12 Board Games to Increase Your Intelligence

By Kelsey Allen

We’ve been told that we need to exercise our minds more, in order to keep synaptic connections healthy and to increase their number (and therefore our own brain power). But sometimes the process of mental exercise can seem a bit daunting, so here is a guide to having fun whilst at the same time improving your mind. After all, board games are made for our entertainment!

  1. Monopoly: The famous property trading game that families across the world have come to love and one of the most played commercial board games in the world (with numbers estimated to be around 500-750 million people having played the game). Patented in 1935 by Charles Darrow, this game requires financial cunning and a reasonably amount of strategy to succeed in, couple that with random Chance/Community Chest encounters and you’ve got yourself a challenging time!
  2. Trivial Pursuit: A quiz game whose rules revolve around being able to answer specific quiz questions is certainly going to be a worthy exercise for the brain; testing not only knowledge, but also being required to display a certain amount of strategy, as the player figures the best course of action in order to acquire all the pieces he/she needs to become victorious. The game has a large variety of editions to keep players challenged, with several releases coinciding with famous multimedia releases (for example, the Star Wars editions).
  3. Scrabble: Requiring players to exhibit a number of skills, including: spelling, vocabulary, counting, a certain amount of strategy and forethought, as well as anagramming. This word-based game finds players trying to score points with strategically placed words on a board, with some letters awarding more points than others whilst at the same time being prone to point-multiplying bonus squares.
  4. Risk – Godstorm: A variant on everybody’s favorite world domination board game, this version sees you in command of four gods (and their armies) from a multitude of pantheons of the ancient world. You’ll be visiting the underworld, sinking Atlantis, spending Faith Points to use Miracle cards, as well as displaying tactics, strategy and considerable micro-management. Check this version out for a familiar strategy feel, especially if you’re tired of horses and cannons, try gods and mythological beings instead!
  5. Carcassonne: Named after the fortified town of the same name in France and home to the classic gaming piece, the ”meeple” (a portmanteau of “my people”), this game of strategic thought is a tile-based affair. The aim is to place a new tile at the start of each turn and have the option to place a control marker on the new tile and essentially the final score is tallied after the last tile has been placed; depending on who has what types of tile (e.g. field, town and cloister) under their control, a winner is decided. This tough game puts winners in an intelligence league of their own.
  6. Go: A strategic board game involving tactics, observation and cunning. Originating in China and having been played for at least the past 2000 years, it’s famous for providing an ample strategic challenge despite having relatively simple rules. A 2-player game, it’s played on a 19×19 grid and uses black and white stones with which a player must attempt to control a larger part of the board by taking it in turns to place a stone in a vacant grid space. A stone or grouping of stones is captured if it has no adjacent vacant spaces, being surrounded by the enemy color. This can be prevented by placing stones closely together, but will in turn generate less influence across the grid, so careful strategy and planning is needed. Despite being predominant in East Asia, Go is slowly becoming more popular in the West.
  7. Settlers of Catan: This dice-rolling and trading game was really one of the first German-style board games to become popular outside of Europe and since its first publication in 1995, has gone on to sell around 11 million copies. Players take control of the eponymous settlers attempting to establish a colony on the island of Catan. To win, a player must dominate the island by building cities, roads and settlements by collecting resources determined by a dice roll. The more a player builds, the closer they come to victory.
  8. Mancala: Belonging to a sub-genre of games usually referred to as “count and capture” games, this game has its origins in African and some East Asian culture, with the name “mancala” coming from the word “naqala” meaning “to move” in Arabic. The object of the game is to deploy strategy and counting tactics against your opponent by moving the playing pieces from bucket to bucket, one at a time, with the player with the most counters at the end being the winner. Rules can be found here.
  9. Arimaa: Invented in 2002 by an AI computer engineer, Omar Syed, in order to try and design a game with simple rules that could be played with a standard chess set, but couldn’t easily be played by computers. Inspired by the defeat of chess legend Garry Kasparov at the “hands” of the computer Deep Blue and named after his son Aamir (Arimaa is Aamir backwards with an additional A added to the front), this is a tactics/strategy game similar to chess, but with a number of differences, chiefly that the starting formation of the pieces can be any way the player wants (as long as it’s the initial two rows) and that the game is draw-less. A comprehensive Arimaa guide can be found at this wiki.
  10. Irensei: This strategy and observation game can be played with the equipment that’s used to play the aforementioned Go game. A longer version of Connect Four, the winner is the first player to get a row of seven stones, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Certain rules apply to each side, making for an exciting and challenging game.
  11. Shogi: The most popular “chess” variant that’s native to Japan, Shogi also enables players to return taken/captured pieces into play as an ally piece. Piece names and movement are very similar to chess and anyone with an interest in chess would do well to check this game out! If you’ve already mastered chess and are looking for a new challege, take up Shogi to really find out what your mind is made of.
  12. Mahjong: Also known as Mah-jongg by the American association, this is a tactics, observation and memory-based game. Rumored to have originated in China at around 500BC, this game consists of many tiles which all have some symbolic meaning. Due to the many variants of the game available today, it’s possible to embark on a journey of continuous learning and challenge when starting out on your path to becoming a Mahjong master.

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