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Top 7 Best Board Game Apps

Sometimes we don’t have the time to get a beautiful box of cardboard out onto the table with our friends. Maybe it’s because of a global pandemic, or maybe it’s just because we’re always on the go.

I have some good news for you though: there are a TON of really great digital board game apps that will let you play some of your favorite games while you’re out and about! Waiting for an oil change? Board game. Being driven to an appointment? Board game. Lounging on the beach? Board game!

I’m here to give you my Top 7 List of what I consider to be the best MOBILE board game apps out on the market right now. The key word here is mobile: there are plenty of fantastic Steam apps that are more than worthy of your attention. In fact, Root just won Best Board Game App in the 15th Annual Golden Geek Awards over on BoardGameGeek!

Before I dive in, this is another disclaimer that my experience is tied to the Apple Store and iOS. Some of these may be available for Android users as well, but I’m just not certain.

Terraforming Mars

These aren’t in any particular order, but Terraforming Mars jumps to mind first because it’s always in my personal Top 7 list of favorite board games. It’s also a relatively recent inclusion to the iOS family; Steam used to be the primary way to get a taste of the Red Planet. Now, however, the responsibility of making Mars habitable falls to you, no matter where you are.

The Best Parts

  • Aesthetically, this is the best we’ve ever seen Mars. The game sometimes gets a bad reputation for its less-than-stellar looks, but the app helps to elevate that with 3D telescoping effects and delightful water animations.
  • You can play this with friends, online, or work on beating that solo challenge.
  • Terraforming Mars is a game that can have a lot of fiddly things to remember like decreased card costs, blue actions, etc. A lot of that bookkeeping is completely out of the way, leaving you more time to optimize and strategize.

The Worse Parts

  • Although online play is a plus, the timer can be abysmal. Players have a set amount of time to complete the entire collection of their turns, and you get docked for watching animations. It can lead to some anticlimactic wins and losses.
  • The other expansion available thus far is Prelude. I regard this as one of the best expansions, but if you’re looking to transport your Terraforming Mars Big Box set to the screen, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
  • Interface-wise, the game can be tricky to get the hang of. Everything’s kept tidy visually, but this means menus and sub-menus. You can get used to it, but know that having a smaller screen will make things harder.


I wrote an entire article comparing the analog version of Cartographers to the digital one. You can find that here. Roll and Write games make some of the best candidates for digital app versions because most of the time the mechanics are relatively simple. From a user perspective, the game just has to allow you to place dice in locations, mark icons in specific spots, or have similar functionality. Cartographers is clean and spiffy.

Cartographers Digital App Scoring

The Best Parts

  • There are three different modes to play, including two with leaderboards! This means that you can see how you stack up against the rest of the world.
  • Drawing all of the little squiggly lines for water and trying to keep all the icons crisp can be difficult. With the Cartographers app, you can just tap and the game will tell you the legal places to place your icons.
  • Scoring is super easy! You always know how many points you’re getting from each of the Season cards, which makes it much easier to plan ahead.

The Worse Parts

  • I think it would be cool for you to be able to set up your own custom games with specific seasons and card order. Then you could invite your friends to play and have your own mini leaderboard competition.
  • Getting back to the main menu isn’t intuitive at all. You need to pull the little running-man icon out to the left to head back to the start.
  • The score keeping portion between seasons takes a little bit too long for my liking. It’s still really quick, but it would be nice to have a way to speed up those animations.

Imperial Settlers

Lo and behold, the next game on the list is another roll and write board game! Imperial Settlers is a game that features resource management, but you never really know how much of each resource you’re getting until after you roll. There’s a good deal of strategy involved in determining how you allot your resources, especially considering you can’t roll them over between rounds!

The Best Parts

  • There are SO MANY variants! I was absolutely blown away by the different setups that you can play with, and each one is completely different from the one before it. Replayability is huge with this one.
  • All you need to do is tap. You roll dice, and checking off the boxes is as easy as touching the screen.
  • Sometimes I just need a quick game, and Imperial Settlers allows me that luxury. You can get through a game in ten minutes or less after you’re comfortable with the interface.

The Worse Parts

  • For as many variants as there are, I still haven’t unlocked the ability to try them all. That’s because you need to reach certain score thresholds to unlock them, and the way that works is still a bit ambiguous to me. I don’t know how many crowns I’m actually earning with each game!
  • Even though you’re just tapping symbols, you need to be intentional about your taps. If you aren’t careful, you can easily pay two apples on a square with a single tap, which might be antithesis to your strategy.
  • I’ve only played the digital app for Imperial Settlers, and I can’t find anywhere in the game that tells me what the gold rectangle is for on the far right of the Construction area!


For my next board game app recommendation, I’m actually listing an app that’s currently in a beta development status. That’s right, it’s not even out yet! You can sign up for the beta here and try it out while it’s available. Wavelength is a really fun social party game that is a superb choice for a digital adaptation. You’ll need to guess which side of the spectrum the clue-giver is describing, getting on their wavelength.

The Best Parts

  • Apart from the base game, there are optional packs that you can purchase that deal with specific content. For example, you can use cards that are all about Nerdy stuff, which is exactly what we’re about here.
  • There are fun little reactions that you can spam after each reveal, which is more fun than it sounds.
  • The game is simple and aesthetically pleasing, and the app is incredibly responsive. Especially for a beta!

The Worse Parts

  • NO VOICE CHAT! Oh man, for a game that relies on discussion, there isn’t any built-in voice chat. They explicitly tell you to set something up in Discord, FaceTime, etc to get the real experience. This game doesn’t work well in silence.
  • It’s only $0.99 for each set of new content, but that can add up quickly if you want to get it all. I would feel better about it if I know how much content I was getting (like how many spectrums it comes with) so that I could better equate if the value is good or not.
  • I’d like the ability to do more team play. Oh, and voice chat. Did I mention that?


Next up is Splendor, another game that features relatively simple mechanics. Exchanging gems for cards to get more gems seems like a surefire recipe for success, because it is! With the ability to play with up to three AI players, Splendor is a great addition to the digital board game library.

The Best Parts

  • In addition to the base game, you can also optionally purchase four expansions: The Cities, The Strongholds, The Trading Posts, and The Orient.
  • I love how the game highlights the cards that are legal for you to purchase. It takes away some of the thinky math that goes along with the cardboard version of Splendor.
  • With AI support, Pass & Play support, and Online Play, there are many options for you to get your Splendor fix.

The Worse Parts

  • The game can get a little buggy at times, or stuck on a player’s turn without progressing. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens enough to mention it in a bullet point.
  • You can’t expand your reserved cards when other players are taking their turns. Sure, you can make out the tiny colors, but the numbers are hard to read if you don’t make the card larger.
  • There’s no indication of who took the first turn, so you better have a good memory!

Star Realms

Star Realms is another game that I’ve never played the ‘cardboard’ version of, and honestly I may never play it after trying the digital app. It’s a deckbuilding game with a lot of card management and shuffling, which is made infinitely easier by implementing it through an app. Finally we can destroy starbases and unleash our fighters while driving to see the inlaws!

The Best Parts

  • Not needing to shuffle is HUGE. It drastically cuts down the time to play the game and makes my experience as a player much more enjoyable.
  • There are a whopping 18 expansions for the game! Granted, you have to pay for them, but if you are a die-hard Star Realms fan it’s awesome to have access to all that content.
  • There’s a campaign mode! Adding in a story-style mode to a board game is really fun, and it brings a new angle of challenge along with it.

The Worse Parts

  • As a card game, you constantly need to be enlarging the cards to read what’s on them. Especially if you’ve never played before, expect to spend time tapping in and out of the interface.
  • If you’re a newbie, I’d also recommend sticking to the base game to get a hang of the gameplay before you start picking up expansions. Some of them change the game drastically and add way more complexity.
  • The speed at which the AI plays can make it easy for you to miss the cards they’re taking. Again, you’ll be tapping into their discard pile to bring up the cards that they took quicker than you could initially read them.

Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica is the heaviest board game of the bunch on this list of digital apps. Like it’s galactic counterpart, Gaia Project, the cardboard version is a behemoth to get out onto the table. The setup and teardown time is more substantial than most of the other games on this list. Which is an argument for playing a digital version of the game – less time organizing tiles and more time, you know, playing!

The Best Parts

  • For a game as complex as Terra Mystica, the interface is surprisingly intuitive. Yes, things are nestled around the screen, but overall I’m pleasantly content with the overall user experience.
  • No illegal moves! If you’ve ever played a game like Terra Mystica before, you know how easy it can be to misinterpret a rule or accidentally place something where you shouldn’t be able to. No more!
  • Different levels of difficulty for the AI essentially boils down to more time for the engine to analyze their turns. There are always so many things that you can do in the game, so it’s a good way to balance out the decision-making.

The Worse Parts

  • There are times when the numbers and bookkeeping get REALLY messed up. Like you can’t read the numbers anymore because they get replaced with strange symbols. It can be annoying, especially towards the final rounds of the game.
  • The iconography is mostly good, but if you’re using variable endgame scoring, there aren’t any tooltips for what they all mean. I’ve had to consult a rules PDF on more than one occasion.
  • This isn’t a knock on the game, but I’m bad at it. I love it, but I really need a tutor!

Top 7 Digital Board Games

This list of 7 is only scratching the surface on my favorite digital board game apps! You can expect there to be a part two in the future as more and more board game publishers try and leverage the mobile market. Until then, we’d love to hear about your favorite digital board game apps over on Twitter!

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