5 Strategy Board Games Every Family Should Own
After a long day at work, sometimes all I want to do is spend some quality time with my family. Board games are a great way to do this and can provide endless hours of entertainment! Jessica and I often find ourselves in a competitive game (or two) during the week when we want to do a fun and interactive activity together. So gather your family or friends and get ready to forge your own railway, build an ancient civilization, settle on an island and much more!
As we emphasized in the title of this post, these 5 strategy board games aren’t your run-of-the-mill Monopoly, Life, or Scrabble. Instead, get ready to rely more on your own strategy than luck to win! These games can be played by the whole family, but kids ages 8 and up might have an easier time learning and playing the game. Below is our list of 5 strategy board games every family should own!
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1. Settlers of Catan
In Settlers of Catan, you and 3 other “settlers” will compete for supremacy on the island of Catan by building settlements, roads, and cities! Each turn you will collect a unique resource: wool, brick, wheat, wood, and ore to build your civilization. You can also buy “development cards” to gain hidden advantages to further your settlement. The first person to get to 10 victory points wins!
One of Catan’s best features is its high level of player interaction. Though resources are scarce so you might not always have the resources you need, you have the option to trade or potentially steal resources from your opponents. Just make sure that it stays in the game and there are no hard feelings afterwards! 🙂
Catan is commonly referred to as a “gateway” board game. It is a strategic board game that is different from the classics (like Monopoly), yet not too difficult for players new to board games to understand. We recommend this game for introducing new players to the strategy board game realm!
There is also a two-player variant of this game that Jessica and I like to play against each other called Rivals for Catan. Its mechanism is completely different from the original game. Here, you use a mix of cards (instead of a board) to create your own principality. Build the better domain to win!
2. Ticket to Ride – Europe
Ticket to Ride – Europe is also a great introductory board game and very simple to learn. In this exciting new take on the original Ticket to Ride, you can construct train tracks from Paris to Constantinople or Budapest to Amsterdam to connect 20th century Europe!
Throughout the game, you’re building train tracks to connect different cities. You gain points as you lay down tracks and additional points if you successfully connect the two cities on your “tickets.” Some tickets even span the entire continent for potentially massive point values! However, while you are trying to construct the perfect track, you may find yourself blocked by your opponents that need the same routes as you…
Though simple to learn, Ticket to Ride – Europe has the right combination of luck, strategy, timing, and player interaction to make the game enjoyable and satisfying to play. On a personal note, I find the Europe board more interesting than the original Ticket to Ride with the map of the U.S. The addition of tunnels and stations in this game offer layers of additional strategy while relieving frustration (and conflict) among players if you find your routes being blocked.
If you’re feeling even more cutthroat, you can play the original Ticket to Ride that goes through the US (as mentioned above) where you can’t lay tracks if someone else already took your spot!
3. 7 Wonders
7 Wonders is a visually stunning board game where you build your ancient city-state into a mighty empire!
At its core, 7 Wonders is a card drafting game. You pick one card out of the seven random cards in your hand to add to your city then pass the rest of your hand to your neighbor. This allows gameplay to proceed relatively quickly since everyone is able to decide and make their move simultaneously. The game has 3 phases (called “ages”) where drafting takes place. At the end of the third age, whichever civilization has the most victory points is the winner.
Although the gameplay is relatively simple, the rules took a while to learn since I had to keep asking: “so what do these cards do again?”. The cards that can be drafted are fairly diverse and represent different ways to strengthen your city. The cards themselves are not hard to understand, but there is a lot of information to recall. A couple of playthroughs were enough to help me get a good handle on the different cards and what they did. There is also a guide in the rulebook that explain what the cards and symbols mean. From raw resources, guilds, military, or scientific advancement, 7 Wonders definitely requires a fair amount of decision-making with multiple paths to victory.
7 Wonders also has a two-player variant called 7 Wonders Duel. This is one of our favorite and most often played 2-player game! As with Rivals for Catan, this game’s mechanism is very different from the original. However, it is easy to learn and play and each game play is different. There are many different paths to winning!
In the world of Splendor, life is hard for a jewel merchant trying to make it big. As it stands, however, all you have is a pile of chips (gems) to work with. Throughout the course of Splendor, you’ll collect these chips and build up your gem stockpile until you can afford jewels that earn you prestige. With the right combination of gems in your stockpile, you might even have a noble visit you. 15 prestige points wins you the game.
There’s a common theme that you might have noticed about the games on this list so far, and that’s their simplicity and how new-player friendly they are. Splendor is a standout in our list for how simple it is. Everyone in your family (except maybe your dog) should be able to learn and enjoy this game.
What I really enjoy about Splendor is the mix of strategy and improvisation required. Splendor is neither a game that depends entirely on chance nor is it a game that requires a lot of strategy and stress. Finally, whoever designed the chips in Splendor deserves an award. They have the feel of a nice, heavyweight poker chip in addition to having beautiful artwork!
Dominion is a card game that features the deck building mechanic. You and your opponents are nobles competing to build your own dominion. You each start from humble beginnings with only the same 10 cards in your deck. You build your decks by purchasing cards from a common pool as you each think on your feet to put together the most efficient deck that will get you the most victory points!
There are 25 sets of cards with different effects. During each game you choose 10 of these cards to use as the set for that game. This means that there are many different combinations you can choose from to play with, granting great replay value.
Dominion is a very strategic game which I love. There are cards that are better to buy early on when your deck is small, and other cards that are better as your deck grows. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing your completed deck engine at work as you successfully see your strategy executed! Since the card effects are clearly printed on the cards themselves, the rules are easy to understand, making Dominion an easy game to learn but a hard game to master!
With the holidays coming up, these strategy board games make great gift ideas! Do you already have some of them in your game collection, or will you add a new one to it? What are your favorite board games to play with the family? Let us know in the comments below!
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