As fun as it is to play board games with friends in person, it's not always possible. People may be busy with life. Maybe you have to relocate somewhere far away. Whatever the case, you probably can't play board games as often as you'd like.
One option is to play board games with your friends online. We've covered several ways to do that in another article, but all of those methods have their own pros and cons.
These days, our preferred option is to play digital versions of board games on our phones. Several board game publishers—chief among them being Asmodee—have released mobile app versions of their most popular board games, and most of them are pretty good.
When you want to play board games anywhere and everything, mobile apps are convenient. Here are the best mobile board game apps that are actually worth playing.
20. Catan Universe
Catan is often considered the gateway between classic board games (like Monopoly and Risk) and modern board games, making it worth downloading in mobile form. If you want to get your friends into the board gaming hobby, this should be your first stop.
Catan Universe is available on both Android and iPhone. It includes the original Catan board game as well as the two-player card game variant that came along later. You can play the base game for free, but you'll need to make in-app purchases to unlock the full content.
19. Terra Mystica
Terra Mystica is a heavy strategy board game that'll take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours per playthrough. Build, trade, upgrade, develop religion, terraform the planet, and more. It's a game of perfect information that rewards thoughtful play and planning ahead.
The mobile app has a nice tutorial to get you familiar with how the game's played. You can practice with AI opponents before moving on to online multiplayer against other players.
18. Race for the Galaxy
Like Catan, Race for the Galaxy is another popular gateway board game. Your goal is to use cards to build up a galactic civilization that's superior to your opponents' civilizations.
Card games tend to work pretty well on smartphone screens, and in this case, the mobile app is quite faithful to the physical game. You can play online multiplayer with up to 4 players, but there's also a single-player mode where you play against an advanced AI.
Scythe is an engine-building game where you explore the world, gather resources, build forces, and fight other players in pursuit of your game-winning objective. The alternate-1920s Eastern Europe vibe that combines fantasy and steampunk is downright immersive.
The mobile app includes two new player mats (which determine how your faction's engine progresses) and supports up to 7 players per game. You can play against AI or against other humans via online multiplayer. Nothing beats real Scythe, but this comes close.
16. Lost Cities
While not as iconic as other board games like Catan, Lost Cities is a popular card game that's beloved by board game newbies and board game veterans alike, and has maintained a respectably high rating on BoardGameGeek for years.
Often described as "two-player solitaire with a dash of suspense," Lost Cities is a dueling game where players use numerical cards to score expeditions. It's simple but deep. The mobile app lets you play online against friends and strangers, and offline against AI.
Unfortunately, all digital versions of Pandemic have been discontinued as of August 2022. Links are no longer available.
Pandemic is a cooperative board game for up to 4 players who are working together to find cures and eradicate the various diseases breaking out across the world. It's challenging but fun!
Unfortunately, the mobile edition of Pandemic only lets you play solo, and you yourself control a team of 2 to 5 roles. The gameplay is still the same—and it's still fun even when played alone—but it would be several ranks higher if it had online multiplayer.
Mysterium is a creative murder mystery game where one player is a ghost who communicates with a team of psychics (the other players) using images to help them solve the murder: who did it, where did they do it, and with what weapon.
It's a lot more fun than it sounds on paper! And the mobile app supports up to 7-player online multiplayer, with cross-play between smartphones, tablets, and PC users. Want to play by yourself? There's also a solo mode with AI partners.
In Tokaido, you play as a traveler in ancient Japan who's trying to make your journey as fulfilling as possible. All travelers walk the same track, but every traveler's journey is different based on their decisions.
Tokaido is a surprisingly fun yet zenful game, and this is one rare case where the mobile app is actually better than the physical board game. Play alone against AI travelers, or online with up to 4 other players.
When it comes to mobile board games, Carcassonne is king of the castle. It's easy to learn, tough to master, fun to play, and perfectly suitable for smartphone screens.
Carcassonne is a turn-based tile-placing board game where players try to complete territories with each tile they place. The mobile app lets you play with up to 6 players, and it includes all the expansions. And the best part? It simplifies the end-of-game scoring!
Hearthstone may not be a board game in the strictest sense, but as a digital card collecting game, we think it's close enough. And with all the updates in 2020 and 2021, it's more newbie-friendly than it's ever been. Now's the time to hop in.
In Hearthstone, you pick a hero and create a deck based on that hero's available cards (and you can acquire more as you play). Using those decks, you duel against other players and try to bring their hero's HP down to zero using the deck you've built.
10. Love Letter
Love Letter is a lightweight strategy card game that's played with a deck of 16 cards. You always have one card—each turn, you draw one and play one—and you need to outplay your opponents over many rounds to ensure the Princess loves you most.
Because Love Letter plays so quickly, it's perfect as a mobile game. Bust it out whenever you have a few minutes to kill. You can play solo against AI opponents or online against up to 3 other players.
Santorini is a 3D strategy game where you build blocks up to three levels high and try to be the first to move a worker to the third level. Be careful, though, because your opponents can block your third-level blocks before you get up there!
This is a great game to have in your library because it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes per playthrough. Whether you're playing against other players or the godlike AI, Santorini is a must-have time-filler mobile app if you like strategy board games.
Patchwork is a two-player board game where you collect fabric pieces of different shapes and try to fit as many onto your quilt as possible. Different pieces have different values, and whoever has the most valuable quilt at the end wins!
It's a beautifully simple game that'll get you thinking, but not in a way that causes stress. If you like the puzzle aspect of Tetris, then you'll find a lot of the same satisfaction with Patchwork. Play against the AI or against other players online.
7. Terraforming Mars
Terraforming Mars is a deeply complex strategy board game where players work together to make Mars into a habitable planet, while competing against each other to be the one who contributes most to the terraforming process (by raising their Terraform Rating).
Make sure you set aside a good amount of time before you start playing—at least 2 hours. You can play alone, against AI, or against other humans. One cool thing about this mobile app is that it supports both online and offline multiplayer.
In this turn-based murder mystery game, investigate the mansion and look for clues that point to the murderer, the murder location, and the murder weapon. Use your deductive reasoning skills to be the first one to crack the case!
Clue is the only classic board game on this list, but it deserves a spot because the simple gameplay still holds up and the mobile app is surprisingly well-made.
Hive is a unique two-player board game that doesn't have a game board—the game pieces become the game board as they're placed. Each critter has its own rules for movement. The first to surround the opponent's Queen wins.
Of all the head-to-head board games since chess, Hive might be our absolute favorite. It's so simple and yet so deep; no two games are ever the same. The AI in the mobile app is quite good, but you can also play against others online.
4. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a beloved board game that sits alongside Catan and Carcassonne as one of the best gateway board games for newbies.
In Ticket to Ride, your goal is to complete train pathways between your assigned cities. But everyone else is also trying to connect their own cities, and there aren't enough pathways to go around.
The mobile app does a pretty good job of taking the moderately complex board game and adapting it to smartphone screens (though it's definitely better on tablets).
Tsuro is a delightful tile-placing board game where connecting tiles create paths for your stone to move along. But your opponents' tiles can also force you to move! And if you move off the board, you lose.
It's insanely fun, whether with just 2 players or with up to 8 players (the max supported by the mobile app). The graphics are satisfying, and there are three additional game modes that are exclusive to the mobile version—you can't play them with the physical board game!
Root is an asymmetric strategy wargame where each player plays as a faction with its own unique abilities, unique playstyles, and unique victory conditions. It has a complex learning curve, but it's worth it.
Root took the board gaming community by storm when it debuted in 2018, and many consider it to be their favorite board game of all time. The mobile app is sadly missing the Riverfolk expansion, but is otherwise a faithful adaptation of the physical board game.
1. Through the Ages
Through the Ages isn't just one of the best strategy board games ever made—it's one of the most complex, most epic, and most rewarding board games to play if you're willing to learn it. It's basically the Civilization video game series in board game form.
The mobile version of Through the Ages has two modes: the original game's ruleset and a streamlined alternate ruleset. Play against AI opponents or against other humans, in both online multiplayer and offline multiplayer (taking turns on the same device).