The Best iOS & Android Board Games30 Aug 2018 18
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 you'd like to check out our list of top-quality RPGs instead...
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 best boardgames for iPad, iPhone and Android. We're a mobile gaming website, so we'd know these things.
This 2018 boardgame adaptation courted controversy when the developers were 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, which makes for an ideal mobile game. There are options to set up online games or offline multiplayer contests with a mix of human and computer controlled opponents. AI rivals blaze through their turns and on the hardest level offer even experienced players a challenging game. The evocative graphics stay true to the board game and the atmospheric music and context sensitive sound effects are the icing on a very tasty cake.
One Deck Dungeon (Review)
The physical version of One Deck Dungeon by Asmadi Games is an excellent distillation of the pen-and-paper RPG formula, converted into 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 ODD suffers no such worries. It is packed with meaningful strategic decision making and oozing with replay value.
It's another game that's ideally suited for a mobile version and Handelabra have knocked it out of the park once more - one of 2018's best releases by far, and a must-have for anyone's collection provided you like card games and RPGs. Also, you may need to spend some time referencing the rules as you learn the ropes, and there's always that harsh mistress that is Chance. Still, an excellent game all round.
Ticket to Ride (Review)
An 'original' boardgame port, Ticket to Ride was an excellent proof of concept for the genre. Ahead of it's time perhaps, as we're only now starting to see the digital boardgame market really take off, but for a game released in 2011 Days of Wonder did a pretty bang-up job.
A game doesn't get wide appeal with complicated rules, so Ticket to Ride isn't going to give quite the tactical crunch you might want from meatier games. But it plays in less than ten minutes and manages to include a variety of delicate balancing problems: tactical vs. strategic, producing points vs. disrupting others, securing valued routes vs. obscuring your true goals, and seeking the rewards of missions vs. avoiding costly failures. A game which offers all that, and which you can comfortably play with children makes this an easy inclusion in any digital collection.
Lords of Waterdeep (Review)
Another excellent Playdek adaptation, Lords of Waterdeep's mobile ports hark back to the developer's heyday, before things to got a little rough. Despite offering a number of small innovations to the worker placement genre, it's only a little harder to learn than something like Stone Age. At its core is a pretty abstract exercise, the theme it's loosely connected to is so rich that it's easy for it to shine through in more playful moments. Perhaps it's even for the best that there's no personality to hang on these cubes: you might start to feel a little bad about sending you characters on dangerous missions.
The interface, though portrait-only was very modern at the time and holds up well now: lots of lovely little touches and animations, reasonable menu structures with the options you expect from Playdek, and the information you need but a tap or scroll away. On the iPad, there's perhaps enough room to put more of this onscreen at all times, but it's about as crowded as you'd want on the phone, and there's value in a unified interface.
Pandemic: the cooperative game that launched a trillion microbes. Pandemic, the war waged against emerging for a clean bill of health. One to four players coordinate members of a global response team who treat individual locations for the outbreak. To win, players eliminate four separate virulent strains and prevent a pandemic and its ensuing apocalypse. Mostly, this means going to specific cities and removing disease cubes on-site, but to win the final victory, players must also pool and share resources until they research cures.
The game’s state of balance is a winning mixture of strategy and chaos, with the location deck providing a little uncertainty. Each player has a unique role and power which further specializes their niche. If the co-op nature of the game seems mild, consider that the ‘cooperation’ of choosing the best actions for the team can bring out the most bilious, divisive side of friendship. Fun solo, but even more lively with a group. The app is a dream: simple, intuitive, replayable and with the game’s expansions offered as DLC. Its only drawback is the lack of online multiplayer, but cooperative games shine best in-person anyways.
Talisman (DLC/IAP Guide)
Talisman is a sprawling, chaotic, dice-based, fantasy race to the Crown of Command. Players might occasionally do battle or sling spells at one another, but for the most part the game is a struggle to build up a character’s stats and equipment until they can brave the challenges of the inner regions. Once they make it to the end space, the winner will use the devastating power of the Crown of Command turn by turn until all other characters have been eliminated. The core action of any turn is simply rolling a dice, moving across the board and drawing from the encounter deck, so it is easy to pick up.
The game has almost a dozen expansions, a thousand cards in many separate decks, a score of alternate endings. It has some of the zany unlikely comboes of Cosmic Encounter yet unlike the latter is not a direct conquest. The digital app is sleeker, for the magic of the board game can get bogged down in half-hour setup or longer, not to mention tracking everyone’s stats and inventory. The app refocus the game on the journey and removes other distractions, letting the game transport you to another world that never was, and never will be quite the same again.
Carcassonne (Android Review)
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.
Twilight Struggle (Review)
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 (Review)
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.
Terra Mystica (Review)
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.
Publisher: Asmodee Digital (developed by Playdek)
Genre: Worker placement, Euro
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.
Hall of Fame
We're keeping the list pretty tight at the moment, but there's way more than ten excellent boardgames to celebrate, with even more on the way every year. Every now and then we'll rotate games out for other games, but we don't want those past greats to be forgotten. Below is a list of previous members of this list, never to be forgotten:
- Tigris & Euphrates
- Neuroshima Hex
- Puerto Rico
- Elder Sign
What would your list of the best boardgames look like? Let us know in the comments!