While most board games give us a great time with their fun mechanics and settings, there are those that stimulate the strategic part of our minds. That’s not to say that they aren’t fun in their own way; after all, what’s more satisfying that crushing your opponent with a move that you initiated three turns ago? We all love it when a plan comes together.
Whether it’s about strategically destroying your enemies, building a lasting empire, or saving the world together, there are a number of strategy board games that will line up with your particular tastes. Of course, we know that Chess is one of the foremost strategy board games, but here are a few for those of you that aren’t fans of The Queen’s Gambit.
Updated on July 28, 2023 by Vaspaan Dastoor: There are many board games that require a strategic approach, and each of them require a different kind of strategy too. We’ve updated this list to include another grand strategy war game, and a pretty looking tile-placement game.
Best Strategy Board Games
Star Wars Villainous: Scum And Villainy
Be The Bad Guys For Once
Scum and Villainy is one of many games that fall under the Star Wars Villainous banner. Players play as villains, in this case Boba Fett, Seventh Sister, and Cad Bane, to take down the heroes in a series that turns Star Wars on its head. The set can be played standalone or combined with other Star Wars Villainous sets you might have.
- Base game not needed to play this expansion
- Star Wars has some of the best villains in movie history
- Other more iconic Star Wars villains are in other expansions
Disney’s series of Villainous tabletop games lets you step into the shoes of some of the most iconic baddies in cinema history. Star Wars may well be home to more of those villains than any other franchise. From Darth Vader to Kylo Ren, some of the most despicable villains in fictional history call a galaxy far, far away home. The Scum and Villainy spinoff, which can be used with all other Star Wars Villainous sets, adds Boba Fett, Seventh Sister, and Cad Bane to the mix. Strategically plan your assault on Star Wars heroes and make sure the bad guys win, Empires Strikes back-style.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Best Cooperative Game
There’s nothing quite like saving the world together
An all-time classic, Pandemic is a cooperative board game that tasks players with saving the world from deadly diseases. Due to the last few years, the game’s theme may ring a bit strongly with some people, but that shouldn’t take away from the brilliant gameplay loop. The Legacy format even adds a bit of backstory and character building into the mix.
- Renowned gameplay mechanics.
- All players work together.
- High risk-high reward gameplay.
- May trigger bad memories for some people.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 adds a storyline and some characters into the classic Pandemic gameplay structure. While Season 1 tells of the pandemic itself, Season 0 acts as a prequel, and Season 2 shows us the after-effects in a post-apocalyptic setting. Many of the characters and story arcs carry forward as well.
Horrified: Greek Monsters
Gods And Monsters On Your Tabletop
Assume the roles of Greek gods in Horrified: Greek Monsters as you travel through iconic locations from Greek mythology to recapture legendary beasts. The likes of Cerberus and Medusa await up to five players with as many as six monsters in play. The more monsters you throw into the mix, the harder your quest becomes.
- Fight off and capture iconic mythological monsters
- Best installment in the Horrified series so far
- New mechanic to learn if you have played Horrified before
Someone has opened Pandora’s Box and now the most feared monsters in Ancient Greece are scurrying around your tabletop. The Greek gods have tasked you, and your fellow players, with clearing things up. You’ll need to work together to figure out the best way to round them up and get them all back in the box. Easier said than done, but despite the daunting task, it’s one that guarantees a lot of fun. Up to five people can play at a time, and even though this is personally my favorite in the Horrified series so far, there are more very similar games built on the same premise available if you love this one.
Ticket To Ride
Best Railway-Themed Game
Choo Choo Choose this one
Besides being a great Beatles song, Ticket to Ride is one of the foremost strategy games involving trains. Trains have a special place in tabletop games, and this one has the heart of a steam engine. Also, playing a railroad industrialist with a top hat and a twirling mustache only adds to the fun.
- Excuse to wear a top hat.
- Longer tracks = Bigger smiles.
For some reason, trains and railways just go really well with board games. Nowhere else does this bond shine more than with Ticket to Ride. There’s something about being an industrialist and connecting various cities that soothes the soul. And if you really want to make things competitive, you can always compare the lengths of your railway lines.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Best Horror Game
It’s always the ones you least expect
If you’re going to step into a haunted house, you shouldn’t really be surprised if you’re betrayed. One of the best things about Betrayal at House on the Hill is that you’ll never know which player will get the role of the bad guy going into the game. But once you do, you’ll need to strategically plan your next steps in order to escape everything they throw at you.
- Unique tile-based board.
- Each game is vastly different from the last.
- A multitude of options for haunting other players.
It seems you’d learn your lesson after your first visit to the house on the hill, but Betrayal at The House on the Hill is one of the most replayable board game on this list. This is thanks to the fact that any player can become the haunter, and the tile-based board ensures the map is different every time. After that, it’s about strategically using everything at your disposal to win.
Settlers of Catan
Best Resource Management Game
An all-time classic
Catan is the latest edition of Settlers of Catan, with the only differences being a cosmetic makeover and a few rules being fleshed out. You’ll have to negotiate and trade resources with other players in order to have enough to build the most well-connected road network. You’ll need to decide when to spend resources and when to save them.
- Cosmetic upgrade to a classic.
- Trading adds an extra layer of strategy.
- Rules are clearer than in the previous edition.
- You’re at a disadvantage if you’re bad at negotiating.
The only difference between Settlers of Catan and Catan is the cosmetic upgrade and a clearer rule book. There’s a reason why there have been multiple editions of a rather straightforward game, and that reason is the pathbreaking gameplay loop created by Klaus Teuber. It relies on managing your resources, getting your opponents to trade with you, and building the best road network.
Best War-Based Game
The granddaddy of tabletop strategy games
If you’re the kind of player that wants to crush your enemies and take over the world, Risk is a classic. Managing armies, attacking enemy territory and taking over all 42 of them is no easy task, and will require a lot of planning. Just remember, retreating is not a sign of weakness, but a tactical move in the long run.
- One of the most renowned war-based games.
- Managing armies adds a whole different level of strategy.
- Has multiple editions and adaptations.
Risk is one of the first games anyone thinks about when war-based tabletop games are mentioned. One of the biggest reasons why it has been so successful over the years is that despite requiring strategic planning, the gameplay is pretty simple. It’s no wonder Risk has received so many editions and crossovers over the years.
Best Overall Strategy Game
More money = Less problems
Scythe is the board game you want to play if you want to go to war with your fellow players. Not only do you need to devise schemes to take over land and make more money, but you also need to figure out how to carve the largest portion out for yourself.
- Beautifully designed boards and pieces.
- Multitude of possibilities on any given turn.
- Allows for solo play.
- Complex ruleset, not ideal for beginners.
There aren’t many board games out there that are as adaptable as Scythe. While the base rules remain the same, the gameplay changes depending on how many players are there. In fact, it’s so adaptable and intuitive that it has a separate rule book for playing solo. Scythe brilliantly uses AI decks to simulate other players of various difficulty levels.
Axis & Allies
Best Grand Strategy Game
Watching it all come together is beautiful
Axis & Allies takes the formula created by Risk and raised it to DEFCON 1. Not only do you have to manage the attacking and defending aspect of war, but also supply liners, scientific research, and reinforcements. You’ll have to adopt the philosophy of Total War if you want to be successful.
- Great for history and WW2 buffs.
- Features multiple expansions.
- Can be played based on different phases of the war.
Axis & Allies will test your multitasking skills most of all. Depending on the country you’ve chosen, there are a number of ways to reach your win condition. However, you’ll have to manage the war on multiple fronts, make sure supply lines are running, and fuel scientific research at home.
Best Tile-Placement Game
Not all strategy is about war.
If you’re not one for themes of war and death, you can always opt for a pretty looking tile-placement board game. Azul will have you placing beautifully designed tiles in strategic spots to maximize the number of points you’ll earn. It may seem easy, but I assure you it is not.
- Beautifully designed tiles and board.
- Relaxed and slow paced gameplay.
- Great for those who like puzzles.
Just because there’s no attacking, defending, or general bad things happening, it doesn’t mean that Azul will not test your strategic thinking. Placing tiles in the right place to get the most possible points is no easy task. Don’t let the beautiful design fool you, this is a tough one to master.
What is the most popular strategy board game of all time?
While not featured on this list, Chess is considered to be the most popular strategy board game of all time. This is mainly due to its global appeal and the plethora of strategies that can be used to play it.
What is the world’s most famous board game?
Monopoly has received a number of editions and crossovers, and has also been localized for many regions, making it another one of the most famous board games in the world.
What is the oldest board game?
The Royal Game of Ur, which originated in ancient Mesopotamia over 4,600 years ago, is considered to be the oldest known board game in the world.
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