The iPad is the perfect form factor for playing board games. Bonus: You won't lose any of the pieces!
There are a lot of amazing and fun board games designed for the iPad in the App Store — so many that it was difficult to narrow down this list. In determining how I would filter the tops, I decided to pick the best game in different categories, like empire-building games, cooperative games, tile-placement games, etc. I also decided to exclude deck building and card games, largely because they deserve a list all their own — look for that soon!.
Though every game on this list has been thoroughly researched and "tested" (played for hours), it is by no means the definitive list of great board games available for the iPad. They are simply our picks for best of the best. If you don't see your favorites, be sure to add them in the comments below!
Note: Much as it pained me to disqualify a few titles, iMore currently will not recommend any app that hasn't been updated to work with future versions of iOS (32-bit only).
Catan is a game of resources where your goal is to own as much land and materials as possible in order to become the Lord of Catan. Players build settlements — which produce resources, and roads — which help them take over new regions. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
Catan might be the most popular board game in the App Store. It's been called the gateway game to more intense board games. Catan is a little complex, especially if you've never played the physical version before, but once you understand the rules and mechanics, you'll be hooked.
You can create custom pass-and-play games with up to four people, or play against AI opponents if you don't have any gamers nearby. There is also an online multiplayer mode where you can connect with other fans of Catan for real-time games.
$4.99 - Download now
Carcassonne is a tile placement game that has you creating a town by strategically placing "Meeples" around on the tiles to become the ruler of a kingdom. You earn points for finishing roads, completing kingdoms, and protecting Abbeys. The player with the most points at the end of laying down all tiles wins.
You can play Carcassonne alone against AI opponents, or pass-and-play style against friends in the same room. You can also join the online community and compete against other real-life players around the room. There is also a solitaire game where you can play for points based a little more in chance than strategy.
Carcassonne is very easy to get started playing if you've never tried before, but it does require deeper strategy in order to play against more experienced opponents. It's sort of like playing chess. You're always better than a weaker player, and will regularly lose against more advanced players.
- $9.99 - Download now
For a bit more of a co-operative style of gaming, take a look at Mysterium. In this ethereal game, you play as either a clairvoyant that sees visions or a ghost that is sending the visions. All players are trying to figure out who murdered someone using clue cards that are drawn at random. If you guess correctly with the suggestions given to you, you've solved the murder and the ghost can rest eternally. It's not entirely unlike the game Clue, but with a vision-giving ghost.
You can play solo in Story Mode with AI companions. You can also get your friends together in real life and start a pass-and-play game. If there are others online and ready to go, you can play with other fans of Mysterium. There is even a chat room where you can discuss your ideas for guessing the killer.
Mysterium takes a bit of imagination to get the most out of it. You are provided clue cards at random to use to help you find the killer. If you think outside the box, you can figure out what the ghost is trying to tell you (or what you, as the ghost, are trying to tell the clairvoyants).
- $2.99 - Download now
Tokaido takes you on a journey of discovery. It is an item collection game where your goal is to get the most out of your adventure by trying new things, eating new foods, and collecting a variety of souvenirs. The strategy in this game is how to balance the limited amount of coins you have with the experiences you enjoy. There are also times when you can't share the same space on the board with another player, which means you won't get the opportunity to have a particular experience.
You can play Tokaido against two, three, or four AI opponents — or gather up your friends for a pass-and-play event. You can also join the online community and play against other fans of the travel genre.
The coolest thing about Tokaido is how the game developers turned the space-moving board game into a beautiful looking path-following landscape adventure.
- $6.99 - Download now
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is similar to an empire building game, but instead of building cities, towns, and castles, you're claiming railroad routes and earning points for connecting them to cities. Players select colored train cars, some at random and some from a face-up deck, and use the cards in their hand to connect one rail line to another. You'll earn extra points for extra long routes.
You can buy seven different maps (plus three expansions, each with three additional maps) to add variety to your game. So, if you get bored with your digital board game (see what I did there?), you can just get a new map and it'll be like new again.
You can play solo against one or more AI opponents, on local Wi-Fi with other players that also have the game, pass-and-play style with real-life players, and online with other Days of Wonder players.
- $1.99 - Download now
Plague Inc is a domination game where your goal is to annihilate the world's population by spreading disease. You earn DNA points for infecting humans. Those points can be used to upgrade your disease. You must strategically upgrade how the disease is transmitted, what the symptoms are, and how strong it becomes. While your disease is spreading, the world becomes aware of it and researches how to destroy it. So, you have to make sure you weaken the community so cities can't research properly. If you manage to kill all humans before they discover a cure, you've won.
Plague Inc. is a solitary game. Instead of joining an online community, or playing with friends in the same room, you spread your disease alone, unless your friend is looking over your shoulder and has suggestions.
This selection is somewhat of a reverse board game. It actually started as a video game but was developed into a physical board game after achieving massive success in the digital realm. The physical version plays out significantly different than its digital influence, but Ndemic did a fantastic job of translating it.
- $0.99 - Download now
Do you have a favorite board game that you play on your iPad? Share your experiences in the comments. I'm always looking for new board games to play.