With board games becoming increasingly popular, it makes sense that so many of them have made the journey to smartphone app stores. Now, with these digitized versions, you’ll be able to download your favorite board games and play them anywhere you go without having to deal with tiles, cards, tokens, or finding a big enough gaming table to play on.
The digital versions of these games are incredibly convenient to play. You won’t have to worry about keeping track of (or losing) any game equipment over the years. Plus, these versions are often much cheaper than their physical counterparts. In most cases, the digital versions also have tutorials and built-in guides to help you out when you’re new to the game or forgot a particular rule.
Update, 8/22/22: Verified content and links still good. Updated pricing for “Life,” “Carcassonne,” and “Ticket to Ride.” Removed “Pandemic.”
Catan (Free on Android/iOS), also known as Settlers of Catan, is perhaps one of the most well-known board games out there outside of the Milton Bradley catalog. The game is beloved for its simple concept—gathering the resources you need to build up your settlement—as well as the mechanics it’s wrapped up in—doing so 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 up the 19 hexagonal resource tiles—which include grain, wool, brick, wood, and ore—and lay them out in the order you draw them within the six coastal frame pieces. Players will then take turns choosing where to place their first two settlements, and if there’s only one thing you learn about Catan, let it be this: Placement is everything. You can try to hog all of one resource if you’re able or try to get a good mix of resources.
Victory is won by scoring the agreed-upon amount of points, which is usually 10. You can earn points by building new settlements and cities, by creating (and holding onto the title of) the longest road, by having the biggest army, and by snatching up points-rich development cards.
And, of course, the real kicker of Catan is that you’ll need to work with your opponents just as much as you’re working against them. You’ll need to trade the resources you don’t need for the ones you do in a way that (hopefully) only benefits you, so be careful with the alliances you form or to whom you trade your sheep or wood. Don’t let its cute design fool you: Like Monopoly, Catan has the ability to challenge even the heartiest of friendships. Good luck!
Originally created in 1860, The Game of Life ($3.99/Android, $2.99/iOS) was the first popular parlor game in the United States. It’s also now part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and an inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame. Even today, the game remains one that’s fun for kids and adults alike.
The game offers a simulated journey from college through 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’ll move forward.
Players can choose to start off either by taking out a loan and going to college or by foregoing college and jumping right into a career. There are major stopping points—like marriage and buying a house—that every player will have to stop at, no matter what number they spun on the wheel.
As you make your way through The Game of Life, you’ll have the opportunity to go on amazing vacations, change careers, and even expand your family as you move towards retirement. Once all players arrive, you’ll take turns counting up your wealth and debts to see who comes out on top with the most money.
If you’re a fan of tile-laying games, Carcassonne ($5.99/Android, $4.99/iOS) is the perfect game for you and as many as four additional players. The game is named after the medieval fortified town French settlement in southern France, which is famous for its city walls. Likewise, you’ll spend your turns tending to and building upon these very walls, along with the roads and fields that connect them.
The game begins with just one of the dozens of terrain tiles face up in the center of the board. During each turn, players will draw a new tile and decide where to place it. That tile must be placed adjacent to a tile that’s already in play, and it must extend the tile it touches, so a field connecting to a field, a city to a city, and so on.
Players must then decide to place one of their meeples on that new tile, thus laying claim to any of its features and working to complete a feature (like a road or city). Players only have seven meeples, however, so planning skills and meeple conservation is a must.
Completed features are how the final score is determined, with roads and cities having no unfinished edges, and cloisters when surrounded by eight tiles. Fields are a little different; you’ll get points for each completed city bordering the field. The game ends when there are no remaining tiles to be drawn, and the winner is whoever manages to score the most points. Carcassone‘s simple mechanics and fast play speed make it a delightful choice for anyone that’s new to board games.
If you’ve ever played Tigris & Euphrates, you’ll love Yellow & Yangtze ($9.99 Android/iOS). The beautiful civilization-building game is a classic title for those love area control board games. In it, you’ll work to grow your kingdom in four colors, but scores are decided based on who has the lowest score of those colors.
The point-based game has plenty of potential for conflict while you’re actively working to build out your hexagonally-tiled terrain (which includes the two eponymous rivers). In it, you’ll play as a warlord within the Warring States period of Ancient China. You’re given five leaders—Governor, Trader, Solder, Artisan, and Farmer—which are used to collect victory points within these same categories.
The fun of Yellow & Yangtze begins when neighboring civilizations collide on the board. And to win the game, you’ll need to strategize a way to survive any conflicts that come your way all while growing your civilization to be strong and keeping the peasants from revolting. You’ll need to bring your best strategic skills to the table for this one!
Tokaido ($1.99 Android/iOS) is a game packed with stunning, colorful art that focuses, literally, on the journey, rather than on the destination. It’s based on the real Tokaido—a historical thoroughfare in Japan during the Edo period—connecting Tokyo to Kyoto.
In Tokaido, players journey along this legendary road, stopping wherever they wish and completing an action that will eventually reward them with points. Possible actions include things like eating meals at an inn, collecting various pieces of artwork, snagging up artifacts, and donating to temples.
There are plenty of unique strategies for winning the game, but the most popular includes stopping at everywhere you can so you can block the location to other players and slowly accrue much-needed points. As players move across Tokaido, they’ll also move their corresponding token across the journey point tracker. And scoring is simple: Whoever has the most points wins.
The only thing better than a beautiful train ride is a railway-themed board game, which is exactly what Ticket to Ride ($6.99/Android, $8.99/iOS) offers players. The original version of the game features a map of the United States and Canada, while localized versions (available within the app) feature maps of other regions around the world.
In the exciting game, players work to collect and play train car cards as a means to claim routes across the map, thus earning them points. Points are based on claimed railway length, whoever creates the longest continuous railway, and whether or not a player can connect multiple distant cities determined by drawing ticket cards.
Ticket to Ride is fun for kids to play, with its simple rules and straightforward scoring. However, it still manages to present a challenge for adults as well, as players can choose between straight-up scoring points or disrupting the routes (and other well-laid plans) of their opponents, or even managing the balancing act between costly failures and mission rewards. The game is a nonstop journey of fun for all kinds of players.