You may be new to Dungeons & Dragons or new to podcasts, but if you’re looking to find out more about tabletop role-playing games, you need to check out some of the best D&D podcasts.
Not sure how different gaming systems work? Check out a podcast! Ready
to launch your first campaign as a new DM? Why not grab some tips from
experienced Dungeon Masters from a podcast?
What is a Podcast?
Podcasts are the internet’s answer to talk shows. If you’ve never downloaded or listened to any, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. You’ll find podcasts that focus on any number of subjects: books, TV shows, genre franchises, and gaming.
You can download recorded podcasts to any device and listen at your leisure. Most hosts produce their podcasts on a regular schedule, so you can follow them for frequent updates. And most devices will also allow you to download the latest episodes of your favorite automatically.
Podcasts can feature content such as interviews and panel discussions. You can also get commentary and reviews about movies or television shows. In some podcasts, you’ll get a semi-scripted show, like an old-time radio drama.
Podcasts are perfect for listening as you work around the house or yard or during a long commute.
Types of D&D Podcasts
Once you’ve decided to dive into tabletop gaming podcasts, you’ll discover that there are a couple of different kinds of podcasts about D&D. You can listen to those that feature interviews with gamers and game builders to find out what’s next on the horizon.
Alternatively, you may want to learn about different gaming systems and play mechanics for various systems.
If you’re about to run your first campaign, you may want to look for the best D&D podcasts for DMs. These feature tips and tricks as well as inspiration for running your game and surprising your party with creative ideas.
Actual-play podcasts are the best D&D podcasts if you’re in the mood for a little storytelling. These podcasts follow a party as they run an adventure, and you’ll be able to follow their campaign like a radio drama.
While some say this isn’t genuine, it’s actually part of their charm. It’s still a real adventure, and the action can end up anywhere. But the producer and editor will take some pains to make sure that you remain entertained.
That said, here are some of the best D&D podcasts you need to know about.
Best D&D Podcasts for Beginners
If you’re new to D&Dn or even role-playing games of any kind, you may not know where to start. Here are some good sources for beginning players to get a feel for the game before investing in equipment.
The Acquisitions Incorporated podcast has a reputation for being friendly for beginners and easy to follow. This podcast from Penny Arcade goes back to 2008. Since then, they’ve evolved into a web series, live show, and comic book. But if you’re looking for a great beginner podcast to familiarize yourself with D&D play, this one comes highly recommended.
If you like details and maps and charts, you’ll love Godsfall. Episodes 1 through 7 include highly detailed notes on gameplay, including a history of the scenario, character studies, and more. So, along with an actual-play campaign, you’re getting an excellent orientation to tabletop RPGs.
‘How Friends Roll’
This is a beginner-friendly podcast where the
DM runs smaller, “micro” campaigns. This format gives you a better idea
of how the gameplay works without following a lengthy adventure.
Most episodes run one hour and feature a rotating cast of characters. This helps introduce you to the races, classes, and types of characters you’re most likely to play during a campaign.
‘Just Us Geeks’
Another one-episode primer for the perpetually distracted — Episode 109 clocks in at an hour and 10 minutes and offers some tips for getting started with your first D&D campaign.
‘Join the Party’ Podcast
This is one of the best D&D podcasts for storytelling and production quality, but it also offers an excellent primer for beginners. They provide “beginner versions” of their first two episodes online.
Best D&D Podcasts for DMs
If you’re interested in learning how to run your own campaign, you’ll want to tune into the following podcasts. You’ll learn about managing a scenario, pacing action, and keeping track of treasures and monsters.
“The Dungeoncast” features discussions about creating campaigns and building worlds. They go into detail about game mechanics and discuss keeping things interesting. This podcast features new episodes every two weeks. And if you like, you can also watch it on YouTube.
While this one is chock full of comedy, you’ll also get plenty of creative discussion that’s perfect for aspiring and experienced DMs alike.
Episodes include such technical matters as corpse disposal, world-building, and becoming the monster. Great stuff!
Best D&D Podcasts for Storytelling
If you think an actual-play D&D podcast is the next best thing to listening to a fantasy audiobook, you’d be pretty much correct. The best part, though, is that nobody knows what’s going to happen next. There’s no author orchestrating the plot, and even the DM is clueless how things will turn out.
‘Dames and Dragons’
“Dames & Dragons” offers a comedy D&D podcast with some silly humor and over-the-top heroics. The world and storyline are based on teen Guardians – a paladin, druid, fighter, and wizard — who battle monsters and spots as they protect their goddess.
‘D&D is For Nerds’
This multi-story, multi-player D&D podcast is great for those who love to listen to fantasy audiobooks as well as play tabletop RPGs.
This actual-play podcast features the world of Ogg Not, with many seasons and stories to follow. From zombies to vampires to brain slugs to dragons, you’ll find something to love.
‘Dungeons and Daddies’
This humorous podcast features four dads who have been transported into the Forgotten Realms, where they must save their children. Whether it’s a real reflection of “actual-play” is dubious, but this comedy show is a big fan favorite thanks to hilarious non-player characters. This is the best D&D podcast for people who don’t play D&D.
Best D&D podcasts for General RPG Chat
If you’re looking for general gamer chat, check out the following D&D podcasts for a wide range of topics.
If you’re not sure exactly what you’re in the mood for, check out Gamers Table. This all-purpose series is one of the best D&D podcasts for general discussion about RPGs. You’ll find episodes as diverse as discussions about character alignment, non-player characters, running a campaign with strangers (it happens) and gaming at cons.
Dragon Talk is THE official and definitive “Dungeons and Dragons” podcast, and if you want to keep up with the brand and its content, you want to check this one out.
‘The Adventure Zone’
The Adventure Zone is one of the most popular and best D&D podcasts and has grown into a bit of an industry giant. Starting out as a straight actual-play with the three McElroy brothers, it’s expanded to become a graphic novel of its own.
And last, but certainly not least, Critical Role is one of the best established D&D podcasts. This podcast started as a casual actual-play podcast featuring some well-known voiceover actors. And then the next thing you know, they’ve got thousands of fans and have launched a web series on YouTube as well as doing live performances.
How We Discovered the Best D&D Podcasts
To find the best D&D podcasts to recommend, we relied on our own experiences as well as getting recommendations from other tabletop nerds. We considered the expert advice of sites like Engadget, Geek Girl Authority, Inverse, and, of course, The Nerdist.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Secondly, it offers hundreds of variants that appeal to everyone. You can buy a version of Monopoly for your home city or favorite sci-fi franchise.
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
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.
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