10 Best Strategy Board Games for Kids and Adults
There is no better way to spend your time than playing board games: they're social, super fun, and a fairly inexpensive form of entertainment. Whether you choose to play with friends or family they are a great way to pass the time and can make great gifts at Christmas or for birthdays.
Strategy board games are a particularly fun style of board game and really let you get involved in tactics and decision making. They're called "strategy" games because the gameplay requires each player to use all their wits to come up with a plan to outwit and outscore the opposing players. As a result, these games can really give your brain a workout and are a great way to help younger players start to think like a strategist.
I have listed 10 of what I consider to be the best ones of all time below. I hope you like my list, but if you think of any I've missed, then please leave a comment and let me know.
Number of Players: 3-5
For Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 2-6 hours
Risk is perhaps the greatest strategy board game of them all! Each player is assigned territories on the board, which is a map of the world. You then essentially battle your way across the world map, fighting your enemies and taking control of their territories.
You have a certain amount of units that are spread across the map at the start of the game and you gain more by beating your opponents in battle and by taking control of whole continents. The battles are decided by the roll of different dice, so luck is an element and many times I have seen my huge army dwindled away against a far inferior force. But, the fact that anything could happen is part of the fun of the game. The game is won or lost with your strategy though, so the dice don't detract from the strategic elements of the game.
There are many variants of Risk, including a Walking Dead, a Game of Thrones, and a 2210 A.D. version. Regardless of the variant, you typically have to achieve missions, such as wiping another player off the board or take certain continents. Or, you can play the brilliant (but inevitably very long) game of World Domination Risk. Don’t expect this to be a quick game as a mission Risk can last up to two hours and World Domination Risk is typically a six-hour commitment!
Game of Thrones: The Board Game
Number of Players: 3-6
For Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 3-5 hours
This is a great strategy board game both for those who are a fan of the books and TV programme and for those who have never heard of it before. In the Game of Thrones Board Game, each player controls one of the Great Houses of Westeros and must use war, politics, diplomacy, and espionage to gain complete dominance over your enemies and ascend the fabled Iron Throne.
The game takes place over 10 rounds, and the player who has successfully captured the most territory at the end of the game is declared the winner. One of my favorite parts of the game is how forging and breaking alliances are central to victory. You may need another player's help one turn and stab her in the back the next. But that's just how it's played.
It is completely based on skill and strategy, with almost no luck elements involved. It is a fairly complicated game and takes a while to learn. So, it's maybe not ideal for young children. It is also not a quick game and could go on for up to five hours.
Number of Players: 3-5
For Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 90 minutes
Puerto Rico has won more awards than any other board game - and once you play it, you'll see why. While it is fairly complicated right out of the box, as soon as you catch on to the rules, you will absolutely be hooked and won't be able to wait to play again.
Each player tries to grow crops, which they can then trade for points (which will help them win the game) or doubloons (which they can use to construct buildings that will give them advantages over their opponents). You then choose a game role - such as "Trader," or "Builder" - depending on what your approach to the game is. In sum, the game is about producing goods that have different attributes that you can sell or exchange for money or victory points. Your choice of role is a key part of your strategy as it can make or break your game.
There are two really great things that I love about this game.
- Never the same game twice. Even though there is no dice, and so no random chance, it's impossible to find a single winning strategy. What works in one game won't necessarily work in another. That makes it an infinitely replayable game.
- The score is secret. Your point tokens are placed face down, so no one is ever really quite sure who's ahead - which creates an interesting dynamic as you enter the endgame. I really like this feature, because it keeps everyone invested until the very end.
The more players the better with this game. You can play with up to five. A good game of Puerto Rico will last you about 2 hours.
Number of Players: 2-5
For Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Carcassonne is a strategy game where players lay tiles to develop the area around the town of Carcassonne. You then use their population to work on the roads, cities, cloisters and fields. The player who develops his territory best will win the game. This is a similar board game to Settlers of Catan so if you enjoy Settlers of Catan (see below) you will probably enjoy Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is a very easy board game to learn and games are quick at around 45 minutes. Both strategy and luck are involved, and there's very little chance of getting bored as the game is extremely fast paced.
The real beauty and depth of this game comes with the large number of available expansion packs, which really change the dynamics of the game.
A great option is the "Big Box" version which includes the following 5 expansions - Inn & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, The River, Hills & Sheep, and The Wheel of Fortune! It also includes two new sets of pieces to allow you to play with up to 8 players!
There is a new 2015 version of Carcassonne that has a different design and includes 2 expansions, The River and The Abbott. These expansions and its great new look make it a really good value.
You can still use your old expansions with the new 2015 version of Carcassonne. However the design will be different so it might look a little odd. The separate expansions are still in the old style though so if you think you will be adding many expansions to the game you may still want to buy the original version or the Big Box.
Number of Players: 2-12
For Ages: 7+
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Sequence is a fun board game that can be played by adults and children alike. It really makes you think about your strategy to win and will keep you entertained for hours.
Each player is dealt cards, the number of cards depending on how many players there are. These cards then determine where you can place chips on the board. You then have to get 5 chips in a row, kind of like a moving version of Connect 4. It is a highly strategic game so probably not best for very young children but great fun for older kids and adults.
1. This is a quality game and the tokens and chips are very well made
2. It has very quick and simple game play so you don't need to play for hours like Risk or Diplomacy
3. It has a good balance of strategy without dragging on some it is difficult to get bored
1. can take a while to get off the ground as the instructions aren't the clearest, especially as this is such a simple game.
2. the tokens only come in 3 colours so you are limited to 3 players or playing in teams which can be annoying.
Number of Players: 2-6
For Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 1-2 hours
Redneck Life probably can't compete with the likes of Risk and Peurto Rico in terms of pure strategy, however it is hilarious, if slightly politically incorrect...
Essentially your roll of the dice decides your path through life, determining everything from what grade of school you finish to your career (options include Mullet Salon Operator and Monster Truck Announcer!). The game play is similar to that of Monopoly. You start the game with teeth and as the game progresses and bad things happen to you, you lose your teeth. The player with the most teeth at the end wins. Simple but very effective and great fun.
Though it is not strictly a strategy board game, this is so much fun that I thought I would include it on my list.
Number of Players: 2-4
For Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes.
Dominion is a really fun and engaging strategy card game. It's not technically a board game since you don't need one to play, but it has all the right elements, which is why I included it on the list.
In this game, you play the role of a king, and your aim is to try to increase the size of your kingdom by acquiring as much land as possible. As your opponents are also trying to do the same thing you must build castles and other buildings to defend yourself.
A turn has two phases: playing action cards and buying action cards and victory points. It’s the timing of these two phases that can win or lose you the game. This is essentially a deck-building game, and you want to try to manage your deck so that you have a good mixture of victory points, gold, and action cards. Too much of one or the other means inevitable defeat.
Cards Against Humanity
Number of Players: 3 - 10
For Ages: 18+
Playing Time: Varies
OK, so Cards Against Humanity is more of a party game than a strategy board, but for all out quick-fire, multiplayer fun there are few games that can compete. However, be aware this is an adult game so should not be played with the family around the dinner table after your Sunday dinner.
Essentially, there are black cards and there are white cards. The black cards contain a question or a phrase with a blank at the end and the white cards contain answers that can be played to complete the phrases or questions. Sounds simple? It is and it’s very addictive. Each player takes a turn to be the judge and picks a black card. The other players then select one of their white cards to complete the phrase. The judge then selects his or her favorite response, and the player whose response is selected earns a point gets a point. You can play up to a certain amount of points or for a time limit.
As previously stated this is probably not for everyone, it is definitely NOT politically correct, but that really is the appeal. If you are easily shocked or do not have a dark(ish) sense of humor you may not like this game. If you do, however, you will love it and will probably not stop playing it for a long time.
It can also provide some light relief after you've just finished your eight-hour epic game of world domination risk…
Cards Against Humanity is further improved with the addition of the excellent expansion sets. These contain new black and white cards to keep things interesting (and shocking!). They can also be bought as a set of six with the original game with a big cost saving.
Number of Players: 2-5
For Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 60 minutes
The aim of Gloom is morbid yet simple: cause your characters as much pain as you can before they die. Sounds depressing I know, but it's actually great fun.
Each player starts with five family members and to win the game you must cause more pain to these characters than any other team does to theirs and then kill your characters when they are at their lowest ebb. The twist is that your opponents are trying to make good things happen to your characters at the same time. A really fun and totally original card game with real strategy elements.
Settlers of Catan
Number of Players 3-4
For Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 90 minutes
Settlers of Catan is a resource-gathering strategy board game. The board consists of 19 terrain blocks (hexes) surrounded by the ocean. Each terrain produces a different resources like brick, wool, ore, grain, and wood.
The aim of The Settlers of Catan is to collect 10 victory points. Each settlement is worth one victory point, and each city is worth two victory points. You can also earn victory points by holding the "Longest Road" card, the "Largest Army" card and by holding special victory point development cards.
Settlers of Catan is quite a complicated game and might take a bit of getting used to. However, it is well worth investing a little time in as it is a brilliant game. The best part is that because the terrain blocks are arranged differently every time you play, each game is different. So there's tons and tons of replayability. You may want to be careful with this game, though: people can get really intense when playing. Of course, my view is that if you're not willing to ruin a friendship - or even your marriage - to win, then you're not playing hard enough.
Ticket to Ride
This is a unique cross-country train, adventure-style board game. Players aim to collect cards enabling them to create railway routes that connect cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Extra points are awarded to those who connect distant cities and to those who build the longest railways.
This game has the advantage of being incredibly easy to learn while also allowing for a lot of tactical and strategic gameplay. The rules are super simple: each turn you either draw more cards, claim a train route, or get a Destination Ticket - a mission card that gives you points for completion. The fundamental tension in the game play comes from being forced to balance your greed for more cards with fear of losing a key train route to another player.
This is a great game for adults and brilliant for kids. Ticket To Ride is an easy but challenging game where you can be nice or aim to block your opponents to gain an advantage.
Number of Players: 2-7
For Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 4-6 hours
Described as the board game of the alpha nerd, Diplomacy is one of the best strategy board games ever invented! If you like pure strategy games of skill where you have to make alliances with your enemies only to stab them in the back before someone else stabs you first, you will love Diplomacy. If you are familiar with the TV series House of Cards, Diplomacy is the board game equivalent of the show!
There is no luck involved and it can take a while to get into as there are a lot of rules to understand and follow. It can be played with between two and seven players, but for me Diplomacy works better the more players you have.
The game is based around the outbreak of the first world war, with each of the seven players taking control of one of the main European countries involved: Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia, Turkey or France. The aim is to take Supply Centres which allow you to reinforce your armies.
There are 4 stages – Diplomacy – where you make and break your alliances; Orders – where you write down what you will actually do; Movement – your orders are carried out; and, finally, the Removal or addition of armies. With no dice rolls, this game is pure strategy. You will win or lose based on how well you're able to negotiate with - and then betray - your fellow players.
This all makes for a very involved and extremely long game. (So long, in fact, that many avid Diplomacy fans play by correspondence). But if this is your thing then you will love Diplomacy.
Number of Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 2 hours
If I told you that competitive farming could provide one of the most strategic and satisfying strategy board games ever would you believe me?
In this game you try to build and run a farm by building fences and collecting wood, stone, clay etc. The ultimate aim is to build a bigger and better farm with a bigger farmhouse and fields than your opponents when the points are tallied up at the end of the game. You get one turn for each member of your family, which at the start of the game is just you and your spouse. You can have additional children, but doing so requires adding another room to your house, which uses the valuable resources you could use to build a fence instead, which would allow you to keep more animals or grow more crops to feed your family. So many decisions! This is just the tip of the iceberg and there are limitless permutations which can contribute to a complicated game with a lot of rules.
Before playing this game I thought “I can’t possibly get excited over a farming game.” Well, I was wrong. Agricola is a hugely exciting and addictive game. OK, if you are a real purist and insist that fighting huge battles is the way forward you may be better off with Risk or Diplomacy, however if you enjoy games of fine balance and strategy with limitless intricacies that allow for a different game each time you play, then you will really love Agricola.
Agricola - More on the Rules . . .
What Do You Think?
Which game is your favorite?
Questions & Answers
Which board game has easy rules?
Carcassonne is a good one to start with as it is simple and easy to pick up.