Best board games and RPGs to play before you watch the Uncharted film
Fortune favours the board.
The hotly anticipated film adaptation of the Uncharted video game series, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, arrives in UK theatres this week. A video game series beloved for its obvious cinematic influences – Indiana Jones and The Mummy (1999) both jump to mind – Uncharted is all about roguish swashbuckling, trap-dodging and artefact-searching, all of which will hopefully make it a good fit for the big screen. (Or, at least, better than many other movie adaptations of video games we’ve had to endure.)
Adventure and treasure hunting has always been a popular theme when it comes to tabletop gaming, with images of cross-continental voyages and lush jungles adorning many a box and book. The excitement of exploring long-forgotten locales filled with danger and secrets makes for a compelling concept, whether it’s for a heavier strategy board game or for a globetrotting tabletop roleplaying title. From international intrigue to expeditions into unknown ruins to venomous snakes, all of the entries on this list of Uncharted-esque board games and RPGs feature something that will make players think of Nathan Drake and his adventures.
Strap in, put on a sunhat and lose yourself in these five board games and roleplaying games to play ahead of the release of the Uncharted film.
Snakes, falling rocks and more perils await adventurers in this push-your-luck game
Previously released as Incan Gold, Diamant is a board game about taking risks in the hopes of acquiring rewards. A team of rival explorers find themselves venturing into a jungle in search of ancient treasures, with various diverging paths – from mineshafts to temple ruins – potentially leading the adventurers to wealth or to danger. The game’s paths are revealed via a deck of cards which are turned over one at a time, thus informing the players what they’ve stumbled into next. Whilst the jungle is filled with precious gems and other valuable artifacts, it’s also populated by all manner of deadly threats – including Indiana Jones’ greatest nightmare, snakes.
Before each card is turned over, players weigh up whether they want to continue walking down the path or if they’d rather turn back to the safety of the camp. Players brave (or stupid) enough to continue their journey will collect any gems they discover along the way, with each amount being split between the explorers still on the path. However, should the same hazard be revealed twice at any point, then the players currently exploring will lose everything they’ve found so far and must return empty-handed. Those players smart or cautious enough to leave at the right time can also gain artefacts that are potentially worth more than any gem.
Risk versus reward has always been a central conflict in the Uncharted video game series, with Nathan Drake regularly putting himself – and sometimes others – in danger in the hopes of getting one step closer to the artefact or wealth he seeks. Diamant may well put players in Nathan’s shoes for 15 minutes to half an hour, just to see whether they’d make the same choices.
Buy Diamant on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
2. Broken Compass
Punch Nazis and find your Fortune in this adventurous RPG inspired by Uncharted, Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider
A recent enough release that it was actually inspired in part by the Uncharted video games – along with the classic exploits of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider Lara Croft – Broken Compass aims to capture the daring action of pulp adventures in a tabletop RPG.
At the heart of the game is the Fortune system, which sees players chucking handfuls of six-sided dice to resolve risky moves such as swinging across a chasm, riding a mine cart or, to pull a random example, fist-fighting a Nazi in front of a plane propeller. Unlike classic RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, the aim isn’t to roll high, but to try and roll matching results – pairs, along with three- and four-of-a-kinds – in order to succeed.
Broken Compass’ official settings include 1930s tales inspired by the Indiana Jones movies, along with a more recent adventure set at the turn of the millennium. Further supplements see the RPG travel to the pirate-filled waters of the Caribbean, as well as embarking on Jules Verne-style voyages. Of course, you can always cook up your own Uncharted-inspired setting in the world of Nathan Drake and friends if you want to, too.
With a light set of rules and a very thematic approach to pulp roleplaying that turns players into their own Nathan Drake-a-like action hero, Broken Compass is the ideal tabletop RPG if you’re looking to set out on your own adventures after watching the Uncharted movie.
Buy the Adventure Journal for Broken Compass on DrivethruRPG.
3. Lost Ruins of Arnak
Discover incredible creatures and archaeological wonders on the mysterious island of Arnak
Following on the great traditions laid out by the Indiana Jones series, Uncharted doesn’t just include elements inspired by real-life ancient civilisations but also aspects of the supernatural. From (spoiler alert) ancient curses that mutate thieves to a tree sap that grants its drinkers eternal life, the Uncharted series is filled with fantastical plotlines where things are revealed to be more than what they initially appear to be. The 2020 deckbuilding board game Lost Ruins of Arnak shares this fantastical approach to the adventure genre, taking place on a mysterious island populated by all manner of unbelievable creatures and secrets for players to encounter.
As competing archeologists visiting the island on the heels of a lost explorer, the players’ goal is to discover as much as possible – travelling across its different environments to find artefacts and information. However, the players’ journey will not be without resistance, as each expedition site they travel to is guarded by fearsome creatures called Guardians, with whom they must barter in order to obtain the treasures and secrets they seek. Not overcoming these Guardians will lead to the players’ employees becoming afraid of the island’s dangers, causing them to obtain fear cards that minus points off their final total at the end of the game.
Lost Ruins of Arnak leans more into the archaeological and research side of things, with the players’ expeditions being framed as more of a desire for knowledge than Nathan Drake’s search for wealth. This approach is further backed up by the game’s complex and deep gameplay that rewards efficiency and foresight over guts and courage. Nevertheless, Arnak’s presentation and concept still very much embodies the sense of wonder found in the Uncharted series, making a great game to play in the run up to the Uncharted film.
Buy Lost Ruins of Arnak from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
4. Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar
Cue up the Raiders March as you outrun rolling boulders in this reborn ‘80s classic
If you’re of a certain age, you may have fond memories of Fireball Island. Released in 1986 – neatly providing a stopgap between Indiana Jones movies Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, from which it clearly drew inspiration – the classic kids’ board game saw players exploring a 3D island in search of a valuable jewel while avoiding marble fireballs that tumbled down its paths.
After disappearing into obscurity for a few decades, the board game was revived in 2018 by Restoration Games – including the help of Pandemic Legacy co-creator Rob Daviau - as Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar. The reboot was a modern update of the original that introduced new routes to victory – including collectible photographs and treasures in addition to the jewel – as well as replacing its dated roll-and-move turns with a more strategic use of cards.
One thing that remained unchanged was the fun of seeing fireballs spew out of Vul-Kar's head in the centre of the board, sending players’ pieces flying as they careened down the 3D landscape. Players could spin palm trees to try and redirect the boulders and lava towards their rival adventurers, while the effects of new souvenirs made getting flattened a little less frustrating than the past.
Even with its modern revisions making it more of a game than a gimmick, Fireball Island remains a delightfully simple experience. If you’re after Uncharted-style sprints from tumbling rocks in a race to nab some treasure, it’s an adventure that will suit adventurers old and young. Nathan Drake, eat your heart out.
Buy Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
5. The Troubleshooters
Live your dreams of international adventure and grand heroics in this tabletop RPG
Though The Troubleshooters – a tabletop roleplaying game published by Modiphius, the studio behind RPGs such as Star Trek: Adventures and Dune: Adventures in the Imperium – cites its main influences as Franco-Belgian comics such as Tintin and classic American children’s series like Nancy Drew, it most certainly runs in the same circles as the Uncharted franchise. Set during an alternative 1965, where major historical events such as World War II didn’t exactly pan out the same way as in our timeline, The Troubleshooters invites its players to indulge in the excitement of international adventure and intrigue.
Players will create characters whose motivations can range from wanting industry recognition to a selfless need to protect the world from sinister plots – much like the cast of characters in the Uncharted series – with those characters travelling across the world, from hidden temples to even space stations orbiting the Earth, all in the name of adventure.
The kind of stories that players and games masters can tell with The Troubleshooters have a more cartoonish tone than those found in the Uncharted franchise, but they’ll still likely include the fundamental elements of globetrotting, villainous schemes and daring feats that fans of the video games enjoy. Through The Troubleshooters, players can decide where their characters go and how they deal with the challenges they face – whether they barrel in like Nathan or consider their options like Elena.
Telling stories in the rich creative vein that Uncharted rests on via The Troubleshooters is a great way to prepare for the upcoming film adaptation, as it enables plenty of opportunities for players to get excited and potentially create more enjoyable narrative experiences should the movie turn out to be less than stellar.
Buy The Troubleshooters core rulebook from Modiphius.