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7 Strategy Board Games That Belong in Every Gaming Collection

Shane's been gaming for nearly 40 years and loves a broad array of games in addition to being one-quarter of the Assorted Meeples group.

Here's a small sample of our home board game collection. You should see the walls of shelves in the basement.

Here's a small sample of our home board game collection. You should see the walls of shelves in the basement.

Amazing Strategy Games for Every Board Game Collection

I not only love board games in general, but I am a massive fan of strategy games in particular. Many gamers have strategic minds, and so it shouldn't be surprising when a good strategy board game gets a lot of attention.

While I'll always have a soft spot for chess, Stratego, and (to a much lesser extent) Risk, there are so many amazing strategy board games out there that can offer very different experiences based on what the players are looking for.

Naming all the great ones would be nearly impossible, but the following seven strategy games are outstanding options that are easy to play, involve heavy strategy to win consistently, and belong on every strategy game fan's shelves.

  1. Settlers of Catan
  2. Bunny Kingdom
  3. Lords of Waterdeep (With Scoundrels of Skullport Expansion)
  4. 7 Wonders
  5. Dune
  6. Scythe
  7. Gloomhaven

1. Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is one of those classic strategy games that almost every serious gamer has played, and it tends to be a mainstay for groups of gamer friends who need that active shortlist of good games to bring out when no one can make a decision on what they're in the mood for.

While it's simple to set up the game and learn the basic rules, the strategy behind resource collection, cutting off other players, and using development cards to get to 10 points without having the entire table pounce on you is an entirely different story.

Each player starts with two settlements, two roads, and the resource cards that come from the resources their second placed town settles, and then the dice rolls begin.

This is a fantastic game as you work to grow your towns into cities, build roads to get to open spaces so you can build more, take advantages of harbors, and maybe trade precious resources for development cards. The first player to 10 points wins.

A classic game for a reason, it's a must-have for any respectable gamer's collection, and there's a reason it's often seen as a gateway to the advanced strategy board game genre.

Bunny Kingdom is one of the group's favorite games and comes out on the table a lot.

Bunny Kingdom is one of the group's favorite games and comes out on the table a lot.

2. Bunny Kingdom

An utterly delightful game that sometimes gets overlooked because of the cute bunnies and art design, but as cute as this game is the level of strategy behind the cuteness is nothing to sneeze at.

Bunny Kingdom is an outstanding game by famed game developer Richard Garfield, and brings together a cute aesthetic, incredible card art, and the type of top-notch strategy that would be expected from a Garfield game.

This is a territory and resource management game at its heart, and the cards offer various bonuses, points, and interesting end of game mechanics that make for endless replay value and a game that isn't decided until the very end.

The Sky Tower expansion is outstanding and adds even more to the game including many more luxury resources, interesting parchments added to the card deck, and other new strategies to dive into the game and push forward to ride a tidal wave of points at the end.

If you've stayed away from this game because it looked "too cute" or too "kiddie," go back and give it a serious shot.

This game is something special and unique, and rapidly made my top 5 list of board games to play.

3. Lords of Waterdeep (With Scoundrels of Skullport Expansion)

Lords of Waterdeep is one of my all-time favorite games, and is incredible as a standalone game, and made even better with the 2-in-1 expansions Scoundrels of Skullport expansion. This game is in one of the classic all time fantasy-adventure and Dungeons & Dragons settings in the Great City of Waterdeep.

However, instead of playing the part of competing adventurers, you play the part of one of the secretive Lords of Waterdeep, the shadow council that runs the cities, builds up treasure, recruits adventurers, and sends them out to do necessary jobs.

Points are earned mostly from completing quests with additional points from buying buildings, certain intrigue cards, and end of game bonuses.

This is an extremely in-depth game but one that most gamers can pick up on before the end of the first game. The strategy comes from playing different cards, different lords, and looking at the unique buildings and quests that come out each game. Every single game is different, and so many factors play into whether your lord will be powerful, or fall behind to the whims of the others.

An outstanding game, this has been a favorite of my gaming group since we were introduced to it over 6 years ago and is a strategy game with very few competitors.

Manage your Meeples, recruit adventurers, and protect your interests as you work to stymie your opponents. This fantasy adventure strategy game is found on most Top 100 all-time board game lists and is easy enough to learn while offering endless replay value and challenge into the future.

The box of the first edition of 7 Wonders compared to the box of the new second edition. Quite a lot of art changes to go with gameplay changes, but both games are outstanding.

The box of the first edition of 7 Wonders compared to the box of the new second edition. Quite a lot of art changes to go with gameplay changes, but both games are outstanding.

4. 7 Wonders

7 Wonders has been released in two editions, and the second edition introduced some major mechanical changes to rebalance various sections of the game as well as some of the buildings within the deck. These changes have generally been met with positive reviews, and that's coming from many gamers who loved the first version.

Whether you end up playing the first edition or the second edition of 7 Wonders, the basics of the game are the same. Choose a civilization from the ancient world that built one of the great wonders, fight for resources, develop science, build your ancient wonder for major bonuses, and defend from attack by your neighbors while building your own military to raid them.

This board game is heavy on the card play with learning how to plan how to build your empire, get critical resources, desperately work to produce coins to purchase what you need, and to thwart your opponents' plans.

This is an extremely fun game that is heavy on strategy, provides a very different experience depending on what civilization is played, and has great card art that brings home the feeling of competing in the Classical World.

Assorted Meeples did a fantastic in-depth review of 7 Wonders 1st Edition Vs 2nd Edition that compares and contrasts both games in extensive detail.

I've played both versions extensively with my gaming group and we love them both. Most like 2nd Edition a little bit better than first while a couple holdouts aren't sure, but even they have the two as equally good versus liking the 1st edition better.

Whichever version you try—you're in for a great time!

5. Dune

Dune is one of the more complex games on this list, but it is worth trudging through the first game or two to really learn the mechanics, the factions, and get an idea of how to effectively play this game based on the famous science fiction books by Frank Herbert.

Each faction in Dune has different special abilities, different starting advantages, and different restrictions. This means getting the most out of each faction involves learning how to play to their strengths against the other factions on the board while defending against their own obvious weaknesses.

Some factions can move more freely than others, some get bonuses for taking or keeping strongholds, others can call in units and reinforcements in huge numbers but those forces can only land in very specific areas, allowing more mobile factions to move away before taking damage.

This is an extremely well-balanced game that starts off as competitive until it hits a certain point when players must team up in two player factions to try to force a dual victory. This unique mechanic sometimes leads to one side of the table running roughshod over the other, and sometimes it leads to crazy balanced alliances that are playing 6-level chess to the very last move.

Dune does have a steep learning curve, but it is worth taking a game or two to learn the mechanics and embrace the incredible level of strategy that this game brings to the table.

The base game for Scythe (right) and a special edition box (left) for when you want to break out the post–World War I dark humor Mecha dystopia.

The base game for Scythe (right) and a special edition box (left) for when you want to break out the post–World War I dark humor Mecha dystopia.

6. Scythe

Imagine Steampunk meats post World War I dystopia, and you get a pretty good sense of the setting and incredibly dark humor that Scythe brings to the table. This is a dense game that can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you learn the mechanics (or keep cheat sheets close by to reference) they make a lot of sense and are well organized.

Scythe has some very dark humor, which I personally love but won't be for everyone. The different factions have various abilities that strengthen one aspect of gameplay, and it's up to players to intelligently use their strengths, their military cards, and good strategic thinking to edge out their opponents.

Timing when to overstretch for a factory bonus and when to play conservatively to strike at an aggressively expanding neighbor is often key to victory in this game and although this is another game with a steep learning curve, many gamers find it's well worth the experience.

Scythe is a game that does create many love-hate feelings, but even if you fall on the latter, the experience of playing Scythe is still an interesting one that most board gamers will appreciate—and many will enjoy.

7. Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven isn't going to be for everyone, but if you love Dungeons & Dragons, RPGs, legacy campaigns, or in-depth storytelling of any kind, and you don't mind diving headfirst into an hours-long multi-part board game, then Gloomhaven is likely to be your kind of jam.

An extremely well-designed game that does a great job of introducing the feel and aesthetic of Dungeons & Dragons and storytelling-based roleplaying in board game form, but be aware that Gloomhaven is very different from D&D as the actual gameplay is much more a tactical warfare style of game than a conventional D&D campaign.

The combination of legacy style gaming with tactical war game mechanics and a D&D aesthetic mixes together in a delightful way to create an incredible board game unlike any other.

This game is expensive, it is in-depth, but if you get the right group around it, Gloomhaven delivers a gaming experience that is hard to match!

Embracing Strategy Board Games: In Conclusion

Strategy games are amazing, and that combination of fun and high-level thinking is a combo that's hard to find. Board games are an amazing way to bring these two things together, and when you can exercise the brain, play a great game, and spend time with friends—that's just a winning combination.

While there are literally hundreds of good board games out there, and dozens of good strategy board games in my collection alone, these seven give a great combination of depth, challenge, and replay value to all board game fans!

© 2022 Shane Dayton