Look, I get it, we start out with Risk because what’s easier than rolling dice and seeing the higher numbers versus the lowest one? This is a great foray into strategy games when you are a really young gamer and helps you appreciate strategy or conquest games as you move along, grow a bit older, and get to the point where you can play more and more complex games.
Chess was actually the first strategy game I learned as a child because chess was a game my family loved. Dad taught it to me, my brother, and my sister. So that was the first game we obsessed over but as we grew up with board games it didn’t take long for Risk to become a mainstay, as well.
And as anyone who kept with gaming knows, it’s only a matter of time until you outgrow Risk and look for a much better game. Especially if you aren’t great at rolling dice (or have to consistently play someone like Phil).
Short List (Links to up to date listings on Amazon when they exist – scroll down for in-depth reviews, base stats, and first person experience with each of these games):
- Axis & Allies
- Settlers of Catan
- Lords of Waterdeep (Preferably w/ Expansions)
- Memoir 44
- Small World
- Ikusa aka Shogun aka Samurai Swords
- Game of Thrones: The Board Game
- 1775: Rebellion
- Plunder: A Pirate’s Life
- Twilight Imperium
- Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy
- Risk Legacy
- My Little Scythe
- Bunny Kingdom
- 7 Wonders
- Imperial Assault
- Twilight Struggle
- Mechs vs Minions
- Age of Empires III: Age of Diplomacy
- Space Empires 4X
- Diplomacy (elephant in the room pick)
#1: Settlers of Catan
- 3-4 Players, not including expansions which can bring it up to 5-6 players
- Good for ages 10+
- Low level of complexity
- 7.1 Board Game Geek Ranking (I was genuinely surprised it was this low)
- Perhaps the simplest great gateway game into strategy board games post-Risk.
Settlers is probably the first game that jumped into a lot of people’s heads with the title of this post, and there’s a good reason for that. Settlers is a fantastic game with relatively simple rules that brings strategy into the mix of dice rolls. While involving roads, towns & cities, and intrigue cards, this is a game with many more layers of strategy than Risk but is easy enough to start introducing to children at a relatively young age.
In other words, this is a fantastic transition game away from the extremely heavy luck of Risk to a game where dice rolls still matter – but every combination of numbers can matter and there are multiple ways to win.
Along with chess, this is one of those games that often acts as a gateway to other strategy boardgames and shows that gaming has plenty to offer even as young children grow into teenagers and full adult gamers.
Settlers is one of our absolute favorite games. Easy enough to pick up on after one game, but with enough strategy to be endlessly replayable, there’s a lot to absolutely love about Settlers of Catan.
This is a great multi-player game, and the expansion lets you go even beyond four players.
We’ve talked about Settlers of Catan Strategy, played this multiple times in person on Twitch (pre-pandemic), and even played multiple times online (though we’re not big fans of the online interface mostly due to the confusing and convoluted trade screen).
We’ve even dedicated an entire episode of Unqualified Experts to Catan Settlement Placement Strategy. Give it a watch to make yourself that much more a dangerous Settlers player – and enjoy a game that in all our eyes’ is head and shoulders above risk.
#2: Axis & Allies
- 2-5 Players, easiest to split up as a two-player game
- Good for ages 12+
- Moderate level of complexity
- 6.6 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Classic World War II historical war strategy game
Axis & Allies is a brilliant game and one that is going to be especially popular with history buffs. This is a game I was introduced to in high school while hanging out with by best friend and fellow history buff, Adam. This is a recreation of World War II in boardgame format and while dice still play a major part of the game, they aren’t the end all, be all.
So I grew up with what is now referred to as “Classic.” Since then there are several reiterations (1942, 1943, Axis & Allies & Zombies), so while I’m talking about AA in general, there are some changes now and you may want to grab 1942 to see if it’s your cup of tea before continuing on in the series.
For one, lower dice rolls tend to be much stronger in Axis & Allies than higher ones. For those of us who don’t see 6’s very often the fact a 1 is the best you can roll is a welcome relief.
Strategy is heavy in this game as units have different costs, attack power, defense power, and precious money can be spent to develop technology that can make you a monster on the battlefield – or you can come up short as an inevitable wave comes at you.
Perfect as a two player game (Axis vs. Allies) this is a game that can have up to five players as individual players can play the USSR, UK, USA, Japan, or Germany.
The original is still available, and there are multiple second editions that have come off of the original adding cards and additional strategy to this historical boardgame and one that remains a favorite of mine to this day.
If you also love horror movies, there’s even a “with zombies” version of Axis & Allies out there.
So whether you want the historical version, the updated version, or the zombie apocalypse version, you have plenty of options that are available to you.
#3: Lords of Waterdeep
- 2-5 Players, but definitely best at 3-4
- Good for players 12 and older
- Relatively low level of complexity (but LOADS of strategy!)
- 7.7 Board Game Geek Ranking without expansions, 8.3 with expansions
- Play a game of intrigue as one of the lords in one of Fantasy’s most famous settings, enjoying a game that is one the best worker placement games ever made.
One of my all time favorite board games, Lords of Waterdeep is incredible on its own and even more outstanding with both of the expansions added into play. Based on one of the most popular fantasy settings ever created, the magical city of Waterdeep is home to many adventurers and you will need to recruit them, finish fantasy quests for points, dodge as many mandatory quests as possible, build new buildings, and stay in the shadows as one of the mysterious masked Lords of the city.
This is a great European style board game where you need to master worker management, figure out how to choke off the resources your competitors need, and do your best to finish quests that add to your end of game bonus.
This is a very different game from Risk, but it’s an outstanding strategy game that works as a fantastic intro to:
- Complex board games
- Worker management board games
- Complex strategy board games
The art on the game and the cards is beautiful, you learn very quickly how important certain resources are, and how different the strategies can be depending on what lord you draw.
The base board game is fantastic in and of itself, but it’s even better with the 2 in 1 expansion box that includes Scoundrels of Skullport.
These add new buildings, a corruption mechanic that is fantastic, and adds even more buildings and quests into a game that was top notch even before the expansion integrated into it pretty seamlessly.
Basically the expansions take this game from an A to an A+ and whether you’re looking at it as a step up from Risk or an amazing boardgame in and of itself, it’s one of the favorites of virtually every single member of our group.
If you’re a fan of this game make sure to take a look at our amazing in-depth blog posts on LoW.
#4: Small World
- 2-5 Players
- Best for ages 8+
- Very low level of complexity
- 7.2 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Combine fun traits with classic fantasy races/monsters as you all vie to desperately hold onto land as empires rise and fall.
The only reason I know about this game was because I watched the episode of TableTop featuring Small World. Wil Wheaton’s show had tons of great episodes but that was one of the best one, IMO. Small World is a wonderful game with a touch of luck, a lot of strategy, and is both a great introduction (or “gateway game”) to more in-depth strategy games as well as a game that stands on its own.
We’ve played this online several times – five and counting as of this writing. You can check out the first Small World playthrough by clicking on that link. This is a great game that has a strong replay value because the combination of traits and races means this game can play very differently. Even the time in game can change how you play.
If you have declined ghouls active, maybe you rush the board with rat men. The ghouls are almost always strong, but are they really worth it towards the end of the game? These decisions matter.
Small World is simple to learn, brings serious strategy into gameplay, and minimizes dice luck, although that still plays a part. The balance on the game is amazing and whether you prefer Pillaging Orcs, Berserking Amazons, or Forest Tritons – you will have a clear path towards giving yourself the best possible chance at victory.
There are multiple expansions that have come out the last couple years and whether you stay with the base game or decide to check out the multiple expansions that add even more layers to the game, you’re going to have a good time.
We’ve played this online quite a bit and enjoy the online version via Steam. The interface is solid.
- Smallworld playthrough 1
- Smallworld playthrough 2
- Smallworld playthrough 3
- Smallworld playthrough 4
- Smallworld playthrough 5
As you can see this is one that is heavily in the rotation, and likely to stay there. It’s also a step up above Risk, clearly, and really brings you into the world of strategy games.
#5: Ikusa aka Shogun aka Samurai Swords
- 2-5 Players
- Best for players 12 years old and older
- Easy to moderate level of complexity
- 7.0 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Taking on the role of the samurai during the most chaotic times during Japan’s history, when Medieval civil wars raged.
Ikusa is a board game that is often described as “Risk, but better.” If that doesn’t mean it belongs right near the top of this list, then I don’t know what does! Ikusa is also a game that has changed names multiple times, and Ikusa is the name it is sold under as of when this blog post was written.
Ikusa (often described as Risk but better) is about as good as it gets when you actually love the game of Risk but wish it was just a little bit better, a little bit more in-depth in strategy, and just a little more detailed on the strategy side of things.
Although the names are different, the play is the same. The name changes of the game have been based on a series of unfortunate issues ranging from copyright of another game to copyright/title usage of the famous book “Shogun” by James Clavell.
Control a Daimyo, a feudal Japanese lord, and their samurai forces as you play against other players in an attempt to establish yourself as the Shogun of Japan.
This game adds luck and dice along with serious strategy as you gain forces and resources from upgrading your provinces to build up the armies you need to triumph.
This game features a very unique combat mechanic that gives a very different feel to this game and keeps players on edge as they wait to see whether they have an awesome victory or a truly stunning defeat.
A great game that is even often described as “Risk but Better” by fans, you’ll love what this game brings to the table.
- 1-5 Players, though most seem to say 4 is the best number
- Good for players 14 and older
- Fairly complex game to learn
- 8.2 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Post World War I Steampunk dystopia with dark humor and incredibly complex strategy.
This is a game I personally have mixed feelings about. It has the tone and feel of a game I should absolutely love. There’s definitely strategy here, and it is a game that is designed for multiple players. The different skills of each group lead to very different strategies on gameplay. Some groups have faster mobility to sprint for the factor or expand to crucial resources unchallenged early on.
Some groups have the ability to double up resources. Others from the Far East have the ability in a full player game to make everyone else’s life a living Hades.
Scythe is a really interesting game that allows for various strategies. The dark humor is really top notch, especially on many of the cards that force you to make a choice. The feeling of a post World War I meets steampunk meets forced Soviet-style militarization really comes through on the board. It creates that morose post WWI steampunk feeling in a way that is undeniably well done.
The mechanics take time to pick up, though once you do they play well (for the most part) and there is a lot of depth to the strategy in this game, there are some clear imbalances, as well.
I’m not a fan of the military setup as the ability to simply not commit forces, thus losing a battle but forcing the opponent to waste their might, and then smashing that opponent leaving them easy pickings for every single neighbor to immediately follow – it’s a mechanic that tends to bounce one player out of the game completely early in game, making it a long slog for them.
That is a major wart on what is otherwise a really solid game that has a huge number of fans, and I can’t blame them. Add in a really interesting Scythe Solo Play option and while this game won’t be for everyone, it will find its fans.
It’s a major step up from Risk but be warned: this is a fairly complex game and there will be a learning curve.
Many of my gamer friends love this game, and even though it’s not personally my cup of tea, there’s a lot of really cool stuff here and I can see why others like it so much. If you love the balance of resources, military strategy, and multiple channels of scoring then Scythe is a game that will really be up your ally.
Especially if you enjoy some seriously dark humor and steampunk goth overtones.
#7: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game
- Designed for 3-6 players and plays best with six
- Best for experienced gamers age 14 and above
- Fairly high level of complexity
- 7.6 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Make and break alliances and wield political intrigue alongside the power of your armies as you fight in all ways to conquer Westeros: based on the popular (until the last season) show based on the popular books.
A large board game consisting of cards and meeples, this is a strategy game based on the popular series of books and HBO series (we’ll just not talk about that last season *shutters*) and offers some great gameplay and in-depth strategy.
Will you flood the board with footmen? Carefully use siege towers to overcome other player’s defenses? Or rely on a few powerful knights to hold tenuous positions as you predict what other players will do and react with a bold high stakes strategy to counter?
This game does some things very well. While not perfect, the mechanics really are surprisingly simple. This game is easy to learn and figure out. Which is probably a relief for those of us who worried the game would be needlessly complex based on the political alliances and plots of the book series. This means simple gameplay.
Yet there is some serious depth and strategy when playing. Within the simple framework and setup it’s fair to say that the Game of Thrones board game overall has done a fairly nice job.
However, there is one known major balance issue. Longer games are fine, shorter games are fine, but there are some serious balance issues when the 4-player version of the game is played.
A lot of players criticize the Greyjoys and that point of view isn’t unwarranted. However for the most part the boardgame is a blast with great mechanics and this is a definite worthy step up from a game of Risk.
#8: 1775: Rebellion
- 2-4 Players but best with either two or four
- Best for players of 10+ years old
- Not complex – easy to learn
- 7.7 Board Game Geek ranking
- A very Risk-like board game taking place during the American Revolution with a few more wrinkles to it than traditional risk
Like Axis & Allies, 1775: Rebellion is a great strategy war game based on history that young history buffs are going to absolutely love. The game play is relatively simple to learn, there are layers of strategy, and playing out the early days heading into the American Revolution makes for a great blending of history and recreation.
This game is good for 2 to 4 players, although it’s generally agreed that the 3-player version is the least balanced o the game. You can expect a playing time of 1-2 hours which makes it quicker than your average game of Risk. This is a very popular game that is definitely niche but really rewards those players who dive into the historical setting for some very strategic gameplay.
Winner of the 2014 Origins Awards Best Historical Board Game, 1775: Rebellion is an outstanding strategy game that can be learned by gamers 10 years old and older, and was runner up or nominated for other awards. There’s a lot to love about the base game and there are advanced strategies and scenarios that can add extra fun for players once they are used to the rules of the original board game.
Will the Continental Army and Patriots prevail versus the British Army and Loyalists? Who will call upon the French, the German, and the Native Americans to help see their side to victory?
This is a great board game that strategy game fans will love and is a definite step up from Risk.
Click HERE for current prices on Amazon.com! (currently out of print on Amazon)
#9: Supremacy: The Game of Superpowers
- Plays 2-6 players
- Good for ages 12+
- Middle level of Complexity
- 5.7 Board Game Gena ranking
- More complex risk with Naval and nuclear units made during the waning days of the Cold War
Possibly more than any other entry on this list, Supremacy gets a lot of direct comparisons to risk and is one of the board game that is most like Risk. However, it is a step up and adds extra elements beyond dice luck that require thought, planning, and strategy in order to prevail.
This is a really good strategy board game but it is also what you would definitely call a “long haul.” This is a game that can take up to 6 hours to complete. Even a “fast” game of Supremacy will almost certainly take 4 hours or slightly more.
That means it can be a great way to spend extended time with family or friends but you’re not doing this lightly. When you’re committing to this you’re jumping in for the deep dive.
This game adds economic factors with resources, clearly delineates land units vs sea units, and with a huge array of expansions the game can be molded and change radically depending on what expansion mechanics you enjoy versus those that you don’t.
This is a very big, bulky board game that plays up to six players but can create a great experience for a group of gaming friends getting together for the weekend.
#10: Plunder: A Pirate’s Life
- 2-6 player game, best experience is at 4 players
- Good for ages 10+
- Very easy to learn
- 7.1 Board Game Geek ranking
- Simple but strategic pirate game that is a fun easy on the brain breakout every so often
Arr, maties! ‘Tis time to set up the ol’ Jolly Roger and set yer sites upon the merchant vessels of the European powers but beware, maties, for while building ships, conquering islands, and searching for treasure defeat might be just a sail’s arrival on the horizon away!
Okay, enough of that.
A versatile game, Plunder is a lot of fun whether or not you have a table of individuals who are into the roleplaying or not. Plunder can be played from as few as two players up to a full table at six. The community at Board Game Geek generally agrees that this game plays best with 4 players. It’s appropriate for players ages 10 and up and games can go from 40 minutes up to a full two hours.
While it doesn’t take too long to get the core mechanics, younger players may take longer to get who to handle strategy once the game gets competitive.
The goal in tis game is to get as many plunder points as possible. The first player up to 10 plunder points wins. You can conquer islands, bury treasure, or sink enemy ships in order to get plunder points.
There’s strategic dice combat, team play, and team competition. So in other words, there’s potentially a lot going on here and while 2020 was a dumpster fire in many ways, there were some excellent board games released and Plunder: A Pirate’s Life was one of the great releases.
- Plays 2-6 players but is best with the full 6 players at the table
- Best for experienced gamers ages 14+
- Fairly complex game to learn
- 8.0 Board Game Geek rating
- Stunning and wild strategy game as very different factions compete for the spice on a world hostile to their very existence based on the classic science fiction series by Frank Herbert.
Dune is a really interesting board game that scares off a lot of people because it looks very complicated and in round one it can feel that way, as well. However, this is a very well-designed game where you catch on very quickly to how the mechanics work, what the main strategies are for each faction, and to avoid that moving sand storm of death at all costs.
So while the first turn or two is used to learn how the game works, after that despite all the moving pieces and mechanics going on. This indicates an excellent game design, and the flow afterwards proved that.
Our long-time top tier patron, Madclaw, introduced this game to us in person before an in-game TTRPG session of War Hammer 40K where somehow I didn’t get murdered again despite terrifyingly unoptimized PC characters and the DM’s solid efforts.
The game was great and while the very first row with a game full of new players crawled by, after that the game sped up to the final confrontations in the Alliance Stage of the game.
Based in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe, each player is one of the factions that appears in the book and you get benefits based on that faction. You might be able to move through storms, get reinforcements faster, or hold five item cards instead of two. Obviously this drastically changes the strategy for each faction.
Some can arm up from the beginning and need to apply as much brute force as possible, while another faction uses their mobility to cause trouble, or threaten with the ability to cause trouble, across the board.
Good for 2 to 6 players, the average game time is 2 hours but expect a little bit more time the first time through as there is complexity here and it takes time to fully pick up on everything.
This game is appropriate for players 14 years old and up, and we played it at six and the game was outstanding. If you’re looking for your first game to step up from Risk this isn’t necessarily the easiest transition on the list, but it’s easy enough for experienced gamers to pick up on and a great game to add to the collection.
#12: Twilight Imperium
- 2-6 players, best at a full 6
- Best for gamers 15+ (box says 12+, we think again this is a complex game that goes better older)
- Moderately complex game
- 6.6 Board Game Geek ranking
- Absolute sprawling and epic space war game that is notorious for taking not hours, but days to resolve among devoted college gamers willing to stalemate each other
This is a game…and boy is it a game. An extremely highly related strategic game about conquering the galaxy this is a game that isn’t there for the casual gamer. This is unabashedly designed for the hardcore strategic gamer who is more than happy to dive many, many hours into a single game even if that means a group of gamers coming back to an on-going game over several days.
As Braden commented: “I played that game once and the experience was amazing…but at BEST I’ll play it once a year and you need to catch me in the right mood.”
This is NOT a game for beginners.
There’s a reason it is usually priced at over $100 and can still find plenty of buyers at that price point. This is an in-depth strategy game that shows just how deep a table full of board game generals can go to turn a challenging game into an unforgettable (both good and bad) experience dozens of hours of gameplay later.
This won’t be a casual first step up after Risk, but if you enjoy games of Catan, Bunny Kingdom, Stone Age, or other great games that are timeless but you’re still itching for more intrigue, more complexity, and more challenge in a very longform board game that is set against the complexity of a galactic backdrop then Twilight Imperium might be worth a spin.
It’s certainly an experience!
- Plays 2-4 but actually plays best with 3
- Age 13+
- Low level of complexity, easy game to learn
- 7.6 Board Game Geek rating
- Find the most valuable lands, and conquer them before competing kingdoms can as every tiny city state races to become the next Rome.
Dominion is a deck building card game that is a great entrance into this style of strategy games. It is extremely popular because it does a good job of taking board game mechanics from popular strategy games and converting them into a card game format.
Players of Magic The Gathering or other similar card games will recognize how Dominion works, and there are card game fanatics who started with Dominion and moved on from there.
In this game you become monarch of a small pleasant kingdom, thoroughly unremarkable in every way. You dream of greater and that means building a bigger kingdom, a better economy, a bigger military, in other words a larger and better kingdom beyond what you’ve ever known.
Here comes the challenge as you are competing against other players with the same goals, the same ambitions, and who are going to compete with you for the same limited lands and resources that are going to be up for grabs among competing players.
This is the definition of competing tribes going against one another to see who will turn out to be the kingdom and which ones will be footnotes in the history of the other person’s budding empire.
This is and endlessly replayable game that is well-designed, fun, and has extremely high ratings across multiple board game sits for a reason. It is one of the best games out there that moves above and beyond risk and gives you a strategic game experience many gamers will love!
#14: Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy
- 2-6 players, generally considered best at 4 or at 6
- Good for gamers aged 14+
- Fairly complex game to learn
- 8.6 Board Game Geek rating
- Very complex and in-depth game centered on building an interstellar civilization that requires exploring, conquest, diplomacy, and research to thrive and win.
The original features an outstanding 7.9 score on Game Board Geek, and this revised and improved re-release scores a crazy good 8.6 (Second Dawn for the Galaxy), it’s safe to say that any board game attached to the Eclipse franchise right now is one that delivers when it comes to serious sci-fi strategy gaming. The tagline from the company tells you everything this game is about: “Build an Interstellar Civilization by exploration, research, conquest, and diplomacy.”
This is a game that hosts 2-6 players though it’s widely agreed that it is best played at either 4 players or 6 players. Released in 2012, this is a game for players who have long moved past Risk – or who discovered their love for strategy games an older age.
This is because Eclipse is one of the more complex games on this list. There’s a lot to learn about game mechanics, as you will need to balance out expanding your empire though exploration or force, keeping up in research, and learning how to wield diplomacy as a weapon against other players…and anticipating when they are about to do the same to you.
Generally speaking this is an age 14 and older game, as it has enough intricacies that it takes a lot of thinking, and you shouldn’t expect to nail the mechanics the first time. But if you’re willing to put in the time, it’s an outstanding game to learn and play.
#15: Risk Legacy
- Designed for 3-5 players best best with 4-5
- Game for players 13+ years in age
- Mild levels of complexity
- 7.4 Board Game Greek Ranking
- Risk in campaign form, creating more depth and story to roughly hour-long “chapters.”
The explosion of legacy games have put a really interesting spin on traditional board games. Many classic games have added a legacy version to see what a blend of campaign and TTRPG mechanics to a classic board game can do to create a better story and more intense long-term gaming experience.
The base game will be mostly familiar to Risk fans, but the fact that the first game is but the prelude to the story that is Risk Legacy, that every game, faction, rule followed or broken affects how future games are set up and played, it adds a multi-layered level of strategy and gameplay that makes
Featuring 3-5 players (though the players at Board Game Geek believe 5 players is optimal – and I agree based on my limited experience with this game) one of the major interesting curveballs thrown to traditional Risk players is that every single faction in Risk Legacy actually has different rules.
This isn’t the simple pure dice rolling you grew up with!
Adding those wrinkles of past decisions shaping how future empires begin, both with advantages and disadvantages, adds some really cool wrinkles to the classic board game.
In my experience, it also vastly improves the games. This legacy style is also set up so the legacy can be reset and the game can be played again, which is the right way to do a legacy game (versus the one and done model).
#16: My Little Scythe
- 1-6 players, plays best with 4
- Ages 8 and up
- Very low level of complexity
- 7.3 Board Game Geek ranking
- A cute, simple, yet wonderful kids’ interpretation that does a very good job of mimicking the full-sized game.
My Little Scythe is a game the group has a little experience with, but Assorted Meeple member Phil and his family have a ton of experience playing this game, so we’re going to let him talk about this section from his family’s first hand experience playing this game.
My Little Scythe is a great reduction of a fabulous game. The playthroughs that I (Phillip) have played of it has streamlined all the rules in the best way possible. No longer do you have to figure out if you do the top action can you do the bottom or do you take a bad top action to get to the bottom action. One action a turn and it is a straight sprint for those trophies.
This game has resource control rather than area control as you never really own the resources on the table unless you are standing on them. If you want a strategy game where direct conflict isn’t the center goal of the game this is it.
Your goal is less about hurting and taking from you opponents but achieving your goals with minimal conflict and interaction in general. This is a game that I am super happy I have the kid’s version of rather than the base game.
While Scythe is great, you can literally plan every move you are going to take from you original starting point once you know action boards, that isn’t fun to me. The dice add the spice of ruining your plans that everyone needs in a game.
You can check out a great 2-player playing of the game here:
So if you want a very simplified version of Scythe that takes the best of the full game while removing a lot of confusion and complexity, but maintaining strategy in a cute gift wrapping, this game is for you.
#17: Bunny Kingdom
- 2-4 players, good at all levels but best with 4
- Great for ages 12+
- Relatively low level of complexity
- 7.5 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Incredible grid-based strategy board game using cards to claim land, resources, bonus points, and parchments to gain victory – and all of you are cute bunnies!
Bunny Kingdom is an incredible game that is loaded with strategy, great gameplay, and a fantastic gaming experience that will be fantastic for the entire family. These cute pieces and game board are fantastic, the art on the cards is straight up amazing, and don’t let the very cartoonish family friendly look fool you – this is not a board game that leaves strategy at the door.
This is a game that goes extremely in-depth when it comes to strategic thinking and play. Potential winning strategies include land grabs, luxury resource production, merchant points, or going heavy into the parchment game. Understanding all these strategies and being able to mix and match while balancing your strategy with blocking your opponents creates a great gaming experience every time.
This is a fantastic game that often delivers more strategy and a better game experience than board games many times as expensive. This is one that will quickly become a favorite in your collection and be broken out again and again!
We have done a lot of great content around Bunny Kingdom, which shouldn’t be surprising considering how amazing a game it is. If you want to read more about Bunny Kingdom and discover more about this incredible game yourself, check out these other posts we’ve made on this recurring board game.
#18: 7 Wonders
- 2-7 Players, best at 5-6 in our experience
- Good for players age 10+
- Low level of complexity
- 7.7 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Take the helm of an ancient civilization competing with others to build your Wonder of the World and become the shining nation of ancient times.
One thing to note right ways is that the game 7 Wonders actually has two editions now, and there are some considerable changes from first to second. Personally, I like a lot of the changes and believe that overall the new edition is a better balanced game (not in all ways, but in most). That said, if you see a copy of the first print on sale, grab it.
This was a fantastic game from the very beginning and while the second edition is rightfully getting a ton of praise, the first edition 100% holds up as an incredible game. Most of our 7 Wonders games were with the first edition and it still became one of our absolute favorite games.
This game also introduces something that Risk does not: having to manage more than one aspect of your government. Military is one part of the strategy but so are resources, commerce, and achieving special goals or builds. Different empires require different strategies to maximize their inherent strengths and sometimes you just have to pivot and do you best based on how your neighbors are playing.
We actually talk about 7 Wonders almost as much as we play it, as you can see from these three wonderful detailed guides Braden wrote about this awesome game 🙂
Perfect for 3-7 players, this is a game that we believe plays best at 4 and above, and although it’s a very different game from Risk there is a depth and variety of strategies here that make this game a delight every time we break it out at the table.
#19: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
- 1-5 Players
- Best for ages 14+
- Fairly complex to learn, but not overwhelming
- 8.0 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Top 100 all time game in the classic Star Wars universe fans will love playing other the Empire or the Rebellion.
Calling all Star Wars fans, calling all Star Wars fans: this is the board game of your dreams! Considering how many of us grew up with the original Star Wars movies, or some of us slightly older also grew up with Star Wars video games, this is a board game that is going to hit the nostalgia button while providing a legitimately good strategy board game experience.
Featuring an exceptional 8.0 score from players on Board Game Geek, this game can go from 1 to 5 players offering an incredible experience as individuals compete with one another or as a solo player puts himself up against a challenging solo journey fighting against the mighty Empire.
Two player games feature a head-to-head skirmish mode where players compete directly with one another to see who comes out ahead, while for multiplayer of 3 or more there are over 30 campaigns to play out.
This creates a ton of replayability and the classic pieces displaying weapons and soldiers of both the Empire and the Rebel factions. This is a beautiful game and it is also on the expensive side but considering the incredible amount you get with that heavy box, it’s not surprising and most gaming fans would say the game is very much worth it.
You can play as the Imperial Empire or as the Rebel Alliance, giving even more experiences that are possible from this one award-winning board game.
#20: Twilight Struggle
- 2 Players
- Best for ages 13+
- Easy-Moderate Complexity
- 8.0 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Card-based board game heavy into intrigue and indirect strategy to replicate the historical tension of the Cold War.
Twilight Struggle is a great strategy game using cards and a map and will be one that history buffs love. A two-player game that focuses on the era of the Cold War, with one player playing the part of the United States and the other as the USSR as they simulate the intrigue, the “proxy wars,” and the political & ideological movement of the decades proceeding World War II and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Will the same happen in this game, or will the Soviet-backed idea of Communism prevail as their influence proves too great to resist?
This game allows that to play out with a great map, cards printed on double-thick stock (which I’m a huge fan of – thin cards tick me off from board games) and a board that makes the most out of an impressive combination of strategy, counter-strategy, and a fun experience that usually takes between 2-3 hours for a full game.
This is a 2-player only game, so while that might not be the perfect option for family night it is a game that might be a great drawn out fight between two siblings, a couple of gaming parents, or a couple who have a week away from it all at a cabin by the like and want a great strategy game to fill up some of that time, at least.
#21: Mechs Vs. Minions
- 2-4 Players, generally accepted as best with 4 players involved
- Ideally for ages 14+
- Low level of complexity
- 8.0 Board Game Geek Ranking (Top 100 Board Games)
- Awesome cooperative tower defense game in board game form.
Mechs Vs. Minions is a limited edition game and I’m glad to see it has a strong following of people who enjoy it and have scoured the Internet looking for copies of this wonderful game. One can only hope this will lead to a re-release at some point.
But if you can get a copy, you should, because there’s a lot that this game has to offer to strategy-minded board game fans. Don’t let the sheer size of this box intimidate you.
While the game comes with five different game boards, multiple painted minis, metal trackers, a timer, dice, and more, it’s a great game to learn and not complicated.
There are multiple missions to pick from including a tutorial mission that helps walk players through the base mechanics of the game and learning how things work before jumping to more challenging scenarios.
This is a game with great aesthetics, amazing pieces, and it does offer an outstanding gaming experience for 2-4 players that everyone at the table will be sure to remember.
You can check out our Mechs Vs. Minions Review to get a more in-depth review of everything this amazing game has to offer.
#22: Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery
- 3-5 players, best gaming experience at 4-5
- Best for ages 13 and up
- Moderate level of complexity
- 7.5 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Board game version to bring the classic series of video games to life as players compete using economy, religion, exploration, and even brute force to attempt to become the last (and strongest) colony standing.
Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery is a game I’ve enjoyed (Important: Don’t confused this with Age of Discovery, which is still a good game but not nearly the same level, IMO). A game nominated for many awards, Age of Empires III forces players to use multiple levels of strategy since there are so many ways to advance their colony and completely ignoring one aspect of gameplay can lead to disaster.
Do you go for a fully balanced colony, push exploration, or maybe build up a merchant fleet to gain the wealth to build a powerful army in a relatively short time. You have options but will find yourself competing with other players who have the same tool kit to use themselves.
This is a far more complex game than Risk or Axis & Allies, but it can be great introduction into some of the more in-depth strategy board games that so many of us love and enjoy as we get older. If there is a complaint to this game, it can be a bit thick to learn, and that ages 10 and up it recommends honestly should be a little bit higher.
#23: Space Empires 4X
- Game good for 1-4 players, though it’s one of those rare games that many consider best at 2 players
- Best for ages 12+
- Moderate level of complexity
- 7.7 Board Game Geek Ranking
- Space Empires 4X is what the famed Civilization video game would be if a board game set in space.
I’ve always been a fan of 4X games ever since I first played Civilization II waaayyyyy back in the day. Space Empires 4X takes this classic and popular genre of games and produces a very good board game version that focuses on exploration, expansion, and building up an empire for the inevitable wars that must follow when two galactic powers creep towards the same limited resources and spce.
One of the reasons this award winning game gets so much praise and play is that it manages to pull off the difficult balancing at of offering a wild and wonderful setting and solid strategy while keeping things simple enough that you don’t have to spend a ton of time looking up rules. There is a touch of a learning curve on this game, but it’s very intuitive and most the complication comes in learning how to balance the various strategies very well versus just understanding them.
Think of it the same way you can learn chess very quickly, but learning the strategies to make you a serious player is an entirely different story.
Space Empires 4X is a wonderful addition to the genre and if you love Star Trek, the Civ games, or other 4X games then this is one that will quickly jump up your list of favorite games and it’s one I’ve been trying to convince the group to bring in for a try.
The Elephant in the Room: Diplomacy
Ah, Diplomacy. The board game that ends friendships. Literally, it’s known as the board game that ends friendships and while I do enjoy it – this isn’t one I’d play too often.
I have great memories of playing this game in Alaska when I started graduate school. The MA/MFA department at UAF at the time played a really interesting form of Diplomacy. There was a giant blown up map with pins in the wall of the Writing Center. Everyone had 24 hours to e-mail, chat, beg, lie, create alliances, and otherwise play Diplomacy with the other players. You would write down what your actual move was on a piece of paper and put it into a coffee can.
The sprint of MFA students to the wall five minutes after the writing center closed was followed by the coffee can being opened and every move read. The new board appeared before our eyes and the next turn was in 24 hours.
This was an amazing game and experience…and I’m not joking when I say that at least two early friendships kinda (by which I mean completely) drifted apart based on back stabbings and diplomatic treachery that ensued.
Worth it for a joint victory as Austria (Freaking Austria, man! – Veterans of this game will understand that brag)!
This is a game that is amazing in many ways, I can see why it has a huge following, but it is a game that causes very hard feelings because of its nature. Keep that in mind before pushing that into the post-Risk group of games.
While these may or may not be in the exact vein of Risk, these are games with some degree of military strategy that were worth a mention. This isn’t a best of list (otherwise Stone Age and Dead of Winter would DEFINITELY be here, among many others) but a list of other games that get suggested as “upgrades from Risk” but didn’t quite make our top list above.
There are plenty of great games here that will also offer you great board game experiences that still involve that sense of strategy or warfare that many of us love and adore from our board game days.
So while these didn’t quite make the top list, you may want to consider adding them to your collection anyway. Especially if you find any of these titles on a really good sale 🙂
- Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game
- BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia
- Blood Rage
- Civilization the Board Game
- Cold War CIA vs KGB (you can click on that for the full review we did on this game)
- Cry Havoc
- Dungeons & Dragons: Conquest of Nerath Board Game
- EVE: Conquests
- Fortress America
- Imperial & Imperial 2030
- Joan of Arc
- Nexus Ops
- Quest for the DragonLords (Second Edition)
- The Lord of the Ice Garden
- War of the Ring: Second Edition
- War! Age of Imperialism
- WarCraft: The Board Game
There is no lack of amazing strategy games out there that mimic, improve upon, or just straight out beat Risk in fun, strategy, and overall experience! While for many of us who are old enough Risk was sort of a gateway game, it’s one you can put onto the shelf to collect dust pretty quickly once you hit a certain point.
If you’re ready to make that transition, or buying birthday and Christmas gifts for others who are ready to make that transition, then you now have the list you need to get as many great strategy-based board games that you think the family gaming collection needs.
So enjoy this list, let us know your favorite strategy board games on our Facebook page and as always, good gaming!
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.