Board games: an essential pillar of the household. They both unite and divide us, building friendships and sometimes tearing them down. Many a family squabble has started due to the results of what started as a simple night of innocent gaming. Love them or hate them, board games have played a pretty big role in our lives. We associate them with a night around the kitchen table, but as of late, they've taken on a new form: feature films.
Hollywood rarely, if ever, develops new ideas these days. They're looking to material which already has brand recognition. This is done because the studios know that with popularly known material, audiences quite possibly have an already established emotional connection to the central story, concept or characters they’re marketing. Which is what brings us to board games, an area producers and executives have been interested more and more lately. Game adaptations like Battleship and Ouija weren’t the major successes they were hoped to be, but that hasn’t stopped the tide. To this effort, we put together a list of some of our favorite board games which we’d like to see on the big screen. Some have already been explored or considered by various industry professionals for adaptation, and some have yet to be pursued. Either way, with a little stretch of the imagination, these games could evolve into some fun theater experiences.
Here are 12 Board Game Movie Adaptations We’d Like To See.
World domination. The quest for ultimate power. This high stakes game of Risk is played on a map of the world, divided into six continents and 42 territories. The goal is simple: to occupy all territories. You do this through the placement and use of your armed forces. Interestingly enough, this game was actually created by a French film director by the name of Albert Lamorisse. Perhaps due to this this fact, there a number of visual elements from the game that would translate well into a film.
Pitting two to six powerful forces, with armies at their command, against each other with the goal of conquering the world sounds like a great jumping off point for a movie. Maybe it could even be set in the future. One of the challenges though would be finding a true villain or antagonist. Everyone in the game is defeating and occupying territories and that could be a slippery slope in terms of what message is being sent in a film. It could be that a sort of WWIII broke out, and while others are seeking to gain control of the world, one of the “players” is seeking to end the conflict. Either way, there’s definitely material worth exploring here.
Hey Sam Raimi, we've got a bit more source material for you.
Oh, The Neverending Story of board games, how we love thee. Massively popular locally and internationally, it has both delighted and frustrated fans for over 80 years. It’s a game of economics, centered around the gameplay of buying and trading properties, collecting rent, and chance consequences. The ultimate goal is being a monopolist, controlling the board (read: the market) in its entirety. No matter how far you fall behind, there is always the possibility with some quick and smart decisions, to come back on top. The board game itself doesn’t necessarily have a story, but once people start playing there a great many narratives that come out.
Monopoly is one property that Hollywood has long attempted to adapt. There have been two different productions that were in development involving Ridley Scott that ultimately failed. As of 2015, Lionsgate is developing an adaptation with Andrew Nichol, writer of The Truman Show, who's set to work the screenplay into a family friendly action adventure. There have been no updates since the announcement, however. It’s interesting to read the statement by Lionsgate/Hasbro, since it seems to avoid some of the more inherently present social commentary with the game. It could have been a more aggressive and challenging film on Wall Street, incorporating much of the gameplay. Instead, it seems that there seems to be a clear effort to avoid all controversy and instead create a feel good film that draws people back to the game.
As long as the movie doesn't feel as endless as the board game itself can be, we can get on board.
The Game of Life, or Life for short, brings to our table all the choices and consequences we have to make personally without any of the guilt or personal impact. The gameplay is simple: you spin the wheel and go around the board, landing on certain spaces which require you to make certain decisions, ultimately simulating real life. The end goal is to get to retirement before the other players with as many assets as possible. Now some would say, there isn’t much to adapt into a film there, since that is almost literally what we all do on a day to day basis. However, with a little stylistic flourish, there might be something there.
The first film that came to mind, when contemplating a Life adaptation, was Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It could be interesting to take a more quirky approach, bringing in the aesthetic and gameplay both in filmmaking style and central premise. It could be that the our protagonists have to advance through these stages at an advanced pace, like a real life game, and that each decision carries game-like consequences. Or maybe it could be that we see the natural progression of someone’s life, a la Boyhood, but through the visual style of a game, which could bring in some of the off the wall humor like Scott Pilgrim. With the right team of artists and a studio not afraid to make a “weird” film, audiences could be in for a lot of fun with this adaptation.
9 Candy Land
A light and fun children’s game, Candy Land, has gone on to be massively successful since its creation in 1949. The rules, as it was created for young ones, is simply to draw cards and then move to the space designated. There isn’t much to take from in the gameplay, but when looking at the central storyline, it gets interesting. This being that the players are motivated by their search to find King Kandy, the rightful king of Candy Land. To this effort, one has to go through places such as the Peppermint Forest, the Gumdrop Mountains and Peanut Acres. Somewhere in there is a movie, it might take some pretty drastic creative liberties in adapting, but it’s there.
Candy Land is certainly no stranger to the idea of film adaptation. There was even a straight-to-DVD animated feature, Candyland: The Great Lollipop Adventure, released in 2005. That being said, there’s still much room to explore. It might be worthwhile to take cues from The Lego Movie, in which the filmmakers were able to take the concept of their massively popular product to create a world, and then build a story within that framework. They were even able to incorporate the real life characters playing with the Legos, mixing animation and live action. This could then result like the Lego Movie, in a fun family friendly movie with a strong message.
On the other hand, there’s a more quirky adult direction this film could take. In fact, an adaptation similar to the upcoming Seth Rogen film Sausage Party would be a pretty fun idea. Many who grow up with the game, who are now adults, might be on board with a comedy that explores the lives of Candy Land in a more R-rated manner. It would definitely be a bold move for a Hollywood studio and the creators of the game, but it might just pay off big time. An adaptation along the lines of Alice in Wonderland is more likely, but probably not as fun.
Operation, a game with all the fun of operating on a human being, complete with a buzzer for every time you fail. Players pick up cards, which direct them to remove a particular item from Adam’s body, awarding a specific dollar amount for doing so. But if you hit the walls of the cavity where the item lies, Adam’s nose goes red, a buzzer goes off and you lose your turn. To be fair, this might seem to be a bit of a thin concept for a film adaptation, but if you take the gameplay of having to surgically removing body parts under the pressure of loss of play, there might be a few ideas worth pursuing.
Naturally, with this kind of game, there are the two different different directions it can go in as a film: drama or comedy. Dramatically, it could be interpreted as a sort of futuristic film where underground surgeons operate under high pressure to remove artificial body parts which if touch the sides, will cause the body to shut down. This of course would take a lot of groundwork to build this new world. The perhaps more direct adaptation would be to go more for a sort of satire or comedy. It could even sort of parody some of the more serious medical procedurals on tv and their, at times, self-seriousness. Imagine a sequence with the heightened drama of Fox's House, only to get into the room and have a completely comedic and anatomically incorrect surgery. Maybe it could even incorporate some of the gameplay, like if you mess up, you have to switch turns with another surgeon in the room. The idea is reminiscent of some of the dream sequences from NBC's Scrubs. We'd pay to see Zach Braff and Bill Lawrence take this one on themselves, in fact.
A game much newer than most others on this list (published in 2007), Pandemic is different in the sense that is cooperative and not competitive. Players have to work together to find the cures and stem the outbreak of four different diseases across the world. There are five different specialists: the dispatcher, medic, scientist, researcher, and operations specialist. The gameplay is somewhat complicated, but it involves drawing cards, moving across the board based on how that will affect the outbreak scenario, and sharing information with your fellow players to collectively find solutions. The game ends with the success of curing the diseases, or failure if more outbreaks occur or there is nothing within the constraints of the game that can be done.
This foundationally, is a great premise for a film. A disease outbreak isn’t new cinematically (see any number of apocalyptic zombie movies and 2011's Contagion for proof), but what if there were four different outbreaks that simultaneously occurred throughout the world? That’s definitely an interesting concept worth developing. Instead of it being a single team from America, it could even involve teams from the four different outbreak areas having to work together. The stakes then would be that cures need to be found together and on a deadline, before there are crossover regions where two disease outbreaks collide. There could be layer of social commentary to the story, and even a healthy dose of political corruption. Or maybe there are powers to be who created or helped release these diseases in the first place. The main point here being though, that this is game is an excellent candidate for a raucously entertaining blockbuster film, along the lines of a zombie-less World War Z/I Am Legend.
6 Forbidden Island
Released only five years ago, Forbidden Island is a cooperative adventure board game. Players have to work together finding hidden treasures as the island sinks around them. They succeed and fail together, based on whether or not the group recovers all the items in time. The game is based on drawing cards and the resulting scenarios that result. Each player has to be assigned a role: explorer, diver, engineer, messenger, navigator, or pilot. The intrigue here for an adaptation revolves around the concept of a sort of treasure hunt on a mysterious island which is collapsing around the team.
When thinking about a film about a mysterious island whose secrets people have to navigate, the first idea that comes to mind is Lost (the TV Show). A Forbidden Island adaptation could share some similarities in style and its use of environment as a character. The crucial element that would need to be developed would be the question of why they are searching for treasure on that island. Are they simply Indiana Jones-like adventurers? Also, a point of importance could be the reason why the island is sinking. Could that be what’s driving them to find the hidden treasure? Because if they don’t, it’ll be lost forever?
5 Ticket To Ride
This is one for all of the lovers of trains out there. Developed as a German-styled game by Alan R. Moon, it was released in 2004 to worldwide success. The gameplay is fairly straight forward, as players must draw cards and use their train pieces to set their destination. The story and stakes are that you want to be the first one to see the most destinations in North America for the prize of one million dollars. There of course would need to be some restructuring and retooling, but this could possibly become a wildly entertaining road trip film.
It seems that a movie adaptation of Ticket to Ride, would probably be somewhat similar in its central conceit to the Amazing Race TV show. If it would ever be made though, it’d be best served really embracing the culture of riding trains across the country. That seems like such a foreign concept in today’s day and age, though it'd be fun to explore.
4 Hungry Hungry Hippos
Yes, Hungry Hungry Hippos. Don’t laugh. The incredibly popular game associated with many people’s childhood revolves around the simple concept of trying to eat up as many balls as possible before your opponents. A silly fun game for sure, the sort of film idea that prompted many of you to just roll your eyes. The same people, however, might have found the concept of man eating sharks attacking Los Angeles in Sharknado to be an inconceivable piece of cinema. That’s right, we’re advocating for a B movie adaptation of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Imagine a popular beach location, filled with eager Spring Break goers, when all of a sudden the snout of a hippo emerges from the water. It’s initially laughed off by a somewhat drunk frat guy, before he's suddenly dragged under water. But no, that’s not all. All of a sudden the entire area by the beach is filled with hippos. Oh, the horror! They can not only swim, but also walk on land, and they are hungry. Frankly, we're surprised this movie hasn't happened yet. You're up, Syfy channel.
3 The Resistance
A popular party game jam packed with spying, rebellion, and espionage, The Resistance is perfectly suited for film adaptation. Players are divided up into those who are Resistance Operatives and those who are Imperial Spies; the Resistance Operatives don’t know who the Imperial Spies are, but the Spies know each other. There are three to five rounds, which start with discussion lead by the rotating leader, and during which missions are carried out against the Empire. The mission then takes place, and if it succeeds, the Operatives win, and if it fails, the Spies do. All the while, the Operatives try to figure out who’s really on their side. The first team to three successful missions wins the game.
The first point of development this concept needs to be a successful film is a political and cultural context. The standard cliche choice would be of course to set it in Russia, but that almost seems too easy. It could take place in America or it could be an organization that operates internationally. The next foundational need then would be the question of when does it take place. It could make for a very powerful film if set in a futuristic America, with a group of Rebels and Spies for the government. It could share similarities with the well executed film of political corruption gone to the extreme, V for Vendetta. Whatever direction it takes, there’s always space for a well-executed spy film.
2 The Settlers of Catan
Released in Germany by Klaus Teuber in 1995, The Settlers of Catan has gone on to become a worldwide phenomenon. There are tournaments and conventions, countless forms of merchandise, and almost anything else one can think of. One of the only things left to explore is a film adaptation. The game revolves around gathering resources and creating settlements, with each player rewarded for each successful settlement and its growth. The first one to a set number of points wins. There isn’t too much for a narrative already present, but there are some strong foundational elements.
The international film and TV rights to Catan were actually recently acquired by producer Gail Katz, whose filmography includes The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, and Pawn Sacrifice. In her comments up to this point, she speaks of the board game Catan as a starting point to what will be an original narrative. Central to a film adaptation are a number of elements, such as the idea of this sort of mythical location surrounded by water, and the gathering and developing of certain resources and resulting settlements. There’s also the sense of competitiveness, like most board games, which opens the door to a lot of possibilities. Perhaps there will be opposing colonies, looking to corner the market on resources and territory in this newly discovered island of sorts. The story could be borne from the resulting conflict. We’ll just have to wait and see.
1 Betrayal on the House On The Hill
Betrayal on the House On The Hill is a haunted house board game, with many different tricks and treats up its sleeves. The game starts out as an exploration of the space, which is different every time you play. Then through gameplay, things start to get spookier. Drawing cards and rolling dice, players encounter various creatures and scenarios involving personal betrayal, as one person inevitably turns against the group. Film and television is no stranger to a good murder mystery, and this adaptation would be a welcome addition to the genre.
The interesting aspect of a possible Betrayal on the House On The Hill film is the combination of the unreal or mythical in the form of creatures such as zombies and vampires, with the traditional who dunnit mystery similar to Clue. It would be fun then for it to start out as a more standard mystery, or exploration as it is in the game, and then evolve into it being a more crazy high stakes scenario of people both locked in a house with a murderer and a constant barrage of mythical and undead creatures. Which is most worrisome?
What do you think? What board game would you like to see adapted into a movie? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section. With any luck, we might just see some of our favorite games up on the big screen someday soon.