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.

iTunes

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:

iTunes

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:

iTunes

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.

iTunes

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:

iTunes

Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.
Mobile

The best dating apps for 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Social Media

How to add music to Instagram videos

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Computing

The best laptops of 2019

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. Our picks for the best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while they're at it.
Gaming

From Escape mode to story, here’s everything we know about Gears 5

The Coalition's second game in the Gears franchise drops the "of War" and will bring some big changes to Microsoft's flagship cover shooter. From story details to new game modes, here's everything we know about Gears 5.
Gaming

The best Nintendo Switch games

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

How doctors are fighting Alzheimer’s with a cleverly designed VR game

After three years, the mobile game Sea Hero Quest has generated millions of hours worth of data that could help researchers find the next step in how we diagnose and understand dementia and Alzheimer's.
Gaming

From Stadia exclusives to Death Stranding, Here’s everything shown at Gamescom

Gamescom 2019 will be the site for four different presentations, including the next Google Stadia Connect event. Here you can find out where to rewatch the shows and catch up on all of the announcements that came from each of them.
Gaming

The best indie games on Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch's portability makes indies feel at home on the platform. Luckily, there are plenty of great titles to choose from. Here are our picks for the best Nintendo Switch indie games.
Gaming

Everything announced at Gamescom Opening Night Live

To kick off the Gamescom 2019 festivities, Geoff Keighley hosted Opening Night Live, a presentation packed with new trailers and announcements. We saw new gameplay for Death Stranding, Borderlands 3, and much more.
Cars

Ford is looking to recruit gamers for its first-ever esports racing team

Ford is getting into esports in a big way with the launch of its own racing team, called Fordzilla. The automaker is planning to start recruiting for national teams at the Gamescom gaming event in Germany this week.
Computing

Visually stunning HP Omen X 27 HDR TN display closes color gap with IPS monitors

The HP Omen X 27 could prove to be the sweet spot for gamers everywhere. At a 1440p resolution, it's blazingly fast, with a 240Hz refresh rate and a 1ms response time. Better yet, its HDR support really helps colors pop.
Gaming

Everything we know about Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne adds the largest region in the game to date alongside new monsters, mechanics, and much more. The expansion launches on PS4 and Xbox One on September 6.
Gaming

Some future Sony exclusives could be released on PC as well

SIE Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden said Sony could open up some of its future exclusive games to PC players, specifically those with an online multiplayer bent. Don't count on the next God of War to come to PC, though.
1 of 2