Best Critical Thinking Board Games for Adults
Critical thinking skills are… critical! They help us think outside the box, analyze situations, and problem-solve effectively.
To keep those critical thinking skills sharp, you’ll need to use them! Our top picks for the best critical thinking board games for adults are here to help.
We’ve done the research. Now it’s your turn to decide which is for you. So put your critical thinking cap on, pick your favorite, and get ready to play!
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Critical Thinking Board Games for Adults
In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.
Playing time: 40-80 minutes
The death of the sultan has brought about a great opportunity in Naqala. The seat of power is up for grabs, and it’s best to strike while the iron is hot! Can you use the region’s Five Tribes to your advantage and become ruler of this Arabian land?
Five Tribes is a set collection and bidding game played on a modular board. The rules seem straightforward, but you’ll need to use your best critical thinking and planning skills to achieve goals.
Turn-taking happens in steps and begins by bidding for turn order. In the movement phase, pick up meeples from any square on the board and move them Mancala-style. The meeples you pick up dictate what you do in the action phase. Ultimately, you’ll trade meeples to collect cards, which can be exchanged for coins. It’s about strategic placement and trading up.
The wealthiest player in Arabia is the winner, so go big or go home!
Playing time: 30-45 minutes
Welcome to the Pacific Northwest! The region of Cascadia is as diverse as it is beautiful. The terrain includes deserts, mountains, valleys, and rivers – and it’s your job to decide where they all go.
Played on individual modular boards, everyone begins with a starting tile with all 7 terrains represented. On your turn, add a terrain tile and animal token to your board. Place them strategically because adjacent terrains add up to points. End-game bonuses are also waiting for those with the most of each landscape.
But don’t forget about the wildlife in Cascadia! Wildlife tokens are played and scored according to different rules in each game. Maybe hawks prefer flying over deserts, or animals like to travel in pairs. Things to bear in mind!
Turns run out when the tiles do, so use your time – and tiles – wisely! Will you be a force of nature in Cascadia? Play to find out.
Playing time: 30-45 minutes
You’ve been tasked with tiling the beautiful walls of a mosaic-style building. But you can’t add tiles just anywhere! Tile placement and planning are critical in this game.
Azul is played in three rounds with three phases each. Players get their own personal walls. Purchase tiles from the community factory and think about which will fit best and how exactly you’ll lay them out. But don’t overstock – excess tiles count against you!
It’s time to tile! Organize your tiles row by row. But use some critical thinking here — certain patterns and orders will earn you more points!
Building up walls isn’t always a bad thing. May the most beautiful one win!
Playing time: 15 minutes
Quoridor is a quick-playing game requiring spatial awareness and logic.
It comes with a square playing board, wall-like blocks, and pawns. On your turn, choose to place a wall or move your pawn one space. The ultimate goal is to move all pawns to the other side – but that task is more challenging than first meets the eye! You’ll be balancing defense and offense as you make your way across.
Create corridors to block your opponent, but don’t neglect your pawns in the process. Will you get walled-in or race your pawns to victory?
Playing time: 45-75 minutes
Charterstone is a land-grabbing and city-building game. As a legacy game, the board will change along with your moves.
Players utilize two workers throughout the game. Start off small but create a bustling village by the end. Take an action on your turn – that might be placing a worker and buying a benefit or collecting your workers from the table. Ultimately, you need to use your workforce to create the most prosperous city in the land.
The game builds well — starting simple and becoming more complex. There are more and more choices and strategies as you progress. If you can predict your opponents’ future moves, you may even be able to use them to your benefit.
But don’t let analysis paralysis bring you down! Keep calm and build on.
Playing time: 20 minutes
This buzz-worthy game will have you exercising your analytical and abstract strategy skills.
Hive is a tile-placement game that requires zero setup and can be played almost anywhere. The opposing sides have either black or white tiles representing different insects – and your collection of creepy crawlies is itching to get out and play.
Each turn, players add an insect tile to the communal hive. The goal is to surround the opposing queen bee, taking her down. Creatures move differently – spiders crawl three tiles away, the elegant bee moves only one space, and the pesky mosquito takes on the abilities of those around it. Analyze the insects at play and decide which should hop, crawl, or soar to victory.
This two-player game has one clear winner and loser. Will you fly high or feel the sting of a loss? Head to the hive to find out!
Playing time: 20 minutes
Mandala is an aesthetically pleasing game involving colorful card collections.
The goal is to fill up your river with these cards. You can have up to 8 cards in your hand. When it’s your turn you can add cards to the mountains or fields to form mandalas or discard unwanted colors. There are rules for where and how to place each color though, so analyze your choices well.
Once a mandala is complete, players go back and forth choosing which color cards from the mandala to add to their rivers. You want your river to be overflowing. The extra cards get you points at the end so avoid a drought at all costs!.
It’s the type of game that’s easy to pick up once you see it and start playing. Get into the flow of things with Mandala!
Playing time: 90-120 minutes
Head to Dinosaur Island! Here, you’ll be responsible for a Jurassic Park-themed operation. Your workers and scientists must collect DNA, analyze it, and produce the correct sequence to revive these extinct creatures.
Dinosaur Island gets you thinking critically by working out these equations and using business savvy. You must research and develop the busiest theme park to bring in those visitors – and profits.
If you can’t decode the DNA and build your business, your theme park will go extinct! How will you fare on the island? Will you dino-soar or sink?
Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Playing time: 45-60 minutes
If you like critical thinking games with a theme, you’ll enjoy Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
It’s the Post-Napoleonic era, and castles are in high demand. The Mad King Ludwig commissioned his finest architects to design a castle according to his demands. You’ll work with others, but only one architect will get the final say.
In Between Two Castles, you’ll work with the players on either side of you to create a castle. Cards represent different rooms. Pick up two at a time and decide which castle they will benefit most – the right or left. Add each card to the optimal blueprint. Room placement matters as you get extra points for satisfying the King’s wishes.
You’ll be collaborating and competing with others while creating designs. The mechanics are unique, but you’ll catch on quickly after a few rounds.
Decision-making is the key to the castle! So don’t get yourself between a rock and a hard place. Get between two high-scoring castles instead!
Chess and Go
Playing time: 10-60 minutes
Chess is a race to take down the opposing King. All the pieces move according to specific rules but work together. You’ll want to keep as many pieces as possible during your mission.
In Chess, there are many routes to choose from. Observe the board, think ahead, and consider your options. Devise the best plan of attack – or defense. You can slowly weaken the opposition or go straight for their King. But the first player to say “Checkmate” wins!
Go is the oldest critical thinking game still played – and it’s survived for a reason! It’s a simple concept but employs high-level thinking. Two players use either white or black tiles. Go back and forth, placing one of your tiles on the board each turn.
If you surround your opponent, you claim their tile. At the end of the game, count the open intersections and the seized tiles to determine the winner. It’s all about gaining territory. So strategize and go, go, go!
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best critical-thinking board games for adults! Playing these board games will help you improve your problem-solving, logic, and critical-thinking skills, all while having fun!
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Did we miss any of your favorites? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.