The 7 Best 4X Board Games for Deep Strategy and Epic Battles

Don't want to limit your need to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate to video games? Take it to the tabletop.
The 7 Best 4X Board Games for Deep Strategy and Epic Battles

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When it comes to strategy and video games, there are two types: real-time and turn-based.

If you prefer the real-time version, you can really only find this in video game form. But if you love turn-based strategy, you're essentially playing a board game already on a screen.

One of the best-loved genres among turn-based strategy enthusiasts is the 4X genre: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. You start small and eventually build a massive empire, often at the cost of other players' empires.

Fortunately, these work brilliantly in board game form—maybe even better than they do as video games. Here are the best 4X board games you should play if you love wide-scale strategy.

7. March of the Ants

Players: 1 to 5 players

Average playing time: 60 to 90 minutes

March of the Ants uses a theme you don't find in 4X games very often: ants. That's not the only way this game sits outside the 4X norm. Games are relatively short at 60 to 90 minutes, plus you can play either alone or with up to five players.

This game takes the basic 4X formula and tweaks it with elements that aren't entirely unlike Carcassonne, making it worth picking up even if you've amassed a sizable collection.

6. Archipelago

Players: 2 to 5 players

Average playing time: 30 to 240 minutes

Okay, so this isn't a true 4X, because it effectively removes one of those elements. Specifically, you're not exterminating fellow players during a game of Archipelago.

That said, some people prefer to play cooperatively, especially when playing with people who aren't necessarily as well-versed in board games as you might be.

Having a game like Archipelago around can be perfect if you've got friends who are board game newbies. You can still win the game—you just can't actually eliminate players.

5. Clash of Cultures

Players: 2 to 4 players

Average playing time: 180 to 240 minutes

Clash of Cultures: Monumental Edition definitely owes a little to the Civilization franchise. That said, some players say that this game is more satisfying than the official board game based on the video game. It's as simple to learn as that game, but might offer more depth.

How long this particular game takes to play varies based on how many players there are and how experienced they are, but expect games to roughly last around an hour per person playing.

4. Tiny Epic Kingdoms

Players: 2 to 5 players

Average playing time: 30 to 45 minutes

If Tiny Epic Kingdoms sounds strangely familiar, it's probably because there is an entire subcategory of Tiny Epic games. For example, Tiny Epic Galaxies made its way on to our list of the best single-player board games.

This game packs everything there is to love about the 4X genre into a pocket-sized package so you can take it everywhere. Games generally run from 30-45 minutes, so it's also one of the friendlier games here when it comes to the time commitment.

3. Space Empires 4X

Players: 1 to 4 players

Average playing time: 180 minutes

If you like the idea and setting of Twilight Imperium but don't want to take up an entire day with a single game, take a look at Space Empires 4X. This game will only take you around two hours to play a single game, but still has plenty of depth and complexity.

If you can't always get a group together, this is also a great one to keep in mind, since it includes a single-player campaign.

2. Twilight Imperium (4th Edition)

Players: 3 to 6 players

Average playing time: 240 to 480 minutes

When I mentioned deeper games compared to Civilization, this is the kind of thing I was talking about. While that game takes roughly an hour, you can expect to spend anywhere from four to eight hours on a single game of Twilight Imperium.

If you love epic space opera, this is the game for you. Not only is the lore filled with big sci-fi ideas, but the scope of the game is nothing short of grand.

1. Civilization: A New Dawn

Players: 2 to 4 players

Average playing time: 60 to 120 minutes

If you're a fan of 4X games on the PC, you've at the very least heard of the Sid Meier's Civilization games, even if you haven't played them. As the name implies, Civilization: A New Dawn is a board game take on the video game series of the same name.

Much as there are deeper 4X video games available for hardcore strategy fans, you'll find deeper board games. That's part of why this is a great entry, as games only last around an hour and you can get up and running fairly quickly.

Want to Save Money on Board Games?

You may have noticed that some of the games on this list aren't exactly cheap. It's not out of the realm of possibility to spend more than $150 on a particularly large-scale board games. For some people, this is just too much.

The good news is you don't have to spend that much if you don't have your heart set on a brand-new game. If you want to feed your board gaming habit on a budget: