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Luck-based board games can be fun, but if you're looking to stir up some healthy competition among family or friends, nothing beats a strategy board game. Sure, you have to sit with the rules a little longer and there's often a learning curve, but these ultra-addictive games offer impressive replay value.
From highly tactical co-op games to two-person code-breaking games, these are the best strategy board games available now.
One of the most popular strategy board games right now is Catan, and for good reason. This unique game is praised for its addicting gameplay and impressive replay value.
Catan is designed for three to four players (though expansion packs allow you to play with up to six people), and each game takes around an hour. To play, each person build settlements around the island, which is composed of randomly arranged hexagon-shaped pieces that allow for a different board layout every time. While there is some luck involved, Catan requires a lot of strategy if you want to come out on top. You must anticipate which resources will be most valuable as you build and make sure you're paying attention to what other players are doing to keep them from getting ahead.
The strategic thinking needed to decide when and what to buy is somewhat sophisticated, giving more mature players a leg up on younger ones. Although, in my case, the benefit of my extra years of experience seems to max out once my kids pass 12." — Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
In cooperative board games, players work together to achieve a goal, instead of competing against one another. If you're looking for a strategy-based cooperative game, you should definitely consider Betrayal at House on Hill.
This board game requires three to six players and takes around 60 minutes to play. You begin by exploring the creepy haunted house together, until one player “betrays” the group. Everyone must then work together to defeat the defector—or else you lose! Reviewers say it takes a little while to pick up the rules of Betrayal at House on Hill, but many enjoy that there are a host of various scenarios and different layouts with every game, which keep it interesting.
If you’re looking for a challenging board game for adults, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Pandemic. This cooperative board game requires oodles of strategy as you race to cure infectious diseases that are wreaking havoc across the world.
Pandemic can be played with two to four players, and each game takes around an hour. All players must work together to contain and cure four diseases that are spreading across the globe, but it requires a bit of strategy to stay ahead of outbreaks. If you don’t work quickly enough, an epidemic will strike, setting back your progress! If the diseases spread too quickly, your whole group loses.
Reviewers can’t say enough about Pandemic, writing that it’s incredibly challenging and addicting. You’ll want to play again and again until you can best it, but that’s easier said than done!
"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
Another extremely popular strategy board game that will never get old is 7 Wonders. Similar to Catan, you must have a long-term strategy as you play this highly-rated game, and what makes it particularly fun is you never know who's going to win.
You can play 7 Wonders with three to seven people, and each game takes around 30 minutes. Reviewers note that the instructions often seem a bit overwhelming when you first read them, but once you get the hang of the game, it will fly by as you draft cards, build your city, construct architectural wonders and vie for military supremacy.
Reviewers love that this game takes a lot of thinking, yet gameplay is relatively quick. Many enjoy that you might think one person is in the lead, but you never know who will come out on top when you tally up the points. Some even go as far as to call it the best board game they’ve ever played!
Many modern board games are rather expensive, costing $50 or more! If you're looking for a strategy game to get your mind working but don't want to pay that much, you should look into Mastermind.
This classic game is played with two people, the code maker and the code breaker. In the simple, quick gameplay, players take turns setting and solving secret codes with colored pegs. There are more than 2,000 possible combinations, and you'll need to use deductive reasoning and logic to crack your opponent's code in 10 moves or less—otherwise, they get the points!
According to reviewers, Mastermind is fun for the whole family and a great way to teach critical thinking skills. However, several note the quality of the case and pegs is not the best.
If you're new to a strategy board games, many people recommend the top-rated game Carcassonne as a starting point. This tile-laying game is easy to pick up, but provides rich gameplay that you’re sure to enjoy.
Carcassonne can be played with two to five people, ages 8 and up, and each game takes around 35 minutes. The premise of the game is to develop a medieval fortress city, laying down one tile at a time, and gathering up followers to populate it. However, at the same time, you must pay attention to what your opponents are doing, blocking their progress or stealing their points when you can.
According to reviewers, this makes a great two-player strategy game, and many say it’s easy to set up and understand—perfect for beginners. Plus, there are expansion packs available to make gameplay more complex once you’ve mastered the base game.
Strategy board games can be fun for the whole family, and if you’re looking for a game that will keep both kids and adults entertained, you’ll definitely want to check out Labyrinth.
This board game can be played with two to four people, and each game takes 20 to 30 minutes. It’s recommended for kids ages 8 and up, but many reviewers say younger players can easily pick up the game. To play Labyrinth, you race around the maze-shaped board, trying to locate all your particular objects and characters. However, other players can change the maze, thwarting your plans.
Reviewers say this is an amazing game to teach strategy and logic, and it’s entertaining for both children and adults, making it a wonderful family board game.
Only have two players for game night? That’s ok, just break out Blokus Duo for a fun strategy board game. This game is designed for just two people, and it’s appropriate for anyone ages 7 and up.
To play Blokus Duo, players take turns placing Tetris-style pieces on the board, connecting their colored pieces at the corners. You’ll race to put down as many pieces as possible, blocking your opponents moves when you can, until the board is filled. The person who put down the most pieces wins! Reviewers love this two-person adaptation of the original Blokus, writing that it’s challenging but incredibly fun.
When it comes to strategy board games, Catan earns the top spot on our list for its addicting gameplay, creative concept, and well-designed board. If you’re looking for a cooperative board game, though, Betrayal at House on Hill (view at Amazon) is a great option that lets players work together to make it out of a haunted mansion alive.