Best strategy board games for 2023
Board games come in all shapes, sizes, and types imaginable. that you want to play family fun games, cooperative games or even single-player games where the other side is automated, there’s a game for everyone. My personal favorites are those games that take it a step further. The ones that pit you against other players and make you think, not just one move ahead, but two or three instead. These games are often called strategy games.
But isn’t every game a strategy game?
Strategy board games are games in which the players’ critical decision-making affects the outcome. That’s a pretty broad definition, I know, but modern strategy games come in all sorts of subgenres, often delineated by their central gameplay mechanic:
Often these games are organized into broader categories, such as war games (which focus on a conflict between player strengths), American Style (which prioritize direct conflicts between players and have elements of chance) or Eurogames (which largely avoid random elements and generally depend on scheduling and resource management).
The most important element of strategy board games, however, is, you guessed it, strategy. While there may be small instances where luck plays a role, the game’s overwhelming mechanics must rely on the player’s ability to think strategically and outwit other players on the board.
Despite all the games on the market, few have the perfect balance between replayability and satisfying gameplay, even if you lose. So, after testing dozens of the best games on the market, I’ve rounded up the best strategy games available in 2023.
In Gaia Project, players seek to expand their alien race’s control over a galaxy, making planets habitable for their race, building structures on them, gaining knowledge, and furthering research. This strategic board game has a pretty steep learning curve for those unfamiliar with Eurogames, but once you start your first game, you’ll understand the basics in a round or two. But the strategy is deep: you can play as a dozen different races, with unique abilities and research bonuses; the modular map means the galaxy you colonize is never alike; and many score and build bonuses are randomized each game, so the same strategy won’t win every time. Gaia Project is a masterclass in game design and a total joy to play.
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Windward isn’t as heavy as some of the games on this list, but has garnered a lot of love since its release. You play as a ship captain who navigates the skies of a planet seeking to capture giant space whales called Crestors. There’s a small amount of luck in the amount of damage you take, but since the direction of the wind controls your movement, there’s a lot of strategy around how you move and make sure you don’t run into any damage. other players.
My gaming table enjoys Windward as our first strategy game of the night, as it’s relatively light but leaves you craving something deeper.
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Small World is one of my favorites, simply because this game of conquest is so different every time you play it. Essentially, players are vying for control of a Risk-like board with too few spaces to accommodate everyone, hence the name. You’re bidding on one of dozens of fantastical creatures, each randomly paired with an additional special ability – which can lead to hilarious combinations like Were-Will-o’-the-Wisps or Peace-loving Homunculi. Then you spread out using your special abilities, collect coins based on the territory you control, and leave that race behind for a new one. It’s an addictive loop game that’s often both fun and competitive, and you can learn and play it in less than two hours.
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Twilight Struggle, set during the Cold War, balances the strategic complexity of a “big” game with the simple mechanics of a traditional conquest game like Risk. One player takes the role of the USA and the other the USSR as you fight for presence, dominance, or complete control of various battlefield regions around the world. Both sides race to put a man on the moon, downgrade DEFCON status through military operations, while carefully avoiding the devastation of nuclear war (an instant loss) and expand their influence across the world in a standoff for world power.
If you’re looking for a two-player strategy game with a little less weight, 7 Wonders: Duel is a great alternative to Twilight Struggle. The gameplay incorporates more creative game mechanics, so the learning curve is slightly steeper for newcomers, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a perfect, short strategy game for two.
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Agricola is one of the best board games ever made, and it’s also one of the best examples of worker placement mechanics. The concept is simple: players each use their farmer and wife (both called “workers”) to perform various actions throughout the seasons, such as collecting wood or vegetables, improving their farmhouse, building enclosures, buying animals, having children and much more. more. Over time, players have children (more workers to use) and expand their farm. The problem during all of this, however, is scarcity: Agricola is a tough game. Even without an opponent preventing you from performing certain actions, you often feel like you’re getting by – getting just enough food to feed your family through the winter. Players often end up with very few points (or negatives) in their first game, but when you start learning, it’s incredibly satisfying.
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Most of the best strategy games take a few hours to play, but satisfying strategy doesn’t need to take all day: The Castles of Burgundy is a perfect example of a great game that usually only takes about an hour to play — often less, once you know how to play — and is surprisingly replayable. Each turn, players roll dice, the numbers of which allow them to pick up certain terrain tiles from a central board or place them on certain spaces on your player board as you expand your kingdom. The core rules can be learned in minutes, compared to some of the bigger Eurogames above, but Castles of Burgundy will challenge you to make tough choices about how to respond to a roll of the dice beyond your control.
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If you have a full day and want to play a long and rewarding game, you can’t do better than Food Chain Magnate – an incredibly deep game of building and staffing restaurants, designing menus, paying for ads and collecting money. What makes Food Chain Magnate so nice is its reach: you can hire dozens of different types of employees, sell dozens of different types of food, and use half a dozen types of ads, all with unique effects on your franchise, customers in town and your opponents. This fun game is an investment, especially if you get the expansions, but it’s one of the most enjoyable and unique take on the strategy board game format in years.
It’s currently in limited stock on Amazon, but can be purchased from the original website.
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Star Wars: Imperial Assault largely eschews the role-playing elements of dungeon crawlers like Gloomhaven, opting instead for solid combat mechanics that pit the Imperial player against Rebel players. Although different missions have different setups – the modular board keeps things fresh – players will improve by understanding certain groups’ bonuses, the ways they can play against their allies, and the decisions of when to find cover and when charge into battle.
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Conquest games have come a long way since Risk, and one of the best is Rising Sun – a game in which players compete for control of different regions of feudal Japan, using their samurai and other miniatures to spread. What makes the game interesting are the non-traditional means and ends of conflict: alliances give opponents more power, but betrayals can damage your honor; points can be earned by winning in battle, but committing ritual suicide, taking hostages, and employing historians to strike out your warrior’s honor can actually net you a greater victory.
What could be a simple game about conquering regions becomes growing your clan, preserving its honor and strategic partnerships with your enemies. If you want a game with tons of conflict – but where that conflict is rarely straightforward or obvious – Rising Sun is a perfect game for you.
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What is a good starting point?
For good introductions to modern strategy games, I would be remiss if I did not mention Settlers of Catan And Carcassonne. While most people who catch the board game bug quickly outgrow these more basic saving and tile-laying games, these are great ways for people to get introduced to the genre.
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