In the last 4-5 years, board game apps for iOS have been steadily growing in number and quality. As a platform that’s less focused on for game development, Android’s taken a bit longer to hop on board – but now in 2015 there’s a great selection of games available through Google Play and the Amazon App Store.
My other half has an iPad, so I’ve had the chance to see what’s available and what the quality of games are on iOS. There’s some great games that aren’t yet available on Android – such as Lords of Waterdeep, or Puerto Rico – and that does give me the sads a little. But when I had a browse over the games I have or have tried on Android, and a lot of others that are available beyond that, I realize that Android board gamers are in a great spot right now and it’s only likely going to get better!
Let’s take a look at what you can sink your teeth into right now – all but 1 or 2 of these are authorized ports to a mobile format, which is a great sign of things. I’ll make a note of why I included the ones that aren’t when they pop up. These aren’t meant to be exhaustive reviews (I may do highlights down the line), more of a grab bag of info. Let’s play!
Where better to start than with some classics, and those really well known games? A quick search of Google Play offers a multitude of apps for backgammon, chess, Go and more. Electronic Arts seems to have cornered the market for ‘modern’ classics like Boggle, Scrabble, Life, and Monopoly. And I think you can count on Zynga having clones of most of those.
So you’re into card games? Well, friends. Say no more! (Especially don’t say “yay let’s play Dominion!” because the most popular deck building game doesn’t even have an iOS release!). (Note, no mention of Hearthstone here as it’s board-game adjacent in that there’s only the app, even though it’s a card game app.)
The great thing about a lot of app ports of card games is it heavily cuts down the fiddly layout, you can quickly bang out a game, and not worry about sorting cards at the end of it! One of my favourites is Ascension, a deck builder that is free, but that you can also expand to include new releases of cards with in-app purchases (IAP). The one I play the most, though, would be Star Realms, which I think is the only board game app you can actually play cross-platform on. So this means I’m always having a number of turn-based games going, getting my butt royally kicked by my BGG & Twitter friends!
Card Wars was something I was pretty excited to try out too, as I’m a huge Adventure Time fan. I’d tried the physical release of the game, but the app does such a better job of replicating the way the game plays out in the show with animated actions and the like. If you are okay with playing through the levels without worrying about IAP, I encourage you to try! Something else adventure-ish as far as card games goes is Boss Monster – recently released after a Kickstarter campaign to create the app, this is a fun and quick game where you’re a dungeon boss in an 8-bit pixelated game world trying to off the adventurers coming your way
A game I enjoy, yet don’t get to the table as much as I’d like because of the fiddly setup is Sentinels of the Multiverse – as much as I do love sitting down to the actual cooperative card game experience, I feel like I’ll get to play it more as an app. And not that I don’t have a partner who wouldn’t love to play Plaid Hat’s Summoner Wars with me, but having the app to play (I have just tried the free version, so IAP yet) and get a little better at the game is a godsend.
My last recommendation is possibly the prettiest iteration of a card game to app port – San Juan. For a long time, a free and graphically simple game called Condado was all Android gamers had as far as this wonderful card/tableau building game goes. And seeing as we still don’t have Puerto Rico available, San Juan will have to fill the gap for now. Excellent, clear design, gorgeous colours, and decent AI abound in this release.
Now, if you’re wondering about the more dice ‘n’ boardy kind of games, there’s a wealth to choose from! My number one go to is Carcassonne – not just because it’s one of my favourite games in general, but this is a great design that now has online play implementation (not cross-platform, alas). The classic Catan is also available, although I tend to gravitate towards more recent releases such as Ticket to Ride and Small World 2 (the latter two also offering online play).
More Euro-style games abound, with title such as Tigris & Euphrates, Kingdom Builder, Alhambra, the Samurai-esque – Shogun and Through the Desert. If your tastes run a little ‘Ameritrash’ or more thematic, then releases such as Neuroshima Hex, BattleLore Command, Elder Sign: Omens, Galaxy Trucker and Suburbia are worth checking out. The latter is a more recent favourite of mine, and I quite like the single player campaign mode that has you play through solo with certain goals in mind which changes things up a bit from the regular game. And if you’re looking for some mighty nostalgia with dripping theme, then you must check out the implementations of Talisman and Blood Bowl!
Now, one of the most excellent things about having board games apps is it means you have a great deal of portable entertainment. Not just playing against the AI, but pass and play too! And if you’re looking for some quick family-friendly/non-gamer friendly apps, you’re in luck! One of my favourites is the somewhat abstract yet accessible Hey, That’s My Fish. If you’re looking for really abstract, try Qwixx or Ingenious. If you’re after two player fun specifically, then Mr Jack Pocket or Hive is your jive. And for lots of fun with kids especially, Ghost Blitz and Story Cubes are bound to be hits.
Finally, some board game-related apps. If you’re a user of the Boardgame Geek website, the BGG app might be for you! Look up games, rules, forum questions, log your plays etc. And speaking of BGG, someone has helpfully compiled a list of board game support apps – like card selection apps for deck builders, scoring apps, companions for games like Arkham Horror and this not super pretty but helpful scoring app for when you forget paper/pens. Lots of useful stuff in there if you would like to streamline your gaming.
And want to take it really to the next level? How about an app for musical accompaniment for your tabletop gaming.
I’d love to hear about what your favourite Android apps are, and if you think I’ve missed anything great here let me know!