What makes a board game a strategy board game? After all, every game has to have a bit of strategy naturally, right? Games would be pretty boring if there was zero impetus on the player’s part.
Strategy games are a genre of board games that limit the amount of luck involved and reward players for planning (and successfully pulling off that plan). Having a clear goal from the beginning and working towards that goal will reward players in this upcoming list of best strategy board games.
Today we’re looking at Strategy board games with a capital “S”. These are all games that reward or punish players based on the actions of the player and their opponents, so prepare to think, plan, backstab, and most importantly strategize.
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Strategy Board Games
#1. Terraforming Mars
The idea of colonizing Mars has fascinated scientists and sci-fi buffs for years. Breaking free from our gravitational pull and opening up the galaxy and the universe to humanity is mind-boggling, to say the least.
In Terraforming Mars, players take those first few steps in turning a planet into a livable oasis for humanity. Unfortunately, it’s rival corporations that are going to be the first residents of Mars. The goal is to turn the Red Planet into a bigger, better green and blue planet, but first, the megacorporations need to terraform it.
Players need to monitor and grow their own Martian economy, research, and, of course, ultimately be the corporation responsible for terraforming Mars and paving the way for human settlers.
- Compete for different milestones and awards worth many VPS
- Over 200 different projects to complete
- 1 to 5 players ages 12 and up
#2. Twilight Struggle
Can there be anything more complex than the politics involved in the Cold War?
Twilight Struggle puts players in the roles of the world’s two most powerful nations after World War II. It’s one of the most politically complex periods in world history and the board game does an incredible job of bringing that political madness to life.
Unlike in most war-themed board games, getting to the point of complete and total war means game-over.
The goal is to dominate the world with influence rather than troops. It’s incredibly strategic and is actually played competitively in many areas. Twilight Struggle has received numerous awards and if you’re looking for an incredible strategic experience, it’s hard to beat.
#3. A Feast for Odin
When people think of Vikings they often think of the Viking stereotypes: raiders, marauders, and those stupid completely inaccurate horned helms. Seriously, Vikings didn’t have horned helms.
A Feast for Odin takes a more realistic approach in portraying the Vikings and Norse. The ancient peoples were, of course, raiders, but they were also explorers, farmers, and incredible mariners.
In A Feast for Odin, players explore all aspects of Viking life. Not only will players raid and explore new lands, but they’ll also need to farm and create an economic engine to become the most successful leader.
- Innovative home board mechanic.
- Fun and fair dice-managed actions.
- Over 200 occupation cards.
Post-World War I steampunk mechs? Sign me up!
Scythe took the board game world by storm with its original theme and awesome components. Although rushing to get your first mech up and running is your first instinct, Scythe isn’t necessarily a war game.
It’s actually quite a complex engine-building board game. There are multiple paths to victory and combat is just one of the many ways players can win.
- A board game set in an alternate history 1920s period
- It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears,...
- 1 to 5 Players
#5. Terra Mystica
If you’re not strategizing in Terra Mystica, you’re losing.
Although Terra Mystica is an area control game, there’s surprisingly little player interaction in the actual game. Each player race has a preferred biome that they can colonize and as the name implies, the goal is to terraform the land to fit your race.
The strategy comes in balancing terraforming easier locations vs. terraforming areas that will lock your opponents out of the map. There’s no actual combat in the game, but that doesn’t mean players can’t completely block off the good parts.
- Fun strategy game with a simple game principle and very little...
- Govern one of 14 factions trying to transform the landscape on...
- Large number of possible games keeps it entertaining every time
#6. Viticulture: Essential Edition
It’s wine o’clock!
Viticulture is, of course, best played after cracking open a bottle of wine for the table.
In Viticulture, players manage every aspect of running their very own winery… without any of the actual work. Luckily for players, the guests and visitors of the fledgling vineyards are willing to roll up their sleeves and put some time into working on the vineyard too.
Viticulture is a worker placement strategy game that takes place over 4 seasons. Each season, players plan and prepare for the next with planting, gaining workers, building facilities, and, of course, harvesting and making the wine.
Just like a real winery, poor planning will lead to absolute disaster, so make sure not to have too many glasses while playing.
- For 1-6 players
- 45-90 minute playing time
- The essential edition includes the second edition of viticulture...
Economic planning is always a hefty strategic task and Orléans is no exception. Orléans takes players to the Middle Ages where they’ll amass knights, monks, craftsman, and more to have the most profitable region in medieval Orléans, France.
Players should plan out their entire strategy from the beginning, however, there’s always a monkey wrench thrown in. Throughout the game, players draw from their bag of resources to use during their turns, which ultimately adds a bit of chance thrown into the mix. If you seriously need some knights, but unluckily draw a monk tile, then plans get thrown out the window and need to be adjusted.
Orléans is a classic strategy game that looks simplistic at first but has layers of depth once played.
- Grow your economic reach and gather followers in this...
- A game for 2 to 4 players
- 90-120 minutes play time
#8. Castles of Burgundy
Speaking of medieval France, let’s head down to the Burgundy region where players take control of their own princedoms.
Castles of Burgundy lets players develop their own lands by drafting tiles and building improvements in their kingdom. How players do that is entirely up to them, but each tile placed and each improvement built offers a different bonus throughout the duration of the game.
Castles of Burgundy not only brings strategy but a bit of cutthroat gameplay as well with players fighting over the best pieces of land for their princedoms.
- FUN PLAY EXPERIENCE – In The Castles of Burgundy, players...
- HIGH QUALITY COMPONENTS – This board game comes with 164...
- GREAT REPLAY VALUE – Playing time is 30-90 minutes, for 2-4...
The world of Root is vast and contested. Each player controls 1 of 4 factions, each with very different goals. Do you fight for imperialism, glory, freedom, or just yourself?
Each of the 4 factions plays differently with different goals adding a ton of replayability and varying strategies to the gameplay. The main goal of the game is to take control of the forest but players win 1 of 2 ways: either by earning 30 victory points or by playing a dominance card with set goals.
Strategy in Root is always changing with every game and once players think they’ve got it all figured out, there’s another faction to play with a completely different play style.
- Root is a game of adventure and war where 2 to 4 players battle...
- 2-4 players, Ages 14+
- 90- 120 minute playing time
#10. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Star Wars: Imperial Assault pits players against each other in the Most Dangerous Game! Instead of playing against the board, one player controls the Empire, and the rest of the players control a small team of elite Rebels.
Imperial Assault comes with multiple scenarios that are perfect for any Star Wars fan. The combination of thematic gameplay and RPG elements make Imperial Assault one of the more memorable strategy games I’ve ever played.
The base set comes with enough scenarios to wrack your brain and there are plenty of expansions to explore in a galaxy far, far away.
#11. Caverna: The Cave Farmers
When you think of strategy games, one particular board game designer keeps popping up: Uwe Rosenburg.
Uwe Rosenburg has designed some of the quintessential strategy board games and chances are if you started collecting, you have at least one of his games on your shelf.
Caverna is the spiritual successor to Agricola and expands upon the mechanics from there. In Caverna, players are in charge of a family of dwarves carving out a living in their cave, sweet cave.
Like in Agricola, players have access to a variety of options to improve their homesteads, like mining, agriculture, and farming. There’s never enough time to create the perfect setup, however, which creates numerous paths to victory in this highly strategic board game.
#12. Twilight Imperium
Twilight Imperium was the big box on the scene before games like Gloomhaven and Kingdom Death started using up 90% of the world’s cardboard supply.
Twilight Imperium is all about grand strategy. It takes place during the fall of the old galactic empire and is the struggle to fill the void left by the power vacuum. Twilight Imperium does have a bit of warfare involved with the maneuvering of ships and troops, but the political and economic actions are just as important, if not more so.
It’s an incredible strategy and saga that spans the entire universe, but the only tricky part is finding players to sit down for the 4+ hours it takes to finish a game.
- Create your own galactic space opera with a massive game...
- With seventeen different races and a random board setup, no game...
- Ages 14+. Innovative game systems create strategic decisions...
#13. Rising Sun / Blood Rage
Rising Sun takes place in feudal Japan somewhere between myth and reality. Similar to Blood Rage, Rising Sun draws on the mythological aspects of the culture to bring a gorgeous game to life. It’s not all about samurai fighting with mythical gods at their back. Rising Sun offers multiple avenues for victory and having an entire field of soldiers sacrifice themselves for honor could actually be more beneficial than winning a fight.
Rising Sun is an all-around beautiful game that can keep the most hardened strategists busy for quite some time with all the different victory conditions within the game.
#14. Dinosaur Island
I’m honestly surprised someone hadn’t made a board game based on a dinosaur theme park sooner. It seems like it would’ve been a huge hit back in the 90s.
Dinosaur Island lets players run their very own dino theme park and every aspect of the business is completely up to them.
Players could build a nice little herbivore petting zoo but will lose a lot of business to the very impressive T-Rex and Velociraptor show next door. To afford those big carnivores, however, they probably had to skimp on the budget elsewhere. Zip ties are totally enough to keep in the raptors, right?
Players manage every aspect of the park in Dinosaur Island from staffing, DNA splicing, and guest management to the all-important issue of security.
- Pandasaurus Games Dinosaur Island is the perfect game for adults,...
- Created by award winning designer Jon Gilmour (Dead of Winter,...
- Highly interactive board game, where everyone must collect DNA,...
#15. 7 Wonders
Nothing says strategy quite like building a monolithic structure to the advancement of human civilization.
7 Wonders is a card drafting game that distills down the entirety of human civilization into a few decks of cards. Pretty neat right?
Players compete to create the most impressive society by building up their own technology level throughout 3 technological ages.
As turns progress, each player will get a chance to pull cards from a shared set. As the ages come to a close, choices will become more and more limited, with only the dregs left at the end.
#16. Game of Thrones: The Board Game
Game of Thrones fever may have ended with the horrible 8th season of the show, but some of us still waiting on the final novels by George RR. Until then, we have A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, ready to fill the void.
This may seem familiar to some of you hardcore gamers because Game of Thrones is based on an older game called Diplomacy.
The Game of Thrones board game has everything that you could expect from the franchise. Large-scale wars are possible but the game really shines when focusing on political backstabbing and holding your breath to see if your shaky alliances come to fruition.
Players can make all the alliances and backdoor deals they want but when someone leaves their flank open to attack, it may be more beneficial to break the alliance and shatter both sides.
The political intrigue mixed with hidden orders of the Game of Thrones board game makes for a compelling tabletop story and a highly strategic game night in Westeros.
- A board game based on A Game of Thrones, a novel now adapted to...
- 3–6 players take command of the Great Houses of Westeros
- Updated second edition, incorporates elements of past expansions
#17. Stone Age
I’ve played a ridiculous amount of Stone Age. There was a period where we would play it several times every weekend.
For a simple worker placement game, Stone Age offers a surprising number of different strategies and options. It seems like every game I play, there’s always another route to victory.
If you’re feeling swarmy, you can focus on building up tribe numbers as quickly as possible. If swarming isn’t cutting it, focusing on technology, trade, building, or just being sneaky and blocking off other workers. These are all valid strategies.
Stone Age is an all-around fantastic strategy game and pulls double duty as an excellent gateway for worker placement games.
For a simple tile-laying game, there’s a lot of strategy distilled into Carcassonne. You can’t simply drop meeples willy-nilly if you expect to win.
The first time I played Carcassonne, I immediately thought, “Well why don’t I go for the higher scoring spots?” and dropped a bunch of meeples on farmlands and cities. As you may imagine, I was completely trounced.
Carcassonne is a very simple game but it can be very competitive and strategic as well, which is all the more impressive since the entire game can fit into a small pouch for gaming on the go.
- Completely redesigned rulebook to make learning the game easier
- Introduces the Abbot mini-expansion and a new version of the...
- Game and expansions have sold over 10 million copies worldwide
It includes all the family-destroying mechanics of Monopoly with modern-day gameplay that appeals to such a wide audience.
Since 1995, Catan has been furrowing brows and causing debates on the value of sheep for over 25 years. Although there is a fair bit of luck anytime dice are involved, Catan’s placement mechanics and usage of cards add a distinct strategy to the game that mitigates the randomness a little bit.
- The incredibly popular, multi-award winning civilization-building...
- Players control their own civilization and look to spread across...
- Beware the robber’s nefarious plans as he steals resources and...
For a game about the growing process of trees, Photosynthesis requires a lot of thought.
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into the energy they can use and the game builds its mechanics around this real-world science.
The more sunlight a tree receives, the more nutrients it can pick up through photosynthesis. Therefore, the aim of the game is to fight for control of the best locations so your trees get the most light.
Also just like real-world nature, board game nature can be a jerk. Players can grow their trees in strategic locations to block off sunlight at certain times of the day. The sun marker of the game rotates around the board and players need to find the optimum zones to absorb the most light, or grow bigger and block the most light from their opponents.
- The green strategy board game!
- Plant and shape the ever-changing forest as you cultivate your...
- Take your trees through their life-cycle, from seedling to full...
Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoyed our list of the best strategy board games and hopefully, you’ve found some good choices for your next game night.
Did your favorite strategy game not make the list? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.