Even with technology rapidly Advancing the capabilities of gaming every year, pushing out ever-more Gargantuan, and visually stunning games, there remains a strong segment Of the gaming populace loyal to the original “platform” – cardboard. Indeed, even with games like Cyberpunk 2077, Avowed, and the ridiculously advanced Microsoft Flight Simulator, many are more than happy to fall back on to good old paper, playing cards, and a set of dice. Perhaps it’s something about playing in person, or maybe there’s just something about the structure of gameplay of boardgames that remains Imitable by even the best consoles.
Whatever the case, we thought we’d run through what we think are the best strategy board games for you and one other friend (You do have one of those right?) to play through.
- Released: 1957
- Designer: Albert Lamorisse
- Platform: Traditional, Windows, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Price: $14.99 – $39.99
Nearly every strategy game of today, whether it be Age of Empires, Civilization, or Warcraft, can trace some part of its DNA to Risk in some way. It is the singular OG of grand strategy, overshadowed by perhaps only Chess and Go. The gameplay is something like a cross between Monopoly and Go, where players begin with a certain number of armies and a few starting territories from which they mount a linear campaign for global domination, attacking neighboring territories, fortifying their positions, and doing their best to grow in power.
The gameplay can sometimes seem complicated to uninitiated players but the complexity lay only in the setup and a few mechanics, quickly fading into the background as the straightforward gameplay ensues.
7 Wonders Duel
- Released: 2015
- Designer: Antoine Bauza, Bruno Cathala
- Platform: Traditional, iOS, Android
- Price: $4.99 – 43.42
Seven Wonders Duel is a spinoff of the larger Seven Wonders board game that boils it down into a sizzling, two-player battle for the lasting supremacy of their respective civilizations. One of Seven Wonders Duel’s best selling points over other strategy games is how relatively simple and easy to grasp the gameplay is – despite significant depth — and it’s relatively short match length.
The object of the game is to accrue enough points through different varieties of civilization building, whether through military might, scientific advancement or by leaving enough of a cultural impact through great works like the Seven Wonders themselves. Gameplay moves through three separate ages and has players juggling resources in employing deep strategy to try and build their civilization while subtly hampering the progress of their opponents.
There are numerous ways to win and the multifaceted gameplay brings easily digestible complexity that makes it great for a short and sweet 1v1.
- Released: 2016
- Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
- Platform: Traditional, Windows, macOS
- Price: $19.99 – $89.99
Scythe is a sprawling, impressive board game that mixes grand-strategy, resource management, and engaging, small-scale conflicts with some of the best artwork seen in any board game. The game is set in an alternate history following World War One in which the ravaged countries of Europe are looking to rebuild themselves and reclaim territories lost with the fall of the “Factory” — the enigmatic source of the steampunk mechs and other retro sci-fi weaponry that fueled the war.
Players take control of one of these countries and do their best to complete numerous objectives and accrue the most points by game’s end. Scythe has a lot of resource management as well as specific missions that can be completed to hasten the pace of the game.
Scythe is best for hardcore gamers and serious board game enthusiasts, with enough complexity to bewilder newer players but keep advanced players satisfied for the long run. It also sports a solo mode to allow the loneliest of gamers to explore the richly built world of Europa by themselves.
- Released: 2012
- Developer: League of Geeks
- Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
- Price: $19.99
Unlike the other four games on this list, there is no cardboard box version of Armello. This is a game developed for the PC that straddles the worlds of tabletop gaming, classic RPGs, and grand-strategy games like no other. Players select from a diverse roster of anthropomorphic animal heroes to traverse a beautifully rendered medieval fantasy world in search of glory, prestige, and the ultimate prize: the crown of the king of Armello.
The game is played from the top-down view over a procedurally-generated digital tabletop that is never the same twice, completing quests, springing traps, and defeating or outwitting dangerous enemies in preparation for a final thrust at the King’s Castle.
There are a lot of mechanics at play in Armello. Day/night cycles, magic systems, multiple character attributes and playstyles, a constantly evolving game board, and multiple ways to achieve victory — but the game never feels convoluted and gameplay is smooth and rewarding, time and time again.
- Released: 2017
- Designer: Isaac Childres
- Platform: Traditional, Windows
- Price: $24.99 – $101.99
A relative newcomer to the world of board games, Gloomhaven has quickly established itself as the big daddy of complex strategy games. Seriously, Gloomhaven is complex enough to make Risk look like Checkers. But in that forest of layered, multifaceted gameplay is a nigh-limitless well of deep and fascinating gameplay.
So much so, that Gloomhaven has become one of the highest-rated board games of all time in the few short years of its existence. Gameplay boils down to a mix of Diablo and Risk, as players take control of a squad of 2-4 distinct heroes and venture into the monster-ridden depths of dangerous forests, subterranean dungeons, and other terrifying mission areas to not only explore the personal stories of their heroes but the rich world of Gloomhaven.
One of the most unique and engrossing aspects of Gloomhaven is the ever branching narrative that continues on between sessions. Unlike other board games, Gloomhaven has hundreds of hours of novel gameplay to work through with always new locations, characters and story content to discover.
The world changes permanently according to decisions players make, with over 100 missions and gameboards to construct. In terms of scale and depth, there is truly nothing like Gloomhaven. Which is probably why it’s so prohibitively expensive.
That’s five, excellent board games for you, yourself, and perhaps one other friend to dive into. Each one of these has the complexity and depth that some of even the most sprawling console games can only dream of, and can keep you entertained for decades to come — because it seems like board games are never going out of style.