Published on April 29th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
Top 5 Best Digital Board Games
For those times without a board, a friend to play with or the will to score things manually.
Board games are a largely social activity, but in situations without a social gathering board games can be impractical. That is, unless you have a digital version of the game to play with! With the rise of mobile gaming platforms, phones acting as game devices, and an increasing attention paid to digital downloads on consoles video games are coming into mainstream consumer life like never before. What does this have to do with board games? Well, apart from big game companies rebranding their old standbys (Pictionary now has a Draw Something version) or developing toys and board games based off of popular licences (Angry Birds, we’re looking at you), many board games are making a jump over to the digital world in an attempt to carve out their own space on these markets.
This article will focus on existing board games that have successfully been digitized, not games that exist digitally that could be considered puzzle games or board games. So here you go: my Top 5 Best Digital Board Games!
#5. Arcane Quest
Let’s face it, Arcane Quest is Hero Quest. You choose your hero, explore dungeons and use either spells or strength of arms to fight your way ever deeper into chaos. It plays just like HeroQuest: dice for movement and combat, spells, items, traps, treasure. It’s your portable Ameritrash, err.. Amerigame, dream come true! The Android version is free with ads, $1 for the ad-free version. The graphics and music are decent for what it is, but nothing to write home about. Over all, a solid fantasy adventure game for Android platforms with Apple Store and Windows phone versions in the works.
Carcassonne is one of my favorite board games. Sure it’s not a shiny licensed product with tons of bling, not does it have quirky mechanics that really make it a tactically mind boggling game, nor does it have asymmetrical starting points or anything else I outline in my intro article. What it does deliver is a simple, fun experience very effectively and without a bunch of bits to track, until it comes to scoring. I’ve always hated scoring in Carcassonne because of farms. They have different rules depending on what version of the game you’re using (International and US) and trying to look for valid placement of farm tiles is aggravating at times. All of that is gone in every digital version of Carcassonne. Whether on Xbox Live Arcade, Android or iDevices, the digital versions remove 100% of my issues with Carcassonne by letting the computer tell you that something isn’t a valid placement, and then tallying the score for you as you go. the conveniences are so great that the digital versions are all that I play anymore (I have it for XBLA and my Android phone). If you like Carcassonne or board games, this purchase really should be a no-brainer. The Android version is developed by exozet games.
#3. Small World
I hesitated putting this one up so high on the list, but not because it’s not deserving. Small World has a large following, is easy to get people to play and tends to be one of those “gateway games” you were warned about: the ones so simply awesome that you’ll always come back even after moving onto more complex or “sophisticated” games (whatever that means). The digital version right now supports only two players who must share the tablet to play together on the same map, over and over. Small World is also currently only available for the iPad market, which is unfortunate, but there is good news! Days of Wonder has recently completed a Kickstarter to update its Small World game, add a ton of new features, all the expansions from the base game, Android support, multiplayer functionality, pass-and-play, wifi play between two devices, and a kind of “play by mail” type set up. Look for expanded digital Small World at the end of 2013 under the name “Small World 2”.
#2. Ticket to Ride
What makes this simple train game really stand out from all of these other digital game versions? It’s not better graphics, more interesting features, animations or player icons. Nope. It’s something small that many people won’t even think of putting into their game: cross-platform multiplayer. No matter which Ticket to Ride version you’re playing you can connect with and play with people from any other platform. Ticket to Ride doesn’t care if you’re on Xbox, Android or an iPad; it doesn’t judge your life choices, if just lets you play awesome train placing games with whoever you want. This is one of the best features that will soon be ported to Small World in its second version but it started here.
#1. Neuroshima Hex
While this appears at first glance to be a war game, what with the militaristic guys fighting post-apocalyptic cyberpunks on its art, it is anything but. What started out as a really cool timing/placement area-control game with a fun dystopian theme now has a digital version. Neuroshima Hex really comes into its own on tablets, where placing your hexes and rotating them just seems so natural. The digital version solves some issues of the base game, mostly that the gameplay revolves around the timing of different scoring sessions and it’s easy to forget a unit or ability that would have drastic effects on the board state if things were remembered properly. I don’t know if I’d say that the game is objectively better digitally (like I would for Carcassone) but it does do a lot to make me want to play it more. And honestly, for $3 (a tenth of retail value of the board game) you can really afford to buy this game and try it out wherever you are!