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Board games aren’t only a fun way to get everyone off their screen for a little bonding time, they also help stretch your brain by making you think about your next turn and the turn after that, while also guessing or learning your opponent’s cues. These strategic board games offer something for everyone—folks of all ages, lovers of horror movies, Disney superfans, and more.
Here, the best strategy board games.
Best Overall: Jax Sequence
While this is a great strategy game for beginners—even kids as young as 7 can get the hang of it—it’s a fun brain game for all ages. During the fast-paced play, your aim is to create a line of five of your chips in a row, column, or diagonally but the challenge is you can only place your chip on a card that matches one you have in your hand; think poker meets Connect Four. Like most classic games, it includes a bit of luck: in this case, Jacks are wild. It can be played with as few as two players or up to four.
Best Two-Player: Hasbro Gaming Electronic Battleship Game
This classic, two-player board game is almost exactly the same as when you played it when you were a kid; the upgraded version includes airplanes in addition to the ships for even more epic battles.
The object of the game remains the same: search and destroy your opponent’s ships and planes before they do the same to yours by calling out a strike and tracking hits and misses on your radar. The planes have a unique shape that makes the game trickier than you remember. The game is portable, too, making it perfect for kids in the backseat on long road trips—though adults are also sure to love it.
Best for Families: Catan Studio Catan The Board Game
This popular board game for families puts strategy and resource management into play, which is one of the reasons parents love this sneakily educational pick so much. Players 10 years old and up trade, barter, and create to build their own civilizations with settlements, cities, roads, and armies. With each roll of the die, players can earn resources as they strategize over the hexagonal shaped board.
The game is made for three to four players. If your family is bigger, you’ll want to invest in the extension set (available on Amazon) that allows it to be played by up to six people. There’s also a Catan Junior version that kids as young as five can play.
"Overall, we found the setup process easy and enjoyable—similar to putting together a simple puzzle with multiple moving pieces. In fact, my teenage son Charlie says that after winning, it’s his favorite part of the game. " — Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
Best Cooperative: Z-Man Games Pandemic
You and your fellow players must work together to save the world from a lethal pandemic in this game that fosters cooperation and teamwork. The Pandemic game board is a global map and each of the two to four players takes on the identity of a medical hero (researcher, medic, quarantine specialist, or dispatcher).
Everyone must collaborate to find solutions to overcome the outbreaks and epidemics with help from event cards such as airlifts and government grants. Kids as young as 8 can play and a round should take about 45 minutes. While this game may sound eerily topical to today’s world, it originally came out in 2008.
"It sounds confusing—and it is. In fact, the steep learning curve is the major drawback of this game. However, this is where the co-operative nature of this game really shines. If just one or two of the players know how to play, they can help the other players get up to speed as the game moves along." — Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
Best for Kids: MindWare Qwirkle Board Game
With its rainbow colored tiles that feature fun shapes, this strategy game that’s similar to Dominoes is a hit with kids before they even start playing. The object is to create rows and columns of like colors or shapes, which may sound easy, but in practice requires forward thinking and tactical maneuvers to block opponents.
The game can be played with two to four players and is designed for kids 6 and up, though you can team up so younger sibs like to get in on the action, too. Order a second set for grandparents who live far away so they can play with the kids over FaceTime.
Best for Adults: Avalon Hill Betrayal At House On The Hill
After three to six players work together to build the titular house on the hill, each begins to explore the house, playing cards that control their ultimate destiny along the way. At some point in the game, one doomed player will play an omen card and trigger an event where someone is revealed as the traitor.
The remaining players work together to stop the betrayer...or simply escape alive. The scenario plays out differently every time and while it’s a game of skill, a little bit of luck never hurt. This game is best for kids 12 and older or adults. It should take about an hour to play from start to finish, though expect it to take a bit longer the first few times you play.
Best for Disney Fans: Ravensburger Disney Villainous Strategy Board Game
If you’ve ever wondered why the good guys have all the fun, this Disney-themed strategy game where “the worst takes it all” is made for you. The hardest part is picking which Disney villain you want to be—Maleficent? Jafar? Ursula?—keeping in mind each has their own set of mystical magical powers.
The game, recommended for kids 10 years old and up, is full of immersive storytelling, scheming villains, and fate cards where favorite Disney protagonists show up to put a wrinkle in the game.
Best Long Playing Game: Hasbro Risk Game
Be forewarned: a game of Risk has the potential to go on all night long as players battle to take control of the world advancing or retreating their troops strategically. This version comes with a dragon token that ups the thrills and can also integrate Amazon’s Alexa (sold separately) for more unexpected excitement as she helps advance or hinder your cause. Of course, it can be played the classic way with two to five players for old school fun.