Here is your list of the 10 best abstract strategy board games. Defining this category is tough because it is, well, abstract. You must overtake your opponent using the strategic information of the situation or putting complex puzzles together using that same information. These games are usually themeless but that is by no means a hard rule. Ancient games like Chess and Go are the ultimate abstract strategy games. We generally leave the ancient classics off these lists but they deserve a shout out.
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#10 | Torres
Torres is the oldest title on the list of the best abstract strategy board games (1999) and has inspired many. There have been many great games since, but this historic gem is still worth a play. This is an abstract game of resource management and tactical pawn movement. You need to build up castles and position your knights to score the most points each turn. You have limited resources to work with. Torres won the coveted Spiel des Jahres award for its release. For 2 – 4 players, games run about 1 hour each.
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#09 | Battle Sheep
Battle Sheep makes the list of the best abstract strategy board games because it is a ton of game in a very quick amount of time. After a board is formed of pasture tiles, players put their stack of angry sheep tokens on a remote space of the outskirts of the board. Their goal is to move across as many of the pastures spaces as possible before your opponents can do the same. The key to winning one of these quick showdowns is to pin your fellow players in so their sheep are stuck and cannot move. For 2 – 4 players, games run about 15 minutes.
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#08 | Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis makes the list of the best abstract strategy board games because it uses its nature theme to fuel a very interesting light/shade puzzle and it fuels it with an ingenious engine builder. As the sun turns, you need to plant and nourish trees on a quest to get as much light as possible. For 2 – 4 players, games run about 30 – 60 minutes.
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#07 | Tiny Towns
Tiny Towns makes the list of the best abstract strategy board games because it is an ingenious game that blends resource management and civ building with Tetris like puzzle solving. You are the mayor of a small village and have a 4×4 grid to build up. Fill up the correct configurations and combo up to get big points. For 1 – 6 players, games run about 45 – 60 minutes.
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#06 | Hive
This addition to the list of the best abstract strategy board games is probably one of the simplest titles here. In Hive, you have different insect tiles to place on the table. Your limited actions either help you or hurt your opponent. You need to quickly make the many decisions to get your tokens to surround the queen. For 2 players, games run 20 minutes.
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#05 | Onitama
Onitama makes the list of the best abstract strategy board games because it is a very simple but strategic blend of grid and hand management. You and your opponent have two open cards that each display a possible move (and a neutral 5th). On a player’s turn, they choose one of their cards, does it and then switches that with the neutral card. Not much to it but runs deep. For 2 players, games run 15 – 20 minutes.
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#04 | Yinsh
This is a top tier pattern building and grid movement game. It is not just on the list of the best abstract strategy board games, it is a top game across all categories. In Yinsh, you start with five rings on the board. Every time a ring is moved, it leaves a marker behind. Markers are white on one side and black on the other. When markers are jumped over by a ring they must be flipped, so their color is constantly changing. For 2 players, games run about 45 minutes.
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#03 | Santorini
Santorini makes the list of the best abstract strategy board games because it is many little ingenious mechanics working together is very light but robust game. You are builder of a small town in Greece where you need to build up beautiful towers. This 3d movement game has quick and impactful choices to be the first to 3 levels. For 2 – 4 players, games run about 20 minutes.
#02 | Patchwork
The top 2-player showdown game on the list of the best abstract strategy board games goes to one about quilting. You get your own quilt to make and you need to draft Tetris like patch pieces against your opponent to build the best one and create the right clusters to get big points. The 1-on-1 game lasts about 15 – 30 minutes.
#01 | Azul
The game that tops the list of the best abstract strategy board games is about helping the king decorate with Portuguese tiles. Azul is a well crafted set collection and pattern building game. You draft tiles against other players in order to create strategic clusters that are going to get you big points. For 2 – 4 players, games last about 30 – 45 minutes.