Strategy Board Games for Kids and Teens

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Strategy Board Games


My son-in-law, Josh Watson, loves strategy board games. And he plays them. A lot!  I don’t have the patience for most of them but some of my children love them and as I am sure many of your children do too,  I decided to interview him.

Meryl – How long have you been playing strategy board games?

Josh – About four or five years –  only seriously for one or two years.

Meryl – Apart from the fun, do you think this has any educational benefits?

Josh – Yes, although I would say that is not why I do it. I do it because I am interested in it. But I think there are a lot of things it has helped me out with. From some historical board games I have gained a sense of history; others have given me a mind for problem solving. There are some that teach you how to manage finances, which is a good skill to have. For instance,  in Age of Steam  you take out loans and try to pay back as little interest as possible on the loans,  and you repeat that process and try not to go bankrupt.

Meryl – If people wanted to get started in strategy games what game would you suggest?

Josh – Games like “Settlers of Catan” because it’s very popular and there are games like “Ticket to Ride” that are also popular. Those are the mainstream ones that are gaining in popularity.

Meryl – If somebody liked “Settlers of Catan”, what would you would suggest if they were ready to move on to the next stage and become a bit more “serious”?

Josh – Games like Puerto Rico, Carcassonne, Dominion, and El Grande.

Meryl – How long do most of them take to play?

Josh – It depends but for most of them you are looking at two to four hours at most.

Forbidden Desert Board Game

Meryl – Are there any shorter ones you can play?

Josh – Yes! Like Hanabi, and Kemet.  I would suggest going on It’s the number one board gaming website.  Take a look at their extensive list of top games – they have all sorts of genres. One that won the educational award is “Forbidden Desert

Meryl – Are there any that are suited to children, say upper elementary/middle school?

Josh – Yeah! I’d say “Forbidden Desert”.  I’d say there is a whole genre out there of kids’ games. You can even get people to play Werewolf which is kind of a version of “Mafia”. Games like Resistance, are a little lighter, more “party” game for the kids.

Forbidden Desert Board Game

Meryl – You mentioned earlier that some games gave you a feel for history. Can you mention a few of those?

Josh – One is Twilight Struggle. In fact, most strategy board games are rooted in history. Sekigahara is another. And games like Combat Commander are WWII history games. It depends on what you’re looking for. There are also ones like Manhattan Project. It’s a little more whimsical but still rooted in history.

Meryl– -The final question:  What is your top favorite? Why?

JoshWar of the Ring, it’s artistically beautiful and compelling in the game and replicates the book in a very real way. You are forced to make decisions that the characters in the book were forced to make and it feels real.


I am sure some of you have favorite strategy board games you play as a family. Please share in the comments.

Photo of Twilight Struggle used in main image is CC BY-SA 2.0 from Nacho Facello

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  1. CannaEdulis says:

    We play several that Josh mentioned. Some others we like are Flashpoint because the group works together (fighting fires to rescue people in a burning building). Seven Wonders gets played quite a bit, and so does Risk Legacy. For our creative side, we sometimes pick up Concept, Dixit, or Cranium.

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