Board games on iOS 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.
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 board games for iPad, iPhone and Android. We’re a mobile gaming website, so we’d know these things.
What are the best Board Games on Mobile?
- Yellow & Yangtze
- Terraforming Mars
- Raiders of the North Sea
- Through the Ages
- Fort Sumter
- Solar Settlers
- Castles of Burgundy
- One Deck Dungeon
- Ticket to Ride
- Twilight Struggle
Yellow & Yangtze
Dire Wolf Digital’s last board game adaptation of 2019 was a belter, which is not surprising considering the source material is another one of Dr. Reiner Knizia’s classics. Yellow & Yangtze is an abstract civilization building strategy game where you play as a warlord in the Warring States period of Ancient China. It’s a points-based Euro game, but one that has a lot more potential for direct conflict than what you would typically see.
Dire Wolf have done an excellent job of bringing this game to life in 3D, with some elegant interfaces and beautiful graphical design. There is also a single player campaign divided into nine stages, each with their own unique rules and victory conditions that offers a unique way to play the game, either for learning or for trying something different.
Honestly didn’t think we’d see this one come to light after the developer went bust during the mobile version’s beta period. Still, Asmodee Digital managed to successfully pick things up where the past team left off and get it out the door. It had a bit of a bump start but in the weeks since the iOS & Android release there have been improvements.
The PC version of this game has been out a while, so there’s already been a lot of refinement to the game already – this is one of the strongest releases we’ve seen in terms of visual design from source to software, and given how complex the rules can be the game manages to parse everything very well for the player. Current drawbacks involve a weak AI and a lack-lustre multiplayer experience. Read our review more details.
Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders is a Euro-style Victory points game where you need to gather your resources, hire yourself a crew and go a-viking. Themed on the Viking Age, this is a very colourful and inventive twist on the Worker Placement genre, where you only ever have one worker to play. Once played, you must then pick up another worker from the board, and there’s diffrent grades of workers you can unlock that will do different things.
Dire Wolf have expertly recreated the game in digital form. The art style is smartly complimented with 3D effects and animations, and everything runs incredibly well. Questionable AI competency make up most of the major draw-backs, but the base game is solid and there’s an excellent multiplayer system that offers both live and asynchronous matches. There is also pass-and-play local multiplayer as well. This is one of the better board game releases of 2019, for sure, and you can read our Raiders of the North Sea review to find out why.
Through the Ages
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.
Through the Ages got its first ever expansion on September 12th, 2019. New Leaders & Wonders is a modest content drop that features leaders, no buildable wonders, and more.
If you’ve ever liked the look of Twilight Struggle but found it a bit too complex or intimidating, then this entry might be more your speed. Fort Sumter, also by GMT Games, is a two-player card-driven strategy game that’s mainly about moving and placing blocks on a map, with the looming crises of the American Civil War developing as a back-drop.
It’s filled with some very brief, but very tense strategic decisions, and can be played in a fraction of the time as Twilight Struggle. Playdek have once again done a masterful job translating a board game into the digital space, and this is a great experience for two if you’re looking for something with a lot of depth, a lot of strategy, but you don’t have a lot of time. Read our Fort Sumter review to read more.
Developer: Brain Good Games
Platforms: iOS & Android
Genres: Worker placement / Resource Management
Cross Platform MP: Solitaire only
This entry 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.
Castles of Burgundy
Our third five-star board game review of 2019 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, and you can read our Castles of Burgundy review to find out why.
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
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 and you should read our One Deck Dungeon review to find out why.
Ticket to Ride
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.
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.
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 very easy to lose, if you’re not careful.
Read our Twilight Struggle review to find out more.
More iOS & Android Board Game Recommendations
The past couple of years have been great for board games on our mobiles – 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. Here’s a list of more top Android & iOS board games:
What would your list of the best board games look like? Let us know in the comments!