Best New Strategy Board Games Reviewed 2013

Playing board games is a holiday and Christmas tradition in my family. It’s one of the best ways to get reacquainted with loved ones and friends. During the year we invite our friends family over for some friendly strategy games. Some players are obviously more serious than others so we typically choose our games based on our company. The table that follows contains reviews for our top ten strategy games this year.

Give Your Family Real Bonding Time

If you can get them away from their cell phones and electronic devices, then even your teenage children will love and ask you to play strategy games with them. This time is crucial not only to strengthening your relationship, but also helps them to develop critical thinking skills. I’m especially partial to strategy games that involve less “luck” and more thinking. It’s been fun to watch our kids grow, develop, and then beat the pants off of us in several of the following games. Without further adieu here’s a list of the best strategy board games of 2011 according to rating, freshness, and staying power (bestseller’s lists). Not all of these games are recent releases, but those which are several years old remain on the list because of our last criteria.

Want to take a look at some party games for this Christmas? Here’s a look at some of the best party board games for adults.

Strategy GamePricePublisher/ Ages/ PlayersDescription/ Review
7 Wonders
Asmodee/ 10+/ 3-7If you're looking for an all new strategy game in 2011, then this is it. 7 Wonders recently won the 2011 Deutscher Spiele Preis which is run by the German magazine Die Pöppel-Revue. This is one of many awards that this enthralling game has been given and I'm sure that there will be many more to come. You and other players play this card game through 3 ages in around 30 minutes. The object is to collect the most points. Some cards make it easier for you further down the road and others have immediate effects. No matter what your strategy there are many ways to win this game. It's well thought out, constructed, not too difficult for beginners, but is complicated enough that you'll enjoy various playing strategies for many games to come.
Forbidden Island
Gamewright/ 10+/ 2-4This is a great new family game because it's a cooperative strategy game where you're trying together to get all 4 treasures by collecting 4 of the same treasure card. At the start of the game the tiles are randomized and players are dropped off on the square that they are supposed to be in order to start exploring the island by taking actions each turn. While you're taking actions each turn to acquire these treasures the island is gradually flooding and sinking while you draw "flood cards". Whether you've never played it before or are an expert you'll definitely lose from time to time because 2 games are never the same and you're constantly trying avoid losing in 1 of 3 ways; if fools landing gets sunk, you can't get one of the treasures, the whole island sinks because of the water level, or if one of the players is on an alone island and it sinks.
Asara
Rio Grande Games/ Rio Grande Games Description:

Compete with your fellow players for the most beautiful towers. Players take on the roles of famous architects and using their chicanery, try to obtain the best construction parts. With these the exuberant towers are erected. Think ahead, use your tactical sense and it will help you to stay ahead of the other players and thereby becoming the greatest architect of the country. Exciting construction entertainment for the whole family.
Agricola
Z-Man GamesThis fun new game pits you as a farmer in 1670 AD with your spouse to start from nothing and then create a farm to live the dream on your own land. For each turn players get to take two actions, one for you and one for your spouse. It's pretty complex and can take as long as 2 hours to play, but if you're the type of person that enjoys a strategy game like Settler's of Catan, then most likely you'll be hooked on Agricola. Who needs Farmville?
The Settlers of Catan
MayFair GamesSettlers of Catan is one of the most popular games in the last decade and it continues to ride the wave on the bestseller's list. It's played with 2-4 players (up to 6 with the expansion) and the object is to get 11 points before your opponents do. This can be accomplished in various ways through constructing settlements, having the longest road, getting victory points, etc... Based upon the resources that you get at first you'll decide one of many ways to play. Before you play you need to know ahead of time that this game should last a good 45-60 minutes so be sure to have enough time. In our opinion this game is best with all 4 people present as it makes your placements a little bit more even. Like Settlers? Try Cities and Knights.
Ticket to Ride
Days of WonderTicket to Ride is another game that's quickly becoming a classic and there are various editions of this game with different rules that make it fun. Up to 5 players can play so you can even invite that fifth wheel friend to come along the ride and join in. The object of the game is to get more points than opponents by completing railway routes through North America, getting the longest train, or preventing your opponents from finishing their routes, thus adding negative points to their totals at the end of the game.
Lost Cities
Rio Grande Games/ From Rio Grande Games:

For the daring and adventurous, there are many lost cities to explore in the Lost Cities Card Game from Rio Grande Games. Send expeditions to the Himalayas, the ever-shifting sands of the desert, the Brazilian rain forest, ancient volcanoes and even deep into Neptunes realm. With limited resources, players must choose which expeditions to begin. Those with high confidence may want to up the stakes: increasing the rewards for success, but risking more should the expedition fail. The player who finds the right balance will find victory! Lose yourself in the excitement of this engaging strategy game!
Dominion
Rio Grande Games/ 13+ / 2-4Dominion is another really great strategy game from Rio Grande Games who continues to impress us with their creativity. It's very balanced as all players start with the same small deck of cards and purchase cards in the middle of the table as they get the money for them. If you take the more efficient route to victory points and can fend off other monarchs with the same idea, then you'll be the ruler of not only your parents small kingdom, but the entire civilization!
Lancaster
Asmodee/ 10+/ 2-5In Lancaster you play as a family of nobles which gives support to the king in order to gain power and prestige. It's a relatively new game from Queen games that few know about but it's worth a look and starting to gain some traction. Similar to other games you are trying to get more points than your opponent, but the strategy goes beyond this. Each player is given a series of knights, which can be upgraded, to go to work for them to rule areas, go to war, or build your castles.
Play as a noble family and give your support to the King and become the most powerful lord of their time
Carcassonne
Rio Grande Games/ 8+ / 2-5This game was released several years ago but is still rated on the bestseller's list. The object once again is to score the most points by placing farmers, knights, and thieves.
Puerto Rico
Rio Grande Games/ 12+ / 3-5
Stone Age
Rio Grande Games/ 12+/ 2-4

If you enjoyed our review or feel like we’ve really missed out on a game that you love, then help us out by leaving a comment with the game and manufacturer’s name, and a description. The table above will get frequently updated and will be influenced by reader opinion.

Board Games for Kids 2011 – 2012

When I was a kid my brothers and I received a new board game each Christmas that we played hours on end. It was usually the best gift we received because it forced us to bond by spending time with one another. In this post I’ll review the board games that are most popular for this year. Only a few of these were actually released in 2011, but it usually takes a couple of years for most board games to get on the bestseller’s list.

Tip for Buying Board Games Online: I recommend that you purchase your board games on Amazon. Individual retailer sites and stores usually set a premium. Amazon is great because it forces all of the retailers, including Amazon, to compete with each other and you can usually get the cheapest price.

Top 10 List of the Best Rated Board Games for Kids Christmas 2011

1.  Rory’s Story Cubes – Encourages Creativity

This game is perfect for encouraging artistic expression in young children. The rules are simple. Roll the 9 dice and then have your child create a story based off of what the dice say. Either arrange the dice in a predetermined order and make them use their problem solving skills or have them pick which ones they want to use at which time. It’s recommended for kids ages 8-12 but my 4 year old girl and 6 year old boy love using them as well. You can also play a game where you make it a short story or take it out as long as you want. My son liked one of them he made up so much that he’s written down on paper.

Overall this is a great game at a great price – under $10. See Rory’s Story Cubes on Amazon or hover over the link for today’s price.

2. Hedbanz Game – Best New Family Party Game

Hedbanz has really caught on since it’s release in late 2010. It’s recommended for ages 8-12 but my wife and I enjoy playing this with our family, friends, and it’s even a success at parties. One of the reason’s is that it’s super simple to understand. Simply place one of the headbands on your head, draw a card, and then you try to figure out what’s on your head by asking other players questions. You start out with coins chips and every time you guess what’s on your head you get rid of one. The first one to get rid of their chips wins.

In summary, there’s a reason that this game is #2 on the bestseller’s list this year – it’s a really fun family game. If I had one complaint it’d be that it’s sometimes difficult to come up with the questions or answer them as another player but after you’ve played it a couple times this becomes easier. See Hedbanz on Amazon.

3. Perplexus Maze Game

I wish they had had this game in the Doctor’s office when I was a kid rather than those boring ones that you just move along the track. This maze game is fun because you can take several ways to your destination by flip twisting and shifting your way through it. It doesn’t get old because of the 100 challenging barriers that that PlaSmart added to it. It has small parts (a marble) so I wouldn’t really recommend it for children under 3.

This is a great game which helps them to improve their motor skills and hand eye coordination. It’s a hit with our six year old boy and I find myself playing it all too often as well! See more about and read customer reviews for the Perplexus Maze Game.

4. Qwirkle – Encourages Critical Thinking and Math Skills

Qwirkle received the parents “gold” award and although it was released a few years ago is still hanging in on the top 5 bestsellers list for board games. You start by drawing 6 different pieces each and then trying to match them up by color and shape. You get a point for each color and shape before you and like Scrabble you can get multiple points by adding a piece that fits to both a row and a column. Additional points can be scored by  making a “Qwirkle” which is made by having 6 of the same shape or color.

Overall this is a great game for kids and adults. It’s been perfect for logical reasoning skills with our kids and quick math/addition skills. This is why Mensa named it their “Mind Game Award Winner”. You can get it new at Amazon for under $15. See Qwirkle on Amazon.

5. Spot It – An All-Around Fun Board Game

Spot it is a great new game that takes matching, a relatively simple concept, and makes it into a competitive madhouse! The game comes with 55 cards and each card comes with 8 images with only 1 matching. Whoever shouts out the symbol first wins. There are four different variations of how you can play the game; The Tower, The Well, Poison Gift, and Hot Potatoes so it never really gets boring.

Overall this is another really fun game for families. It’s small enough that we can take it on trips with us and play it in the car and it doesn’t get old fast. See Spot It on Amazon.

6. Richard Scarry Busy Town

7. Bananagrams

8. Blokus Classics Game

9. Monopoly Junior Edition

10. MindWare Imaginets

Best Family Board Games 2011 – 2012

Playing board games is a great way to bond as a family. You’ll find that your kids learn how to be patient as they wait for their turn, how to help other family members and how to play by the rules. With the right kinds of games, your kids can learn other valuable skills such as spelling, reading, counting, addition and subtraction, and strategy. Make it a point to have a family game night once a week. Pop some popcorn or make a pan of brownies and settle in around the kitchen table for a few hours of laughter, fun and games.

Best Rated Board Games for Families

Hi Ho Cherry-O by Hasbro – For Families with Young Children

You may have played this game when when you were a child, and it still has the same appeal today for kids as young as three. You don’t need reading skills for this game, so the youngest member of the family is able to be competitive. Hi Ho Cherry-O comes with 40 tiny plastic cherries (ages three and up, because the cherries pose a choking hazard for younger children). You’ll fill up the spaces on your tree with cherries, and then spin the spinner to be able to “pick” a cherry or two. Sometimes a dog or bird will “eat” some cherries, and you’ll have to take them out of your basket and put them back on the tree. The first player to have 10 cherries in his basket wins! You’ll need at least two players to play; the maximum is four players.

Wordplay for Kids! by Game Development Group – For Kids in Grade School

Want to work on vocabulary, spelling and concentration skills? This Teacher’s Choice Award winner might be just the ticket. Kids as young as six can play, as long as they have some basic reading and spelling skills. Everyone grabs a pencil and game pad and someone spins the spinner to get two letters that must be used to make a word. Another player can roll the die to get a category. Then, flip over the timer and use your noggin to come up with a great word. Every player gets to move his token farther along the board as long as he makes a viable word, but those who make longer words get to move even more spaces. This is a fun game for up to six players. If you’ve got kids in a wide age range, form teams or maybe give younger players some extra points each turn to even the playing field.

Kids on Stage by University Games – For Active Kids

Kids on Stage is for kids as young as three won a National Parenting Publications award and it’s easy to see why. Basically a version of charades, this game will turn your kids into little actors and actresses and have the whole family laughing. No reading is required; the cards have pictures on them that even the youngest game players can understand. Preschoolers can work on number and color skills as they spin the spinner and them move their game piece to a colored square. They’ll choose a card of the same color, get up “on stage” and act out the picture. Parents or siblings can help, or team up for collaborative fun. Play strictly by the rules and act out silently, or allow some noises for even more hilarity. This game makes a nice transition to play dates as well, since adult help really isn’t needed to play.

Rory’s Story Cubes by Gamewright – For Creative Children

Rory’s Story Cubes is an inexpensive game that is a family favorite, and easy to take on trips to Grandma’s house or on family vacations. It increases writing skills and creativity and can be funny, tragic, thoughtful or even poetic, depending on the writer. Roll the nine cubes, then spend the next fifteen minutes writing a story that incorporates all the ideas represented on the cubes. This game can be played many ways. Each player may make up his or her own story, then read it aloud at the end. Or, the family can collaborate on a story together, with one designated writer. The game maker specifies players of eight years or older, but younger children could certainly be included in collaborative games. Mix things up by only use a few cubes, or give everyone a couple cubes and have them make up a unique story. This game can even be played by one player for individual skill-building.

Apples to Apples Party Box – The Game of Hilarious Comparisons by Mattel  – For Everyone

Apples to Apples just keeps winning award after award, and you’ll quickly see why. It’s a great game for families with older children and teenagers; the manufacturer specifies ages twelve and up, which is pretty accurate. If you find it hard to get your teen talking, this might be the perfect game. Game play is very simple and straightforward. You’ll appoint a judge, then each player gets a set of red colored cards with a noun printed on the reverse side. The judge draws a green card with an adjective on it and places it face-up on the table. Players then choose a card from their hand that is best described by the adjective. Comparisons get funny fast as players attempt to convince the judge why their words are good comparisons. The judge chooses a winner for each round, then another judge oversees the next round. You’ll get stories out of your kids that you would never have imagined. There are more than one thousand cards in this game, so you’ll never run out of creative, funny combinations. Designed for play with four to ten people, but you can certainly play with more.

Best Board Games for Adults

Americans have created thousands upon thousands of board games through the years. Classics include Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, and Mousetrap. However, games like these target children under the age of eight, yet nearly every American plays a board game at least a couple of times a year. This is because board games span a number of different categories and target audiences, and that is why we want to make a list of the top ten board games for adults.1. Scrabble
Scrabble requires a high level of reading comprehension and knowledge of the English language that most children do not possess, and thus targets adult audiences. In this game, players draw seven tiles at a time, each with one letter of the alphabet on them (there are also two elusive blank tiles, which can be used to represent a letter of choice by the player who lays it down). Players then connect their letters to those of other words that have been played by the other opponents, and scores are determined by how common each letter is in the English language, as well as where the tile is laid down triple word scores are the most sought-after spaces in Scrabble.

2. Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit challenges players knowledge of the everyday world and popular culture, and is thus geared toward an older audience. Players roll the die to move to different spaces on a wheel around the board, and there are six main categories that each space may cover. When a player lands on a space, he answers a question from the category that is covered on that space. Once a player has landed on the six spaces that reward a player for a correctly answered question in each category, the player moves to the center of the wheel and answers a question of the choice of his or her opponent, and if he or she does so correctly, he or she wins. This game has been reproduced with several different themes, such as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

3. Balderdash

Although the name of this game does not seem to cater to adults, Balderdash requires a superior knowledge of the English language to be successful. A die is rolled, and the person who rolls the highest becomes the “dasher”, and chooses a word on a card for the other players to define. They may either define the word correctly or make up a faulty but convincing alternative definition. Then all players guess from all the definitions available which is the correct one, and points are awarded accordingly. When a definition is guessed correctly, a player moves his token one space on the board, and the first player to reach the end wins.

4. Chess

If you want a sophisticated board game, chess may be at the top of the list. Chess is probably one of the few board games that has been sold for upwards of $100,000, depending on the material from which the playing pieces are constructed. The object of this two-player game is to kill your opponent’s king, at which point you have won the war. The various playing pieces have different abilities in movement, and players alternate moving one piece at a time. The heritage and sophistication of this classic game give it an appeal that is more mature than most board games.

5. Risk

Risk has the perfect balance of luck and skill required in a board game, in my humble opinion. The sophistication of the concept of this game caters to adult audiences. In Risk, players attempt to take over the world, using armies that fight by rolling the dice. Strategic placement of the colored cubes that represent armies can almost guarantee a player a win, except for the element of dice rolling in this classic board game. Because of this element, Risk can be a relaxing yet strategic game for mature audiences.

6. Life

Like Risk, Life is another board game that can be relaxing and fun for adult audiences. Life is the classic game in which players live out imaginary lives by circling a board, drawing life tiles and earning money depending on their professions and levels of education. Disaster can strike, children are born, and insurance must be paid in this semi-realistic (but luckily stress-free because it is only a board game) representation of real life. Players move about the board in cars by spinning a dial of the numbers one through ten.

 
7. Backgammon

This board game embodies the sophisticated simplicity that appeals to the adult board-game playing population. In this two-player game, opponents move their playing pieces around the board in opposite directions, trying to both eliminate their opponent’s pieces by landing on them, and moving all their pieces to their inner table, in order to move the pieces home. The first player to move all their pieces home wins.

8. Checkers

Similar to but more simple than chess, checkers is a two-player game in which opponents alternate moving their pieces. The first player to eliminate all of the opponent’s pieces wins. Checkers can be played casually with your family or even in tournaments for the avid fan. In many cultures it’s the game to play with neighbors and relatives. Yes, even over chess.

 
9. Pictionary

This game appeals to adult audiences because of its interpretive nature. Players move around the board by correctly guessing what their teammates draw, and the first player to reach the end of the board wins.

10. Monopoly

There are few households in the United States without at least a dust-covered version of this game in some nook or cranny. Monopoly is
the classic game that appeals to those who love money, as they circle the board buying or selling properties, paying taxes, and going to jail. The character pieces in this game are simple, everyday objects, made of metal. The real estate-inspired nature of this game caters to adult audiences.

Although board games were originally intended for children, adults can have just as much, if not more, fun with these iconic American pastimes. Whether they serve for relaxation purposes or for purposes of competition, board games that target adult audiences are among the most popular in the United States.