The Best iOS & Android Board Games06 May 2019 25
Board games on iPad 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 table-top games like Pandemic and Ticket to Ride. We're now enjoying a veritable cornucopia of entertainment.
Bored of board games? Perhaps you'd like to check our our list of great war games 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.
Hall of Fame
We're keeping the list pretty tight at the moment, but there are way more than twelve excellent boardgames out there worth celebrating, with even more on the way. 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 summary of previous members of this list who've passed into legend:
- Terra Mystica
- Tigris & Euphrates
- Neuroshima Hex
- Puerto Rico
- Elder Sign
- Indian Summer
- Gem Rush
Solar Settlers (Review)
The latest entry in our hallowed halls of board game greats is different for a few reason: It's not based on a physical game that already exists, it's got a sci-fi theme, plus 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 big chunk of the market, and a good solitaire game 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 in order to explore their local system and settle everyone within a limited time-frame. Each 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 making it neither too easy, not too hard, and then the final spanner in the works in the fact that you have to settle everyone in homes with in a set amount 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 set-up make this a wonderfully inspired game, and it might even make a decent physical game, if one is ever made.
Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns (Review)
Asmodee making their digital adaptation of cult-hit RPG Zombicide was a brave move, but when you boil down to it you don't necessarily need more than one person to manage your team of up to four-heroes trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. The team have done another excellent job recreating the art-style and the basic functionality of the game, while also offering a challenging solo-experience through a 40-mission campaign, complete with multiple zombie types, several different weapons and pick-ups, and levels that force you to make tough decision as you strive to complete your objective.
The initial release doesn't offer much in the ways of additional content beyond what you'd find in the physical game, so hopefully we'll see more creativity in terms of IAPs and post-release support going forward. Plenty of bang for your buck, though.
Castles of Burgundy (Review)
Our third five-star board game review goes to DIGIDICED's adaptation of Stefan Feld's magnum opus. Players must roll two-dice, and then do two actions. The action one takes are wholly dependant on the number shown on the dice rolled. Victory is achieved via the familiar Euro-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 can best spend your actions.
The app itself is expertly designed - colour and vibrant, the digital board is brought to life in the finest traditions of digital boardgames. Pass and Play and cross-platform online multiplayer are available, but really it's down to how the designers have managed to streamline and present all of the information the player needs to know in an accessible format. Definitely a strong contender for 2019's GOTY.
Evolution: The Video Game (Review)
2019 had an incredibly strong start to the year with the release of Evolution and Andor (below). NSG have expertly ported their hit strategy sim game to digital platforms, with a faithful and beautiful art-style and some excellent animations to bring the whole thing to life. As a game Evolution brings with it some excellent tactical decision making, forcing you to balance the needs of survival and victory through some very simple mechanics that carry a lot of depth.
Multiplayer wise, there's a robust online match-making system, although no local pass-and-play, which is unfortunate. Still, you can play against the AI in a regular match or in an excellently crafted campaign, meaning there's plenty of fun to be had all round. The game is free to try, granting you the ability to play one online match per day, as well as the campaign up to level 7. Beyond that, you need to purchase the IAP unlock to get the full experience.
Legends of Andor (Review)
For many games, the digital treatment allows their full potential to be realised when you get to skip all of the faff around set-up or admin. Legends of Andor is a classic RPG/Adventure board game from Michael Menzel that's faded from the mainstream light - but its digital rendition is absolutely worth checking out. You must manage a part of heroes and venture into the lands of Andor to defeat monsters and protect your home city from falling.
While on the surface it seems like a game of roaming around beating up monsters, the tight-time constraints and the design mean this is more of a game of optimised actions. You've got to make sure you do the right things in the right order so that you get the most out of your turn. While officially a single-player experience, the nature of the game means you can have a perfectly decent Pass-and-Play session with up to as many people as heroes you have to control - divvy them up how you want, and go forth!
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.
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.
2019 is proving to be a great year for board games on our iPads - between updates we're seeing more releases than we used to, but we only have so much room on the list and sadly not all games can claim a top spot. In the interest of giving you guys a fuller picture, here are some new boardgame apps you may be interested in checking out on iOS & Android that didn't make the cut:
What would your list of the best boardgames look like? Let us know in the comments!