Social distancing isn’t just about avoiding public places like restaurants or bars. It’s also about avoiding any kind of gathering. And for board game fans that means we have to sit inside our own homes for hours and hours instead of sitting in our friend’s home for hours and hours. Fortunately, self-quarantine doesn’t mean we can’t virtually hang out and compete for resources. Some of the best board games are available digitally. Here are eight of our favorites you can download as apps and play with your friends right now.
Catan, the godfather of the modern board game boom, is still a fun, easy to grasp game with a ton of strategy. The app version follows the same rules as the board game and can play up to four people. You can compete against “fans online via cross-platform multiplayer, or take on the AI with various computer opponents.” There are also plenty of expansions to help keep the game fresh even after all these years. And Catan also remains a great “gateway” game for newcomers used to traditional fare like Monopoly or Clue. Getting someone into the game virtually could help you pick up another player for your regular board game night when you’re no longer in self-isolation. That is, until you refuse to trade them wheat and they stop talking to you.
The 2014 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) nominee, the engine-building card-based game remains one of our absolute favorites. It’s not hard to learn, but it’s not easy to master. Players compete as rich Renaissance merchants who buy and manage precious gems. It’s incredibly re-playable and also incredibly addictive. The app version is a faithful recreation, and offers “solo mode, pass and play, and online multiplayer (2 to 4 players).” But it also comes with an exclusive game mode, Challenges, “based on historical events and anecdotes of the 15th and 16th centuries.”
If you are looking for a light, quick game then look somewhere else. Agricola is an intense, often frustrating worker placement game. And we mean that in the best way. It forces you to make difficult decisions while trying to juggle scarce resources. Build a bigger house or focus more on growing your farm fields? Make bread to feed your family or go out collecting wood? It’s all so maddening and challenging and fantastic. The app version comes with four Game play modes: Family, Basic, Solo Play, and Solo Series. It can accommodate one to five players, or you can play against an AI.
Lords of Waterdeep
This fantastic turn-based worker-placement strategy game features a D&D setting. It’s easy to pick up but hard to master, offering incredible re-playability. Players assign their own “agents” to do their “bidding” over eight rounds. Like with the physical version, “points and resources are gained by completing quests, playing Intrigue cards, constructing new buildings or having other players utilize the buildings you have constructed.” That makes it sound more complicated than it is, which is why it’s so good. There’s a lot going on, but it’s nor hard to follow. With the app you can play against an AI or with up to five friends.
Small World 2
Small World is one of our favorite games ever. It’s also one of the best looking. You compete with different fantasy races, all with their own skills and weakness. The game forces every player to be active participants, and there’s plenty of room for spite attacks. But as much as we love the physical version the game might be even better digital. It’s easier to keep track of legal moves, points, and how many tokens are still on the board. The updated version also has new player maps. You can play “in real-time or turn-by-turn, with friends and strangers from the world over, or “solo against up to four built-in AI.” And you can also do pass-and-play if you only have one device but lots of you are stuck in the same house.
Ticket to Ride
Just like Catan, the 2004 Spiel des Jahres winner Ticket to Ride is a great entry point for newcomers to European style games. It has an easy premise to understand. You have to get your train to its destination before everyone else. But no two games are ever the same, so you can play it again and again. The digital version is a faithful adaptation of the original. You can play “single-player mode, online multi-player against the whole world, or local multi-player with your friends.” There are also add-ons offering “special maps and rules.”
Okay, this might be a little too on-the-nose for current events, but at least a fictional global health crisis can be fun. Especially when you get to play a skilled disease-fighting team trying to save the world from deadly diseases like in Pandemic. This fun co-op game assigns everyone of the two to four players a different role as they try to stop outbreaks across the globe. You can also play solo and assume multiple roles. The digital version also has three difficulty settings: beginners, intermediate, and expert. And with expansions you can add roles and a fifth player. Which is ideal, cause these days we can all use a little extra help fighting a deadly disease.
Remember, things can always be worse. In the Middle Ages quarantine entertainment consisted of staring into the fire place all day. They couldn’t download the award-winning Carcassonne either. The tile-based game has players build a medieval town they then populate and control with meeples. Play with up to four players, in pass-and-play or online. Or compete against the AI in solo mode. There are also six expansions, so you can mix up your game for numerous replays.
Available for Google Play ($4.99)
What other great board games are available to download in app stores? Share your favorites with us in the comments below and maybe we’ll see you on the virtual game board.
Featured Image: Asmodee Digital