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 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.
Choosing A Strategy Game For Adults
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 difficulty 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 and dominate your next game night. Plus, to help you out, I've indicated the difficulty level ranging from simple to intricate games, so you can pick the perfect strategy board game for your group.
Shop The Best Strategy Board Games For Adults In a hurry? These are the best strategy board games for adults: 1. A Popular Strategy Board Game For All Ages: Codenames 2. A “Complex, Brilliant Game” For Nature Lovers: Photosynthesis 3. A Quick Strategy Board Game That’s Easy To Pick Up: Tsuro 4. A Strategy Board Game With A Near-Perfect Rating: Splendor 5. A Cooperative Strategy Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill 6. A Whimsical Game That Started On Kickstarter: Unstable Unicorns 7. An Award-Winning Classic Board Game: Catan 8. A Popular Cross-Country Train Game: Ticket to Ride 9. A Contemporary Co-Op Strategy Game: Pandemic 10. A Medieval Themed Strategy Game: Carcassonne
Ready to add some new games to your collection? Scroll on for the details on each of these strategy board games for adults.
1 A Popular Strategy Board Game For All Ages Length Of Gameplay: 15 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 8 | Difficulty: Simple
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. According to one reviewer: "First of all, each games only takes maybe 15-minutes, but its also fun to binge if you have people that want to play for an extended time. The concept is simple - its easy to learn - the setup is quick. Its not just a word game but also a decent degree of strategy to it as well. This become one of the "go-tos" in my family's collection of board games." 2 A “Complex, Brilliant Game” For Nature-Lovers Length Of Gameplay: 20 minutes per player | Number Of Players: 2 — 4 | Difficulty: Moderate
This game called
Photosynthesis has players cultivating seeds to grow forests. As the trees complete their 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 4.7-star rating because of its gorgeous artwork, abstract nature theme, and "complex, brilliant" gameplay. 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 wrote. "The potential to harm yourself is especially brilliant." According to one reviewer: "I'm very picky about strategy games because they're usually so complicated to learn and so time consuming to play. But this one was quick to pick up and only takes like 20-30 minutes with two people! It's such a clever and unique idea, and it has beautiful artwork. Would definitely recommend." 3 A Quick Strategy Board Game That’s Easy To Pick Up Length Of Gameplay: 20 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 8 | Difficulty: Simple 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. According to one reviewer: "The artwork on the box, game board, tiles, instructions, dragons is beautifully drawn. [...] The more people that play (8 total) the more fun and strategy there is to keep on the board without falling off (due to your tiles paths or someone else's connecting path) or colliding with another dragon. The games are also fairly quick so if you fall off the board early it's not a long wait to play again. This is an amazing, simplistic, beautiful, high replay, very fun game for casual and hardcore board gamers of all ages!" 4 A Strategy Board Game With A Near-Perfect Rating Length Of Gameplay: 30 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 4 | Difficulty: Moderate
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 4.9-star rating. 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: "What a great, casual game. It is really quick to setup, easy for new gamers to understand, but still provides loads of strategy. The nobles rarely come into play when playing to only 15 per the official rules, so our house rules are usually set such that you must get 21 and have 1 noble to win. It makes the game last a bit longer plus provides some additional strategy opportunities. The game itself is well made. The cards are thick and well printed. The chips are well weighted and feel like poker chips. They feel great in the hand and are fun to play with. Overall, a great game. Highly recommended." 5 A Cooperative Strategy Game Length Of Gameplay: 60 minutes | Number Of Players: Three to six players | Difficulty: Intricate
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, everyone will be on the edge of their seats. 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: "Mind Blown! [...] I love the unexpectedness of the haunt and the storylines. Its so much fun thinking of strategies to win the game on both sides—as the single traitor and the rest of the explorers. I even bought the expansion pack out of excitement for future playing even though there are 50 different storylines in the main one. I take awhile to understand how to play games, so I feel its a bit hard to learn at first— but after 2 full games, you should be good! Patience is key when the haunt starts since players may take time to strategize…so don’t expect a fast gameplay. Absolutely worth every penny!" 6 A Whimsical Game That Started On Kickstarter Length Of Gameplay: 30 — 60 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 8 | Difficulty: Simple Unstable Unicorns is one of Kickstarter's most backed projects of all time (and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award for Toy of the Year), 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. This game is 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!!!" 7 An Award-Winning Classic Board Game Length Of Gameplay: 60 minutes | Number Of Players: 3 — 4 | Difficulty: Moderate
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. 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: "Catan offers a great balance between strategy and competitive gameplay. While luck is almost always a factor in boardgames and Catan is not the exception (dice rolling involved), the game feels more guided and affected by your strategy and decisions rather than by luck, which is good, since this makes the game more compelling and adds weight to the decisions that you make throughout the game. There is also a trading component that allows you to interact with the other players, which is great for stirring some fun arguments and debates." 8 A Popular Cross-Country Train Game Length Of Gameplay: 30 — 60 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 5 | Difficulty: Moderate
Due to its thousands of reviews,
Ticket To Ride is an engaging 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 to create the longest continuous railroad across the map. 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: "This game is extremely elegant, making it easy for those new to gaming to get into, but it also provides great opportunities for strategy that game lovers can appreciate. Everyone I have played it with says it was their favorite game of the night-- it is a true crowd pleaser." 9 A Contemporary Co-Op Strategy Game Length Of Gameplay: 60 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 4 | Difficulty: Moderate
Plane-hopping, a ticking clock, deadly diseases —
Pandemic has people raving about how obsession-inducing 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. 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: "Okay, to start out, I love love LOVE Pandemic! I admit it, I'm a bit competitive. I hate losing games. [...] Pandemic is fantastic because you cooperative with the other players and you all win or lose together. I just absolutely love sitting at the table talking about all our options and strategizing together." 10 A Medieval Themed Strategy Game Length Of Gameplay: 45 minutes | Number Of Players: 2 — 5 | Difficulty: Moderate
Carcassonne, players strategically place tiles on the board to build cities, roads, and fields that create a medieval city, complete with followers such as knights, monks, and farmers that will earn them points depending on how they’re used. The player who scores the most points from tiles and followers will win the game. The game comes with 84 tiles that can be used to create an endless combination of cities, but for even more complexity, there are a variety of expansion packs available. According to one reviewer: "This is my new favorite game. I would literally play it over and over again if people would play with me. My husband and I have a whole cabinet full of games, but this is the one we *actually* use on a regular basis. It’s just the right balance of strategy and luck. Everyone we’ve played it with has enjoyed it. From gamers to casual party game players it seems to please everyone.”
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This article was originally published on
Jan. 6, 2019