Board games on iOS and Android have been getting better and better as the years go by – from made-for-digital games like AntiHero, to digital ports of popular tabletop games like Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. We’re now enjoying a veritable cornucopia of board-based entertainment.
But owning a large physical collection isn’t ideal, either in terms of space, or in having to shell out megabucks for each new experience. Also, you might have no one to play with, not that we’ve ever had that problem of course *internally weeping*. But maybe you don’t want to trek through the cold to some random house or cafe, don’t want the bother of setting up the board and the pieces, or having to read the rules… again.
Luckily, there are plenty digital ports to choose from. That being said, it’s always a good idea to pick the best of the best, to save you trawling through the seemingly endless hoard of board games out there. It is our great pleasure to present to you with our pick of the best mobile board games for iPhone and Android. We’re a mobile gaming website, so we’d know these things.
WHAT ARE THE BEST DIGITAL BOARD GAMES ON MOBILE?
The last board game adaptation by Dire Wolf Digital in 2019 was a belter, which is not surprising considering that the source material is another one of Dr. Reiner Knizia’s classics. Yellow & Yangtze is an abstract civilisation-building strategy game, where you play as a warlord in the Warring States period of Ancient China. It’s points-based, but one that has a lot more potential for direct conflict than you would typically see.
Dire Wolf has done an excellent job bringing this game to life in 3D, with some elegant interfaces and beautiful graphical design. There is also a single-player campaign divided into nine stages, each with their own unique rules and victory conditions, offering a unique way to play the game, either for learning, or for trying something different.
We didn’t expect to see this one come to light after the developer went bust during the mobile beta period. Still, Asmodee Digital managed to successfully pick things up and get it out the door. It had a bit of a bumpy start, but in the weeks since, there have been improvements.
The PC version of Terraforming Mars has been out a while, so there’s already been a lot of refinement already. This is one of the strongest releases we’ve seen in terms of visual design from source to software, and given how complex the rules can be, it manages to parse everything very well for the player. Current drawbacks involve a weak AI and a lacklustre multiplayer experience. Want more tactics based picks? Give our best mobile strategy games list a look.
This is a victory points game, where you need to gather resources, hire yourself a crew, and go a-despoilin’. Themed on the Viking age, Raiders of the North Sea is a very colourful and inventive twist on the worker placement genre, where you only ever have one worker to utilise. Once played, you must then pick up another worker from the board. There are also varying grades of workers you can unlock that will do different things.
Dire Wolf has expertly recreated the game in digital form. The art style is smartly complimented with 3D effects and animations, and everything runs incredibly well. Questionable AI competency constitutes a major draw-back, but the base game is solid and there’s an excellent multiplayer system that offers both live and asynchronous matches. There is also pass-and-play local multiplayer as well. This is, for sure, one of the better board game releases of 2019. See our Raiders of the North Sea review for a more in-depth analysis.
Despite the name, Through the Ages is the hot new kid on the block. Charting the rise and continued hegemony of your civilisation takes card-drafting chutzpah and attentive resource management. The app features a droll, informative tutorial and one of the best user interfaces in recent memory. Previously, to experience one of the enduring greats of board gaming, one had to wrangle together several committed friends and four or more hours for an initial playthrough. Now, one of the best games of all time – by present-day hobbyist consensus, anyway – is easier to play than ever.
If you’ve ever liked the look of Twilight Struggle but found it a bit too complex or intimidating, then this entry might be more your speed. Fort Sumter, also by GMT Games, is a two-player, card-driven, strategy game, that’s mainly about moving and placing blocks on a map, with the looming crisis of the American Civil War acting as backdrop.
The game is filled with some very brief, but very tense strategic decisions, and can be played in a fraction of the time that Twilight Struggle can. Playdek has once again done a masterful job translating a board game into the digital space, and this is a great experience for two if you’re looking for something with a lot of depth and strategy, but you don’t have much time. If you enjoy your historical re-enactment, our best mobile war games list will suit you well.
This entry is different for a few reasons: it’s not based on a physical game that already exists, it’s got a sci-fi theme, and it’s a solitaire experience. Much of board game’s strength as a genre comes from the multiplayer and social experience you can get from playing them, although the ‘social’ part doesn’t always translate well to digital. Still, solitaire games are a huge chunk of the market, and a good entry can make up for any lack of direct competition/co-operation.
Solar Settlers offers a compelling experience where the player must manage their growing colonist population and husband their stretched resources, exploring their local system and settling everyone within a limited time-frame. Every colonist not settled requires upkeep, but in order to generate resources you need colonists in the right place. The exploration resource-management aspect of the game strikes that delicate balance of being neither too easy, nor too hard.
The final spanner in the works is the fact that you have to settle everyone in homes within a set number of turns. Colonists settled require no upkeep, but they also can’t do anything either, thus losing you a valuable playing piece. The inclusion of card mechanics and a simple grid setup make this a wonderfully inspired game, and perhaps even a decent physical game, if one is ever made.
In Stefan Feld’s Castles of Burgundy, players must roll two-dice, and then undertake two actions. However, these actions are wholly dependent on the number shown on the dice rolled. Victory is achieved via the familiar style of point scoring. Tiles have different powers and different strategic uses, but the beauty of Burgundy is that your strategy is also subject to the will of the dice roll, and how you spend your actions.
The app itself is expertly designed; colourful and vibrant, the digital board is brought to life in the finest traditions of digital board games. Pass-and-play and cross-platform online multiplayer are available, but really it’s down to how the designer has managed to streamline all of the information the player needs to know in an accessible format.
This 2018 board game adaptation courted controversy when the developer was caught doing dodgy things with Steam reviews, effectively blocking the PC release. That didn’t stop them releasing on mobile though, and we’re so very glad they did.
Istanbul: Digital Edition is pretty much a flawless conversion of an excellent board game that has few moving parts and only limited information to track. There are options to set up online games or offline multiplayer contests with a mixture of human and computer controlled opponents. AI rivals blaze through their turns, and on the hardest level actually offer experienced players a challenging game. The evocative graphics remain true to the board game, while the atmospheric music and contextual sound effects make up the icing on a very tasty cake.
The physical version of One Deck Dungeon by Asmadi Games is an excellent distillation of the pen-and-paper RPG formula, converted into a card-driven, strategy game that can played with a small group of friends, or even solo. Lots of tabletop games jump to digital and struggle to create a quality single-player campaign mode, instead relying on a passable AI, and the lure of various multiplayer modes to provide enjoyment. Handelabra’s digital conversion of One Deck Dungeon suffers no such worries. It is packed with meaningful strategic decision-making and replayability.
It’s another game that’s ideally suited for a mobile version and Handelabra has knocked it out of the park once more. Also, you may need to spend some time referencing the rules as you learn the ropes, and there’s always chance, that harsh mistress. Still, an excellent game all round.
An ‘original’ board game port, Ticket to Ride was an excellent proof of concept for the genre. Ahead of its time perhaps, as we’re only now starting to see the digital board game market really take off, but for a game released in 2011, Days of Wonder did a bang-up job.
A game doesn’t generally attain wide appeal with complicated rules, so Ticket to Ride isn’t going to give quite the tactical crunch you might crave from meatier games. But it plays in less than ten minutes. It also manages to include a variety of delicate balancing problems: tactical vs. strategic, producing points vs. disrupting others, securing routes vs. obscuring true goals, and seeking mission rewards vs. avoiding costly failures. A game that offers all of that, and which you can comfortably play with children, makes this an easy must-have for any digital collection.
Tile-laying games are almost always soothing by nature, but the best of them, like Carcassonne, feel dire at the same time. Named for the beautiful French settlement established in misty B.C.E., the game sees players tending the fields, roads, and fortifications of its namesake turn-by-turn. The game actually comes in two app flavors: vanilla 2D by TheCodingMonkeys on iOS, and a 3D re-release by Asmodee on Android. Both are excellent and well-supported offerings.
Historically didactic and apocalyptically intense, Twilight Struggle is a premier two-player card duel, simulating the height of the Cold War as it was played out across a global stage. The app’s release was long awaited but has since already been feted, for its release was a milestone, and one of 2016’s highlights. Full of double-think and crisis management, the game is relatively easy to play, and very easy to lose if you’re not careful.
Based on the award winning board game of the same name, Legends of Andor is a fantasy game that’ll have you build a party, and set out in search of adventure. It’s a great little RPG, the only thing I would say to be aware of however, is that Legends of Andor is single-player, and while some board games typically are, that might not appeal to everyone.
Inspired by the classic game Mahjong, Dragon Castle’s tile stacking and competitive play see you trying to out-build your opponent. In each round, you take tiles from the main pile, and use them in the construction of your own castle, matching their kind to score points. It’s simple, yet lots of fun, and also has online multiplayer.
Did you ever want to see how life developed? Well, now you can, and in a fun board game format to boot. Evolution Board Game is a great little adaptation of the original, seeing you pit your wits against another player, trying to survive and adapt to be the strongest. Evolution also has online multiplayer available.