Last Updated on November 14, 2022
Ever wonder how the world would fare if you were in charge? Now is your chance to find out with our top picks for the best world-building board games.
These open-world games have you build a civilization from scratch and balance the different elements that make a superpower successful. Now is the time to create your kingdom, whether at the bottom of the sea, in ancient times, or in outer space.
Gather your resources, build your empire, and conquer the world!
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best World-Building Board Games
In a hurry? Take a quick peek before you go.
#1. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Playing time: 120 minutes
Travel in time with Through the Ages. Begin with a small tribe in ancient times. Build your civilization as you pass through each period in history, ending in the modern era. Develop all areas of society: economy, government, technology, and military. Balance your resources and production to feed your population while still growing your community. Your opponents can target areas of weakness — so don’t forget to strengthen that military defense. The strongest culture wins.
Through the Ages has a bit of a learning curve with lots of moving parts and terminology. However, this top-rated game is well worth the effort. Once you get the hang of it, it can provide hours of fun.Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
#2. Bios: Origins (Second Edition)
Playing time: 120-240 minutes
Bios: Origins takes you way back to the development of the human species. Take on the role of one subspecies — Sapiens, Neanderthals, Denisovans, or Hobbits. Develop their abilities and intelligence to build the civilization surrounding them. Explore new religions, experiment with new tools, domesticate animals, and the like.
Bios: Origins is easier to play than it first appears. Play solo, cooperatively, or against a few others. The winning strategy is different than many civilization games. The subspecies with the strongest specialty — economy, culture, or politics — wins over a well-balanced civilization. So pick your area of expertise and grow, grow, grow.Bios: Origins (Second Ed)
#3. Civilization: A New Dawn
Playing time: 60-120 minutes
Civilization: A New Dawn brings the popular computer game to your tabletop. Take on the role of a famous leader throughout history. You might be Cleopatra, or you may be Teddy Roosevelt, but the goal is the same. Build your empire, then move in on others’ territories. Win Victory Cards by completing agendas on each one. The player to accomplish their agendas establishes themselves as the most powerful civilization.
Civilization: A New Dawn has great replayability. Every game is a whole new world. While it has a map and military tactics, it’s less about conquests and more about the agenda missions. If you liked the video game, you’d likely enjoy this version. So put down the controller and bust out the board game.
Playing time: 60-120 minutes
Step into the role of an underworld adventurer in Gloomhaven. Explore the dark corners of these dungeons. Clear out the underground chambers to get points and build power and abilities as you gain experience. But don’t dawdle — if you spend too much time in one place, you may be forced out before your mission is complete. If you run out of cards, you run out of time, and it’s game over.
Detailed cards and artwork make the characters come alive in this cooperative game. Turn order and missions are dictated by these cards. However, players make choices each round that guide the story at hand. So grab your adventurous allies and let the story unfold!
#5. Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy
Playing time: 60-200 minutes
This civilization game is out of this world! Jet into space with Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy. This upgraded version of the classic has a new graphic design and more detailed game pieces. The well-designed icons make gameplay easier to understand, and the game takes on a nice flow overall.
The way this interstellar universe is headed, only one power will claim victory over all the species. Build up your empire and compete against other factions to be the last ruler standing. Collect resources to build spaceships and attack the opposing forces.
While conquests matter, Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy is an economic management game. It’s about gaining power and control through carefully calculated strategies each round.
#6. 7 Wonders
They were named the 7 Wonders of the World for a reason. Explore these seven ancient locations in this world-building board game. There are many ways to win, depending on your wonder’s strengths. If you are from Rome, help build up the military powers in your region. If you are Greek, delve into scientific pursuits with inventions and discoveries.
Cards are chosen in a circular fashion. The cards of your neighbors affect you — so pay attention and be strategic. It’s a point-based game that plays throughout three ages.
Which of the 7 Wonders will be victorious? Grab up to 6 friends and play on your specialty to find out.
#7. Underwater Cities
Playing time: 80-150 minutes
Earth has reached maximum capacity, and we must find alternatives to help the remaining humans survive. Luckily, the brightest brains have gathered and found an unlikely solution in the seas. Underwater Cities is a civilization game that takes place on the ocean floor.
Work to develop the underwater world in this card-placement game. Cards are played into action slots. Actions help build inhabitable bubbles, desalinate water, or farm kelp for food. Cards can be played in multiple ways to get Victory Points and ultimately win.
Will you be the most intelligent engineer on this mission? Dive in to find out.
#8. Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition)
Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition is a streamlined version of its predecessors. While it still typically takes over 4 hours to play, it’s a bit easier to follow and set up than before.
The basic gameplay is mostly the same. Players chose a strategy card at the beginning of each round. This gives them unique skills they may use to their advantage. Travel through the galaxy, claim planets, and trade with or attack opponents for resources and territory. You can use commodities to bribe your way out of battle or buy that fancy new planet.
Twilight Imperium is a bit different from other civilization games in that it has an agenda meeting at the end of each round. Players gather as council members and decide what new laws to pass. This version brings excitement to the agenda phase. Equal voting power between players allows for a lively political debate.
#9. Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game
Sid Meier’s Civilization is an excellent introduction to world-building games. The creators did a good job adapting the video game to a very playable tabletop version.
Players will be historical figures and start with one army, one city, and a scout. Each historical figure has unique abilities to help them along their journey. You might begin in China with Wu Zetian or America as Abe Lincoln. They must build their community and land to become the most powerful empire. There are four paths to victory: technology, military, economy, and culture.
If you enjoyed the video game, but want to add a social element to the mix, try Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game.Civilization Board Game
Planet is a great way to get into worldbuilding. The personal globes add a fun, 3D element to this top-selling drafting game.
A goal at the beginning will dictate what type of planet you must create. If your goal is a forest planet, prioritize forest pieces as you play. Add elements to your planetary puzzle as you go. Collect the right combination of environments — desert, ice, mountains, and forest — for wildlife to thrive.
May the best ecosystem win!
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best world-building board games! These open-world games give players the opportunity to create every aspect of civilization from the ground up. Using clever strategies and tactics, balance resources, armies, and technology to create the most successful world or civilization.
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.