The 10 Best Strategy Board Games For Adults

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Compelling themes, smart mechanics, comprehensive rules — there are so many factors that need to come together before a game can qualify as one of the best strategy board games for adults. A few classics have survived the years, but as board game popularity reaches its peak (nearly 5,000 new board games were introduced into the US market yearly, according to recent data), more and more favorites are joining the ranks. For tabletop players, that's awesome news — but it's also a lot of options to sort through.

Lately, there's been an influx of adult party games that'll make any game night, but strategy games are a little bit more complex. (They're also significantly more expensive than their card-game counterparts.) For that reason, it's important to know your favorite niches and your preferred involvement levels before you invest in a strategy board game. No one wants to read halfway through the rulebook only to realize they have zero interest in engine building, for example.

I've researched the best strategy board games according to players and reviewers and broken them down into all the most telling categories. That way, you can find one that sounds intriguing to you, so that you can dominate your next game night. And, to help you out, I've sorted them from the simplest to the most intricate games, so you can pick the perfect strategy board game for your group.


A Popular Strategy Board Game For All Ages: Codenames

In addition to being the biggest top seller on Amazon, Codenames is also a cult-favorite: "Every person I've introduced this game to has had a blast," says one Reddit user. Split into teams and designate a spymaster — the only person on your team who knows the identity of your secret agents. Your spymaster gives one-word clues to help you figure out where your agents are located on the grid, and the first team to make contact with all of them wins.

Game Time: Only 15 minutes per game.

Number Of Players: Two to eight players is ideal, though since it's a two-team game, you can technically make the teams as big or as small as you want.

Involvement Level: Simple — With quick play times, easy-to-follow rules, and minimal game-pieces, this one's great for parties, big families, and various age-groups.

According to one reviewer: "Fun for the whole family!... My family of four (21, 18, 12, and 50+) enjoyed this very much! We love challenging games that require some skill/thought especially now that my youngest is old enough to participate."


A “Complex, Brilliant Game” For Nature-Lovers: Photosynthesis

This game called Photosynthesis has players cultivating seeds to grow forests. As the trees complete entire life-cycles, players collect points while their trees collect energy. It might not initially seem like "the sexiest idea for a board game," reviewers joke, but this one has a 4.6-star rating because of its gorgeous artwork, abstract nature theme, and "complex, brilliant" gameplay.

Game Time: Reviewers say it typically takes 20 minutes per every player — so if you've got three, it'll take an hour.

Number Of Players: Two to four players.

Involvement Level: Moderate — The rules themselves are simple, but the game has economy mechanics and requires a good amount of strategy in order to win. "This is area control at its finest," one player says. "The potential to harm yourself is especially brilliant."

According to one reviewer: "Great game! Rule book is small and to the point. Looks beautiful on the table. Very light game that requires a surprising amount of strategy. Works well even as a two player game!"


A Quick Strategy Board Game That’s Easy To Pick Up: Tsuro

Tsuro's objective is simple — stay on the board — but it's easier said than done. Each player takes a dragon pawn and picks a starting point. By placing the various path tiles one at a time, players build roads in an attempt to lead other players off the board. If you're the last one still standing, you win.

Game Time: 15 to 20 minutes per game

Number Of Players: Two to eight players.

Involvement Level: Simple — this pick is quick and easy to understand for all ages.

According to one reviewer: "Fun family game. It leaves itself open to various strategies and variants of game play. Fun for everyone from children to advanced board game players."


A Strategy Board Game With A Near-Perfect Rating: Splendor

Based on the European Renaissance, Splendor is an exciting game that has you vying for gem mines, trade routes, and storefronts in order to become the richest merchant in history. Collect gem cards, build up to bigger riches, and attract the attention of nobles using weighted gem tokens, hundreds of cards, and character tiles. Reddit users call it "a great introduction to 'economy/engine-builder' games," and say that even though it's fun and simple, it's also surprisingly "deep" in its immersive gameplay. No wonder it has a 4.8-star rating.

Game Time: 30 minutes

Number Of Players: Two to four players.

Involvement Level: Moderate — this game is "very accessible and easy to learn," but it has a good amount of game pieces and requires you to "pay attention to everyone else's strategy" in order to win.

According to one reviewer: "Love this game for 12 [years] and older. Great mix of luck and strategy. One game takes about 30-45 minutes to play."


A Cooperative Strategy Game: Betrayal At House On The Hill

If you love horror, role-playing, strategy, and immersive story-telling, Betrayal At House On The Hill is the game for you. Each player makes their way through the creepy mansion, finding new rooms and discovering unsettling secrets. With changing stats, 50 possible scenarios, and a traitor among you in every game, this game will have everyone on the edge of their seats.

Game Time: Most people say it takes less than an hour, but the more players you have, the longer it'll be — especially with people who are slow to make decisions.

Number Of Players: Three to six players.

Involvement Level: Intricate — this game has a definite "learning curve" and requires people to play through it at least once before fully understanding how it works. It also has various scenarios, several pages of rules, and lots of elements that change up the game every time you play.

According to one reviewer: "This is a great game for people who like exploration and strategy. The exploration phase of the game is fantastic and really encourages players to work together. The betrayal phase of the game is also fun, and often ends up with one player pitted against all of the others in a race to the finish."


A Whimsical Game That Started On Kickstarter: Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is one of Kickstarter's most backed projects of all time, and even though it contains only cards filled with cute drawings, it still requires some strategy. Draw cards and build an army of unicorns — but if you become too strong too quickly, you'll also become the target.

Game Time: It varies; games can take over an hour each, or end in 10 minutes.

Number Of Players: Two to eight players.

Involvement Level: Simple — it's easy to learn and goes by quickly. It's also a fun game for kids as young as 10, but be warned; it's not a good choice for sore losers, and a lot of it is chance-based.

According to one reviewer: "My family and I love this game. I play it with my wife and my 11 year old daughter. This game is fine to play with a kid her age. The instructions are easy to understand as are the directions on the specific cards. GREAT GAME!!!"


An Award-Winning Classic Board Game: Catan

According to Reddit, Catan "can't be beaten" when it comes to "destroying families and friendships," but it's that same level of investment that makes it one of the "best board games ever made." It even won the Game of the Century award. Players explore the map, craft resources, and buy development cards in order to settle the island of Catan — but other players are settling too, and they just might beat you to it.

Game Time: Roughly an hour.

Number Of Players: Three to four players.

Involvement Level: Moderate — Reviewers say it's great for all ages over 10 and is "straightforward to learn," but it also requires a "poker face and a good set of bluffing skills."

According to one reviewer: "My family loves this game... The game involves strategy, making trade deals, and there are several ways to win. Each of my kids has their own strategy to win and it's fun to see them learning about honesty, shrewd bargaining, and exploring new ways to try to win."


A Popular Historic Train Game: Ticket To Ride

Due to its thousands of reviews, Ticket To Ride is an engaging historic strategy game that's hard to ignore. It's based on Phileas Fogg's "impetuous and lucrative gamble" to travel around the world in 80 days. This game provides "hours of fun" while players claim and connect various train routes in order to create the longest continuous railroad across the map.

Game Time: Games typically last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Number Of Players: Two to five players.

Involvement Level: Moderate — While there are a lot of game pieces and a points system to keep track of, people also say that the rules are simple and it has an "easy learning curve." You can even play with children as young as 10.

According to one reviewer: "Love this game. So fun and long enough to enjoy with a group. It’s made of very good quality materials and the box comes with storage slots for all the pieces. Best part is you can play the game even if there are only 2 players. Easy to learn and easy setup and very easy to tally points too."


A Contemporary Co-Op Strategy Game: Pandemic

Plane-hopping, a ticking clock, deadly diseases — Pandemic has people raving about how addictive and intriguing it is. Players form a team of characters (each with their own strengths) who use action cards to move between cities, set up hot spots, and research cures. Rather than competition, this strategy game requires that all players work together to find a cure to the pandemic before humanity is wiped out.

Game Time: One hour

Number Of Players: Two to four players.

Involvement Level: Moderate — It's easy enough to learn, but is relatively hard to beat. It also requires cooperation, so it's not a great pick for small children or people who can't commit to a game.

According to one reviewer: "What a perfect game for this current season! It takes a bit to learn and understand the different rules, but this game is very fun and has all kinds of twists and turns. Game play changes slightly with the amount of players involved and I am very pleased with the mechanics of the game. This game feels like one of those "long-term" board games that can be fun at any time like Clue or Scrabble."


A Game-Of-Thrones-Themed Strategy Game: Risk Game Of Thrones Edition

Risk is widely considered one of the best strategy games of all time, but this Game of Thrones version adds an immersive, pop-culture spin on an already-great game. Split into teams, choose your family house, and dominate the battlefields to earn your spot on the Iron Throne. With familiar character cards, themed player pieces, and intricate custom maps, this one's a must-have for any Game of Thrones fan.

Game Time: Anywhere from two to several hours depending on gameplay and the number of people.

Number Of Players: This game comes with two different maps for various play options; the Essos map is best with two players, the Westeros map is ideal for three to five players, and they can be combined to accommodate up to seven players.

Involvement Level: Intricate — Risk has been known to get very intense and can take a few hours per game (some even say it's not a good idea if you "value your friendship"), but this version comes with Objective Cards and map options to help ease the intensity.

According to one reviewer: "Great challenge for the Risk and Game of Thrones fans. Much strategy involved. The pieces are all interesting. Maps are really cool. Takes time to play it through. Our youngest player was 13 and he picked it up."