Top 15 best board games on iPad, to play with the family this Christmas
Roll the dice, save the peace
Updated: Original list by Matt Thrower, Updated by Jupiter Hadley on December 15th, 2020.
Christmas should be a time for sharing and being sociable. If you're a gamer, though, you want to spend some time curled up alone for some quality screen time. All the more so if there were some hot new games or bits of hardware in your stocking.
So we feel we should remind you that on mobile, at least, there's an easy way to do both at once.
Both the App Store and Google Play boast a cracking selection of board game adaptations. These aren't your tired old classics but fresh, thrilling, and thoroughly modern titles. Games that the whole family will love. And at a fraction of the price and setup time of the real thing.
Gather them round with some of these, and get your screen time and some family time all at once.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a train route building game that is great for all age. Its appeal lies in it being both accessible and exciting. It's a variant of rummy, where you collect sets of coloured cards. But in Ticket to Ride you have to cash in your collection to claim routes on a board.
Sounds simple, but there's limited space available. So it's a heated race to get your trains down before someone blocks your way. It's not the best route to family harmony, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
Pandemic: The Board Game
If you want something a bit less cut-throat, how about a game with no competition at all? In Pandemic, you're all working together against the game. It's a race against time to save the world from the ravages of a killer disease.
OK, so not the most seasonal of themes and may strike a bit close to home this year. But you'll forget all that as the deck ticks down and the tension mounts and you're just one card away from finding a cure.
Galaxy Trucker is a ludicrous title in which players build space ships out of spare pipes and then race them across the cosmos. Yet the mischievous sense of humour in the game masks a decent depth of strategy for those that want to search it out.
This works well as a pass and play game but, unusually for a board game adaptation, the solitaire version is even better. So you can still enjoy it for hours by yourself once everyone else has gone home.
Everyone loves a bit of a flutter at Christmas. Instead of losing real money, how about betting on a game instead, one where you have some control over the result?
Roll two pairs of dice, and see who can reach the top of the probability curve first. You can keep rolling as long as you want, but fail to make a combination you've already rolled and it's turn over. Time to see if the next player can resist the lure of temptation in the season of indulgence.
Lords of Waterdeep
Worker placement games are traditionally seen as hard and heavy. Mathematical games suited only to the geekiest end of the market. Lords of Waterdeep puts a lie to that stereotype.
OK, so it's set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, so it's still geeky, but for good reasons. The game itself is easy to pick up, enthralling and occasionally very vicious.
One of the first hobby board games to come to mobile, and still one of the best. Carcassonne is a mixture between a strategy game and some strange collaborative art project.
Players take turns laying tiles to build a map of medieval France. But some surprisingly cut-throat strategy emerges in the race to claim towns and monasteries as your own.
If you want a simple co-operative game that can even young children can enjoy, look no further. Each player has a simple special ability. They have to use these in collaboration to try and rescue four treasures from a sinking island.
It's not very deep, but that hardly matters as tiles vanish beneath the waves and the tension ratchets up.
If you haven't played the German import that kickstarted modern board gaming, now's the time to try it. It's a game of dice rolling, trading and spectacular land-grabs that anyone can pick up and play. Or, in this case, pass and play.
Catan's secret is using the bell curve of a pair of dice to make a game that's strategic but still random. All the banter of trading and resource thievery adds spice to an already beguiling mix.
We marked Splendor down because it doesn't have online multi-player. It does, however, work well as a pass and play game. So there's no reason not to try one of the best economic games of recent years with your friends and family.
As the old saw goes, it's easy to learn but difficult to master. And the art, depicting renaissance era gem crafting, is lovely on a high resolution screen.
Hey, That's My Fish! HD
Who isn't going to love a family-friendly game full of cute widdle penguins at Christmas? Aww, look at those flippers and belly flops go as they race around the ice, trying to be the one to get the most fish! Aren't they adorable as they brutally box each other in to empty corners of the board, so their opponents can steal all the food?
The penguins hide what's actually a simple and challenging abstract game. A child could play it, indeed children love to play it, but it takes a certain fiendish genius to play it well.
Reiner Knizia's Razzia - The Mafia Board Game
This is an old app now, and it shows in a sloppy interface and grainy graphics. You might find the quirky scoring system off-putting too, since it takes a while to learn.
Once internalised though, this is a fantastic family game. It's an auction game where players bid to claim slices of Egyptian history. Everything changes with every action, demanding constant reassessments of what's up for sale. You'll never have so much fun shouting "RA!" at your Granny.
A game meant for younger children in your family, Mille Bornes is a card game where your goal is to dodge obstacles and make you way forward along a track, hoping to be the first car to make the distance. With the focus being on younger kids, this game is colorful, easy to play, and will hold the attention of those who are younger, however, it might not be one for the older crowd!
Monolpoly is a game that everyone knows, and at least one person in your family wants to play. Playing Monopoly on mobile will mean there are no discrepancies between the rules, the game won't go on forever, and nobody can be the banker and cheat. Plus there are kit scenes and new worlds to explore - perfect for bringing the game to a new era.
The Game of Life 2
The Game of Life 2 is another classic, brought to digital form, with some beautiful boards, cutscenes, and themes that are perfect for sharing with your family. In this game, you will be making big decisions, following various paths, spinning wheels and hoping to have the best life possible. There is currently even a snow-covered map for Christmas.
The last classic on this list, Cluedo (or Clue, for us Americans), Cludeo has you trying to solve a mystery, by moving around a massive house and trying to find clues. From there, you can figure out who did it, where, and with what, before accusing a member of your family of being a cold, hard killer!
Cluedo is always a fun time, and this digital form does the game justice.