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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Best Strategy Board Games (2023)

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The best strategy board games offer a fascinating blend of strategy, skill, and chance. These games require players to make strategic decisions that can affect the outcome of the game, while also engaging in tactics to outwit and outplay their opponents. With so many different strategy board games on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time.

Below, we take a look at some of the best board games available today in the strategy category. We skipped over the super popular games everyone's heard of to dig deeper into the wealth of strategy games on offer. You'll find out what makes each game unique, and why it has earned a place on this list. Whether you're after a game to play with friends and family or looking to challenge yourself, these strategy board games will provide endless hours of entertainment, strategery, and intellectual stimulation. Let's get to it, shall we?

TL;DR: The Best Strategy Board Games

Don't have the time or patience to read through the blurbs? That's not a problem. These are our favorite strategy board games.


Agricola Agricola

One of the oldest games on the list, there’s no denying the staying power of this fun simulation of pre-modern farming. Starting with just a farming couple on a crude smallholding, you need to use that meagre manpower to till the fields, raise livestock, upgrade your farmhouse and even expand your family for more farmhands. Key to the game’s appeal are the occupations and improvements card decks which ensure the strategic options in every game are different and stop the game getting stale. While offering plenty of strategic depth, it’s also very satisfying to watch your little farm grow and prosper as the game progresses.

Through the Ages: A New Story Of Civilization

Through the Ages: A New Story of CivilizationThrough the Ages: A New Story of Civilization

Civilization games are a long and storied genre of grand strategy board game, but it came as quite a surprise to find that its ultimate expression took away the board. Instead, Through the Ages sees you creating a tableau of buildings and wonders, military and technology as you strive to become the ultimate culture. Exploration and fighting are neatly abstracted away to card play and number crunching, leaving you to focus on managing your growing society inside a punishing framework of competing strategic choices. The reward is a real sense of development as the game progresses and you watch your civilization flower: so long as it’s not ground under the military bootheels of your opponents, of course.

Brass: Birmingham

Brass: BirminghamBrass: Birmingham

While economic strategy games abound, Brass: Birmingham stands alone as managing to feel a bit like a simulation while still being tons of fun. Set during the British industrial revolution, you’ll be building industries and ensuring they’re supplied with raw materials via a growing network of canals. As demand grows, you can open up ports and mines to service it, trying to mix and match between supplying your own industries and also cornering the market in materials needed by your competitors. Then, mid-game, it’s all change as railways come on the scene, allowing you to grow a new, more efficient network in a race to rack up profits before the game ends. Quirky, deep and unforgiving both this and it’s sibling Brass: Lancashire keep pulling in the profits themselves.

Oath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile

Oath: Chronicles of Empire & ExileOath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile

Oath is a very peculiar beast, a game that’s clearly about how power changes hands down the march of history, but it's set in a fantasy kingdom with heavy abstract elements. Yet when you dig into it, you’ll find that despite the surface trappings of a conquest game there’s a rich vein of strategy to mine as well. You can win by taking over Oath’s geometric landmasses, but also by securing the backing of the populace or by more nefarious means, all handled by the game's odd yet slick combination of card, action and economic management, looking for combinations to exploit. Whoever wins gains not only the victory, but a space in the annals of history as their win sets up the starting conditions for the next game in an ever-growing chronicle of play history.


Barrage Barrage

If you really want to flex your strategic muscles, Barrage offers you a brutal workout. It’s a game of building dams to generate hydroelectric power where the board becomes a complex network of dams, generators and conduits in which players can pay to use their opponents’ links in the chain. But meltwater starts at the top of the board and flows downhill through the dams, making this a game that rewards a lot of long-term forward planning. With a complex mix of contracts to fulfil, workers to place, and resources to spend going into a clever construction wheel mechanic that regulates supply, Barrage is sure to bombard your brain with strategic shells over and over again.

Food Chain Magnate

Food Chain MagnateFood Chain Magnate

A lot of games on this list are fairly complex, but Food Chain Magnate is relatively simple to learn. Its all about hiring and training employees to staff your expanding '50s diner chain and placing outlets for customer convenience. But don't let that fool you into thinking this is a light or simple game. With all players operating in the same market space to fulfil limited demand, this is a richly strategic experience in which inexperienced players can beggar themselves with staggering ease. The cream atop the cherry pie is the tasty helping of capitalist satire plain to see beneath the game mechanics.

Gaia Project

Gaia ProjectGaia Project

This is a sci-fi makeover of an older strategy game called Terra Mystica. But alongside the reskin, the designers also made it tighter and deeper. The goal is to help your alien race expand through the galaxy by gaining resources and using them to terraform planets from their starting state to one that best suits your species. While struggling to eke out your stellar niche in the teeth of competition from your opponents, you've also got to build and upgrade structures to power your economy and develop a technology tree. But what really gives the game its edge are the fourteen aliens, each with a game breaking special power, which all demand unique strategic approaches to the game that vary with player count and the other powers in play. It's a veritable interstellar smorgasbord of strategy.

Ark Nova

Ark NovaArk Nova

2016’s Terraforming Mars won a lot of plaudits for its well-woven mix of card play, economic engine and spatial strategy. Ark Nova has a similarly smooth blend of different mechanics but it ups the ante across the board while swapping the sci-fi theme for the wide appeal of building your own zoo. You’ll need to manage the various animal enclosures alongside other attractions and kiosks on your player board, positioning them to maximize your income. Then it’s down to a clever action selection mechanism to try and get the best animals into your zoo while advancing your reputation as a conservation project in the hope of attracting even more visitors.

Pax Pamir

Pax PamirPax Pamir

Like Oath, you might mistake Pax Pamir, based as it is on the colonial conflict between Britain, Russia, and Afghanistan in the 19th century, for a wargame. But in reality fighting is only one of a palette of aspects you’ll need to master to emerge victorious. Representing Afghan warlords, players must manage an extremely tight economy of cards, actions and coins as you curry favor with with one of the colonial powers for personal profit. Of course, other players may also be vying for the same patronage, meaning you must constantly reevaluate whether to cut your losses and go for a different master. In addition to the military, political and economic aspects there’s also a fascinating espionage element with spies that move around played cards just as pastel army army blocks move around the evocative cloth board.

If you're looking for something a little less strategic but still mature, check out our picks for the best board games for adults. And if you have kids you don't want looking at screens all day, check out our lists of the best board games for kids and the best family board games as well.

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