Like many modern board game fans, my first resource management game was Settlers of Catan. It’s considered a “gateway game” for a reason — its simple introduction to board game mechanics helps you understand the basics and figure out what you like and don’t like. From there, you can take that knowledge and launch into more complicated games — like the best resource management boards games!
Resource management board games give you a tangible strategy to track as you progress through the game. They’re perfect for beginners but allow for enough complication that even advanced players can expect a challenge.
If you’re looking for some fresh, exciting options, read on for our roundup of the top 10 resource management games!
What Are Resource Management Board Games?
Resource management games are (unsurprisingly) games in which you must manage your various in-game resources. This typically involves spending currency on victory points and/or other types of resources, but can also include collecting and saving a particular resource to complete an action that would otherwise be unavailable. Knowing when to spend your resources and when to hold onto them for the sake of a more lucrative turn later is the key to developing a successful strategy.
Resource management encompasses a lot of different board game mechanics, but you’ll often see one or more of the following:
- Income: gaining resources at set times during the game
- Random Production: resources are generated through a randomized process
- Resource Management: claiming, spending, and/or trading in-game resources
- Tile Placement: placing physical components or resources on the board
- Trading: gaining resources at set times during the game
- Worker Placement/Role Selection: choosing from a specific set of actions to complete on a given turn
Other mechanics may come into play depending on the premise and difficulty of your selected game, but any additions will likely synergize well with the concept of resource management.
The Best Resource Management Board Games
With all of this in mind, let’s get into our picks for the 10 best resource management board games!
1. Terraforming Mars
The best resource management board game overall
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 120min | Difficulty: 3/5
In Terraforming Mars, you play as a corporation involved in the terraforming and colonization of (what else?) Mars. Though all players contribute to the planet’s overall habitability rating, your goal is to end up on top by the time Mars is ready to be settled. Collect and spend resources to fulfill the global parameters — at the end of the game, the player with the highest Terraform Rating (and the most victory points) wins!
Resource management in Terraforming Mars revolves around spending the resources you earn on a strategy that will help you get ahead. Plan your moves so that you have enough resources to complete the actions that will get you the points you need.
2. Settlers of Catan
The best resource management board game for beginners
Designer: Klaus Teuber | Players: 3–4 | Duration: 60–120min | Difficulty: 2/5
In Settlers of Catan, you’re competing with other players to be the dominant civilization on the island. Collect and trade resources, spending your precious earnings on settlements, roads, and Development Cards. Each of these earns you victory points as the game progresses. When the game is over, the player with the most victory points wins!
While tile placement and random dice rolls do play a major part in gameplay, your strategy will largely revolve around resource management and area control. Spend your resources wisely, as you never know how lucky you’ll be on the next dice roll — smart gameplay gives you access to even more resources and forces your opponents to barter with you for favorable trades.
Catan is easy to learn and even easier to play, so it’s perfect for players who are new to resource management, Eurogames, or modern board games as a whole!
3. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
The best one-shot resource management board game
Designer: Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 60min | Difficulty: 3/5
Pandemic Legacy is a cooperative game in which you and your fellow players act as disease-fighting specialists working to track and cure emerging plagues before they overtake the world. Follow a carefully-crafted story over 12–2 “months,” taking actions and making decisions that will permanently affect gameplay (and we mean permanently — some cards are meant to be ripped up so they can’t be used in the future).
Pandemic Legacy requires careful planning to stay ahead. Consider your available resources carefully to ensure you have what you need to conquer the developing diseases and keep the world safe.
4. Brass: Birmingham
The best resource management board game for midsize groups
Designer: Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, Martin Wallace | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 60–120min | Difficulty: 4/5
Brass: Birmingham is a competitive resource management game. You and your opponents play as Industrial Revolution-era entrepreneurs building your industries in an effort to rule the market. Each player gets two actions per turn, which they can use to expand their industry’s reach, increase its value, sell their goods, and more. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
Since various actions can be taken on a given turn, players must plan ahead to ensure they have enough resources to complete their goals. The economy is fickle, so keeping a close eye on your strategy is essential to keep you from being crushed beneath the ever-turning wheels of capitalism.
5. The Castles of Burgundy
The best resource management board game for small groups
Designer: Stefan Feld | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 30–90min | Difficulty: 3/5
We’ve discussed The Castles of Burgundy before on our list of the best games like Catan. In this game, your goal is to build the most prosperous estate in Burgundy. Lay tiles to help develop your land, collecting victory points as you go. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
Careful resource management and tile placement are your tickets to success in The Castles of Burgundy. Each tile has different effects that can help earn you precious victory points, and careful planning can get you a few extra points at the end of the game. Keep in mind that turns can get a bit complicated as your estate grows, so it’s important to know when to increase your production and how to spend your hard-earned resources.
The best solo resource management board game
Designer: Elizabeth Hargrave | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 40–70min | Difficulty: 2/5
Wingspan is a beautiful game about collecting a wide variety of interesting birds. You and other players draw bird cards that each boast unique effects, earning you points and resources throughout each of the game’s rounds. Earn points for completing set goals, collecting rare birds, and accumulating resources across your turns. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
Wingspan made it to the top of our list of the best engine-building board games, but we’ve also ranked it here for its astounding solo mode. The game includes an automated system that lets you play on your own, though you’ll have to cope with the extra difficulty of not benefitting from other player’s turns.
It’s a charming game that’s well worth your time. If you’re a fan of the style, consider checking out Mariposas (also by Elizabeth Hargrave)!
The best resource management board game for large groups
Designer: Mac Gerdts | Players: 2–5 | Duration: 100min | Difficulty: 3/5
Concordia is a game about settling the Roman Empire. You and your fellow players will traverse land and sea to establish cities in various locations across central and southern Europe. Trading resources and constructing buildings earn you victory points, and playing special Personality Cards with unique effects gives you additional bonuses as the game progresses. The player with the most victory points at the end wins!
Concordia is a great next step for players who enjoy Catan and want a game with similar mechanics but a more streamlined feel. The Personality Cards add just enough variety to keep things interesting without making the game so complicated that it’s unwelcoming to newbies.
8. Great Western Trail
The most replayable resource management board game
Designer: Alexander Pfister | Players: 1–4 | Duration: 70–150min | Difficulty: 4/5
In Great Western Trail, you play as a rancher escorting your cattle from Texas to Missouri in order to sell them off. As you earn money from more and more sales, you can hire staff to help improve your chances of survival and increase your overall profit. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though — taking your cattle from point to point is rough work, and many dangers lurk along the twists and turns of the trail.
We’ve ranked Great Western Trail as the resource management game with the most replayability because there are so many potential paths to take. Though it’s not quite as unforgiving as The Oregon Trail, it’s sure to appeal to your inner pioneer.
9. Spirit Island
The best cooperative resource management board game
Designer: R. Eric Reuss | Players: 1–4 | Duration: 90–120min | Difficulty: 4/5
Magic is alive and well in the far reaches of the world, in places where civilization has not yet reared its ugly head. Spirits of the land imbued with the power of nature and the elements frolic in their island home. When colonizers arrive to lay claim to presumably untold riches, you must fight back to preserve your beloved land.
You and your fellow players work cooperatively to drive the invaders away, growing your powers and using them strategically to halt the colonizer’s progress and protect your native islanders. Losing even one spirit means defeat, so working together to scare the invaders away from your home is crucial to your shared victory.
10. A Feast for Odin
The best resource management board game for advanced players
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg | Players: 1–4 | Duration: 30–120min | Difficulty: 4/5
A Feast for Odin is more than just a board game — it’s a legacy. The tribes modern folk refer to as “Vikings” are an often misunderstood lot, reduced to pirates and primitive folk despite their long history as explorers, conquerors, and founders of great civilizations.
In A Feast for Odin, you’ll live the life of the great Vikings. Not only will you venture to new lands and emerge victorious from raids, you’ll also live through the day-to-day trading. Amassing possessions of great value earns you more victory points, and the player with the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner.
High Ground View
That’s it for our list of the 10 best resource management board games — thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for games or genres you’d like us to cover in the future, please let us know in the comments.
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