12 years of remasters and re-releases culminate in a tiny clockwork continent on my dining room table
When it was announced in late 2021, many saw The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – The Adventure Game as little more than a goof. Many wryly remarked that this would be the last time Skyrim would be relaunched in any form, a kind of final physical apotheosis for the classic video game. More than a decade after its release, Skyrim remains playable on virtually every console and computer platform known to humankind. So, why not a board game as well?
I will admit there were many more lighthearted variants on the headline that eventually appeared on Polygon. And yes, most of those variants mentioned Todd Howard by name. But it turns out that Modiphius’ interpretation of the land of the Nords is actually a solid little board game. And, just like the video game, you can essentially play it forever. It’s like a tiny little clockwork continent sitting on your dining room table.
Skyrim – The Adventure Game is set long before the events of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. Players take on the role of Blades, agents of the emperor driven north by conflict in the heart of Cyrodiil. Across three scenarios, one to four players must work to mitigate a violent civil war, and then uncover a conspiracy before time runs out. The narrative plays out using a sequence of numbered cards, not unlike the sprawling cooperative horror game The 7th Continent, or the tight and agile narrative engine at the heart of Fantasy Flight Games’ Fallout.
But Skyrim – The Adventure Game goes one step further. You can actually pull out some of the biggest endgame event cards, mush all three scenarios together, and embark on a free-roam tabletop adventure without end. In this way, the board game mirrors my preferred way of playing Skyrim — wandering around with powerful magics and various sharp objects, and using them to fuck shit up.
I’ve been tooling around this little two-dimensional world for weeks now, poking at the game here and there while passing through the room. The pace of play feels more like a puzzle than a traditional board game, and I’m fine with that. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve really connected with the solo mode in a board game for an extended period of time.
I love the double-layer boards, which hold my hard-won experience, gold, soul gems, and alchemical items all in one place. I love the little miniatures, including a charming Khajiit. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is a little home somewhere in the mountains that I can fill up with cups and bowls and butterfly wings. But the gameplay itself is brisk, relatively simple, and a whole lot of fun.
If you have a Skyrim superfan in your life, I simply can’t recommend this little gem enough. While it’s unlikely to draw in board game grognards without previous experience with Bethesda’s masterpiece, it’s just the thing for those who have traveled the woods in search of frost trolls, dragon masks, and magical swords.
I hope that somewhere, as Todd Howard ponders the infinite in the final stages of developing Starfield, he is enjoying his copy as well.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim – The Adventure Game was reviewed with a pre-release copy provided by Modiphius, and is available at retail now. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.