4 Board Games to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

At times, acquiring and honing certain skills can seem like an academic task only mired in lectures and worksheets. However, as many teachers realize, school pursuits (whether inside or outside the classroom) need not always exclude entertainment. In fact, certain desirable attributes like critical thinking skills can be increased with items as simple and as well liked as board games – really! As most of us know college demands critical thinking! The four board games below, some familiar and some unusual, are wonderful ways to both enjoy yourself and to strengthen your critical thinking skills. You may also want to take a look at these educational road trip games for the whole family.

1. Chess

The inclusion of chess in this list will likely surprise few people. In recent years, chess has experienced a marked resurgence in popularity – for good reason! Its academic benefits are numerous, and the game remains a mental exercise no matter your level of experience. The object of chess is, of course, to “checkmate” your competition’s king. To do so, chess masters develop a deep understanding of the unique strategies available to each piece, as well as the interactions of such items as the knight and pawn across the playing surface. Chess is a phenomenal method to examine cause and effect and to sharpen the preciseness and speed of thought. 

2. Go

Like chess, Go is an abstract strategy game. Chinese in origin and distinct in its use of black and white circular stones, Go was featured on MTV’s Teen Wolf earlier this year. In addition to its Hollywood appeal, Go is noted for its reliance on spatial awareness and its ability to foster the same in its players. To earn points, individuals must surround (and thus capture) stones of the opposite color with their own pieces, as well as control the majority of the game space. There is no set end event. Students learn to assess potential risks, employ various strategies, and think and respond in the moment. You may also want to consider a game of cards which can boost social and academic skills.   

3. Mancala

Reflecting its multicultural heritage, Mancala comes in a range of sizes. The smallest game utilizes a mere four seeds (or pieces), while one of the largest contains 400. Players select a pit, and then place a seed from said pit in each subsequent one they pass as they progress around the board. Typically, individuals attempt to capture their opponent’s seeds. As with the other three games discussed in this article, Mancala rewards students who pre-determine moves. Successful Mancala players think not one step ahead, but five. Students who enjoy mathematics will find a natural use for it here, and those who do not may discover their opinions have changed! 

4. Quoridor

Quoridor, a Mensa Select Game award-winner, is a two- or four-person challenge. Participants must move their piece from one end of the playing surface to the other. While the game surface is larger than that of the typical board game, the true complication lies in your opponents – in lieu of advancing their piece, other players may choose to position a wall in your path. The first person to reach the opposite side of the board wins. Though Quoridor progresses quickly, the value of the game is most evident in its trial-and-error nature. Students gather data with each turn, and then draw upon that knowledge in subsequent moves. Adaptability is key. 

Your time spent playing the board games above will be especially happy when you consider their benefits for your critical thinking skills.