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(Gift Guide) Top 10 Apps Every Board Gamer Should Own - #4 and #3

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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Welcome to the new and improved gift guide!

It occurred to us that the gift guide is basically just a collection of some of the best games we feel every digital board gamer should own. So, we decided this year that we would instead make a Top 10 List of Apps Every Board Gamer should own. The concept is the same, only the format has changed. If you open up an iOS device this Christmas, or want

To help us in this endeavor, we’ve enlisted Brett Nolan and Suzanne Sheldon, who are, among many other things, avide digital board game enthusiasts.

The 4 of us have created a top 10 list and will share one rank each day with you. Let’s go!


Number 4

Suzanne



Released in late 2016, the Qwixx app (specifically the iOS implementation) is stellar. The game plays excellent in solo mode and I think it's a phenomenal feature that the app can be used as a scoresheet or as a dice set for the physical game. But for me, the standout feature of the Qwixx app has been the Duo mode in which two players can face off on the same device. I've used this app so many times waiting at restaurants. It's an incredibly fun way to pass the time. Even though Qwixx doesn’t have online play at this time, the app is well worth the price especially because it includes the alternate board layouts that change up the game a surprising amount.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $3.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Brett



Asmodee Digital's debut digital board game release post acquiring Days of Wonder, the studio has done an amazing job bringing this Spiel des Jahres nominee into the digital realm. Well organized and intuitive, the app is inviting to both new and experienced players of the tabletop version. Casting players as merchants of the Renaissance, Splendor is a game that's really all about building an engine of gems and using that, along with gem chips, to buy and build cards that will contribute to your engine and/or contribute to your prestige (victory) point total. The app not only recreates the main game, but as the best digital board games do, it adds an engaging new way to play. The Challenges mode breaks the traditional rules and sets up specific scenarios and win conditions which force players to experiment with new strategies. At launch the game lacked multiplayer support, but eventually it was added, closing a unfortunate gap in the initial feature set. Honestly I personally would have preferred an asynchronous multiplayer (more akin to Ticket to Ride's tested and near perfect system) but it appears that Asmodee is all-in on their real-time lobby based system (as is evident by their other recent and upcoming digital board game titles). No matter this small gripe, Splendor is certainly a must-have digital release. Easy to learn and approachable this one works with all levels of gamers and games are quick and fun.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $6.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Dave



Of all the board games Czech Games Edition could have chosen to be their first port, Galaxy Trucker seemed like it would be the least likely to succeed. First of all, CGE had no experience porting board games and, secondly, why pick one whose mechanisms involve real-time pulling of tiles from a collective pool? How on earth would that work in multiplayer, and asynchronous multiplayer—everyone’s favorite mode—seemed an impossibility. Turns out we needn’t have worried. When Galaxy Trucker hit the App Store in the fall of 2014 it instantly became the greatest digital board game port ever created. Not only did multiplayer work flawlessly, but they put one of the most brilliant minds in gaming to the task of creating a new mode of gameplay that would facilitate asynchronous play and, guess what? Vlaada Chvátil somehow created a new way to play Galaxy Trucker that was more fun than the traditional real-time version. On top of that, they loaded the game with the most robust single player experience that any digital board game has had then or since. The campaign was witty and challenging and still managed to tell a fascinating story while adding new gameplay mechanisms along the way that eventually became an expansion for the cardboard version of the game. Galaxy Trucker did what every developer should be looking to do with board game ports, kept the original game intact while offering new ways to play and tying it into the physical product enough that the two can feed off one another as they go forward. Simply brilliant.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $4.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Brad



80 Days is a game changing experience on digital platforms. It captures the heart of something like Tales of Arabian Nights. Inkle may be more famous for their excellent take on Sorcery!, but I think this is the real gem. It tells an interesting story in a unique way with many branching paths. I find this one a goto on long flights. Despite my many playthroughs, I keep finding new things to discover.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $4.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.



Number 3


Suzanne



No game has gotten more play on my device than Star Realms. This app nailed its feature set including a solo campaign mode and cross-platform asynchronous online play. The Star Realms app handles all the fiddly score keeping, has regularly been updated with additional challenges and expansions, and plays well on the phone or tablet. Star Realms is truly a best-in-class board game app.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: Free(ish)
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Brett



Oh Playdek, how I miss when you made amazing games like this. One of my earliest forays into worker placement games, the first time I played Lords of Waterdeep, I had never even seen or played the physical board game (which I now own) and I was absolutely blown away. Played over 8 rounds, Lords of Waterdeep is a turn-based strategy game where players take turns assigning their agents to certain locations on the board to collect points and/or resources or taking on quests (which when completed earn you more points and/or resources). The game can look a bit daunting at first, but the app has a good quality tutorial and the gameplay is quite straight forward. If you do pick up the app, I highly recommend also grabbing the two expansion IAPs (Skullport and Undermountain) as they add even more strategy and depth. Not a D&D fan? If you have concerns about the theme…don't! I watched the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon as a kid, and I think I played D&D once in my life, that's all the D&D knowledge I had going in the first time. Please don't let the theme drive you away, otherwise you will miss out on arguably the best worker placement game on the App Store.

Devices: iOS
Price: $6.99
Purchase Links: App Store
Our Review.



Dave



Until 2016 the best board game app I’d ever played was Galaxy Trucker from Czech Games. In 2016 there have been two games that have surpassed it, the first being Twilight Struggle from Playdek. Twilight Struggle in a digital format had always been a grail game for me, and I’d been playing, for years, using spreadsheets and the Automated Card Tracking System at Warhorse. The system worked, but it was clunky and prone to errors and became more of a struggle than it was worth. Since GMT announced a digital version of TS way back when, it had been at the top of my wish list. When Playdek took over the reigns, I became even more excited and wasn’t disappointed when it landed on my Mac in the spring. Here was Twilight Struggle in all its glory with an AI that was competent (I’ve heard it’s not very good, but then neither am I and I find the AI sufficient to keep me interested) and, more importantly, an asynchronous online multiplayer system that worked beautifully. They managed to create a wonderful UI that brings everything a player needs to know to the forefront, including a brilliant timeline recalling each turn of the game, while still allowing the player full access to the map and each of its regions. Did I mention it has multiplayer? I’m not usually a big fan of multiplayer games, but the friends I’d been playing with all those years on ACTS were more than happy to jump in and engage me online and I have yet to have a bad experience in any of my online games. Twilight Struggle is currently my favorite multiplayer title and I see it being that way for a very long time.

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $4.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Brad



Objectively, Galaxy Trucker may be the greatest digital board game of all time. There are other reasons why I’ve put games above it, but this truly is a masterpiece. Can’t say much more than, go buy this!

Devices: iOS, Android
Price: $4.99
Purchase Links: App Store, Google Play
Our Review.


Lists So Far:

Suzanne:
10. Neuroshima Hex
9. Pathfinder Adventures
8. Ticket to Ride
7. Patchwork
6.Splendor
5. Lords of Waterdeep
4. Qwixx
3. Star Realms

Brett:
10. Lost Cities
9. Lanterns: the Harvest Festival
8. Card Crawl
7. Hearthstone
6. Can’t Stop
5. Galaxy Trucker
4. Splendor
3. Lords of Waterdeep

Dave:
10. Don’t Starve
9. Agricola
8. Sorcery! Series
7. XCOM
6. Card Crawl
5. Elder Sign: Omens
4. Galaxy Trucker
3. Twilight Struggle

Brad:
10. Forbidden Island/Desert
9. Hey That’s My Fish
8. Neuroshima Hex
7. Pathfinder Adventures
6. Talisman
5. Lords of Waterdeep
4. 80 Days
3. Galaxy Trucker
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