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10 shows and movies for board game lovers

10 shows and movies for board game lovers


From board to screen, if you love tabletop games, there’s a show for you

By Dan Jolin, Writer

Tabletop gaming has never been bigger. In the past few years, the release of countless, cool new games have proven there’s far more to board games than family arguments over Monopoly.


Meanwhile, online platforms for board games have kept the hobby alive and rolling during the Covid dark times, allowing friends to meet up over new games and old via Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia and Board Game Arena.


Many of the slick new games to hit shelves and tables (virtual or otherwise) these past few years have been based on movies or TV shows, including Jaws, Battlestar Galactica, Die Hard and Top Gun. But inspiration goes both ways: as board gaming has become embedded in culture, it’s inspired many writers and directors, too. And we’re not just talking about that Battleship movie with Rihanna in it.


So whether they’re drawn directly from a game, or just riffing on the same theme, there’s plenty of visual entertainment out there that feels tailor-made for fans of the tabletop…


1. Stranger Things

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Watch it if you like: Dungeons & Dragons


Veteran players of the world-famous fantasy role-playing game will, without a doubt, see themselves in the loveably nerdy kids who not only play Dungeons & Dragons, but use their D&D knowledge to save the day. Also, given the Netflix show has arguably done more for the resurgence of the game than anything else in popular culture, it almost seems rude for D&D players not to watch it.


2. The Walking Dead

Find it in Apps & Games > Prime Video 

Watch it if you like: Dead of Winter


This 2014 co-operative board game isn’t just about killing the undead. It’s more about the physical and psychological stress of surviving a zombie apocalypse, all while wondering if you can really trust the people struggling alongside you. As such, it’s a perfect match for FOX’s still-walking epic series, in which the true villains ain’t the zombies – they’re us.


3. The Queen’s Gambit

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Watch it if you like: Chess


Scott Frank’s adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel led to a worldwide boom in chess-set sales, as the story of intense, pawn-pushing prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) reignited interest in one of the most venerable board games – even among the most casual players. Whether that describes you, or whether you’re an actual serious chess-head who knows opening moves and everything, the seven-part mini-series is guaranteed to make you wish you could plan out all your moves on the bedroom ceiling every night.


4. Lovecraft Country

Find it in Apps & Games > Prime Video 

Watch it if you like: Arkham Horror or Call Of Cthulhu


HP Lovecraft is these days better known through the games based on his writing than the books themselves, and both the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game and the more recent Arkham Horror board game are a great way to immerse yourself in his murky world of unspeakable terrors. Much like showrunner Misha Green’s savvy spin on Lovecraft’s culty horrors which, like its source novel by Matt Ruff, uses his creations as a prism through which to view racism in America. 


5. Parks And Recreation

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Watch it if you like: Settlers of Catan


The 1995 German game of colonisation (now simply known as Catan) counts among its millions of fans Parks And Rec character Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), so anyone who enjoys collecting wood, ore and sheep on a hex-tile island will love the fact that he chooses to play it on his stag night. They’ll also appreciate Ben’s own tabletop creation, the ludicrously complex The Cones of Dunshire which appeared in the episode of the same name, and was actually created by game company Mayfair – Catan’s publisher.


6. Winged Migration

Watch it if you like: Wingspan


This 2001 documentary feature took four years to make and was shot in all seven continents, primarily using aerial footage. It tracks the epic journeys taken by several species of bird, including Canada geese, storks and pelicans, and is breathtakingly beautiful. So it’s obviously essential viewing for anyone whose love and knowledge of birds was enhanced by playing the bird-collecting Wingspan, a massive tabletop hit in 2019.


7. Contagion

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Watch it if you like: Pandemic


With a theme that’s become all-too-relatable in the past year, Pandemic tasks its cooperating players with finding cures to diseases before the whole world falls sick. Meanwhile, Steven Soderbergh’s shocking ensemble-piece disaster film depicts a pandemic worst-case scenario (also now all-too-relatable). Which makes it worth watching for any Pandemic player, if only to motivate them to work harder for that world-saving win.


8. The Big Short

Watch it if you like: Monopoly


Anyone who’s played and lost this lifelong tabletop staple will be aware of the dangers of investing in the property market (even if none of that money is real). So they’ll surely appreciate The Big Short, Adam McKay’s darkly comical and sharply educational take on the causes of the 2007 housing market crash, which threw the world into recession. Of course, that was down to endemic corruption rather than a few bad rolls, but still: a cautionary tale.


9. Princess Mononoke

Find it in Apps & Games > Netflix

Watch it if you like: The Tree Spirits


A delightful card game about cultivating trees to appease cute, ghost-like forest spirits, Kodama’s stars are drawn straight from Japanese folklore. Its fans might be intrigued to learn that their appealing look owes more to another source, which was the first to depict kodama (translation: tree spirit) in this way. That source is animation genius Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 action adventure Princess Mononoke, which uses the adorable little spectre-critters to help convey its own environmental message.


10. Clue

Find it in Apps & Games > Prime Video 

Watch it if you like: Cluedo


This 1985 murder mystery comedy was the first-ever movie based on a board game, so if you enjoy figuring out who committed the murder, with what, in which room, you really should check it out. It actually has a great cast, including Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Tim Curry, Leslie Ann Warren and Madeline Kahn, and, in a neat tabletop-appropriate twist, had three alternative endings.


Want even more tabletop gaming?

Don’t miss out on our essential bluffers guides to the games you love, plus all the best TV shows and films to fuel your fandom

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