How dusty is that board game shelf, eh? This year did not provide many opportunities to roll dice or place meeples during a regular board game night, relegating fun to multiplayer games or webcams awkwardly positioned at board states. Luckily, digital alternatives have come a long way since shoddily ported versions of Monopoly – the selection of the best board games optimized for your console or PC are plentiful and will hopefully recapture some of that old magic.
The best digital board games
The woodland forest is at war, and you’re vying for a piece of the action in Root, a competitive board game for two to four players adapted by Dire Wolf. Adapted from the massively popular wargame/board game hybrid, Root plays asynchronously – players’ tasks and paths to victory will vary depending on the faction they champion. The Marquise de Cat, for example, excels in controlling the board and exacting taxes and tolls from neighbouring factions as they move throughout the many clearing. But the Vagabond owes allegiance to nobody and travels freely across borders, trading (or sabotaging) according to his whims.
Root’s Steam version is highly polished and contains fully 3D models and animations, but it lags behind the current selection of physical expansions. Still, this dense but rewarding board game might become a recurring favourite in your group.
Do you miss nature? Does the call of some wide, green expanse call to you like birdsong on the breeze? Well, that might just be the sounds of Wingspan, a birdwatching strategy board game whose adaptation comes via Monster Couch. Players develop their nature preserves in hopes of attracting rare avian specimens by placing eggs, providing food and fostering the surrounding habitat. Over 170 species may arrive, lending a deep well of replayability to its thoughtful yet cutthroat playstyle.
And those keen on bird facts will be delighted by Wingspan’s proclivity of dropping knowledge in your lap as you play. Bird calls mimic their real-world counterparts, too, so why not have a good time and learn something while you’re at it?
Even if you don’t regularly play board games, chances are high you have heard of Gloomhaven. Adapted by Flaming Fowl Studio, the digital version of the massively popular cooperative dungeon crawler cleaves close to the physical version, with a catch – it’s still in early access. Rather than wait until everything was ready, Gloomhaven has steadily rolled out features to the digital version since its initial release, adding bosses, biomes, weapons and more with each update.
And while the digital version still isn’t complete, players can enjoy a dangerous quest for loot and treasure together. The full campaign mode, where choices reverberate across sessions and change the world in substantive ways, is still forthcoming. But the adventure mode will be sure to slake the thirst of any adventure champing at the bit for a spot of spelunking.
If games allow us to indulge in escapism fantasy, nothing may be more immediately enticing than Splendor’s promise of sightseeing the world. Unlike the other entries, this adaptation from Days of Wonder is simple enough to share with the cardboard novices in your life while still delivering solid fun no matter your experience.
You take the role of a merchant buying and selling gems collected from your travels around the globe in a bid for riches. The digital version doesn’t abstract the board or any of the tokens – in fact, every aspect has been lovingly recreated to provide a verisimilitude to the experience a group would otherwise enjoy around the dining room table. If that sounds more up your alley, Splendor is available on PC and mobile app markets.
Solve a murder in a spooky mansion by interpreting cryptic clues left to you by a vengeful spirit in Mysterium, a cooperative board game adapted by Asmodee Digital. Players fill the shoes of mystics, soothsayers and paranormal experts attempting to communicate with a ghost trapped between this world and the next. They have been murdered and will try to lead you to the culprit by pointing to clues on evocative, full-art cards. It’s up to the rest of the players to correctly interpret the messages before the murderer gets away – or strikes again.
Mysterium’s reliance on visuals translates well to the digital version, and it contains many of the physical expansions to provide an expanded roster of art cards and scenarios. The rules aren’t too difficult and don’t rely on crunchy math or several interwoven systems – this is a game less experienced or younger members of your family and friend group can pick up quickly. Mysterium is available on PC and both Android and iOS devices.