A great strategy board game will keep your mind engaged on a rainy day and easily make the perfect party activity for and crowd.
For strategy board games specifically, Dustin Stevens of Summit Comics & Games says that the difficulty level is crucial. "Usually, the more challenging a strategy board game is, the more enjoyable it is," he says. However, this varies by person, so be sure to find out the skill levels of your group before picking a game.
We spent hours researching the best strategy games available, considering the difficulty level, playing time, and player count for each pick. Our favorite picks for a fun challenge include Ticket to Ride, which challenges players to build train routes, Betrayal at House on the Hill for a frighteningly haunted good time, and Villainous, where players take on the role of iconic Disney villains.
Here, the best strategy board games.
Days of Wonder Ticket To Ride
Rules can be learned in 15 minutes or less
The box keeps everything neatly organized
Compatible with Alexa
Small cards are hard to shuffle
You’ll probably notice several Ticket to Ride game versions, as well as a few expansions and other extras. Unless you have your heart set on a certain version, it’s best to go with the first one, shown above. It’s a full game and is a great place to start, especially when introducing the whole family to the game.
Players work to collect train cards, claim railway routes, and connect historic destinations on maps across the country. The winner gets the most points by having the longest routes, completing destination tickets, and other achievements—but be careful as you count those points because you can lose them, too.
Users report a high entertainment and replay value with this game, as no two games are alike. We also love the quality of the board and pieces and that the cards don't bend or rip easily. Just take note that the small cards may be difficult to shuffle.
Price at time of publish: $48
Number of Players: 2-5 people | Playing Time: 30-60 minutes | Age Range: 8 and up
Catan Studio Catan
Can easily learn in minutes
Excellent family game
Expansion sets add to the basic game and allow for more players
Some found the game too complicated to play
Catan is excellent for ages 10 and up, and Catan Junior offers a modified, slightly simpler version for kids as young as age six. There are also expansion packs which are good for five to six players if you have a larger group, and these also have a duration of about an hour.
For this game, players unite to settle the Island of Catan while trying to trade with others and spread across the board to earn victory points. A very popular game, Catan has lots of groups and communities folks can join once they learn the rules and start enjoying the game. There are even national and world championship tournaments for Catan.
Our tester found that even small kids enjoyed this adult-favorite strategy game, especially the setup process, which can often be tedious. "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," they shared.
Price at time of publish: $48
Number of Players: 3-4 people | Playing Time: 60 minutes | Age Range: 10 and up
Indie Boards and Cards Terraforming Mars
Highly replayable and enjoyable
Competitive for the strategic player
Artwork and illustrations are high quality
Large instruction manual
Step into a role as a world corporation working to make Mars liveable for humanity. This process, called terraforming, requires many major changes, which numerous (200+) projects aim to do in the game—allowing players to collect points as they’re completed.
Terraforming Mars can be played within approximately 120 minutes (although some say it can take much longer depending upon the number of players and skill level of each player). Patient, rule-abiding folks will do best with this game as it’s complex and takes a while to master—i.e., the instruction manual is 15 pages long—but it’s said to be a lot of fun once you get used to it.
Price at time of publish: $47
Number of Players: 1-5 people | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 12 and up
Avalon Hill Betrayal At House On The Hill
Great gift for game enthusiasts who enjoy the theme
Expansion packs available
Great family or adults-only game
May be too frightening for some
You’ll probably need to play Betrayal at Hill House a few times before you completely grasp the rules, as some things change with every round of the game. It requires a marked level of teamwork, a healthy dose of exploration, and plenty of strategizing.
Players will explore the mansion, find out about disturbing events, live through fifty potential scenarios, and figure out there’s someone in the mix to betray you with each and every game.
Price at time of publish: $42
Number of Players: 3-6 people | Playing Time: 60 minutes | Age Range: 12 and up
Alderac Entertainment Group Tiny Towns
Can play solo
Suitable for various ages
Not as challenging for seasoned players
This award-winning board game features adorable illustrations, but don't let that distract you from the task at hand: building the best tiny town out of all the players. Through strategic thinking, you must use the available resources to protect the small creatures in your town from predators. Successes win you victory points and the player with the most victory points a the end wins, but not without facing multiple challenges along the way. You can also play Tiny Towns solo as you build your perfect civilization and wrack up wins as you go.
Number of Players: 1-6 | Playing Time: 45-60 minutes | Age Range: 14 and up
Z-Man Games Pandemic
Challenging but rewarding
One’s true colors come out while playing this game
Some did not like the theme of the game and felt it was in poor taste
Pandemic, one of the best cooperative board games on the market today, compels players to work together in order to defeat deadly worldwide diseases. The goal of players is to lower the infection rates until cures can be developed, which involves eliminating sickness tokens, and procuring research labs, and their cards efficiently. Teamwork is imperative and players must work with one another’s strengths to gain the advantage needed to win this game.
Price at time of publish: $34
Number of Players: 2-4 people | Playing Time: 45 minutes | Age Range: 8 and up
USAOPOLY Risk: Game of Thrones Strategy Board Game
Offers a unique twist on a classic game
Great for fans of the show
Marked as 18 and up
Based upon the wildly popular HBO series, Risk: Game of Thrones Edition adds a dose of suspenseful chaos to the old-school game of Risk. This blended game contains two separate game boards, allows players to choose from three ways to play, and includes over 650 beautifully made pieces making up seven armies. The cards and board games are full of beautiful drawings to boot.
Price at time of publish: $67
Number of Players: 3-5 people | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 18 and up
Ravensburger Disney Villainous Strategy Board Game
Great for Disney lovers
You can get expansions if you are bored with it
Won the 2019 TOTY Award (Toy of the Year)
A bit complex for some, especially younger children
Choose your favorite Disney villain and play against your friends’ favorite baddies (and heroes) too! For this game, you can search for a video tutorial called Villainous Disney: How to Play, by Watch It Played on YouTube for some extra help if needed.
To get started, you’ll pick your villain from among the ranks of Maleficent, Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Jafar from Aladdin, and more. Then you’ll go about doing their bidding using that particular villain’s card decks and movers. Include more villains as you wish from other boxes as you go forward with the game, eventually creating the ideal situation for your villain.
Price at time of publish: $35
Number of Players: 2-6 people | Playing Time: 50 minutes | Age Range: 10 and up
Stonemaier Games Scythe Board Game
Expansion kits available to keep things interesting
Fresh and unique every time you play it
May be too complex for some players
Set in a fictional place at the end of World War II, this game is for between one and five players. To play, each player takes on the role of a mystery person with different resources, and they must start the game from different locations, working the land and going on different adventures to ensure their factory thrives and wards off opponents. You may unintentionally learn some historical facts along the way, but you'll be so focused on the gameplay, it won't feel like school.
Price at time of publish: $62
Number of Players: 1 - 5 | Playing Time: 90-120 minutes | Age Range: 14 and up
Exploding Kittens Throw Throw Burrito Game
Easy to learn, set up, and play
The more players, the more fun
Great gift for a kid or young teen
Quality of the components could be better
When it’s time to break out the party games, let this one be among the first. You’ll find it helps everyone loosen up, laugh, and start to have a great time. Throw, Throw, Burrito is a fast-paced party game with both a card and “dodgeball-esque” component that only takes about five minutes to learn.
Make sure you move the breakables into another room before you start—the burritos will be flying through the air in no time—and if you get hit by one, you lose points. Don’t worry, they’re made of foam and won’t hurt—other than wounding your pride if you lose the final Burrito Duel.
Price at time of publish: $25
Number of Players: 2-6 people | Playing Time: 15 minutes | Age Range: 7 and up
Blue Orange Games Photosynthesis Board Game
Rule book is simple and straightforward
A mix of luck and strategy
Some find it boring
Photosynthesis is considered a brilliant and complicated game for environmentalists and nature lovers particularly intrigued by the life cycle of trees. To get into Photosynthesis, players must gather seeds to create forests. It’s said to look stunning sitting out on the table and has won awards for its unique, abstract essence. The artwork is high quality and the gameplay is exciting for all.
Price at time of publish: $38
Number of Players: 2-4 people | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 8 and up
Cephalofair Games Gloomhaven
Rule book is thorough and helpful during play
Expensive for a board game
There’s plenty of strategy involved in Gloomhaven, as well as a chance to learn skills in how to barter, make deals, build cities, etc., making it a family favorite. It’s a legacy game, so it doesn’t reset from one game to the next, which will probably be new for some players.
To play the game, players must work cooperatively as wandering adventurers to overcome monsters, survive dungeons, and explore the darkest of places. Using cards to determine their next move, players work through decisions together at the end of each scenario. There are twists, turns, and even some surprising permanent changes that keep the game fresh over multiple game sessions.
Price at time of publish: $168
Number of Players: 1-4 people | Playing Time: 60-120 minutes | Age Range: 12 and up
Cards Against Humanity The Main Game
Great adult party game
Several expansion packs available
Some didn’t care for the humor and found it more raunchy than funny
Created specifically with adults in mind, players should take care to invite adults only to this card game. You need at least four players for Cards Against Humanity, but you can invite as many as you wish. (Some card connoisseurs say it’s best played with six to eight players, but you can decide for yourself).
Basically, this game consists of players asking questions off the black cards and answering off the white cards, played according to the enclosed book of sensible rules—unless, of course, you choose to go with the alternate book of preposterous rules instead. There are many expansions you can add if you decide you really enjoy it, but you’ll want to start with the game pictured above and master that first.
Price at time of publish: $29
Number of Players: 4-20 people | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 17 and up
Asmodee 7 Wonders
The game is easy to learn with a little practice
Several expansion packs to keep it fresh
Few strategy options
To play 7 Wonders, imagine yourself leading one of the seven greatest cities of the Ancient World…and from there you must fight to retain military power, develop resources, and grow your city. Over three ages, players draw cards to develop different facets of their cities. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the third and final age. The game includes stunning artwork that will draw players in, but some note that the strategy element doesn't go as deep as some other options.
Price at time of publish: $87
Number of Players: 3-7 | Playing Time: 30 minutes | Age Range: 14 and up
Space Cowboys Sherlock Holmes- The Thames Murders & Other Cases Board Game
Unique, challenging option for game lovers
Makes you feel like a real detective
A few of the cases were poorly written and misleading
A mystery is always on the horizon with this suspenseful game. First released in 1981, this board game now has four editions.
Players work together as a team to solve ten mysteries in London. The game is sort of a blend of role-playing, doing seasoned detective work, and playing a traditional board game all at once, and there are numerous challenges and hidden clues to make it difficult. In the end, you’ll get to compare notes to see how you did against the man himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Price at time of publish: $41
Number of Players: 1-8 | Playing Time: 90 minutes | Age Range: 14 and up
Plan B Azul Board Game
Offers plenty of player interaction
YouTube videos available to help learn the game
Beautiful game board
Tiles don't stay in place very easily
The colorful tile-laying game of Azul is easy to learn, competitive and challenging, and holds the interest of adults and kids alike. Ideal for beginner board gamers, Azul offers first-rate replayability and gorgeous artwork.
In Azul, players each try their hand at decorating the lush Royal Palace of Evora with tile patterns. Points are earned later in the game according to how well sets were completed and patterns were arranged. The player with the most points wins the game, but be careful: Wastefulness can lower your score.
Price at time of publish: $35
Number of Players: 2-4 people | Playing Time: 30-45 minutes | Age Range: 8 and up
Starling Games Everdell
Can be played solo
Easy to set up
Lovely theme and art
Instructions can be poorly written and difficult to understand
With its eye-popping board and attractive components, Everdell requires players to grow their little critter city through the seasons. In order to do so adequately, there are buildings that must be constructed, new territories must be settled, and new characters must be befriended. The box it comes in is also aesthetically pleasing, as it is the tree you’ll erect as part of the setup. Unlike other picks, you won't mind leaving this gorgeous game out on your coffee table for a few days.
Price at time of publish: $54
Number of Players: 2-4 | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 13 and up
Monopoly Board Game
Ideal for a rainy day, or an indoor winter game
This edition has 16 Community Chest cards voted on by fans
Children can practice math and basic money skills
Some folks dislike the new tokens in the classic board game box
Monopoly is the same classic board game it’s always been, even after living through countless upgrades and themes since it was introduced in the early 1900s. The perfect game for Family Game Night, classic Monopoly is best played by two to six players (although as many as eight can play together if you have enough tokens—or make some extra ones).
For classic Monopoly, players move around the board using dice and cards from the Chance and Community Chest piles, hoping to be the first to buy up lucrative real estate while trying to avoid being sent to jail or landing on others’ property—and having to pay them rent.
Price at time of publish: $22
Number of Players: 2-6 people | Playing Time: Not listed | Age Range: 8 and up
Ravensburger Disney Hocus Pocus: The Game
Well-made high quality game
More fun for those who have seen the movie
For fans of the 1993 Disney movie or anyone who just loves magic, Hocus Pocus the board game is a fun, cooperative adventure. Essentially, the game requires players to stop the Sanderson sisters from completing their dastardly deed (making a potion) before sunrise. Most players find it exciting and definitely replayable. It has elements that connect to the movie, but players who haven’t seen the movie can still play and understand the game.
Price at time of publish: $14
Number of Players: 2-6 | Playing Time: 30 minutes | Age Range: 8 and up
Floodgate Games Sagrada Board Game
You can learn the rules in minutes
Light, fun game that helps you relax
Can only play with four people
When you play Sagrada, you’ll pretend you are an artist competing for the honor of making the most beautiful Sagrada Familia stained glass. Using dice, window patterns, cards, and more, players will enjoy the game while admiring the stunning stained glass artwork. Hitting the exact color and shade requirements may pose quite a challenge as you go along.
Price at time of publish: $36
Number of Players: 1-4 | Playing Time: 30 minutes | Age Range: 13 and up
Stonemaier Wingspan Board Game
Great for nature fans
Complicated parts can take away from the fun
Wingspan is a great game for bird watchers since your main goal is to attract the very best new birds to your wildlife habitat. For Wingspan, you’ll have very pretty cards to work with, and a surprisingly competitive vibe. All types of bird watchers will be attracted to this game! Players said this game focuses on using the cards provided to help you start identifying birds.
Price at time of publish: $47
Number of Players: 1-5 | Playing Time: 40-70 minutes | Age Range: 14 and up
What to Look for in a Strategy Board Games
Often, the more difficult a strategy board game, the more fun it is. It also allows for more possibilities for strategy and interesting gameplay.
"However, this can be different for everyone," Dustin Stevens of Summit Comics & Games adds. "When someone's shopping for a game at my shop, I'll have the customer first describe the types of games they usually play so we can find something that best matches their interest."
Maybe you have an hour to play, maybe more like fifteen minutes, or perhaps the whole day (think: Magic the Gathering). Either way, know what you're getting into before buying a strategy board game. Different types of games have their times and places, but if one game takes over an hour to complete, how often will you break it out? Note that younger players might not be as interested in longer games.
Number of Players
Strategy board games are great for family game nights or parties, depending upon the number of players you can allow. Certain versions of Monopoly and other games allow for additional players, but you have to make your own moving pieces or break up into teams. Other games, like Terraforming Mars, allow for solo play, which allows for more freedom and control over your strategy.
How do you play strategy board games?
The premise of individual board games varies, but each requires the players to use decision-making skills to make plays, which will likely determine the outcome of the game. That means thinking ahead about a play, perhaps two, as well as considering how your opponent could play. You can't rely on chance with strategy games.
Are strategy board games good for kids?
Strategy board games are great for kids, as long as the game is age appropriate. Think of them as a fun way to develop kids' critical thinking skills. Strategy games can also improve a child's concentration, memory, and attention span, as well as how to lose (and win!) gracefully.
What's a good strategy board game for families?
Throw, Throw, Burrito by Exploding Kittens incorporates fast-paced and physical elements in a light-hearted and humorous manner. Kids as young as 7 years old can play the game.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written and researched by KJ Callihan, a Spruce writer who loves creating gift and shopping guides. KJ has worked on guides for AAA Northeast, CNET, and Knoji. She has been writing guides since 2014, so has learned a thing or two about great products. We also consulted Dustin Stevens, of Summit Comics and Games for his wisdom and guidance in selecting great strategy board games.