10 Best Board Games to Challenge Your Strategy Skills

Chess has long been the standard for strategy games, but the world of board games is vast and filled with titles that offer unique strategic challenges. Whether you’re a chess aficionado looking for a new test of your skills or a board game enthusiast eager to explore different realms of tactical play, this list of the 10 best board games to challenge your strategy skills will guide you to your next favorite game. Each game on this list brings its own flavor of strategic depth, encouraging players to think critically, plan ahead, and adapt to ever-changing scenarios.

Key Takeaways

  • Strategy board games test decision-making skills and can lead to victory or defeat based on your choices.
  • Playing strategy board games can enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.
  • Each game on this list offers a unique blend of challenges and thematic experiences, ensuring a fresh strategic adventure.
  • The dynamic nature of these games, such as the ever-changing setup in Kingdom Builder, ensures high replayability.
  • These games are not only challenging and fun but also serve as a great way to compete and bond with family and friends.

1. Chess

1. Chess

Chess is a timeless strategy game that captivates players of all ages. The objective is to checkmate your opponent’s king, rendering it unable to escape capture. With each piece moving in unique ways, players must anticipate future moves to outwit their adversaries.

Chess strategy is the purposeful attempt to gain an advantage over your opponent. It’s not just about the immediate battle but also about positioning for the future.

Chess is not only about the present tactics but also involves long-term strategic planning. Here are five key concepts to learn:

  • Control of the center
  • Piece development
  • King safety
  • Pawn structure
  • Endgame strategies

Whether you’re a seasoned player or new to the game, chess offers a rich and complex field of strategic exploration. It’s a game where every move counts and can be the difference between victory and defeat.

2. Risk

2. Risk

Risk is a classic strategy board game that challenges players aged 10 and up to engage in diplomacy and conquest. With 2 to 6 players, the game unfolds on a world map where you must use military tactics to acquire territories and form alliances. While dice introduce an element of luck, strategic thinking is paramount.

In Risk, every move is a delicate balance between aggression and defense. Success hinges on your ability to fortify borders and expand with caution.

The game’s appeal lies in its combination of chance and strategy, making each session unpredictable and exciting. Here are some top tips to enhance your gameplay:

  • Prioritize defending your borders to safeguard your territories.
  • Expand strategically, seizing opportunities without overextending.
  • Form and maintain alliances carefully, as they can be pivotal to your strategy.

Remember, taking over land in Risk is always a gamble. Are you ready to take on the challenge and see if you can conquer the world?

3. Quarto

3. Quarto

Quarto is a captivating strategy game that requires players to engage in deductive reasoning and logic. The game is played on a board with 16 unique pieces, each characterized by four distinct attributes: color, height, shape, and consistency. The goal is to align four pieces with a common attribute. However, the game introduces a compelling twist: you choose the piece your opponent plays, and they choose yours.

In Quarto, the key to victory is to keep a vigilant eye on all attributes. It’s not just about what you’re placing, but also what possibilities you’re setting up for your opponent.

With a typical playtime of around 20 minutes, Quarto is an excellent choice for a quick yet challenging strategic encounter. It’s suitable for two players and has received a stellar 5-star rating on Amazon. Here’s a quick overview of the game specifics:

  • Players: 2
  • Typical time to play: 20 minutes
  • Amazon rating: 5 stars

4. Xiangqi

4. Xiangqi

Xiangqi, often referred to as Chinese Chess, is a game that challenges players to adapt to different strategic elements than those found in traditional chess. With pieces like the cannon that can leap over others and the chariot, which moves similarly to the rook in chess, players must navigate a board divided by a river, affecting piece mobility.

The river in the middle of the board is a unique feature of Xiangqi, creating a strategic divide that influences how certain pieces operate.

The game’s aggressive tactics and the possibility for daring sacrifices encourage a dynamic style of play. Here are some strategic elements to consider in Xiangqi:

  • Positioning: Control of the board’s central area is crucial.
  • Piece Mobility: The river and palace areas restrict or enhance movements.
  • Sacrifices: Calculated risks can lead to advantageous positions.

Xiangqi’s distinct gameplay offers a refreshing twist for those familiar with Western chess, providing a rich strategic experience.

5. Kingdom Builder

5. Kingdom Builder

Kingdom Builder is a testament to the dynamic nature of board games, offering a fresh experience with each play. Players must adapt their strategies to the ever-changing setup, ensuring that no two games are alike. The goal is to construct settlements wisely and secure points through clever placement and tactical foresight.

  • Each game features a unique board setup.
  • Players must capitalize on variable scoring conditions.
  • Strategic adaptability is key to success.

Kingdom Builder challenges players to think ahead and remain flexible, making it a captivating addition to any strategy game collection.

While Kingdom Builder shares the strategic complexity that makes chess so engaging, it stands out with its variable game board and scoring conditions. This not only enhances replayability but also keeps the strategic challenge fresh and exciting.

6. El Grande

6. El Grande

El Grande is a classic area control game set in medieval Spain, where players compete for dominance across various regions. The game is renowned for its strategic depth, requiring players to deploy their caballeros wisely and utilize strategic cards to outmaneuver opponents.

Much like chess, El Grande demands careful planning and the ability to adapt strategies on the fly. The choices you make early in the game can significantly affect your chances of victory as the game progresses. It’s a game where you win or lose because of your own choices, emphasizing the importance of each decision.

El Grande is very fun to play. You win or lose because of your own choices, and the choices you make early in the game affect your chances at the end.

While the game is accessible to newcomers, it offers a rich layer of complexity for seasoned strategists. The interplay between the power of the caballeros and the strategic use of cards makes each game a unique challenge.

7. Go

7. Go

Go is an ancient board game known for its profound strategic depth. Players alternate placing white and black stones on a 19×19 grid, aiming to control more territory than their opponent. The beauty of Go lies in its simplicity and the vast complexity that arises from it.

In Go, every move can ripple through the game, creating or destroying opportunities for both players. It’s a dance of war and peace, where balance and adaptability are key.

While the rules are straightforward, mastering Go can take a lifetime. The game emphasizes the need to think several steps ahead and anticipate the opponent’s moves. This makes it not just a test of tactical skill, but also of patience and foresight.

  • Objective: Surround more territory than your opponent.
  • Skill Required: High-level strategic thinking.
  • Challenge: Reading the board and predicting moves.

Go has remained popular for thousands of years, captivating players with its elegant mechanics and deep strategic gameplay. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, Go offers a timeless challenge that can sharpen your strategic mind.

8. Pandemic

8. Pandemic

In Pandemic, teamwork is not just encouraged; it’s essential. Players unite as a team of scientists, each with unique abilities, to prevent the spread of four deadly diseases. The goal is to discover cures and halt the global outbreak, making every decision critical to humanity’s survival.

In a race against time, strategic planning and resource management become the cornerstone of victory. Players must balance the urgency of containing outbreaks with the need to research cures.

The game is suitable for ages 13 and up and can be played by 2 to 4 players. It’s a test of cooperative strategy and has been highly praised, especially during times of real-world quarantine. The updated version, Breaking Daybreak, addresses some of the original game’s challenges, such as the tendency for quarterbacking, by smoothing out the gameplay experience.

If you’re looking for a game that combines critical thinking with collective problem-solving, Pandemic will challenge your strategic skills while you work with your team to save the world.

9. Twilight Struggle

9. Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle offers a gripping reenactment of the Cold War, where players assume the roles of the United States or the Soviet Union. The strategic depth of the game lies in the tug-of-war for global influence, as each player attempts to spread their ideology across various regions. The game is not just about gaining territories but also about making pivotal decisions at critical moments.

In Twilight Struggle, timing is everything. Understanding the importance of Scoring Cards and knowing when to play them can turn the tide of the game. It’s a delicate balance between scoring regions you’re set to lose and securing victories where you can.

The game’s mechanics encourage players to think like world leaders, crafting strategies that will determine their superpower’s dominance. With its historical theme and complex gameplay, Twilight Struggle demands careful planning and adaptability, making it a favorite among strategy enthusiasts.

10. Carcassonne

10. Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a captivating board game that transports players to the medieval era. Players strategically place tiles to construct a landscape around the famed hilltop town in southern France. Each tile may represent a road, field, city, or other feature, and the placement of these tiles is crucial for scoring points and securing territories.

The game is suitable for ages 7 and up and can be enjoyed by 2 to 5 players. It’s a game that requires spatial awareness and foresight, akin to the strategic demands of chess. Players must compete for control by placing their followers, known as meeples, on the various structures they build.

The essence of Carcassonne lies in its balance. While it’s important to score points by placing meeples on features, it’s equally crucial to keep a meeple in reserve. This strategic reserve can be a game-changer, allowing for unexpected moves and scoring opportunities.

Here are some beginner’s strategy tips for Carcassonne:

  • Always have at least one meeple in reserve.
  • Plan your tile placements to maximize points.
  • Keep an eye on opponents’ structures and meeples.
  • Adapt your strategy based on the tiles you draw.


As we’ve explored a variety of board games that challenge your strategic thinking, it’s clear that the world of strategy games extends far beyond the classic game of chess. Each game on our list offers a unique set of challenges and mechanics that can test your planning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills in new and exciting ways. Whether you’re building empires, commanding armies, or outmaneuvering opponents in abstract realms, these games promise to provide not only hours of entertainment but also a workout for your brain. So gather your friends and family, and see who among you can claim the title of ultimate strategist. Remember, the key to mastering these games is to think ahead, adapt to changing scenarios, and enjoy the thrill of the strategic battle!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are strategy board games and why are they beneficial?

Strategy board games are games that challenge players to make decisions that can lead to victory or defeat. They benefit players by developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Can strategy board games be suitable for all ages?

Yes, many strategy board games are designed with various age ranges in mind. For example, Risk is suitable for ages 10 and up, making it accessible for younger players as well as adults.

How do strategy board games compare to chess?

While chess has been a classic strategy game for centuries, many modern strategy board games offer unique twists, thematic experiences, and different challenges that provide fresh and engaging gameplay.

What makes Kingdom Builder a game like chess?

Kingdom Builder, like chess, involves strategic planning and forethought. It offers a dynamic board and varied strategies, ensuring replayability and an exhilarating challenge.

Are there any strategy board games that focus on area control like chess?

Yes, El Grande is a classic area control game that shares strategic elements with chess, where players vie for dominance over territories on the board.

What skills can I improve by playing strategy board games?

Playing strategy board games can help improve a variety of cognitive skills, including strategic thinking, spatial awareness, tactical planning, and the ability to think under pressure.