Sometimes the most difficult part about playing a tabletop game is finding people willing to play. Another annoying aspect of board games is being half an hour into a session only to discover there are pieces missing. One way to eliminate both of these problems is to play the game online. Many board games can now be played online via an app, or have a version on Steam.
Some of these digital versions are excellent, while others are not worth the time or effort. The best part about the digital versions of these games is that they are almost always much less expensive than the physical versions. This list will identify ten of the best tabletop games that can be played online.
Splendor is a card game in which players take on the role of jewel and gem merchants. The players compete to acquire the best gems, mines, transportation, and artisans. The goal of the game is to amass enough victory points to end the game, which is when one of the players reaches 15 victory points.
Splendor is simple to play, with the relevant information clearly printed on each card. However, the strategy hiding behind this simplicity is actually quite deep. The online version features the excellent artwork found in the physical version, and plays very smoothly with an intuitive interface.
This is a great tile-based tabletop game in which players compete to claim areas of an ever-growing map. Like Splendor, the gameplay is simple – the player draws and places tiles, places followers on tiles to claim them, and scores points by connecting roads, farms, and settlements.
The online version looks fantastic and is as easy to play as the physical version. The animated meeples are simple to spot, even when the player zooms out to see the whole board. And the online version also helps by highlighting the areas in which the player can place new tiles. Sound effects and music clips are also enjoyable. Overall, the online version on Steam is the best version, and it seems to cost $10 regardless of platform.
8 Neuroshima Hex
Neuroshima Hex is played with hexagonal tiles for the most part – there are a few round pieces. The game is a sort of a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering played on a board. The players place troop tiles on the board and use these to attack adjacent enemy troop tiles.
Strategy gets particularly involved, and players who are winning can suddenly find themselves way behind after only one turn. The online version is very user-friendly and includes a tutorial for beginners. Additionally, the online board seems a little more cramped and loses a little of the charm found in the physical version, but these are merely cosmetic complaints that don’t really affect the gameplay.
7 Through The Ages
This tabletop game borrows heavily from the Sid Meier’s Civilization games, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The player controls their empire by allocating new people to different tasks. There is also a science counter that allows for access to better cards. Through the Ages has numerous rules and pieces to keep track of.
It is nice to be able to let the computer keep track of those aspects of the game so the players can focus on building their empire and crushing their enemies. Even with this help, Through the Ages is still a very complex game, but also a lot of fun. The accompanying sound effects when someone plays a card are a nice touch.
6 Galaxy Trucker
Galaxy Trucker is one of those games that proves even the simplest of games can be incredibly fun and engaging. The players start by selecting pieces with which to construct their spaceship. This building phase is incredibly fun but also has a strategic aspect.
The second phase of the game is attempting to arrive at the destination in one piece. Along the way, the players’ ship will encounter various problems and opportunities, like space pirates and abandoned space stations. The online version is not that much different than the physical version and has some great art and animations.
5 Ticket To Ride
In this fun board game, the players compete to connect routes between the cities on the map. The longer the route, the more points the route earns for the player. Around the edge of the board is a counter so players can keep track of their current point total. As with many great tabletop games, the concept is simple, but the strategy required to win can get quite complex.
The online version allows for a lot of interactivity between players via a messaging system – at least on the online version available on Steam does. The sound effects of locomotives and the old-timey music are nice additions that players will miss when playing the physical version.
4 Small World 2
Small World 2 plays somewhat similarly to the classic board game Risk but set in a fantasy world. The game starts like Risk with players claiming their champion and sections of land on the game board.
After the initial phase, the players then try to eliminate the opponents and claim their lands. At some point, the player’s empire will go into decline, and they can select a new champion and start anew. This game is great for online play since individual play-throughs are limited to ten turns, so unlike Risk, there probably won't be four hour-long gaming sessions.
3 Forbidden Island
This game is unique among the games on this list – it is a cooperative tabletop game rather than a competitive game. The players race against time in an attempt to claim the relics scattered around the island. The ticking clock in this game comes in the form of the rising waters that will eventually submerge the island.
The online version of a cooperative game can get tricky, as communication between the players is often important to win; however, there are many options for players to communicate with each other while playing. Individual games can be saved and resumed at a later point.
Scythe is an empire building game that plays like a cross between Through the Ages and Neuroshima Hex. It has a weird setting that has the feel of a steampunk medieval world with large mechs roaming the land. This is a very complex game with many pieces and rules, which might scare-off new players.
The online version helps the player keep track of all these pieces and rules though – making the online version a great practice-ground for players to improve their knowledge of the game for when they play the physical version with their friends. Unlike the other games on this list, it is recommended that beginning players try the online version first.
1 Lords Of Waterdeep
Set in the famous D&D city of Waterdeep, Lords of Waterdeep puts the player in the role of one of the city’s lords, not the adventurers (whom the player hires to complete tasks). This is essentially a resource management game with a fantasy world flair to it, but make no mistake – this is one of the best board games available.
The online version is very user-friendly, with the player’s assets shown along the side of the screen. Also, like some of the games on this list, the online version of Lords of Waterdeep features a tutorial, though honestly, this game is not that complex. The expansion packs for the physical version are also available for the online version.