The board game renaissance is in full swing. There are almost 200 board game conventions each year in the US alone. Friendly local games stores (FLGS) can be found on every continent (well, Antarctica is behind the curve). Meetup boosts more then 3,700 board game groups. If you want to get your table-top game on, there’s a place nearby for it.
But what about those times when you can’t get to the game? What if you could trade wood for sheep on your hour long commute or while you’re waiting for the cable guy to show up? wouldn’t it be great to snuggle up in bed on a sick day and create a train route from Washington to San Francisco? Or how about squeezing in a round or two of global conquest with your partner without spending an hour on set up?
Board game apps have got you covered! A number of popular board games are now available as phone apps and computer games. Here are some of my favorites:
Pandemic – Android, Steam, and IOS
One the most well-known cooperative games, Pandemic pits you and your team against virulent diseases spreading across the globe. The app includes both multiple difficulty settings, and expansions. Also included is a pass and play feature (good for road trips and/or waiting in line for a video game release) and supports solo play.
A completely solid, well-functioning app
Tutorial mode as well as a fully searchable rulebook
Legacy not available as of yet
No online play options
Twilight Struggle – Android, Steam, and IOS
Twilight Struggle, consistently ranked in many top war games lists (Board Game Geek, Dice Tower, etc.), produced an outstanding app last year that may have eclipsed playing on a standard board. Ability to play cross platform and fully asynchronous support for multiplayer online games available makes playing with a friend a snap.
Turn based play
Fulling integrated multiplayer across all platforms
Better for players already familiar with the game
Splendor – Android, Steam, IOS
This award winning family game is one of the most polished apps on the list. With a layout that directly mimics having the game on a table, its easy to dive right into this version. Game play is smooth, the guides (like highlighting cards you can afford) are amazingly helpful, and a first game tutorial gets even those unfamiliar with the game playing in no time. Now includes multiplayer modes
Well designed interface
AI can be strangely erratic
Patchwork – Android, Steam, IOS
Quilt-making was never this fast and fun. A great layout makes it easy to see both your and your opponent’s boards, even on a phone screen. Asynchronous game play means you can play with a friend on different work breaks. And its a super accessible game for both casual players and those who appreciate something a little more challenging. Great tutorial, but lack of a rule book to review might be an issue for some.
Beautiful, clear interface
Skilled based matchmaking in multiplayer
Lack of rulebook
No undo button
Jaipur – Android, IOS
This version of the 2009 game is bright and colorful, but a few omissions in the tutorial might leave a new player scratching their head. It has an interesting campaign setting that will present a challenge to even seasoned players. Unfortunately multiplayer stability can be a big issue. Overall its a good fit for the platform, but it could use a patch.
Quick two player fun
Stability is spotty at best
Loud music has to be turned down every time you start
Ticket to Ride – Android, Steam, IOS
If there’s only one reason to get this app its so no one can accidentally knock train pieces all over the place. But in addition, its a terrific app with a well supported multiplayer system. The animation and sound effects really enhance game play and interface is clean, clear, and easy to read at a glance. There’s even a nice tutorial to get you started.
Animation and sound evoke table-top game play
AI in solo is wonky at best
There dozens more great board game apps available to help you get your game on, even when there isn’t a tabletop available. List your favorites in the comments below!