Published on October 24th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen2
Top 5 Tactics Board Games
Tactical combat games are some of my favorite board games, and they have been ever since I played Final Fantasy Tactics for the first time. These abstracted, squad-based combat games really grab my interest in a way that more realistic war or strategy games do not.
Maybe because my first complex board game was Dragon Strike, or maybe because my first TRPG was Final Fantasy Tactics, but I tend to prefer grid based boards versus free form, which I find a bit too fiddly most of the time. Boards with tighter movement rules seem more fair to me and I like having to worry less about gauging distances by sight. That said, there are some free form movement games on this list and they each have their own way to make combat and movement less complicated than other tactical minis games like WHFB/40K or WarmaHordes.
5- Star Wars: X-Wing
We’ve talked about X-Wing a lot on AtBG, so if you’re looking for information about it, please check out our reviews of this excellent minis game. One of the great things about Star Wars: X-Wing is that it is a gridless minis tactics game that doesn’t get bogged down with maneuvering rules, like many other games have in the past. The way X-Wing gets around this is its pre-measured movement tokens which makes moving your figures a breeze.
X-wing also gets bonus points for its great amount of detail and customization, letting you outfit your squad exactly to the details you prefer. Don’t want to mess with all of that? That’s okay! Just use some pre-made lists or keep your favorite units set aside. X-Wing is also one of the only minis games I know that doesn’t make you buy a ton of figures- it gets multiple uses from one figure by just swapping out pilot and upgrade cards, which is a great cost saving design choice.
4- Dungeon Command
I honestly wasn’t expecting a lot from Dungeon Command when I first saw it. The miniatures are re-used sculpts going back to the D&D miniatures game made for 3rd Edition, and are several years old- as are the assets for the maps. After actually giving the game a go, it quickly turned into one of my favorite tactics games.
My favorite element of the game is the keyword system. Each model has a set of keywords that apply to it, which allows that model to interact with some powers cards differently. An example would be the spell Web, which models with the Intelligence skill can cast if they meet the level requirement, but any models with the “Spider” keyword can cast without having the Intelligence stat.
Add to that a great selection of army types and a couple different choices of commander per army and there is a lot of room for constructing your own forces. On top of it all, it’s a fairly inexpensive game, can be played two-player with one army starter box and all the minis are pre-painted.
3- Relic Knights
Relic Knights is different from the other games listed here in that it is a more traditional minis game than the rest. The figures are more expensive, higher quality, come un-assembled and unpainted- making them fully customizable. The sculpts are really incredibly detailed and the designs are iconic. This is a great sci-fantasy setting and the visuals do not disappoint.
The game itself is very fast paced and intuitive. There is free form movement (with a tape measure) but they made the great choice of making all ranged weapons unlimited range, as long as you have line of sight. Special actions are performed by spending colored resource cards from your hand, and card/hand management is a large focus of the game.
The starter boxes for Relic Knight are called Battle Boxes and are a great value. The MSRP is $50, though most places sell them for a little cheaper. You get 6-9 figures (depending on the faction), including a knight character with a familiar, a deck of resource cards, a bunch of nice plastic tokens, and a card mat. The boxes are designed to hold these materials and will remain useful even after you paint your minis. Look for a full review soon!
2- Krosmaster Arena
When it comes to pre-painted plastic figures, it doesn’t get much better than Krosmaster Arena. While the chibi style may not be for everyone, I find the bright colors and the playful character design really appealing. The main box also comes with little terrain details like trees and shrubs that are adorable and make the game feel more immersive. The figures come pre-assembled and pre-painted, and the paint work on them is very high quality.
Krosmaster is a grid based tactics game with pretty simplistic characters that each have a couple of powers. You build a small team of three or four characters and take the other team(s) in a head-on battle. The resource management system is similar to mana in console RPGs, it’s not innovative but it is intuitive. The game is very easy to pick up and play- if you’ve ever played a tactics game you’ll pick it up quickly. I like Krosmaster because it is so accessible to anyone who would like to try out the game type, and it is still complex enough to hold my interest.
There are two main boxes you can get, a default set as well as a winter themed version. In addition to these, there are various character packs you can purchase that are (thankfully) not randomized and include some really great additions to your game. Or, if you’re more into digital games, there is a version you can play online.
1- Titan Tactics
Titans Tactics is the only game on this list that doesn’t include miniatures, opting instead for cardboard tokens on a much smaller board. While this means it isn’t as showy as the other games listed, it also means its much cheaper. The art for the tokens and cards is still great, and it is different from most other fantasy board game art- it feels more like a comic book or concept art than D&D illustrations.
Titans Tactics is also much more abstract in many ways than the other games here- you can’t “kill” or take out the other players’ characters, instead the object of the game is to consistently do more damage to the other team than they can do to you. Titans Tactics doesn’t take much longer than 30 minutes to play through, and is a great tactics game to take with you if you’re on the go. We recently did a full review of the game, and the more I play it, the more I enjoy it!