The Table Games Combining Skill and a Hefty Competitive Edge

Skill-based table games are some of the most immersive gaming experiences you’ll find, both online and in real world locations. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the world’s most popular ones fuse skill and competition in equal measure. Rather than focus solely on making it to the finish line and beating all other players, these well-known titles encourage participants to show off their superior thinking skills as well.

As players, we thrive off the challenge of outthinking and outsmarting our opponents. It doesn’t matter whether it’s card games or the plethora of word-based board games available, there’s a thrill connected to utilising our brains to come out on top. Below are five of the most popular table games fusing skill and competition in equal measure.


Chess is a heavily skill-based game which has inspired other casual games in recent years – and the level of competitiveness in this arena has recently shot through the roof. The World Chess Championship is one of the most eagerly anticipated table games in the calendar year. Played between two of the best chessmasters on the planet as a consequence of an eight-player ‘Candidates Tournament’, it carries a prize pool worth a cool £2 million.

The skill aspect of chess is based on the way a player can digest the information on the board, given that it is all available in front of them. Nothing is hidden whatsoever. The onus is on players to think several moves ahead, and outsmart their rival without giving the game away.


Blackjack is one of the most popular table games at land-based and online casinos alike. It’s also one which caters to all types of players, with some games setting bet limits to suit both low and high-rollers. One of the main reasons why blackjack has had such enduring appeal is the variety of skill strategy it contains. In terms of strategy, players can look to adopt something basic which focuses on optimal decision-making based on the probabilities of their hands improving and busting.

Imagine you have a hand of 14 and the dealer’s upcard is showing a six. Those with no awareness of the basic strategy conceived by Edward O. Thorp would ordinarily think to hit and take another card to try and improve their 14. However, probability suggests players should stand on 14 against a dealer’s six.


Backgammon is another game of skill which so often takes many years to master. Over the long run, the most skilful backgammon players are more likely to win. In the short term, anyone can beat anyone. This table game was even judged by a court of law back in 1982 when Judge Stephen S. Walker deemed it a game of skill in the US state of Oregon.

Although there is volatility in the outcome of the dice in the short term, the most skilled backgammon players can compete by recognising and exploiting patterns on the game board. It’s also more of a mentally challenging pursuit than other table games. The psychology of backgammon is such that experienced players can use double moves to intimidate and throw-off opponents.

Settlers of Catan

Catan, also known as Settlers of Catan, is a hugely popular tactical board game. Invented in Germany in the mid-1990s, it is famed for its iconic world championship event, bringing together national champions from 48 nations, all of whom vie to become the next Catan world champion. Although it doesn’t have the long history of the other examples mentioned here, it makes up for it in playability.

This is a multiplayer board game where players land on the fictional island of Catan, and attempt to build thriving, sustainable settlements. Players score points as they grow their settlements. Initially conceived as a three-to-four-player game, a five-to-six-player extension was later released. It’s deemed a skilful table game as it requires clever resource management to build and trade your way to victory.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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