Most Difficult Tabletop Games In 2023

There are some tabletop games which have complex rules and features, making even the most experienced player think twice about their next move. Sure, if you master them, you can bend them to your will, but that’s going to require a lot of playtime and determination. However, it’s not always only the rules that make tabletop games difficult or easy.


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Some games just end up being unfair because they’re balanced in a way to give you bad rolls or just leave a lot for you to decide on your own. Regardless, these games continue to be fun and engaging despite their difficulty. If you and your friends want a challenge, you should try out some of these board games.

Updated on December 21, 2023, by Vaspaan Dastoor: Everybody loves a good challenge, especially for their minds. With the new year on the horizon, we suspect a lot of you may want to try advanced level board games, so we’ve updated this list with just a few more. Various tabletop games can be difficult for different reasons. While some may have complicated rules and gameplay loops, others might feature lore and story elements that are hard to keep track of.

Terraforming Mars card game box

Terraforming Mars

Billionaires in space

It isn’t easy to terraform an entire planet to host human colonies, especially when you’re competing against other mega-corporations to do so. Terraforming Mars tasks you with ensuring your human colony thrives, while the other ones fail. Underhanded tactics, sabotage, and espionage are all tricks of the trade that you must use.

Pros

  • Multiple avenues to victory.
  • Can be played solo.
  • Great UI and design.

The hardest part about Terraforming Mars is figuring out your route to victory. There are so many different paths you can take or, conversely, need to defend yourself from. Victory or defeat can come from anywhere, and you need to pay attention to this while taking care of your colony.

Nemesis

Nemesis

This alien looks familiar.

Nemesis is a hit among fans of the Alien series, as it puts players in a similar position – with a similar looking alien even. While the exploration part is rather simple, you’ll never know which of the survivors will throw you under the bus, or out of the airlock.

Pros

  • Great for fans of the Alien series.
  • Noise mechanic makes for a tense atmosphere.
  • You;ll never know who to trust.

However, the scariest part about Nemesis is the noise mechanic. You’ll need to roll for noise while performing certain actions, and should you fail, you’re going to have a knockoff Xenomorph on your tail. Then it’s about doing everything you can to shake it off. The dice rolls are quite unforgiving in this one.

Call of Cthulhu

Call Of Cthulhu

Cthulhu sure does like sleeping.

$49 $55 Save $6

Call of Cthulhu is a tabletop RPG based on the works ofd H.P. Lovecraft. While it follows many of the same rules as D&D, the fact that Cthulhu is involved changes a few of the mechanics and features. It also features a number of editions and campaigns, each with its own modifiers.

Pros

  • Features numerous campaigns and editions.
  • Requires a certain amount of knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Cons

  • The Madness status effect, which is used a lot, may be difficult to understand for some.

The difficulty in Call of Cthulhu isn’t in its basic gameplay – which is that of a tabletop RPG – but in the lore and mechanics itself. For instance, there are many other ancients besides Cthulhu, but newer players may not be familiar with them, or the way the world works in this universe.

Magic The Gathering Cover

Magic: The Gathering

Best TCG

It’s a hobby, not a game

If you know anything about Magic: The Gathering, you’ll know that it’s one of the most complex card games in existence. This is due to a number of factors, starting with each type of card being unique and having its own effects on a game. Considering the constant launch of new cards, revisions, and rule changes, MTG is more of a hobby than a game.

Pros

  • Constant flow of new cards and packs.
  • Countless permutations and combinations.
  • Collaborations with various IPs.

There’s no such thing as playing Magic: Ther Gathering casually. You need to be aware of all the latest happenings, constantly update your decks, and be in the know-how of any alterations to the rules. Besides all that, it’s also pretty expensive to keep your MTG sets fully updated and stocked. But, when there’s a chance of pulling The One Ring, you might feel lucky.

Scythe board game box

Scythe

Best Strategy Game

The dieselpunk mech pieces had me sold

Scythe has some of the most intricate features you’ll find in a strategy board game. In fact, the mechanics are so in-depth, that there’s a separate rulebook for playing solo, against simulated opponents using AI decks. It’s hard to grasp just what’s possible with this game in the first few sessions.

Pros

  • Beautifully created board and pieces.
  • Can be played solo.
  • Great for alternate history buffs.

The creators of Scythe took almost every situation into consideration; even going as far as creating a system whereby you can play the game without any human opponents. A separate rulebook describes how to set up AI decks which will simulate players of varying difficulty. With rules and features so intricate, you’re going to take a while before you learn how to use them to your advantage.

Axis & Allies

Axis & Allies

Best Grand Strategy Game

What is it good for?

$36 $40 Save $4

Orchestrating a war isn’t exactly easy, especially if it’s humanity’s greatest conflict. Set against the backdrop of World War 2, Axis & Allies won’t just have you attack and defend territory, but will also charge you with keeping supply and production running. You’ll also have to conduct scientific research and keep an eye on every front.

Pros

  • Great for WW2 and history buffs.
  • Encompasses every aspect of a war, not just fighting.
  • Has different editions for various periods of the war.

Axis & Allies takes the meaning of grand strategy to another level. It’s not enough merely attacking and defending, but you also have to make sure that the cogs of total war are continuously turning, if you want to be victorious. There are so many aspects that you need to pay attention to, and so many avenues of winning and losing; if you’re not one for multitasking, this game may be beyond you.

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective board game box

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Best Mystery Game

Not quite elementary

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective charges you with solving some of the most notorious crimes in and around London. However, you’re going to have to decide what you want to do completely on your own. You’ll have to chase down leads and corroborate evidence, just like how they do it in the movies.

Pros

  • Solving cases completely on your own.
  • Includes some very famous cases, like Jack the Ripper.
  • Can be played solo.
Cons

  • Each case can only be solved once.

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a tabletop game that’s quite easy in terms of gameplay. All you have to do choose what action you want to take, and go to the relevant entry in the case files. However, the hard part is deciding what action you want to take. There aren’t many prompts, only information, and you have to decide what you want to do with it.

Arkham Horror card game box

Arkham Horror

Best Horror Game

Cthulhu is up to go good again

Tabletop RPGs are pretty complex, especially when it comes to leveling up and learning new abilities. Now, take that and imagine it in a card-based format. While Arkham Horror translates RPG mechanics to cards seamlessly, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less complex. And, of course, the game itself is going to be nightmarishly tough too.

Pros

  • RPG elements in card-based format.
  • Stunning artwork.
  • Set in H.P. Lovecraft’s legendarium.

It’s not easy trying to solve a mystery when an ancient god with tentacles is blocking your part. Even so, the most complex part about Arkham Horror is the leveling up mechanics. If you’re not a seasoned tabletop RPG player, you’re bound to be confused by the many attributes and abilities you need to keep a track of.

Gloomhaven board game box

Gloomhaven

Best Tabletop RPG

It isn’t all doom and gloom

Gloomhaven is considered to be a competitor the Dungeons & Dragons, and so, you can expect it to be pretty in-depth. Besides the character creation and attributes, Gloomhaven also includes a massive map which, if used well, will reward the party for exploring.

Pros

  • Massive map with limitless potential.
  • Exploring is always rewarded.
  • The party can take its own time to finish the campaign.

Gloomhaven is one of the first names that pop up when talking about TTRPGs. And as with this genre, it involves a lot of rules and mechanics, especially when it comes to leveling up your character’s attributes. It is undoubtedly a game that should only be played by experienced campaigners; and even then, it’s not going to be a walk in the dungeon.


FAQ

What is the world’s most famous board game?

Monopoly is the most famous board game in the world. You’ll see it localised for almost every region, along with a number of collaborative editions as well.

What is the oldest board game?

The Royal Game of Ur is believed to have originated 4,600 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, making it the oldest known board game in the world.

Which is the toughest board game in the world?

While not featured on this list, chess is the hardest board game as there are so many different ways to play it.

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