Just so you know, this post contains affiliate links. That means if you use them to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. You can read my full affiliate disclosure HERE.
Ready to sink your teeth into a meaty board game? Then this list of the best tactical war board games is probably a good place to start. After all, I’ve rounded up some of the best (and complex) options in the genre.
But it’s not just for hardcore gamers: There’s options here for players who want to pour over a game board for hours and lighter choices for quick gaming sessions.
The Best Tactical War Board Games for All Skill Levels
This is the quintessential “hardcore” war game that’s close to the hearts of most tactical war board game fans. You don’t need to be a fan of the Star Wars franchise to enjoy it, although it does make it more fun since it’s heavily themed.
With over 150 plastic miniatures and 2 game boards this is the type of game that you’ll need to set aside a couple of hours to enjoy. Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself why it’s one of the top ranked board games on the market.
If you thought Star Wars: Rebellion was a heavy board game then Twilight Imperium might not be for you. Each playthrough runs 2-4 hours (and that’s once you know the rules) as players move their ships around the board in a battle for galactic empire domination.
Despite being complex, Twilight Imperium is fairly easy to learn and play. Each player controls one of seventeen factions and cards are drawn at the start of each round to shake things up.
Since the tile game board and drawn cards change each play session you’ll never get the same Twilight Imperium experience twice. If all this sounds great you definitely need to add this one to your tactical war board game collection!
At first glance it’s hard to believe that Root is a complex strategy war game, let alone one of the best ones out there. It’s way too cute!
Each player controls a unique faction that has its own goals and abilities on the board. This creates an epic gameplay experience where, rather than everyone working toward the same goal, you’re trying to secure a unique victory condition while preventing other players from achieving theirs.
Besides the theme, one thing I really like about Root is that it plays fine as a 2-player game (although it’s better with 4) and is ages 10 and up (instead of 14+ like most tactical war board games).
It’s rare to see a TV series tie in that gets things right so the Game of Thrones board game is a surprising gem in the tactical war game genre. Fans of the show (or books) will enjoy taking control of one of the seven great houses and attempting to conquer all of Westeros.
The game play consists of three phases. First is the “Westeros” stage that introduces cards as “global actions” that affect all players.
The second “planning” stage is the most important; players place face-down tokens that will dictate actions and movement. In true Game of Thrones style you can also make alliances at this stage to strategize with (or betray) the other players.
All actions happen at once during the “action” phase. This creates an element of surprise since you don’t know what your opponents will do as you plan your attack.
Choose this one if you want a tactical level game that lets you make strategic decisions both on the board and with the other players.
No, it’s not a tie-in for the new movies – this is actually a re-release of the original Dune tactical combat war board game that was released back in 1979. Fans of the books will appreciate the attention to detail with the theme, cards, and miniatures but anyone can join in on the battle to control Arrakis and still have fun.
Like most tactical war board games you’ll be placing soldiers on the game board to seize or maintain control of different regions. What makes Dune unique, though, is the way they’ve incorporated the spice, storms, and sandworms from the series into the gameplay.
Building off accurate historical events, Undaunted: Normandy is a 2-player deck-building tactical wargame that has players reenacting key World War II battles as either the American or German forces. One element that sets this apart from other similar games is the permadeath: when you lose a troop they’re removed from play.
If you want a tactical experience without overly complex gameplay or long time for play, this is a great war game for your collection.
Finally, since it’s almost impossible to find tactical war board games that play well with only two people, Undaunted: Normandy is easily the best strategy board game option for 2 players out there.
I’ve heard Small World described as “similar to Risk” but it’s really so much more. Another fun pick up and play style game (a nice break if you usually play heavy tactical war board games), Small World combines tactical elements and area control in a unique fantasy theme.
Players choose from 14 fantasy races to conquer as much of the board as possible each round. The strategy comes from the way races are used: you select a new one each round. After the first round you’ll have one active race and one in decline – stacking these successfully is the key to victory.
Lord of the Rings fans and board game lovers can all agree that War of the Ring isn’t just a solid LOTR game, but war game in general. If you’re the type who feels that war games just aren’t the same without a dice this one’s for you.
It’s important to note that while it’s technically for 2-4 players, War of the Ring is at its best with only two people.
Few games are quite as satisfying as Eclipse when you reach that late-game final battle moment. If you’re looking for war gameplay where the only way to win is by defeating your enemy then Eclipse might not be your jam, but most gamers will appreciate the multiple tactical paths you can choose from to achieve victory.
One year to conquer Japan? Let’s do it! The game is divided into four rounds, one for each season, where 3-5 players compete to crown the leader of their Clan as the next Emperor of feudal Japan.
What I like about Rising Sun is its unique Japanese theme that stands apart from typical space or fantasy styles that dominate the tactical war board game genre.
Tips for Choosing the Best Tactical War Board Games
These tactical war board games are some of the best out there; they’re tried and true options that aren’t just some of my favorites but highly reviewed in the board game community too. Since they’re all great games, pick the ones with a gameplay style, weight, and theme that fits with your preferences gameplay style.
Playing with a group? Most of these games are made for 3+ players and play best with 5 or 6, while others are 2 player only. Trust me when I say these guidelines matter; if you’ve ever played 7 Wonders with only two people you know what I mean.
Final tip: Don’t forget to learn the rules before playing… and have fun!