Most of my favourite games, such as Diplomacy, have little or no element of luck - either via dice rolls, hands dealt, or other methods.

What other games can you recommend that rely on 'skill' alone?

One game per answer, game name formatted as header and link to more information. Vote for your favourite if it exits already.

  • 4
    Of course, there are some positions in Diplomacy where there is some luck involved - e.g. where you are attacking an opponent and there are two possible sets of orders for each of you; you just have to guess what your opponent will choose. In those situations, it's random in the same way that rock-paper-scissors is random. This is, of course, true of any imperfect-information game. Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 11:54
  • 1
    I came here to ask a similar question. Your question, however, is ambiguous: By "no element of luck" and "rely on skill alone", do you mean there is absolutely no chance involved at all? Or do you mean all players begin (or are affected by) equally random influences? To differentiate, Chess and Go are examples of the former, while Set is an example of the latter (all players access the same random board). To me, it would be helpful if the two were in separate questions.
    – Mark C
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 0:49
  • 2
    @RichardG The "luck" you are talking about is a matter of semantics. Guessing at another player's hidden information is not "chance" as long as the generating process does not bring in random chance (unlike card games). Stratego is a good example of educated guessing with no random generation.
    – Mark C
    Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 0:52
  • Anything involving rolling dice involves luck... Same with drawing cards. So the games you mention involve luck, possibly a lot of it.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 8:19
  • agricola also has 0 to no luck involved. Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 8:52

41 Answers 41



Go is an ancient game; at least 2500 years old, and possibly as old as 4500 or more. Originally from China, it is now most popular, and professionally played, in China, Japan, and Korea, though there are strong and growing amateur communities in Europe and the Americas.

Go is a simple, pure abstract strategy game, with no element of luck or hidden information. The rules are quire short and simple; the simplest expression of the basic rules is 10 sentences long, though rules that cover a few extra conventions for ending the game sooner and making scoring easier, and provide more detailed explanation, are a little longer.

Despite the simplicity of the rules, it is extremely strategically deep.

The starting player has a slight advantage in Go, which would give a slight luck-based advantage to who goes first, but because winning is based on total territory scored, you can even that advantage out by giving the second player a few extra points; generally somewhere between 5 and 8 extra points, with the number having drifted upwards a little in recent years as people have discovered that the original amount was still a bit too low.

One of the great features about Go is that it allows you to play handicapped games against strong or weaker players. By letting one player start with a few extra stones on the board, you can even out a difference in skill, and still have an interesting game even though one player is considerably stronger than the other. This is great for small clubs or tournaments, when you don't have enough players of roughly equal level to compete against each other; instead you can play handicap games, and everyone has a chance to win while playing at their own skill level.

Go is a beautiful game, with a great balance between whole board strategy and local tactical battles. It has been studied deeply for centuries, and new innovative ways of playing are always being discovered. In recent years, mathematical analysis of the endgame using the theory of surreal numbers has yielded insights that have helped even top professional players, who have devoted their life to learning the game, and have teacher lineages going back hundreds of years.

I could wax poetic about Go for hours, so I'll stop here, and invite you to check it out. The Wikipedia article gives a good overview, while Sensei's Library is a wiki devoted to Go. There are hundreds of books on Go, a manga and anime series about it, professional players and teachers, schools devoted to teaching young Go players, servers for online play, Go clubs all over the place, and more.



Is an obvious and longstanding game of skill alone.

  • 2
    I agree that chess is pretty close to pure skill, but whoever plays White does have a slight advantage. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-move_advantage_in_chess Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 2:07
  • 4
    @Scott, yes, but that advantage only really comes out at the highest levels. Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 4:10
  • @Scott Mitchell - additionally, in most play in which I have participated, colors are alternated between players on successive games
    – warren
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 20:15
  • @warren: So who is the winner if everytime you play an opponent, whoever is white wins? :-) Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 20:18
  • @Scott Mitchell - if you're worried about the apparent advantage white has, then switching colors game to game means the "advantage" is evenly distributed. fwiw, I prefer to play black :)
    – warren
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 13:35


A personal favourite, You could try it online here.

  • And now... both links are dead. x(
    – ulidtko
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 12:19
  • blokus.com online game died in 2012/2013. Try pentolla.com instead.
    – T G
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 7:08
  • Or here lefun.fun/g/bloco (disclaimer I made it!)
    – simlmx
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 20:03


Stratego may seem like a slightly strange choice since each game involves a completely a hidden setup, but it's a setup entirely devised by the opponent with distinct strategies, counter-strategies and bluffs available. If there's an element of luck it's in trying to guess your opponent's approach to a setup, but there are no dice rolls for combat or drawing of positions involved. First-move advantage is also minimal, and certainly seems less important than in chess.

  • 3
    That is not entirely true. The position could arise where a player has to make a choice to attack one of 2 or 3 different opponents pieces. Depending on the choice made can easily affect the outcome of the game for better or worse, with no possible way of making a better decision. There is an element of luck in any imperfect information game, although chance elements for the game force it to involve luck, not having chance does not stop it from involving luck. Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 14:58
  • 7
    That's where the lower ranked pieces come into play - to probe the opponent's position. Throwing valuable pieces onto unknown forces definitely comes under the heading of "sub-optimal play" and not "bad luck". To be ultra-contrarian, it's possible to say that in Diplomacy a player is often "guessing" whether an opponent will honour an agreement or not. Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 15:07
  • 2
    Interesting point, although I actually think the opposite proof would be needed: is it impossible to derive sufficient knowledge of the opponent's position through tactical sacrifice of your own pieces? If it is impossible, then luck is needed to win. But more simply, I could see your contrarianism and re-raise you and posit that I'm unlucky because I was born bad at Diplomacy, and therefore Diplomacy involves luck. Commented Nov 3, 2010 at 15:35
  • 4
    @Andrew: to take an extreme case, wouldn’t you agree that Paper Scissors Rock has an element of luck? It again has no “pure chance” — everything that happens is determined by players’ choices. The combination of imperfect information and symmetry among options is what makes it effectively a matter of luck. Few sophisticated games ever exhibit such perfect symmetry, but many come close at times.
    – PLL
    Commented Feb 7, 2011 at 6:03
  • 3
    Re: Paper Scissors Rock; If I play randomly I am introducing chance into the game. Likewise, if I randomly place my pieces in Stratego I am introducing chance into the game. Unlike in games with open information, my opponent is unable to account for this chance. The point: Stratego can have luck but it doesn't necessarily have luck.
    – MrHen
    Commented Mar 10, 2011 at 18:53

Puerto Rico

I can't say that there is no luck element at all in Puerto Rico, but it is definitely extremely low. The game involves selecting roles to perform actions. Each person will perform the chosen action, but the actual chooser gets a bonus for it. The main theme is developing plantations to grow crops, and then shipping these goods off for victory points. The only luck elements I can see in the game are the 5 random crops that are available to plant during a planting phase, and possibly the turn order. If you the skill level of the people playing is drastically different, then sometimes the person you are sitting next to and what role they choose can greatly affect your strategy.

  • +1 - One of the best boardgames ever made, and the element of luck is negligible. (I think the only thing that uses luck is if you choose a very specific ability that makes you draw a random plantation instead of one of the current set. Of course it's your choice to purchase this ability.)
    – Marcin
    Commented Nov 17, 2010 at 20:43
  • Also, I don't agree that the random crops involve luck. Sure, they are random, but you get to choose which one you want.
    – Marcin
    Commented Nov 17, 2010 at 20:44
  • You get to choose from what remains. It adds a small but measurable amount of luck, in my opinion. I say this especially having been burned a few times. :) Commented Dec 2, 2010 at 22:38

Chinese Checkers

In the same vein as Checkers, but popular and distinct enough I felt it warranted its own post.



The initial board position is fixed, pieces to be played are controlled, and the object is to have more of your color upright than the other player.


There's a style of game that Chess belongs to, as Jon already suggested, to which Go and Shogi and Checkers and Halma also belong. Modern family members are Khet and ZÈRTZ and I think most other members of the GIPF project. These games have in common that, other than in Diplomacy where you have the written orders, all information is openly visible - except of course the secret plans plotted by your opponent. They are also all fairly abstract games, in that they do not pretend to model any aspect of the real world.

  • 3
    You should throw Shogi in there as well while you're talking about Chess and Go.
    – deceze
    Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 3:13


Homeworlds is an Icehouse game about space conquest. In the multi-player game, there is hidden information about who is good and who is evil, and thus there is a certain element of luck in your guess about who is who. In the two player game, however, there is no luck; it is a pure abstract strategy game.

To quote Andy Looney on Homeworlds:

I really like John Cooper's Icehouse game, Homeworlds. I think it's one of the very best Icehouse games we currently have. It's elegant and exciting, it looks great on the table, it's different every time, the theme rocks, and it makes excellent use of the pyramids. One of my criteria for a perfect Icehouse game is that it offer deep strategy while using little or no equipment other than the pyramids, especially including using the table itself as a featureless gameboard. Homeworlds is a perfect Icehouse game.


Where Chess is an abstract pure strategy game representing medieval warfare between kings, Homeworlds is an abstract pure strategy game representing interstellar warfare between planets. In both games, complicated forces have been reduced to elegant icons, but where Chess is played on a restrictive, 64-square grid, Homeworlds creates a free-form, dynamic space-map out of any plain surface.

Whereas Chess was a game played by Renaissance Kings, Homeworlds is a game for Starship Captains.

  • Yay, Binary Homeworlds is a superb two-player game with no chance whatsoever. One of my favourites.
    – AlexC
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 0:45
  • This game is excellent, play it at superdupergames.com.
    – Sean W.
    Commented Apr 27, 2011 at 18:35


The only random element within Caylus is the initial 6 buildings setup order. The rest of the game is pure skill. As with the Endeavor answer, there is a very very small advantage that may be had by going first with order of the buildings, but I think this adds more variety and skill to the game rather than luck.

  • Agricola (the Family Game, without the random hands of Occupation and Minor Improvement cards) is nearly as un-random as Caylus. (Is the same true of Le Havre? I can't recall off the top of my head.) I like the fact that you can play Agricola as a nearly deterministic game, and then add layers of extra randomness according to taste... Commented Nov 18, 2010 at 21:53

Connect Four

The object is to get four of your color in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. No luck - just pure skill against the other player.

  • I believe Connect Four is a solved game. In that sense, the only skill there is is to memorize the solution.
    – corsiKa
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 22:01
  • @corsiKa - checkers is "solved", too: doesn't mean you can't still win or lose. Memorizing all the possible solutions is crazy
    – warren
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 0:11


No luck at all, just plain skill.

  • Never got into this game, but for those interested in learning more about it (before buying) you can practice / play for free online @ gamesbyemail.com/Games/Set Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 20:33
  • It's a great game, but resist the urge to play a second game of it right away. You may suffer brain damage.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 5:12
  • Umm... the cards that displayed are drawn at random, right? It may be the same for all players, but it would still count as luck to me.
    – Erik P.
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 14:15
  • 2
    There is a random element, but no real luck unless you're comparing your score across games. The real difference is that the outcome of a single game doesn't depend on the randomness.
    – eswald
    Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 16:26
  • The only aspect of luck I would see in this game would be "I'm good at identifying sets of colors, but not identifying sets of shapes. It's unlucky for me to get board configurations where the correct sets are shapes." So in that sense it could be considered luck, but I would simply consider that a deficiency in skill.
    – corsiKa
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 22:00


Seeing as Brian added Go, I'll get ahead of him on Icehouse for once. A turnless game of pure skill and diplomacy. (Also consider IceTowers and Zendo, which use the same pieces.)



I suppose it could be argued that a first guess that is "right" would be lucky, but it should be a game of logic based upon guesses leading to a pattern match against the hidden sequence of pegs setup by the other player.

  • 3
    Extra hardcore bonus to those players who allow the lack of a peg to be considered a valid possibility.
    – Zoot
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 18:56
  • @Zoot - is there any other way to play? =D
    – warren
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 19:58
  • In the original game Bulls and Cows, from which Mastermind was derived, there are 10 possibilities: the decimal digits.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 10:38

Rumis (aka Blokus 3D)

Like Blokus, no luck; an advantage to going first (more so than in Blokus), but a great game of strategy with simple rules but very interesting consequences.


A Game of Thrones

To my knowledge the game has only 1 random event - flipping the Westeros cards. This randomness can be nearly entlrely removed via the optional "Westeros Phase" rule variant in the A Clash of Kings expansion (which allows you to see the results of the random card flip several turns in advance).

Aside from the Westeros cards, everything is based on player skill. Games regularly feature numerous epic staredowns and healthy backstabbing.

This game is based on Diplomacy (and in my opinion is much better). If you like Diplomacy you will probably love this one.



I also prefer games that have little to no randomness. One of the best ones I've come across lately is Endeavor. Other than the initial tile distribution (which isn't tremendously significant, just changes it up a bit), there's no randomness at all. One of my favorite games right now.

  • I think the initial tile distribution is very significant. The first players to go will be able to grab the advantageous tiles, and will be able to set themselves up better. Which isn't to say it's a bad game, you just have to understand that going in. Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 4:05
  • I disagree. I think going first offers a very slight advantage at best. But, it's pretty hard to find a game where that isn't true.
    – Todd
    Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 4:40


The only luck element is the initial distribution of goods, but it's shared by everybody equally and I think it helps replayability. Also the initial turn order used to auction the real first turn order. After that it's all there on the table, no more luck!

Age of Steam has much more luck, with semi-random goods going to the cities during the game.



A dexterity game.

  • Just to clarify, this is a dexterity game.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 5:07
  • @Don Kirkby edited, it was lost in translation.
    – DavRob60
    Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 1:02

Besides the ones already mentioned:

  • The rest of the Project Gipf Games: (besides Dvonn) Gipf, Tzaar, Zertz, Punct, and Yinsh (all awesome, by the way)
  • Hive
  • Abalone
  • Did someone say Mancala yet?


I've never played it myself, but it's supposedly more complex than chess is, though it probably suffers from the first turn advantage issue.

  • 1
    Actually it doesn't, at least not half as much as chess does. Since the players who goes first sets up their pieces before the second players, the advantage of going first is nicely combatted by the advantage of reacting to your opponents set up. Amazing game, with incredible deep strategy and huge numbers of possibilities. :D Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 2:38
  • It may be important to clarify that it is more complex in the computational sense. I do not think it is necessarily harder for a beginniner to learn or play than chess is. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 20:20


A strategy game that looks good too!

  • Try replacing the * with %2A in the URL.
    – Don Kirkby
    Commented Oct 31, 2010 at 5:10


fits the bill it is very chess like

I actually prefer it to chess because, although it is simpler in many ways, each player has the ability to move their opponents pieces making some interesting strategies possible.

  • Chess, with fricken laser beams? Sold!
    – Jon Hadley
    Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 9:51

Mancala has no luck. Some might debate that if you are using irregular sized pieces and don't keep strict track of how many stones are in each space there is luck in picking the right space to "move". However I'm not sure that applies, as it is simply a matter of counting to keep track the quantities of stone and the entire game state...



The only randomness is seating order. Utterly brilliant games.


Maharaja has no random elements.

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 13:40
  • 1
    @Tom Au: does your comment apply to this response?
    – Dimitri C.
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 14:44
  • Yes. Besides linking to the game, you don't explain how and why Maharaja has no random elements.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 15:02


A deduction game that uses cards, but they have small impact on the game, since you usually have plays that will be useful, and when you don't you can trade them all in.


La Strada

It's got a great diversity of initial setups, but once the game starts there's no chance at all.


Dungeon Twister

An unusual 2-player dungeon-crawl game. Some luck in the initial setup (the board is random), but pure skill once the game starts. Looks like Descent, but plays nothing like it - it's a game of positional advantage and smart maneuver. Has a simple and effective handicap system - which is needed, as experience pays off in a big way.


Full Métal Planète

Wargame reimagined by boardgame designers! Combat involves absolutely no luck: Two attackers will clean out any enemy piece, no questions asked.

There is one small element of luck though: The tide, which impacts the board layout. However as long as you keep your weather-predicting piece, you know the tide for the next turn, so this mitigates luck down to almost nothing.

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