Top 10 Abstract Strategy board games you should play

Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play

In this post, we provide you with our recommended list of the top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games. 

Abstract Strategy games are usually 2 player games, with simple and elegant rules but require deep strategy and tactics. These games have minimal randomness.

Check out our list. Feel free to comment if we have missed out a game you think should be on this list.

If you want to find out more about Abstract Strategy, read our What are Abstract Strategy Games article.

Table of Contents

Age: 8+

Duration: 30 – 180 mins


This game was originally published in Germany by Amigo as Geschenkt …ist noch zu teuer!, meaning Even given as a gift, it is still too expensive!. Amigo’s international edition, titled No Merci! (a delightful multi-lingual pun), had rules in several languages, including English. The game has subsequently been released in other countries under an assortment of names.

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Age: 7+

Duration: 30 – 44 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 1

The king, mesmerised by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately orders his palace in Portugal to be decorated with similar wall tiles.

In Azul, players compete and use different wall tiles to artfully embellish the Royal Palace of Evora walls for the king.

In the game, you will set up a factory of tiles and each player will have a player board that tracks their tile patterns as well as tiled walls.

The game is played over multiple rounds.

Each round involves the following:

  1. Players taking turns to pick tiles from the factory or the centre and attempt to complete patterns on their board
  2. Once the patterns are completed, players attempt to move them to their walls. Once a tile is placed on the wall, points are scored. There are also situations where players lose points for tiles that are not used.

The game ends when at least one player has completed a horizontal line of 5 consecutive tiles on their wall.

Players tabulate their scores and the person with the highest score wins.


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Age: 8+

Duration: 15 – 30 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 2

Patchwork is a 2 player game with the players’ objective to construct the most aesthetically pleasing and high scoring patchwork quilt, done so on a personal 9×9 game board.
Using buttons (the currency utilised in the game), players purchase patches for their quilt, also enabling them to earn button income and advance time tokens. The player with the most buttons in their possession wins the game.
The unique feature about this game is that players do not have to necessarily alternate between turns, rather whoever’s time token is furthest behind on the time board takes their turn.
This may result in a player taking multiple turns in a row before their opponent can even take one.

On each player’s turn they can take one of the following 2 actions:
1. Advance and Receive Buttons
2. Take and Place a Patch

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Age: 9+

Duration: 30 – 60 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 3

Yinsh is a complex and compelling 2 player game where players must try and arrange a row of five markers with their colour face up. Each player commences the game with five rings on the board and each time a ring is moved, a marker is left behind.

If a player succeeds in forming a row of five, they may remove a ring as an indication they have done so with the first player to remove 3 rings winning the game. However, whilst each row formed brings a player closer to victory, it also means they have one less ring to play with, thus, making them weaker.

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Age: 8+

Duration: 30 – 45 mins

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 4

Stained glass artisans of the world, welcome to Sintra! Who will best furnish the palace windows with stunning panes of stained glass? Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra (part of the Azul series) challenges players to carefully create beautiful coloured glass windows with more efficiency than other players. With new unique art and beautiful components in Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, players are required to complete their windows without damaging or wasting supplies in the process.

See also  What are Abstract Strategy Games?

Azul is a tile-based game of collecting various coloured pieces in order to form patterns and it has found a wide audience of both entry-level and experienced gamers.

The game is played over 6 rounds.

At the start of the game, players set up their boards by placing their eight stained glass patterns in a random position.  Each player has a glazier that will start under their leftmost pattern.

Players take turns drawing and collecting tiles.

Players collect tiles to complete one of their patterns.  Each pattern requires five tiles of certain colours, and the pattern chosen must have their picked colour tiles.  They must pick a pattern where their glazier is or any pattern to the right.  The glazier moves to the pattern where a player adds tiles to.

When players place all five tiles on a pattern, they immediately score points for it. Players can also get points subtracted if they hold too many additional tiles during the course of the game.

As players work on their tiles, their glazier will move further right.  Players can decide to spend their turn to move their glazier back to their leftmost pattern.

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Age: 10+

Duration: 30 – 40 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 5

Kahuna is a 3 round, 2 player board game played on a board depicting twelve islands. The objective of this game is to place your bridges and destroy opponent’s via card-play to take control of the 12 islands. By obtaining the majority of bridges around an island, you are able to place one marker stone on it and remove any of your opponent’s bridges to that island which may consequently cause them to lose a bridge majority on an adjacent island and lose a marker stone there. Points are scored for each island with a marker stone on it. The game ends when a player has absolutely NO bridges left on the board.
Game play consists of:
1. Playing Island Cards
2. Controlling Islands: Placing Kahuna Tokens
3. Removing Kahuna Bridges
4. Drawing an Island Card

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Age: 10+

Duration: 25 – 35 mins

Ricochet Robots

Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 6

Ricochet Robots is less of a game and more of a puzzle, which explains why there’s such an odd number of solutions possible.

There’s a four-piece modular board that forms a large room with walls spread around the board.  There are also color-coded targets on boards. Placed on top of the surface are four robots.

The idea for each turn/puzzle is to get the like-colored robot to a randomly selected target. The trick is that once a robot starts moving, it will continue to move until a wall or another robot stops it. Therefore, players are seeking a sequence of moves for the robots that will enable them to move the required robot to the target in the fewest moves.

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Age: 8+

Duration: 15 – 20 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 7

Tsuro is a 2-8 player game that lasts approximately 15 minutes.

In the Tsuro board game, you strive to keep your token on the board longer than anyone else.

This becomes harder as the board fills up due to fewer empty spaces left and other players’ tiles extending into your path in a direction you’d rather not go.

Tsuro is a beautifully simple game that can be easily introduced to new players.

Each turn has three parts:

  • Play a path tile
  • Move the markers
  • Draw tiles

The player currently taking his or her turn is called the active player.
When there is only one marker left on the board, that player wins the game.

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Age: 7+

Duration: 15 – 25 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 8

Blokus is a 2-4 player game which requires players to strategically fit as many of their tetris-like tiles on a shared board as they can. This board however, does not have enough space for everyone and players are not allowed to place a piece that lies adjacent to their other pieces and instead must be placed touching at least one corner of the pieces already placed on the board.
Blokus Gameplay commences with each player choosing a color and places that set of 21 pieces in front of their side of the board. The order of play is as follows: blue, yellow, red, green. The first piece played by each player must cover a corner square.
The game ends when all players are blocked from laying down any more of their pieces. The player with the most points wins the game, accumulated by the number of unit squares placed on the board.

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Age: 8+

Duration: 15 – 25 mins

Hey, That’s My Fish!

Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 9

In Hey, That’s My Fish!,  you compete to catch as much fish as possible with your penguins.

On your turn, you move one penguin in a straight line over hex-shaped ice tiles filled with 1, 2 or 3 fish.

You then collect the hex from where the penguin started its movement from the table.

This creates a gap that penguins can’t cross on future turns.

When a penguin can’t move, it’s removed from play with its owner claiming the tile on which it stands.

The player who collects the most fish wins.

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Age: 8+

Duration: 30 – 45 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 10

Reef is an abstract game themed around trying to build a reef to house marine life. To build the reef, players play cards and place reef bits to complete patterns and score points. The goal is to score the most points at the end of the game.

During the game turn, players take a card from the display or deck and add it to their hand or play a card from their hand to grow their reef or complete a pattern.

Depending on where the player takes the card, they will either spend or earn point tokens.

Players can then choose to play a card and take the coral pieces associate with it and place them on their player board to score the patterns for that card. Points are scored for patterns that appear on their reef. 

The game ends when one color of coral runs ou and scores are tallied.

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Age: 10+

Duration: 30 – 60 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 11

Photosynthesis is a game with beautiful components.

In this game, you compete to grow your trees higher than your opponents.  The board represents the forest where all trees grow.  Players start on the board with a small-sized tree.  Each player’s board stores their spare trees and seeds.  

Gameplay involves the following phases:

  • Photosynthesis

The sun on the board is moved to the next location clockwise and players score Light points based on the trees that are exposed to the sun.  Each tree that can see the sun will score Light Points. Trees need to be in the direct path of the Sun, and cannot be in the shadows of another tree.  Depending on their size, trees can cast a shadow of 1/2/3 spaces.  Taller trees in a shadow, however, can overcome this.

  • Life Cycle 

During this phase, players spend light points performing actions such as Buying Trees or Seeds, Planting a Seed, Growing a Tree, Collecting Score Tokens by scoring their large trees.

When all players have taken their actions, the start player is passed to the next player, and the next round starts with the Sun moving in one position clockwise. When the sun completes its third revolution, the game ends.  Players count up the points on their Scoring Tokens and the player with the highest score wins.

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Age: 8+

Duration: 45 – 60 mins

Cottage Garden

In Cottage Garden, you compete in the art of gardening and are working two beds with a variety of flowers. Whenever no unplanted box is visible on a bed, you have completed it, then you count your points and replace it with a fresh, unplanted bed. You gain points for all of the visible plant pots and planting bells.

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In more detail, players select various polyomino tiles of flower beds from a central market grid, depending on the location of the “gardener”, then place them on one of their two personal garden boards. Each board has several garden elements that are worth points when not planted over, and these are scored on two different tracks as soon as a garden has been finished. Crossing over a line on each track awards bonus tokens that can fill in empty spaces or give you a better selection of the flower bed tiles. Whenever a garden is finished, you receive a new one to complete. After the gardener completes her fifth lap around the market, the game enters its last round. The player with the most points from their completed gardens at the end of the game wins.

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Age: 6+

Duration: 40 – 50 mins


Top 10 Abstract Strategy Board Games You Should Play 12

The abstract game of Qwirkle consists of 108 wooden blocks with six different shapes in six different colors. There is no board, players simply use an available flat surface.

Players begin the game with six blocks. The start player places blocks of a single matching attribute (color or shape but not both) on the table. Thereafter, a player adds blocks adjacent to at least one previously played block. The blocks must all be played in a line and match, without duplicates, either the color or shape of the previous block.

Players score one point for each block played plus all blocks adjacent. It is possible for a block to score in more than one direction. If a player completes a line containing all six shapes or colors, an additional six points are scored. The player then refills his hand to six blocks.

The game ends when the draw bag is depleted and one player plays all of his remaining blocks, earning a six point bonus. The player with the high score wins.

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Age: 10+

Duration: 40 – 50 mins


In Ingenious, a.k.a. Einfach Genial, players take turns placing colored domino-style tiles on a game board, scoring for each line of colored symbols that they enlarge. The trick, however, is that a player’s score is equal to their worst-scoring color, not their best, so they need to score for all colors instead of specializing in only one or two.

In more detail, the game includes 120 domino-style tiles, each consisting of two conjoined hexes; each hex has one of six colors in it, with most tiles having different-colored hexes. Each player has a rack with six tiles on it, and on a turn a player places one tile from their rack onto two hexes of the game board. For each hex on this tile, they score one point in that color for each hex of the same color that lies adjacent to it and each hex in a straight line from it. If a player brings the score of a color to 18, they immediately take another turn. At the end of their turn, they refill their rack to six tiles. (Before refilling their rack, if they have no tiles on it that contain hexes in their lowest-scoring color, they can discard all of their tiles, then draw six new tiles from the bag.)

When no more tiles can be placed on the game board or when one player scores 18 in each color, the game ends. Players then compare their lowest scores, and whoever has the highest low score wins.

Ingenious includes rules for solitaire and team play; in the latter case, two teams of two play, with each player not being able to see their partner’s tiles and teams keeping a combined score that maxes out at 36 instead of 18.

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