Top 10 Digital Board Games

One of the ways I’ve coped with the terror and tedium of the covid lockdowns is with board games. Not with my family sadly, as neither my wife or daughter are that interested, and not with my gaming group either. (The last thing that we played together was Pandemic Legacy throughout 2019 and no, it’s not our fault. We won.) Instead, I’ve been forced to get my fix on digital platforms. Read on for a whistle-stop tour of my Top 5 quick games and my Top 5 trickier ones.

Oh! And just to note – you don’t need to know what you’re doing in advance. All of these games come with full instructions or tuition mode, and can be happily played against AI and human opponents. You can hand your device from player to player within your bubble, hook up with some friends online or challenge some strangers if you prefer. As a bonus, some of these games feature a solo campaign and a few have expansion packs available as well, to broaden your experience.

Digital Board Games

Top 5 Quickies

Cute panda game

5. Takenoko (Asmodee Digital) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 4 | Online or Pass & Play | Expansion available to purchase

A clunky but functional adaptation of a lovely game. Compete to win the favour of the Emperor by completing mission cards. Players take it in turns to do any two of the following: add a terrain tile, use the royal gardener to grow varieties of bamboo, use the Emperor’s panda to…er…harvest it (nom!), grab extra missions, or dig irrigation channels. A weather dice adds random benefits each turn. Complete terrain, growth, and harvest missions to score points. Most points win the Emperor’s approval.


Beautiful game of the path

4. Tsuro: the game of the path (Thunderbox Entertainment Ltd.) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 8 | Online or Pass & Play

A simple, relaxing game, adapted elegantly. The aim is always to stay on the board for as long as possible, trying not to crash or be led off. Starting from the edge of the board, players take it turns to choose and place path tiles in front of their piece. Once each tile is laid, the active player moves their piece along the path as far as it can go which, as the board begins to fill, can send you looping quite a distance. No scoring per se, but you can play to build the longest path, make the most loops, or against a timer.


Duelling pirate card game

3. Dead Man’s Draw (Stardock Entertainment) Buy on IOS

Max. Players: 2 | Online or Pass & Play + Solo Campaign Mode

A brilliant piratical duel of the cards which somehow works better as an app than the physical deck (though lack of updates is starting to become problematic). Vie with other pirates to find and keep the highest scoring cards. A shared shuffled deck contains 10 different suits, each of which affects gameplay in brilliant ways as you draw them. On the active player’s go, turn over as many cards as you dare, then bank them. You have the chance to score more points by pushing your luck, but if you get two cards of the same suit, you’ll lose what you’ve drawn. Be strategic, be merciless, and remember – it’s only the highest scoring card of each suit that counts towards the score. Play through a vast array of Tournaments against AI pirates to unlock trait gems for extra abilities and to experience a wide array of alternate rule sets.


Beautiful tessellating leaf game

2. Indian Summer (Digidiced) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 4 | Online or Pass & Play

A gorgeously presented tessellation game with a surprisingly competitive streak. It may not look it, but this is a race to fill your forest floor with fallen leaves. Players take it in turn to lay different shaped tiles on their personal board. Each tile holds a hole through which you might spot a berry, a nut, a mushroom or feather. Collect those items by completing that section of the board; you can trade them in for bonus actions later: refill tiles, singleton squirrels, steal from your opponents, or play two of your own tiles. If you’re canny enough to make patterns with your holes, you can place animal tiles on top of them for a double grab.


Fabulous resource-grabbing card game

1. Jaipur (Asmodee Digital) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 2 | Online or Pass & Play + Solo Campaign Mode

The best 2-player card game in existence, adapted with style. There, I said it. Head of to market and try to trade faster and smarter than your opponent. Players take turns taking, trading, or selling different types of market goods to score points. Those points diminish as the items are sold, so the sooner you can sell them the better. However, the more of a particular item you sell, the more bonus points you can earn, so it’s a fine balance between the two. What is your opponent hoarding? Can a train of camels help swing the odds in your favour? Every point counts, but you have to take 2 rounds to win.


Top 5 Trickies

Strategic colonisation game

5. Kingdom Builder (Queen Games) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 4 | Online or Pass & Play

Serviceable adaptation of a cracking strategic game with a difference. Grab land with your settlements. The more efficient you are, the higher you’ll score. The basics are simple: draw a card to tell you which terrain type to claim. Place 3 settlements on that type, next to other settlements you own if at all possible. Strategy comes with how you block off your opponents, how you manage to spread or cluster your own pieces, and how quickly you can access the bonus-action tiles. Interestingly, both board lay-outs (which provide differing bonus-action tiles and terrains) and the cards that dictate your scoring conditions are randomised at the start of each match. Great for longevity and variety.

(Note – I was going to choose Carcassonne, but the original app has vanished from the app stores and a clunky replacement by a different developer has taken its place. Booo!)


Tense treasure-hunting game

4. Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert (Button Mash Games) Buy on IOS

Max. Players: 4/5 | Pass & Play only | Alternate Layouts for Forbidden Island

Challenging co-operative treasure-hunting games, nicely presented. Can your team find all 4 treasures and escape from the island before it sinks? You will all succeed or fail together. Each turn gives the active player a chance to move their character, use sandbags to keep the water at bay, exchange cards, or grab treasure. Each character also has a unique ability that makes them particularly useful in different ways. The player then draw additional cards. Collect sets of these and get to the right location to find the treasure. Be quick and be careful. You don’t want to get cut off by the rising water! The original and the most difficult of this series is Forbidden Island. Forbidden Desert uses broadly similar mechanics but expands your options to great and imaginative effect. As such, it’s less challenging and perhaps a little more fun – depending on your temperament.


Brilliant resource-grabbing game

3. D&D Lords of Waterdeep (Playdek Inc.) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 5 | Online or Pass & Play | Expansions available to purchase

Excellent, engaging Dungeons and Dragons resource-management game. Well adapted to digital (though, inexplicably, their most recent update squished the portrait-shaped game into a landscape format). As one of the shadowy Lords of this vibrant city, you get others to do your dirty work for you. Across 8 rounds, players take turns sending their agents to gather the resources (adventurers) needed to complete quests and score victory points. Each Lord values certain types of quests above others, so keep your eyes on the prize for bonus points. Strategically, you need to build an engine of income/adventurers via plot quests and buildings to help achieve your quests quicker. Balance out quick wins with tough, high-scoring ones. Expand the game’s locations and and your ability to grab resources through additional buildings. Undermine and attack each other with intrigue cards. Vie for who plays first each round to give yourself the most options, but above all, WIN.


Classic route-grabbing game

2. Ticket to Ride (Asmodee Digital) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 5 | Online or Pass & Play | Expansions available to purchase

The classic train-track grabber, perfectly adapted to digital. This is a race on rails, where players try to connect the cities on their destination tickets while making things difficult for their opponents. There’s only so much track. Can you force them to waste time and trains going the long way round? Having chosen their first destination tickets, players take turns either drawing locomotive/carriage cards up in order to build sets, handing those sets in to claim sections of track with their trains, or drawing additional tickets in hopes of hitting the highest score. Points are claimed en route (as it were), determined by the length of track claimed each time. Further points are scored at the end of the game from your completed destination tickets, but be careful – there are penalties for every connection failed.


Tile-drafting castle-builder.

1. Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Bezier Games Inc.) Buy on IOS or Android

Max. Players: 4 | Online or Pass & Play + Solo Campaign Mode

I can’t pretend this is the prettiest app of the collection (that would be Indian Summer), nor the most competitive (Ticket to Ride), strategic (Lords of Waterdeep), or addictive (Jaipur) but it’s a pretty damned good adaptation of my favourite comfort game – and that’s what I’ve needed. How does it play? You are an architect, hired by King Ludwig to design the highest-scoring castle. He has a few specific things in mind (drawn at the start to set the scoring conditions, much like Kingdom Builder), but beyond that, you’re on your own. Players have a shared pool of rooms available to compete for and a set amount of money to start with. One by one, they get the opportunity to set the prices for their competitors in order to raise funds for their own project—hoping to sell high and buy cheap. Points are scored as the rooms are played, with bonuses earned for canny connections. In addition, each type of room you ‘complete’ provides you with a different Reward, boosting your points or cash, or allowing you an extra action or bonus card to help get ahead. The game can be supremely relaxing or fiercely competitive depending on your mood, but it’s always a pleasure to play.


Right then, that’s about it for now. Oh yeah— if you want to recommend any board games (digital or physical) then do let me know so we can all check them out.

If you just want to give it a go on your own, tell me how you get on.

And if any of you fancy getting together for an online game some time, you’re on!

Whatever the situation, drop a Comment in the box below. I’d love to hear from you. Your work, elevated.


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