5 New Strategic Board Games Just Like Chess

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Chess is a super popular game and you can tell how much I enjoy it by checking out all of the chess material on this site. But not everyone enjoys chess and some people just plain refuse to play it. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of alternatives out today that are very similar to the legendary game. I’ve used them myself to get my chess strategy fix.

This article will cover 5 games that are very similar to chess, some more than others. My main requirement for a game being listed here is holding the strategic foundation and the general feel of playing a game of chess.

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#1: Hive

This is a fantastic game and a great substitute for chess. It’s an abstract game (no luck involved) that has pieces that move in different ways and strategy is at the core of the game.

The game doesn’t require any setup at all, there is actually no board involved and pieces are just laid out during the game to make the play space. Which also makes this board game pretty quick since you’ll have all of your pieces out and someone will be in a winning position within a few minutes.

It’s also extremely cheap and, as explained in that Shut Up and Sit Down¬†video, it’s portable since it doesn’t require a board at all, just the game pieces. I would recommend the pocket edition which comes with smaller pieces.¬†

Here are the highlights of Hive:

  • Abstract (no luck)
  • Pieces move in different ways
  • Portable and quick

#2: Onitama

Now here’s a game that even looks similar to chess. This was one of the first games I played on the app store since it’s free. Definitely worth trying out there to see if you like it before buying the real version. Here’s a quick video on how it’s played:

Although the game looks old it was actually created in 2014. It’s simple to learn and teach, easy to transport, and (possibly the best part) is it looks great. That is what initially captured me about this game and continues to be my favorite thing (not to say I don’t love the game as well).

Since this game is quick, I would often play it on my phone when I had short breaks or during lunch. It has some great depth but doesn’t bog someone trying to learn it down with rules. I’ve also noticed most board game cafes have this game, probably since it is so quick and easy to learn and play. I would recommend checking your local shop out to see if it’s on the shelf.

So here are the highlights of this game:

  • Abstract (no luck)
  • Free App
  • Quick
  • Looks Fantastic
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#3: Blokus

This game doesn’t look much like chess but it has a lot of the same elements. Again we have an abstract game (no luck) with a definite strategic element to placement of pieces and a constant struggle to figure out what the endgame looks like. One of the biggest differences is that it can be played by up to four people and the rules and gameplay are overall much simpler.

The game plays fairly quickly with an average playtime of about 20 minutes. That’s usually less if you have more people. There is also a travel version of this game that plays only 2 people and is much more portable (although Hive still wins that category). There’s also some other variations like Blokus 3D and Blokus Trigon but I’d stick to the main version.

Now for one of the biggest downsides of this game: losing a piece is catastrophic. Funnily enough, this also makes it more similar to chess. The pieces are small and easy enough to lose if your playing with kids so watch out for that.

So here’s the rundown on Blokus:

  • Abstract (no luck)
  • Up to 4 People
  • Quick

#4: Patchwork

Now we’re really starting to get out on the edge of what makes chess the game it is. This game is similar to chess in the same way that jelly and jam are similar. It’s made up of the same stuff but we end up with something pretty different, even if it is familiar. Here’s a great Dice Tower review of the game:

The biggest thing that ties this game to chess is the fact that it is an abstract two player game. It requires strategy but to a very different extent since there are card drafting, time tracking, and tile placement mechanics that definitely add depth to the game. Overall, I would recommend giving this one a try if you’re looking for something new to sink your strategy fix into.

There’s also an app version which is much cheaper than the physical copy, so that would be a great stepping stone to make sure you’ll enjoy it.

  • Abstract (no luck)
  • Deep Gameplay
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#5: Azul

Continuing with our more out-there board games we’ve got the current top of the abstract game list on Board Game Geek. Personally, this is one of my favorite games to pull of the shelf with anyone that walks into my house.

The average playtime is around 30 minutes but those 30 minutes are filled with some fantastic gameplay. Despite knowing how acclaimed the gameplay was, just how good this game looked is what drew me in and that hasn’t grown old either. Although it’s pretty much exactly what chess is not, I think it’s a fantastic alternative that will scratch the same itch.

Here’s what Azul brings to the table:

  • Abstract (no luck)
  • Extremely Fun
  • Looks Amazing
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