The 5 Hardest Games in the World to Master
Fancy your chances of transferring your gambling expertise to a next-level challenge? Away from the casino floor, there are plenty of real-world games that require strategy, skill and patience.
So, just for fun, we’ve compiled our very own list of the five hardest games in the world. These are officially the most difficult games to master:
An oldie but a goodie. Dating back to the Zhou dynasty, Go is an ancient two-player abstract strategy board game from China.
When a game surpasses its 2,500th birthday – and was once considered an essential skill by Chinese scholars – you expect it to be challenging.
The aim seems simple enough: occupy the most territory on the board to win the most points and, eventually, the game.
Here’s how to play Go: Each player uses either black or white pieces, known as ‘stones’, to form territories by surrounding vacant intersections on the board. The stones cannot be moved once placed, but you can use them to surround your opponent’s stones and take them out of play.
When there are no more possible moves available, and no more ‘land’ left to be seized, players earn a point per empty ‘space’ within their territory, and a point for each stone or ‘prisoner’ they have captured from an opponent.
It’s extra difficult because the contest usually plays out on a grid that’s 19×19. This means there are almost endless formations and moves that you can make (or agonize over).
In fact, some commentators estimate that the number of legal board positions in Go even surpasses the number of atoms in the universe. Phew. No wonder professional games can take two days!
“Go is science, art and game. Those chosen few may enter the Eternal Hall of Fame only, who combine the scientific precision, the artistic improvisation and the spiritual joy of the game in themselves.” — famous professional Go player and author, Kajiwara Takeo.
Need to know the rules for Go? Check out this handy video, which tells you all about how to play Go:
2. Magic: The Gathering
Magic: The Gathering is a popular collectible card game that replicates a battle between wizards and requires two or more players. Steeped in fantasy, it’s estimated that the game has cast a spell over tens of millions of fans so far.
So how do you win?
Budding wizards claim victory by reducing their opponent’s life total from 20 to zero. So far, so simple, right? This is usually achieved by using a combination of lands, creatures and spells from a card deck to attack your opposite number. Players start with a hand of seven cards, drawing another each round and can engage in combat and spell casting on each turn.
There’s a lot of impressive world-building within this. Every card affects the game in a different way and there are approximately 2,000 rules and 19,000 cards, resulting in untold possibilities.
In fact, Magic hit the headlines recently, after a scientific paper claimed that the game is so complex that not even a computer algorithm can predict a winner or determine an optimal winning strategy. Eek.
“This construction establishes that Magic: The Gathering is the most computationally complex real-world game known in the literature.” – report by Cornell University
Want to know how to play Magic: The Gathering? Learn the basic rules of play here:
One of the most famously difficult games in the world…chess.
There’s much debate about how old chess is, and where it came from, but one thing’s for sure: the objective is to checkmate the opposition king, while keeping your own monarch safe.
If you’ve never sat down to a game of chess before, in this two-player game you’ll start with 16 pieces — black or white — of differing ‘royal’ status e.g. the king, queen, rooks, bishops, knights and pawns.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to force your opponent into a ‘checkmate’ where their king can no longer avoid capture.
To achieve that you’ll use strategy and tactics to move your pieces around the board’s 64 squares, following strict rules of movement for each piece. Although, games can end in a ‘stalemate’ if no kings are in check and no more moves can be made.
What makes it so difficult? You’ll constantly have to be thinking two, three, or more steps ahead, as there are many moves with differing outcomes available to you on most turns.
“Chess is a very difficult game. It’s very hard often to know whether you are making the right decision or the right elimination but it’s important to have confidence.” — Chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen
Want to know how to become a master at chess? Listen to more words of wisdom from Magnus:
4. The Campaign for North Africa
Going by the title alone, this game was never going to be a lighthearted barrel of laughs or a quick fix of fun on a short journey. The Campaign for North Africa is widely regarded as one of, if not the, longest games in the world.
One for those that love detail, this ‘stuff-of-legend’ board game acts as a military simulation of the North African Campaign, which took place during World War II in Libya and Egypt.
The internet is full of tales of how long it takes to complete, with rough estimations at a whopping 1,500 hours or 62 days!
The chief culprit for time consumption is the rather thick black and white rulebook — which contains a famously picky rule requiring Italian troops to be provided with extra water rations for boiling pasta — that partners charts and a 10 ft map of the Sahara.
You’ll need 10 players in total to act as commanders for Allied and Axis forces.
“I don’t know how you could get a large enough group together. It would be nearly impossible, unless somebody hit the lottery and flew everybody to a remote island for a year.” — a reviewer on BoardGameGeek.
Find out more about the game in this short video:
Widely considered to be one of the hardest card games to play. Ever.
Bridge is a four-player, trick-taking game, where you’ll be divided into two partnerships and work with a 52-card deck.
The goal? To win the most points after taking the most tricks and rounds. Every hand of bridge is comprised of four phases: dealing, bidding for tricks, playing the hand, scoring.
In the auction stage, players bid in a clockwise rotation describing their hands. This is followed by the play, in which the winning bidders from the previous stage attempt to claim the tricks needed to fill their contract, as obligated at the auction, before players reach the scoring stage.
Still with us? In order to win the game, a pair must win tricks which consist of four cards, one from each player’s hand, played in clockwise order.
Bridge deserves its billing alongside chess as a real cerebral challenge, and it may take a while for you to grasp the basics if you’re not already knowledgeable about trick-taking games.
“Bridge is a living, breathing game, and it has developed. That’s fine for committed players, but it means that to learn the game can be eternal for some people.” — Maureen Hiron, games designer and bridge player, speaking in The Independent.
Enjoy this tutorial on how to learn the basics of bridge: