Learn whether you’re a skillful strategist or a clever tactician! Below you will discover the best strategy board games.
We’re well into the 21st century, and you seem to have pretty much everything: a great broadband connection, Wi-Fi, the latest iPhone, a zillion apps, a PSP and a high-definition WII U console –so why would you need strategy board games that are at best a throwback to the past?
Well, for starters, you need to get out of your reclusive ways and get some quality socializing under your belt. Laughter is recognized as the purest antidote to stress, and nothing fights better for you than being among friends with whom you can bellow-laugh.
In addition, after long hours in front of your PC, the last thing you want is to get behind another device. Besides, board games provide proactive brain stimulation, and mental workouts are known to sharpen cognitive skills.
Here are 5 strategy board games that you and your friends can enjoy:
For thousands of years, this “sport of kings” has thrived, every generation of players contributing to its hundreds of possible strategies.
No dice, no luck, just pure wits and concentration power. Learn it, develop your skills and pit yourself against one and all –friend or foe!
Chess is played between two opponents, the first having the light-color pieces (and starts first), while the second has the dark pieces. The board consists of 64 white and black alternating squares, and each player’s pieces consist of:
- a king, lined up in the center of the first row, on an opposite-color square (the king can move in all directions, but only one square at a time)
- a queen, lined up in the center of the first row in a same-color square (the queen can move in all directions and along as many squares as required)
- 2 rooks, lined up on the corners of the first row (these move only up and down and along as many squares as required)
- 2 bishops, lined up next to each rook (these move only diagonally, and along as many squares as required)
- 2 knights, lined up next to each bishop (these move two squares up or down and left or right, followed by one square up or down and left or right in any direction other than that of the first 2-square part). In so doing, the knight is the only piece that is allowed to jump over an opponent’s pieces
- And 8 pawns, lined up on all 8 squares of the second row (these move one square and only up, except when they have not yet been moved, in which case they can move up two squares. And if a pawn reaches the eighth row (or the opponent’s first row), it can be changed to any other piece other than the king.
Although all the above pieces can “take” (or replace) an opponent’s piece simply by moving into its space, pawns take an opponent’s piece by moving up one square diagonally.
Objective and Strategies
“White” always moves first and is thus meant to have the slightest of advantages, so it is customary to toss a coin to see who plays first.
The goal is to defeat the opponent’s king. The king is thus the most important piece, although it is second only to the pawn in tactical importance.
Pawns and other pieces are used to fiercely defend the king, and the objective at the beginning is to move forward the knights, bishops and eventually the other pieces so as to be able to create an attack on the opponent’s king.
The queen is designated a 10-point value, the rook 5 points, the knights and bishops 3 points each, and pawns 1 point.
In attacking the opponent’s position, “piling on” is the best strategy. This consists of lining up various attack pieces so as overwhelm the opponent’s “weak” or defenseless pieces, ultimately leading to an attack on the king.
Following the capture of the opponent’s pieces, or after conducting various piece-for-piece exchanges, the king can be defeated by “checkmating” it, i.e. when it is being “checked” (threatened) and has no safe place to go to.
After exchanging many pieces, the end-game tactics often revert to attempting to pass a pawn to the eighth row and thus be able to exchange it for a queen or other piece, thus making it easier to checkmate the king.
Each player must naturally be careful not to leave pieces “hanging”, i.e. defenseless. And in order to best defend or attack, it is best initially to mobilize one’s pieces so that they have good control over the middle of the board.
From a solid position in the middle, an effective defense may be structured or, alternatively, the opponent’s king can be threatened.
Finally: It’s worth noting that there are chess clubs in most cities around America, and they’re for the most part free. Any enthusiast, whether beginner or grandmaster-in-the-making, should check one out for lots of fun and competition. You can also play chess by yourself –online. Give it a try and decide for yourself if this is the best strategy board game of all time.
Scrabble is a quasi-addictive board game that gets its aficionados entirely riveted in the endless pursuit of higher game scores.
In this classic word game, engaged in between 2 to 4 players, combatants use seven drawn letter-tiles to craft words on the board -crossword-style.
The game starts by each player getting an empty wooden rack on which to place letter-tiles drawn “blind” out of a bag full of tiles, each tile with a specific value. The letters that are prevalent, such as vowels, for example, or an M or an R, are valued at 1, whereas the letters Q, X and J are given far greater values.
The scrabble board is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares, some of which bear a light blue color, signifying a double letterbonus, dark blue, signifying a triple letter bonus, light pink, for a double word bonus and, finally, dark pink, for a triple wordbonus.
And each word placed receives points based on the aggregate of the tiles used, each letter or word multiplied by any bonus squares it falls on.
Finally, all words used must exist in the official Scrabble dictionary which can be bought in print mode or consulted online.
Strategies and Tactical Play
Gamesters spend hours of intense focus trying to leverage their vocabulary and board-savvy to place skillfully created words in the highest-scoring formations on the board.
Here’s where your tactical genius comes into play: you can’t place a word unless it uses at least one already-placed tile or adds to an already-placed word.
And while attempting to maximize your score every time you place a word, you must also not provide your opponent(s) with an opportunity at the better bonus spaces.
The element of luck is inherent in the drawing of tiles out of the bag, not just in going for the high valued tiles, but also with accompanying tiles that make placing the high valued ones easier. For example, you can draw a Q, with a value of 10, but if you don’t draw a U with it, it becomes that much more difficult to place.
Scrabble buffs enjoy the combat between friends in which every encounter is different. Each game demand that you conjure up your accumulated knowledge and strategy, while at the same time thinking on your feet to address the specific circumstances that arise.
If you love words and word puzzles, Scrabble remains one of the best strategy board games that offer mortal duel with abstract logic.
Finally, you can also play Scrabble on your own –it’s free online.
After real estate went bust in 2008, who amongst us wasn’t exposed to terms such as foreclosures, bankruptcies and upside-down mortgages? But even before that, “the Ultimate American Board Game” was the most popular game in the world with 275 million sets sold in 47 languages and 114 countries.
The game is engaged in by 2 to 8 players, and the Monopoly Board consists of a series of properties, public utilities, and instructions such as “pay taxes”, “collect money”, “go to jail” and various others.
The box that the board comes in provides 2 dice, 6 tokens, money in various denominations, and district cards, chance cards, and blocks depicting houses and hotels.
The first order of business is to assign a banker who would handle the money and who could also be a player.
Players choose a token to represent them on the board, and one player is assigned the function of being the “banker”, i.e. handling the money. Each player is also given $1,500 in cash to buy properties or handle expenses.
Objective and Strategies
Through a process of buying, building, renting and selling properties, the goal is to become the wealthiest person playing, a feat that can be achieved through bankrupting opponents.
You can play an ultra-aggressive game by trading or buying properties so that you end up with an entire color-series (a monopoly) and then proceed to build as many houses and hotels as you have money for. If luck is with you, opponents will fall onto your properties and save the day for you by paying you exorbitant rent.
If not, meaning if you fall prey to opponent-held properties, you can easily go under before you see the fruit of your buildings.
Or you can play defensive/conservative and accumulate as much cash as you can and hope that your opponents overextend themselves in a buying and building spree.
Are you good at math? Keep your mind on the probabilities of what the dice might provide. For example, nearly 17% of the rolled dice combination comes up as a 7, followed by 6 and 8. This helps you figure out where the opponent may land and where to place your building investments.
Monopoly has been played by almost 800 million people around the globe, primarily because it is a simplified version of commerce, but also because most people play with their own house rules that make it either harder or easier to win.
You get to act like a real estate mogul, buying and upgrading buildings, taking out loans, charging rent -and occasionally going to jail.
You can best enjoy the game –any game- when you embody the attitude that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. You’re doing fun things for as long as you feel like it and you don’t really have to worry about winning because the game never really ends. For business enthusiasts this could be ranked their best strategy board game.
This extremely popular game dates back to the 12th century France, and it is played over a board consisting of 64 squares alternating between 32 light and 32 dark-colored squares.
To start, each player gets a set of 12 colored discs, each set of a light or dark color, often red or black. These are placed on the dark squares of the first three rows, starting with the “king” row, i.e. the row closest to each player.
The discs (aka pieces or “men”) move diagonally forward –always on the dark squares- and they capture (or remove) an opponent’s piece by jumping over it and landing on the next diagonal square, left or right.
The dark pieces start first, and players flip a coin to see who that is. Also, players can jump over multiple opposition pieces if there is an empty square for them to land on.
When a piece reaches the eighth and final row, it transforms into a king and becomes able to move significantly both forward and backward.
Finally, if a player is able to make a capture, there is no option — the jump must be made. If more than one capture is available, players are free to choose whichever they prefer.
Objective and Strategies
The objective is to win the game by either blocking all the opposing pieces so that none can move or, more commonly, by capturing all of the opposing pieces.
In high-level play, warriors commonly pick between dozens of well-known three-move openings, thus gaining an advantage by simply avoiding making a less advantageous opening. From that point on, it’s each player to his or her own amidst hundreds of possibilities.
A lot of thought and strategizing is necessary to become a savvy checkers player. You have to think ahead several moves, trying all the time to also defend against your opponent’s possible moves.
Frequently, you can make sacrificial moves, i.e. forsaking one or more of your pieces, in an attempt to either capture a king, force the capturing of more of your opponent’s pieces or block all of the opposition forces.
Typical thinking during a game develops like this: “If I move here, what would he or she do?” This obliges a clever player to visualize what the board would look like when certain plays are in consideration –and ultimately whether such plays would be advantageous.
Checkers is a game that is based purely on mental skill, the luck element confined only to who starts first.
There are no silver bullets or magical mathematical mind-benders that pave the way for becoming masterful at checkers.
In some respects the game of checkers is similar to a war, each player akin to a platoon leader with a platoon of twelve men on a battleground of sixty-four squares.
You use formations in which your pieces protect one another and present a concerted front toward the opposition. You attack in one direction, defend in another, outwitting your opponents or overwhelming them with superior numbers.
You can play checkers online and for free against a computer.
Kemet is an ancient Egyptian-themed war game that is renowned for its phenomenal artwork. The box cover, the reversible map, the power tiles and individual player boards are depicted in extraordinary color and graphics.
The game is played on a two-sided board for 2 to 5 different combinations of players, each given their own player board on which to place their action tokens.
You get a city each (that is equidistant from all other cities) and three different-colored pyramids that can be raised from level 1 to 2, 3 and 4.
You also get identical 6-card decks that enable you to count the cards that others have used up so as to attack the weakest opponents. You can thus draw in enemies and bluff them to waste their best cards.
You can gain prayer points to buy power tiles, upgrade pyramids to buy higher level power tiles, recruit more units and conquer enemy territories.
There are 48 power tiles that you can buy as you raise your pyramid’s power, each one having a different impact. For example:
- Giant creatures help with movement and combat
- Priests bring you more prayer points, empowering you for battle
- You can thus make your armies strong, tough, or murderers
- And you can change your mind in response to an opponent’s style
Power tiles focus on different powers depending on their color. For example, red is predominantly for warring, blue for recruiting and defense, and white for prayer points and divine interventions.
You can buy awesome powers:
- Such as a giant snake you can ride on
- To give you the capacity to damage or even destroy enemy armies
- That correspond to the level of your pyramids
- To recruit new soldiers and move your armies in different directions
- Or to collect twice as much money as everyone else.
And when you:
- Control one area with a temple, you gain a temporary victory point
- Control 2 temples, you gain a permanent victory point
- Raise a level 4 pyramid, you gain a temporary victory point
- Win a battle as an attacker, you gain a permanent victory point
- Sacrifice two of your soldiers, you gain a permanent victory point
Objective and Strategies
You will all the time be trying to amass victory points, for the first player to accumulate 8 victory points wins it all!
The powers for sale are scarce and therefore hotly in demand, and as you are doing battle, you would also be trying to acquire more cash and weaken your opponents’ powers.
Travel is also particularly exciting. For example, you can teleport armies from your city to specific spots on the map. You can’t subsequently bring them back though, for teleporting is a one-way affair.
Kemet involves lots of combat, so it wouldn’t serve you to be gripped in just upgrading pyramids to buy more powerful tiles. Instead, move out of your city and engage opponents before someone suddenly declares victory.
There’s also little point sitting on one temple and holding it. Instead, expand, grab more temples, fight more fights, and try to get a permanent victory point.
If you can win a battle as a defender, you would have created a major deterrent to other players while securing a victory point. Alternatively, you can create a deterrent by buying a giant scorpion.
Conquer Territory! Defeat Your Enemies! Appease the Gods! But games of conquest often suffer from the actions of players who go deeply defensive -“Turtlers” is the term used for such players. You can wait, but you can’t turtle. If you don’t attack, you’ll be left behind.
You mustn’t despair if you don’t get the hang of the game or its many subtleties on your first round. By the time you’ve played it two or three times, you will have turned into a blood-thirsty warrior, adept at knocking out enemies with little regard to their feelings!
You may also wish to watch the game played on YouTube.