Follow TV Tropes


Fictional Board Game

Go To
Sounds "dodjy"...

It's game night, and the characters want to have some fun. Why not do it with a classic board game?

But they usually run into one of several problems:

  1. Lawyers are hungry and major brands have to pay too much money for the pleasure of advertising one of their games.
  2. The writers thought of the idea too late in the game to make the necessary arrangements, in TV especially.
  3. The production company saw the opportunity to eventually create and market the game themselves.
  4. The setting makes any modern board game unlikely or impossible (which is the case for most of the examples).
  5. Most importantly, the fictional game says something about the characters, makes a plot plot, or even sets up a joke in a way no existing game could.

For any of the reasons listed above, the work ends up making do with a fake one.


More often than not, and similarly to a Fictional Video Game (its Sister Trope), these games will draw heavy inspiration from popular real life board games, if not be just reskinned and/or recolored copies of them. Another version is making the game so needlessly complex with countless rules that it just isn't fun to play (although one character, usually the one who brought or suggested the game in the first place, will insist that it is fun or not as complex as it seems).

If one becomes popular enough with its out-of-universe audience, it may undergo Defictionalization, either by fans or officially released licensed versions.

Can also be a Bland-Name Product (fictional brand name similar to that of a real life product/company). Can overlap with Calvinball if the rules of the board game are too bizarre to understand.


Compare Fictional Sport. Super-Trope for Cloneopoly, which are fictional versions of Monopoly.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Hunter × Hunter has Gungi, a two-player strategy board game native to the country of East Gorteau. While the game doesn't go into too much detail about its mechanics, the game is played in a 9x9 board and the goal is to get the opponent's King into checkmate. This game becomes an important plot point as the Chimera Ant King begins to get attached to East Gorteau's Gungi champion, whom he cannot seem to beat.
  • Several chapters of Kaguya-sama: Love is War featured "Happy Life", a card based game created by the Tabletop Games club that appears to have been inspired by Game of Life.

  • In the Fusion Fic The Sponge House, which is plots from SpongeBob SquarePants but characters from The Loud House, "Dirty Mouth" (a parody of the Spongebob episode "Sailor Mouth") has the twins play Laundry Chutes and Ladders, which is just like Escalators and Eels from the Spongebob episode but with different objects.

    Films: Animation 
  • In Arthur Christmas, Arthur tries to soothe some strained family relations by sitting them all down to a friendly game of "Christmas: The Board Game" after their Christmas dinner. And as is tradition with any family playing board games at Christmas, it's beset by bickering over who gets which player token, accusations of cheating, and ends with the board overturned and everyone angry at everyone else.

    Films: Live-Action 
  • Jumanji is about a cursed board game that creates a dangerous jungle as it's played. It doesn't go away until somebody wins the game.
    • Film/Zathura is very similar except the titular board game sends the players to space instead.
  • Play Misty for Me has Dave Garver and his friendly bartender set up an impromptu game on a bar napkin with four pieces each. It's played similarly to chess, with analysis and strategy. Dave wins the game, and attracts the attention of a pretty patron, Evelyn. He later admits the game was a ruse to break the ice.
  • In Robocop, a TV advertisement for a game called "Nukem" is shown.
    "You crossed my line of death!"
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe had Sabacc, a card game frequently played by characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian resembling a fusion of poker and blackjack played with a tarot deck.
    • Solo features a version of Sabaac (dubbed "Corellian Spike") played with hexagonal cards that have red, green, or blue abstract patterns. In Disney's defictionalized version the green cards are worth positive points while red are negative and you try to get as close to +/- 23 without going over.
    • Pazaak is another card game even closer to blackjack.
    • And there's also dejarik, a holographic board game vaguely similar to chess.

  • In the Arcia Chronicles, characters often play Ehrmet, a chess-like game where players blindly draw their pieces from a bag before the game starts. There are mentions of certain particularly lucky players drawing impossible combinations of pieces, implying that the game has some magical properties (or that they just cheat).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has cyvasse, which is conceptually similar to chess. It is played by two players and features ten different types of pieces, each with different powers and attributes. The game originated in Volantis and is played throughout Essos. After sailors from Volantis introduced cyvasse to the Dornish, it became a craze among the court at Sunspear and is steady becoming popular in Westeros.
  • In Battlefield Earth, several high-ranking aliens are shown at one point playing a game called "Klepp"; by the description, it sounds like a hex-based strategy game. The aliens playing this game use it as a way to resolve how to divvy up loot from Earth between each other.
  • Discworld:
    • Thud! features a fictional board gamenote  also called "Thud", which is similar to the ancient Norse games of Hnefatafl and Tablut, and in-universe is a board game representation of the "Battle of Koom Valley", a historical battle between trolls and dwarfs that is also at the centre of the novel's plot.
    • The Discworld Companion details a chess variant called "Stealth Chess", which adds an extra file to both sides of the board, and extra pieces ("Assassins") which are moved along these files and can then pop out somewhere else on the board to make a capture. The book points out that Havelock Vetinari, provost of the Guild of Assassins and patrician of Ankh-Morpork, is a grandmaster at Stealth Chess - very fitting, given his mastery of stealthy and surprising tactical moves in both his political and... professional careers.
  • In the Gor series of novels, the inhabitants of the planet Gor play a chess-like game called Kaissa. The Ubar and Ubara move like queens, the Tarnsman moves like a knight, the Initiate moves like a bishop and Spearmen act like pawns.
  • The titular board game in Interstellar Pig is an Absurdly High-Stakes Game in which the players take the roles of various alien species and battle for control of a MacGuffin called the "Piggy". Whoever holds the Piggy at the end of the game is the winner; the homeworlds of all the other players are destroyed. The Piggy is real and there are real aliens on Earth in search of it, but it's heavily implied that the Piggy is only a harmless recording device that invented the game itself so that it would be passed from world to world and learn all sorts of information in the process.
  • Kane: In Dark Crusade, Kane plays a complicated board game with his second-in-command. It involves a hexagonal board, dice and pieces that are numbered 1-6. The roll of the die decides from which side of the hexagon a piece can be moved. There are as many pieces of each rank as their value and their numbers are hidden. When a player moves a piece next to the other player's piece, they can challenge the other player, who can accept the challenge or decline it and move back. If the challenge is accepted, the higher piece wins. As the numbers are hidden, the players have to have a very good memory to remember the value of their pieces, as well as that of their opponents.
  • The King Killer Chronicle: Kvothe plays Tak, a board game that's "simple in its rules, but complex in its strategy", with his enigmatic mentor Bredon in the Vintish court. The rules aren't described in the book, but the game later got an official Defictionalization.
    Bredon: A well-played game of Tak reveals the moving of a mind.
  • Malediction Trilogy: Trolls play the game of Guerre, which looks quite like chess but it's played on four boards and the pieces are different; there are kings and queens but also princes and princesses, warriors, tricksters and assassins. In Hidden Huntress, the game is used by two characters to exchange important information even though they are being spied upon.
  • Beastmaker in The Seventh Tower. Players are dealt cards depicting various fantastical beasts, and assign them to various stats to create their own beast. Each card also has two other cards it can be changed to by applying the appropriate color of light. When both players have assigned their final cards, the game board creates two beasts out of light, and they fight.
  • Walking On Glass by Iain Banks mentions one-dimensional chess (the only rule that is defined is that bishops move on their own colour, ignoring pieces on the other colour), open-plan go (played on an infinite board) and spotless dominoes (played without any markings on the domino pieces). No other details are given.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Snakes and Foxes is a board- and dice-based game that most children love until they realize it's Unwinnable by Design. The present age has all but forgotten that the game's true purpose is to warn people about the Aelfinn and Eelfinn and to hint at how to beat them by trickery.
    • Stones is played similarly to real-life Go, is popular across the continent, and is considered a gentleman's game. Experts in the game are often also skilled military commanders, like Mat; or politickers, like Thom.
    • Moridin is a master of Sha'rah, a long-lost, highly complex tafl-style game that's based on control of a neutral Fisher King piece. The game, and that piece in particular, have a lot of symbolic associations with Rand, Moridin's nemesis.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • The boys often play a card game named "Mystic Warlords of Ka'a". One episode featured a Wild West expansion pack.
    • Sheldon once tried to develop a three-player version of chess.
    • Sheldon also created a science themed board game, "Research Lab".
      Sheldon: The physics is theoretical, but the fun is real.
      Leonard: We must not be playing it right.
  • The Brittas Empire: "The Chop" opens with the staff playing a customized version of Game of Life created by Brittas. From what we see of it, it involves designating characters as a "Wise Virgin" or "Foolish Virgin" as well as each character having to suffer a catastrophe each year. The players are also given three starting cards that show the player's aptitudes, genetic heritage, and socio-economical background.
  • The final episode of Community ends with a commercial for a board game based on the show which remarks on the show's Better Than a Bare Bulb tendencies. The commercial shows a family of three playing the game and the son producing a special item, the script for the very commercial they're shooting. The father then reprimands the "stupid child" (his words) for proving they don't exist.
  • Good Luck Charlie: In "Teddy and the Bambino", PJ, Gabe and Charlie play a board game called Puppy Town. As they play the game, PJ and Gabe keep getting arrested by Sheriff Kitty, and question the logic of why a dog would take orders from a cat.
  • In Home Improvement, Al once made a prototype for a "Tool Time" board game, complete with a tiny ambulance that takes the player to the hospital. Typical of Al's handiwork, it shorts out and catches fire.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Lily's dad hopes to make his fortune developing the next iconic board game. His attempts include one called "Diseases" and another about stepping on things in the dark. He finally finds success with "Light's Out".
    • However, it was the "Lights Out" game that Future Ted said was successful, the Slap Bet game just exists in universe.
  • The "Complecatrix" sketch in Incredible Crew exaggerates an example with numerous rules in song form.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when Malcolm is away, the family plays a Risk-style board game that Malcolm usually wins. The game degenerates into a Cold-War-style standoff between Lois and Reese, with Dewey knocked out of the game and Hal reduced to a single tank. Eventually, the family decides to burn the game.
  • In "Jorétapo",note  Les Inconnus presented a fictional board game simulating the very corrupt 1980s French politics.
  • Newhart:
    • George Utley invents a board game called "Handyman" that becomes a local smash hit. You gain 3 points every time you land on a scoring space, and there is no other way to gain or lose points. You win when you score exactly one million points. Three does not divide evenly into one million.
    • The board game "Big Bursting Brains" was apparently an Up to Eleven version of Trivial Pursuit. No one in the cast was able to successfully answer a single question ? except Stephanie, who used her background in fashion to make a correct educated guess about the color of scarf some historical figure wore to a funeral.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ben creates his own original board game, The Cones of Dunshire.
  • Red Dwarf: Samsara starts with Rimmer and Lister playing a game called Mine-opoly (A JMC branded version of monopoly). Instead of passing 'go', you pass 'Blast off!', there are squares with 'oil' and 'fuel'. Cards include 'Fuel taxs, miss three goes', 'Free fuel'. Instead of houses, players build space stations.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Move Along Home", some aliens play a complicated board game where the levels are called "shaps" and you shout, "Allamaraine!" at a certain point. Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Bashir end up sucked into the game.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation featured Strategema, where two players compete to claim territory on rotating holographic boards (somewhat similar to Go). Data attempts to play and learns that his ability to execute countless calculations per second don't match up against the skills of Sirna Kolrami, a noted master. Data realizes he can't win by traditional methods, so he plays to counter Kolrami move for move until Kolrami quits in frustration and Data wins by default.
    • Star Trek: Voyager had Kal-Toh, a Vulcan game where players have to painstakingly rearrange rods from a jumbled pile into an intricate sphere. Tuvok is a master at it and Harry Kim becomes a fan despite always losing.
  • That's So Raven: In "Four's a Crowd", Tanya and Victor, who wanted a night alone, end up getting stuck with Eddie and Chelsea, who play a knockoff of Twister called Contwingo. It apparently runs on points, and on Victor's first move, Eddie pranks him by crushing a water bottle and mimicking the sound of cracking bones, causing Victor to move his hand and hand over points to Eddie and Chelsea.
  • In That Mitchell and Webb Look, there's a commercial for "Numberwang: The Board Game", which included an encyclopedia-sized manual listing what was and was not Numberwang.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Sesame Street episode, "Birdie and the Beast", Big Bird plays a board game called "Spin the Piggy" with the Beast. In this game, each player plays as a pig and takes turns spinning a spinner. When the spinner lands on a number, the player has to move the allotted number of spaces on the board. The first player to make it to the pigsty wins. The Beast wins this game because he doesn't give Big Bird a turn to move his pig.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Gods of Exalted, and more specifically the Celestial Incarnae, and the Primordials before them, play the Games of Divinity all the time, to the point of neglecting their duties.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The background material and novels often reference a chess-like game known as Regicide that is popular with nobles and Astra Militarum officers. There are many different versions of the game, including one that uses a special board that conceals some pieces from the opponent and one that is played on a circular board.

    Video Games 
  • The entire premise of 100% Orange Juice! is that Tomomo pulled all of the Orange_Juice characters and put them all in a board game world that she made up, just to mess with them. The board game in question is about people trying to achieve their objectives, called "norma", by either earning stars or winning battles.
  • From the Star Wars Expanded Universe example in Live Action Films, Knights of the Old Republic and [[Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords its sequel] featured Pazaak, a card game you could play for small amounts of credits. It's a combination of blackjack and poker: you assemble your own deck of +X, -X, and +/-X cards, draw a random hand from it, and use your hand and randomly drawn community cards to get to 20, or as high as you can without going over. The player that does the best wins a round, and a single game is usually best of three, discounting draws.
  • League of Legends: Tellstones is a board game of strategy and bluff played throughout Runeterra. Although every culture in Runeterra has its own rules for the game, Demacia's version of the game — also known as "King's Gambit — is the most well-known one. The game can be played in real life.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, the team plays a game that is very much like Risk but uses countries, units, and cards based off of Remnant (the show's world).
  • One sketch in RWBY Chibi has Jaune trying to introduce his team to a game called "Compost King", though they decide it's more fun to just use the game pieces as toys instead.

  • The Pastel royal family from Cursed Princess Club enjoy playing a board game titled "Thirsty Thirsty Princess", which seems to be a Monopoly clone, with roll-to-move and Random Event cards on them. Instead of paper money, the players exchange pieces of colorful jewelry, like diadems and necklaces, because the Pastel Kingdom seems to use gemstones as its currency (and seeing how the players are all royals, their game money may be made out of actual gemstones). In another strip, they are seen playing a themed Catan clone, titled "The Settlers of Narnia".

    Web Video 
  • The Rhett & Link sketch Most Complicated Board Game Ever has "Risky Settlers, Knights and Allies of the Lords of Dominion of Earth: Pandemic Edition", a Calvinball-esque mix of bizarre rules and rituals that include DNA swabbing another player and waiting 5 to 10 business days for the results, one player having to retrieve a blooming elderberry from the north-facing slope of a mountain... in real life, a Harlem Shake, and a player having a finger cut off after losing a game of musical chairs. And we only get to see the process of deciding who goes first.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Gumball and Darwin invented a board game called "Dodj or Daar" (spelt "Dodge or Dare" until "The Game"). At first, it seemed like a simple board game whose objective is to be the first one that crosses the finish line, but in "The Game", it's shown to have magical, destructive powers. The players have to complete the dares, otherwize they get one of the dodge cards, which have random effects on the player or environment that are real (such as lava on the floor) that don't wear off until the game is finished.
  • In Arthur, one of D.W.'s favorite games is Tower of Cows, in which players must stack toy cows as high as they can. Arthur the Loser is about a trivia game called No Guessing! that Arthur hates because he's bad at it. In the opening of The Substitute Arthur, Buster dreams that he and Arthur are playing a Monopoly-type game called Megalopolis, which also appears in Francine's Cleats of Strength and The Frensky Family Fiasco. In "Arthur Gets His Goose Cooked", another of DW's favorite games is Confuse the Goose, which Arthur and his friends find babyish, being much more interested in the hot new video game Virtual Goose, which is exactly the same.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Uncle Iroh is an avid player of Pai Sho, a game that seems to be a combination of Go and Xiangqi. It's also used by members of the Order of the White Lotus to identify one another.
  • Bob's Burgers: Gayle has created a board game called "Gale Force Winds" and has made her family play it before, though everybody hates it. The game's plot involves princess Gayle trying to save multiple kingdoms from a witch, but the rules make no sense and for apparently no reason, the game can just restart from 0.
  • Family Guy: In "Petarded", the Griffins and their friends have a game night, and Cleveland brings over a Civil Rights Movement board game called Two Decades of Dignity. Peter gets sent directly to jail for whistling at a white woman.
    Peter: Does anybody ever win at this game?
    Cleveland: You don't win. You just do a little better each time.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, Bloo Tube, to pass the time on a rainy day, Mac and the Imaginary Friends invent a board game mishmash called For Rat Trap-O-Life, which they make from games such as Forgive Me!, Rat Trap, Duopoly, and Family Life. Bloo, who is upset that the trip to the Monsoon Lagoon Water Park has been cancelled due to the rainstorm, refuses to partake in the game, even when Mac wins the game for him.
  • Gravity Falls: The beginning of "The Last Mablecorn" has Dipper and Mabel finding a closet full of old board games that are these. The list of games include "Battle Chutes & Ladder Ships", "Necronomiconopoly", "Don't Wake Stalin", and "Connect Forty-Four". The twins decide to play the game "What Could Go Wrong?: The Last Players Who Opened This Box Never Made It Out ALIVE!"
  • Hilda has the game Dragon Panic. The game involves a board with 19 hexagon shaped squares in various colors, a blue and a red dice decorated with symbols (a heart, a # and a shield), and various pieces like pawns and rocks. The exact rules are unknown though.
  • The Loud House has several: "Pretty, Pretty Pageant Queen" about a beauty pageant, "Plumbing Pro" about unclogging a toilet, and "The Settlers of Cat-land" about making a cat civilization.
  • Muppet Babies (2018):
    • In "The Card Shark", Miss Nanny suggests that the babies pass the time on a rainy day by playing a board game called Coral Land. In this game, each player draws a colored card from the stack, and move to the space corresponding with the color on the card. Pink-colored cards are the best cards, because they let the player take shortcuts across the board. When Piggy wins the game by cheating, the babies pit her against Rizzo, and she is determined to beat him without cheating.
    • In "Animal Loses It", Scooter and Skeeter invent their own board game, Banana Whamma Jungle Jamma, and invite the rest of the babies to play it with them. The goal of the game is for one team to make it to Banana Whamma Falls. Each team has two players, and each team takes turns drawing cards and moving around the board. Some cards allow the team to move forward a select number of spaces, while others cause them to lose a turn or get sent back to Start. When Animal plays the game, he enjoys it at first because he and Piggy get very far into it, but things turn south for him when he loses a turn and gets sent back to start. Having lost games all day, he quits the game out of frustration, but comes back when Miss Nanny teaches him that sometimes playing games with your friends is more important than winning.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Spike and Big Mac play a role-playing game called Oubliettes & Ogres, which appears to be based on the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. This edition focuses on tactical positioning and relies heavily on the use of a board and miniature figures.
  • The main plot of the Phineas and Ferb episode "Skiddley Whiffers" features the the title characters building a life-size version of the titular board game. The gameplay seen consists of players rolling digital-faced dice and moving based on the number rolled, with random effects triggered by non-numerical rolls.
  • In the The Ren & Stimpy Show episode, Sven Hoek, Sven and Stimpy play a board game called Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence. The game has a real electrified fence on the board which is powered by household line voltage. Before finding it, they look at other games with names like Parcheesy, Monotony and Misery Date.
  • In the Rugrats episode "The Baby Vanishes," the adults are distracted by a board game called Neurosis; it's apparently so difficult and confusing they spend the entire game trying to get through the rule book.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In "Aargh!", SpongeBob and Patrick play The Flying Dutchman's Treasure, supposedly based on a real treasure map. The goal is to get to the center of the board and dig for treasure. Mr. Krabs becomes obsessed with the game and leads the two on a supposedly real treasure hunt. Krabs' map turns out to be the game board, but as luck would have it, it really was based on a real treasure map, and they find actual buried treasure; too bad the Dutchman came to claim it, and although he rewards SpongeBob and Patrick with gold doubloons, all Krabs gets is a plastic treasure chest game piece.
    • SpongeBob and Patrick play Escalators and Eels in Sailor Mouth. It's similar to Snakes and Ladders, but with escalators in place of the ladders, eels in place of the snakes, and dice determining which you'll get.
    • In "Patrick: The Game!", Patrick invents the titular board game and invites SpongeBob, Squidward, and Sandy to his house to play it. The game plays like a cross between Monopoly and Operation, with Patrick making up the rules as the game progresses. While SpongeBob and Sandy have a lot of fun playing the game, Squidward has the worst luck, continuously landing in Jail (and being sent to a real jail when he destroys the game out of anger).
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: In the episode "Puddle Defender", Star asks Buff Frog to distract Moon so she can sneak out, so Buff Frog suggests that he and Moon play the game "Puddle Defender". He is also shown to have other board games that are parodies of real ones: Hungry Hungry Mewmans (Hungry Hungry Hippos), Monstropoly (Monopoly), and Mewman Trap (Mouse Trap).
  • Steven Universe had Steven and the Crystal Gems play a board game called "Citchen Calamity" (with that spelling). Pearl lampshades how confusing and bizarre the rules are while playing.

Video Example(s):


Salem Witch Hunt

Paige has the family play a board game called "Salem Witch Hunt", in which the players try to figure out which player is the witch.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / FictionalBoardGame

Media sources:

Main / FictionalBoardGame