10 Best Route Building Board Games in 2023

If you enjoy connecting stuff, board gaming has plenty of titles on offer. Here are the 10 Best Route Building Board Games in 2023.

Introduction to 10 Best Route Building Board Games in 2023

There’s a certain satisfaction you get from building things. Towns, ports, countries. But nothing is perfect until it’s connected with its neighbors. Roads, canals, shipping routes, pipes. We love to put things in order and solve logistical problems. So, without further ado, here are the 10 Best Route Building Board Games in 2023.

If you’re looking for board games with trains, you want to be reading this article:

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10. AuZtralia

Complexity: medium
Duration: 30 minutes per player
Player count: 1-4, plays well at all numbers

Image from auztralia.net

Alternate reality themes can be wildly amusing, and the setting in AuZtralia is no different. It’s set in the H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos in the 1930s. After a long war, the northern hemisphere can’t support life anymore. Time to explore the south then – but little do our explorers know, that the Old Ones have chosen the great southern continent to regroup, as well.

I guess it’s time to prepare for another fight. You’ll build ports, railways, mines, and farms, which will all help to build your military for the Awakening. But as the inevitable approaches, you realize that the true resource in this game is time – will you be ready?

AuZtralia offers a great mix of economy, horror, and fantasy. Moreover, the game is semi-cooperative – no one can win if the Old Ones prevail. In order to beat your fellow players, you must first work with them.

9. In the Hall of the Mountain King

Complexity: medium
Duration: 75-90 minutes
Player count: 2-5, best at 3-4

If this title plays the fantastic suite from Edvard Grieg in your head, you’re not far off. Only this time you play as trolls, trying to rebuild your abandoned kingdom beneath the ground.

Players compete in building tunnels on the main board. Each begins at its own entrance, digging towards valuable targets in the center. There are materials, gold, and statues to dig out. These are spent to build more tunnels (using polyomino tiles), workshops to transform materials, and carts to haul statues to premium scoring spots.

The game is driven by a clever system of cascading production where trolls higher up activate those below. Think of it as a pyramid scheme. You’re always juggling between hiring more trolls to increase your production capacity and actually activating them, reaping results.

An entertaining combination of tile placement, route-building, and pick-up-and-deliver mechanisms, the game ends when one of the players hires the sixth troll. The points for your tunnels, halls and statues are then tallied up.

8. Macao

Complexity: medium
Duration: 50-100 minutes
Player count: 2-4, plays well at all numbers

Best Route Building Board Games Macao
Image from yucata.de

Macao in the late 17th century was a sprawling trading post of the Portuguese empire and you’ve got a chance to get your share of the riches. Obtain valuable goods and ship them home to Europe to earn prestige – or carefully use cards to earn money and buy prestige that way.

True to the fashion of its designer Stefan Feld, the game is quite tricky to play well. The basis for your actions are action cubes on your windrose. You get to pick which colors to get and you get a number of them, according to a dice roll. The more you get, the higher on your windrose they are placed and thus activated later in the game.

Your windrose will turn one space closer every turn, making the next set of cubes available. The tricky part is timing this so that you have just the right action cubes at the right time. And you’ll need them to activate person and building cards, obtain goods in Macao, and then plan your route around different ports, delivering these goods.

Macao offers a very challenging puzzle, requiring a lot of planning. Cards also play a big role and setting up the right combo can yield a lot of points.

Unfortunately, Macao is out of print, but you can play it for free at yuacata.de.

7. Pipeline

Complexity: medium-heavy
Duration: 60-120 minutes
Player count: 2-4, plays well at all numbers

Best Route Building Board Games Pipeline
Image from capstone-games.com

Oil. The fuel that runs our economy, literally and metaphorically. So why don’t you take a piece of the pie by becoming a part of it? In Pipeline, players run their refinery businesses, buying oil cheaply, and selling it for more money, refined.

To refine oil, you need a refinery with pipes (which offer an interesting spatial puzzle), oil tanks, and money. But you don’t have to sell directly to the open market, you can use private contracts or fulfill objectives, beating other players.

There’s a decent amount of player interaction, and the game is heavily focused on the economy. There is a lot going on with three types of oil, various markets, upgrades, and valuations. But Pipeline still manages to keep in that sweet spot where the game is easy to learn but difficult to master.

6. Thurn and Taxis

Complexity: light-medium
Duration: 60 minutes
Player count: 2-4, plays well at all numbers

Best Route Building Board Games Thurn und Taxis
Image from flickr.com

In times before email, trucks, or even trains, delivering letters was a tedious task. It involved horses, carriages, and a lot of logistics. Thurn and Taxis presents a glimpse into this world. The times are pre-industrial and you’re in what is now southern Germany: Bavaria and surrounding territories. (There’s an expansion that covers the northern part.)

The object of the game is to connect as many cities and build postal offices in them. This is done by a simple set collection, where you’re trying to draw the right cards to match the desired cities and then playing them out in order.

But while the principles are easy to learn, the game has a lot of meat on its bones. To complete ever longer routes, you must select cards carefully – if you cannot add another city, you must discard the entire route. The longer the route, the more points it earns when you complete it, and the more houses you can build.

If the route spans several territories long, you can only build one house per territory or all houses in one territory, so that’s another nuance to consider. Then there are bonuses for completed territories and route lengths. And of course, there’s a bit of luck involved. This all adds up to a juicy game, that the whole family can pick up, but still has enough depth to satisfy more demanding players.

5. Hansa Teutonica

Complexity: medium
Duration: 45-90 minutes
Player count: 3-5, plays well at all numbers

Best Route Building Board Games Hansa Teutonica
Image from pegasusshop.de

We’re still in today’s Germany (and its neighbors), more exactly in the cities of the Hanseatic League (a commercial and defensive confederacy of cities and market towns of North and Central Europe, spanning from the 13th to 19th Century).

You’re building trading routes and placing merchants and traders onto strategic spots. What makes Hansa Teutonica special is that there is a lot of player vs. player interaction and that it’s mostly indirect.

Placing pieces to complete a route or control a city is one thing, but there are options to displace enemy pieces (which gives them the option to relocate). Likewise, you can place your pieces strategically, trying to entice a displacement to benefit in other areas. A lot happens out of your turn and you have a real interest in what others do, which makes the game especially good with higher player counts.

Of course, there’s more than just placing pieces; you can get special abilities, bonus markers, and offices, the games are substantially different from one to another, and there are several paths to victory. But it’s that almost poker-like (you know that I know that you know where I’ll place my next cube) player interaction that is the highlight in Hansa Teutonica.

4. Keyflower

Complexity: medium
Duration: 90-120 minutes
Player count: 2-6, plays well at all numbers

Best Route Building Board Games Keyflower
Image from flickr.com

R&D Games are known for their medieval “Key” land and perhaps Keyflower is the crown jewel of the collection that emphasizes “a positive and enjoyable gaming experience” by limiting direct confrontation.

While not predominantly a route-building game, Keyflower is more of a grid-building worker placement game combined with a strong auction element. Each player is building a village out of buildings on hexes. But these hexes don’t come free of charge. First, you’ve got to win a bid on them and the bidding currency is workers (of various colors).

Since workers are also what is used to activate these buildings, this creates an interesting conundrum for the players. And activating is important, as it gives you a lot of cool stuff: resources that allow you to upgrade your hexes or score them, special abilities, and so on. You can also use villages of other players, but you better make it worth it, as you’ll be giving valuable workers directly to them.

Keyflower is a rather complex game that requires several plays to get a hang of it. But once you do get it, it reveals a deep tactical experience with a lot of variety from play to play and healthy player interaction.

3. Barrage

Complexity: medium-heavy
Duration: 60-120 minutes
Player count: 1-4, best at 2-4

An industrial revolution that used up all of the available fossil fuels? A world searching for alternative sources that can step up to huge power demands? It might sound too familiar, but Barrage is set in the dystopic 1930s and you’re in a position to exploit a waterful Alpine region for hydro energy.

Each player plays as a corporation that plans to invest in the region. You’ll build dams and diverge the flow of rivers onto your turbines.

Barrage is a resource management game that uses a construction wheel where your resources and action tokens are stored. You must manage your wheel carefully, as they will only be available as the wheel turns.

The second, perhaps even more interesting aspect is that the flow of water is a shared commodity. All players play on the same board, and it’s up to them how they will divide rivers and their water among them. Of course, the goal is to route most of the water to yourself, and also to use it effectively.

Your actions are scored by common and personal goals and contracts and there are player powers and upgrades that allow you to differentiate your strategy. Overall, a fantastic, tight, and thinky board game.

2. Power Grid

Complexity: medium
Duration: 120 minutes
Player count: 3-6, best at 4-5

Best Route Building Board Games Power Grid
Image from flickr.com

We’re not done with electricity just yet. Power Grid (or Funkenschlag, as it was originally published in Germany) is a modern board gaming classic. You’re in charge of an electrical grid of an entire nation (originally Germany, but the USA, China, India, Australia, and other countries are available). Connect cities and buy powerplants and resources of different types and efficiency, while making sure you don’t run out of money!

A large element of the gameplay is the auctioning system for the power plants. Should you buy now or wait for more efficient plants later? Or perhaps you just want to run the price up for other players?

Plants vary in how many cities they can supply and also by the required resources to run them (coal, oil, garbage, nuclear, solar). Resources vary in price and follow the supply/demand principle.

After you’ve got your plants and resources in place, you can produce electricity, sell it and repeat the process until the map is pretty much covered up (a predetermined number of plants is reached).

Power Grid combines a low entry bar with a high depth of carefully selected mechanisms. They work together like a charm and it’s no wonder it’s still so successful after over 20 years of the initial release.

1. Brass: Birmingham

Complexity: medium-heavy
Duration: 60-120 minutes
Player count: 1-4, best at 3-4

Best Route Building Board Games Brass Birmingham

The industrial revolution changed the shape of our world in a short time. It was an opportunity for entrepreneurs and industrialists and many of them got very very rich and famous. Now is your opportunity to become one of them!

Brass: Birmingham is regarded by many as the best competitive euro game. It has several reasons to claim that throne. Its theme is sensed throughout the entirety of the game. And not just because of fabulous looks – the game mechanics, particularly how resources are transported and how their market fluctuates make thematic sense.

Full Brass Birmingham Review

The core mechanics are very simple. You only have a couple of actions to choose from. But the order of them and the cards you discard with them make all the difference. For example. Your main scoring channels are industries that you build in the cities and the connections (canals and railroads) you make between them. But you need coal and iron to build anything. You can build your own mines, use one of the opponent’s mines, or buy the resources on the open market. All of them are viable options.

Then you need connections to transport those resources to the place of need. Coal needs to be connected all the time, iron doesn’t, and beer needs to be connected only if it’s not yours. Finally, your buildings must be spent or sold, so that they can be flipped to the scoring side.

This creates a tight economical system with high player interaction and competition, with actions that make sense, and are easy to learn, leaving all your brain power to forge a strategy. As a result, the gameplay is smooth as butter, without much downtime.

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2 thoughts on “10 Best Route Building Board Games in 2023”

  1. I came into this article wondering if I liked route builders and then realized I own three of the top four here.
    I never thought of power grid as a route builder but Birmingham is by far one of the best games out there.

    • There’s always a subjective margin on how to categorize a certain board game. Although there’s route building in all of the above, it varies and other game mechanisms are also prevalent.
      For example, in Macao, the ship movement (the route-building part) is only a small part of more complex gameplay, but I’ve included it nevertheless because it’s such a great game. 🙂


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