I’ve long been far more of a roleplayer than a boardgamer, but I’m trying to get into them because so many of my friends (not to mention my fiancée!) love them. As a teenager I played a lot of Car Wars, OGRE, Star Fleet Battles and the like, yet more recently I’ve found it hard to be enthusiastic about any sort of boardgame.
Now that I have access to an iPad I’ve noticed that a lot of current boardgames have app versions, so I’m hoping that you might be able to recommend some to try. Don’t worry about the style or genre, I’m looking for a way to try some modern games on my own and see if that helps me get to grips with them while opportunities to play face to face are restricted.
How can you ask a question like that on a Sunday morning when I have chores I must do first
So I’ve owned tablets for a few years and I think I have probably tried ALL the boardgames that are on these things.
So here’s just a bunch I would recommend where the app is at least as good as the actual game in some cases better.
Race for the Galaxy - a fantastic tableau/engine building classic and the implementation is very good and has all the expansions you would want. (edit: There is also a new implementation of Roll for the Galaxy which is a similar game in the same setting that uses dice in a quite creative fashion)
Ticket to Ride - the app is so good and so fast and it has so many maps. It’s a popular game for a reason and the app is the reason I do not own any of the actual games, I prefer it very much over the physical version
Smallworld - it may not be the area control game to bring to the table anymore but the app plays incredibly fast and is a lot of fun
Cottage Garden (or Patchwork or Indian Summer) - if you like the polyominoes games, these have nice implementations. Cottage Garden is my personal favorite
Splendor - a wonderful quick engine building game that has inspired so many descendants in the boardgame world and the app is fun to play as well
Alhambra - a classic that may be difficult to get whereever you are. It is the game I started playing when Carcassonne got a little “old” in 2003 or so The app implementation is really nice as well.
Suburbia - if you like city building games but abhor the math of calculating how much a tile will score you, this is a really well implemented app that includes a great tutorial and campaign. I have never played the actual boardgame but I’ve played this app a ton.
Brass - if you want an economic brain burner, this is it. I really struggled to win this game against the AI but it was a major success when I did. The implementation does a good job of teaching the game but it is also the reason I decided to buy Brass Birmingham when it became available here.
Through the Ages - by now I would call this a classic from CGE. It’s the best of all the Civilization building games IMO. I never found anyone to play this with and gave away my paper copy. The app is far less fiddly than the game on the table and I would argue therefore better I’ve played this so much and it is great fun.
Galaxy Trucker - another CGE classic. This is a real time spaceship building game. I hate realtime games but this as an app is fantastic. Just don’t play a few rounds before going to bed or you will dream of rotating space ship tiles to fit into your board.
Kingdom Builder - build your little kingdoms to varying victory conditions on varying boards. Another one where the app killed the actual boardgame for me. This is a fast little puzzle as an app.
Castles of Burgundy - the most classic of Feldian’ point salad games, this app does not do a good job of teaching the game, but the tile placing is oh so satisfying. If you decide to have a closer look, do not hesitate to ask questions about what scores how many points. I got a lot better at this when I acquired the paper version of the game.
Elder Sign - I dislike the luck elements of the boardgame but as an app it takes absolutely no time to try a scenario again and I played through everything on the app.
Star Realms - a great little deckbuilder that is also very much fun to play as an app and includes a neat campaign with puzzles I always struggle to solve after the first few
Finished - this is free to try but I have long bought the full version. You just have to sort the cards according to the numbers from 1 to 50. Sounds easy? I’ve played this well over 100 times since I found this last October or so
Root - I haven’t played this quite as much but the implementation is really great (though better on PC because larger screen) and it does a wonderful job teaching the game which is otherwise one of the most difficult teaches because of how each different faction plays such a different game
One Deck Dungeon - another little dice placing puzzle that is wonderful as an app but I am hesitating to try the cardboard version.
Twilight Struggle - it is a well done app and a game much loved by many (used to be #1 on BGG for a several years). You play either Russia or the US in the aftermath of WWII. I could never grok how to play this game. It appears to have chess like qualities for the opening moves… I am sure someone else will mention how good this is.
Eclipse - Second Dawn of the Galaxy. I’ve had this since it was the old version of Eclipse but they have recently updated to the new version and it does have an indepth tutorial that I have yet to complete. I have NOT played a game of this but it seems to be a pretty good implementation and if it manages to teach the game may be worth getting if you are interested in 4X space games.
Terra Mystica is quite good as an app if you are looking for a crunchy complex game.
Terraforming Mars - it doesn’t have all the expansions but especially the solo-mode is wonderful to play and it works really well as an app and it’s just a great game overall
Mystic Vale - small little cardgame that has cards that you grow throughout the game. It’s a pretty neat game that I wouldn’t want to play in cardboard because I expect it to be quite fiddly. But on the app it is good and has great comboing to which I am addicted
Viticulture - if you want to try out a worker placement game, this is the one I think has the best implementation of all those out there (though Raiders of the North Sea is quite good, too. Waterdeep is just too confusing as an implementation I feel)
There are a lot more, these are some of the ones I have played the most.
PS: absolutely second the Doppelt So Clever series I have played those a ton, how could I forget them. But then roll&writes are already so applike that maybe I just discounted them as boardgames
PPS: if you figure out that you like deckbuilding and enjoy roguelikes: there is now an IOS implementation of Slay the Spire (which is getting a boardgame implementation next year). It is one of the most addictive games I have on my Switch and the deck building and combo-ing is just so satisfying.
PPPS: I have about 80 boardgame apps on my tablet, own about a dozen or more additional ones on my android phone and several on my computer. I haven’t played all the digital boardgames that exist but a pretty large chunk of them. If you are interested in a specific game… maybe I’ve played it…
However, all three of these apps are among the most expensive digital boardgames there are because the underlying games are so popular and the apps are new.
I like all three boardgames quite a bit.
But they cost 20,- on PC and 10,- on tablets. For a little more than twice the money of the PC version you can get the paper versions of any of these and they all have good solo-modes (especially Wingspan and Spirit Island)
To verify my discounting of Wingspan, I’ve just started a game and it seems like they’ve made some improvements since I last played. There is now a different mode of display that gives more information at a glance. Still, I find it a bit cumbersome in comparison to the physical game.
Spirit Island is a game with some table upkeep/book-keeping (see the thread) but the app makes seeing all the information so difficult that I keep making unfixable mistakes (once a random outcome has been revealed there is no more undoing). I love SI but I do not enjoy the app much (and I backed it on Indiegogo).
edit: and to add one more all of these have a LOT of information that need to be displayed and I would argue that they need at least a big screen of a laptop or computer. I’ve played Root recently on my tablet and it just doesn’t fit on the screen.
I hardly play on iPad (as I don’t have one) but I would back most of what @yashima said, just adding Twilight Struggle.
And I love Lords of Waterdeep and Raiders of the North Sea on Steam. I did play a lot of Galaxy Trucker for a while, but you need to be in the right frame of mind due to that stressful first assembly phase.
And I am loving Root. Although I admit that I don’t understand why the first expansion the have included is the Clockwork one, when you already can play with the AI. I would have rather gone for the underworld or riverfolk ones instead, but I guess the new faction might take a lot more programming/graphic design to implement…
Although it’s not ideal, boardgamearena’s interface is at least usable on a phone. Probably yucata will work too, though I haven’t tried it. These are mostly sites for playing with other people, but one can set up single-player games for rules that support it.
I love deck builders and roll & writes in app form. Apps take all the faff out of the decks and scoring respectively, and let you speed through a game really fast.
Ascension - Simple deckbuilder with SO MANY (12) expansions available as DLC. Some expansions work well in the mix, others are best played with just the core for fear of diluting the unique mechanic, but it’s all great fun. The different card factions play completely differently, so it adds a lot of replayability. For the expansions, Dawn of Champions is my favourite. It provides assymetric starting points, assigning each player a champion linked to a card faction. This encourages you to focus on that factions cards to acquire the champion’s card, victory points, and a chance for free cards from the market.
Cartographers Ganz Schon Clever
Fast to play, automatic scoring. Really good way to get a feel for the game and learn strategies. I can perhaps see it killing the physical game with the amount of sessions you can get in, but I don’t mind.
I think the only thing I could add to this now is bitching about how many of the apps mentioned get things wrong. I have issues with Brass, Kingdom Builder, Root, Twilight Struggle, Eclipse, Terra Mystica, and Terraforming Mars out of those mentioned so far. Mostly because of getting rules wrong, or bugs, or bad UI. Twilight Struggle gets a pass for being almost good enough, the rest, not so much.
Apps mentioned so far that I do not have any problems with, and can recommend unreservedly, are: Through the Ages, Galaxy Trucker, Race for the Galaxy, and Star Realms.
Can’t believe no-one has mentioned Carcassone. The Apple implementation is nicer than the Android but both play really well (my main bug with the Android implementation is that the AI can be so sloooow).
Could be because I’ve played it to death But yeah, it’s a good game
F.e. I haven’t mentioned 7 Wonders despite liking the boardgame because I think the app doesn’t come close to the boardgame in terms of how fun it is to play. It’s one of those that suffers immensely from lack of information displayed. Just shows how much we are able to take in while sitting around a table that is nearly impossible to get across on a single screen.
I had not realized. Especially Kingdom Builder? That’s such an easy game, what mistakes could they possibly make? I do not know the rules for Twilight Struggle and Eclipse outside the app at all so I couldn’t tell–same for Brass at the time I played it. I am really surprised I didn’t notice for the two TMs…
Btw I am playing on an IPad so all the games I’ve mentioned in my first list are available on iOS although these days it is rare that a game will only support the one plattform.
I think I’d consider Twilight Struggle a reasonable app implementation of a board game if I hadn’t played Through the Ages on my phone. CGE does absolutely everything right for Through the Ages. Playdek does the bare minimum with Twilight Struggle, and there are lot of annoyances. I have never encountered any rule errors. I’m just talking about the interface, the way information is presented, and the ease of use. And the one-player option, which is almost worthless in Twilight Struggle and astoundingly good in Through the Ages. Unlike @yashima I don’t play everything, but if I was looking for a board game app I’d start by asking which CGE game has been released for my OS. [Unlike @yashima I’ve only really tried two board game apps, not all of them. I would be content with just one if it was Through the Ages]