The 17 Best 4x Board Games in 2021 to Put Your Strategy Skills to the Test
Build your Empire up from Nothing to Become the Best with one of these Great 4x Board Games
Players looking for grand strategy games that let you dig in and really flush out a winning strategy will likely get great enjoyment from the 4x board game genre. These games often feature a longer play time and objectives or goals that may take several hours to achieve. They’re a perfect opportunity to put your strategy skills to the test and to face off against other players.
4x board games feature Exploring, Expanding, Exploiting, and Exterminating as central mechanics in their gameplay. There is some debate on if a game can be considered in this genre if it doesn’t prominently feature all 4 X’s, but we’ve decided to include games on this list that may not feature all 4 X’s but still have the same overall feel of 4x games and that include several of the 4 X’s.
If the idea of a 4x board game intrigues you or you’ve already fallen in love with this board game genre, then read on for our list of the 17 best 4x board games.
Overall Best 4x Board Game: Twilight Imperium
Best Board Game with Tech Tree: Space Empires 4x
Best Empire Building Board Game: Clash of Cultures
Table of Contents
Buy this game if: you want a tiny footprint 4x board game that can be played in under an hour
Company: Gamelyn Games
Playtime: 30-45 minutes
Gameplay: lead your faction to glory as you strive to be the most powerful kingdom in the land. But take heed as your opponents have similar goals and there’s not enough land to share peaceably.
Players will compete over a number of turns to try and be the kingdom that amasses the most victory points by the end of the game. On your turn choose one of 6 actions to carry out. Then each other player can choose to also carry out the action you chose or to collect resources. Play continues in this way until end-of-game conditions have been met and then highest score wins.
Tiny Epic Kingdoms packs surprisingly deep and rich gameplay into a small box and gives plenty of strategy despite it playing out in under an hour. Players will have the opportunity to explore parts of the map, work on expanding their empire and building it up, and to wage war against the other factions all on the path to glory. Pick this one up today for a lightweight, affordable 4x board game.
|✅ Lots of strategy and gameplay packed into this game that plays out in under an hour and is stored in a very small box||🅧 Fans of deep strategy 4x games may be looking for more weight and depth than this game will give|
|✅ Game is pretty easy and straightforward to learn and get started with, but still offers great replayability||🅧 Some players feel that the action system for this game is restrictive for gameplay|
|✅ Pick up the expansion, Heroes’ Call, to add further gameplay such as Heroes, more factions, and a solo play mode|
|✅ Tiny Epic Kingdoms offers up a 4x board game for a very affordable price|
- The Time: Circa 500 A.D.
- The Place: The first islands of a new culture, later to be known as Polynesia.
- The Situation: You lead a tribe looking to expand its influence throughout the South Pacific.
- Conquest of Paradise is a game of empire building in the "Polynesian Triangle" of the central Pacific Ocean for two, three, or four players.
- The reprint edition of Conquest of Paradise will include a MOUNTED MAPBOARD and a set of Solitaire Rules.
Buy this game if: You want an empire building board game set in the Central Pacific Ocean
Company: GMT Games
Playtime: 90 minutes
Gameplay: Set in Polynesia in around 500 AD, you’re tasked with exploring and settling unknown lands all with the goal of being the most powerful empire in the area. You’ll have to be ruthless at times and thrifty with your resources if you want to lead your people to prosperity.
Over the course of many turns you’ll explore uncharted waters looking for new lands to settle. Villages provide build points every turn, allowing you to further expand. Since there’ll be opponents also wanting to settle these lands and to exploit them for their resources, war will likely breakout at some point in the game. Make sure you’re prepared with troops to defend your land or to conquer new areas.
Conquest of Paradise is a brilliant empire building board game that really forces you to make tough decisions about what’s best for your people. Resources are scarce so will you use them to expand your villages and support your people or to build units to conquer new areas? Will you invest in your culture and reap its rewards or set off into unknown lands hoping for riches? Add this one to your game collection and enjoy a wonderfully unique 4x board game.
|✅ Plan carefully to manage limited resources and make difficult choices about what’s best for your empire||🅧 Plans that don’t work out well for you can set you back and make you feel like you’re way behind in the game from early on|
|✅ Elements of Exploration, Expansion, Exploitation, and Extermination all wrapped into a satisfying 4x board game||🅧 Some players can be overwhelmed by the number of choices available to you on your turn|
|✅ Lots of strategy packed into a game that plays in around 90 minutes|
Buy this game if: You want a quick-playing, affordable 4x space board game with a small footprint
Company: Asmadi Games
Playtime: 30-60 minutes
Gameplay: Another smaller footprint strategy game, Impulse sets up quickly and plays in around an hour but is still very in-depth. Move your transports around to explore and discover new parts of space and use your cruiser to patrol and wage war with opponents.
Each turn a player will add a card from their hand to the Impulse, a communal line of cards that changes throughout the game, and then can perform actions from their playing area or use all actions from the Impulse. The game evolves and presents challenges as you work to fill the center with cards that will benefit you but not your opponents.
Be the first faction in the game to reach 20 points by destroying your opponents’ ships, by controlling the edges of the central card, and through actions presented to you throughout the game.
Impulse is quick to setup and to play but will keep you coming back again and again to play with its deep strategy and evolving board. Carefully laid strategies may reward you with a victory but ill-advised moves may see the win slip away from you in just a few short turns. Pick this one up for an inexpensive strategy game, one of the best 4x board games at it’s price point.
|✅ straightforward game mechanics get you playing quickly but deep strategy will keep you coming back for more play after play||🅧 Players looking for fancy components or an extremely high production value won’t find it here|
|✅ Impulse is an affordable, fun, small footprint 4x space board game||🅧 Despite it’s small footprint and price point, it does feature more complex gameplay mechanics|
|✅ Games play out in around an hour for an engaging gaming experience that won’t take forever||🅧 The rulebook can be confusing for some when first learning|
Buy this game if: you want a fun and unique 4x board game where you explore and build up an ant colony
Company: Weird City Games
Playtime: 70 minutes
Gameplay: Take charge of your any colony and build it up to be the best, scoring colony points along the path to victory. Many obstacles and choices will await you on your journey, so be prepared and choose wisely!
Players all collectively create the shared Meadow board over the course of the game. Send your ants out to explore and reveal new areas containing food or ideal locations to expand your colony.
Breed new ants to increase your population that can evolve and grow along the way. Will you take a path of war against the competing ant colonies? Or will you strive to remain peaceful and help each other to grow?
March of the Ants takes many of the key components of a good 4x game and implements it splendidly in the most unique of settings. Taking charge of a colony of ants makes for a fun and creative theme and atmosphere, and Weird City Games presents it extremely well with this game. Pick up this game today for one of the best 4x board games with a truly one-of-a-kind feel.
|✅ March of the Ants presents a fun 4x game with a twist; you are in charge of a colony of ants||🅧 Fans of high quality components may be disappointed by the cubes and wooden discs used for pieces in this game|
|✅ Lots of opportunities to interact with other players on your way to victory||🅧 Players who don’t like interacting a lot with opponents may not enjoy this game|
|✅ Plenty of strategy packed into a game that takes a little over an hour to play|
- RULE THE WORLD AND BUILD AN EMPIRE: This tabletop game based on the groundbreaking video game series lets players become some of history’s greatest leaders as they try to advance their people through the ages, from ancient history to the modern era. Trade, battle, build, and pursue your agendas to become the premier world power!
- STRATEGY GAME: As leaders of competing nations, players must expand their domains, gain new technologies, and build wonders to rise above all others and shape the world to their own vision. By balancing their nation's pursuits, leaders can build a new society greater than any that has come before and guarantee that their people will not only survive, but thrive.
- LEAVE YOUR MARK: By advancing their culture, science, economy, industry, and military, rulers can ensure their nation’s survival through the ages. However, true leaders want their civilization to not only survive, but thrive by advancing their pursuits and completing agendas.
- CHALLENGING AND COMPETITIVE: Will you conquer the world by spreading your influence, defeating enemy armies, or becoming the most technologically advanced nation in the world? Will you build a nation that will stand the test of time, or crumble into dust? The fate of your civilization rests in your hands.
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS AND AVERAGE PLAYTIME: This exciting turn-based strategy game is made for 2 to 4 players and is suitable for ages 14 and older. Average playtime is appoximately 1 to 2 hours.
Buy this game if: you enjoy the Civilization video game series or want a grand strategy board game where you take control of an empire and build it up to glory
Company: Fantasy Flight Games
Playtime: 60-120 minutes
Gameplay: Take charge of one of 8 great empires from history and lead your people through the ages trying to become the most powerful and successful empire in the world.
Players take turns choosing one of their 5 focus cards and carrying out the action listed on that card, and then placing that card in the lowest focus slot and adjusting the others. There’s plenty of strategy involved in each decision, however, as cards chosen in higher focus slots may give greater benefit but require a greater time investment before they can be used.
Build your empire by exploring new lands, settling and growing new cities, and interacting with opponents. You can choose to trade with city-states and other players or can take the war path and try to conquer anyone in your way. Players can also choose to focus on culture, science, or building wonders to further their cause.
Civilization New Dawn is the quintessential empire building board game. You take your empire from the humblest of beginnings and work to grow it into the top world power. The path you choose is your own, from military to economic to cultural. Fans of the Civilization video game series will feel right at home playing this game. Pick it up today for one of the best 4x board games.
|✅ Empire building board game where you lead your people to glory, whether through military might or scientific breakthroughs||🅧 This game is a heavier game to learn and get into, so be prepared going in|
|✅ A perfect board game for fans of the Civilization video game series||🅧 This game does take awhile to setup and has a lot of components|
|✅ So many different choices and paths to victory, from military, to culture, to science, to wonders||🅧 Some people might find the number of choices overwhelming|
|✅ Pick up Civilization: A New Dawn – Terra Incognita to increase player count to 5 and to add even more gameplay options|
Buy this game if: You want to found and build a mighty galactic empire and interact with other alien species in a 4x board game
Company: Red Raven Games
Playtime: 90-180 minutes
Gameplay: Earth has been attacked and defeated by the Kurross Empire. You have escaped on a worldship and are tasked with rebuilding on a planet at the fringes of the galaxy. Make tough decisions, interact with other alien species you encounter, and do what you must to establish yourself as a force in the galaxy.
Each player plays as their own faction and chooses an action to carry out on their turn. There are 5 actions you can choose from such as move and attack or recruit, but you can’t choose the action that was chosen in the previous round. After you take your action, each other player can choose to take the same action, to refresh, where they collect income and draw power cards, or they can pay to take any action.
The game is won by the empire with the most victory points at game end, earned through controlling planets, having allies, completing buildings and technologies, and completing empire cards. You must be prepared to make tough decisions throughout the game as you interact with other players and alien species you encounter. Will you conquer others to expand your empire or will you further your empire through trade and diplomacy?
Pick up Empires of the Void 2 for a grand strategy board game in an epic galactic setting. Fans of 4x space board games will love this game, as will anyone who’s looking for a game with a lot of choices and paths to victory.
|✅ Epic 4x space board game where you work to rebuild an empire after Earth was attacked and defeated||🅧 This is a heavier game to learn and play initially, so be prepared for a longer session at first|
|✅ Watch the story of the game unfold as you meet and interact with other alien species and explore uncharted areas of the galaxy||🅧 Lots of choices and options each and every turn can be great fun for some players but others may feel overwhelmed|
|✅ Enjoy an empire building board game with great artwork and detail in all components|
- Modular game with vast possibilities
- A semi-cooperative game by Christophe Boelinger (Dungeon Twister, Earth Reborn)
- The possibility of choosing the length of your game - from 30 minutes to 5 hours
- 2 to 5 player game
- English (Publication Language)
Buy this game if: You want to settle and build up your holdings on an archipelago while working towards secret objectives in a game with variable game lengths
Playtime: 30-240 minutes
Gameplay: Each player takes control of a European power in the Renaissance as they settle and build up their holdings on a newly discovered archipelago. Players must explore the land, collect vital resources, trade with other players or the natives, build and expand their area, and potentially wage war with the other players on the path to victory.
Players will secretly bid money at the beginning of each round to decide turn order, with the highest bidder getting to decide the turn order for all players that round. On your turn you’ll then carry out one of 13 actions ranging from collecting resources to exploring to recruiting additional workers.
To ultimately win Archipelago, players are all working towards a secret objective. You’re given this objective from the start, but you won’t know your opponent’s objectives. You must be strategic in your decisions and keep a close eye on the other European powers, being ready to thwart your opponent’s goals if needed to prevent them from winning the game.
Archipelago is unique from a lot of other strategy board games in that it provides 3 different sets of objective cards geared towards a short, medium, and long game, so you can have more control over the length of the game.
Pick up Archipelago for a fun and in-depth empire building board game set in the Caribbean. Fight off your opponents to be the most successful power on the archipelago, achieving the highest number of victory points once a secret objective has been reached. There’s plenty of exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating in this one to make it one of the best 4x board games.
|✅ Many different action choices and secret objectives make for a incredibly strategic board game||🅧 This is a heavy game with a lot of rules and parts, so if you aren’t looking to really dig into a serious game then this might not be for you|
|✅ Take a peaceful cooperative path to victory or wage war with the other powers as you rack up victory points||🅧 Not everyone may enjoy the sheer number of different choices and open-ended style of play in Archipelago|
|✅ Choose objective cards to decide on a short, medium, or long game for more control over game length|
|✅ Pick up Archipelago: War and Peace for even more content to explore|
Buy this game if: You want a 4x fantasy board game where you control a kingdom of orcs, elves, humans, or dwarves as you fight it out with the other factions
Company: Gamelyn Games
Players: 1-4 (can play 5-6 with expansion)
Playtime: 120-180 minutes
Gameplay: Play as humans, elves, dwarves, or orcs as you establish a humble village, striving to grow it into a powerful kingdom that will rule the land. Explore the land, utilize resources, build new buildings, and train warriors to defend your area or to conquer new territory.
Players in Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea must balance the use of their peons to reach their goals. Will you build new buildings or send your peons to explore new areas? Should they collect the resources or do you upgrade them to warriors to fight for your kingdom? Many difficult choices await you on your path to victory.
Simple rounds where you choose an available action, carry it out, and then collect resources from area you control make this game easier to get started with, but still leave room for plenty of strategy each and every round to do what’s best for your faction.
Gamelyn games has put together a fun and strategic game here with Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea. Marked by intricate miniatures, detailed cards, and 3D constructs, the game really comes alive in front of you and provides a great game atmosphere. Be prepared to pay a little bit more for the quality components with this game, but know that it’s worth it for one of the best 4x board games out today.
|✅ Take control of a fantasy race and build your village up to become the most powerful faction in the realm||🅧 Games can take 3 hours or more, which may not be what everyone wants to do in a board game|
|✅ Great atmosphere and theme with intricate miniatures, 3D constructs, and more||🅧 The game has great components and miniatures, but you will pay more because of these|
|✅ Lots of choices and strategy as you weigh options for your limited number of peons to carry out each turn||🅧 Be prepared for a more involved game to learn at first|
|✅ Pick up one of the many expansion packs and booster packs for even more content, such as Order and Chaos, which expands the game up to 6 players and adds in 4 more factions, or Pestilence, which adds in 2 more factions|
- 2020 4th edition in a double-case box
- Popular 1-4 play game of galactic space eXploration, eXpansion, eXploitation & eXtermination
- Players explore a largely empty map of space, discovering planets, asteroids & nebulae
- Form colonies for long-term growth, or mining operations for quick income
- Build any of 10 classes of space ships, with 50 levels of tech
Buy this game if: You want an epic 4x space board game with tech trees where you build your space empire up and wage war against your opponents
Company: GMT Games
Playtime: 180 minutes
Gameplay: Set off into the unknowns of space as you look to establish yourself as the most powerful faction in the universe. Along the way you’ll have to make tough decisions on colonization, war, exploration, and on aspects of your economy if you want to succeed.
Players take turns in order, which each turn consisting of a movement phase, combat phase, and exploration phase. Move your ships across a board made up of hexes to find new areas or contest enemy space, but be prepared for battle if you enter a hex already occupied by an opponent.
After every 3 turn rounds an economic phase occurs, where players gain income, determine player order for future turns, and can make upgrades to their colonies or purchase units. Play continues this way until a winner is determined.
Space Empires 4x is the quintessential 4x board game, focusing heavily on all 4 Xs: exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination. The game starts with a largely unknown board in front of you that you must explore and uncover as the game progresses. Expanding your empire with additional colonies and holdings will be vital to your success, as will the careful management and use of resources and income. Waging war with opponents is also a key aspect in the game.
Pick up Space Empires 4x for an in-depth strategic 4x space board game that will promise hours of fun and competition. If the idea of a 3 hour board game that you can sink into and plan out all your moves meticulously, then this is the game for you. It’s a fantastic empire building board game set in space that offers many paths to victory.
|✅ Space Empires 4x offers a grand scene to fight it out with your opponents in space, a game that will force you to put your strategy skills to the test if you want to emerge victorious||🅧 This game is a more complicated game to learn and play at first, with a lot of rules and things to remember|
|✅ Make your mark on a largely unexplored section of space, whether through growing a peaceful colony or by wiping out all competition|
|✅ This game offers a true, quintessential 4x board game experience|
|✅ Pick up the Close Encounters expansion for more gameplay or the Replicators expansion to expand the game to 5 players|
- Includes nearly 200 plastic figures, 235 tokens and markers, and 13 large map tiles
- A game of strategic empire building in the fantasy world of Terrinoth
- Playing Time: 2–3 hours
- Fantasy Flight Games (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
Buy this game if: You want a 4x board game set in a fantastical world where you wage war with your opponents and can lay siege to cities, all with detailed miniatures
Company: Fantasy Flight Games
Playtime: 180-240 minutes
Gameplay: Take control of one of the races of Terrinoth and prepare to fight to be the most powerful faction in the land. Will you cooperate with other powers to further your objectives or will you conquer them on your path to victory?
Runewars is played over 7 years, each consisting of 4 season rounds. Each season resolves a season card, which distinguishes each season from the others and may affect gameplay during that round, and then players play and resolve order cards to carry out actions, such as movement, collecting resources, and battling opponents.
Each faction provides unique gameplay and one must carefully consider how to best utilize the strengths and weaknesses of their faction if they want to be successful. There are many paths to victory, but only one faction can be declared the winner at the end of the 7th year.
Runewars provides detailed miniatures and wonderfully designed map pieces to set up a nice atmosphere for gameplay. While the game might be more complicated to learn initially, players who persevere will be rewarded with rich, variable gameplay and will allow them to put their strategy skills to the test.
The game takes place in the same world as Runebound, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and Rune Age, so fans of those games will feel right at home. Buy this one today for a spectacular fantasy 4x board game with high-quality components.
If you’re a fan of Descent: Journeys in the Dark, be sure to check out or list of the Best Dungeon Crawl Board Games for more great choices like it!
|✅ Epic 4x board game in a fantastical setting provides wonderful gameplay||🅧 This game is very detailed and involved to learn at first, so be prepared for a long game session initially|
|✅ Detailed combat mechanics and lots of choices each turn provide for a nearly infinite number of strategic decisions that can be made||🅧 Some players may feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available to them in Runewars|
|✅ Fans of Runebound, Rune Age, or Descent: Journeys in the Dark will enjoy being the same world of Terrinoth for this game||🅧 This game does have a high price point, but does provide lots of high quality pieces and components, including detailed miniatures|
Buy this game if: You want a sandbox style 4x space board game where you take on the role of starship captain, completing missions and exploring space
Company: Far Off Games
Playtime: 60-180 minutes
Gameplay: Take the helm of your very own starship as you fight to gain fame and riches, striving become the most successful pilot in the galaxy. You’ll have many choices to make and obstacles to overcome along the way; do you have what it takes to rise to the top?
Each player turn consists of three phases: the action phase, the business phase, and a status phase. Most of the turn takes place in the action phase, where players can move ships, collect and trade resources or items, and complete missions.
Players all work towards collecting fame to try and win the game. You can decide how many fame points you’re playing to at the beginning, allowing for some flexibility in how long the game takes. There are several different ways to earn points, from destroying other players’ ships, to completing missions, to buying them with wealth. Decide how you want to play the game, gear your ship out to support this, and work your way to victory.
Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a wonderful 4x space board game that focuses not on creating an empire but on working to be the most famous pilot in the galaxy. The ability to customize your ships to meet your preferences and choose what path you take to gain fame points makes for so much flexibility and open-ended play. Buy this one today for a brilliant sandbox style space game, definitely one of the best 4x board games out there today.
|✅ Sandbox style 4x space board game that has so many different options on how to accumulate points, so you can really play to your liking||🅧 Some people may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices and freedom you have in this game|
|✅ Choose how many fame points to play to and have some say in how long the game lasts||🅧 This game will take some time to learn at the beginning and to remember all the rules|
|✅ 21 beautiful, painted miniatures for ships, as well as intricately designed sector tiles, ship mats, and components make for an enjoyable and immersive experience|
Buy this game if: You want an empire building board game on an epic scale that features a detailed and varied tech tree to explore
Company: Z-man Games
Playtime: 180-240 minutes
Gameplay: Lead your civilization to glory and power, starting with a single small settlement and working to establish an empire. Choose to work alongside the other civilizations or wage war to declare yourself the supreme power in the land.
Play takes place across 6 rounds and each player has 3 turns in each round. On their turn a player takes 3 actions, from exploring, to founding cities, to training units or collecting resources. Whomever has the most victory points at the conclusion of the 6th round is declared the winner. Points are earned for having cities, advances, wonders, and for completing objectives.
Many difficult choices will await you on your path to glory, from decisions on how to best utilize your limited resources to how best to keep your cities happy. There are many advances to be made across the tech tree, so you can really customize your civilization to meet your playstyle and to maximize the points you can earn.
If you’re looking for an epic empire building board game then Clash of Cultures is the game for you. You’ll start from basically nothing and fight to make your people prosper as you advance through the ages. It’s a game where you can dig in and have total control over how you advance. And if you’re looking for board games with tech trees, then this one will be perfect for you!
|✅ Build your empire from nothing to become the next world power across many ages in this spectacular empire building board game||🅧 Games can easily take 4 hours, which may not be for everyone|
|✅ Mold and grow your civilization in whatever way you want through Clash of Culture’s expansive tech tree||🅧 This is a heavyweight game to learn at first, so be prepared|
|✅ Modular board pieces and molded units and buildings make for a wonderful board gaming experience|
|✅ Pick up Clash of Cultures: Civilizations to play as historical civilizations as you quest for glory|
Buy this game if: You want to take control of a faction and fight for supremacy in a 4x board game set in the world of Warhammer 40k
Company: Fantasy Flight Games
Playtime: 120-180 minutes
Gameplay: Expand and explore the Herakon Cluster as one of 4 factions, striving to claim your objective tokens in order to declare victory. These tokens will likely be in enemy space, though, so prepare your armies and wage war to claim them. Utilize the strengths of your faction and take advantage of your opponents’ weaknesses to reach your goals.
Each game round consists of a planning phase, the operations phase, and a refresh phase. Players plan out their orders by placing tokens facedown on the board during the planning phase, which are then carried out during the operations phase. There are 4 orders: deploy, strategize, dominate, and advance. The refresh phase is where players will collect material and objective tokens from worlds that they control.
Forbidden Stars is an intricate 4x board game, but with a heavier focus on combat than a lot of the other board games in the genre. A smaller map and having to claim your personal objectives that are scattered across the map mean you will inevitably have to battle against your opponents if you want to have success. Each faction has unique abilities which must be used to their fullest if you want to claim victory.
Fans of the Warhammer 40k series will feel right at home with Forbidden Stars and should definitely pick this one up. Other board game enthusiasts who enjoy war and area control games will quickly take to this game, as well. Grab this one for a heavyweight game where you can show your friends that you truly are the best strategist. It’s definitely deserving of a spot on our best 4x board games list.
|✅ A great 4x board game with a heavy emphasis on the extermination aspect of the genre, one where you must wage war and fight for territory to have success||🅧 Players who want more open-ended gameplay that doesn’t rely as heavily on combat may not enjoy this game|
|✅ Action phases where you place your order tokens facedown before anyone takes actions makes for very interesting gameplay||🅧 This game is a heavyweight game to learn and understand, so be prepared|
|✅ 4 unique factions, each with strengths and weaknesses, will force you to tailor your strategy each time you play the game|
|✅ Detailed miniatures really add to the feel of the game, one that any fan of the Warhammer 40k series will really enjoy|
Buy this game if: You want to take control of an animal class and fight to become the dominant species in the land as the ice age slowly approaches
Company: GMT Games
Playtime: 120-240 minutes
Gameplay: A very unique game on our best 4x board games list, Dominant Species puts you in charge of a class of animals before a great ice age. Plan carefully and take actions that will help you out while simultaneously hindering the survival of the other animals, because in the end only one can the winner.
Gameplay takes place across a board of hexagonal pieces that are slowly covered up with tundra tiles as it gets colder. Turns all consist of planning phases, execution phases, and then reset phases. Players place their available action pawns on the board to choose which actions they want to take, which are then carried out during the execution phase.
Players have 12 different actions that they can take during the execution phase to grow, adapt, and further their species while also trying to harm the other species’ growth. Work to accumulate victory points, as the player with the highest score at the game end is declared the winner.
Dominant Species provides a very interesting, in-depth game here that is unlike any other board game in the genre. So many different choices and actions are available to you, but plan carefully as action spaces fill up and players choose them, so you can’t always take the action you may want to. Pick this one up for an incredibly enjoyable and different gameplay experience, maybe the most unique 4x board game out there today.
|✅ Control an animal species as you try to adapt, grow, and fight off other specie’s to survive as the ice age draws closer||🅧 Fans of more traditional 4x board games may or may not like the style and theme of this game as much|
|✅ 12 different actions await you, forcing you to plan carefully and be willing to adapt if you want to have success||🅧 This is a very heavy game to learn and play initially, and your first few sessions will likely be quite long|
|✅ Competing against other players while also trying to survive as the climate changes in the game makes for unique gameplay||🅧 Components are cubes and cardboard discs so aren’t anything fancy|
- Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy is a revised and upgraded version of the Eclipse base game that debuted in 2011 featuring a new gaphic design, custom plastic inlays, Custom combat dice and fine-tune gameplay, full line of Ship Pack 1 miniatures, new miniatures for ancients, FCDS, orbitals and more
- A game of Eclipse places you in control of a vast interstellar civilization, competing for success with its rivals. You explore new star systems, research technologies, and build spaceships with which to wage war
- This new edition features new components and thoughtfully revised content, incorporating material from former expansions to create the best possible updated version of the game
- Eclipse is a "4X" game where players will command a human or alien species that explores, expands, exploits, and exterminates their way to victory. Over 8 rounds, each player will select actions to achieve their goals, carefully managing resources, engaging in epic battles with one another and the Ancients that lie in wait. Only one will guide the galaxy toward the second dawn
- 2 to 6 Players / Ages 14+ / 60 to 200 minutes playing time
Buy this game if: You want an amazing space 4x board game, one where you lead your interstellar civilization to greatness
Playtime: 60-180 minutes
Gameplay: Prepare to face off in space against your opponents as you all compete to grow your civilization to become the next great super power in the galaxy with this epic empire building board game. Utilize the strengths of your species and exploit the weaknesses of your opponents on your path to victory.
Eclipse plays out over 9 rounds, each containing 4 phases. Players take turns performing actions, like exploring, researching, or upgrading, during the action phase. Combat takes place in the next phase, followed by an upkeep phase where you maintain your civilization and collect resources. The round then has a cleanup phase to end the round and prepare for the next one.
There are so many possibilities for success and ways to win the game in Eclipse, so plan carefully and be sure to keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of your species. Will you trade and exert influence to try and peaceful grow your power, or will you train units and wage war against your opponents?
If you’re looking for an in-depth and comprehensive 4x board game set in space, then Eclipse is a must-buy for you. Modular hex tiles, upgradable ships, and a host of buildings, upgrades, and research you can make to your civilization all make for incredibly detailed gameplay that allows you to adjust for any playstyle or situation. It’s one of the best 4x board games, definitely one to add to your collection.
|✅ Explore space, expand your civilization, and wage war against your opponents as you compete to be the best in Eclipse||🅧 This game takes awhile to setup and to learn, so be prepared before your first few games|
|✅ Modular hexagonal board pieces, detailed ships, and more all make for an exciting and immersive feel to the game||🅧 This game has high quality components but will have a higher price point because of it|
|✅ The possible paths to victory are nearly endless so you can really choose your own playstyle and focus on your specie’s strengths||🅧 Games can easily take over 3 hours, which might be too long for some people|
- It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries
- Lead your faction to victory, building mechs, working the land, and exploring the mysterious factory, all while protecting your territory from the mechs of other encroaching factions
- Explore the alternate-history of 1920 plus Europe through Jakub Różalski's stunning artwork
- For 1-5 players
- Plays in 90-120 minutes
Buy this game if: You want an area control, engine building 4x board game with intricate miniatures and a steampunk feel to it
Company: Stonemaier Games
Players: 2-5 (up to 7 with expansion)
Playtime: 90-115 minutes
Gameplay: Take charge of a faction and fight against your opponents to establish dominance in the land. Explore and claim new lands, extract resources from the area, construct buildings and upgrade your homeland to increase power, and engage in combat against rival factions.
On your turn you will choose one of 4 actions and carry it out. These actions allow you to move units, collect resources, build buildings, trade for goods, and more. You’ll need to choose wisely, as an action you take will not be available to you on your next turn.
A game of Scythe plays until one player earns their 6th star, and then points are totaled up to determine the winner. Stars can be earned through combat, completing objectives, and through various upgrades you make to your faction or through feats you may accomplish during gameplay. Can you take the strengths of your faction and use them to lead your people to glory?
Scythe can be a bit complex to learn at first, but it provides such a satisfying pay-off once you learn the rules and get playing. Relatively simple turn mechanics make the game more approachable than some, but the level of strategy and the open-endedness of the gameplay make for endless replayability. This game is really a must-add for any board game collection, and is thoroughly deserving of a spot on our best 4x board games list.
Scythe is a mainstay in our gaming group of 5, which can be a tough group size to find games for sometimes. For more great choices, check out our list of the Best 5 Player Board Games. It is also one of a small number of games that will comfortably support 7 players if you get the Invaders From Afar expansion (although I highly recommend the board extension for larger groups).
I also can’t recommend the Broken Token box organizer for this game; it cuts back significantly on game setup and gets you playing faster.
|✅ Great 4x board game with lots of combat, engine building, and area control aspects to really put your skills to the test||🅧 There are a lot of components in this game and setup takes a long time. Grab the box organizer to help with this.|
|✅ So many different ways to progress in this game allow for a host of unique playstyles and force you to plan and adapt your strategy to your situation and to your specific faction||🅧 Be prepared for a more complex game to learn initially|
|✅ Beautiful artwork on board and cards and intricate miniatures make for brilliant atmosphere|
|✅ Pick up Invaders from Afar, The Wind Gambit, and Rise of Fenris for even more content|
- THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE: Explore the latest reimagining of the Twilight Imperium saga with this epic fourth edition. The galaxy stirs once more, and the great races are again looking beyond their borders into the far reaches of space. Mecatol Rex, the jewel of galactic civilization, awaits the one who would be so bold as to take up the mantle of Emperor.
- SCI-FI STRATEGY BOARD GAME: In this game of galactic conquest, each player takes command of one of seventeen unique civilizations to compete for interstellar supremacy through warfare, trade, uncertain allegiances, and political dominance. Negotiate your way to victory or overrun your foes with military might - the choice is yours.
- THRILLING AND COMPETITIVE: Every faction offers a completely different play experience, from the wormhole-hopping Ghosts of Creuss to the Emiratates of Hacan, masters of trade. Each of these races have many paths to victory, but only one will sit upon the throne of Mecatol Rex as the new masters of the galaxy.
- HIGHLY VARIABLE: Create your own galactic space opera with a massive game featuring over 1,000 components. With seventeen different factions and a random board setup, no game is ever the same twice.
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS AND AVERAGE PLAYTIME: This exciting storytelling and tactical adventure game is designed for 3 to 6 players and is suitable for ages 14 and older. Average playtime is between 4 to 8 hours.
Buy this game if: You want to take charge of a faction and battle it out for control of the galaxy in this epic 4x space board game
Company: Fantasy Flight Games
Playtime: 240-480 minutes
Gameplay: Choose from one of 17 different factions and explore, trade, build, and fight your way to supremacy in Twilight Imperium. Play across a board of modular hex galaxy tiles that you help create at the beginning of the game and then set off to conquer space and your foes.
The game plays over several rounds, each containing a strategy phase, action phase, status phase, and then an agenda phase. Players will choose a strategy card that give their faction a unique ability that turn and will also determine play order. Then players carry out their actions, such as moving units, upgrading their empire, and waging war.
The status phase is where cleanup from this round is done and players prep for the next round. Then everyone will vote on political agendas during the agenda phase that can affect the overall gameplay for the rest of the game. Play continues until a player reaches 10 victory points and is declared the winner.
Victory points are earned through completing objectives. Public objectives are setup at the beginning of the game, with a few revealed from the start and more revealed as the game progresses. Players can also complete secret objectives to earn points.
Twilight Imperium claims our top spot on the best 4x board games list, and for good reason. If you’re looking for a true, classic 4x board game where you can dig in and plan out all the aspects of your empire as you slowly work to take over the galaxy, then this is the game for you. 17 unique factions, 50+ planets, 40 different objectives, and more all mean that each game you play will be entirely unique, so the game will always seem fresh and exciting. It’s a must buy for any fan of empire building board games.
|✅ Put your strategy skills to the test in this epic 4x board game||🅧 Games will easily last 4-8 hours per play, which not everyone may enjoy|
|✅ An incredible amount of content packed into one game box to keep you coming back again and again||🅧 This is a heavyweight game with a lot of mechanics and rules in play, so it will take time and energy to learn and understand|
|✅ Intricate pieces and detailed artwork on cards and board pieces really add to the feel of the game||🅧 With all the content and components in this game, be prepared for a higher price point|
|✅ Plenty of great 4x elements as well as political intrigue make gameplay fun and unique|
What Exactly is a 4x Game?
The 4x genre originated in video games was a perfect candidate to expand into board games. These games are centered around 4 main gameplay aspects, known at the 4 Xs. While not every game may focus equally on each of these mechanics, most of the best 4x board games will feature all of these in some capacity.
Explore – The first mechanic, explore, is all about being able to send units out into new territory to explore and find out what’s there. Many of these games are setup so that you can’t tell what will be found on a piece until it is explored, often starting with much of the map undiscovered.
It’s often beneficial to be the first empire to explore an area, as it would give you first chance at colonizing or settling the area if it proves to be rich in resources or has strategic value.
Expand – The next core mechanic in a 4x board game is expansion. You’ll often start with a small piece of land or just a tiny village or settlement and are tasked with growing that into a global powerhouse. To do this you’ll need to expand, either claiming new land and settling new cities or growing and upgrading the city or cities you already have. This is often done through new buildings, researching technology, and/or the use of tech trees. Much of this is reliant on collecting resources or materials in many of the games.
Exploit – The 3rd mechanic is exploitation, which is using the resources or units available to you to the most benefit. Often resources are very scarce or are highly contested by you and your opponents, meaning you’ll have to fight or trade for these resources and will have to plan wisely on how to best use what is available to you.
Exploitation is also necessary with troops and units in a lot of these games, forcing you to strategize on how to get the most out of the military power that you have. Sometimes you can raise a large army and lay waste to your opponents, but most of time you’ll be tasked with how to best engage your enemies using a few troops here and there, exploiting weaknesses you see in their game plan or finding gaps in their defense as they’re focusing on other things.
Exterminate – Our last mechanic in a 4x game is extermination, often through combat or war. Most 4x games will give you the ability to go to battle against your opponents in an effort to take over land, gain valuable resources, or to just weaken their position while strengthening yours. Train and potentially upgrade units, move them into position, and then fight it out with your enemies to show if you’ve got what it takes to be the most powerful empire.
4x vs. Grand Strategy: What’s the Difference?
Terms like 4x games and grand strategy games are thrown around a lot, but what’s the difference between the two?
Grand strategy games are classified this way because the game sets you up to plan and implement a long term strategy to grow your empire and make it a success. This could be through trade, using resources, diplomacy, or war. These games are often longer games, allowing you plenty of time to figure out your path and many turns to implement that strategy.
4x games are focused on the 4 X’s: Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate. Games in this genre focus on many, if not all, of these mechanics and use them are core parts of the game. These are often also longer games, giving you time to scout out the land, plan your expansion, find the best resources to use to become a powerhouse and raise a military, and then to wage war to eliminate your competition.
There does tend to be a lot of overlap between the two genres, but it really comes down to the main focus of the games. Games can be both a grand strategy game and a 4x game, but not all grand strategy games also qualify as 4x games. There’s a good chance, though, that if you like being able to plan out long term strategies and plans that you’ll probably enjoy both game genres.
If you Like 4x Games, You Might Also Like These Games
There are so many different strategy board games out there that it can be at times overwhelming to find quality ones that you’ll enjoy. If you enjoy 4x board games, here are some other board games we think you would enjoy.
Through the Ages – Build up a civilization from it’s humble beginnings to become a world power. Throughout your journey you’ll need to manage resources, raise and maintain a military, engage in diplomacy, and research cutting edge technologies to keep you ahead of your opponents.
Through the Ages shares many features with 4x board games but doesn’t contain a map so there is no exploring and no area control aspect. You can still expand your empire, though, exploit resources, and wage war against your opponents. It’s a must-have game for any strategy board game enthusiast and a great addition to your collection if you’re a fan of 4x board games and are looking to branch out.
Risk Legacy – Most people who are familiar with strategy games, especially military-themed or area control games, are probably familiar with the classic Risk. Risk Legacy takes that game, though, and injects new life into it with the legacy style gameplay. Meant to be played with the same group throughout, Risk Legacy will have you making decisions that will alter the board, cards, and rules permanently, meaning the game will change and evolve over time.
Raise your military, plan out your strategy, and wage war against your opponents with the goal of eliminating all competition. Deploy troops each turn and then go to battle, all in an effort to try and take over your opponents’ capitals to win the game. Just be prepared for a few twists or changes during your games, as you never know exactly what to expect with a legacy game.
Star Wars: Rebellion – another board game set in space, but this time in the immensely popular Star Wars universe, is Star Wars Rebellion. Take control of either the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance and wage war against the enemy. Each side has different objectives to claim victory, so plan accordingly and rely on your strengths while exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. While not a 4x game, you’ll get plenty of the tactical combat, training/upgrading troops, and strategic war planning that you would in many of the best 4x board games.
Marked by over 150 miniatures, Rebellion really provides a wonderful theme and experience along with superb gameplay. Move your units strategically and look for weaknesses in the enemy’s setup. Many of your favorite Star Wars characters will have roles in the game; it’s like you’re creating your very own Star Wars story! Then pick up Star Wars: Rebellion – Rise of the Empire for even more content and fun.
Final Thoughts on the Best 4x Board Games
4x board games can provide hours of great strategy gameplay and are a perfect choice for a gamer who’s looking to really be able to dig in deep to a game and plan out a long-term strategy. They force you to plan ahead but also be willing to adapt as the game changes. So many different paths to victory are possible through the many exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination options within the games.
Whether you’re a veteran of the 4x board game genre or just a gamer who’s looking for a new and exciting challenge, any of these games will be sure to give you countless hours of fun and strategy. So gather some friends together and pick up one of these best 4x board games today!