The Best War Board Games 2024
12 mins read

The Best War Board Games 2024


The best board games come in a lot of diffrent themes, but war is one of the most popular. And for good reason — war board games can be incredbily fun and exciting. All of the games below will give you a feeling of epic battle. Some may do it in an evening, some may take all day, but none of them will sell you short on battle strategy along the way. Gather some friends, get the snacks and drinks together, and settle in for a long haul thrill ride.

A few tips to help longer games run smoothly. If you can, get a pdf copy of the rulebook — most publishers make them freely available — and have everyone read it before the game. Insist players do “admin” tasks like sorting their hands or counters outside their turn. You may also want to impose a time limit per turn if all players agree. Now, on with the games.

TL;DR: The Best War Board Games

Sniper Elite: The Board Game

Sniper Elite: The Board Game

Fans of the video game series might be surprised by the close-quarters action depicted in this tabletop adaptation, but that shouldn’t discourage you from its considerable charms. The stealth aspects are wholly intact, as the sniper player is trying to stay slow and silent while up against a punishing clock, and the roving squads controlled by the German player who are trying to sniff him out. In addition to that ever-escalating tension, it’s also got a sense of historical veneer that the video game lacks, with thematic components and more realistic combat. The game comes with two different boards and a variety of sniper loadout options and squad specialists for the German player, ensuring it’s got tons of replay value and tactical decision-making to explore.

Twilight Imperium IV

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition

Games don’t get more epic than this all-day affair of sci-fi civilization building. It’s got everything you could want from the genre. A range of bizarre aliens research technology and build fleets to fight over a random galactic hex map. There’s inter-player diplomacy, of course, but also in-game political decrees to vote on. Yet while dealmaking is important, it rests on a rock-solid strategic core to challenge you. The strategy card system, where each player picks a special focus each round, is a particular mechanical gem. This fourth edition retains the sweeping scope but trims lots of fat, making it more accessible. For more, check out our list of the best strategy board games.

Blood Rage

Blood Rage

In Blood Rage, you control a Viking clan heading into the end times of Ragnarök and trying to gain as much rage, axes and horns as they can to win glory for their warriors and a place in Valhalla. As delightfully angsty as that all sounds, the violent exterior and great-looking components hide a game of considerable strategic subtlety. You’ll be drafting cards to support your actions each round, carefully marshalling your limited supply of warriors and monsters to try and pillage map regions and fulfil quests to earn that all-important glory. Of course, everyone else has the same designs, so you’ll frequently be fighting them for the privilege using an exciting blind battle card system. A fantastic blend of tactical challenge, theme and outright brutality, this is a definitive conflict-based classic.

Dune

Dune

Dune is a very different kind of futuristic game. Based on Frank Herbert’s famous novel and first released in 1979, it was years ahead of its time. There’s little randomness in Dune. Instead, the game rests on a fascinating balance of hidden information. Each player takes the role of a faction from the book, with asymmetric special powers. The Atreides, for example, get to peek at cards as they’re auctioned off blind, while the wicked Harkonnen know all the secret traitors in play. The result is an astonishing evocation of the narrative and political themes of the novel. This new edition has cleaner rules and spanking art.

Kemet: Blood and Sand

Kemet Blood and Sand

Imagine all the gods and mythical creatures of ancient Egypt were real, and that they came down to the desert sands one day to tear each other into itty-bitty pieces. That’s Kemet. You could talk about the tech pyramids that allow you to tailor your strategy with special powers across attack and defence, and feed those into your board play. You could talk about how everyone starts with the same battle cards to use in fights, leading to terrible mind games as you try and out-guess what your opponent will play and what they’ll discard. But mostly this is all about out-and-out violence at a breathtaking pace, as the peculiar board layout means there’s no hiding, and everyone is a mere skip away from tearing everyone else’s mummified guts out.

Star Wars Rebellion

Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars Rebellion takes a more liberal approach to reconstruct a favorite franchise on your table. It’s clearly Star Wars. The Rebellion player is the underdog, trying to survive militarily while winning planets over to their cause. The Empire, meanwhile, wields the power of huge armies to crush the slightest sign of dissent. It’s a fascinating asymmetric struggle, peopled by well-known characters and events from the movies. But beyond the famous faces, the unfolding narrative is up to you. It’s all woven together with tight strategic strings to ensure each turn is full of challenge and variety.

See more of the best Star Wars board games for additional options.

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening The Bear

Tactical wargames, where the action is depicted at the level of squads or individual soldiers, are a tricky genre to get right. There’s so much detail available that it’s easy to get bogged down in over-complex systems, which, in turn, slow down what should be a pulse-pounding encounter. No game gets the balance better than the Conflict of Heroes series, which uses a simple system of action points, dice and differing front and rear defence values to offer players excitement, realism and tactical challenge all in one neat package. While it starts out simple, it soon expands to include artillery, vehicles and tanks for a full World War 2 experience. And the command point system, a tiny pool of extra actions you can invoke during your opponent’s turn, is a stroke of genius, with every point spent feeling like giving blood.

Undaunted: Normandy & Undaunted: North Africa

While in no way a simulation, the way these games leverage the deck building genre to conjure the tactics of infantry combat from just a few rules is astonishing. Officer cards let you add new unit cards to your deck, imitating the issuing of orders and supplies to soldiers in the field. Those unit cards, meanwhile, let you move the matching troop counters on the modular scenario map, fighting the enemy and seizing objectives. Casualties thin your deck, making units less able to act as their morale erodes under fire. With tense firefights and pivotal moments aplenty, you won’t find a more accessible or engaging way to refight the Second World War.

Root

Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right

One of the shorter games on the list, Root is a bold design that throws asymmetry to the fore. There are four factions fighting for control of the woodland realm, each with its own unique rules and feel. The Marquise de Cat and the Eyrie play standard, if quite different, conquest games. The Woodland Folk are guerrilla fighters against those invaders. Finally, the Vagabond is a lone trickster-hero. Don’t let the cute theme and quirky art put you off — this is a red-blooded game of brutal strategy, where each play asks big questions about politics and governance in the real world.

Read our review of Root.

Twilight Struggle: Red Sea

Twilight Struggle: Red Sea

The original Twilight Struggle is often counted among the best board games ever made, but there’s a problem: it’s complex and takes three or four hours to play. This version keeps the core card-play of the original that made it so compelling, with players facing endless dilemmas whether to risk triggering key events for their opponent as they navigate their hand of cards, but cranks down the play time to a mere hour or so. It’s still full of meaty, awkward decisions to navigate, but a new scoring mechanic helps ratchet up the excitement in the shorter game. And for history buffs there’s the chance to explore this little-known corner of the Cold War as it unfolded in East Africa, with real historical events simulated on the player’s cards through the game mechanics, and a book of designer’s notes to illuminate their view of the history.

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game

Speaking of politics, this game re-creates all the conniving and backstabbing of the books and TV show. To do so, it borrows a trick from classic Diplomacy: only one player can win, but no player has the resources to win alone. Alliances and eventual treachery are thus inevitable, keeping everyone on a knife-edge. It’s governed by a thrilling secret order system, meaning you can’t know your opponent’s intentions until it’s too late. Atop this time-tested formula are lots of sweet bells and whistles from the world of Westeros to add strategic interest. A great game in its own right, it’s a must for fans of the franchise. Also check out our picks for the best board games for adults.

War of the Ring

War of the Ring 2nd Edition

Another top title for lovers of the source material, this is by far the best of the many attempts to board-game Tolkien. At its heart is a brilliant division into two games on the same board. First is the epic clash of armies across Middle-earth, as the free peoples wake up and resist the threat of the dark lord Sauron. Beneath is the quest of the Fellowship to throw the One Ring into the fire before Sauron conquers all. The genius of this design is the way the two halves interweave at every turn, leaving a tricky tactical balancing act for players to master.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy

Eclipse: 2nd Dawn for The Galaxy

While the Twilight Imperium series has tended to emphasise warfare and diplomacy over long term planning, Eclipse attempts to bring more strategy to sci-fi civilization-building. Smart systems for initiative and technology upgrades mean you’re always having to look several steps ahead as you branch out from your starting hex into the unknown reaches of the galaxy. That tactical depth doesn’t detract from the feeling of exploring the cosmos, designing ships and taking the fight to your opponents. It’s just that when you get there, you need to be more reliant on having the right tech and the right units than falling back on the luck of the dice.

If you like these, be sure to check out of picks for the overall best board games and the best board game deals.

Matt Thrower is a contributing freelance board game and video game writer for IGN. (Board, video, all sorts of games!)



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