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Board Games to Improve Your Mind

Board Games - Playing Dominion

Board games are a great way to spend time with friends and family and keep your mind sharp. Many people feel that we are currently in the golden age of board games. The best part of this new wave of games is they have significantly raised the bar when it comes to analysis, strategy, and teamwork. This increased level of play offers plenty of opportunities to keep your mind nimble.

Here is a list of some of our favorite board games that we believe will improve your mind:

1. Dominion

• 2-4 players
• 30 minutes to play
• Complexity: High
• Skills Required: Analysis, Percentages, Adaptation

Dominion is one of the best strategy games out there. Released in 2008, it has since grown in popularity as evidenced by the many expansions that continue to roll out. It is a card based game that pits players against each other to see who can accumulate the most victory points. Cards that provide victory points include various terrain/properties such as estates, duchies, provinces, and colonies. Hence the player who fends off others and adds the most unclaimed lands to their dominion wins.


Your brain will definitely need to work hard in order to secure victory. There are so many combination of cards, combos, and winning strategies that it’s sometimes difficult to see which path to victory is best. It’s also very important to evaluate the cards available, their synergies, and what your opponents are going after since it will affect your decisions. You’ll also need to track the points your opponents have and understand how close the game is to being over, which ties into when you go for victory cards. There is so much variety in Dominion, definitely give it a try.

There are many expansion sets you can purchase to expand gameplay and combinations. Some sets will dramatically alter some of the game mechanics. If you don't want to bother with physical cards or want to speed up the time it takes to play, try the online version of Dominion at dominion.games.

2. Castles of Mad King Ludwig

• 1-4 players
• 90 minutes to play
• Complexity: High
• Skills Required: Analysis, Managing Resources, Adaptation

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a tile based game where you take turns building extravagant castles, trying to score the most points at the end of the game. There are different type of rooms that provide points (or deduct points) when built adjacent to each other, and also provide additional bonuses when closed off.


Expect to work your mind plenty in this game. The best part of Castle of Mad King Ludwig is the need to adjust your strategy each time you play. Each player starts with two hidden bonuses that only they see. This will shape the types of room pieces they will want to purchase since they will gain additional victory points at the end of the game for buying them. Coupled with the fact that the room pieces are turned over at random, being too stubborn with a particular strategy can be detrimental. Another way this game will improve your mind is understanding which room pieces your opponents covet. There is a market system where players each take turns pricing the individual rooms. The other players will then need to pay this amount you set. You will need to make sure you price the rooms that benefit them out of their reach but also price others reasonably so you make a decent amount of income. Although the play time is a little on the longer side, the game provides great competitive gameplay where you’ll have to think of the multiple options each turn.

3. One Night Ultimate Werewolf

• 3-10 players
• 10 minutes to play
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Analysis, Teamwork

Similar to Mafia but this time with werewolves, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a fun game to play amongst friends. Interestingly, the game has an app that you download on the Apple App Store or Google Play. It works seamlessly with the game and helps narrate the initial steps and acts as a timer for the remainder of the game.

Here is a sample game:


This game is more fun when playing with friends that you know well. You can use your instincts to read their expressions and their reasoning and also throw them off if you’re a good liar. This game does require teamwork though and being able to slowly unravel the situation by working your way back from what you know for certain.

4. Monopoly Deal

• 2-5 players
• 15 minutes to play
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Analysis, Managing Resources

I’m sure we all remember times where Monopoly games took hours and hours and at the end the game was never finished. Enter Monopoly Deal, a card based version of the original, where you have all of the familiar properties and rent collection mechanics but in just a fraction of the time. You win by collecting three full sets of properties but beware, other players can steal your properties and even entire sets!


In Monopoly deal you’ll have to analyze which properties are in play and also when to play your cards. There are cards that steal properties or sets of properties from your opponents which can turn the tide in an instant but there are also “Just Say No” cards which counter any attack. You’ll have to track a player’s hand and read what kind of defense they have. Also be sure to manage your resources wisely and build up a wall of money to act as a buffer against the attacks. Monopoly Deal is a quick engaging game that will give your mind just the right amount of exercise.

5. Power Grid

• 2-6 players
• 120 minutes to play
• Complexity: Medium
• Skills Required: Analysis, Managing Resources

Brought to you by Rio Grande Games, the same guys who brought you Dominion, Power Grid is a popular game that has players building and connecting cities, purchasing resources, and powering those cities for money. It’s pretty similar to Ticket to Ride in that you have to build a network of cities. The win condition however is different in that you need to be the first person to be able to power a predetermined number of cities.


Power Grid requires you to manage your resources wisely, both your money resources to continue to expand your network of cities as well as your natural resources (coal, oil, garbage, uranium) to power those cities. You will also have to be aware of where your opponents are expanding since those moves could potentially box you in. Also one of the best parts of the game is the bidding system for power plants available. Are you willing to overpay for a coveted power plant? Will that leave you enough money to purchase resources? Be prepared to do a lot of mental calculations.

6. The Settlers of Catan

• 3-4 players
• 60-120 minutes playing time
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Analysis, Managing Resources

When you mention board games, people will inevitably ask if you’ve played The Settlers of Catan. Often described as the gateway game, players vie to build cities and roads on a board consisting of hexagonal areas. Players will also need to play development cards, roll dice, and collect resources. The first player to ten points wins.

The Settlers of Catan will train players to evaluate the board state and choose initial cities where there is the highest likelihood of dice rolls yielding resources. You will work to manage your resources, calculate optimal trades with your opponents, and sense when the game is almost over. Although extremely fun and easy to pick up, the knock on the game is that dice rolls greatly reduce the skill level. Luck plays a huge factor in determining the outcome of the game.

7. Hanabi

• 2-5 players
• 25 minutes playing time
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Analysis, Memorization, Teamwork

Hanabi, the Japanese word for fireworks, is a card game where the players work together to complete five sets of numbers (one through five), differentiated by a different color. The difficult part is that you cannot view your own cards as they are turned towards your teammates. Assist each other to complete the sets of numbers to win.

Hanabi requires a lot of teamwork. You have to be sure to give helpful clues to your team members so that they don’t discard the last remaining number in a particular set. As for improving your mind, this game will test your memory. You have to remember the clues about the number or color of your own cards and play them at the right time. The team is counting on you!

8. 7 Ronin

• 2 players
• 15-30 minutes playing time
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Analysis, Anticipation

7 Ronin is a fast and fun asymmetrical two player game. One player plays as the ninja, who are invading a small village, and the other player tries to defend that village with the 7 ronin. The village consists of ten different areas which when occupied by the ninja, provide a special ability (i.e. revive ninjas, or prevent ronin from using their abilities, etc.). On the other hand the 7 ronin each have a unique ability (i.e. immediately kill a ninja upon battle, heal other ronin, etc.). After eight potential rounds, who will win?

7 ronin is a game of anticipation. As the ninja, understanding and using the special abilities of the areas is key as is knowing when to overflow the village areas. As the ronin, you will need to anticipate where the ninja are attacking and understand which village areas provide the greatest benefit at that specific time. You will be racking your brain playing out the numerous scenarios and anticipating what your opponent will do.

9. Five Tribes

• 2-4 players
• 40-80 minutes playing time
• Complexity: High
• Skills Required: Analysis, Resources, Adaptation

Five Tribes is a game that has an Arabian Nights type flavor. Played on a five by six piece “board” comprised of single tiles, there are meeples, or wooden pieces shaped like people, which act as the game pieces the players will need to shift around. The objective of the game is to move these meeples around, capture as many of these thirty individual tiles as possible, accumulate resource cards, and summon powerful djinns.

Five Tribes can look pretty daunting with all of the setup pieces, colored meeples, and the vast array of djinns which each have a powerful ability. However, the gameplay mechanics are pretty easy. The most difficult part is puzzle solving to see the optimal plays each turn. There sometimes is analysis paralysis associated with the game because there are so many possible moves each turn. You will also definitely need to adapt your strategy if an opponent muddles the board state or if you see they are going for the same strategy. This game will definitely keep your mind sharp.

10. Ca$h ‘n Guns

• 4-8 players
• 30 minutes playing time
• Complexity: Low
• Skills Required: Adaptation, Anticipation

Cas$h ‘n Guns is a fast and fun game that gets more interesting the more players there are. Each player chooses a character and tries to sneak and outwit other players to the most cash at the end of eight rounds. Choosing the optimal loot cards each round is important but being able to survive till the end of the game is key. Each round players decide who they want to shoot and whether to use a real “Bang!” or “Click! Click!” card. This adds an added element of chaos and an opportunity to persuade the other players.

Although quick to learn, Ca$h ‘n Guns brings added replay value with the different characters available. Players will also need to adapt if they see others start adopting their strategy. If multiple players are going for paintings or diamonds then both of those players will need to calculate if it’s worth it. Being able to anticipate who others will target and kill and whether they are using “Bang!” or “Click! Click!” cards is the key to victory. How much risk are you willing to take?