It’s been a while, friends, since I delved into the realm of Google Play to give you a look at what board game apps for Android were “hitting the table”. In fact, it was 3 years ago almost to the day for a full round-up, and a few mentions back in 2017 for Asmodee Digital. Three years might not seem long in the grand scheme of things, but in terms of technology and mobile gaming, it’s pretty swift! We’re really quite spoiled for choice now, as developers are considering more platforms than just iOS when making their games playable for mobile. There have even been games hitting the Nintendo Switch, like Carcassonne and Istanbul! If you want board gaming on the go, you’re in luck. There’s a little bit of everything in here – classics, solo and 2 player, family and gateway games, and some heavier strategy too! Dive on in.
Early on, there weren’t a lot of “classic” hobby games around on digital. There was a version of Carcassonne that ended up being discontinued – there’s now a very polished version that’s out on Android from Asmodee Digital that’s also got a number of the game’s expansions available for DLC. There’s regular old Catan, of course, but Catan Universe has also hit the scene (read Nicole’s review) which offers up a little more variety in order to keep your experience fresher. I’ve been most excited for the arrival of two long-time cardboard favourites, though! 7 Wonders finally made it to mobile, and already included Leaders and Cities expansions – they’re not resting on their victory laurels now it’s in the hands and devices of fans. I love the quick games that I can play against the AI, and occasionally dip into online multiplayer should I feel so inclined. Possibly my favourite game ever, Castles of Burgundy has been brought to the pixelated world by Digidiced (David mentions the iOS release here). I’ve steered clear of online multiplayer a lot of the time, just due to how drawn out an asynchronous game can be – but if you’ve organized to play with a friend it can be a treat. I just as much enjoy playing against the AI in the game and Digidiced has done a top job at bringing such a table-hog to a limited screen-space.
A lot of popular mobile games are for a solo player, and there’s more and more coming in that realm for board game apps, too. One of the better known small solo games, Onirim (brief mention here) has been a go-to for me to play on my commute due to its puzzly goodness and repeat-play value. Another primarily solo game, One Deck Dungeon allows for some monster-fighting dungeon-delving adventure based on the power of dice. There’s been a good burst of ports of specifically 2-player games of late too – Bohnanza Duel, Morels, Onitama, and one of my all-time favourite 2p games (and up there in my favourite games overall), Jaipur. Getting to dig into these games 1 on 1 with an AI opponent can be a fun and challenging way to spend your app gaming time.
There’s not a slew of co-operative game apps out there, and certainly Pandemic is the better known, stand-out title. It’s great to see that a couple of others have joined the ranks over the last little while – and two stand out in particular. Burgle Bros has a gang teaming up to get away with robbery, and as all Fowers Games has a delightful kitschy-vintage art feel to it. It’s fun to have this one available as an app as it can provide some dynamic play with randomized situations – and not only that, it can be a change of pace to be the bad guys for once! The other co-op of note that I’ve seen pop up recently is the Spiel des Jahres-nominated title, The Mind. I have actually been a little hesitant to try this one at all, seeing that half of the joy of playing The Mind is in the face-to-face experience for me. But who knows – the AI could surprise me, and it could be a fun one to try playing online. Overall, I just love that it’s hit the market as an app!
One ideal thing about the increasing number of board games as apps is the opportunity for people to find them and try them, whereas otherwise, they might not have the opportunity. So, seeing some good solid stock of gateway and family games growing is fantastic to see. Coming from the same team as Burgle Bros to sate your word-game needs are Paperback and Hardback – both delightful deck-building word-builders with a little something different to offer. (Check out Nicole’s thoughts on Hardback over here.) There’s a lovely pop of Renegade Games colour on the scene now, with both Lotus & Lanterns bringing their splash to the screen. These are gorgeous games perfect as apps – a short little time to play and a feast for the eyes. A couple of choices that pull down the gameplay time into something swifter compared to their cardboard counterparts are Treasure Hunter and Evolution (Nicole’s preview). Not that either is particularly long to play at a table, but it can be nice to jam through something in no time! Following on from a lot of the classic staples already available as apps, TTR First Journey (David reviewed the iOS release here) brings the family gaming to a younger crowd on mobile – it’ll be interesting to see if this trend prompts other “kid-friendly” games to do the same.
If you’re looking to settle in for something a little longer or more involved, there’s been some great additions in the mid-weight and strategy game categories that I’ve seen. Indeed, I was super excited when Lords of Waterdeep finally made the jump from iOS-only to being available for us Android folks, too! That’s one that I really love to play online, too. A long-time favourite game of mine, Tokaido, has had a release but I must confess I don’t play it quite as often as I’d like to – it’s gorgeous, but something about the interface makes it a little bit fiddlier to play than I’d like. But having it portable has been a great option. The polyomino phase is not yet over, and the addition of Uwe Rosenberg’s Cottage Garden and Indian Summer, following on from Patchwork, has been fantastic. Both games are gorgeous and play really well – another great job from Digidiced. I am a huge fan of bringing card games to app format, just because they make for such a quick game when you don’t have to worry about physical cards – Star Realms has, of course, been a favourite – and now there’s another spacey card game out there, Race for the Galaxy! I can recommend a couple of strong, mid-weight Euro strategy games with the addition of Istanbul and Isle of Skye to Google Play, both beautifully adapted with great UI. Somewhat more of a UI challenge, but a great game to have on mobile nonetheless, is the crunchy Terra Mystica; and possibly the crunchiest board game app yet, Through the Ages (David’s look at the iOS release here) finally made it for mobile! Interestingly, I’ve seen a lot of kudos for the online play of that one a surprise to me because I figured asynchronous play for that might take way too long.
Unsurprisingly, we’re starting to see roll and write titles hitting as apps – they play out so naturally and quickly, it’s a no-brainer to be putting these out! Power duo Inka and Markus brand are behind the excellent Noch Mal!, one of the first “modern” roll and writes I tried on paper – there’s not a lot of bells and whistles with this app, but it does the job and it’s even got the variety of “sheets” to play! Board game superstar Wolfgang Warsch not only has The Mind out there as an app but his two puzzly little roll & writes, Ganz Schön Clever and Twice as Clever (Doppelt so clever). All three are solo play and a wonderfully fun way to pass your subway ride, or while you wait for takeout – and you’ll keep coming back to beat your high score over and over. Trust me. My last recommendation for this little genre would be Roll to the Top – it offers a good variety of play options, with the different layouts of sheets – and a well-programmed AI to play against, which keeps things fresh!
Keeping things fresh for apps is something that’s key for repeat plays. What has been great to see is companies adding expansion materials for base games, to expand the range of play and variety of experience. The modern classic Splendor has added a challenges game mode, as well as the Cities and Strongholds expansions to liven things up. As well as their introduction of the kids game mentioned earlier, Ticket to Ride now has extra maps – 9 of them – and a few game variations along with that; and getting on the maps train, Talisman has added the extras of The Reaper, The Frostmarch, The Dungeon, The Highland, The Sacred Pool and The City with more content coming soon. Speaking of slews of content – Star Realms content has increased greatly, having kept up with physical releases – which is pretty impressive! All are DLC and have a cost, but I love that they’re not shying away from keeping their cardboard and digital releases current. If you’ve enjoyed Potion Explosion but it’s been a while since you’ve opened up the app for a play, the addition of the Fifth Ingredient expansion might be a good reason to get back in there!
And, the releases just aren’t going to stop. Mystic Vale has just hit! And among upcoming releases are big titles like Charterstone, Gaia Project, Aeon’s End, Blood Rage, and (a delightful surprise to me!) Lorenzo il Magnifico! It’s going to be a busy year for new apps – and announcements for what else is coming. Not to mention there have been board game-adjacent apps hitting the Android market, which is promising for companion apps. It looks like the gaming platform Tabletopia is out for mobile, which is a big step! The fantastic BG Stats finally came over to Android and it’s been my trusty companion ever since – that, and Chwazi, the start player selecting app you shouldn’t do without.
It’s impressive to see the leaps and bounds digital gaming has taken overall in the last few years, not just for the Android platform. I can’t wait to see where it goes next. I’d personally love to dive into not just app reviews or round-ups, but finding out just what goes into the development of an app. Stay tuned!