The 8 Best Strategy Board Games of 2021

Picks to make game night more of a challenge

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Who doesn't like a board game? For one, they're a fun way to get everyone off their screen for a little bonding time, which is nothing less than a miracle these days. Strategy board games in particular 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. They're bound to rev up some friendly competition and, if you're playing with kids, get their wheels turning on how to think ahead.

To add some serious fun to your next game night, we've found the best strategy board games for everyone, no matter your age or interests. Lovers of horror movies, we have you covered. Disney superfans—we got you too. Whether you're shopping for a gift or for your own game collection, these strategy board games will be a sure hit.

If you're ready to schedule your next game night, scroll on for the best strategy board games.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall:
Jax Sequence at Amazon
A twist on Connect Four, this strategy game asks players to place five of their chips in a row, column, or diagonal.
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The game is portable, making it perfect for kids in the backseat on long road trips—though adults love it, too.
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Best for Families:
Catan Studio Catan at Amazon
Praised for its addicting gameplay, this game can be played over and over again without feeling repetitive.
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Best Cooperative:
Z-Man Games Pandemic at Amazon
This challenging game can be played with two to four players, all of whom will win or lose together as a team at the end.
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Similar to dominos, this colorful game uses matching to help you win, and it easy enough for children as young as 6 to play.
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Requiring both luck and skill to win, this spooky game is a great pick for anyone looking for a fun narrative for game night.
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Disney fans will love playing as their favorite villains (Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, and more) in this well-designed game.
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Best Long Playing Game:
Hasbro Risk Game at Amazon
This game—which can now be integrated with Amazon Alexa for more surprises and excitement—has the potential to go all night long.
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Best Overall: Jax Sequence

sequence-board-game

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.

"One reason it is so appealing is that it’s the perfect game for families with multiple kids (mine span eight years). It’s simple enough for young ones to understand and still enjoyably challenging for tweens, teens, and adults." Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester

Best Two-Player: Hasbro Gaming Electronic Battleship Game

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

Catan

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

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 cooperative 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

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

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

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

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.

What to Look for When Buying Strategy Board Games

Number of Players

Before buying a strategy board game, check the number of players the game supports. Then think about the circumstances in which you'll play. Do you host large groups of friends for game nights? Or do you prefer to play one-on-one at home? Ideally a game will support a range of players. If you can only play with a specific number of players (say, three or four), you're less likely to have the chance to play it often.

Playing Time

Maybe you have an hour to play, maybe more like five minutes. Either way, know what you're getting into before buying a strategy board game. Both types of games have their time and place, but if I game takes over an hour to complete, how often will you break it out?

Interesting Concept

What is the board game about? Without an interesting premise about a topic you enjoy, you aren't likely to reach for the game very often. Perhaps you want a family-friendly game, or one that makes you laugh, or something revolving saving the world. No matter what interests you, just make sure it does.

FAQ
  • How do you play strategy board games?

    The premise of individual board game 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 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.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written and researched by Anne Fritz, a health and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Cosmopolitan, In Style, and SELF Magazine. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.

Updated by
Megan McCarty
Megan McCarty
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er, with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as MyDomaine, Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.
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