Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults in 2021

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In this article, you can learn which are the Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults. I’ve included meatier games for semi-dedicated and dedicated competitive players. Only the best games are included – satisfaction guaranteed!

Criteria for Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults

  • Immersive. The game has to pull you in and hold you in its world for the whole time.
  • Semi-time consuming (occasional get-togethers, 2 hours of playing time). No legacy/campaign games that take serious dedication to complete.
  • Heavier board games with a lot of strategic options but not extremely heavy either (medium heavy). Something you can learn by playing it once and be fairly competent on the second run.
  • Competitive – games where you can compete with each other for scores and other achievements.
  • Good for 3-5 player groups, ideally 4 players (i.e. two couples)

As always, I have used BoardGameGeek when preparing this article, especially when it comes to comments from other players and general game facts.

Who is the Target Audience?

Young adults (in their 20’s and 30’s) with jobs, kids, and other hobbies, who play board games roughly 2 times a week with their gaming group.


Table of Contents

To quickly navigate through the article, click on a title below. There are also tags in the brackets, so you can quickly see what a game is about.

  1. Le Havre (port, resource management)
  2. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar (worker-placement, dynamic game board)
  3. Nemesis (horror, sci-fi, semi-cooperative)
  4. Orleans (medieval, bag-building)
  5. Clans of Caledonia (Scotland, farming, exporting)
  6. Concordia (Romans, Mediterranean, trading)
  7. Terraforming Mars (sci-fi, card-driven, engine-building)
  8. Great Western Trail (cowboys, path building, hand management)
  9. A Feast for Odin (Vikings, worker placement, polyomino puzzle)
  10. Scythe (diesel-punk mechs, resource management, engine-building)

There are affiliate links by the titles. I am affiliated with Amazon and will earn a commission if you buy something through my link


10. Le Havre

Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Year published: 2008
Players: 1-5, best with 2-4
Playing time: 30 minutes per player
Complexity: medium/heavy

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Le Havre Box

Theme and Setting

In the busy French port of Le Havre, there’s no rest. Ships are being loaded with goods that local farms and industry provide, with construction and commerce flourishing as a result. These are rich times indeed and you’re one of the go-getters who’s trying to take the benefit of the economy and get rich.

Overview of the Gameplay

Le Havre is an economical resource-management game. You try to establish a supply chain by collecting resources, converting them into more valuable resources, build buildings and ships.

The game starts out relatively simple. The port of Le Havre is pictured on the board, with different supplies of resources. Each turn, more and more resources will stack.

On your turn, you do one of two things:

  • You take all the goods from one offer space.
  • You move your worker to an empty building and use its ability.

While there are only a handful of buildings available at the start, some of them allow you to construct more and more specialized. Gathering resources, converting them into something more valuable (i.e. cows -> hides -> leather), and then selling them for maximum profit is the core of Le Havre.

Once the players start building, the game opens up. The buildings open up a web of interactions and possibilities and you’ll always be torn between doing something useful or just taking resources from the dock.

But if you don’t take them, someone else will, especially when it comes to food which is vital for feeding workers. The same goes for buildings – if it’s taken, you can’t use it. Other players can quickly ruin your ideas, so make sure you have plan B ready!

Not to mention, that you have to pay other players if you wish to use one of their buildings. That makes going for that lucrative must-have real-estate a race between players, as those buildings can bring in passive profit several rounds into the future. Later on, the game will introduce ships, that bring in regular food and allow you to ship off goods for money.

Orleans runs for a predetermined number of rounds and after that, the scores are summed up.

The artwork is very recognizable – you can’t miss Klemens Franz’s style. It works with economic board games perfectly – a bit cartoonish to lighten the mood, but easily readable.

There are a lot of components, especially resource tokens. They are cardboard and if you are not careful, you can spill them all over the place, creating a real mess. There are 125 different buildings, that make the game different for every set-up.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Le Havre

Expansion

Le Havre: Le Grand Hameau (2010) introduces 30 new Special Buildings plus 3 cards with corrections to misprints from the base game. The deck is playable by itself (replacing the Special Building deck from the base game) or you can mix it with all the other Special Buildings.

The 2017 edition of Le Havre (the one you can buy now) already contains this expansion.

Main Features

  • Simple at the beginning, but very complex towards the endgame.
  • Meaningful, important decisions every turn.
  • Fun player interaction.
  • A lot of resource tokens.

What do others say about it?

I’ve played most Uwe games and rank this only behind A Feast for Odin. This is relatively tight with simple action execution yet with paramount strategic depth and progressive engine building.

With the slightest AP (analysis-paralysis) it plays on the long side but feels about right with 2 players. Although I haven’t done so, I feel the challenge at higher player counts would be viability of other players’ buildings (which anyone can use). Unless everyone is intimately familiar with all the building cards I imagine it would be difficult to view all the options around the table. – barth153


Solid game with lots of choices and paths to win. – PappyGarcia


This is one intense game. Every action counts so choose wisely! I prefer this game to Agricola but both are lovely. – Davytron

Who is it for?

If you like a deep, resource management strategy game, Le Havre is a good addition to your collection. It starts out slow, but soon your options will multiply and you’ll have free choice on how to maximize your profits. Just watch out for others around the table, as they are sure going to get in your way!


9. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar

Designers: Simone Luciani, Daniele Tascini
Year published: 2012
Players: 2-4, best with 4
Playing time: 90 minutes
Complexity: medium/heavy

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Tzolk'in Box

Theme and Setting

It’s not hard to guess where Tzolk’in is set: in the world of Mayans, the legendary Meso-American civilization.  The theme and artwork are very Mayan-like, making it a stand-out from the rest of the board gaming world.

Overview of the Gameplay

Hand in hand with the Mayan theme goes the main attraction of the game: the moving cogs.

Tzolk’in is a worker placement game. You place and remove your workers from slots, carrying out actions that are on them. Taking resources, building buildings, pleasing the gods, it all converts to victory points. That’s where the cogs come in. They provide a moving platform, changing the action slots your workers are on with every turn.

On your turn, you have two actions available. You either place any number of workers on the cogs (possibly paying corn to feed them) or you remove them, carrying out actions that they are currently on.

That makes Tzolk’in a very strategic game. You must plan several rounds ahead, placing workers and then removing them when they’re exactly on the slot you need. There’s very little luck involved and player interaction is limited to competing for slots, so it’s all about planning your path to victory. There are multiple paths available.

It’s also this deterministic nature of the game, that is its biggest shortcoming. It doesn’t have a lot of exciting moments, but if you’re a true strategist, you will be in heaven, without any random factors to destroy your schemes.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Tzolk'in Cogs

Expansions/Editions

One expansion exists, Tribes & Prophecies. It adds 13 tribes with special abilities, making the game more diverse. The lack of exciting moments is partly fixed with the 13 prophecies (events, that the players must prepare for). Moreover, components for the fifth player are included. Overall, a very good complement to the base game.

Main Features

  • Original theme.
  • Innovative moving board.
  • Low luck factor with many paths to victory.
  • Little player interaction.

What do others say about it?

Patience pays off: finally got around to a game that’s been on my wishlist radar for nearly 8 years – and it delivered. This has quickly become one of my favorite worker placement games, and I appreciate how it stands the test of time.

I’ve long been aware of talk about game-breaking strategies, but even having read about them, it hasn’t been an issue so far (between variable setups and dummy workers blocking so many spots in 2-player, to begin with). For my mileage, this is a sturdy classic (not perfect, but very worthwhile and fun). – Craig_Hausman


I love the time mechanic in this game; it really makes it unlike anything else in our collection. Plans within plans keep this from feeling slow. – StandSure


I used to like this game a lot. But I feel like I have games that are better at doing what it does. – Jyabura

Who is it for?

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar is an excellent strategy game hidden beneath The Mayan theme and the moving cogs. There is very little luck involved, meaning this is a game for players that like to analyze and plan several rounds ahead.


8. Nemesis

Designer: Adam Kwapiński
Year published: 2018
Players: 1-5, best with 4-5
Playing time: 90-180 minutes
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Nemesis Cover

Theme and Setting

I was in my teens when I first watched Alien, a 1979 classic horror movie, directed by Ridley Scott. I was petrified and extremely intoxicated by it at the same time.

Nemesis gives you the opportunity to re-live the movie as a board game. OK, it may not have the official license, but that’s pretty much the only detail that is missing. This is Alien as a board game.

Overview of the Gameplay

Nemesis is a semi-cooperative dice rolling exploration game. The basics are pretty simple – each turn you get to do two actions (this time dictated by the cards you hold in your hand). After players, it’s the game’s turn.

Every player controls a different character (Soldier, Mechanic, Scout, etc.), each with different abilities, equipment, and deck. You find yourself on a spaceship, but unsurprisingly, you are not alone. Your task is to complete one of the two random objectives and make it back to earth safely.

But sitting put won’t win. You have to explore the ship and find rooms that allow you to complete certain tasks (like sending a signal to Earth from the comm room, do research in the lab) and bring you closer to your objectives.

But your movement will produce noise, which will inevitably draw out Intruders (the aliens), which will make your day go from bad to worse. You can fight them, but honestly, your best bet is trying to escape.

Here comes the twist which elevates the game to a whole new level. Remember – it’s semi-cooperative. Each player also has a personal objective, which allows him alone to win the game. Sometimes you may prefer to leave your fellow players to the mercy of Intruders and casually embark on an escape pod.

It’s moments like this, the tense horror atmosphere and pristine sci-fi theme, that make Nemesis a memorable experience. You don’t play this game for strategy (although there’s quite some of it in there) and game mechanics – you want to feel the coldness of space as you open the hatch and squeeze the alien outside.

A big contributing factor is the presentation. Components and art are excellent, but the miniatures take the crown. Especially the Intruders. They are not exactly like H.R. Giger’s, but they are very detailed and have their own horrifying charm.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Nemesis Ship
Image from awakenrealms.com

Expansions/Editions

Some of the notable expansions and Kickstarter stretch-goals:

  • Nemesis: Untold Stories #1 and #2 (2019) provide several additional co-op game scenarios for Nemesis. They are presented in a graphic-novel/comic-book style
  • Nemesis: Aftermath is the epilogue mode, that you can play after the game. New characters enter the ship and try to understand what happened on the Nemesis.
  • Nemesis: Void Seeders. The crew of Nemesis must face Void Seeders, a new type of enemy who try to spread insanity on the board.
  • Nemesis: Medic introduces a new playable character.

As mentioned, Nemesis was launched through a Kickstarter campaign, which means it’s pretty hard (expensive) to get, especially if you want all the expansions.

Main Features

  • Beautiful, detailed miniatures.
  • Game mechanics that convey the atmosphere of a sci-fi horror adventure.
  • Elements of cooperation, bluff, and backstabbing.
  • Expensive.

What do others on BGG say about it?

A true horror game that is absolutely merciless throughout. A bit fiddly rules, but still a tense experience. – Volosio


Amazing thematic semi-coop game.
You’ll get a great story and experience out of this game by the end of it.
Love the hand management and that each character got its own deck. – Deshliem


Straight up masterpiece. The atmosphere, the gameplay it’s all there! The miniatures are gorgeous and the game does fulfill this cinematic experience of being stuck on the spaceship with a bunch of aliens and survivors. My new fav. – whatsanotherdeath

Who is it for?

Although Nemesis offers plenty of depth and strategy, it’s not about that. It’s about being in a sci-fi horror movie. You dabble the corridors in fear, knowing that one wrong step can mean a difference between winning and dying. Other players seemingly help you, but you can’t trust anyone.

It’s that experience that will keep you coming back for more and not the sense of winning and losing. It may be expensive, but if a few of you chip in, it’s well worth it.


7. Orleans

Designer: Reiner Stockhausen
Year published: 2014
Players: 2-4, best with 4
Playing time: 90 minutes
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Orleans Box

Theme and Setting

Set in the medieval era around Orleans and the Loire area, the theme is not the most exciting part of Orleans. Although the artwork is done by Klemens Franz, the cover is not going to turn heads. But don’t go away just yet.

You play as a merchant, taking trips to other cities and trading posts, to acquire goods. But you will need help in the form of farmers, merchants, boatmen, craftsmen, knights, scholars, and monks.

Overview of the Gameplay

What drives the action in Orleans is a bag of the aforementioned citizens. Each turn of the 18, you will draw a certain amount of tokens from your bag and strategically place them on your board, performing actions (like acquiring more tokens, moving the merchant figure on the map, adding a new action tile, etc.).

Moving the merchant allows you to pick up goods on the map and build trading posts, which are both very positive for your end score. Another way to score points is to place your tokens on the Beneficial Deeds board, where you can help build public works like canals.

The final (and the most important) way to earn points are the Development tracks. These track your progress in various areas, provide in-game bonuses, special abilities, and multipliers for other scoring options. In the end, the tracks themselves are scored. You should definitely not neglect Development tracks in Orleans.

Orleans comes with streamlined gameplay, but it gives players a lot of freedom in their moves. There are always multiple ways of using your tokens. You can even save them up for the next round or just partially fill out the action slots.

Getting proper tokens in your bag is also a big deal. True, there is an element of luck when drawing from your bag, but it’s the kind of luck you make yourself. You’ve got to plan ahead – for example, don’t put scholar tokens in it just to fill the bag if you don’t plan to use them.

The amount of tokens in the game is finite, so there’s a soft cap on how far players can go on some of the tracks. Watch other players and alter your strategy if necessary. Maybe you can earn more points with the trader if there are no monks available?

Check out Quacks of Quedlinburg for a lighter bag-building game

Expansions/Editions

  • Orléans: Invasion (2015) adds six event-driven scenarios (cooperative and competitive) and new action tiles.
  • Orléans: Trade & Intrigue (2016) introduces new action tiles and four modules: Orders, new Events, new Beneficial Deeds and Intrigue, a replacement Beneficial board.

Both expansions are excellent additions that really prolong the lifespan of Orleans by adding a lot more gameplay variety and replay value.

Main Features

  • Bag-building at its finest.
  • A lot of meaningful options during the game.
  • Smooth gameplay.

What do others on BGG say about it?

Such a fun bag-builder. The concept is pretty straightforward as you acquire followers, advance up tracks, collect coins and goods, and build trading stations. The building tiles give you extra actions to your followers. However, it has a bit of a long setup, and the base event tiles can get slightly repetitive as there are only six different kinds of x3, and you shuffle them to make 18 rounds.

What makes this game awesome is the Trade & Intrigue expansion. It is basically essential in having more interesting Beneficial Deeds, and Order cards on the map to achieve. I wouldn’t play it any other way. Much more fun and highly recommended addition. – tektonik


It’s incredible that such an ugly cover can hold such a great game.
So glad a friend bought this. Hugely variable in strategies but always interesting. I’ve seen multiple vastly different plans win thanks to the empowering set of buildings and the multitude of scoring opportunities.

Problems: Setup is too long, and the (essential) expansion improves the game but makes you flip through the rulebook even more for the new buildings and events.

A consolidated compendium of buildings/events/scoring rules across expansions would be nice. Would also prefer a scoring track on the board to avoid having everyone pull out their phone calculator. – Synthezoid


Looks overwhelming and a bit “meh” at first. But Orléans is in fact simple and the mechanism is fun! The options and the interaction get more tense towards the end. – Outarde

Who is it for?

They say that you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover and Orleans is a true testimonial to that saying. Below the theme lies an excellent bag-building game with a lot of choices and strategies behind it.

I’d recommend this to anyone willing to give it a chance.


6. Clans of Caledonia

Designer: Juma Al-JouJou
Year published: 2017
Players: 1-4, best with 4
Playing time: 30 minutes per player
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Clans of Caledonia Box

Theme and Setting

The 19th-century industrial revolution was a time of great change. Scotland was in transition from an agricultural land of the old ways to an industrialized country, focused on trade and export. But the bulk of people still lived off the land.

You play as one of the historic clans, trying to benefit from the newly created situation. Produce, trade, and export agricultural goods and profit from selling your whiskey worldwide.

Overview of the Gameplay

The game starts by drawing a clan for each player. Clans come with different abilities, some being better in certain areas. This creates asymmetrical gameplay and implementing your clan’s advantages in disadvantages into your strategy is very important.

This diversity also ensures a lot of replay value. Every clan plays differently and there are other game-to-game factors that change (like port tiles, scoring criteria, and contracts that your clans seek to fulfill). All 8 clans are well-balanced, but some are more beginner-friendly than others.

The game is played over five rounds, with each of the rounds consisting of several phases, with the main one being the action phase. Players can perform any number of actions, limited only by the resources they obtain:

  • Place units on the map: animals that produce wool or milk, fields that produce grain, workers that increase coin production, or buildings that can convert basic resources into more valuable goods (whiskey, cheese or bread).
  • Trade goods on the market. Prices go up or down according to your actions.
  • Acquire a contract
  • Fulfill a contract, exporting your goods in return for victory points and other rewards.
  • Upgrade technology, increasing your trading capacity, building ability, and granting other bonuses.

Players perform actions one by one until everyone passes. It’s a very elegant soft-cap, that doesn’t tie you to any worker slots, dice, or cards, but lets you develop your strategy freely.

Rounds end with production and scoring phases, with an additional final scoring at the end of the game.

Read the full Review of Clans of Caledonia

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Clans of Caledonia Set Up

Main Features

  • Easy to get into, but still very deep with a lot of complex decisions.
  • A lot of replay value.
  • Wooden components look and feel great

What do others on BGG say about it?

This is a great money management game. Your money helps your production, which you need to fulfill orders and spread out around the board. This is another game that just racks your brain with options trying to figure out what is the best action to take. I always enjoy getting this to the table. – Mysterium12345


I really like this game, it looks great, it plays well and everything in it just clicks. This is such a fun game! – stvnritch


The theme just fits so well with the mechanics. The production itself alongside the game is a truly gorgeous collection of things that justify their high ranking. The asymmetry of the clans just makes the game that much more interesting and unique. – dikaiacmwatts

Who is it for?

There are a lot of things to consider in Clans of Caledonia. Money comes hard and you have to spend every pound wisely. Your decisions are important and have far-reaching consequences. This is a dream for hardcore players that like to optimize things.

On the other hand, Clans of Caledonia is very friendly to beginners. You only do one thing in a turn, and with the help of a reference chart, this makes it very easy to understand how the game works.

Clans of Caledonia is almost like a hidden gem. Not many people are talking about it, but those who have tried it will recognize it as one of the best eurogames ever. Yes, it is that good.


5. Concordia

Designer: Mac Gerdts
Year published: 2013
Players: 2-5, best with 4
Playing time: 100 minutes
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Concordia Box

Theme and Setting

The Mediterranean at the height of the Roman Empire was a very prosperous place. With peace, uniform law, and a common currency, trade flourished. As goods from all the sides of the sea changed hands, a lot of people profited.

In Concordia (Roman for “harmony”) you play as a leader of one of the Roman trading dynasties. Your goal is to develop your trade network, send colonists, appease gods, and above all else, get rich.

Overview of the Gameplay

Concordia is a peaceful hand and resource management game. In front of you is the map of the Mediterranean with provinces and cities. The city tiles are shuffled, so they produce different goods every game.

Each player starts with a colonist in Rome, starting resources, and a deck of cards. It’s this deck that is the driving force behind the gameplay. Each turn you will play one card from your hand. The basic cards are:

  • Prefect: You choose a province that will produce (giving goods to everyone there, but you get extra resource) or you decide to take the money accumulated on bonus tokens
  • Architect allows you to move colonists on the map and have the ability to build trade outposts (if you have the resources).
  • Mercator: Buy or sell goods for money.
  • Senator: Buy more action cards (more specialized) from the card market.
  • Diplomat: Copy the last card any other player has played.
  • Tribune card allows you to take cards back from the discard.

Some actions require a cost in resources to be paid. For example, with the architect, you can build as many trading posts as you can afford (or none).

Timing your cards right is crucial and allows for powerful chain abilities (gather resources, move around and build, acquire more cards), especially if you keep an eye on other players and use the Diplomat at the right time.

The Tribune is another important card. Although you must sacrifice an entire turn, it’s the only way to get discard cards back to your hand. Moreover, the more cards in the discard, the more money you get by doing so.

OK, so I’ll just use all my cards and then play the Tribune to get them back, you say. A sound tactic, but there are some cards that you will want to use more often. You want that Diplomat in your hand at all times, should an opponent play something you would benefit from. This means timing the Tribune is not that straightforward and it comes with carefully weighing the pros and cons.

This all leads us to acquiring new action cards and scoring. Every card has a God flavor (Mars, Minerva, Saturn, Jupiter, etc.) and each God prefers you to do something else. Every Saturn card will give you one point for every trading post, Mars gives points for colonists, and so on. The more cards and favorable actions of a certain god you have, the more points will that net you.

The scoring is not immediately obvious and it could take new players a game or two to get a hold on. But the general strategy revolves around expanding on the map, trying to use other players’ productions as much as possible, acquire new cards, and align your strategy with the Gods you have.

But don’t think you can do the same thing every game. Things will be very different each game – the setup changes meaning players will never expand into the same provinces. That means that you have to re-invent your strategy every game.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Concordia

Expansions/Editions

There are several map packs available that allow more strategic challenges.  They contain two maps per pack:

  • Concordia: Britannia / Germania (2014)
  • Concordia: Gallia / Corsica (2016)
  • Concordia: Aegyptus / Creta (2017)
  • Concordia: Balearica / Cyprus (2019)

Concordia: Salsa (2015) is an expansion containing tow maps (Byzantium and Hispania), a sixth commodity (salt -“salsa”), and new Forum cards mechanics.

Concordia: Venus (2018) is a standalone edition of Concordia with some added features: team play, goddess Venus cards, and 4 maps (Imperium/Cyprus, Hellas/Ionium).

Owners of the original can buy the Venus expansion which includes everything needed to bring the base game up to the Venus edition.

I’d suggest you try to acquire the Venus edition of the game and add the Salsa expansion. You can acquire the maps later if you so wish. If the Venus edition is unavailable, the base game will more than suffice.

Main Features

  • Excellent eurogame with a lot of replay value.
  • Simple gameplay (one card per turn), but offers immense strategic depth.
  • Close to no luck involved – predominantly skill-based game.
  • Multiple paths to victory.

What do others on BGG say about it?

A rare achievement in Euro-style gaming in which every turn feels good for all players involved. Easy to learn, this game nonetheless provides a great deal of depth without slowing down play. Engaging, strategic and satisfying, Concordia is a nearly faultless and perfect economic game. – C Thompson


I don’t think anyone into board games doesn’t enjoy this (unless they are new to the hobby and then it can definitely be too much). The card system is brilliant and creates a zen state as you flow.

There’s a surprising amount of interactions actions benefit others, racing to spaces or cards. The only issue is the end game scoring is impossible to teach no matter how hard I try. – Spalaczky


The best resource/hand management game I’ve played and overall my favorite Euro.

Love the scoring conditions, adding a great strategic layer on top of an already excellent deck-building element. The race for the cards and cities is always thrilling.

The map variety also brings a lot to the game, making every supported player count work very well. I’m yet to try the teams variant. – Nandes

Who is it for?

Concordia is an example of a well-made eurogame. Simple rules (only four pages, the rest is clearly explained on the action cards) with deep gameplay that awards skillful play, a lot of important decisions to be made, meaningful player interaction, and a lot of replay value.

Don’t be fooled by the unappealing box (the in-game art and components are excellent by the way) – Concordia is rightfully among the all-time greats.


4. Terraforming Mars

Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Year published: 2016
Players: 1-5, best with 3-4
Playing time: 120 minutes
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Terraforming Mars Box

Theme and Setting

It’s the 25th-century and the colonization of Mars is in full swing. But the planet is still far from habitable. Oxygen levels and temperature are far below desirable levels. The surface must be filled with oceans, forests, and cities.

Only large multinational corporations are able to take on a project of this scale. You play as one, competing with others for victory points, rewarded for your contribution to terraforming and other infrastructural and scientific advancements.

The theme is one of the strongest points of Terraforming Mars. The main contributor to the atmosphere is unique project cards, which are based on futuristic events. To add to the immersion, cards are equipped with relevant imagery, although a bit inconsistent.

Read the full review of Terraforming Mars

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Terraforming Mars Map

Overview of the Gameplay

After choosing your corporation, you are put in front of a hexagonal Mars board. You are free to do as you please: place oceans, forests, and cities as standard projects. Crash an asteroid to increase the temperature of the planet. Or do it gradually and build a power plant instead.

But building just standard projects would get boring pretty soon. Each round you will have a chance to reserve project cards. Reserving them costs money, so choose carefully. These special projects can make or break you. They are expensive to build but offer substantial rewards.

Projects cards are an outstanding feature in Terraforming Mars. There are 208 in the base game and even after several games, you will encounter new. They can alter your resource income, add special actions (like placing oceans cheaper, paying to increase your TR, adding resources on themselves for extra VP), place special tiles (mines, factories, nuclear zones …), harm your opponents, and so on.

These project cards are what keeps the game fresh and diverse even after dozens of plays.

You have to manage your money carefully as there is never enough to build everything you want. Other resources are heat, energy, greenery. You can increase production values on them, which gives the game an engine-building component.

The game ends when the surface is sufficiently terraformed. The points are then summed up.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Terraforming Mars Cards

Expansions/Editions

After you familiarize with the base game, five expansions are available:

  • Hellas & Elysium introduces a new double-sided playing board with two new maps.
  • Venus Next adds an extra playing board on the side, the Venus.
  • Prelude‘s main feature is 35 prelude cards which offer initial boosts to your corporation or terraforming process.
  • Colonies expand your reach in the outer solar system.
  • Turmoil is the latest and largest expansion. It brings the focus back to Mars, introducing Global Events and the Terraforming Committee, adding a political layer.

Main Features

  • Immersive project cards.
  • Very good solo mode.
  • Components are only average.

What do others on BGG say about it?

The mixture of board game, card game, strategy and tactics is friggin awesome! – absolutleo


The game is very fun, even though the art and graphics are nothing to write home about. The iconography, however, is extremely clear and comprehensible. There is a joy when you set out to build a specific engine and actually get it up and running.

The best experiences of TM are the ones with like-minded gamers, who enjoy the deep and satisfying engine building of this game. The prelude expansion and the Hellas and Elysium maps are essential expansions, and Venus Next contributes to the enjoyment after the session, albeit making it a tad longer.

I’ve yet to play with my Colonies expansion, although I’ve heard only good things about it.
Very enjoyable, highly recommended if you are into sci-fi theme. – kradmehr

Who is it for?

Terraforming Mars is rightfully regarded as one of the best board games. It comes with an immersive sci-fi theme and good engine building-mechanics. I haven’t mentioned the exceptionally single-player mode, which is a great added bonus.

Although the out-of-the-box components are not very good, there are third-party solutions available for you enthusiasts. You will also benefit from excellent expansions that dose in extra stuff at a nice pace.


3. Great Western Trail

Designer: Alexander Pfister
Year published: 2016
Players: 2-4, best with 3-4
Playing time: 75-150 minutes
Complexity: medium/heavy

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Great Western Trail Box

Theme and Setting

Do you know where the word cowboy comes from? That’s right cow-boy is a guy taking care of cattle, herding it, and selling it for profit. Gunslinging is just for self-defense.

In Great Western Trail you play as such rancher. Your pastures have been plentiful and you’ve got some extra cows that you’re willing to sell. The only problem – you’re in Texas and the cows have to get to Kansas City. On your horses, cowboys and let’s go!

Overview of the Gameplay

While the theme in Great Western Trail is quite strong, it’s not its strongest point by far. The crown goes to game mechanics or a mesh of different game mechanics that work together as a whole, creating (on the surface) a simple game, but deep down there are a lot of intricacies and co-dependencies.

So, you start in Texas with a hand of cows (cards). During the game, you will make several trips to Kansas City and along the way, you will have a chance to improve your hand (element of deck-building) by visiting certain locations, hire cowboys (you can’t take care of all those cows alone), workers and engineers.

You can run into floods, rockfalls, drought, and Indians – which can help you or not. All this for the simple goal of herding your cattle to its destination and make money.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Great Western Trail Cowboys
Image from eggertspiele.com

But the core gameplay is simple: you move your meeple along the path (which also forks out, meaning there’s not only one way to go) and what you can do is dictated by the building you land on. These involve manipulating cattle cards in hand, moving the train, hiring employees, or purchasing cattle.

You can move several spaces (3-4 at the beginning and up to 7) and it’s your choice how far and fast you want to go. You can also construct your own buildings along the way and create your own specialized path (an engine). There’s some iconography to be learned, but the symbols are generally clear and intuitive.

This relative simplicity makes the game run smoothly and there is little analysis-paralysis because the game consists of a lot of small (yet important) decisions.

Your abilities, multipliers, and stats are tracked on your personal board, which looks intimidating at first but provides all the important bits of information with ease.

Another important mechanic is the train, which works on how much profit you make with a sale. You want your breeding value (cow cards) to be in harmony with the train’s destination. Otherwise, you have to pay for the difference, which eats your profits.

Great Western Trail is like a giant puzzle. As you travel, you improve your hand (adding more valuable cattle), improve the path for future deliveries and move the train on its track. Will you move faster and make more deliveries or take it slowly, make the best of your trip, improve the path more, and make your future trips more profitable?

It’s an exercise in optimization. But even though there are so many different factors, it never gets overwhelming or confusing. It may take you a game to familiarize yourself with all the symbols, but the red thread is always obvious – you’re moving your cattle to sell it.

The buildings on the path ensure that the game is vastly different every time. Even one building set-up differently will require you to alter your strategy. There are more than enough available and you can randomize neutral buildings as you please.

The game also works well with all player counts, but it comes alive with a full 4 players. Even though such a game can last for close to 3 hours, it never outstays its welcome.

Expansion

Great Western Trail: Rails to the North (2018) further expands the train mechanics, making it a lot more important and meatier than the base game. Although the expansion is excellent, I’d only recommend it to seasoned players.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Great Western Trail Setup
Image from eggertspiele.com

Main Features

  • Several game mechanics that work together as a masterpiece of game-making.
  • A lot of meaningful player decisions.
  • Incredible replay value.

What do others on BGG say about it?

An awesome game.
So many ways to score points and I love how the board changes with each run-through. The only flaw I see is, that buildings are too weak in a two-player game. So some points down there. – JesuzZoidberG


An extremely enjoyable game with many different potential paths to victory. One of the greatest Euro games there is. – lindre3000


The first game played tonight (2 players) and that was a perfect experience.
Lots of things to think about and lots of things that can use as your strategy to win the game.
The game took about 2h 30m and really not boring or frustrating and we both really enjoy it. 10/10 – AliReza_Ka


Really fun game.
Complex and challenging. – Deshliem

Who is it for?

Great Western Trail is a masterpiece of a board game. There’s a lot going on and it may take you a while to grasp. But it won’t let you go after that: the trips To Kansas City have never been so eventful and full of decisions.


2. A Feast for Odin

Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Year published: 2016
Players: 1-4, best with 1-4
Playing time: 30 minutes per player
Complexity: medium/heavy

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults A Feast for Odin Box

Theme and Setting

You control a Viking tribe that farms, hunts, explores, and raids. Your goal is to salvage as much loot and cover your home board with it, earning victory points.

Best Viking Board Games

Overview of the Gameplay

The game has a lot of options and inter-connected moving parts. To help players comprehend everything, the game is divided into 6 or 7 rounds (short or long game) and each round is further divided into phases.

Phases include:

  1. taking a new Viking worker from the banquet table,
  2. harvest food,
  3. explore other boards (Shetlands, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland),
  4. draw weapon cards you need for hunting or pillaging,
  5. place workers and carry out actions,
  6. determine a new starting player
  7. calculate income,
  8. breed animals,
  9. feast (placing food on the banquet table and earning victory points),
  10. claim bonuses (if you have any on your home board),
  11. add new mountain strips for basic resources and
  12. remove Vikings and prepare for the next round.

You can place loot items on your home board at any time. The same goes for playing special action cards, buying ships, and equipping them for whaling or pillaging.

You can place workers into 61 different slots, but they are sensibly categorized:

  • building houses and ships,
  • hunting,
  • managing livestock,
  • producing resources,
  • sailing, occupying new lands.

Many of them do similar things, only at different costs or efficiencies. That means there is always something to do and you will have a lot of options on your turn. More advanced actions require certain prerequisites. For example, you’ve got to have a ship ready and equipped if you want to go pillaging.

Performing actions will lead to you getting loot. These are simply different shaped tiles, that you have to place on your home board and cover the negative points on it. It’s a little puzzle game on its own (similar to Patchwork) and a very smooth game mechanic that is seamlessly implemented.

If your board is not big enough for all your goods – that’s where additional boards (Shetlands, Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland) come into play. You can colonize them as well.

At the end of the last round, points are added together and the winner is declared.

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults A Feast for Odin

Expansion

A Feast for Odin: The Norwegians (2018) includes four new islands (Isle of Man, Isle of Skye, Islay, Outer Hebrides) and Irish coastal settlements. It introduces several new mechanics and tweaks and is a must-have expansion. Once you tried it, you won’t ever play A Feast for Odin without it!

Main Features

  • A large number of mechanics, concepts, and details blended into a masterpiece strategy game.
  • Relatively easy to get into and understand.
  • Offers a lot of options and different paths.

What do others on BGG say about it?

This was a nine for me until I added the Norwegians expansion. Now it has become one of my favorites! – Nolimit47


Worker placement meets polyomino tile placement. What else do I need to say? Those are my personal favorite game mechanics and The Feast for Odin combines them perfectly.

I am a huge fan of spatial puzzles, engine building, and upgrades too. For some reason, this game feels relaxing to me. I enjoy piecing together different shapes and upgrading others to make everything fit. I especially appreciate the different ways to obtain tiles.

This game looks overwhelming but it’s very intuitive! Everything makes sense and if you take logical paths, they will have awesome payoffs. I instantly fell in love with Feast for Odin and understand why it’s so highly rated.

I’m excited to try it at higher player counts and curious to see how it will affect the gameplay. This game forces players to adapt, but also provides plenty of outlets to do so! I’m also very excited to try the expansion. This one will probably be in my top 5 for years to come. – Jcaz400


After one play I knew this was an excellent game. Very thinky and tons of options to choose from when assigning workers, almost overwhelmingly so, but even so it is a fantastic game. – blicko

Who is it for?

A Feast for Odin is one of the best worker-placement board games available and is definitely the most complex Viking board game available. It’s also (arguably) Uwe Rosenberg’s greatest game and a must-have for a board gamer, that enjoys deep, thinking games.


1. Scythe

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Year published: 2016
Players: 1-5, best with 1-5
Playing time: 90-115 minutes
Complexity: medium

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Scythe Box

Theme and Setting

Eastern Europe, just after The Great War. People are trying to rebuild, but peace is not yet destined to happen. Cold war looms over the region as factions fight over land and resources with war left-overs – giant diesel-punk mechs.

Scythe is set in a world, created by artist Jakub Rozalski. The theme is a strong trump of Scythe and it shows itself through the mech miniatures and especially through encounter cards, which are a work of art themselves.

Overview of the Gameplay

Each player receives a randomly selected faction mat which starts in a predefined location on the game board. Faction mats determine faction’s special abilities, their starting power, and starting combat cards.

Read the full review of Scythe

There are 5 factions in the base game, each of them with a uniquely designed main character, workers, and mechs: Rusviet Union, Crimean Khanate, Nordic Kingdom, Polania Republic, and Saxony Empire. Every faction has a special ability (or two) which makes them all unique to play.

On your turn, you choose one of four action sections on your player mat. This will be your action for the turn. Each action has two rows: top and bottom, with the top one being performed first.

Top actions are cheap and basic (like moving and producing resources), but bottom actions are more advanced (deploying mechs, building structures, upgrading your player mat, enlist soldiers) and require more resources to perform. You can perform both rows (if you can afford it), just one or neither.

While the game focuses on the economical side – you gather resources, to expand and increase the effectiveness of your engine, sooner or later, your units will meet the enemy on the map. Combat uses a very clever system of secretly assessing power, that completely eliminates the element of luck. It still is a very costly affair and best avoided.

During the game, you will complete special achievements (i.e. upgrade your mat 6 times, deploy all 4 mechs, have 8 workers on the map, win a combat encounter, have 18 popularity, have 16 power, etc.), which will grant you a star.

When any of the players reaches 6 stars, the game ends, the end-game scoring starts. Stars, coins, territories, and resources controlled, along with other bonuses are considered. Popularity plays an important role as it acts as a multiplier. Winning the hearts of the people is important in Scythe!

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Scythe Player Mat

Expansions/Editions

  • Invaders from Afar (2016) is the first expansion for Scythe. It adds two new factions, both very specialized and challenging to play. You can read my review of Invaders from Afar here.
  • The Wind Gambit (2017) adds Airships and Resolutions. An airship is a new type of unit that flies above the map. Resolutions alter end-game conditions.
  • The Rise of Fenris introduces a story-driven eight-episode campaign. It’s especially recommendable if you plan to play Scythe solo.
  • Encounters are a pack of 32 fan-designed new encounter cards.

Main Features

  • Brilliant art and components.
  • Many paths to victory.
  • Asymmetric factions.

What do others on BGG say about it?

Even years after I first played it, Scythe remains one of, if not the best games of all time for us.

The tight faction balance, the depth of choices and strategy, the lovely mix of hard strategy with a touch of luck, the player interaction and need to know what everyone is doing at all times… this game fills so many damn niches.

Other games may do one specific gameplay mechanic better but no game does them all simultaneously as well as Scythe. A masterpiece of a game. – Shoitaan


One of my favorite games! It took me a while to fully learn all the components, but it was so worth it!

It takes quite a bit of strategy and planning but I love how each faction and player mat can completely change everything! I also really like that you can win with all factions, although I have definitely noticed some are easier to win with than others.

Really love all the game mechanisms and play. And of course, the game is beautifully designed and created, and is just so aesthetically awesome. – andynbron

Top 10 Strategy Board Games for Adults Scythe Map and Mechs

Who is it for?

Scythe is a board game with excellent presentation. We already mentioned the art, but the components are of equally high quality.

The game mechanics are a masterpiece as well. There are a lot of things to look after: the map, your personal board, resources, and other players. But the gameplay remains smooth, thanks to easy-to-read components. The variables and the very-asymmetric factions guarantee high replay value.

The expansions only complement and complete this and make Scythe one of the best board games of all times and a must-have for a strategy loving board-gamer.

Further reading:

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