities to sabotage opponents and bluff them into backing out or spending better cards when they don’t need to.

So why the change? Maybe Stonemaier Games don’t like real pirates, maybe they fancied selling more to families, it’s not immediately clear. But ultimately, the games are so similar it’s mostly a question of art styles and availability. So unless you really want real (except of course they aren’t, they’re still heavily fictionalised) pirates and are prepared to search for the original, Libertalia: Winds Of Galecrest would seem to be the way forward.

scooby doo

Scooby Doo Betrayal At Mystery Mansion – Rachael Duchovny

Scooby Doo Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is an IP game that re-themed Betrayal at House on the Hill in a simpler more family friendly way.

In this version of the game you play a member of the Scooby gang (making it a 3 to 5 player game rather than up to 6) with 25 different haunts available to you. Rather than using the Betrayal haunt matrix you choose a mystery card at the start of each game and even decide who will turn in to the traitor when the haunt is triggered. This works particularly well when playing with younger children because no matter who sets the haunt off you can always have an adult as the one who needs to read the rules for the traitor whilst the rest of the family can still work together to try to win the game.

Unlike other Betrayal games you can also learn the rules of the haunt together so if you have a child that really does want to betray the family you can help them out with the rules if needed. As expected, no member of the Scooby gang would turn on their own so when the haunt is triggered something ‘terrible’ happens to them, like, they run away scared or get trapped somewhere, and the treacherous player takes on the role of the villain, aliens, ghosts, or what have you.

There’s no player elimination either so no-one needs get upset at being out of the game. Whilst the game still feels like a Betrayal game the gameplay themes are taken from Scooby Doo episodes or movies so if you love Scooby Doo you can very much immerse yourself in the story. Adult or child, this game is a must have for all Scooby fans!

Thanks for reading this re-themed games blog and I hope you have found some re-themed games you would love to play as much as we do, if you have any suggestions come find me on twitter @BoardGameHappy and let me know what they are.