The Top 10 History Board Games Of All Time

There's nothing wrong with Risk or Battleships, but the market for new boardgames based on historic events has exploded over the last few years. The good ones that fit into the niche of 'history boardgames' pleasingly and entertainingly capture an enticing feel of the place and period in history in which they are set.

To me, a truly great history boardgame subtly teaches the core mechanics that drove a historic period - no matter how obscure - in an accessible, entertaining and relatively light, easy-to-teach package. Games that empower players by allowing them to indulge in making and changing established history aren't just great history games; they’re also some of the best designed boardgames ever made. A few that have made our list have even proven their quality over many decades.

So whether you’re looking to get your friends into boardgames or just seeking some timeless classics to add to your shelf, here are our top 10 essential history boardgames of all time:

The palace and gardens of Versailles, finalized under the rule of Louis XIV of France, are an architectural marvel of the world. When the ch√Ęteau was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris.
In Versailles, players take the roles of architects and interior designers, working together to build and decorate the ensemble of Versailles, competing for the favor of the King. Players take turns moving one worker from a building site to an adjacent one, activating all the workers in the new location.

The basic rules are simple, but players can develop complex strategies as the game progresses, gathering resources, building the puzzle-like palace, designing impressive decorations and learning new skills, all while waiting for the arrival of his Majesty.

Forge an empire to stand the test of time using innovative game mechanics with multiple paths to victory. "Will you lead the greatest army in the world to conquer your foes? Or will you be the first to journey to the stars, becoming the most technologically advanced civilization known to man?" This is the choice each player must face.

Civilization is inspired by the legendary video game series created by Sid Meier. 2-4 players take on the roles of famous leaders in charge of historical civilizations, each with their own unique history and  abilities. Players will be able to explore a module game board, build cities and buildings, fight battles, research powerful technology, and attract great people by advancing their culture. No matter what your play style is, there is a civilization for you!

Fans of Sid Meier’s classic video game franchise will find familiar footing in the Board Game. Staying true to the foundations of its video game predecessor while creating a new and unique way to enjoy the rule of a civilization.

Yes, the original destroyer of friendships itself!
At the turn of the 20th century prior to World War I the seven Great European Powers engage in an intricate struggle for supremacy. Military forces invade and withdraw shifting borders and altering empires with subtle maneuvers and daring gambits. Alliances are formed and trust is betrayed as players negotiate and outwit one another in a delicate balance of cooperation and competition to gain dominance of the continent. 
This classic game of back-stabbing has taken many forms over the years, in most versions, players represent one of the seven "Great Powers of Europe" (Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungry, Germany, Italy, Russia or Turkey) in the years prior to World War I. Play begins in the Spring of 1901, and players make both Spring and Autumn moves each year.

There are only two kinds of military units: armies and fleets and players instruct each of their units by writing a set of "orders." The outcome of each turn is determined by the rules of the game. There are no dice rolls or other elements of chance. With its incredibly simplistic movement mechanics fused to a significant negotiation element, this system can be picked up very easily by a new gamer, just don't play against anyone you want to stay friends with.

A true classic from the 1970s recently re-released. Colditz Castle is a Renaissance castle in Germany which gained international fame as an ultra-high security POW camp during World War II for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps.

In a notoriously difficult to win board game recreation of this famous setting, one player takes the part of the German Guards, whilst the others play "Escape Officers" who are responsible for organizing escape attempts by their team of prisoners. Generally, the winner will be the Escape Officer who achieves the most successful escapes; but it might be the German Forces, if they are able to limit the number of escapes. 
The difficulty is getting someone to play as the Nazi's.

This title was first released in 1981 and has evolved into a series of games.

It depicts WWII on a grand scale, a full global level. Up to five players can play on two different teams. The Axis which has Germany and Japan, and the Allies which has the USA, the United Kingdom, and the USSR. A full map of the world is provided, broken up in various chunks similar to Risk. 

The game comes with masses of plastic miniatures that represent various military units during WWII. Players have at their disposal infantry, armor, fighters, bombers, battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines, troop transports, anti-air guns, and factories. All of the units perform differently and many have special functions. Players have to work together with their teammates in order to coordinate offenses and decide how best to utilize their production points. Players also have the option of risking production resources on the possibility of developing a super technology that might turn the tide of war. 

In 1413, the new king of England, Henry V of Lancaster, has ambitious plans: The unification of England and the conquest of the French crown! In Lancaster, each player takes the role of an ambitious aristocratic family. Who will be the best supporter of this young king, and the most powerful Lord of his time?

The aim of the game for the players is to proceed from simply being a Lord to the most powerful ally of the king. They may achieve this by developing their own knighthood as well as by clever deployment of individual knights in the counties of England, at their own castle, and to conflicts with France. In parliament, they try to push through laws from which they will benefit themselves most. The player with the most power points at the end of the game is the winner.

The play is diverse but moves quickly, even with the maximum number of players and a high level of player interaction making it enjoyable for most audiences.

On 1 September, 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military depot at Westerplatte. The attack marked the beginning of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, and with it the second world war.
For the small Polish garrison, the odds seemed overwhelming. Just 209 men found themselves besieged by over 3,000 German troops.

But the Poles weren’t about to give up without a fight. In the face of artillery bombardments, infantry assaults and terrifying dive-bombing raids, they held their ground for a week and provided a powerful symbol of resistance to millions of their compatriots.
This story of heroism, defiance and desperation is the setting for Seven Days of Westerplatte – first published in 2013.

It is a cooperative game, the players incorporate the roles of Polish commanders who work together to confront the German army and win the game. Stuka raids, land troop attacks, and battleship and howitzer bombardments are the biggest threat for Polish forces, and to hold back the attacking German troops, players must use land mines, mortars and rifles, while also remembering to rebuild the defensive structures and keep their morale high.

In Princes of Florence, you on your kitchen table can experience the golden age of the Renaissance. Assume the role of the head of an Italian Aristocratic dynasty and lead your family like the Medici or Borgia!

Players assume the roles of Florentine Princes who wish to design their own villas to allow artists to create great works of prestige. Through seven rounds, each containing an auction phase and two action phases, the Princes pay for beautifully crafted landscaping, buildings, freedoms, and various services and bonuses. 

At the end of the seven rounds, whoever has the most Prestige Points wins.
An interesting strategic element is that whenever new buildings are placed in the player's villa, they may not touch other buildings, unless certain conditions are achieved first. This leads to not always being able to purchase the most advantageous buildings if they be fitted into the playing area.

This game has one of the most visually rich and tactile pleasure stimulating contents in the board game world.

Cuba prior to the revolution: Under turbulent circumstances, the villages of the island strive for independent wealth and influence. Who can buy and sell his products and goods on the domestic market profitably or take in the most on the trading ships? Who can send the right delegate to parliament in order to influence the government legislative process, or erect distilleries, hotels and banks at the right moment to the benefit of his village?
Whoever has accumulated the most victory points in Cuba by the end of the game wins. Players earn victory points by shipping merchandise from the harbor, but also by erecting and using buildings, and by abiding by the law.

Cuba takes some of the most interesting board game mechanics and rules from the best games out there, and combines them into a package that somehow works beautifully. The premise is very engaging as well. Who doesn’t want to be in control of the cigar factories, hotels, banks and the corrupt government of a tropical island paradise?

At number 1, we have a boardgame that we believe achieves perfect pitch between accessibility of game play and empowering the players by allowing them to indulge in making and changing established history in an engaging way.

"Sometimes the history of a nation can be defined by the relationship between two individuals. The Election of 1960 is the story of two men, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. One is the scion of a wealthy, politically powerful family from New England. The other is the son of a Quaker grocer in Whittier, California. While they belong to opposing political parties, they start out as friends. The complex development of that friendship, however, would shape a pivotal presidential election and cast a long shadow over American history for the remainder of the 20th century."

In 1960: The Making of the President, you take on the role of one of these great protagonists vying for the right to lead his country into the heart of the Cold War. 

The contest is fought out on an electoral map of the United States as it stood in 1960—a map where Louisiana and Florida share the same number of electoral votes, as do California and Pennsylvania. Using a card-driven game system, all the major events which shaped the campaign are represented: Nixon’s lazy shave, President Eisenhower’s late endorsement, and the 'Catholic question' are all included as specific event cards. The famous televised debates and final election day push are each handled with their own subsystems. Candidates vie to capture each state’s electoral votes using campaign points in the four different regions of the country. At the same time, they must build momentum by dominating the issues of the day and attempt to gain control of the airwaves.

Just like the real thing, there are never enough resources or time to do everything, but you need to make the tough calls to propel yourself into the White House. This fast-playing strategy game for two players challenges you to run for the most powerful elective office in the world, at one of its most unique crossroads. Will you recreate history, or rewrite it? 1960: The Making of the President provides you the opportunity to do both.
It does this so well, though it is a recent game -these things are chuffing rare now.