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Friday, November 24, 2017

The Friday Ten: The best digital board games money can buy


List by Matt S.

We love a good board game at DigitallyDownloaded.net, and we love that in recent years, board games have become incredibly prevalent in the videogame arena. We have the emergence of the iPad largely to thank for that, as it’s a natural platform fit for board games, but at the same time, we’re also seeing more and more board games make their way on to consoles and, of course, PCs as well.

Now you’re absolutely spoiled for choice in terms of which board games you play, and on what platform. So for the Friday Ten this week we’re looking at ten of the finest digital board games currently available, and why you should be adding them to your “to play” list.

Twilight Struggle (iPad)



Considered to be one of the greatest strategy games ever invented, it’s just as well the video game adaptation turned out to be so good as well. Twilight Struggle tells the story of the cold war; rather than depicting direct conflict, this game is all about spreading your influence (i.e. socialism vs. western culture) and “capturing” territories by encouraging coups and stacking nations with your favour. It’s a complex, challenging game, but it’s also quite brilliant mechanically, and perfectly recreates the atmosphere, conditions, and tensions of the period. The game itself presents a lot of complex information quite brilliantly.


Lords of Waterdeep (iPad)



The original board game was an attempt to take the popularity of “Eurogames” like Settlers of Catan, Agricola, and Puerto Rico, and repurpose it using a Dungeons & Dragons theme. I don’t think the board game creators expected it to work quite this well, but Lords of Waterdeep is absolutely brilliant. It’s accessible, like a good Eurogame, and avoids direct conflict between players like all good Eurogames. As a result, it’s a competitive game, but not one in which players will become frustrated or targeted by other players. That makes for a more pleasant gaming experience, and there is so much strategy and depth to it that the more you play it, the more its nuances will resonate with you. The iPad version of this game is just impossibly beautiful; truly a rare example where a board game looks more beautiful on the iPad than its physical version.


Armello (PC/ Console/ iPad)



This game is a little unusual in that it is very much a board game, but it’s one that has been designed as a video game first. In fact, there is no physical version of Armello at this stage. That’s because Armello actually crunches a lot of numbers in the background; as a physical board game it would be unwieldy and not a whole lot of fun. When you’ve got technology to do the boring stuff, though, you as the player can instead focus on how beautiful Armello is, how deep its strategy is, and how varied the characters and gameplay is. This is not just one of the best digital board games, it’s one of the greatest games that has ever been produced in Australia. It’s essential, even if you don’t usually play board games.


Culdcept Revolt (Nintendo 3DS)



One of two “Monopoly-likes” on this list, Culdcept mixes the basic gameplay of that classic board game – you purchase territories around the map, then earn money when other people land on those squares. The difference is that in Culdcept you place monsters on those squares, and then, when you land on your opponent’s squares, you can fight those monsters, not only to avoid paying rent, but also capture their spaces. This makes for a far more dynamic, strategic game, and it’s one that you can easily play into the early hours of the morning if you’re not paying attention to the clock.


Itadaki Street (PlayStation 4)



The other “Monopoly-like” is currently only available in Japan, but lordy do we hope it gets an English release. In Itadaki Street (known as Boom Street or Fortune Street when it is released in western markets), your goal is to not only purchase property, but also stock in property markets, and then use that stock to further increase your wealth. It adds so much strategy to the game to the point where it’s almost possible to win the game without owning any property. And that’s exactly what Monopoly needed to reduce its reliance on luck.


Tokaido (iPad)



The Tokaido board game is one of my favourites ever made; it’s a serene, zen-like, casual board game about touring Japan and indulging in the sights and foods on the way. In execution it’s a light strategy game about timing your movement across the board better than how the other players do, but in this game the journey is more important than the results. The iPad version of it is a serene, relaxing way to unwind after a long day’s work, and that makes it one of my most used apps on my iPad. It is the perfect game to play with a beer.


Warlock of Firetop Mountain (PC/ iPad)



The original Warlock of Firetop Mountain wasn’t a board game at all. It was a fantasy gamebook. But then Tin Man Games took the gamebook and turned it into a delightful little miniatures game where you’ll take a playing piece, and move them through the famous dungeon, fighting enemy monsters in a turn based, tactics style. It’s still the same story, but those board game elements really breathe new life into that story, making this a particularly accessible and enjoyable modernisation of a more archaic way to play games.


Blood Bowl 2 (Console/ PC)



Blood Bowl takes place in the Warhammer universe, and takes the various factions that make up the fantasy tabletop wargame – the ratlike Skaven, the undead, the orcs, the humans and the elves – and pits them in a turn-based take on American gridiron, but with the added bonus of there being no rules around violence. Wallop the other side all you want, and then pick up that ball for a easy try. The video game adaptation of this game has far superior production values to most other digital board games, and that really helps set a scene for what is really a very good, classic tactical board game.


BattleLore: Command (iPad)


BattleLore, the board game, does a really good job of straddling a line between a hardcore tabletop wargame, and an accessible board game. It’s a skirmish-level strategy game where you control a small number of units across a battlefield by issuing commands to them via cards, meaning that your opponent won’t necessarily know what you’re doing as they send out their own commands. There’s a lot of depth and strategy to this one, and perhaps the best thing about the iPad version (aside from the fact that it’s absolutely gorgeous) is that you don’t have to keep referring back to a thick instruction manual… or that you need to mess with dozens and dozens of pieces every time you want to play.


Chess Ultra (Console/ PC)



Everyone needs a good chess game. It is in so many ways the ultimate board game. Thankfully Chess Ultra is easy to access on most modern gaming devices, and it is a very good chess game. For people playing solo, the AI is sharp enough to challenge most. For people playing multiplayer there are online tournaments and turn-by-mail capabilities allowing you to play a game with anyone around the world without having to be online at the same time. And the game looks absolutely gorgeous, which is always a nice bonus when you can find yourself staring at a single board for hours at a time.

- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

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The Friday Ten: The best digital board games money can buy
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