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20 Best Strategy Board Games Of All Time Ranked

Board games have been a popular form of entertainment for decades. They've evolved from relatively simple games like checkers to modern releases that can be ruthlessly complicated but also far more rewarding. They are a perfect choice for a family night or a party with friends, and many board games are designed to be played by large groups of people of all ages.

When it comes to board games, the ones that strike a chord with the most people are undoubtedly strategy games. These types of games don't just involve random luck to win. Players have to make decisions and put their critical thinking skills to the test, outmaneuvering everyone else to come out on top. This makes strategy games exciting because it feels as if you are in charge of your own destiny rather than just aimlessly throwing dice or picking cards.

There's a rich array of possible choices when it comes to picking the best strategy games to play. You couldn't do much better than checking out these all-time classics, many of which will keep adults and children entertained for hours on end. Here are the 20 best strategy board games of all time, ranked.

20. Risk

"Risk" is a strategy board game where players attempt to take over the world. They can do this in a variety of ways, either by eliminating other players through force or by striking up alliances and using diplomacy to advance their cause. In the standard version of the game, the world map is divided into 42 different territories that the players control equally at the start. Each turn, players receive reinforcements to their military according to how many regions they own and their location. Holding particular areas, like Western Europe or North America, can grant bonuses.

What makes Risk so fun is that it is a game that can be played with just two people or up to six and is suitable for people of almost all ages. While there is some luck to "Risk" when it comes to dice throws, it does involve a lot of strategy. Striking up alliances at the right time and carefully choosing where to attack to get the most benefit is incredibly important to coming out on top. No two rounds of "Risk" are the same, and it's a game that can last for hours at a time.

19. Catan

"Catan" is a board game that has gone by several names since it was first released in 1995. It was previously known as "The Settlers of Catan" and even just "Settlers" before the "Catan" moniker stuck. Supporting up to six players, each competitor takes on the role of a group of settlers trying to develop their kingdom. To do this, they must establish settlements and gather resources. The aim is to grow your settlements and receive victory points, with a set number of points needed to win.

One of the most appealing aspects of "Catan" is its simplicity. The rules are basic and easy to understand while the gameplay is intuitive, making it a strategy game that most players should be able to pick up and get going with quite quickly. The sheer popularity of "Catan" has also meant that the creators have released a wide array of expansions for the original game, which means that once you have mastered the base version, there are lots of possibilities when it comes to switching up the experience.

18. Monopoly

There is one board game that has proved so successful that practically everyone has heard of it. Britannica notes that "Monopoly," which first launched in 1935, has become one of the best-selling board games ever. The original version, known as "The Landlord's Game," was meant to show the evils of property ownership and evolved into the modern-day version that players love today, per The Guardian. Today, Hasbro's official site lists dozens of variants of "Monopoly," including themed versions based on properties such as "Star Wars" and "Stranger Things," meaning there's a board for everyone.

Despite being a strategy game, there is quite a lot of luck needed when playing "Monopoly." The dice rolls are hugely important to moving around the board and landing on the right properties, while random cards can greatly impact gameplay. Yet, there's still plenty of planning and scheming available to players, and "Monopoly" is famous for the competitive nature it inspires in players. Few board games have ever reached the popularity of success of this fan-favorite, and it deserves its place in any strategy board game collection.

17. Wingspan

Although this 2019 board game is relatively new, "Wingspan” has established a positive reputation among board game players and critics. It has won a wide array of awards and earned a dedicated following of fans. The aim of the game is to discover new birds and make your habitat attractive enough to get their attention so that they move in. Over the course of four rounds, each player can choose between four different actions. The gameplay itself is easy to understand, but that doesn't mean there isn't any depth to it, as players have to plan properly to come out on top.

There's a lot to like about "Wingspan." The artwork for the 170 illustrated cards that depict the different birds is stunning. The distinctive theme makes it more appealing to individuals who might not otherwise be interested in strategy games. At its heart, "Wingspan" is simply one of the best engine-building board games on the market and one that rivals the likes of complex titles like "Terraforming Mars."

16. 7 Wonders

"7 Wonders" is a 2010 board game created by Antoine Bauza. The gameplay revolves around players attempting to build up the most impressive society through a variety of means. Players get victory points for collecting gold, building wonders, earning military victories, making scientific discoveries, and setting up guilds. A session is played over three ages with six rounds per age and focuses on drawing cards while making choices based on the possible actions available.

The most interesting innovation in "7 Wonders" is how card management works. After every player lays down a card simultaneously, they pass on their entire hand to the next player. This creates a risk-reward system where you have to balance playing the best card for you but also not giving your opponents cards that they might need. This mechanic makes what is a simple game in concept a very strategic experience, with every choice altering the course of the round. The fast turnaround of "7 Wonders” also helps encourage players to revisit it time and time again.

15. Tsuro

"Tsuro ” might be the most simple release on this list, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great strategy board game. With a typical game taking just 20 minutes to complete, according to Board Game Geek, it is a fast-paced game that is easy to understand and suitable for players of all ages. The aim of "Tsuro” is to keep your dragon token on the board while attempting to remove the other players. You do this by placing tiles on the board containing twisting roads and then moving your token along the path that is created. If the trail leads to the edge of the game board, you are eliminated and lose the game.

As a strategy game, "Tsuro" has a lot going for it. The game supports up to eight players but can be played with just two, making it versatile for different party sizes. It is also very quick to complete, allowing groups to play multiple rounds in a single evening. Yet, the best thing about "Tsuro" is that even if it seems easy to play at first, the game can quickly become intense as the board fills up with tiles and space starts running out.

14. Chess

Chess is one of the oldest games that is still played today, with early versions being played some 1,400 years ago, according to Live Science. The fact that it has remained largely unchanged for most of that time proves chess's timeless gameplay and enjoyability to a wide range of people. Millions of people continue to play it worldwide, with professional leagues and tournaments taking place every week. The game itself is relatively simple to grasp, as players simply take turns moving pieces on the 64 squares of the board. The ultimate goal is to checkmate the enemy king by putting it into a position that it cannot move to escape being in check.

One of the reasons chess has endured for so long is that it allows for so many different strategies. Players have endless possibilities when it comes to what move to play and, as both sides have the same information, it is about outthinking your opponent in a direct battle. Chess is also a cheap game to play, and people could even create their own sets or customize boards and pieces. Finally, players generally get better the more they play. That noticeable improvement motivates them to keep coming back. Beyond that, the best players in the world, such as Bobby Fischer, have become international celebrities.

13. Ticket to Ride

Since it arrived on store shelves in 2004, "Ticket to Ride" has become one of the world's most popular board games. The Guardian reports that it has sold more than three million copies, making it one of the best sellers outside mainstream hits like "Clue" and "Monopoly." "Ticket to Ride" also won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award. The game sees players build train routes across the United States that link up the major cities. By drawing and playing cards, players claim these train routes and points are awarded for connecting cities and for having the longest continuous routes.

"Ticket to Ride" is a simple game at first glance, with players only taking a couple of actions every turn. Yet, a lot of depth comes with planning how to connect routes, with players scrambling to achieve hidden objectives or suffer game-killing penalties that can catapult them into last place. The best thing about playing "Ticket to Ride" is that it keeps everyone constantly on their feet, forcing players to make decisions and take advantage of choices made by others.

12. Twilight Imperium

First released in 1997, "Twilight Imperium" is a strategy board game set in space. Unlike many of the other games in this list, "Twilight Imperium" is a game that can last more than a dozen hours and routinely takes at least four or six hours to complete. Played by three to six people, it tasks users with a mission of galactic conquest after the collapse of an all-powerful empire leaves a void for others to fill.

As a grand strategy game, "Twilight Imperium" puts as much emphasis on building up an economy and engaging in diplomacy as it does in outright warfare. Players earn victory points by completing objectives and sway the rules in their favor by passing laws that require the votes of the galaxy's population. Each of the factions has its own unique playstyle, which gives every session a different feel and keeps things fresh regardless of how experienced you are.

11. Scythe

"Scythe" is unique among strategy games for a few reasons. First of all, it is a game that can actually be played by yourself, with no other players. It also has a very distinctive theme, with the action taking place in an alternate history of Europe during the 1920s. Following on from World War 1, players control one of five factions as they battle for control of Eastern Europe by taking actions that include movement, trading goods, building structures, and gaining military reinforcements.

Launching on Kickstarter in 2015, "Scythe" went on to win multiple awards upon its release. It received particular praise for its combat and art style, along with its deep layer of strategy as players maneuver their mechs into position. "Scythe" has several expansions to further enhance the experience, including "Invaders of Afar," "The Wind Gambit," and "Rise of the Fenris." That means there's little chance of the game getting stale anytime soon.

10. Dominion

"Dominion" is a deck-building strategy board game that was launched in 2008. Supporting between two to four players, it is a relatively quick strategy title, with Board Game Geeks reporting that it takes around 30 minutes for the average game to play out. The game, which is based on a medieval theme, has become immensely popular and sold more than two million copies around the world, according to The Economist. Gameplay revolves around players using actions from a card in their hand and then buying cards from a shared supply.

Playing the right card at the right time is where the strategy comes in. While all of the cards have different effects, they will generally either improve the strength of your own deck or hinder your opponents. It's also important to decide when to purchase cards that offer victory points, as they are not useful during gameplay but are required to win the game. Due to its success, "Dominion" has also seen a number of expansions released, all of which add complexity through additional cards and rule variations.

9. Pandemic

"Pandemic" might seem a little on the nose considering the worldwide trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this strategy board game has been popular ever since it was released way back in 2008. In a cooperative experience, players must work together to stop four potentially deadly diseases from wiping out humanity. There are a number of roles available, which are assigned randomly to the players, and each of them plays a different part in finding a cure for the diseases with special abilities or actions.

To be successful in "Pandemic," players have to work closely together and plan ahead. If users don't coordinate their efforts it is almost impossible to win, and this is what makes "Pandemic" such a great strategy game. You aren't competing against each other but rather an opposing threat that creates a sense of teamwork not present in many other board games. Several expansions for the base "Pandemic" game introduce new roles, rules, and variants while upping the ante for those experienced with the base game.

8. Terraforming Mars

"Terraforming Mars" is an engine-building board game set on the red planet. Supporting one to five players, "Terraforming Mars" was first released in 2016 and tasks players with converting our dusty solar neighbor into a livable environment for humans. Each player takes on the role of rival corporations aiming to be the main contributor to the effort to terraform the world. During each round, players place tiles that can help improve the greenery of the planet, raise the oxygen level, add water to the oceans, and build infrastructure.

While the overall aim of "Terraforming Mars" involves achieving three shared goals, it should not be considered a cooperative game. You are working against every other player as you attempt to make your corporation the biggest and most important on Mars. To win, it's important to carefully manage resources and choose exactly when to use them to get the most impact. Wait too long, though, and someone could beat you to the punch. "Terraforming Mars" is a game that requires constant strategic thinking, even if luck plays a part in the outcome.

7. Splendor

Played between two to four players, "Splendor" is a card-based board game set during the European Renaissance. You take on the role of a gem merchant striving to corner the market on precious stones. The game plays out through a series of actions that represent collecting gems from mines, transporting the treasure, and then selling it to wealthy buyers. The main goal is to accumulate points while building prestige so that you can sell to a higher class of customers in the form of nobles.

The sheer number of cards available in "Splendor" means that it has a lot of depth even though the basic mechanics are simple enough to grasp. As the rounds progress, building up a good deck of cards is crucial and gives players plenty of strategic options for building even more wealth. Like the best strategy games, "Splendor" requires you to pay attention to not only your own plans but make decisions based on the moves made by every other player.

6. Twilight Struggle

"Twilight Struggle" is a strategy board game first released in 2005. In this grand strategy experiance, two players compete against each other as the United States and the Soviet Union and attempt to become the biggest influence on the world stage. Based on real-life events, several historical scenarios play out during the 10 turns that compose the game. Following the internal logic of the actual Cold War, players have to spread influence and try to counteract the opposing player, using both careful planning and quick thinking.

For those who are still unsure about the pedigree of "Twilight Struggle," the game has won numerous awards and is highly ranked by critics and gamers alike. In fact, it is currently rated as the best war game on Board Game Geeks and is listed by that site as one of their top ten board games of all time, which goes to show just how much fans appreciate this fast-paced two-player game.

5. Carcassonne

"Carcassonne" transports players to a medieval setting where they are responsible for expanding and improving their kingdom. In this strategy game first released in 2000, every turn sees the board grow as players draw terrain tiles and then place followers on them. The game ends when all of the tiles have been placed, at which point the scores are tallied to reveal who the winner is. Points are awarded for building cities or structures while considering the number of followers on every feature.

Once listed by Inverse as among the best gateway games to introduce players to board games, "Carcassonne" has deceptively simple gameplay that doesn't see players eliminated and advances at a quick pace. This ensures that everyone is involved in the game until the very end and that players don't get boring waiting around. Another bonus is that the game has proved so popular that Zatu Games has released a whole host of expansions and spin-offs, keeping the action fresh with new variants and tiles.

4. Stone Age

"Stone Age" is another great game for introducing people to the wider world of strategy board games. Players take control of settlers in an ancient civilization, competing to collect resources and build the strongest tribe. Every turn players place tokens on the board and trigger actions to gather resources or construct new buildings. The strategy comes in striking the right balance between expanding and collecting enough resources, such as food, to keep your tribe functioning and happy.

While relatively easy to learn, "Stone Age" has a surprising amount of depth. Players can use various strategies to outplay their opponents, such as building up a tribe quickly to get bigger populations or choosing to focus on advancing technology to give you a cutting edge. Whatever the case, almost anyone can pick up and play "Stone Age," and because each game only lasts around an hour, players can try out new strategies over multiple games.

3. Root

"Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right" is a 2018 strategy board game that can be played with two to four players. Everyone takes control of a faction, which each have their own unique playstyles and abilities. Since each faction functions very differently from the others, players must learn to adapt to different strategies every time they play. The ultimate goal of "Root" is to take control of a central forest, and the path to victory varies according to which faction you are in control of.

The winner of the Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Award (via Polygon) "Root" has endless replayability thanks to the way that factions work. That gives the game a lot of depth and ensures that you always have to mix things up when you start a new game. Add in the great art style, and "Root" becomes an easy recommendation for strategy board game fans.

2. Betrayal at House on the Hill

"Betrayal at House on the Hill" is another classic strategy game that deserves its place in any serious board gamer's collection. First released in 2004, it is produced by Avalon Hill and supports three to six players. Unlike many other strategy titles, "Betrayal at House on the Hill" forces players to work together to explore a large haunted house, building up the mansion as they move through each room. What helps it stand out from other strategy games is the horror elements and a unique twist that comes partway through each session when the Haunt Phase beings.

When the Haunt Phase starts, one of the players is revealed to be a traitor and one of several different scenarios plays out, depending on certain factors. The other players then have to work together to escape or defeat the traitor, who deploys traps and has allies such as zombies, vampires, and werewolves. There are 50 different haunts available in "Betrayal at House on the Hill," and the 2016 expansion, "Widow's Walk," adds even more variety, making every session unique.

1. Gloomhaven

Since its release in 2017, "Gloomhaven” has become one of the highest-rated games on Board Game Geek and still holds the top spot on its rankings. Set in a fantasy world, "Gloomhaven" is a cooperative game for between one and four players. Each player is an adventurer exploring the world as they enter dungeons and ruins while battling a range of enemies. Each session can take around two hours to complete, with difficulty scaling according to how many people are involved.

Where "Gloomhaven" stands out is that it is a persistent world where the same players keep their characters and advance through a campaign. Each session is part of the overall story and can include as many as 95 scenarios in total. In a certain sense, this makes it similar to role-playing games like "Dungeons & Dragons" rather than traditional board games. The combination of genres has led to it being named one of the best board games of all time by critics such as GamesRadar.