Go from the tabletop to tablet with these 10 board games

best ipad board games hearthstone header
Board games have come a long way in the last 20 years. Whereas once popular board games were generally games of chance built upon the roll of the dice, many of today’s most popular titles are more complex, emphasizing strategy and deep levels of resource management over sheer luck. Just as common in dorm rooms and apartments as family game nights, board games have grown up.

Of course, it can be difficult to get people together for a board game night whenever one wants, and even then they can be a mess to clean up. Thankfully, many popular board games now feature digital editions, nearly all of which are readily available for the iPad. Below are some of our favorites for Apple’s trademark tablet, whether you prefer feats of grand strategy or the simple pleasures of twiddling knobs.

Tiles, cards, and adventures in space

Carcassonne ($10)

carcassonne final

Although many of the most popular board games can be mindbogglingly complicated — many a naive player has braved the sprawl of Arkham Horror, only to be left a quivering mess — sometimes simpler is better, especially when it comes to the iPad, where the touchscreen naturally emphasizes fewer systems. Carcassonne, a German game set in the famous French town, is one of the paragons of European board game design, with a basic set of rules and short duration that mask a surprising amount of strategic depth.

Carcassonne is notable in that players build the board as they go. The board consists of 72 tiles, one of which is the “main” tile placed at the start of the game. The rest of the tiles are placed face down and shuffled around, and each turn a player draws a tile and places it next to one already on the board, gradually building a map. Each tile depicts partial features such as fields, cities, roads, or monasteries, and on placing a tile, a player can also place one of their limited stock of pieces (called “meeples”) onto one of these features in an attempt to claim it. This can be a messy process when you’re dealing with the physical game, but on the iPad, there’s no need to shuffle or worry about the size of a table, making the whole experience smoother.

As players build the map, they attempt to complete the roads, cities, and monasteries, at which point the player with the most pieces gets points. Winning at Carcassonne thus requires players to think not just about how to build the longest road or biggest city, but also how to impede their opponent’s progress.


Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (Free)

ascension final

Fans of board games may likely remember collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering, in which players assembled decks from hundreds of possible cards and battled one another in dorm rooms and cafeterias across the country. Many who once enjoyed such games may also have stopped playing, as the need to constantly purchase new sets of cards made them an expensive hobby. Enter the deck-building game, a young genre in which a group of players all acquire cards from the same pool, building their decks as the game progresses. Ascension, designed by former pro Magic players, is among the best in the genre, with diverse cards that allow for a variety of strategies and tactical improvisation.

There are two primary resources in Ascension: power, used to defeat monsters, and runes, used to acquire new cards. At the beginning of a game of Ascension, every player starts with a deck consisting of Militia and Apprentices, which provide a small amount of power and runes. Cards and monsters from the main deck are laid out in the center of the table, and players take turns slaying monsters and purchasing new cards for their deck. Acquiring cards and completing certain actions will net players points, called Honor, and at the end of the game the player with the most honor wins.

The iPad version of the game lays everything out well, utilizing the space available on screen. Cards are rendered beautifully — although players will obviously not have the tactile pleasure of holding them in hand —and all the important information, such as card types and resources, is easily readable. The quick pace of the game is also perfectly suited for online play, and those who develop an addiction to the game will enjoy the fact that expansion sets are much cheaper on the iTunes store than at a physical game shop.

Download it now from:


Galaxy Trucker ($5)

galaxy truckers final

Galaxy Trucker is designed to appeal to two main demographics: people who like to build things, and masochists. The game consists of two main phases. The first is a building phase, in which players must draw tiles from a pool and arrange them in order to build ships before the timer runs out. Once the building phase is complete, players then draw event cards as they try to reach their destination, acquiring credits along the way. This is where the aforementioned masochists will have fun, as the universe portrayed by Galaxy Trucker is vast and cruel. Any number of dangers, including space pirates and asteroids, can wreck a player’s ship. It is not uncommon that no ships will make it through a round alive.

The build phase is crucial to success, as even a minor flaw, such as an exposed piece of connective tissue, can be a fatal weakness. Players will also need to equip their ships with tools such as laser cannons and shield batteries to survive the various dangers of the galaxy. Luck is the biggest enemy in Galaxy Trucker, and much of the fun comes not from success, but from trying to survive outrageous circumstances.

Even the best board game can be ruined in transition to the iPad if the developers are careless. Thankfully, this version of Galaxy Trucker is adapted well, with all the moving parts laid out intuitively on screen. The digital version includes both pass-and-play and online modes, making for a great multiplayer experience on the iPad. There is also a single-player campaign unique to the iPad version, for those who would rather blow their ships up in private.

Purchase it now from:


Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free)

hearthstone screen final

Blizzard’s second attempt at a World of Warcraft card game, Hearthstone has been a runaway hit despite its modest development (the original team consisted of 15 members). Hearthstone is an entirely digital card game, giving players all the fun of building decks and battling opponents without the necessary storage space for cards. Of course, some might argue that the feel of cards is part of the fun, which is why the game attempts to emulate the physical experience of playing a game. Players drag on drop their cards from their hands to the board, slamming them down with an audible thump.

Designed for both tablets and computers, Hearthstone streamlines the traditional card game experience. Players cannot take any actions on their opponent’s turn, which keeps the pace moving quickly, although some would argue this robs the game of the tactical moments that games like Magic excel at. There is plenty of strategy present in Hearthstone, however, with nine different classes to choose from, each with their own unique cards and strengths. The mechanics of the game are simple enough for anyone to pick it up and start playing, but with enough depth for more advanced players to distinguish themselves in all degrees of amateur to professional competition.

Of course, Hearthstone is a collectible card game, and the collectible part may prove a bit of a wall for new players. Everyone starts out with a basic set of cards for each class, and more can be unlocked by simply playing the game. The vast majority of cards will need to be acquired from booster packs or expansions, both of which can be purchased with gold earned through daily quests or with cash. There are hundreds of cards in the game already, with more added every so often, and building a complete collection is a daunting task. Still, for players who enjoy collecting cards and customizing decks, Hearthstone is easily the best CCG on the iPad.


Spaceteam (Free)

spaceteam final

Perhaps including Spaceteam is stretching the definition of a board game a bit much, but between its simple interface and great potential as a party game, it seemed fitting to bend the rules. Allowing for two to eight players, Spaceteam puts each player in charge of a specific station on a spaceship. The game requires each player to use their own tablet or phone, which will display a control panel as well as information about incoming crises and what players need to do to counter them. Thus, players need to communicate effectively in order to progress.

Despite its simplicity, Spaceteam can be incredibly hard. As orders come in more and more quickly, players will often devolve into shouting over each other in order to relay the information in time. Quickly recognizing when you need to do something is essential, and the game’s interface is basic enough that novices can pick it up easily.

Download it now from:



For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.

Get extra life with our tips and tricks for 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a much more difficult game than you'd believe based on its adorable art style and 2D perspective. Here's how you can master the game's toughest challenges.

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has two distinct Mario experiences in one package. In this guide, we'll show you how to find all of the secret exits in New Super Mario Bros. U, that lead to hidden levels and let you skip worlds.

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Luigi U Deluxe'

Just like all other 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe includes secret exits and world skips. In this guide, we'll show you how to get to all 12 secret exits in New Super Luigi U.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

Blizzard’s latest hiring spree is likely for the unannounced ‘Diablo 4’

Activision Blizzard is hiring for more than a dozen positions on unannounced Diablo projects. Some of the roles are likely for the unannounced Diablo 4, the next mainline entry in the series.

Everything we know about 'Red Dead Online', including the new mode Gun Rush

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.

Fortnite V-Bucks being used by criminals for money laundering on dark web

Criminals are using Fortnite's V-Bucks for money laundering schemes on the dark web. Epic Games, apparently, is not doing enough to prevent the game from being used for the illegal activity.

Relive the 8-bit gaming era with the best NES emulators for Android and PC

For years prior to the release of the NES Classic, emulators have offered a means to every NES game ever created without needing the console. Here are the best NES emulators for Android and PC.

Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector’s Edition comes with a life-size Scorpion mask

The Mortal Kombat 11 Kollector's Edition will come with a human-sized replica of the mask of Scorpion, one of the most iconic fighters of the series. NetherRealm Studios has also announced the game's preorder bonuses.
1 of 2