Games are generally considered to be mere entertainment devices. But anybody who knows anything about board games can tell you that the best games are the ones that are both fun and give your brain a workout. This is hardly surprising considering that fellow geeks are generally the ones creating them. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most intelligent and fun board games on the market.

For those of you who want to play these games more often than anyone else you know, I have good news! The vast majority of them can be played either online or on a mobile/tablet device! You should probably download them, mostly because I want non-computers to play against so I can pretend that I have friends.

1. Chess

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Probably the most famous board game of all time, Chess can literally take a lifetime to truly master. To put it incredibly simply, Chess is a two-player, strategy board game that is supposed to represent medieval warfare. Extensive studies have shown that playing the game on a regular basis can have a myriad of positive effects on your brain and intelligence. Some of these include:

  • It exercises both the right and left side of your brain
  • It increases your creativity and originality
  • It can raise your IQ
  • It improves your memory
  • It assists your concentration
  • It helps your foresight
  • It can help to prevent Alzheimer’s

Want an additional challenge? Try 3D Chess. The mere thought of it makes my head do this:

2. Ticket to Ride

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Ticket to Ride requires players to collect train car cards that they use to claim railway routes across the map. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come from fulfilling destination tickets that connect distant cities. There are a variety of editions now out, each mapping a different country, continent or area of the world. My favorites are the original USA and Märklin maps, respectively.

Besides teaching players strategy and logic, Ticket to Ride also helps you to build upon your knowledge of past and present geography. This is because some of the maps are historical. Trains have never been so much fun!

3. Dixit

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Alright, so Dixit is primarily a card game, but because I’m such a hardcore bad ass I’m including it anyway. I play by my own rules, Editor! Yeah, that pun did just happen. [Groan! – Ed.] To put it simply, Dixit requires players to take turns being the Storyteller, who then makes up a sentence about one of the cards in their hand. Other players then select a card from their hands that they think best matches the aforementioned sentence. The cards are then shuffled, displayed face up and players have to decide which was the Storyteller’s. It is incredibly fun to play, and you’d be surprised how vague the cards can be. All the better to trick other players with!

Despite appearances, Dixit does actually exercise your brain. You have to be creative and original with your explanations and card choices, as well as make sometimes difficult decisions. As such, you’re required to utilize both the right and left sides of your brain. In addition, the game also requires you to read other people, which helps to build your emotional intelligence.

4. Puerto Rico

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Quite possibly my favorite board game of all time. Puerto Rico requires players to become governors and collect victory points by shipping goods back to the Old World and constructing buildings. This may not sound exciting, but it’s seriously awesome. I personally aim to monopolize the coffee plantations, thus making me the self-appointed Coffee Baron. One problematic feature of the game is that your plantation workers are little brown pieces. I know it’s historically accurate, but as a white Australian of British heritage it’s pretty awkward. Sorry, tiny pieces.

Being a strategy game, Puerto Rico is great for developing your strategic skills. It forces you to think ahead and weigh up the consequences of your decisions. In addition, the game has a fair amount of rules and gameplay that you have to get your head around, which helps strengthen your mental capacity and multi-tasking skills.

5. Scrabble

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Just in case you’ve somehow never heard of Scrabble before, the aim is to make words and get points. Basically. People who play often enough build upon their existing vocabulary significantly. It will also help to develop your creativity and strategy skills. For children, the game is highly beneficial at helping them to spell and do basic math.

6. Risk

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Arguably the first mainstream war-based board game, the aim of Risk is to take over the world. During your turn, you use your myriad of army units to attack other players, take over territories and fortify your existing ones. There are currently an abundance of different Risk variations of the market. Some of my personal favorites are Starcraft, Star Wars Original Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and Godstorm. Most recently, The Walking Dead also joined the ranks. I really need to stop with puns.

Risk will definitely give your brain a work out because—like so many other games on this list—it’s all about strategy. It also builds your logical thinking and decision-making skills because everything you do has consequences. As such, the ’cause and effect’ gameplay is highly beneficial to building your intelligence.

7. Agricola

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Time to put on your straw hat, y’all. In Agricola you’re a farmer who’s responsible for feeding your family as well as building and expanding your land. Despite my simplistic description, the game is actually quite complex and requires a great deal of strategic planning and resource juggling for you to be successful. This makes it great for logical thinking and building problem-solving skills. In addition, it will help you to learn to multi-task and think ahead. Plus, you get cute sheep!

8. Power Grid

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Another game that should be mind-numbingly boring, but is actually all kinds of fantastic. The aim of Power Grid is to supply power to the most cities. To do this you mark preexisting routes between cities for connection, and then bid against each other to purchase the power plants. You must also acquire raw materials to power these plants. Problems may arise if you expand too fast and miss out on new technology. As such, the game requires you to weigh up options logically and strategically, as well as deal with the potential fallouts of your decisions. This makes it a beneficial game for people like me who find it difficult thinking even a single step ahead and deduce that the best course of action is: “BUY EVERYTHING NOW, YOLOLOL!”

9. Pandemic

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I should probably point out that the aim of this game is quite the opposite to the Pandemic 2.5 game you can find on mobile devices. We want to contain viruses, not exacerbate them. You and your fellow players are disease fighters whose mission is to contain outbreaks and research cures for four separate plagues throughout the world.

As well as helping you to build your problem-solving and strategic skills, Pandemic teaches players teamwork and cooperation. This may not sound like a way to make you smarter, but interpersonal skills and the ability to cooperate and compromise are imperative to most jobs in the real world. Overlooking social-skill builders isn’t particularly intelligent.

10. Chronology

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Chronology is an incredibly simple game, but this doesn’t lessen the amount of fun that can be derived from it. The aim of the game is to be the first to collect 10 timeline cards, each of which contains an historical event and the year in which it occurred. During your turn, you take a new card and put it in the correct chronological position within your own timeline. If you are correct, you keep the card. If you’re wrong, the next player can attempt to place it in their timeline. Chronology is excellent at building your memory as well as teaching you important historical dates and facts.

 11. Go

Another game that has been with us for thousands of years, Go has been described as, “Easy…until you get the hang of it.” It is intensely difficult to master and involves a great deal of strategizing. It’s a two-player game that requires players to gain territory by walling off sections of the board and surrounding each other’s stones. The game ends once the board fills up or both players agree to stop. Whoever controls the most territory wins.

12. Carcassonne

At its core Carcassonne is a game in which players need to place tiles depicting a French landscape. They also have “meeple” that they can use to claim castles, land and roads. The game requires players to think logically about their decisions, particularly when it comes to meeple placement, as well as to strategize against their fellow players. Plus, it’s really fun.

13. Guillotine

This card game is one rife with intrigue, mayhem and attempted murder. Considering it’s set during the French Revolution, this is hardly surprising. Despite being a relatively light-hearted game (regardless of the macabre topic) players need to use their cunning and strategy skills to try and execute the most people. Charming, I know.

14. Copycat

Sometimes the best way to learn strategy is from the slimy world of politics! In Copycat you play a politician who tries to gain influence and money in order to become the next president. And yes, the game includes vomit-inducing cards such as “fatherly friends.” Part of the strategy is worker placement in order to gain more support and cash, just make sure you choose wisely.

15. Monopoly

We can’t leave this classic out!

Although a great deal of the game revolves around the luck of the dice roll, there are intellectual benefits to Monopoly. For one, you need to make decisions that could make or break you when it comes to property acquisition and management. Secondly, and depending if your house rules allow this or not, the game give you the opportunity to build business relationships with other players, which will hopefully ultimately benefit you and leave them defeated and penniless. Lastly, Monopoly is a fantastic tool to help kids learn how to count and deal with money.

Bonus Fact: Nothing teaches you more about branding, market strategy and making money from people than the sheer volume of variations that Monopoly has.

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