Top 6 Games Under Siege

Have fun storming the castle! Or fortress, keep, or futuristic alien hive base. No matter the bad guy, these 6 games will drop you into the middle of a siege and keep you there until you win...or die.

Sometimes, all you need from a good night of gaming is a crushing onslaught trying to obliterate everything you know and love. The warm fuzzies found when repelling a devastating attack from aliens, hellspawn, or zombies are special, especially when you can mix that killer theme with the mechanics you prefer.

The games in this list run the gamut from wargames to worker placement, real-time dice chucking to tactical, er, dice-chucking. They’ll all shove your backs against the wall, testing your mettle, and in the unlikely event you come out victorious, offer up difficulty modes, expansions, or the rapier wit of a human opponent to further press your abilities.

If all that sounds a tad serious for board gaming, fear not: more than anything else, these games are fun. Every single one is set up to tell a great story, one you’ll love telling from start to finish. So read the list below, plant your flag, and hold your ground against board gaming’s greatest sieges.

The Great Wall

I’ve got your back . . . for a price. 

We begin with perhaps the most obvious wall around. The Great Wall is a semi-cooperative worker placement adventure wherein you and your pals must build up your forces, gather supplies, and thwart the oncoming enemy. Or, you know, conveniently let the enemy in so you can point fingers at your ‘allies’ when the Emperor looks for someone to blame. This is a classic case of ‘win more’ scoring, where letting all the barbarians crash into China means a loss for everyone, but a few strategic fumbles can let you reap just enough glory to come out on top in the Emperor’s estimation.

What makes this more compelling is the gradual asymmetry, as you’ll start with a unique general, then hire advisors with their own special abilities. This is similar to Spirit Island, though with a gentler learning curve. You’ll place workers, gather resources, hire soldiers, and hold your ground as the enemy crashes into you. Learning when to commit your fighters to eliminate an enemy without setting up another player for a big score is key. It’s an immersive experience, one built less on random luck, where you’ll lean into special abilities and timing to build honor and undercut your supposed allies.

The Great Wall is a premium experience, chock-full of flashy components in Awaken Realms’ over-the-top style, but substance comes through here, as you’ll never get tired of dropping your archers on top of literal wall models. Upgraded resources, miniatures of dragon cannons, and the beautiful board come together to make sitting down and resisting the hordes a compelling adventure.

Planet Apocalypse

Many, many more hellspawn not pictured here.

Ah, hellspawn. Battling to save Earth from an invasion of terrifying, ruinous demons is a tried-and-true pastime in games both digital and physical, but few manage to grasp the conflict’s totality in all its absurd grandeur like Petersen Games’ Planet Apocalypse.

First, you must pick how the horde will ravage the planet, and then which Lord will command their hellish troops in their assault. Both scenario and prime foe alter the rules in (usually) terrible ways for your wayward heroes, which you’ll choose—or assign randomly—from a pool of cinematic tropes, each colored with unique skills and a game-altering flaw. Maybe you can’t stand being around your pals, or your sniper rifle keeps you from mincing demon meat in close combat. Either way, your team is going to be different, but you’ll have to find your demon-slaughtering strategy and back it up with dice.

Regardless of that strategy, you won’t be bored. Turns fly fast, and demons of various magnitude spawn, with an ingenious scaling mechanic bringing in more and stronger monsters the longer you hold out. Planet Apocalypse isn’t a power fantasy, but a white-knuckle ride from start to finish.

The Struggle for Zorn: The Red Blight

Zorn, before the war.

The Struggle for Zorn: The Red Blight adopts a fantasy wargame mantle and throws you into a dice-tossing siege, where you’ll have to counter oncoming enemy waves with tight strategy, some luck, and a hunger for resources. That last bit keeps Zorn intriguing, as the game presents a dangerous co-op front, but holding towns and other valuable spots gives you, and only you, the goodies necessary to field an army. Use that army to defeat the enemy and gain glory, giving you the chance to win if Zorn survives.

Behind that narrative veneer, Zorn is a wargame through and through. Rules abound, and a length long enough to devour an entire evening means it’s not an adventure jumped into lightly. For the strategists among you, though, there’s plenty of meat on these bones. The fantasy setting makes units unique, with abilities beyond a better machine gun or a tank’s improved armor. There’s randomness here too: your mages might cast devastating spells or, owing to a bad roll, blow themselves to pieces. Drawn cards dictate enemy movement, and might send them in helpful or horrible directions. Those fickle dice will make an impact, but spread across a long game like this, won’t substitute for sound tactics.

Available direct from the publisher, The Struggle for Zorn: The Red Blight is a rare solo/coop experience in the wargaming world, and absolutely worth a look if you’re hankering for some sword and sorcery with your (almost) hex and counter.

Dawn of the Zeds

Ah, Jail. The safest place to ride out a zombie assault, no passing Go required. 

Dawn of the Zeds sets you and your desperate pals up to defend the quaint town of Farmingdale against the approaching horde of walking corpses. Your unlikely heroes are more than just zombie food, though: each has special abilities, like the Mayor, who can throw out a motivational speech right when all seems lost. Will those words let you thwart the zombies careening through the nuclear plant? Unlikely, but it can’t hurt!

What makes Dawn of the Zeds crack is its refusal to dumb itself down. While soaked in theme, Zeds offers up real gristle for strategy, rewarding repeat plays with different hero compositions, events, and other modifiers. Deciding where to commit your resources is a taut affair, made more fun with the game’s winking sense of humor. You might be sweating when your lab-enhanced gorilla charges into hand-to-hand combat against a zombie pack, but you’ll probably be laughing too. Less so when the poor ape is infected and has to burn turns in a hospital bed, but even that presents a decision: commit more help to the hospital so your gorilla gets back on their feet, or are those supplies better spent in the field?

Learning how to make those decisions will take some effort—Dawn of the Zeds has several rulebooks and isn’t shy about complicating things. Committing to its grit and the systems to make Zeds run is rewarding, but if you’re just looking to blast some zombies, then the aforementioned Zombicide is probably a better bet (or, if you prefer the social schisms in these situations, Dead of Winter still has bite). Patience bears fruit here, though. Dawn of the Zeds is a gripping, bloody battle that you’ll likely lose more often than not, yet find yourself coming back time and time again.

The Last Bastion

Four heroes, before the storm.

The Last Bastion updates Ghost Stories with a sword and sorcery veneer, putting your squad of up to four heroes into a frenetic battle to keep the titular Bastion standing against onrushing, color-coded hordes. With unique abilities, a nine tile grid of special buildings, and truly diabolical dice, Last Bastion presents an efficiency puzzle flavored with randomness. Almost like Pandemic, if the diseases decided to attack the players too.

Every turn, you’ll draw a card off the enemy stack, bringing you one critter closer to the big boss. That monster, based on its color, drops into the matching side of your city and proceeds, via various abilities, to ruin your day. Then, with a move and an action, you’ll attempt to stem the sinister tide.

Eventually the big bad will show up, putting a clock on the game. Slay the beast before too much of your town is torched, or the monster deck runs out, and victory is yours. More likely, you’ll be the ones pushing up daisies and arguing about where it all went wrong. Then, in the hallmark of strong co-op designs everywhere, you’ll probably set it up and run it again.

Because The Last Bastion plays fast. Turns whipsaw around, with svelte rules making for an easy teach. The focus rests on your tactical choices, a few key die rolls, and whether your teamwork is up to snuff. A game, even with four, can blitz by in under an hour (particularly if you, er, succumb to the monstrous hordes), making this a great, tight thrill for just about any evening.

Project: ELITE

See that soldier with the two pistols on the left there? She’s about to get swarmed.

Project: ELITE asks you a few simple choices to start a game: pick an objective (blow things up, steal some eggs, etc.), choose your unique character (special abilities, like moving double, shoving aliens away, etc.), and grab a basic weapon (pistol, shotgun, also etc.). You’ll also decide which map of the double-sided board to play, either a funnel-like approach or the more chaotic crash site, wherein the aliens descend from all sides. I recommend the latter if you want to lose in a hilariously horrible fashion. As a clear riff on the Aliens movie, you’ll be spending up to 8 rounds frantically chucking dice, firing your absurd weapons, and trying to deal with the onslaught.

Because Project: ELITE isn’t easy, and that’s to its benefit. Every round gives you and your fellow marines two minutes of real-time frenzy to chuck dice, pop the rolled symbols into weapons or objectives, and scoot your soldiers around a rapidly-filling board. With up to six players flinging dice, and with some of those sides forcing players to move an alien closer to your base, those two minutes become curse-filled chaos in the best way. You’ll collaborate your shots to bring down a monstrous boss, scramble through an item search to snag a game-changing piece of equipment, and finish detonating a bomb only for the timer to go off and seal your fate in a corner surrounded by drooling baddies.

Project: Elite is relentless, often funny, and full of fantastic moments when a risky dive deep into enemy territory pays off. The real-time design eliminates downtime, making it a rare, non-party game for large groups.

Defender’s Paradise

If you want a setting that brings immediate tension and stakes, pick a siege. You’ll be playing for something more than victory points, and the thematic integration is awesome, even in simpler siege titles like the ubiquitous Castle Panic (perfect for youngsters). Every game tells a story, whether it’s the orcs bashing through your defenses or a last ditch critical roll to bring down a monstrous demon.

It’s that bit which keeps pulling me back to these games: the memories you’ll make coming together for a final stand are special ones, unique to this hobby. Don’t miss out.

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About the author

Adam Knight

A novelist who writes under the direction of my cats, I take breaks from fantasy and sci-fi worlds to play board games. Dungeon crawls, interactive euros, and anything that features chaos as a primary theme hits my table frequently. That said, I'll try anything at least once, and hold days-long wargaming sessions as treasured memories. Give me dice, or give me death.

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