Pocket Tactics Presents: The Best iOS & Android Board Games26 Apr 2018 14
Digital board games have been getting better and better as the years go by - from made-for-digital games like Anti-Hero, to digital ports of popular table-top games like Scythe and Settlers of Catan. We're now enjoying a veritable cornucopia of entertainment.
Bored of board games? Perhaps this list of excellent turn-based strategy games will be more to your liking...
With that being said, it’s always a good day to pick the best of the best from the hoard of excellent board games. We’ve stuck with digital ports of physical games for now, and we've tried to cover a range of genres and types of games. It is our great pleasure to present to you our pick of the ten best iOS board games around (that also happen to be on Android).
Race for the Galaxy
Perhaps the quintessential engine-building card game, Race for the Galaxy is one of the more aged members within this best-of list, debuting originally in 2007. Its longitudinal sense of strategy and complex combos quickly made it a favorite amongst players. Along with this hefty strategic challenge, the unique simultaneous action selection mechanic enlivened the game with some bluffing. Barring the official release of Dominion for mobile, Race for the Galaxy represents a classic, yet innovative take on a victory-point race. The app runs like a dream and offers stiff competition and solid multiplayer, which is why it won Board Game of the Year 2017, as well as clinching the runner-up position for Multiplayer GOTY.
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 building the fields, roads and fortifications of its namesake turn-by-turn, with meeples staking claim on scoring zones. The game actually comes in two in two app flavors: vanilla 2D by TheCodingMonkeys on iOS and then a 3D re-release by Asmodee on Android. Both are excellent and well-supported offerings.
Elder Sign scratches three separate itches: eldritch theme, co-op survival, dice-based gameplay. Its Cthulu-brand of weirdness is now boilerplate, but has become the standard because it is satisfying and well-done. As far as adaptations go, the game benefits from some of the streamlining the app offers, and this quickened pace ratchets up the tension. If the urge to banish extraplanar, extraterrestrial slugs has been consuming your life, know that your ambition can now be fulfilled from the couch.
iOS users: There's a separate app for iPhone and iPad, each of which are sold separately. The link above is for the iPad version.
Historically didactic and apocalyptically intense, Twilight Struggle is the premier two-player card duel simulating the height of the Cold War as it played out across the 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 easy to lose.
Through the Ages
Despite the name, Through the Ages is the hot new kid on the block. Charting the rise and continued hegemony of your civilization takes card-drafting chutzpah and attentive resource management. The app features a droll, informative tutorial and one of the best user interfaces within 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 a first play. Now, one of the best games of all time (by present-day hobbyist consensus, anyway) is easier to play with a wider audience.
Tigris & Euphrates
Tigris and Euphrates is a restrained abstract masterpiece whose win condition is the stuff of legend. Among the four categories, religion, trading, farming and government, players only submit their weakest score for consideration upon the game’s conclusion, so the entire play experience becomes a balancing act between advancing strengths and shoring up weaknesses. Yes, truly, a game nominally about the twin rivers feeding the birthplace of a civilization is most-beloved for its taut, simple ruleset, courtesy of the prolific and iconic designer Reiner Knizia. This one’s a bit of a slow burn but is worth the effort.
Terra Mystica could somewhat reductively be introduced as a heavyweight fantasy offshoot of Settlers of Catan. The game’s unique factions and interrelated systems of ritual and magic make for a fresh, intricate euro whose middling runtime doesn’t keep it from packing serious decisions. Even the initial placement phase can scuttle a player’s chances if it takes a bad turn. This level of competition and interdependence is always great fun.
Agricola, cruel master of fate, in which farmers struggle just to get by and maybe have some kids to help out with the day’s work. The game’s pinched cycles of boom and bust are seasonal yet also aspirational, tasking the players to marginally better their situations by stockpiling food, learning a new profession, breeding animals or else investing some other healthful, gainful pasttime. Agricola is only punishing in light of how many sheer options there are to pursue, yet despite all of the various cards, this is a classic worker-placement Euro at heart.
This one features asymmetrical factions trying to control the board by selecting two of three tiles (six-sided hexes, that is) each turn. The post-apocalyptic setting and wildly divergent playstyles of the groups make it an unusually colorful strategy game, but these flourishes of variety do nothing to detract from the game’s balance. The base game only includes four races, but that alone is plenty to start with and the rest are available as paid DLC. Tile-laying madcap fun.
Star Realms marries the level of expansion and customization of a TCG with the bite-sized crunchy decision-making of a deckbuilder. Its combat elements and faction-specific combos make for a serious nostalgia trip for those looking to revisit memory lane without first collecting, collating and crafting a custom deck just for the occasion. Star Realms’ many expansions, rapid-fire gameplay and clear iconography make it a compelling addition to the game enthusiast’s roster and an easy must-have.
What are you best picks for board game and card games? As new games come out we'll be keeping this list constantly updated, so make sure you check back just in case we change things up!