Engine building games are perfect for those who love to build up their control and power as the game progresses. They are tactical and require plenty of strategy. Due to these qualities, it’s hard to find a great engine building board game. Thankfully, there are a few great options out there.
Here we’ve decided to find the 10 best engine building games available today. We tried to find something for everyone with our extensive reviews while also giving you all the info you need with our buying guide and FAQs.
Read on to find your perfect engine-building board game!
- 1 Best Engine Building Board Games
- 1.1 Scythe by Stonemaier Games
- 1.2 Dominion by Rio Grande Games
- 1.3 Terraforming Mars by Indie Boards and Cards
- 1.4 Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games
- 1.5 Splendor by Asmodee
- 1.6 7 Wonders – Duel by Asmodee
- 1.7 Wingspan by Stonemaier Games
- 1.8 A Feast For Odin by Z-Man Games Store
- 1.9 Caverna: The Cave Farmers by Mayfair Games
- 1.10 Great Western Trail by Stronghold Games
- 2 Best Engine Building Board Games – Buying Guide
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Best Engine Building Board Games
Scythe by Stonemaier Games
Scythe is the epitome of an engine building board game. It can take up to two hours to play which will fly by due to the absorbing content. It has a perfect blend of stunning visuals, excellent gameplay and flawless game mechanics.
The game is set in 1920’s Europe in a similar but alternate reality. The players will each play the role of a faction which aims to build up their power and survive. In the background is a mysterious corporation called ‘The Factory’.
Players can win stars for various achievements and once a player has six stars, the game will end. The winner will then be the player with the highest wealth. It’s a brilliant game and a must-buy for any engine building board game lovers.
Dominion by Rio Grande Games
If deck-building is your thing then there’s no better game than Dominion. Engine building games often have a deck element and that’s no different here, as you’ll use them to try and build your kingdom.
You’ll be able to use your existing cards to get bigger and better cards. This, in turn, will then lead to you being able to perform more actions. There are also expansion packs available to make the game even bigger and add to its replayability.
It’s immensely popular for a reason and you’re sure to love it. The gameplay is slick and engaging, and ideal for 2-4 players. It’s also fairly quick and a game can be completed in just 30 minutes.
Terraforming Mars by Indie Boards and Cards
This is a heavyweight in the world of engine building board games. You play the part of a corporation that aims to place a human settlement on Mars. It tries to be as realistic as possible and it all makes for a highly engrossing game.
It’s ideal for those who love cooperative games but there will be a winner, the one who claims to most points. The engine builds by gradually accruing resources which you can then use to terraform the planet.
It works via play cards and you can gradually build up your power. The rules are easy to pick up but it does require some concentration. 1-5 players can be included with a playing time of around two hours.
Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games
Building a space empire is never not fun! It’s a fairly straightforward card game and premise but that doesn’t take anything away from the gameplay. It’s highly engaging while having a perfect level of complexity for most users.
You’ll end up building your deck of cards by gaining resources but in the early part of the game, you may have to sacrifice cards in order to do so. There are different phases to play which you pick in secret before revealing them to your fellow players. These decisions are all important and play a key role in your success.
There aren’t many components and the playing time will be anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Overall it’s very impressive and a game that offers great value for money.
Splendor by Asmodee
If you’re thinking that the games we’ve looked at are quite heavy then this one is a little lighter. It can be a great starting point for those who want to get into the world of engine building board games.
It’s set in the renaissance period and the aim is to become the greatest merchant. You’ll collect gems which then allow you to produce ever-improving developments. As you do, you’ll increase your prestige and get the prestige points you need to win the game.
The game works via a card-based system and it won’t take you long to work out how to play it. It’s ideal as a family game and can be played with 2-4 players.
7 Wonders – Duel by Asmodee
This game is a great idea for those who want a fairly quick game time while still being able to build an engine. It only takes around 30 minutes and only requires two people to play it in a direct duel.
It comes from the larger 7 Wonders game which is also about building a civilization. The winner will be the player that has gained the most victory points. You’ll build your engine which helps you to increase the power of your science, buildings and military.
It’s the perfect engine building game for two and is fairly easy to learn. If more players wanted to get involved you can get the larger version. Both are epic fun and require plenty of thought and strategy.
Wingspan by Stonemaier Games
Perfect for 1-5 players, Wingspan is one of the most beautiful games ever made. The premise may seem a little boring but in reality, the game is plenty of fun. It takes between 40-70 minutes to play and suitable for anyone 10 or up.
In the game, you take up the role of a bird lover who wants to add birds to their aviary. You have four rounds to gather as many birds as possible with 175 bird cards available.
Each bird will require its own resources and you’ll decide where to put it in your world. There is plenty more to the game with its engine and you’ll have randomly generated goals that will make each game unique. You don’t have to be a bird lover to enjoy this game and you’ll love the beauty of it.
A Feast For Odin by Z-Man Games Store
Anyone who likes Viking culture will love this game. As you go through you’ll enjoy raiding and exploring through the adventure. The more treasure and goods you have, the stronger your Vikings will become.
There is plenty of strategy in this game. In order to expand your dominance, you have to ensure that your Vikings are properly fed and looked after. You need to balance your resources to hoard as much as you can to win the game.
It’s a wonderful mix of worker placement and tile placement along with exciting gameplay and quality components. It’s suitable for 1-4 players and ages of 14+.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers by Mayfair Games
Caverna is a throwback to simpler times. You start off by living in a simple cave and you have to expand from there. Each player will work out what’s best for them in terms of what resources you use and how you grow your cave system.
The game has wide player compatibility from 1-7 players and the games are fairly quick at around 30 minutes. A great feature of this list is the replay value so you can start a new game as soon as you’ve finished the last one.
There are a fantastic number of components to enjoy and the game will keep you hooked. The premise is fairly simple but the strategy requires plenty of thought. It’s a fun game without being overly complicated.
Great Western Trail by Stronghold Games
Who doesn’t love a Western? Whether its games, books or films, this time in American history is a great source of creative material. This game, however, is less about shootouts and is more about the actual life of a cowboy and the cattle trade.
You’ll need to gain the highest quality of cattle. To do that you’ll need to hire workers, improve your railway system and improve your ranch. It all works into a highly engaging game that doesn’t fall into any lazy stereotypes of the Western genre.
Game time can be a little long at up to 150 minutes and can be played between 2-4 players. It’s another brilliant game and one that looks fantastic too.
Best Engine Building Board Games – Buying Guide
It’s a good starting point to know how much you want to spend on a board game. Some of these will come in around $30 whereas others will cost around $70. If you’re not sure if you’ll like engine building board games then a game such as 7 Wonders – Duel would be a great introduction.
Number of players
All board games will only be appropriate for a certain number of players. If you have five in your group, for example, then Dominion wouldn’t be suitable as it’s for 2-4 players. If you wanted to have more of a wide range then Caverna can be played between 1-7 players. Just make sure you’re getting a game that you can all play.
Another key factor is the complexity of the game. Scythe is a fairly heavy game compared to the others but engine building games, in general, all have some complexity. If you’re unsure then it’s good to focus on the age rating on the game. All the games we’ve chosen here have great depth but aren’t too hard to learn how to play.
Want a quick game with the family or an in-depth gaming session with friends. Board games, in general, can have a vast range of playing times. We’ve not looked at any of the epics here but Great Western Trail can take about 150 minutes. For something shorter, there are many great options such as the 30-minute playing time of Dominion.
Setting and Design
All of these games are great but you may like to get one that is more suited to your taste. That could be the Wild West setting of the Great Western Trail, simple times of Caverna, or the Viking setting of A Feast For Odin.
All of these games look fantastic but it could be worth finding something new. You’ll quickly be able to pick up any themes. You may also be enticed by the artwork of the game. Wingspan is a beautifully drawn game that has elegance and a game like Scythe has stunning artwork and high-quality components.
Who is playing?
An important factor in choosing a board game is knowing who will be playing. Is it friends who all have a similar interest in board games or a family of different ages and skill levels? If it’s the latter then you’ll want to choose a game that is inclusive of everyone. Most of the games we’ve looked at here are suitable for a broad range of different players.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is engine building?
In simple terms, an engine building game is one where you will get bigger and better over time. You’ll gradually gain resources/money which you can then use to become more powerful. As the game goes on, your ‘engine’ will become more efficient.
How do I choose the best board game for me?
In the buying guide section, we looked at the main things to take into consideration. The best board game for you will be the one that meets all the criteria you’re looking for. Everyone is different but all the games we’ve looked at are fantastic and you’ll surely love them.
What is the best engine building board game?
Scythe is immensely popular and many people regard it as the best engine building board game. Many others would disagree and choose another game from this list. It’s all a matter of personal preference but you can’t go wrong if you choose any of the games here.
What is the best deck building game?
There are many great games out there that incorporate a deck but for out and out deck-building, it’s hard to beat Dominion. The popular game immersive, fun and allows you to quickly build an engine with the cards you’re dealt with.