The best board game apps

Grail Games, Asmodeus

With board games becoming increasingly popular, it makes sense that so many of them have made the trip to smartphone app stores. Now, with these digitized versions, you will be able to download your favorite board games and play them wherever you go without having to manage tiles, cards, tokens or find a game table big enough to play on.

The digital versions of these games are incredibly convenient to play. You won’t have to worry about tracking (or losing) any gaming gear over the years. Moreover, these versions are often many cheaper than their physical counterparts. In most cases, the digital versions also have built-in tutorials and guides to help you when you’re new to the game or have forgotten a particular rule.

Update, 3/18/22: Verified content and still good links. Updated prices for “Life”, “Carcassonne” and “Ticket to Ride”. Removed “Pandemic”.

Colony Building: Catania

Catan gameplay with player settlements and resource maps

Catania (Free on Android/iOS), also known as Settlers of Catan, is perhaps one of the best-known board games outside of the Milton Bradley catalog. The game is loved for its simple concept – gather the resources you need to build your colony – as well as the mechanics it’s built into – do it both faster and better than your opponents so you get enough points to declare victory.

The dice and card game itself is easy to set up, with its stylish and colorful tiles, cards and pieces. For each game, you’ll shuffle the 19 hexagonal resource tiles – which include grain, wool, brick, wood, and ore – and arrange them in the order you draw them in the six pieces of the coastal setting. Players will then take turns choosing where to place their first two settlements, and if there is only one thing you learn about Catania, let it be this: placement is everything. You can try to monopolize all the resources if you can or try to get a good mix of resources.

Victory is achieved by scoring the agreed number of points, which is usually 10. You can earn points by building new settlements and towns, creating (and retaining the title) the longest route, having the longest large army, and ripping off point-rich development maps.

And, of course, the real kicker of Catania is that you will have to work with your opponents as much as you work against them. You’ll have to trade the resources you don’t need for the ones you need in a way that (hopefully) only benefits you, so be careful what alliances you form or who you trade your sheep to or your wood. Don’t be fooled by its pretty design: I like Monopoly, Catania has the ability to challenge even the most sincere friendships. Good luck!

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

So Life-Like: The Game of Life

The main Game of Life screen with game options

Originally created in 1860, The games of life ($3.99/Android, $2.99/iOS) was the first popular board game in the United States. It is also now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Even today, the game remains fun for children and adults.

The game features a simulated journey from college to retirement, with opportunities for marriage, jobs, children, pay raises, and other adventures and surprises along the way. Players will take turns spinning the wheel to determine how many spaces they will advance.

Players can choose to start either by taking a loan and going to college, or by forgoing college and jumping straight into a career. There are major stopping points, such as getting married and buying a house, that each player will have to stop at, regardless of the number they have spun on the wheel.

As you go your way The games of life, you will have the opportunity to spend an incredible vacation, change careers and even expand your family as you approach retirement. Once all the players have arrived, you take turns counting your wealth and debts to see who emerges victorious with the most money.

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

Strategic Tile Placement: Carcassonne

Example of Carcassonne gameplay with tiles

If you are a fan of tile laying games, Carcassonne ($5.99/Android, $4.99/iOS) is the perfect game for you and up to four additional players. The game is named after the medieval French fortified town in southern France, famous for its ramparts. Likewise, you’ll spend your towers maintaining and building on those same walls, as well as the roads and fields that connect them.

The game begins with just one of dozens of face-up terrain tiles in the center of the board. Each turn, players draw a new tile and decide where to place it. This tile must be placed next to a tile that is already in play, and it must extend the tile it is touching, so a field connecting to a field, a town to a town, and so on.

Players must then decide to place one of their meeples on this new tile, thereby claiming one of its features and working to complete a feature (like a road or a town). However, players only have seven meeples, so meeple planning and conservation skills are a must.

Completed items are how the final score is determined, with roads and towns having no unfinished edges, and cloisters when surrounded by eight tiles. The fields are a bit different; you will get points for each completed city bordering the field. The game ends when there are no more tiles left to draw, and the winner is the one who manages to score the most points. CarcassonneThe simple mechanics and fast game speed make it a delightful choice for anyone new to board games.

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

A fight for the greatest kingdom: Yellow and Yangtze

A game of Yellow & Yangtze with sparring nations playing alongside each other
Yellow & Yangtze

If you have already played Tigris & EuphratesYou will like Yellow & Yangtze ($9.99 Android/iOS). The beautiful civilization building game is a classic title for this love zone control board games. In it, you’ll work to develop your kingdom in four colors, but scores are decided based on who has the lowest score of those colors.

The point-based game has a lot of potential for conflict as you actively work to build your hex-tile terrain (which includes the two eponymous rivers). In it, you play as a warlord in the Warring States period of ancient China. You have five leaders (Governor, Trader, Soldier, Craftsman, and Farmer) which are used to collect victory points in those same categories.

The pleasure of Yellow & Yangtze begins when neighboring civilizations collide on the board. And to win the game, you will have to strategize to survive all the conflicts that come your way while developing your civilization to be strong and preventing the peasants from revolting. You’ll need to bring your best strategic skills to the table for this one!

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

Play a Traveler Traveler: Tokaido

You will gather a collection of artifacts and artwork during Tokaido

Tokaido ($1.99 Android/iOS) is a game filled with stunning colorful artwork that literally focuses on the journey rather than the destination. It is based on the real Tokaido, a historical artery of Japan during the Edo period, connecting Tokyo to Kyoto.

In Tokaido, players travel along this legendary road, stopping wherever they wish and performing an action that will eventually reward them with points. Possible actions include things like eating meals at an inn, collecting various works of art, collecting artifacts, and donating to temples.

There are many unique strategies for winning the game, but the most popular is to stop wherever you can in order to block the location to other players and slowly accumulate much-needed points. As players move Tokaido, they will also move their corresponding token on the waypoint tracker. And the count is simple: Whoever has the most points wins.

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

Short Rail Adventures: Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride game with competing railroads on the map
Ticket to ride

The only thing better than a nice train ride is a railroad-themed board game, which is exactly what Ticket to ride ($6.99/Android, $8.99/iOS) offers gamers. The original version of the game features a map of the United States and Canada, while the localized versions (available in the app) feature maps of other regions of the world.

In this exciting game, players strive to collect and play train carriage cards to claim routes on the map, earning them points. Points are based on claimed railroad length, whichever creates the longest continuous railroad, and whether or not a player can connect multiple determined distant towns by drawing ticket cards.

Ticket to ride is fun for kids to play, with its simple rules and simple score. However, it still manages to present a challenge for adults too, as players can choose between scoring points directly or disrupting the routes (and other well-laid plans) of their opponents, or even managing the balance between costly failures and mission rewards. The game is a fun non-stop journey for all types of gamers.

Download from the Apple App StoreGet it on Google Play

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