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10 of the Best Strategy Board Games of this Century

My Memaw always says I was “the thinker” in the family. So naturally I’ve loved playing strategy board games both as a kid and an adult. I’ve compiled a list of some of the highest rated strategy games of this century based on community ratings along with some of my personal favorites.

I got my thinker going again and it’s wanting to try something new. So I will begin this list of 10 best strategy games by simply giving you links to all 10 board games.

(And for those wanting easier games to introduce your friends to. Try out some of these highly rated simple board games.)

A Sneak Peak of the 10 Best Strategy Board Games Featured in this Article

For those wanting to see just get a quick glance of my top 10 list, here they are.

(Click on the link to jump to the section about that game and to read why I chose these 10 awesome games.)

1. Twilight Struggle
2. Gloomhaven
3. Star Wars Rebellion
4. Terraforming Mars
5. Blood Rage
6. Mechs vs. Minions
7. Scythe
8. Power Grid
9. Viticulture
10. Lords of Waterdeep

(SPOILER! There is an additional “honorable mention” list at the end of this article. Check out more of the community and my favorite strategy board games there below.)

6 of The Highest Rated Strategy Board Games of This Century

Here are 6 of the best strategy board games of all time based on the community’s rating. I see these board games come up in multiple “top 10” and “best of” lists all around the internet.

These are also 6 of some of my most wanted to play strategy board games.

1. Twilight Struggle – Constantly Voted Best 2 Player Strategy Game Across Many Polls and Forums

Difficulty – 7/10
Ages – 13+
Players – 2
Length – 120-180 min.

This is the most intriguing strategy board games for me. I love making games and know how hard it is to get people to play my prototypes (with little to no artwork). Now I don’t think the artwork for Twilight Struggle is bad, it’s just not nearly as good as the board games of late.

But it’s EVERYWHERE on people’s “favorite board games” lists. The board looks very similar to Risk and it’s a war strategy game so I would probably enjoy it a lot. I just haven’t found someone to teach me so I remain on the outside wondering how this game ranks so high everywhere I look.

2. Gloomhaven – A Highly Strategical Legacy Board Game for Players that Love Challenging Games

Difficulty – 8/10
Ages – 12+
Players – 1-4
Length – 90-150 min.

Gloomhaven on the other hand has amazing artwork. This is yet another strategy board game that I see consume threads and forums for topics like “what is your favorite board game?”

I would call this board game a co-op adventure strategy board game. A really cool part about this dungeon crawling board game is that you level up your character as your team runs through various scenarios. Become more and more powerful as your team level up and customize your heroes each round. This gives Gloomhaven great playback value as your hero will level up and get new skills/abilities for future dungeon runs.

From the reviews I read its great as a one time playthrough and even better as a multisession choose your own adventure strategy board game. It sounds like the perfect fit for those of you that have a consistent board gaming group.

The one (and possibly only) big downside I see to this game is the price. As I write this article, it is about $250. This should change if they ever decide to do a reprint of Gloomhaven.

*Edit – Gloomhaven has been reprinted and can be purchased for much less now. A lot of my friends have been buying copies and playing. I’ve heard more good things from their experiences with them on Facebook.

(Have a board game idea? Take the first step to making your game here)

3. Star Wars Rebellion – The Board Game for Miniature Fans and Star Wars Enthusiasts

Difficulty – 7/10
Ages – 14+
Players – 2-4
Length – 180-240 min.

All right Star Wars fans, this strategy board game is for you!

Star Wars Rebellion takes place during the Galactic Civil War. Choose between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance as you command your troops to victory.

This strategy board game features over 150 miniatures along with a game board, cards and dice. I personally think the miniatures look very well done and professional.

Bonus: If you would like to try out another highly rated strategy board game in the Star Wars universe, then check out Star Wars Imperial Assault. It’s a board game for 2-5 players where one player commands the Galactic Empire. Meanwhile, the other players fight as the Rebel Alliance to free the Galaxy.

(Also Read: I’m making a new prototype and want to show you my creative game design process)

4. Terraforming Mars – Be Like Matt Damon in The Martian without all the Risks in this Lengthy Strategy Board Game!

Difficulty – 7/10
Ages – 12+
Players – 1-5
Length – 120 min.

Terraforming Mars takes place during the 2400s. You know, the period of time when humans will begin to flourish on Mars and the mega corporations take over?

You play as one of these giant corporations who are working together to create a better life on Mars.

While the theme is for players to build a more sustainable planet together, this is not a co operative game in the sense that you win as a team and lose as a team. Players receive points at the end of the game based on how well their mega corp did and one winner is declared.

The end of game happens when the temperature, oxygen and ocean levels reach their desired status.

As a fan of Matt Damon in the movie The Martian and an even bigger fan of Elon Musk racing to inhabit Mars in real life, I am excited to try this board game out. Though this board game takes place way past the time of the movie and where we are now as a civilization, becoming a multi planetary species excites me to no end!

5. Blood Rage – Players Favorite Strategy Board Game in 2015

Difficulty – 6/10
Ages – 14+
Players – 2-4
Length – 60-90min.

“BLOOD RAGE!!” I feel like this is all I heard and read for over an entire year after this strategy board game came out in 2015. This amazing game is set during the end of the world. Players assume control of their own Viking’s leader, ship and set of warriors. There are multiple paths to victory in this action packed strategy board game.

Blood Rage continues to rank at the top of a lot of board game lists. And I see it continually recommended on various forums throughout the internet.

3 reasons it looks enticing to me are:

  • The miniatures look very well done and are of great quality.
  • The artwork is exceptionally well done. Having great art helps games gain awareness to new players.
  • And the game designer is Eric Lang who happens to be one of the top rated game designers in the world.

I remember interviewing Chern Ann Ng awhile back and he said one of the reasons Cool Mini Or Not (the publishing company for Blood Rage) is successful was because of the great team they built. Which features Eric Lang and the awesome artists/sculptors that bring us this highly rated tabletop game.

6. Mechs vs. Minions – The First (and Highly Successful) Board Game Based on the League of Legends World

Difficulty – 5/10
Ages – 14+
Players – 2-4
Length – 60-90 min.

Alright all of you League of Legends fans. This is the strategy board game for you.

Mechs vs. Minions is actually a cooperative strategy game that has players working together to complete 10 missions in the world of Runterra. Take control of 1 of the 4 Yordles in this tabletop game such as Tristana, Corki, Ziggs and my personal favorite, Heimerdinger. This is a great board game for not only having fun but teaching you good life skills.

Several skills Mechs vs. Minions will teach you:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Planning
  • And basic programming fundamentals

I really think the programmable feature of the game is a great idea. Players have to place several cards down at once. However, these cards will then be played in order of how you and your teammates set them out. This makes the teamwork and communication strategies all that much more important.

The fact that the game has 10 separate missions and 4 playable characters makes me excited of the amount of replay ability that is inside the box. Along with over 100 well crafted miniatures makes me want to pick up this highly rated strategy board game quick.

(Related – Ever thought about making a board game? Get the answers to many questions new board game designers have here.)

Board Game Design Frequently Asked Questions Call to Action image for Streamlined Gaming. "Board Game Design FAQs" typed in the left side with "Get My Answers" typed in the bottom right with pamphlets in top right.

4 of The Best Strategy Board Games I’ve Played this Century

I’m a very analytical minded person and have been since a kid. Setting up plans 3-5 turns ahead and executing those strategies as the game plays out is one of the top reasons I play board games.

Here is a list of my favorite strategy board games that I would be happy to play over and over again.

7. Scythe – Board Game with a Futuristic Steampunk Theme Designed by Jamey Stegmaier

Difficulty – 7/10
Ages – 14+
Players – 1-5
Length – 100 min.

I was introduced to Scythe at my friend Mike’s house. You may remember him from the interview I did with him or the article he wrote on showing his prototype at a large board game convention.

Scythe took awhile for us to learn and get going. But once we did it was magical.

Several things I loved about Scythe that made me feel this way was:

  • The balance of the game felt really well done (something I often find lacking in other board games)
  • Each different faction felt unique and fun to play
  • There was a chance of player conflict though it didn’t happen often. And when it did occur, neither player seemed to gain or lose an unhealthy amount of progress for the battle.

Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier games is also a great personality. He writes about his experience as a board game maker and publisher, focusing on his experience and knowledge of Kickstarter. So along with being a great board game designer he is also a great teacher. You can read about his experience at the Stonemaier games website if interested in board game design and development.

8. Power Grid – The Best Strategy Board Game to Teach Your Math Friends

Difficulty – 7/10
Ages – 12+
Players – 2-6
Length – 120 min.

If you are a numbers person then Power Grid is the strategy board game I would recommend for you.

My family tends to be very analytical and math minded people. So this is a game that we really enjoy. The theme of the game is that you are powering the city with electricity. It’s important to plan multiple turns ahead to eek out every little advantage as possible.

For those of you who aren’t as in to number crunching as me, then I would pass on this game and maybe play something like….

9. Viticulture – A Great Strategy Board Game that Players Seem to Enjoy Regardless of Winning

Difficulty – 6/10
Ages – 13+
Players – 2-6
Length – 90 min.

Viticulture is an amazing board game full of strategy. But it also is exceptional at making players feel happy with the vineyard that they create. The goal of the game is to build the best vineyard and produce the tastiest wine possible.

I remember playing this board game with my friend and their family. The parents didn’t play many board games though they still had a lot of fun creating their own wine company. It’s really awesome to me when players feel like they won the game because of how much fun they had (despite having the lowest score).

This is another great strategy board game by Stonemaier games with lead designer Jamey Stegmaier (see Scythe board game above).

10. Lords of Waterdeep – A Great “Intro to Worker Placement” Board Game

Difficulty – 5/10
Ages – 12+
Players – 2-5
Length – 60-120 min.

Lords of Waterdeep is my most played of these strategy board games. I remember many a game night where this was brought out to our gaming table in Austin, Texas.

My friend Julia introduced me to this worker placement and resource management board game set in the Dungeons and Dragons world. It is truly amazing. The game rewards thinking several turns ahead as players complete quests to gain victory points.

One of the best attributes for this game is that it is one of the easier strategy board games to learn. Especially if you have someone that has played before (like Julia!)

I would suggest this board game for strategy lovers looking for a board game to teach their friends that tend to play lighter games. Because it’s in depth enough for strategy lovers like me to craft and execute an elaborate plan. While also light enough for newer gamers to understand what is going on.

(Top Post: How to Sell Your Board Game on Amazon)

Honorable Mention Strategy Board Games of this Century

Along with 10 of the best strategy board games ever made. I would also like to give you a quick list of strategy games that make honorable mention.

Here are several other strategy board games that I’ve played and loved that didn’t make the top 10 list above:

Classic Strategy Board Games

Le Havre – A worker placement and resource management board game where you take on the role of importing different goods as they are brought in from ships.

Kingsburg – I played this Euro strategy board game at a convention with my friend and family. We really enjoyed the game but were disappointed when we got home and found it sold out almost everywhere but from 3rd party sellers on Amazon and Ebay. Luckily for us, they did a reprint and there are copies available now at a reasonable price!

Pandemic – This is one of my favorite co op board games that I love recommending to groups wanting to improve on teamwork (I learned this game with my coworkers and it was a great team building exercise).

Agricola – I have only played this game on it’s app. It seems like setting up the physical version of this strategy board game would take awhile but I’ve never done it. The app however is amazing and has a good solo version that I have enjoyed on many a plane ride. I’m curious to see how the game plays with the physical pieces and would like to try it out one day.

Settlers of Catan – Ok so this is the only one that isn’t from this century. It was created in 1995 but I wanted to add it here because it’s one of the most popular gateway board games that bring new players into this new age of board gaming. Settlers is a modern day classic that I recommend to both gamers and non gamers alike.

Carcassonne – I guess Carcassonne came out at the beginning of this century (2000 release date) but I still consider it a Classic strategy game. It’s a fun tabletop game that is easy to learn but full of strategy.

Strategy Board Games with an Awesome Theme

A Game of Thrones – I’m a huge fan of the popular HBO tv series Game of Thrones. This strategy game did a great job at representing the different houses (factions) from the show, giving the game variety and good playback value.

5 tribes – I love the theme of this strategy board game. The different factions have a great unique feel to them giving the game great replayability.

Fun Strategy Games with Great Artwork

Santorini – My favorite explanation of this awesome strategy game is “it’s like a much more in depth game of tic tac toe except it doesn’t end in a tie every time.” This game is deceptively complex in strategy yet very easy to learn. You can see my more detailed explanation of Santorini in this list.

Imperial Settlers – Another great strategy board game that does a tremendous job at creating fun and enjoyable classes/factions (tribes?). The artwork for this game is fantastic and the pieces that come with this resource management game is top notch. I have seen other board game designers use the pieces for their own prototypes.

Seasons – My brother and I really enjoy this strategy card drafting game. The artwork is phenomenal and the game allows for some cool card combos if you are into that kind of thing. I wrote a more in depth explanation of why I love Seasons here.

Heavy Strategy Board Games the will Keep You Thinking for Hours

I have been getting a lot of suggestions for some really deep and “heavy” (complicated/difficult) strategy games so I wanted to post some of the most often suggested of these here.

Lisboa – There has been a great earthquake followed by a Tsunami and a blaze of fires in Lisboa. Players take on the challenge of rebuilding this great city in this game.

Food Chain Magnate – This is a clever tabletop game where players develop their own food chain. The old timey artwork is interesting to me as well as the game idea.

Eclipse – This might be the most recommended strategy game that I’ve had since first creating this list. People are saying this is a great sci fi fantasy game.

Caverna – If you enjoy worker placement games like Agricola, then you will probably love this newer version of the genre.

Axis and Allies (Anniversary Edition) – Players keep recommending this rebooted Classic war game as one of their favorite strategy tabletop games.

Terra Mystica – This city building, resource management game sounds amazing. It has 14 different factions (“peoples”) which means there should be a lot of replayability.

Twilight Imperium – 17 factions compete to take over the galaxy. One awesome thing about this game is that players start the game by building the board by tile placement.

Your Turn – What is Your Favorite Strategy Board Game?

Now that you’ve heard many of my favorites I’m curious to know what yours is? Let me know in the comments below (especially if it’s not on my list already so I can try it out).


56 Responses

  1. Friendly
    | Reply

    Not sure how old this article is, but Kingsburg has been reprinted and is once again widely available. My personal favorite strategy game, “Castles of Burgundy,” didn’t make this list but I highly recommend it anyway.

    • Calvin Keeney
      | Reply

      Oh sweet!!! Kingsburg has been reprinted. Thank you so much Friendly 🙂 I will have to let my friend know so we can finally buy our own copy. haha.

      Thank you for the Castles of Burgundy recommendation as well, I will have to check it out too.

  2. Timothy G. Huguenin
    | Reply

    Eldritch Horror is my new favorite! Story-based cooperative Lovecraftian adventure. Takes a little while to initially get through the rules but it is tons of fun. I also have the Pirates expansion for Settlers and that one is great too

    • Calvin Keeney
      | Reply

      I haven’t played the Pirates exp but love the Cities and Knights.

      Eldritch Horror sounds interesting. I love playing coops with my family and friends. It’s a nice break from all the competitiveness that is my default gaming mode 🙂 Thanks Timothy!

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