Best War Board Games

I’ve tested several of the best war board games on the market, and Classic Risk is my top choice.

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Military board games are popular among young and old, and it’s no wonder. The strategy, high stakes, and real-life scenarios are all elements that make these games among my top picks.

It’s just tough to beat Classic Risk. Its popularity and wide appeal make it great for everyone.

But there might be other considerations for you. Do you have young children who want to play along? Are there certain themes or war eras that appeal to you? Do you want a game that can last an entire day?

Here are the war board games I’ve reviewed:

I’ve broken down the features, pros, and cons of these war strategy board games so you can make the best decision.

Which war board game should be at your next game night? Keep reading to learn more.

Best War Board Games Reviews

Classic Risk: Best Overall

Players: 2-5

Playing Time: About 1-2 Hours

Age: 10+

Risk has been entertaining young and old alike since 1957. This modernized version has updated mission cards and improved-quality minis.

Players build armies, invade and conquer territories, and defend territories from attack. While most people are familiar with the rules, this board game has a mixture of strategy and luck.

The dice rolls determine the success of an invasion, while the player is responsible for deciding when and where to attack.

One nice addition to this game is the secret mission cards. The player that first completes their secret mission wins.

If you choose to incorporate the secret mission cards, it could shorten the game significantly. So you’ll have to decide how quickly you want to play.

Risk Board Game, Strategy Games for 2-5 Players, Strategy Board Games for Teens, Adults, and Family, War Games, Ages 10 and Up

The look of the map is nice, with a classic design and bright colors. The way they lay out the territories, though, is a little suspect. Let’s just say they take some creative license.

Overall? This is a classic that’s tough to beat. There are niche games on my list that might appeal more strongly to you personally, but there’s a reason this game has withstood the test of time.


  • Good blend of strategy and luck
  • Entertaining for advanced and beginners
  • Variations with secret mission mode
  • Affordable


  • Might get repetitive
  • Map is questionable

Axis & Allies: Best for History Buffs

Players: 2-5

Playing Time: About 4 Hours

Age: 12+

This Hasbro war game is set in 1942, in the middle of World War II. As the name suggests, the game is an epic battle between the Allied and Axis powers.

Each player controls a country’s military forces and wartime economy. The winner is the one that liberates or occupies the greatest cities and wins the Second World War.

Avalon Hill Axis & Allies 1942 Second Edition WWII Strategy Board Game, with Extra Large Gameboard, Ages 12 and Up, 2-5 Players

The 40″x26″ game board is large enough to cover an entire table. That’s good, too, because this game comes with a lot of pieces:

  • 410 plastic pieces
  • 12 industrial complex markers
  • 100 national control markers
  • 5 setup cards
  • Battle strip
  • Casualty strip
  • Rulebook
  • 80 chips
  • 6 dice

The National Product Chart is at the top of the game board. This chart is used to keep up with your Industrial Production Credits (I.P.C.s), which is basically your currency.

One issue I have is that National Production Chart often gets bumped or accidentally knocked over. For that reason, you might choose an alternative way to keep up with your I.P.C.s, such as with poker chips or pen and paper.

Game play is not simple, so this is not the best option for gaming beginners. But there are several videos out there to help, along with the rulebook.

For a detailed breakdown of the rules for Axis & Allies, watch this video by Board Game Nation:

The main objective of Axis & Allies is to capture victory cities, of which there are 13. The players decide between two win conditions: Standard Victory or Total Victory.

Standard Victory consists of capturing or liberating an additional 3 victory cities on top of the ones you start with. Total Victory consists of capturing or liberating all 13 cities.

To set up, put the number of units in each territory, according to the set up cards. Obviously, with so many pieces, the board can easily get crowded. So the game includes chips that represent multiple units of the same type in the same territory.

Players take turns in the same order, according to which country they control. They spend income (I.P.C.s) to purchase to order military units. Then they wage war by deciding and carrying out combat moves.

After combat, the player lands all planes and moves other units. Then the player collects their new Industrial Production Credits.

Buyers raved about how much fun this game is. They liked the action, the chance to recreate famous battles, and the hours of fun based on real historical events.

Some did say the rules are complicated. My thought on this is that this game is not the best choice for a newbie or those who want to pick up a new game quickly. Yet it is amazing for a group of people who regularly get together for long game nights.

While I would recommend this for young and old alike, the minimum recommended age is 12. It would be too complicated for kids younger than that. However, one customer let their 13-year-old grandchild play it, with great success.


  • Great for history buffs
  • Good strategy game
  • Quality board and pieces


  • Large learning curve
  • A LOT of pieces; slow set up

Twilight Imperium: Best Complex Game

Players: 3-6

Playing Time: 4-8 hours

Age: 14+

Space Lions, Aliens, and Ghosts… Oh, my!

From Fantasy Flight Games comes this self-styled, “epic board game of conquest, politics, and trade.” Twilight Imperium is a behemoth and will require a lot of table space, as it comes with a whopping 1,613 pieces!

One reviewer recommended a 3×6-foot table to accommodate all the pieces and cards. Expect set up to take north of 30 minutes, too.

Players each represent one of 17 different alien factions vying for the title of galactic emperor. Whichever player is the first to get 10 victory points wins the game.

One of my favorite features is the built-in variation. Different factions offer a completely different play experience. So you can play repeatedly without getting bored.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition | Strategy Board Game for Adults and Teens | Adventure Game | Ages 14 and up | 3-6 Players | Average Playtime 4-8 Hours | Made by Fantasy Flight Games

Players raved about Twilight Imperium 4th Edition. They liked the upgrades to the miniatures, which have more detail and a better feel. They also found the technology cards easier to use than previous versions.

But several did warn that this game is not for the faint of heart. If the idea of a 24-page rule book and 32-page reference guide makes your insides turn, stay away from this game.

If you like complex war games, this grand scale battle is definitely for you.


  • Many strategic possibilities
  • Amazing art quality
  • Allows for variations


  • Requires large table
  • Lengthy game times
  • Big learning curve
  • Expensive

Eclipse: Best Combat Game

Players: 2-6

Playing Time: About 1-3 Hours

Age: 14+

Eclipse 2nd Dawn combines elements from the first edition base game and the expansion packs, improves the graphics, and streamlines the rules in this updated 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate).

There are a lot of elements to Eclipse that are similar to Twilight Imperium: a space sci-fi theme, a hexagonal map, settling planets, a combat system, and researching technology.

But these two games are distinct, and the game experience is quite different. Eclipse earns its own spot on the tabletop. For starters, Eclipse is a 2-6 player game and can be played in 1-3 hours, so it’s accessible for most people.

Eclipse also is more straightforward, with a heavier emphasis on combat. There’s not as much emphasis on player interaction, whereas just about everything is based on player interaction in Twilight Imperium.

Eclipse 2nd Dawn has eight rounds. For each round, players choose one of several actions or they can pass. The goal is to acquire victory points through accomplishing different goals.

The game ends after the final round, when players count up their points. The player with the most points wins.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for The Galaxy – Board Game by Lautapelit 2-6 Players – Board Games for Family – 60-200 Minutes of Gameplay – Games for Game Night – Teens and Adults Ages 14+ - English Version

User reviews raved about the component quality and the overall experience of the game. They liked that it works well with two players. Most games like Eclipse really need four players to make it work best.

They also liked the storage that comes with the game. This is a must, too, because you’ll have literally hundreds of pieces to manage.

This is an entertaining war-based board game. But be prepared to invest some cash. Eclipse has a steep price tag.


  • Quality miniatures
  • Can play in one sitting
  • Includes tactical depth
  • Great two-player game


  • Expensive

Risk Junior: Best for Young Players

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Age: 5+

If you want a fun game that young children can play, Risk Junior is one game that fits the bill. Players battle for treasure and control of islands in this pirate-themed game.

Learning how to play is simple, and it has a lower playing time, so it can keep a young child’s attention. If you need a fun time-filler, this game can be played in just 20-30 minutes.

Hasbro Gaming Risk Junior : Strategy Board Game; A Kid's Intro to The Classic Game for Ages 5 and Up; Pirate Themed (Amazon Exclusive)

Dice rolls make up a large part of the game, so there is a strong element of luck. That means younger players have an opportunity to win, and no one is ganged-up on like in the original game.

That also means it might be a bit boring for adults or older kids. But it’s nice to play with smaller children who are just beginning to learn board games.

Buyers enjoyed playing this game with their own kids. They liked the pirate theme, the simple rules, and the element of luck.

They did have issues with the ships, however. The ships are dice flippers, which is a cute idea in theory.

But kids kept moving their ships to flip dice and then forgetting where their ships belonged. Some also said the flippers tended to upset the whole board. But you can easily roll dice by hand and remove the problem.


  • Easy to learn
  • Quick game
  • Great for kids


  • Not as challenging
  • Complaints about dice flippers

Dominion: Best Deck-Building Alternative

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 30 minutes

Age: 14+

While not technically a board game, Dominion is an original deck-building game for 2-4 players. To me, this game feels like a cross between Risk and Bohnanza (another Rio Grande game).

In the game, monarchs (players) compete to build the most valuable kingdom. Each player’s kingdom is represented by their personal card deck.

To win, players fight to acquire the most points from duchies, estates, and provinces. Players purchase these special victory cards using treasure cards as currency.

While the box recommends a minimum age of 14, I feel like you could play this with younger players, and they just need to understand the basic strategy and be familiar with deck-building games.

Rio Grande Games Dominion 2nd Edition | Deckbuilding Strategy Game for 2-4 Players, Ages 13+ | Updated Cards, Artwork, Streamlined Rules

Customers enjoyed playing this game. They liked that it was relatively easy to learn and quick to play. They also liked the number of expansions available.

Some buyers complained about the quality of the playing cards. Others thought it was too simple.

It comes down to personal preference, but if you like strategy in a card-based game, this is a good choice.


  • Quick game
  • Easy to learn
  • Moderate strategy
  • Several expansions available


  • Card quality is questionable

Small World: Best Quick Play

Players: 2-5

Playing Time: 40-80 minutes

Age: 8+

Small World is a fantasy civilization game for 2-5 players designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a follow-up to Vinci.

Players acquire gold by controlling territories with up to two factions. You attack using tokens, much like in the classic Risk version.

The content ends when the round marker reaches the end of the track. The winner is the player with the most gold.

I enjoyed this game, as did many customers. The consensus is that it is like a fantasy version of Risk with a few twists. You also won’t get bored after playing it a few times.  (And there are expansion packs for those who want extra combinations.)

This is a more cut-throat board game that pits players against each other. With the minimum age being 8 years, make sure any kids playing can handle that level of competition.

Some buyers wished the game had more strategic depth to it, as well.

But if you like Risk, enjoy twists, and dig dwarves and wizards? This is the game for you.


  • Quick play
  • Easy to learn
  • Fantasy elements
  • Expansions available


  • Not as much strategy
  • Cut-throat

Star Wars Legion: Best for Star Wars Fans

Players: 2

Playing Time: About 2-3 Hours

Age: 14+

If you’re a fan of Galaxies Far, Far Away, this Fantasy Flight war game is calling your name. Paint and assemble your own miniatures as you prepare to battle enemy forces as a rebel player or empire player.

The game lasts for six rounds. At the end of those rounds, the player with the most victory tokens wins. Players acquire tokens through accomplishing objectives during play.

There is definitely strategy involved, but the dice roll adds an element of luck to it. You’ll move troops, attack the enemy, and fill objectives.

Star Wars Legion Board Game (Base) | Two Player Battle, Miniatures , Strategy Game for Adults and Teens | Ages 14 and up | Average Playtime 3 Hours | Made by Atomic Mass Games

Buyers loved the quality of the pieces. But some people had pieces with missing arms. Also, if you’ve never painted or assembled miniatures before, watch some videos first.

You need to know that this core set is not enough to play a standard game. There aren’t enough dice, upgrades, or action cards. To do that, you’ll need to purchase at least one other core set. Many buyers recommended the Clone Wars core set.

That can add up quickly, so if you’re not a huge Star Wars/tabletop game fan, you might look at another option.


  • High-quality miniatures
  • Custom dice


  • Incomplete starter set
  • Learning curve
  • Expensive

War of the Ring: Best for Lord of the Ring Fans

Players: 2-4

Playing Time: About 2-4 hours

Age: 13+

War of the Ring is an all out war for middle Earth in which characters from the beloved series duke it on the board.

You can choose to be a Free Peoples player or a Shadow Player. As a Free Peoples player, you can obtain victory by either gaining four points or tossing the ring into Mount Doom.

As a Shadow Player, you use your shadow armies to capture strongholds and win with 10 points or bring the ring to your Dark Lord master.

Fantasy Flight Games Ares Games War of The Ring 2nd Edition, Multi-Colored (AGS WOTR001), 2 to 4 Players

This asymmetrical strategy game can move slowly, and it takes hours to complete. So if you want something you can start after dinner and play before bedtime? This isn’t it.

But once you get past the learning curve and possible gridlock, this game is a lot of fun. Although you can have up to four players, most recommend two.

I think the phrase to best describe War of the Ring is frustratingly entertaining.


  • Detailed minis
  • Involves lots of strategy
  • Expansions available


  • Slow play
  • Steep learning curve

13 Days: Best for Two Players

Players: 2

Playing Time: 45 minutes

Age: 10+

This two-player game is set in the middle of the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. This contest recreates the tension of those two weeks in human history as players play cards that shape political events around the world. Players can resolve conflicts or start World War III.

13 Days is perfect for Twilight Struggle fans, another Cold War-based game.

Jolly Roger Games 13 Days - The Cuban Missile Crisis

The objective is to have the most prestige after three rounds of play. For each round, players draw three agenda cards. They secretly choose one of the agendas to pursue. Next, players take turns playing strategy cards in order to place/remove cubes or play event cards.

I really liked this game. It’s like a fast version of Twilight Struggle. Customers, including me, believe you don’t need to be a history buff or love history to enjoy playing.

The rulebook is a little vague, but any doubts are easy to resolve with a quick search or YouTube video.


  • Quick play
  • Great for 2 players
  • No history knowledge required


  • Some rules might be a little unclear

What to Consider When Buying a War Board Game

Length of Gameplay

Taking into account the length of play is important. The last thing you want is to start a game, only to get halfway through and have to pack everything up again.

If you have a dedicated table that can stay undisturbed, you might choose to tackle a marathon game that you play over multiple sessions.

If, however, your playing space is your kitchen table, you’ll be better off choosing a game you can complete in one sitting.

Most war board games have a longer playing time than other game genres. Most require at least an hour or two.

You’ll want to consider how long the round takes, how long your gaming session will be, as well as whether or not you can stretch the game over multiple get-togethers.

With the right players, enough space, and some forward planning, you can tackle a war game of any length.

Need a quicker contest? Classic Risk, Dominion, or Small World are all games you can play in one session.

Looking for an endurance battle for an all-day gaming bash? Twilight Imperium or Axis & Allies 1942 can go on for several hours, making them great marathon games.

Level of Strategy

Let’s face it, war games can get complicated. Some people really enjoy reading through large rule books and figuring out special situations, while others just want to play.

The best level of strategy is the one that fits your personal preferences.

If you want a lighter feel, you might go with Small World or Dominion. If you want something complex, you might consider Twilight Imperium or Eclipse.

Player Ages

Many war-based tabletop games are not appropriate for younger players, as they require managing multiple parts and strategies as the game progresses.

Don’t even get me started on keeping up with the miniatures.

For that reason, you’ll want to consider the age limit of any game you choose.

If you have younger kids and want to play a war board game with them, you might like Risk Junior. It’s an easy game that’s a gentle introduction to war games.

Thematic Elements

You might be bored with a traditional wargame but go all in if the game involves your favorite sci-fi movie. On the other hand, you might enjoy historical games but despise sci-fi fantasy-based games.

The thematic elements of a game can greatly influence a player’s enjoyment of it while playing. If you know there are certain themes that appeal to you, choose a game that features them.

Star Wars Legion and War of the Ring are both games that feature well-known characters, settings, and other elements from their respective fictional worlds.


Great games are not just fun the first time you play them, but they provide entertainment each time you open the box. Games that lack variations can quickly become boring and repetitive.

One caveat, however. Some games are specifically designed to be played one time. In that case, variations don’t matter and won’t exist. However, none of the games on my list are that type of game.

Twilight Imperium, Eclipse, and Dominion all have variety and expansion packs to make play interesting every time.


Some games have literally hundreds of pieces and require careful storage. Other games are quite portable and easy to store. You’ll want to consider storage before purchasing a game with several loose pieces.

If storage is a consideration for you, Dominion and 13 Days are both easy-to-store games.

War Based Board Games: Which One’s the Best?

Which war board game emerges victorious? While there are fantastic options, it’s tough to beat the wide-range appeal of Classic Risk. The ease of play, wide appeal, and blend of strategy and luck, are all reasons that make this one of my favorite war board games.

But no matter what your interest or gaming level, you can find a war game that matches your preferences.