Strategy games are one of the most popular board game genres on the market. Each game is unique, with its very own theme and mechanics. A quality strategy game will capture your child’s attention while testing their intelligence, creativity and ingenuity.

The complexity of strategy games makes them ideal for children who are starting to outgrow their childhood toys, as well as for teens and adults of all ages. Their broad appeal makes them a great option for a fun night in with friends and family. This article will provide further information on the types of strategy games available and the ages they are suitable for. It will also offer some recommendations based on the best games currently on the market.

First things first:

  • The variety of themes and mechanics in the strategy game sector is extensive. Some genres – such as fantasy or war – dominate the market, but each game offers the player a unique experience.
  • This type of board game is usually tailored for older children, starting from around 8 to 10 years of age. However, the very best games have no upper age limits and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
  • The more intricate games immerse players in exciting narratives and fantastic worlds where a single stage or level can last hours or even days.

Ranking: The best strategy games on the UK market

The variety of strategy games on the market is extremely broad. The theme and dynamics of each one make it a unique playing experience. This is why these board games are ideal for children, teenagers and adults alike. In the following section, we’ve included a selection of our favourite strategy games:

No. 1: OK Play by Big Potato

Winner of the Parent’s Choice Award 2018, this travel-friendly game is designed for between 2-4 players aged 8 and above. Although initially simple to learn, this strategy game will take much longer to master and is fun for all ages.

Players will select one of the stacks of eye-catching colours for their own, they will then take turns to lay out their tiles with the aim of getting five in a row – horizontally, vertically or diagonally. While they are devising a strategy for winning, they must also block the attempts of their opponents. Each round lasts for a maximum of 15 minutes.

No. 2: The Settlers of Catan by Asmodee

The Settlers of Catan, inspired by a similar game called Risk (see below), is an enthralling conquest game for 3 – 4 players aged 10 and above. The great thing about this board game is that even adults can have hours of fun playing it. It’s a fantastic family activity for rainy days!

Each player will need to demonstrate ingenuity as they set out to explore and settle the previously uncharted island of Catan. They must develop holdings, trade and acquire resources. The first player to earn 10 victory points wins. Gameplay takes around 1 hour. Various extensions to the original game can also be purchased allowing for more players or different challenges.

No. 3: 221B Baker Street by Gibsons

A treat for all Sherlock Holmes fans, 2 – 6 players aged 10 and above, get the opportunity to actually become the world-famous detective and solve one of 75 available cases while competing against the other players in this game of wits.

After being presented with the initial details of a crime, players will make their way around the board – which represents fourteen different locations in London – collecting clues as they go. The winner is the first person to piece it all together and present the full details of the crime. This game is perfect for adults, teens and older children, with each individual game lasting around 60-90 minutes.

No. 4: Labyrinth by Ravensburger

Labyrinth is a fast-paced and engaging game of skill for 2 – 4 players aged 7 and over. This fantastical adventure game will provide endless fun for all the family with action-packed gameplay and a host of mythological characters.

Players must make their way through the maze, collecting the treasures and characters identified on their individual cards. However, they may just find that, with constantly shifting walls and opponents blocking their way, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds! Players must plan ahead to succeed in their quest and the winner is the first player to collect all the items in their deck.

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No. 5: Risk by Hasbro

An innovative conquest game for 2 – 6 players aged 10 and above. With four different ways to play – Classic, Secret Mission, Risk for 2 and Capital – this is a game that both you and your kids will keep coming back to time and time again.

Military strategy skills are essential here as players move their troops across the board with the aim of attacking and conquering their enemies. However, if you’re new to the art of war there’s no need to worry, a detailed game guide is included with clear explanations of the maps, cards and also of the different manoeuvres and attacks that can be employed.

Buying Guide: Everything you need to know about strategy games

You may have difficulties differentiating between a standard board game and a strategy game. The latter game genre is quite specific in that it tests the intelligence of players and requires a high level of concentration. This next section will provide you with a better understanding of what constitutes a strategy game.

Certain games involve deciphering riddles, others require misleading opponents.
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What are strategy games exactly?

Strategy games are a type of board game in which players make decisions which have significant consequences on the progression of the game. While some strategy games make use of chance elements, the majority prefer to focus more heavily on the player’s judgements. Intelligence, the ability to plan and to analyse other players’ strategies are key elements for success.

Many games feature fictitious narratives or require players to take on specific roles. Participants employ their own tactics throughout the game while remaining attuned to the tactics of other players. These games range in difficulty from simplistic to complex and the latter ones can take a great deal of time to master and complete.

At what age can children start to play strategy games?

This genre is generally seen as being one of the most complicated amongst board games. The level of difficulty will naturally vary from one game to another, but even the easier ones require concentration. Each round also tends to be longer than with average board games, which is another reason why it is recommended that you only start introducing your child to the more basic strategy games around the age of 6.

Are there different types of strategy games?

Absolutely! As previously expressed, each board game is unique. You’ll find an endless variety of themes and game dynamics in this category. To make things a little easier for you in selecting the best one for you and your child, we have outlined the various different types below:

Type Game dynamics Special features
Abstract games These sorts of games don’t try to recreate reality but rather focus on the internal logic of the game. The complexity of these games varies greatly. Their design tends to be minimalist and attractive.
War or military games As implied, these games simulate wars and battles. They generally require players to develop a strategy throughout the game. Each one can last a considerable length of time, even taking several days to complete.
Simulation games These aim to mimic the decisions and processes that a person would undertake in a real-life situation. Players usually take on a role and immerse themselves in a fictional narrative while playing.
Classic games These are the original strategy games. They can be played with cards e.g. Poker, or with counters e.g. Ludo. They are similar to abstract games but include fewer elements.

Buying Criteria

The strategy genre is quite simply one of the broadest and most diverse board game categories. Every single game is unique, and you’ll find different themes, formats, levels of complexity and game dynamics. Here are some key aspects to consider when shopping for games:

  • Age of the child
  • Themes
  • Difficulty and duration
  • Design
  • Game mechanics

This game genre is one of the most complex amongst board games.
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Age of the child

Age is an essential factor when considering what type of game to purchase. Products designed for teenagers have more intricate themes and detailed plots, while games for younger kids are simpler, featuring attractive and colourful designs and more straightforward rules.

As older kids are the ones who will get the most enjoyment from these types of games, we encourage you to start with traditional board games if your child is younger than 6. From that age onwards, they can start experimenting with simple strategy games. Refer to the guide below for further details on this and some recommendations for each age group:

Age group Type of game Examples of games
Children (6-10 years old) Low complexity games, with attractive designs and colours, and clear themes. We recommend games that last less than one hour. Liar and Labyrinth
Preteens (11-13 years old) Games with more elaborate themes can be introduced, such as abstract strategy games. Games can last longer, as children of this age have a higher capacity for concentration. Settlers of Catan and Express yourself!
Teenagers (13 years and older) Adolescents will quickly grasp all the game mechanics. At this age, they are capable of working with more serious or complex themes, such as war or role-playing games. Express yourself! and Risk

Theme

As there is such a large diversity of themes in the strategy game genre, we encourage you to check with your child which ones interest him/her before making any purchases. It’s also useful to consider that many classic game creators have released new versions of their games based on popular movies or TV shows.

While fantasy is certainly a dominant theme in the board game sector, your child may also discover new interests by interacting with unknown and unusual themes. Some of these could even be of academic benefit. A game such as Risk, for instance, may lead to your child developing a genuine passion for history or geography.

The variety of themes and game dynamics is incredible.
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Difficulty and duration

As previously established, the strategy genre offers a more complex experience than regular board games. These games tend to be longer, as players need time to develop their tactics and plan thoroughly. That being said, the difficulty of the game very much influences its duration.

More elaborate strategy games like Risk build a narrative as the game progresses, and the players are caught in a fictitious universe. These types of games involving fantastic worlds can last for hours or even days.

Design

Certain brands – especially independent brands – design their games to be as visually appealing as they are entertaining. Attractive games with bright colours are particularly stimulating for younger children.

We recommend that you opt for abstract strategy games if aesthetics is important for you. They generally feature more eye-catching designs, as they don’t depict specific characters or real-life situations.

Many classic games have special editions related to famous movies or TV shows for everyone to enjoy.
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Game mechanics

Strategy games provide designers with the possibility of offering very different mechanics to regular games. Certain games are constructed so that players must decipher enigmas, while others push them into misleading their opponents. Some games promote teamwork, others competition. While themes such as war and fantasy tend to dominate strategy games, the mechanics of each game can make it truly original.

If your child already has a broad collection of board games and you’re looking for something new, don’t hesitate to opt for a game with different mechanics to the ones they presently have. The market currently offers an incredible selection, so make the most of it. Remember that each game provides the opportunity for a new kind of adventure, and by adding variety your children will never get bored of playing such games.

Summary

Strategy games are the ideal form of entertainment for adults, teens, pre-teens and even younger children who have outgrown their childhood toys. These board games are designed to test ingenuity, analytical skills and planning ability. Find the right game and everyone in your household, children and parents alike, are guaranteed endless hours of fun.

The variety of themes and mechanics available today is considerable, with each game having its own unique style. Introducing your child to these types of games could result in the emergence of new and beneficial interests and a rather large board game collection! Just remember to always keep your child’s capabilities in mind when making your selection.

If you liked our guide to strategy games, feel free to share this article via social media. You can also leave a comment in the section below, including any questions or suggestions you may have.

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