Best Area Control Board Games

Best Area Control board games cover image

Area Control board games are a type of game in which players fight to conquer certain areas on the game board, in order to access bonuses or unique effects.

One of the games I frequently play is actually a game of this genre and one of my favourites, Smallworld, in which players use tokens to conquer territories on the map, which will then score victory points.

There are plenty of amazing area control games out there though and writing a top 15 list was quite hard work.

Let’s have a look at what I came up with.

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Best Area Control Board Games

1Smallworld: lead your race and strategically deploy your army to conquer the small land of Smallworld.

2War of the Ring – Second Edition: re-shape the fate of the Middle-Earth in this immersive and thematic area control board game.

3Twilight Imperium – Fourth Edition: choose your favourite race and fight for cosmic supremacy.

4Blood Rage: be the most glorious Viking clan as the Ragnarok slowly burns the world.

5Root: fight for the control of the woodlands with your own unique faction in this brutal war game.

6Lords of Hellas: choose a mighty Hero and become the sole ruler of Greece.

7Inis: colonise the new land, explore new territories and deal with other clans in order to become the High King of Inis.

8Royals: control the Europe of the 17th century by placing nobles on the map and gaining influence points.

9Kemet – Blood and Sand: play as an iconic Egyptian God and deploy your armies in order to rule the land.

10Ethnos: unite Tribes and Kingdoms under your flag and become the next Lord of Ethnos.

11Twilight Struggle: change the course of history in this wargame set during the cold war.

12Gaia Project: choose an alien faction and terraform planets in order to make them habitable for your citizens.

13Dominant Species: select one of the species of the animal world and fight in order to survive to a great ice age.

14Tammany Hall: pull the strings to acquire votes and prominent political positions in a Manhattan of the late 19th century.

15A War of Whispers: ensure the kingdom you support has the most cities on the map and comes out victorious from the war.

16Barony: fight against the other Barons to extend your power over the land in order to eventually become King.


Best Area Control Board Games - small world cover image

First in this personal list, Smallworld is an area control board game in which players fight against each other in order to conquer as many territories as they can.

Each territory your races occupy earns you one coin at the end of your turn. On the board, you can have one successful race and one in decline at the same time.
The total number of occupations you have depends on your race’s unique abilities and the territories they rule.

The player with the most coins at the end of the final round wins.

I think Smallworld is a good introduction to area control games and more in general a perfect board game for beginners of this hobby.

2 – 5 players | 40 – 80 min | 8+

War of the Ring: Second Edition

Best Area Control Board Games - war of the ring cover image

War of the Ring is an area control game in which each player takes the role of the Free Peoples and the Shadow Armies.

The game is played on a huge western Middle Earth map, divided into many regions, where the 2 forces will clash over the course of many turns.
The Free Peoples have the Nations of Gondor, Rohan, Dwarves, Elves, and The North. The servants of the Shadow have the Nations of Sauron, Isengard, and Southrons & Easterlings.

The goal of the game for the Free Peoples is to conquer enough enemy’s strongholds to reach 5 points or provide the Fellowship with enough time to destroy the Ring by sneaking the Ring-bearers to Mount Doom.

On the other side, the winning condition is conquering enough Free Peoples’ strongholds to reach 10 points or hunting down the Ring until the Ring-bearers will be corrupted by the Darkness.

2 – 4 players | 150 – 180 min | 13+

Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition

Twilight Imperium is undoubtedly the biggest (for either game box’s size and game length) area control game in this list and one of the major exponents of the American-style board games category.

Designed by the visionary Christian T. Petersen – no need to introduce him – it is currently at its fourth edition for the joy of the fan scattered all around the globe.

In Twilight Imperium several factions are fighting for cosmic supremacy and you, as the leader of one of them, have the difficult task of leading them to the conquest of Mecatol Rex, the planet in the centre of the galaxy.

There are seventeen different races with unique abilities that will make every game always different from the previous.

Worth saying that Twilight Imperium is very long to play (consider an average of 4-5 hours), probably not suited for everyone but if you get a chance to play the game, you’ll never come back.

3 – 6 players | 240 – 480 min | 14+

Blood Rage

Each player in Blood Rage is in charge of a Viking clan, complete with its own soldiers, chieftain, and ship.

The game progresses across three Ages as Ragnarök gradually destroys the earth. The player with the most glory at the conclusion of the game is the winner.

You may conquer the land and pillage its wealth, fight your opponents in epic battles, perform tasks, improve your clan’s abilities, or even die bravely in battle.

The game’s board depicts a land divided into three zones (Manheim, Jotunheim, and Alfheim), each with two or three provinces and Yggdrasil, the world-tree, in the centre.

Ragnarok is coming, be prepared!

2 – 4 players | 60 – 90 min | 14+


Root is a war and adventure game in which all players focus on combat while attempting to acquire control of a big wilderness region.
It’s an area control game in which players take control of asymmetrical factions with unique powers and scoring methods.

There are 4 different factions in the game:

  • Marquise de Cat: they score points by constructing buildings.
  • Eyrie Dynasties: they score each turn by building and protecting roosts.
  • Woodland Alliance: they score by spreading sympathy for their cause across the Woodland
  • Vagabond: he scores by completing quests for the creatures of the Woodland and by aiding and harming the other factions.

Root is a nasty battle game that will keep you amused for many hours, despite the cover and artwork’s appearance.

2 – 4 players | 60 – 90 min | 10+

Lords of Hellas

In the Dark Age, when the Mycenean Empire was burnt to ashes and the culture of the admired Greece almost forgotten, new Heroes have risen to rule the land and restore the law.

In Lords of Hellas, players take the role of mighty heroes with unique abilities all different from each other.
Your hero will grow while the game progresses, gaining new weapons, artifacts and blessings, with the ultimate goal to become the sole ruler of Greece.

This game gives you the freedom to play it by taking different paths. You can be a warmonger and lead your armies against the opponents in order to win thanks to military conquest.
You can also be a hunter with a focus on mythical beasts such as Hydra, Cyclope or Cerberus. Slaying monsters give you glory and artifacts.
And finally, you can win the game by building temples or enormous monuments to elevate yourself as a living God.

1 – 4 players | 60 – 90 min | 14+


Inis is an area control board game that takes place during the golden age of the ancient Celts when mythology and history are fused into one.

Players take on the role of chieftains bringing their tribes over the seas from Ireland to a newly found island.
You have to colonise the land, explore the surrounding regions, dig for minerals and build Citadels and Sanctuaries to defend your clan from attacks.

Your ultimate goal is to become the High King of this new land and to achieve such an important aspiration you must fulfil some victory conditions, such as being present in more than six territories or being a chieftain of more than six opposing clans, and so on.

While Inis could have a less appealing aesthetic compared to other area control board games on the market, it’s what is hidden behind its appearance that really makes this game great: its gameplay.
It is second to none and you’ll be entertained for tons of hours.

2 – 4 players | 60 – 90 min | 14+


Royals is a board game that brings you to the 17th century, where Europe was hit by and incredible amount of violence, but also intellectual and technological discoveries.

Players are the leaders of some great nobles houses of that century, who are vying for control of Europe.
You can use Country cards to put one of your nobles in a city of your choice, which will then gain victory points for you.

You can recruit as many nobles as you want as long as you have Country cards, but watch out for intrigue cards, as they can eliminate nobles.

This is game is played over three Periods and the player that has the most influence points by the end of the third period will be the winner.

2 – 5 players | 60 min | 10+

Kemet – Blood and Sand

Kemet Blood and Sand is the revised edition of the successful Kemet, that introduces extra tech tiles, tech tile trays, bigger minis and slightly changed rules.
It’s basically a re-skin of the original game which is on the market since 2012 and it surely needed an upgrade.

In this game, you play as a powerful Egyptian God, with the aim to dominate the land. You can deploy your armies, build temples and use your immense powers to summon mythological creatures to try to gain control over Kemet.

Defeat the other Gods and gain enough Fame points to win the game.

When I first saw the game box my mind quickly travelled back to the past where I used to play one of my favourite RTS videogames: Age of Mythology. And that for me would be already a good motivation to buy the game, without even knowing what the game itself is (if only I had more shelves in the house).

2 – 5 players | 90 – 120 min | 13+


In Ethnos players are brought to a faraway fantasy continent where different races, belonging to different Tribes and Kingdoms, are scattered all over the place and constantly fight against each other to gain control of the land.
It’s your duty to unite them all under your flag and become the next Lord of Ethnos.

The game is played on a game board that represents a map divided into 6 Kingdoms.
Your goal is to earn more Glory (victory points) than the opponents and these points are earned when you take control over the Kingdoms on the game board and recruit allies.

To acquire control over the Kingdoms, you must gather members of the 12 Tribes in the game, which are represented by cards, and play them in Bands.
To form a band, the cards must belong to the same Tribe (for example all of them are Orcs) or to the same Kingdom (different races coming from the same piece of land).

At the end of the third Age, the player with the most Glory wins the game.

2 – 6 players | 45 – 60 min | 14+

Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle is a wargame for 2 players set in the historical period of the cold war, from the end of World War 2 in 1945 until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

On the opposite side of the game board, we find the two superpowers of that period, the Soviet Union and the United States, that fights for influence over the nations of the world.

The game is played on a world map divided into continents and nations, where both players will battle against each other using cards that trigger specific operations and events used to shape and influence the world under your ideology.

You can win if you accumulate 20 more victory points than your opponent at any point throughout the game.

Communism or Capitalism? Which ideology will finally prevail it’s decided by you.

2 players | 120 – 180 min | 13+

Gaia Project

Gaia Project is an area control board game in which players take control of one of the 14 factions in the game who strive to colonize the galaxy, and unlike many of the games listed here, you must accomplish your goal in a peaceful way.

To win the game, you must terraform planets and discover new technologies in order to make those planets habitable for your citizens.

There are six areas of development for factions: economy, artificial intelligence, research, navigation, terraforming, and Gaia Project.
Each of them has 5 levels of development and will give you bonuses that will increase your faction power in certain areas.

After six turns, whoever gets the most victory points will be the winner.
These points are earned by completing different actions.

1 – 4 players | 60 – 150 min | 12+

Dominant Species

In Dominant Species we travel back in time to the 90,000 B.C. when all the living creatures on the planet tried to adapt to climate change in order to survive to a great ice age.

Each player takes on the role of one of the six major classes (mammal, reptile, bird, amphibian, arachnid and insect) in the constant fight against each other and on the lookout to find new ways to adapt at their best to the inevitable.

The game is played on a board made of different hexagonal terrain tiles that represent the Earth.
Players will attempt to gain dominance over as many distinct terrain tiles as possible through clever action pawn placement, which will eventually lead to the end game where the player with the most Victory Points wins.

2 – 6 players | 120 – 240 min | 14+

Tammany Hall

Tammany Hall is set in Lower Manhattan between the years 1850 and 1870.
By this time, European immigrants from England, Ireland, and Germany had established themselves in the area, while Italian immigrants were only getting started.

The game is played on a map representing Lower Manhattan in which all the players, in the role of aspiring mayors, pull their strings in order to acquire the favour of the immigrants and, as a result, votes and prominent political positions.

Sending out ward bosses, slandering your opponents, and currying favour with New York’s burgeoning immigrant groups are all part of the plan.
You could become Mayor if you play your cards well enough!

3 – 5 players | 90 min | 12+

A War of Whispers

A war of whispers is a competitive area control board game, in which players are part of a secret society that bet on the outcome of a war between 5 kingdoms.

The 4 secret societies you can choose from in the game are:

  • The Pale Raven
  • The Supplicant Spider
  • The Cult of the Rat
  • The Endless Serpent

These factions have different artwork and colours but they all play under the same rules, there aren’t asymmetry elements.

Your primary objective is to ensure that the kingdom to which you are most committed controls the most cities on the map, and vice versa you should ensure that the kingdom you don’t support has the least cities when the game ends.

The 5 kingdoms that are in conflict are:

  • Bear Empire
  • Lion Empire
  • Horse Empire
  • Elephant Empire
  • Eagle Empire

It’s a classic Game-of-Thrones-vibes kind of board game where hidden agendas and shifting loyalties revolve around a deep strategy.

2 – 4 players | 30 – 60 min | 14+


If you like Splendor, you will be happy to see this game on the list.

Marc André designed this new interesting area control board game in which players are barons fighting each other to extend their power over the land in order to eventually become King.

The game is played on a map, randomly created at the beginning of the game, where each player must recruit knights and extend their territories by building villages, cities and strongholds.

The game continues until a player becomes Duke and at that point, after finishing the current round, players count their Victory Points.
The player with the most VP will be crowned King.

2 – 4 players | 45 min | 14+