The 2020 global pandemic may seem like a great time for new versions of board game apps, but the increasing development time for more complex games means we’re going between initial announcements and final releases longer than we do. previously. Below, I’ve ranked my nine best new board game apps of 2020 based on app quality, gaming experience, and purchase price. I will give a brief honorable mention to Lorenzo il Magnifico, which I tested a year ago while it was still in beta on Steam and which I thought about a lot, but which I was not able to try in its latest version.
9. Viticulture (Digified)
The first game from designer Jamey Stegmaier (False, Charter stone) gets application processing from Digidiced, whose applications all look the same in general. You run a vineyard and place workers in the spring or winter to plant vines, build your farm, and organize tours for money. It’s a relatively complex economy game at heart, and the app works well, but the tutorial here isn’t detailed enough; it might be better if you had some familiarity with the physical game.
8. Finished! (Eric Snider)
Friedman Friese is probably best known for his complex playing Electrical network, but he has produced a number of single-player games, all of which have titles that start with F, including Friday (which has a very good app version). Finished! is a single deck deck of 48 numbered cards, shuffled except card # 48, which you’ll try to sort in their order before going through the deck 7 times. Cards also have functions such as letting you put cards back into the deck and draw new ones, or letting you collect the last two cards you discarded. They can also show candy, which you’ll need to use actions on other cards. It’s a lot harder than it looks, giving the game good replay value, although the amateur artistry and color scheme leaves something to be desired. It is only available for iOS.
7. Smart cubes (Brettspielwelt)
If you have played It’s smart enough or more Twice as smart, it’s more the same thing and from the same developers, but this app is smoother and more refined than its predecessors. You roll six dice of different colors, then mark them in the corresponding area of your scoresheet (with the white dice as a wildcard). Each color of the dice scores a different score, and there are bonuses all over the score sheet to fill in certain spaces, rows or columns. Scoring 300 is a reasonable challenge, and 400 is doable but difficult, while good players have passed 500 (but this player still hasn’t). The original game is probably still the best, but I would rate the second one higher. The board game is multiplayer with a solitaire mode, but the app is single player only.
6. Charter stone (Digital acram)
Charter stone is a game inherited from Jamey Stegmaier, whose Viticulture was earlier on this list. This game is a very traditional sort of worker placement game, but where the rules – and even the workers – change a bit in each of the 12 games you’ll play in a full campaign. It’s beautifully rendered, with lots of cute animations for the different buildings you are going to build, but the physical board is large and detailed. This app struggles to translate that to the screen, which is a limitation as you can place a worker on any building, even if it’s not the one you placed yourself. The app still works well with skilled AI opponents.
5. Cartographers (Brettspielwelt)
The physical game was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres Prize last year, losing to The crew, and it plays an unlimited number of people (like other roll-and-write Welcome to…). The app is a simple single player game with several modes, including an unranked one, but it is the same game. You have a giant sheet with a grid on it and you try to fill it in such a way that you score the four unique scorecards for that specific game. To do this, color the shapes on the cards that are drawn each turn in four different colors, although each card gives you either a choice of two colors or a choice of two shapes. There is a “cost” associated with each scorecard, so it’s very easy to notice the negatives. I’ve done it so many times, in fact.
4. Ride for the galaxy (Temple doors)
Funny story about this app. I never liked the physical version of Race for the Galaxy, the predecessor of Ride for the galaxy, but its app is one of the best board game apps ever. I liked the physical version of Ride for the galaxy even less … but, again, the app is spectacular. The gist is the same in both games: here you try to build a series of tiles, up to 12 in total, which you will do in part by producing and selling goods for cash or points. You roll a series of dice that show all the different possible actions, then you assign them to their corresponding actions, choosing one of them as your chosen action for the turn; other players (or AI players) do the same, then you only do the chosen actions that each player has chosen, and only if you have dice assigned to those actions. AI players seem strong, and games are moving very quickly.
3. Span (Sofa Monster)
Span is the best new board game to appear in the past five years, and it got a digital port worthy of the physical version from developers Monster Couch, who took their first steps into the board game space with this app. . Span is a card-drafting and hands-on management game, as players try to bring various species of birds to their three habitats by collecting food, playing cards, and hatching eggs, which can also lead to at more points. It’s more complex under the hood than it first appears due to the myriad of ways to score points and build your ecosystems, but the digital port is great. It takes the art of physical play and adds animations, and it makes it possible to play online, play against AI opponents and play with the “automa” solitaire variant of the physical game, which has been working well since. Span doesn’t have a lot of interaction with players. Span appeared for Steam this fall and will arrive on Switch in late December, so there’s reason to think the iOS and Android versions might be somewhere later, which is the only major issue with the app right now.
2. Sagrada (Say digital wolf)
Sagrada is an amazing game that also seems to lend itself perfectly to the digital sphere, and Dire Wolf, who developed the two best apps on this list, gave it the adaptation it deserves. It’s a dice-rolling game, so on each turn the app rolls a certain number of dice that players will choose from a snake-draw and then place on their boards, which represent stained-glass windows. The trays require some dice colors for some squares and dice of some values for other squares, and you score based on objective cards that change with each play (for example, not having repeated cards or values in rows or columns). It’s great, it’s replayable, and my only gripe is that I wish the AI players were a bit stronger. We hope that some of the physical game’s many expansions will arrive at some point in the app.
1. Root (Say digital wolf)
Also from Dire Wolf, Root is a fantastic adaptation of a very good but peculiar board game. It’s asymmetric, which means that each player has different pieces, powers, goals, and even to some extent different rules. The theme itself is fun, as players represent up to four factions of warring animals competing for control of a forest, sometimes getting points for making different products. Each faction requires its own strategy, and you’ll likely have one or two favorites. The app version does everything right, including how it translates the big picture onto the smaller screens of tablets and phones. The animations enhance the gaming experience, although it doesn’t add anything specific to the game itself, and the tutorial here is some of the best ever. It’s a winner even if you haven’t tried the physical game and it’s also a great way to learn it.