If you like board games and you like maps, you’ve almost certainly played Risk and have likely also played such classics as Diplomacy and Settlers of Catan before.
While these are all great games, they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s out there. There’s a whole world of map based strategy board games you’ve been missing out on, until now.
Below we’ve listed 28 of the best, based mostly off rankings from boardgamegeek.com, which is pretty much the ultimate source for board game information.
Unless you’re the world’s biggest boardgame geek (and hats off to you if you are) then we guarantee that there will be at least a few that you’ve never played before.
1. Twilight Struggle
Description: Twilight Struggle is a two-player game simulating the forty-five year dance of intrigue, prestige, and occasional flares of warfare between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The entire world is the stage on which these two titans fight to make the world safe for their own ideologies and ways of life.
The game begins amidst the ruins of Europe as the two new “superpowers” scramble over the wreckage of the Second World War, and ends in 1989, when only the United States remained standing.
It is a quick-playing, low-complexity game. The game map is a world map of the period, whereon players move units and exert influence in attempts to gain allies and control for their superpower.
As with other card-driven games, decision-making is a challenge; how to best use one’s cards and units given consistently limited resources?
Twilight Struggle’s Event cards add detail and flavor to the game.
They cover a vast array of historical happenings, from the Arab- Israeli conflicts of 1948 and 1967, to Vietnam and the U.S. peace movement, to the Cuban Missile Crisis and other such incidents that brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.
Subsystems capture the prestige-laden Space Race as well as nuclear tensions, with the possibility of game-ending nuclear war.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.34/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Twilight Struggle From Amazon
2. Terra Mystica
Description: Terra Mystica is a strategy game with a simple game principle and very little luck involved: You govern one of 14 factions trying to transform the landscape on the game board in your favor in order to build your structures.
On the one hand, proximity to other players limits your options for further expansion, on the other hand though, it provides some benefits during the game. This conflict is the source of Terra Mystica’s appeal.
The 14 artfully designed factions, each having unique special abilities, as well as the exchangeable bonus cards allow for a large number of possible game plays that constantly keep this game entertaining.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.29/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Terra Mystica From Amazon
3. Mage Knight Board Game
Description: Created by the Renowned Game Designer, Vlaada Chvatil, Mage Knight is a game of Epic Exploration and Conquest that mixes character development, intrigue, and the clashing of swords to create a truly unique gaming experience.
Enter the mysterious world of the Atlantean Empire as 1 of 4 Heroes (or villians) in this expansive world that allows players to conquer lands, steer the wheels of history and give birth to legends in this exciting all in one board game.
Choose to play competitively or cooperatively with other players as you roam the countryside affecting your own reputation by being either the benevolent leader or brutal tyrant. Accumulate Fame and experience that translate into more powerful Spells and abilities, then use your power to influence units to join your ranks.
Will you play the Hero and gain favor among the people or will you destroy monasteries to steal Legendary artifacts hidden within?
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.15/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy The Mage Knight Board Game From Amazon
Description: Welcome to Lancashire, England in the 18th Century. The world is about to change from Medieval to Modern. This change will be called the Industrial Revolution.
Can you take advantage of this transformation?
What’s the best strategy? Build cotton mills? Develop new technologies? Dig canals? Produce coal, or maybe steel?
There is no simple answer and the opportunities that arise will be different in each game you play as you move through the Canal and Railway periods, striving to get the best return you can from your investments – hopefully just in time to snatch the next opportunity from under the noses of your rivals.
Brass is a logistical game where you make money to make more money. However, you also need to make certain the industries you’re creating are sustainable, which makes Brass unique and endlessly fascinating.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.03/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Brass From Amazon
5. Paths of Glory
Description: Paths of Glory, designed by six-time Charles S. Roberts Award winner, Ted Raicer, allows players to step into the shoes of the monarchs and marshals who triumphed and bungled from 1914 to 1918.
As the Central Powers you must use the advantage of interior lines and the fighting skill of the Imperial German Army to win your rightful “place in the sun.” As the Entente Powers (Allies) you must bring your greater numbers to bear to put an end to German militarism and ensure this is the war “to end all wars.”
Both players will find their generalship and strategic abilities put to the test as Paths of Glory’s innovative game systems let you recreate all the dramatic events of World War I.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.03/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Paths of Glory From Amazon
6. Power Grid
Description: The object of the game is to supply the most cities with power. Players must acquire the raw materials, like coal, oil, garbage, or uranium, to power their plants (except for the highly valuable ‘renewable energy’ wind/solar plants), making it a constant struggle to upgrade your plants for maximum efficiency while still retaining enough wealth to quickly expand your network to get the cheapest routes.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 8.00/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Power Grid From Amazon
7. Combat Commander: Europe
Description: Combat Commander is a card-driven board game series covering tactical infantry combat in the European and North African Theaters of World War II.
One player takes the role of the Axis (Germany in this first game; Italy and the Axis Minors in later installments) while another player commands the Allies (Russia and America here; Britain France and the Allied Minors in future expansions). This first game of Combat Commander includes units cards and historical scenarios depicting the American German and Russian forces.
The second game in the series will provide cards counters and historical scenarios for British French and Italian forces. Each game includes 6-12 historical scenarios as well as a roll your own scenario system that provides an almost unending variety of map configurations force structures and combat situations. Replayability value for Combat Commander is very high.
A game of Combat Commander has no strict sequence of play.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.93/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Combat Commander: Europe From Amazon
8. Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)
Description: An age of twilight shall once more spread across the galaxy. A broken empire shall once more be re-forged. Hidden powers from dark space shall come forth to make an ancient claim. War shall rage across space.
Secret treaties, political whispers, and devious plots shall again echo through the halls of the imperial city on Mecatol Rex. TI3 is an epic empire-building game of interstellar conflict, trade, and struggle for power.
Players take the roles of ancient galactic civilizations, each seeking to seize the imperial throne via warfare, diplomacy, and technological progression. With new oversize geomorphic board tiles, finely detailed plastic miniatures, hundreds of cards, and a massive plurality of options, TI3 will ship in a massive, epic-size box, with more than 200 masterfully sculpted oversize plastic miniatures – the typical TI units (Ground Forces, Cruisers, Dreadnaughts, Carriers, Fighters, PDS, and Space Docks) as well as two new units (the massive War Sun, and the Destroyer).
TI3 contains new oversize board tiles, more than 400 cards, every known civilization of the Twilight Imperium universe, almost every expansion rule and component ever published for TI, a gorgeous graphical overhaul, and an impressive full color rules set.
The TI gameplay has been refined and redone by original designer Christian T. Petersen. The new design features faster gameplay, and involves players in a far more active game experience with much less down-time. In addition, TI3 will include the new Race Cards, as well a dramatic new approach to the structure of the gameplay itself using the new Command system.
Are you ready for another age of Twilight?
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.88/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) From Amazon
9. War of the Ring (First Edition)
Description: The War of the Ring board game is a grand strategic simulation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the Fellowship of the Ring advances towards Mordor, the Dark Lord Sauron tries to find the location of the Ring-bearer, and unleashes his armies against the last strongholds of the Free Peoples.
Faithful to the epic flavor of the books, characters and strongholds play a major role in the flow of the game and represent the main focus of the action. A simple and fun, dice-based, resource management mechanism is used to determine the various types of action possible for each player.
Smooth, original mechanics have been devised to handle the hidden movement of the Fellowship and the Hunt for the Ring.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.85/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy War of the Ring (First Edition) From Amazon
Description: 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire ruled the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. With peace at the borders, harmony inside the provinces, uniform law and a common currency, the economy thrived and gave rise to mighty Roman dynasties as they expanded throughout the numerous cities.
Guide one of these dynasties and send colonists to the remote realms of the Empire; develop your trade network; and appease the ancient gods for their favor – all to gain the chance to emerge victorious!
CONCORDIA is a peaceful strategy game of economic development in Roman times for 2 to 5 players age 13 and up. Instead of luck of dice or cards, players must rely on their strategic abilities. Be sure to watch your rivals to determine which goals they are pursuing and where you can outpace them!
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.85/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Concordia From Amazon
11. El Grande
Description: Win and you will become El Grande. It is time of awakening. The position of the king is secure, but the high aristocrats, the Grandes, look to expand their influence.
Thus, intrigue fills the country. Their primary weapons are the attendants to the king- the Caballeros. Each Grande has his favorites, recruited from the provinces, which he deploys to accumulate the power he so desires.
Fencing, not with the sword, but with cunning and deceit, the Grandes struggle for power, sending the Caballeros openly into the regions and secretly to the Castillo. Although this strategic game requires subtle strategies, it is easy to learn and comes with an introduction that ensures a fast entrance into the game.
Choose your actions and priorities wisely to become the most powerful Grande and win the game.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.84/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy El Grande From Amazon
12. Commands & Colors: Ancients
Description: Commands and Colors: Ancients allows you to re-fight epic battles of the ancient world. Here the focus is on the two rivals for power in the Western Mediterranean — Carthage and Rome.
Will you as Hannibal triumph over larger Roman armies; or as Scipio Africanus will you beat Hannibal with newer tactics of your own? Units in both armies can only move and fight when ordered. The command playing cards supply those orders providing an element of luck that creates a fog of war and presents players with both challenges and opportunities.
You must maximize your opportunities by playing your command cards judiciously. How well you handle the diverse units their weapons and the terrain will determine victory. Commands and Colors: Ancients contains the battles of Akragas Crimissos River Ticinus River Lake Trasimenus Cannae Dertosa Castulo Baecula Ilipa and Zama.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.83/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Commands & Colors: Ancients From Amazon
13. Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Description: One of the greatest military commanders and tacticians in history descends on the Roman Empire once again. Do you face him as Rome and try to ward the invasion that comes from the North, or do you climb atop your war elephant and show Rome you will take that which they hold most dear: their territory.
Designed with all new artwork from Kurt Miller this is a reprint of the very popular Avalon-Hill version from 1996. The game uses the popular card system, which first appeared in Avalon Hill’s We the People, to recount the Second Punic War from 218 to 203 B.C. Players use strategic-level cards for multiple purposes: moving generals, levying new troops, reinforcing existing armies, gaining political control of the provinces involved in the war, and generating historical events.
When two armies meet on the battlefield, a second set of cards, called Battle Cards, are used to determine the winner. Ultimately both players seek victory by dominating both fronts: military and political.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.83/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage From Amazon
14. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)
Description: King Robert Baratheon is dead, and the lands of Westeros brace for battle. Can you claim the Iron Throne?
Designed for ages 14 and up, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition is a classic game of warfare, diplomacy, and intrigue for three to six players. Taking control of the well-known characters from George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series, players must fight for dominance of the realm.
Will you take power through force, coerce your way onto the throne with persuasive speeches, or rally the townsfolk to your side? With opportunities for strategic planning, masterful diplomacy, and clever card play, this game gives you a host of ways to spread your influence over Westeros.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.82/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) From Amazon
Description: Runewars is an epic board game of conquest, adventure, and fantasy empires for two to four players. Designed by Corey Konieczka, Runewars pits players against each other in a strategic game of battles and area control, where they must gather resources, raise armies, and lay siege to heavily fortified cities.
Runewars takes place in the same popular fantasy universe as the best-selling board games Runebound and Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition, and dozens of fan-favorite heroes and monsters play their part. The wars for the dragon runes are beginning, and only one faction will emerge victorious. What would you do to claim the ultimate power?
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.77/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Runewars From Amazon
16. Tigris & Euphrates
Description: Tigris Euphrates is an award-winning tile placement game of rival dynasties designed by Reiner Knizia and set in ancient Mesopotamia at the time of the first cities. Two to four players take on the roles of rulers building civilizations competing for land and striving to strike a balance between commerce agriculture housing and religion.
Advance your civilization grow your dynasty and accumulate victory points by strategically placing tiles leaders and even monuments on the board. As civilizations grow wars may erupt over the regions limited land and resources or another ruler may incite rebellion among your people forcing you to fight for your territory.
The ruler who has the greatest amount of victory points in the weakest aspect of their civilization wins.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.76/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Tigris & Euphrates From Amazon
Description: In Steam, you build railroads and deliver goods along an ever-changing network of tracks and stations. You build the tracks, upgrade towns, improve your train, and grab the right goods to make the longest, most profitable deliveries.
Score your deliveries and add to your income or victory points, balancing your need to invest against your quest to win the game. Steam contains a beautiful, double-sided game board. The map on each side depicts terrain, towns, and cities at the start of the railway age. The map of the northeastern USA and neighboring Canada is ideal for 3 or 4 players.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.74/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Steam From Amazon
18. Age of Steam
Description: Age of Steam – The Best Railroad Game of All-Time. Age of Steam 2009: The classic and original version is now back in print and looks better than ever. This new edition supports 36 expansions which have been created over the past 6 years for this game–testimony to its amazing popularity.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.73/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Age of Steam From Amazon
19. Railways of the World
Description: Rewrite the annals of history and engrave your name alongside the world’s greatest railroad barons. Build your railroad empire across the Rails of the World and find out if you have the metal and the mettle to outwit and outmaneuver your opponents.
Welcome to Railways of the World, the base game in Eagle Games’ expandable railroad system. Included inside are all of the components necessary to support and supplement the expansion games in the series, such as Railways of England and Wales and Railways of Europe. You will need most or all of the components in this box to play these expansions.
This is an updated version of Railroad Tycoon.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.72/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Railways of the World From Amazon
Description: Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out.
Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. For example the Operation Specialist can build research stations which are needed to find cures for the diseases.
The Scientist needs only 4 cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal 5. But the diseases are out breaking fast and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while also towards cures.
A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.66/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Pandemic From Amazon
Description: Internationally operating investors aim for the highest political influence in Europe. By giving credits they gain influence over the six imperial nations Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and France. These nations desperately need money to build up their economy and to buy troops and fleets.
With their growing power in Europe, they collect more taxes and pay their rising interests to their investors. Because the six imperial nations are under changing influence of different investors, strategic alliances and conflicts arise between them. Sometimes this leads even to war.
The players represent internationally operating investors who stay in the background. The turns in the game are executed by the six imperial nations, not by the investors themselves, who only impose their financial influence onto various nations.
Only the investor who gets the best return on his investments, who gains influence over the most powerful imperial nations, and who can influence the European diplomacy to his benefit, may win the game. Imperial is a challenging strategy game without any luck of cards or dice.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.66/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Imperial From Amazon
22. Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery
Description: It is the late 15th century and a new age is dawning. While searching for a new trade route to India, explorers have discovered a new land.
The first reports tell of strange creatures, exotic people, and fabulous wealth. Captains and adventurers flock to these new lands in search of gold. They are quickly followed by colonists, soldiers, merchants, and missionaries all seeking wealth of one kind or another.
Colonies begin to spring up, and soon competition among the great nations of Europe begins. Take the role of one of Europe’s colonial powers and stake your claim in the New World. As the leader of your nation, there are many paths that lead to victory: It is an Age of Discovery…it is an Age of Empires!
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.62/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery From Amazon
23. Ticket to Ride: Europe
Description: Get ready for a new train adventure as you travel across Europe with Ticket to Ride – Europe, the new edition of the worldwide hit from Days of Wonder.
From Edinburgh to Constantinople and from Lisbon to Moscow, the game will take you on a ride to the great cities of turn-of-the-century Europe. More than just a new map, Ticket to Ride – Europe features brand new gameplay elements including Tunnels, Ferries and Train Stations. Plus, we’ve upgraded you to First-Class accommodations with larger cards, new Train Station game pieces, and a lavishly illustrated gameboard. Like the original, the game remains elegantly simple, can be learned in three minutes, and appeals to both families and experienced gamers.
Ticket to Ride – Europe is a complete, new game and does not require the original version. It is for 2 to 5 players, and it takes 30-60 minutes to play.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.59/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Ticket to Ride: Europe From Amazon
24. Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game
Description: Build an empire to stand the test of time. Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game gives you complete control of an entire civilization.
Players take on the roles of famous historical leaders, each in charge of a unique civilization with their own abilities. Explore a module game board and follow one of four paths to victory as you work your way through the ages.
Based on the acclaimed Civilization video game franchise designed by Sid Meier, Civilization: The Board Game similarly puts players in control of a burgeoning empire. Through strategic planning and precise execution, players can mold the civilization of their dreams.
Can you build the most powerful army to dominate your opponents? Or will you focus on advancing your technology to someday travel to the stars? However you choose to lead your civilization, greatness is always within reach.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.58/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game From Amazon
Description: The Carcassonne is a clever tile-laying game. The southern French city of Carcassonne is famous for its unique roman and medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields.
The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious. The game is for ages 8 and up and 2 to 5 players.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.44/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Carcassonne From Amazon
26. Settlers of Catan
Description: One of the most successful games of all time, Settlers of Catan is a trading and building game set in the mythical world of Catan.
The women and men of your expedition build the first two settlements. Fortunately, the land is rich in natural resources. You build roads and new settlements that eventually become cities. Will you succeed in gaining supremacy on Catan?
Barter trade dominates the scene. Some resources you have in abundance, other resources are scarce. Ore for wool, brick for lumber – you trade according to what is needed for your current building projects. Proceed strategically!
If you found your settlements in the right places and cleverly trade your resources, then the odds will be in your favor. But your opponents are smart too.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.35/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Settlers of Catan From Amazon
Description: The classic game of negotiation, cunning, and deceit is back. Through negotiations, alliances, and intrigue, expand your empire over pre-World War I Europe. Form alliances and unhatch your traitorous plots as you negotiate and outwit— in a delicate balance of cooperation and competition— to gain dominance of the continent. Your success hinges not on the luck of the dice, but your cunning and cleverness.
BoardGameGeek Rating: 7.09/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Diplomacy From Amazon
28. Axis and Allies 1941
Description: 1941: THE WORLD IS AT WAR! Quick and Convenient: Axis and Allies 1941 is designed to be set up and played more quickly than any previous A&A game. In essence, this is a simplified A&A experience that will introduce players to the A&A mechanics and play style.
Play time runs between 1.5 to 2 hours. Familiar Mechanics: This game utilizes the A&A game mechanics present in A&A 1942 2nd Edition, as designed by Larry Harris (the creator of the original game).
BoardGameGeek Rating: 6.52/10
Buy: Click Here To Buy Axis and Allies 1941 From Amazon
More board games posts:
- 32 Best Catan Expansions, Editions & Extensions – Reviewed & Ranked Best To Worst
- 27 Best Risk Board Game Versions Based On Real Player Reviews
- 6 Best Game of Thrones Board Games & Expansions Reviewed & Ranked
- 10 Pandemic Board Game Versions & Expansions Ranked Best To Worst
- 11 Fun Star Wars Board Games You Need To Play
- 14 Best Ticket To Ride Board Game Versions & Expansions
- 21 Unique Monopoly Board Game Versions You Can Buy Online
- 9 Game Of Life Board Game Versions You Haven’t Tried
Have we missed your favourite? Let us know what games you would add to the list, by leaving a comment below:
Mark P says
This list is very much a beginner’s list. The most stunning (good) boardgames with (good) maps include Festung Budapest (for Advanced Squad Leader), Streets of Stalingrad, The Killing Ground, Ardennes ’44, War Between the States (2000s edition, not 1970s edition), and so on. You’ve got to go to hardcore board wargaming for the best maps.
You sir, have no taste.
Kurt Weihs says
I’m going to have to disagree. I have been a wargamer since the mid 70’s and have to disagree. I love wargaming, but to write off any of these games simply because they aren’t wargames is absurd. I also don’t see a need to go hardcore to find good maps. Aesthetically, I typically find just the opposite to be true. The ASL maps and counters have never left the 70’s and while they are good at conveying the information you need to play the game they are not what anyone would mistake for graphically stunning. This pretty much goes for the other games you mention as well. If you are looking for beautiful wargames I am surprised you left out Sekigahara or the La Battaille series by Clash of Arms.
You need to see the full-scale Festung Budapest map if you don’t think ASL maps can be “graphically stunning.”
Dirk Manly says
The list is titled “Best map-based games” not “Most-visually stunning map-based games.”
Honestly, there’s more to game design than creating eye-candy for the tiny-minded folk.
Being an Advanced Squad Leader gamer I have to say I do consider some of the maps to be art, ASL is not necessarily a “best” map based game. Yes, it’s one of the craziest games I’ve played with respect to detail. In that respect I might call it the “ultimate” map based game. But again, that doesn’t make it the best. Best often appeals to many, and ASL is just too laser focused to be of interest (or in the capability) of many gamers.
I would hazard to say that Combat Commander, in the same vein as ASL and on this list, is in fact a better game. It’s easier to play, less expensive, more accessible, yet capture almost everything ASL does while doing it in 20 pages or rules instead of 200.
I’m not bashing ASL. It’s an incredible system, but the system it uses to simulate tactical WWII warfare is analogous to using a nuclear weapon to dig a hole to plant a shrub in your yard.
That being said, I’ve always had a soft spot for Roborally, but it didn’t make this list. =)
Scott Moore says
Terra Mystica and Paths of Glory are certainly not beginner’s games by any definition of the word beginner. It is also obvious to anyone who reads through it that this is a list of best games that happen to have maps and not a list of best maps featured in games.
Yes yes yes, those are all good, but the single best, most complex, difficult, strategy-based, largest, and longest map-based board game is indisputably Axis & Allies 1940 Europe & Pacific combined to make Axis and Allies GLOBAL!
I can’t believe Letters from White Chapel isn’t on this list. It should definitely be in the top 10 IMHO.
Mikołaj Witkowski says
Probably because it is not a strategy game.
Scott Moore says
Sigh, why can’t people read…? This is a list of best games based on the bgg rankings. Letters from White Chapel is at the number 135 position, so would make it among the top 100 map-based board games but not the top 28.
Anything with art from Mark Mahaffey
Scott Moore says
Well, not anything…He has certainly contributed his artwork to many fine games, but not all of them are among the best. Kingdom of Heaven was a disappointment – I’ll stick to Crusader Rex for my fix of that particular historical theme. That designer’s follow up, Richard III – another game featuring a very nice Mahaffey map – was also below par.
Anye Freer says
It may be a “beginners list” if you are looking from a wargaming-only perspective, since many of these are not wargames but many of these games are by no means beginners games (Twilight Struggle, Paths of Glory, Age of Steam are not games anyone with a lick of sense would use to introduce someone to gaming.) I think it’s an excellent cross-section of gaming with a few lightweight, a number of middleweight, and a few pretty meaty games spanning Eurogame, Ameritrash, and CDG genres. These maps are generally attractive and interesting and will appeal to a wider audience than the most hardcore wargames would.
AV Dad says
I take issue with your warmongering description, but do agree that some very nice game maps have been left off.
Martin Sharman says
Anye, I never claimed to have more than a lick of sense, but I have used Twilight Struggle to introduce quite a few people to modern boardgames. Admittedly not as the first game – Power Grid took pole position – or their second – the original Brass got that place. But the third.
It matters who the newcomer is. In this case they were all MSc or PhD candidates or post-doc researchers and I felt they could easily deal with the game concepts in TS – the play is really not that complex, despite the game’s strategic depth. The group is still going 3 years later and TS is among the best-liked games, even if it doesn’t get to the table often.
Paths of Glory, not so much. Great game, but so many if… then… that I still haven’t found anyone I feel would hold still long enough for me to teach the game.
This is an excellent list and better than about 99% of the “here are some new boardgames you haven’t tried” type article. Great variety and all of these are truly great and/or influential games. No need for hardcore wargames to access great maps.
I don’t think this was a best map list (Command and Colors Ancients is a
blank map for instance!) although i too thought it was before
rereading, but a best games that have maps list. That said I would love
to see a best maps on boardgames list (and agree about Festung
Simon Skov Hansen says
A bunch of good games on here! I can’t help but think that the game with the most spectacular map has to be High Frontier, a game about industrializing and colonizing our solar system. You can check out the map here: http://i.imgur.com/hZ58bEA.png
Yes, “The High Frontier” map. particularly with the interstellar expansion on it is such a work of art that I’ve been serious tempted to buy an extra copy of the map just to hang it as a work of art.
AV Dad says
That is a wonderful map! How’s the game?
First time I saw the High Frontier map, for a few minutes I thought somebody was pulling my leg, until I slowly came to realize this is an actual game and not a joke of how gaming looks to non-gamers.
normal person says
Hard agree. High Frontier is a beautiful map, but it also bakes a ton of real physics into the route layout in a way that makes it actually a useful tool for rationalizing about our solar system.
There are a million map-based games where the use of maps isn’t remarkable. Like, Roads & Boats and Catan are both great, important games, but neither is doing more with the map than the other really. I don’t need Roads & Boats on this list.
The only competition for me is Indonesia – the game is beautiful and it is because it’s on a beautiful map.
Mikołaj Witkowski says
Why War of the Ring first edition? Second is better and doesn’t lose anything compared to the first.
richard scales says
definitely a mixed bag in terms of ease of access. How about Thurn und Taxis?
Scott Moore says
Thurn und Taxis isn’t even in the top 200 games on bgg. It is a nice enough light game to enjoy with people who don’t often play board games, but it isn’t going to feature on many top 20 lists.
Risk is the best says
ok, so risk without a shadow of a doubt dosent make the cut well my friends i am not returning to this site for information
Scott Moore says
Risk certainly doesn’t make the cut! It is listed at number 10,674 on boardgamegeek – this means that, according to tens of thousands of boardgaming afficionados, there are over 10,000 better board games out there. If you like the game then by all means play it, but don’t delude yourself that it is in any way a good, or even a mediocre, game by any criteria.
i think Risk should be on here. the tens of thousands of board-gaming aficionados most likely have nowhere to be anytime soon and are not looking for a nice, simple game that isn’t difficult to learn. Risk is that type of game. Also if you haven’t noticed you got your information from a site called ‘boardgameGEEK’. that’s not going to appeal to the majority. Try finding the sales of board games then come back to me.
Scott Moore says
In case you haven’t noticed, the name of list is “the 28 BEST Map Based Strategy Board Games You’ve Probably NEVER played”. Risk fails on both counts – it is not among the best, and most people have already played it.
“the tens of thousands of board-gaming aficionados most likely have nowhere to be anytime soon” This is nonsense. Risk is not a short game – far from it. There are many better and shorter games than Risk. How about this for sales: Ticket to Ride has sold more than 3 million copies, Carcassonne has sold more than 7 million and Catan has sold more than 22 million copies (including expansions). And you think that they don’t appeal to the majority?!?
Excuse me, I realize responding late but I just saw this while shopping for a friend.
If one really wants to play strategic games, I would recommend Chess, Go, or if you want map based Kriegspiel.
With Kriegspiel, you be sure to have your measuring tape and calculator/computer handy. Also the board set can take depending on your degree of accuracy desired a few hours to a few weeks. Also do you have the, I am guessing, $1,000.00 – $2,000.00 per army for doing the campaigns/battles? Stuff is made of plastic now, back when I used to play, in the 1970’s, an army was hand painted and made of lead, tin, or pewter and an army cost over $5,000.00.
Risk is a simple game. It is easy to play and fun. It does not take war gaming geeks to play it. It just takes a few people sitting around a table.
I doubt whether you have either the patience or mental focus to play Kreigspiele though.
Dirk Manly says
Risk is a boring game.
Stephen C. says
“Maria,” a 3 player wargame, has a rich and complex map. And while it’s not all that complex, the gameboard for “1775: Rebellion” is still very nice to look at. And of course there is the “18xx” series with its wide array of maps (half the series, anyway – games like 1853 are more focused on track building, but games like 1830 are about stock investment and manipulation).
Still, I guess I can’t complain too much about these picks, though, as many games from my collection ended up on this list!
I loved one I played in the 80s I think called London Taxis. It was actually fun!
Bruno Faidutti says
It looks like my last comment was lost somewhere…. So, here it is again.
Here is my short essay abiut the use of maps from a boardgame designer point of view, with lots of examples. It doesn’t focus on what games are good or bad, but on which types of map are used and why. It could deserve some updating with new examples – the maps of Pandemic or Thunderbirds, for example, are extremely interesting.
(Scroll down for the english text)
Scott Moore says
Yes, I suppose that it might make the top 28.
Matt Watkins says
Hey thanks. This list was just what I was looking for. I’ve been realizing that while I really like reading the rulebooks of worker placement or other ‘multiplayer solitaire’ games, I find playing them somewhat less compelling. Still fun, but not as meaty as I usually want. But I really do like strategic, elegant games that put me in conflict with other players for control of a map. My top 3 enjoyable games right now are Terra Mystica, Brass and Twilight Struggle, so to see those right at the top of this list lets me know I’m in the right place.
Kevin Smith says
This would be a great place to pose this question someone else posed to me:
Hello, sir! I am trying to relocate 2 tabletop RPG’s I played years ago in Spectra. One was set in medieval Britain and involved alliances, surfs, and sheep as the primary resource. The other was set in feudal Japan and relied on the gathering and trade of rice to supply armies for combat. I realize these are terribly vague descriptions, but do you have any idea what they might be?
Howard Lee says
before there’s this game board “Power Play” – its a big foldable gameboard with a lot of mini planes/ships/tanks and it has a hex lines and a monopoly-style on its side. sadly, I couldn’t find it in the web.
I would put Diplomacy at the top of the list but I’m at least glad to see it up there. My one complaint is the glaring omission of Supremacy. I’d happily kick about 25 of the games on this list off to make room
I love this tutorial and will surely follow your blog! Great job!
No “History of the World?”
Ogagabillions Toosweet Onowigh says
Carlos Soto says
Well; I must be a real board game geek ’cause I recognize all but one of the games on this list, own 13 of them and have played 16.
I probably would add Imperial 2030, Nippon, Shogun, Lewis & Clark, Panamax, Blood Rage and Scythe to this list. Also, it would be better tho have War of the Ring 2nd edition instead of the 1st.
Honorable mention: Through the Ages (whichever version)… just joking 😀
I didn’t recognize any of these board games, but I am looking for two that I remember playing as a child and that my own children enjoyed. One is called “The Glory Hole”, and it is about a gold mine set in the Old Wild West of early American settlers, (or maybe it was Australia?). It wasn’t a board game that I bought…I think it was taken from a magazine or something, because I recall it being more like a large sheet of heavy paper which folded in half rather than a board, and there may have even been holes where staples had been down the center. We used buttons and shells as moving pieces. The other is called “Number Land” and can you guess what that one is about? This one featured something about the “Seven Seas”, sailboats, chickens (yeah…that’s what my son said) and such. We would appreciate any leads regarding these two games.
Print My Game says
Nice list of board game!
David Harms says
This isn’t a board game per say, but my students found it very engaging in the class room: HistorySimulation.com They have gamed: Imperialism, The American Civil War, WWI, WWII and The Cold War.
very good thanks
Urgent help, please! I bought my nephew the Brilliant Maps book last year. He loves it (I struck lucky as it was a spontaneous purchase at a train station bookshop). It’s his 18th birthday soon (hence the urgent!) and I want to get him something he’ll love just as much. Looking at the Brilliant Maps website I see there is no sequel to the book but there are lots of games… He is super bright, has loads of opinions, is into politics and debating and is hoping to take a degree in War Studies. He has Asperger’s – saying this in case some of you game board fans will know whether this will make a difference in any choice. He lives with mum, dad and sister (15). I expect his dad will be his first choice game companion. (Pandemic made me chuckle because of the current situation…) Any advice very gratefully received! Thank you so much! Kathryn
Brilliant Maps says
I’m personally a big fan of Twilight Struggle, Diplomacy, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and the ever classic risk.
Paul the Go Player says
I’m not certain what counts as map-based? What about Kingdom Builder? Or Survive! (now that’s an interestingly different game)? Or even Mississippi Queen? Terra and Catan are both great games in my opinion. Pandemic and TTR are not really to my taste. Not sure about Diplomacy as I never finished a game of it! Carcassonne of course is fun but to me it feels pretty much like a thinly disguised abstract game rather than being strongly themed (although of course the artwork is very nice).
I personally think world in flames (collectors edition) deserves a place up there. It is the largest purchase able boardgame with an awesome map and is considered the best ww2 grand strategy boardgame.
There was a game I played in the late 60’s early 70’s. I can’t remember the name. It was a multiplayer game. In some ways it was like Risk, but more sophisticated. The board showed all the countries of the earth, BUT it was imaginary countries & continents. Each player started out with a section of the world — which was divided up into several regions. Each region was denoted with various resources. As a player, each turn you were given X amount of capital and of course all of the resources under your domain. With this you could build ground troops, air craft and ships. If your domain was at war, then your capital increased — maybe doubled (can’t remember). So it is advantageous to be at war. Of course, you wanted to attack and obtain those regions of your opponents which contained the most resources (strengthening you and weakening them). I post this because I can’t remember the name of the game and was wondering if anyone else has. Thanks!
I thought that Civilization and the computer game all derived from an older version of civilization from a publisher like Avalon Hill and fantasy flight version is a simpler and more visually appealing game. Kind of like x-wing is based on an old boardgame star fighter I think. Star Fighter had lots of color used in it and looks great for its time.
Great list. Have you ever heard of Claim The Realm?