The definitive 2020 ranked list of the best hand management board games. Hand management is the act of properly handle the game space that is your hand. When you draw cards, they typically go to your “hand” and this area is typically a secret, known only to you. Having to think about things like when to play things, what should you keep if space is limited and what is left in the pool of things to come. It is a very important mechanism and some people have really done it right. These are the top 10 best hand management board games.
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#10 | Everdell
Everdell makes the list of the best hand management board games because the cards and how they role out plays such a meaningful role to an incredibly fun game. They are the creatures of this magical forest, among other things, and everything works together. This game is loved by all and growing in popularity by the day.
Beneath the boughs of towering trees, among meandering streams and mossy hollows, a civilization of forest critters is thriving and expanding. The time has come for new territories to be settled and new cities established. You will be the leader of a group of critters intent on just such a task. There are buildings to construct, lively characters to meet and events to host. For 1 – 4 players, games run about 40 – 80 minutes.
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#09 | Root
Root makes the list of the best hand management board games because it is one of the most interesting strategy titles out there with this whole world that is opened up by the different cards you can play. There many options and many paths you could take, how you manage it all is everything.
You are one of four different races found deep within the forest and you are all fighting amongst yourselves for forest supremacy. You might be someone strong and logical like the cats or someone mysterious that is small in numbers but nimble like the Racoon vagabond; regardless, everyone has their pros and cons. For 2 – 4 players. games last 60 – 90 minutes.
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#08 | Twilight Struggle
Twilight Struggle makes the list of the best hand management board games because it is a tremendous historical adventure of intrigue that is all pushed by the over 100 cards and how you use them. Both the flavor in the theme and the gameplay help make this one of the most popular board games in the world.
The game map is a world map of the period (1940s – 70s), whereon players move units and exert influence in attempts to gain allies and control for their superpower. Twilight Struggle simulates 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.
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#07 | Spirit Island
Spirit Island makes the list of the best hand management board games because it is a fantastic game that has it all. With the modular board, games are always different, and with the different “power” cards, anything can happen. Everything is fun, meaningful and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
You are a spirit of the land with your own unique elemental powers. Every turn, players simultaneously choose which of their power cards to play, paying energy to do so. Combos and weighing fast versus slow initiative are big here. In the Spirit phase, spirits gain energy, and choose how / whether to Grow: to reclaim used power cards, to seek for new power, or to spread presence into new areas of the island. For 1 – 4 players, games last 90 – 120 minutes.
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#06 | Pandemic
Pandemic makes the list of the best hand management board games because it is the gold standard in cooperative races against the clock and happens to be driven by how well you can work your hand (and work with others). The game is absolutely an icon and that is because of how well it is constructed.
Several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand. On each turn, a player can use up to four actions to travel between cities, treat infected populaces, discover a cure, or build a research station. You need to stop if before it is too late. For 2 – 4 players, games last about 45 minutes.
FOR MORE: Pandemic Guide | How To Play Pandemic | Pandemic Review | Games Like Pandemic | Buy Pandemic
#05 | Wingspan
Wingspan makes the list of the best hand management board games because it is an amazing engine builder that is able to be simple to play yet incredibly strategic and that is because there is such a large variety of card options and you really must work your hand. The cards truly are beautiful which makes the whole experience a delight.
In this game, you run a bird sanctuary and you need to nourish and grow birds and bring in new ones all while keeping everything alive. The most impressive thing about this game is the 130+ unique bird cards that each have their own story and effect. Like Gizmos, much of this game is driven by card drafting (in this case bird cards). For 1 – 5 players, games will run about 40 – 70 minutes.
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#04 | War of the Ring
It is always nice when a good piece of IP (Lord of the Rings) has good games behind it. That is the case with this title on the list of the best hand management board games, War of the Ring. There are miniatures and dice rolling, so it is not just about cards, but this is such a big adventure and the cards push everything, it is enough.
One player takes control of the Free Peoples and one the Shadow Armies. Moving across a large world, victory can be achieved through outright military action or by getting the ring to mount doom. Turn revolves around the roll of Action Dice, depending on the face rolled on each die, different things like moving or attacking actions are possible. For 2 – 4 players, games last about 150 – 180 minutes.
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#03 | Brass: Birmingham
Whenever you have the amazing massive engine builders, which is the case with this best hand management board game, you need lots of things to fuel the many different decisions and paths to victory. For this, cards are perfect because they can have dramatic variety. Checkmarks in all boxes here.
This is an economic strategy powerhouse that tells the story of competing entrepreneurs in Birmingham during the industrial revolution (1770-1870). You must develop, build, and establish your industries and network so that you can capitalize on the demand for iron, coal and cotton. The game is played over various important phases. Many decisions need to be made about what you are going to invest in and where you are going to go. For 2 – 4 players, games last 1 – 2 hours.
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#02 | Terraforming Mars
The runner up on this list of the best hand management board games goes to the amazing game of taking on space Terraforming Mars. This is a very robust game with lots going on and has been increased to an even higher level by all the great expansions that have come in a short time. Your hand is pretty much everything, you could have 20 or so cards at one time and you could play 0 – 8 or so cards per turn. There are hundreds of cards that are all different, do different things and are paid for in different ways.
You are a corporation working with other corporations to make Mars inhabitable, but not in a co-op game way, you are very much trying to defeat others and be the best. You have six resources you can build up and you have countless options you can take and which path to victory you want to strategize toward. The overall goal is to get the most points. Raise the life conditions (oxygen, water, temp), mine, settle, focus on science, focus on nature, many options. For 1 – 5 players, games take 1.5 – 3 hours.
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#01 | Star Wars: Rebellion
Star Wars: Rebellion takes the top spot of the list of the best hand management games because this is one epic tale as good as anything out there and it all comes down to how you deal with the massive set of card options that can drive everything in all sorts of directions. A great title that does the mechanic very well.
You control the entire Galactic Empire or the fledgling Rebel Alliance. You must command starships, account for troop movements, and rally systems to your cause. Given the differences between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, each side has different win conditions, and you’ll need to adjust your play style depending on who you represent. Dice rolling through area control is how you win this one and oh boy is it fun. For 2 – 4 players, games last about 3 – 4 hours.