Strategy board games have been entertaining people since at least 2000 B.C. Games like Senet, Hounds and Jackals, and Chess were once popular pass times for royal families and the elite upper class. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then. Affordable board games can now be enjoyed by all.
While sports offer us a venue for physical competition, strategy board games give us the chance to pit our mental skills against one another. Intelligence, logic and cunning are used in games of strategy. Don’t get me wrong, you may also hone some of these skills in more adult games such as cards against humanity, but strategy board games are best when they are family friendly. Inclusive of younger ages too. By using these skills and exercising your brain regularly, you may even be able to improve your memory and logic skills.
All of the potential benefits aside, the best strategy board games are just plain fun. Gaming gives people a reason to get together. Whether it’s a planned event or an impromptu gathering, board games give you an activity to enjoy. Game nights can be a fun social activity that’s enjoyed by all ages. Best of all, it won’t cost you as much as a night out on the town. While table top games such as the Warhammer series do involve strategy, and can involve a board, that genre of RPG gaming is a whole field of it’s own. We consider that to be a stand alone genre and instead focus on the very wide array of strategy board games out there today.
With so many options available, choosing new favorite board games can be overwhelming. Here are 22 of the best board games that your friends and family are sure to love.
22 Of The Best Strategy Board Games Reviewed
Risk is a classic strategy-based board game that first debuted way back in 1957. it has become one of the best-selling board games of all time. This strategy game should always be a staple in respectable board-game collections. The board consists of a map of the world. The earth is divided up into multiple territories for you to conquer. Pieces consist of military miniatures that are used to occupy land masses. This game also includes cards and dice to be used as players take turns.
Risk can be played by up to six people. Players can even form alliances in their quest for world domination. Ultimately, though, there can be only one ruler who dominates the planet with their military forces and with their wits. Risk is a game that can occupy hours of your time with sessions even lasting for days. There is much fun to be had, but this game makes players work for their successes. This version features improved mission cards and secret missions to speed up the game for shorter play sessions.
If you like complex, fantasy-based worlds, then Gloomhaven may be the right strategy board game for you. Gloomhaven is set in a well-thought-out world that is always changing. Players take on the role of a wandering adventurer with a unique set of skills and personality traits. Players can even work together to explore this world and to overcome challenges. Gloomhaven is filled with dark dungeons, old ruins and fascinating landscapes.
If you’re looking for a game with lengthy playtime, this will be a good choice. Long campaigns can be played for hours over the course of multiple play sessions. In this game, scenarios are presented to the players. Each player will then need to decide how to respond, which in turn affects the story. Gloomhaven uses a unique card system that give players different options depending on the scenario. The game comes with maps, cards and 18 highly-detailed, plastic miniatures to stand in for your imaginary adventurer.
Catan comes with a colorful game board, a set of dice and the necessary playing cards. You also get a bunch of plastic house pieces that represent your settlements. This version comes with an expanded rule book too. Catan is the name of an island where players seek to build settlements. With the settlers of Catan in your game, you can gather resources, build roads and expand your control over new territories. Different terrain types produce different resources which can then be harvested and even traded with other players. Resource management is ultimately the way to victory.
Catan can be played by 3 to 4 players at once and is suitable for ages 10 and up. You’ll need a lot of intelligence, strategy and a little luck to succeed here. Games last approximately 1 hour in length, but the nature of this game makes for infinite possibilities. The end of the game is never the same twice. That means you’ll likely want to come back to Catan again and again to enjoy the replay value.
Risk is such a popular game that it has now made our list twice already. This is a special edition of the classic game with a Game of Thrones theme. Game of Thrones, for the uninitiated, is a popular fantasy-themed TV show based on the series of novels from author George R.R. Martin. If you’re a fan of the game and the fantasy series, this is a mash-up that you’re sure to love. If you’re just a fan of the TV series and books but have never played Risk before, this will be a fun introduction for you. New games like this that add a twist to one of the original best games can be a hit or miss. This is a hit.
The traditional game pieces have been changed to fit in with the Game of Thrones theme. The map has been altered as well, to show the territories as depicted in the fantasy world. In fact, you’ll get multiple maps this time around to show the known world of the series as well as territories that are specific to the different ruling Houses. Other than those changes, the wargame still plays like a classic game of Risk, with lots of replayability. Decision-making is critical and every choice has a consequence.
Betrayal At House On The Hill is a good game for fans of the horror genre of films and novels. This game was created by Wizards of the Coast, the company famous for its “Magic: The Gathering,” and “Dungeons and Dragons,” games. An average game takes about an hour to play. Betrayal At House On The Hill is intended for players ages 12 and up. Up to 6 players can enjoy this game at the same time.
Countless scenarios ensure that the game will have a high replay value. Every game can be vastly different from the previous one. This game set includes the rule book, two special haunt books and 44 game tiles. You also get 8 sets of dice, special character cards, 149 tokens and 6 plastic figurines. This is the 2nd edition which corrects some logic and continuity issues from previous editions.
Unstable Unicorns is a strategy-based card game with humble origins. It got its start as a Kickstarter projects. It’s now one of the more popular strategy games of today. This game is intended for a slightly older player base of age 14 and up. It can be played by as little as 2 and as many as 8 players at a time.
In this strategy game, your goal is to build an army of 7 unicorns. This is easier said than done. Players put their strategies and their wits against one another in a ruthless battle to be the best. Games may last for a few hours or be as short as 34 minutes. Play consists mostly of selecting cards and playing them in a strategic fashion. Getting ahead too early can actually be your downfall, as your opponents may gang up on you to bring you down.
Carcassonne is a strategy game for 2 players. It’s a good choice for a more intimate gaming session or when you just need to pit your intelligence against one friend or foe. This latest edition has an updated rule set with an easier learning curve. Carcassonne has only been around for a few years, but this game has already sold over 10 million copies. Play consists of laying tiles down to build up the territory around your city. Players take control of characters such as knights, monks, thieves and simple farmers.
Carcassonne offers a game-play experience that is simple to jump into while still offering complex, strategic elements. It’s easy to pick up but a challenging game, hard to master. The set contains 72 land tiles, 40 character pieces, 5 special abbots, 12 river tiles, a rule book and the scoreboard.
Included here is the original Ticket to Ride game along with the USA 1910 Expansion pack. This game is designed for 2 to 4 players. A typical gaming session can last between 30 minutes to about an hour. The set contains the game board, play cards and 225 colored train cars. A nice, high-quality storage pouch is also included for all of those pieces. The expansion pack adds three completely new ways to play the game.
Ticket to Ride is an adventure game with a train theme. Each player tries to collect train cards to connect various railways across the United States. Points are gained by connecting cities and establishing long routes. The game was designed for players age 8 and up. A little luck and the right strategy will have you outdoing your competitors and building the longest tracks on the game board.
Codenames is a great game to play on the go or when you have some time constraints. A game session can be over in as little as just 15 minutes. Of course, if you wish to play longer, you can keep going and see who wins the most games. Codenames can be played by 2 to 8 players. It was created for players age 14 and older. The premise here is simple, but the gameplay can be challenging and fun.
This game can be played with teams making it a fun party activity or game-night choice. one player gives out clues as the teams compete to be the first to make contact with all 25 secret agents. The agents are only known by their special codenames. You must also avoid falling prey to the secret assassins.
Agricola is a game created by Mayfair Games for 1 to 5 players. It’s one of the few strategy games of this type that can be played by 1 person. If you don’t always have a friend to compete with, you can still get in some board-game fun. A game of Agricola usually lasts from 1 to 2 hours. This set comes with 9 different boards, a scoring pad, tokens, cards, tiles and over 300 wooden pieces.
Players start the game as a poor farmer. You have only your spouse and a humble shack. You get two actions per turn. You must feed your family, collect and manage resources, and run your farm. Strategies can be based on your series of occupation and improvement cards. Gameplay mechanics are simple, but there is a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle strategies at play here.
You can enjoy this game in short spurts of about 20 minutes. Calliope Tsuro – The Game of The Path can be played by anyone 8 years old and up. It’s a great family game for some light and fast fun. It can accommodate 2 to 8 players at a time. This set includes a game board, 35 path tiles, a dragon tile and 8 dragon-pawn pieces. Anticipate your opponents’ moves as you work your way through ever-evolving mazes.
The great thing about playing Tsuro is that it’s never the same game twice. You’re always in for a fresh and exciting experience. In this game, you create your own path and adventure as it folds out before you. The quick nature of the gameplay makes this one a nice choice for playing between longer gaming sessions.
Fantasy Flight Games is known for their complex, sprawling strategy and role-playing games. Twilight Imperium is an immersive space opera that is a real treat for science-fiction fans. There are 17 playable alien species, a randomized board setup and over 1000 components for this game. This one is heavy on the serious strategy as every single turn will require you to make smart choices.
Twilight Imperium: 4th Edition is a game for the serious board-game enthusiast who wants to enjoy long game campaigns. It gives you a unique combat system and a grand overarching story. This game was designed for somewhat older players than many games on this list. It’s for players ages 14 and older.
Terraforming Mars is a strategy game that takes a science-fiction styled look towards the future. The year is 2400 and earth is beginning to colonize Mars. Each player represents a corporation and they compete with each other for the biggest slice of the pie. The ultimate goal is to make Mars inhabitable for us earthlings. You do so by completing projects such as raising the temperature, creating oxygen and planting vegetation. Players earn victory points for every task they complete.
With over 200 tasks to complete, the game has a high replay value. Every game can turn out wildly different than your last. This game was designed for players ages 12 and up. A single player can enjoy a campaign of their own, or they can compete with up to 4 other players. The set comes with a lot of pieces such as 230 cards, 80 tiles, 200 resource markers, 200 player markers and 5 player game boards. All of the pieces are solid and well made.
Since the first movie hit theaters in 1977, Star Wars has become a pop-culture phenomenon. There are very little items left that haven’t had a Star Wars logo stamped on them. Games are naturally one of the many things that a Star Wars fan can look forward to collecting and enjoying. Star Wars: Rebellion is a game that pits 2 to 4 players against one another as they take sides in the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire.
Includes are over 150 well-sculpted, plastic pieces to represent your military forces. These include troops, ships and other vehicle types. Military strategy is the name of the game here. The gameplay is fun and challenging and should delight fans of Star Wars or even just fans of strategy games in general. The typical game can last up to 4 hours making this one a good choice for long game nights. Star Wars: Rebellion was created for players of age 14 and up.
Scythe is a strategic board game set in an alternate reality. It’s the 1920, but this isn’t the roaring 20s you’ve heard about in history class. Mechs are their hulking shells from a war are nearly everywhere. You live in a capitalist city-state that may be at the origin of the great war. Each player has hidden objectives. This game relies almost entirely on strategy, skill and player choices. There is very little left up to chance or luck. This makes winning a game feel like a real achievement.
Scythe comes with a number of well-made plastic pieces. Markers represent your mechs, military forces and various creatures. A unique combat system makes it fun to take on your enemies. This game was built for play for those of at least age 14.
Baldur’s Gate is an offshoot of the popular Dungeons and Dragons pen-and-paper, role-playing games. It has been well represented in computer games, console video games and in this case, board games. There are over 50 different scenarios to play, ensuring a fresh and fun game each time you play.
Players will experience murder and mystery in the deep and fleshed-out world of Dungeons and Dragons. Adventurers form strategies and work together to explore the catacombs underneath Baldur’s Gate. There are monsters and battles everywhere, but the worst threat may come from a traitor within your own party.
This is a fun cooperative strategy game that can be played by 2 to 4 people. The average game time is about an hour. Pandemic was created by Z-Man Games for players that are 8-years-old or older. You and your fellow gamers are members of a scientific team that handles disease outbreaks. In this cooperative game, you travel the globe and collect cards to find a cure for the disease while treating the cases you come across.
The unique thing about this game is that it is one of the few truly cooperative board games on our list. While there is a lot of plotting and strategizing, you never compete directly against any opponents. In the end, everyone wins or everyone loses. This makes the game fun for younger kids who want to contribute, and who don’t like constant losing. It can be a fun game for friends that builds a bit of comradery and a spirit of cooperation.
Splendor is a strategy game for 2 to 4 players. It is intended for players ages 10 and up. A typical gaming session may be as little as 30 minutes. Splendor features a complex economic theme. There’s a good balance to the game when it comes to complex strategies and ease of play. It’s a fine game for older players and younger children alike.
This game is filled with priceless jewels, exotic locales and even famous royals such as King Henry VIII and Queen Isabella of Spain. Players compete for resources, trade routes and riches almost like a Renaissance-era version of Monopoly.
One of the great attributes of Blokus is that it’s easy to learn. The rules and play methods can be mastered by most players in minutes. It’s a wonderful game for the whole family. Players have 21 pieces of the same color. Each player takes turns placing their pieces down on the game board. Colored pieces must be touching a piece with a matching color at the corners of said piece.
The simple game-play mechanics hide the fact that there is a serious strategy game to play here. Everyone is trying to stake out the most territory on the game board as they also block their opponents from taking up too much real estate on the playing field. This game is suitable for anyone of age 4 and older.
Photosynthesis is often marketed as “the green board game.” This strategy game has players planting and cultivating trees and other vegetation as they seek to control the most territory in a forest. Trees that grow in the shade will get you no points, so you must be careful where you choose to plant your seeds.
Photosynthesis can be played by anyone of 8 years old and up. It is designed for 2 to 4 players at a time. You take trees through their entire life cycle on your quest for victory. Not only is this a fun game to play, but there are some educational elements here too. The game can be used as a tool to teach children about plant growth and even conservation.
Azul is a colorful game set that offers unique and creative gameplay. One notable feature of this game is the high quality of the components. You’ll receive numerous plastic tiles as the main parts used for the game. These have a solid feel with a good weight to them. The tiles are colorful and decorated with various designs. You also get the actual game board and a nice pouch to store the tiles in. Azul is a great game for anyone over the age of 8. It can be played by 4 to 4 players at a time.
Azul is another game that is easy to get into but difficult to master. It may seem like a simple game of placing tiles to score points, but there is a lot of strategy involved. The game can quickly become ruthless as players begin scheming against each other in their quest for victory. Azul is a fun and addictive game.
Game of Thrones isn’t just a popular TV show and series of novels. It’s also a popular theme for strategy board games. This is the second Game of Thrones themed board game on our list. Between 3 to 6 players can take control of the different Houses of Westeros in their quest to rule from the Iron Throne. This game is suitable for ages 12 and up. Players can enjoy competitive and cooperative elements of gameplay.
This second edition of the board game features elements from past expansions. This version gets streamlined rules and some new artwork. You get a game-board map, cards, cardboard pieces and over 130 marbled-plastic pieces in this set. The pieces allow you to use multiple military units in your campaign of conquest. Play consists of 10 rounds where players vie for control of castles and strongholds.
There should be plenty of suitable games on this list of the best strategy board games to get you started. These 22 examples have something for just about every taste. As the old saying goes: “variety is the spice of life.” It’s always a good idea to play multiple games and to switch things up for your game nights. This keeps things lively and prevents gaming from getting stale.
In modern times, communication is increasingly done through social media and other impersonal methods. Board games bring people together face-to-face. They get you talking, laughing and enjoying some friendly competition. They truly help to connect people. Most of all, the best strategy board games are just good old-fashioned fun.