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If you’ve been running role-playing games like D&D on your game nights and are ready for a new challenge, you may want to mix it up and add some of the best strategy board games to your repertoire.
Often, RPGs become all about the characters and the storytelling. Strategy games, on the other hand, are all about decimating your enemy using wit and guile. And who doesn’t love that a chance to humiliate a foe with superior brainpower?
Strategy games go back for centuries, with chess serving as the classic example of one of the best strategy board games of all time. Chess is so iconic that, for thousands of years, we’ve imagined ourselves playing Death himself in exchange for sparing our lives. (Even if Death has trouble remembering how all the horse-shaped pieces move.)
But if you’re looking for something a bit fresher than a game of chess — or even a game for more than two players — let’s take a look at some of the best strategy board games for your next game night.
What Are Strategy Games?
Nearly all board games involve some sort of strategy. Or at least, they should. Every good board game for adults requires you to have a long term goal to complete. Strategy games require the players to make long-term plans in order to win the game.
Strategy vs. tactics
If you’re not sure what the difference between strategy and tactics is, you’re not alone. After all, the art of war is no longer a required subject in most high schools.
Strategy involves your long-term goals in any scenario. For example, in a game of D&D, your long term goal may be to destroy the Big Bad and come out unscathed and leveled-up.
Tactics comprise the short term goals to win the overall war. For example, before you can destroy the big bad, your tactics would include your plans to overtake a band of his minions.
Strategy is how you win the war; tactics are how you win the battle.
What to Consider When Looking for the Best Strategy Board Games
Buying blind off an internet best-of list is one way to find a good strategy board game for your next game night. However, it might not be the best way.
So, here are a few things to consider before handing over your hard-earned cash.
Your party’s weak points
Every player brings their own unique skills to any game night. But not all of these skills are equitable when it comes to strategy games. While some players may excel at an RPG because of fast thinking, the same player may not be great at long-term strategic thinking.
In this case, for everyone to have a good time, consider strategy board games that utilize teams of players. While competition is a wonderful thing, cooperation can result in more fun for all.
Many of the best strategy board games can go on for hours. If your game night has a time limit, you may want to consider games you can finish within those limits.
While you can often break up an RPG campaign when you find a good stopping point, board games become problematic. Because they often involve the placement of small, easy-to-lose pieces, you’ll find preserving a game board in situ until the next scheduled night quite a bother.
Besides your usual player’s skillsets and constraints, also consider how flexible your board game can get. Many of the best strategy board games offer simplified rules for shorter gameplay and beginner players.
You may be hoping to destroy Grandma after Thanksgiving dinner or humiliate your tween during the next power outage. Consider games that are flexible for a wide variety of players outside your usual tabletop crowd.
How We Determined the Best Strategy Board Games
Along with logging in thousands of hours over our own favorites, we also took note of tabletop game sales trends and professional reviews. This helped us identify some of the best games that we haven’t yet had a chance to play.
We also took customer reviews and ratings into account to find the best strategy board games. This allowed us to gather data from a broad spectrum of players with direct experience of each game.
Best Strategy Board Games: Our Picks for 2020
Board games come and go, and lately, they’re on the rise. Over 5,000 new board games were added to the gaming market in 2017 alone. While that makes it pretty challenging to choose the best ones for your party, it does mean that you have a plethora of new ones to choose from.
While we haven’t presented these titles in any particular order, we’ve chosen a few classics as well as some hot new games we think you’ll want to check out.
We also used our own advice and looked for flexibility, reasonable gameplay time, and games that required a broad range of skills to succeed.
Risk (like this sixtieth-anniversary edition) is universally considered the top best strategy board game of all time. Unlike chess, you can enjoy it with up to five players. Your ultimate goal? Take over the world! You can use diplomacy, trade, or outright invasion to dominate the earth.
The rules are pretty simple, but each deploying a variety of complex tactics make this game a huge seller since its inception in 1957.
You’ll get a large board that depicts the earth divided into six continents. Players start by randomly choosing cards that show the territories where they can place their armies. Your goal is to take over each continent, territory by territory, while protecting those you’ve already conquered.
- Number of Players: 2 to 5
- Playing time: 2 to 8 hours
- Age rating: 10 and up
2. Settlers of Catan
Now simplified and shortened to just “Catan,” this game has been around for a while. But since its launch in 1995, it’s still new to those who don’t do a lot of tabletop gaming.
In Catan, your mission is to gather resources and become a successful settler on the island of Catan. Tactics include building roads and towns, trading for resources like wool, grain, or lumber, while competing with your fellow players to accumulate enough points to declare victory.
While you can find a “junior” version of Catan for young people, the game also offers a simplified play version that’s easy to learn. This set of rules lets you familiarize yourself with the gameplay in about half an hour.
This kind of flexibility is what makes Settlers of Catan one of the best strategy board games. Along with simplified rules, the manufacturer offers a wealth of expansion packs with various new ways to play. Love Catan? Why not explore this universe as a pirate or barbarian?
- Number of players: 3 to 4; up to 6 with expansion pack
- Playing time: 1 to 3 hours
- Age rating: 10 and up
Launched in 2007, Pandemic is one of the more difficult of the best strategy board games on our list. However, it’s also one of the best cooperative board games.
What are those? Rather than competing against each other, players work together to battle the elements, circumstance, or in this case, four horrific diseases that threaten the very survival of our species.
It’s like a science fiction movie you can play out at home!
Each player assumes a role in a team of disease-fighting heroes. Then, your team travels the globe, curing diseases as they pop up in 48 different cities.
Pandemic’s play level is considered advanced, even though the manufacturer recommends it for ages 8 and up. I guess that’s one way to get your kids to wash their hands before dinner.
It’s also a great way to teach the value of cooperative effort, if you’re into that sort of thing. You simply can’t win the game unless players share resources and information.
And if you wear out the gameplay, Z-Man offers three expansion packs and several spinoff versions.
- Number of players: 2 to 4
- Playing time: 45 minutes
- Age rating: 8 and up
4. Spy Alley
Mystery and espionage fiction fans will love Spy Alley, an awarding winning board game that could be one of the best strategy board games for a varied group of ages and skillsets.
In Spy Alley, each player works as a secret spy for one of six countries. The ultimate goal is to travel the board in safety and reach your embassy. To get there, though, you’ll need to collect your spy codebook, your disguise, a key, and a secret password.
However, any of your competing players can deduce your true identity, which puts you out of the game.
The rules are simple enough for kids or a quick, impromptu game. Despite its easy-to-follow rules, this game boasts awards and accolades as a great family game for kids and parents. The team from Mensa Select even awarded it “best mind game” in 1998.
- Number of players: 2 to 6
- Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes
- Age rating: 8 and up
5. Betrayal at House on the Hill
If your game nights lean to the gothic, you may want to pick up this board game released in 2004. This may be the best strategy board game for fans of horror and dark fantasy.
The setting, naturally, features a haunted house on the hill, populated by dire omens and cunning traps. Players must navigate throughout the mansion, avoiding monsters and ghosts, as well as suffering betrayal at the hands of their fellows.
Betrayal cards are placed randomly through the House on the Hill, and at first, the players do some exploring. At this point, it’s a cooperative game venture. However, once the “Haunting Phase” is triggered with a Betrayal card, the rules change, and the game becomes more competitive.
One player becomes the ‘traitor,” and the other players need to put them out of action before being converted into zombies or werewolves.
- Number of players: 3 to 6
- Gameplay time: 1 hour
- Age rating: 12 and up
If you’re loath to move too far outside your RPG comfort zone, but still want something that focuses on strategy, Gloomhaven makes an excellent choice for game night.
This fantasy campaign game also features tactical scenarios to play. But each character has their own agenda wherein strategy becomes paramount.
In this board game, your group of adventurers works to eliminate the evil infiltrating the town of Gloomhaven. You’ll clear out monsters from dungeons and ruins in a series of battles.
Gloomhaven was rated the No. 1 game by BoardGameGeek in 2017 because of its multifaceted construction. Each scenario is cooperative, but the underlying goals of each character mean the campaign can end up taking some interesting twists and turns.
- Number of players: 1 to 4
- Playing time: 1 to 2 hours
- Age rating: 14 and up
Looking for something pastoral in a board game? Viticulture might be your best bet. This laid-back game sets players up in old Tuscany as heirs to a small vineyard. The ultimate goal is to create a legacy with your smallholding.
Developing long-term strategies for success means that you have to keep your eye on a number of factors. You only have a few workers, a few plots of land, and a small wine cellar to create your dynasty.
What makes Viticulture one of the best strategy board game1 is that people seem to enjoy playing it, whether they win or lose.
It’s easy to learn and fun to play. The act of creation is just as much fun as the competition of board-gaming. In fact, it even comes with solo play rules.
Just like real-world farming, each season brings its own challenges. Your job is to keep up with the weather, allocate workers, plant more grape vines, and fill wine orders.
- Number of players: 1 to 6
- Playing time: 45 to 90 minutes
- Age rating: 13 and up
8. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
This is the best strategy board game for you if you’ve been watching world events and recent history and thought, “I can do better than that!”
In Through the Ages, players all start with a small tribe to manage. You navigate your people through three ages of development by building and expanding farms and mines. With the resources you need to evolve, you’ll lay the foundations for new technologies.
Your strategy must be forward-thinking: Choose the wisest leaders and create the most robust economies. Your long term goal is to produce a happy citizenry and enlighted government with science, art, and culture.
In fact, the player with the most culture wins the game.
- Number of players: 2 to 4
- Playing time: 2 hours
- Age rating: 14 and up
Yes – Monopoly.
Monopoly is a game with a social agenda — its origins hail back to the efforts of Lizzie Magie back in 1903 to demonstrate the progressive economic theories of Henry George and the evils of capitalism.
The original goal of the game was to expose the negative effects of corporate control of the market through monopolies on commodities. And what’s surprising is how it remains so relevant to the 21st century.
Monopoly makes our list of one of the best strategy board games for a few important reasons. First of all, the gameplay is universally understood, so a quick pickup game is a breeze.
On the other hand, you can get the classic version for the cost of a fast-food meal.
The ultimate goal of the game is to own all the things. And while this may seem simplistic, there are a number of strategies you can use to become the next mogul in the ‘Verse.
And while you can go on a spending spree and grab up all the high-end properties, I know one successful Monopoly aficionado who wins 90 percent of games by parking themselves in jail. They watch quietly from the sidelines as their opponents bankrupt each other, gloating.
- Number of players: 2 to 6
- Playing time: 1 to 2 hours
- Age rating: 8 and up
10. Ticket to Ride
If you found yourself drawn to collecting all the railroads in Monopoly, Ticket to Ride is the next one on our list of the best strategy board games for you.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward and takes only 15 to 20 minutes to learn. That makes it perfect for younger players or a casual pickup game when time is short.
Each player gets four train cards and three destination cards at the start-up of play. The destination cards show you your goals, as they represent the train terminals you need to connect.
From the initial hand, your goal is to build the longest train route possible using the train car cards you collect.
What makes this Ticket to Ride of the best strategy board games is its flexibility. The rules are simple, and the features are familiar (trains). It also serves as the perfect gateway game for new players into tabletop gaming.
Another great feature is the vast library of variants, expansions, and locale editions, which keeps the core game endlessly fresh for even the most jaded player. The original edition features North America, but you can find versions for Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, and India. In fact, you can even travel in time with versions for 1910 and the Old West.
- Number of players: 2 to 5
- Playing time: 1 hour
- Age rating: 8 and up
A Roll of the Dice
While tabletop gaming is seeing a surge of increased popularity, it’s getting harder to discern which ones offer a decent balance of mental challenge without taking months to master.
And the replay factor is also an unknown whenever you pick up a new game. Why take chances?
This list of the 10 best strategy board games ticks all the boxes, from simple to complex. You can choose from a broad range of prices and ages to choose those already proven to provide hours of entertainment.
Did we miss one of your favorites? What do you think are the best strategy board games on the market? Tell us your picks in the comments.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
Playing video games may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about dealing with depression, but perhaps it should be. By providing an escape, improving your cognition, and allowing you time to have fun and relax, gaming could be one of the best (and easiest) ways to manage symptoms of depression on a regular basis.
Depression is the most common mental health condition in the world. Globally, it affects over 350 million people. There are so many factors that can contribute to the problem, and it impacts everyone differently. Some people tend to function better than others, while some can hardly get out of bed due to the condition.
No one is immune to depression. Something like a traumatic event or frightening diagnosis can trigger the condition. Some people are more susceptible to becoming depressed after these problems. For example, in a study involving women diagnosed with mesothelioma, researchers revealed that, “Gender also can be a factor in the depression rate after a diagnosis for mesothelioma. Twenty percent of women in the study said they were depressed compared to men at 16%.” Despite this, there is no one concrete factor as to what causes depression, as there are many possibilities and potential environmental considerations.
While the condition affects everyone differently, there are many common symptoms that doctors and nurses are taught to recognize in patients:
- Overwhelming sadness
- Loss of interest
There are many treatment options for depression as well, and people respond differently depending on their needs. Some people benefit from therapy, while others receive greater help from support groups. For many, medication is the best way to manage symptoms.
Can video games be added to that list? Can they really help with depression or other mental health issues? Let’s find out.
Gaming and Mental Health
Nearly 70% of Americans play video games regularly. Many people play on their smartphones, while others go the more traditional route and hook up a gaming PC or console. As you might expect, due to the number of people struggling with depression in the world, there’s likely some overlap between gamers and people with depression. While some people might think the two would be linked in a negative way, that’s just not true.
In fact, video games can actually help with mental health problems.
A lot of it has to do with the type of video game being played and how it affects your brain. Roleplaying games, puzzle games, and other games that build skills can help with anxiety and stress, providing you with a welcome distraction and a sort of “escape” for a while.
More recently, video games have given a boost to that idea of distraction and taken it to a level of immersion. Owen Harris, an Irish game developer, released a game in 2014 for the Oculus Rift called Deep. Harris suffers from anxiety and depression, and he developed the game for other people who might be struggling. It guides you through various breathing exercises, encouraging your mind to focus and relax. You don’t need to move, and you don’t need to “win” the game. It’s about centering yourself.
It doesn’t really matter what types of games you play, though. Instead, find a game you enjoy and focus on actual play. Video games tend to get a bad reputation because people think they encourage laziness or a lack of motivation. The reality is, video games offer a way for you to play. They work in direct contrast to stressors like work, relationships, financial issues, or whatever might be burdening your life. When you take the time to play, you’re actually more likely to feel motivated, energized, and less depressed.
Additional Benefits of Playing Video Games
While we’re on the subject surrounding the stereotypes of video games, let’s cover a few more of the positive effects they can contribute to. They do more than just help to clear the fog of depression.
Video games can help to improve your hand-eye coordination, relieve pain, and boost your focus. If you struggle with stress, video games can be beneficial. Games help to lower stress levels just like they help deal with depression — they provide an escape. Games that deal with fantasy worlds are especially effective in lowering stress levels for this reason.
Additionally, recent studies have shown that playing video games may help to “enhance learning.” No, that’s not just something kids want to tell their parents so they can get an extra hour of game time in before bed. A study from Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany discovered that gaming can improve cognitive functioning. Gamers in the study were able to retain more knowledge and showed more activity in the hippocampus of the brain, which is responsible for memory. As a result, gaming could be beneficial for a variety of different audiences, including seniors who might struggle with memory loss.
While playing video games isn’t a replacement for therapy or medication, they can be a way to help with some of the symptoms of depression. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to give your favorite game a try to help you deal with this sometimes overwhelming mental health condition
Less than 20 years ago, the term “nerd” was typically used in a derogatory manner, conjuring images of loners with acne playing on computers in their parents’ basements. But as nerd culture has entered the mainstream, the definition of “nerd” and “geek” have evolved dramatically. Both can now refer to someone who is passionate about technology or particular subcultures, from Star Wars to anime, gaming, LARPing, and beyond.
With the rise of nerd culture comes an opportunity for proud geeks to make a difference in the world. Nerd culture is, by definition, accepting of the individual, without prejudices that are based on race, class, sexual orientation, or other demographics. Anyone can be a hardcore fan or self-identify as a nerd or geek.
In fact, nerds may just be the original social justice warriors, fighting the status quo by fostering a culture of inclusivity and acceptance. Nerd culture may also have a positive impact on the environment, and the “cosplay is not consent” campaign has brought widespread attention to the topic of sexual harassment. Let’s take a look at various social issues that are being addressed thanks to nerd culture.
Recycling, Waste, and the Environment
Many celebrities use their status and wealth to promote social issues, from human trafficking to conserving the environment. Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Degeneres are especially giving when it comes to environmental issues. The former even founded the eponymous Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which supports various environmental causes, including wildlife conservation.
If celebrities can use their fame to help address and curb environmental issues, why can’t nerds? In fact, nerd culture has already made an impact on waste reduction. Film and TV production is a wasteful industry with a large carbon footprint. According to Columbia University, a movie with a budget of $50 million produces about 4,000 metric tons of CO2. Further, many props, costumes, and sets are diverted to landfills once production wraps.
That’s where nerds come in. At various conventions, including San Diego Comic Con, movie props and costumes have become a cottage industry, with nerdy fans willing to pay top dollar for authentic items from their favorite fandoms. These coveted items, therefore, are kept out of landfills and may help bring light to the issue of waste reduction.
Conventions themselves have also become a hotbed of environmental awareness, especially in San Diego. The city’s annual convention is the largest in America, taking place at the San Diego Convention Center. The venue is a pillar of sustainability, using 100% LED lights for energy efficiency. During the 2018 event, the venue recycled 50 tons of cardboard and supported fair trade practices among its food and souvenir offerings. Fair trade business principles promote economic stability, human rights, and the independence of disadvantaged producers.
Along with environmental issues, nerd culture is also a champion of inclusivity, but we still have a long way to go. For example, mainstream superhero movies are now a cornerstone of nerd culture, but the majority of the films in the immensely popular modern Marvel Cinematic Universe feature primarily white cis males. And that’s problematic, especially considering the diversity of comic book superheroes.
When the X-Men were first introduced, their various mutations and the community they found in each other helped bring hope to the oppressed and those who didn’t fit into mainstream culture. Yet that message of acceptance has not been fully realized in mainstream society. It seems that every time someone who does not fit the white, cis, straight paradigm is cast in a superhero film, there’s immediate backlash.
Misogyny and Sexual Harassment
Nerd culture takes the issue of inclusivity a step further by promoting equality and fighting against sexual harassment and sexism. That’s not to say that these issues don’t exist within nerd culture: In fact, Claire Del Sorbo of Fordham University declared in 2016 that “nerd culture absolutely does have a problem with sexism.” Del Sorbo used the death threats sent to gamers Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu by male gamers in 2014 as a glaring example of sexism within gaming culture.
Sexism can also be seen at conventions and similar gatherings, but the “cosplay is not consent” movement is working to help end the problem. First introduced at New York Comic Con in 2014, the campaign erected signs that reminded attendees that touching or taking pictures of cosplayers without their consent would not be tolerated.
The concept of consent itself is of paramount importance within nerd culture and society in general. With STD rates on the rise in the U.S., nerd culture must be willing to help foster a culture of safe and consensual sex, with honest communication and education as a priority. The fact is that hookups and consensual sex are a big part of nerd culture, especially at cons. Thus, promoting awareness of safe sex and the need for periodic STD screenings within the nerd culture is of paramount importance.
Nerds Can Change the World
By continuously addressing social issues like waste reduction, sexism, and consent, nerd culture can make a real difference. It’s time for nerds to merge their interests and passions with activism and awareness to help make the world a better place.
Ask any 30-something what the best part of growing up was, and you will probably be regaled with stories of waking up on Saturday mornings, going to the kitchen and making a big bowl of cereal, grabbing your blanket and plopping yourself down in front of the TV to catch the latest offering of He-Man or Transformers. If you stick around long enough you may hear tales of a delicious green Orange-Tangerine flavored nectar, a drink whispered of in legend and now long forgotten to time. I speak of course of the amazing Ecto Cooler. But now, that legend is back…well sorta.
Nothing says redundant, unnecessary, and unneeded like a beat-for-beat, (nearly) shot-for-shot remake of a beloved animated classic like the faux-live-action (re) iteration of Disney’s beloved, 1994 animated classic, The Lion King. Since its premiere twenty-five years ago, The Lion King has become a permanent pop-culture fixture, passed on from generation to generation as one of – if not, the – highlights of Disney’s animation renaissance. Like practically ever Disney film-turned –classic, it’s become a self-perpetuating brand of its own, expanding to straight-to-video sequels, animated TV series, and a Broadway musical that’s become the highest grossing musical of all time. In short, we didn’t need a faux-live-action remake of a classic, maybe just a re-release or even a big-screen, old school animated sequel. For the Disney Industrial Complex eager to exploit its back catalog of animated classics, a live-action (or faux-live-action) version of The Lion King was all but inevitable. Just because you can, though, doesn’t mean you should. The bland, dull, ultimately soporific result, however, suggests that for once, the Disney Industrial Complex erred badly. (more…)
The new Mulan trailer has dropped and I, for one, am hype. A culturally adept film with an all Asian cast about a Chinese badass warrior woman? Sign me the heck up.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way.
In the comments of the new trailer, on YouTube and Facebook, most people voiced lukewarm feelings or outright distaste for the film’s changes. After all, unlike most of the Disney remakes, the movie plans to change quite a bit. Mulan will be more culturally accurate, will not be a musical, and will not have the talking animal characters it once had. People seem to be really up in arms about no “Girl Worth Fighting For” or Mushu.
Recently, there has also been a big internet hullabaloo about Disney executives picking a black actor to play Ariel. There is a fair amount of speculation if a lot of that uproar was manufactured for free press. Either way, there is a big controversy around the upcoming The Little Mermaid film now instead of excited buzz.
We already know people enjoyed Stranger Things’ new season, nothing new there. Netflix‘s collection of writers, actors, set design, seriously everyone involved put their best foot forward and made for an entertaining new chapter to the story of Hawkins, Indiana. Some people are probably getting to the point that they hope this story turns into the Neverending kind.
However, the efficacy Stranger Things has achieved in making well-rounded, interesting characters could be part of its own undoing.
Almost all characters featured in their past three seasons have grown into complex, interesting personalities. However, series can’t always showcase all of its characters. Having such a large cast can cause a lot of trouble and distract from the story.