The 8 best board game apps of 2019

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our regular look at table games! Check out our full board game coverage at carton.arstechnica.com, or browse our huge 2019 board game gift guide.

Tabletop games continue their push into the electronic space, with at least a dozen digital adaptations released in 2019 – and that’s not counting the many games in early access (like Gloomhaven) or in beta phase (Charter stone). Below, I’ve ranked my top eight of the year based on app quality, gaming experience, and purchase price.

Other games were either too buggy or not good enough to be included. I will give honorable mention to Takenoko, which came out in early December and looks fantastic … but is just too buggy to recommend at this time. For example, if you quit the app in the middle of the game, the app usually restarts and loses your progress, and the app forces you to press too many times during the movements of AI opponents. (Surprisingly, this is from Asmodee Digital, which generally does such a great and bug-free job, so I expect these issues will eventually be resolved, but for now I would say wait for the purchase. even if you like the tabletop version.)

But these eight are each worth your time. We’ll start with …

8. Mystical valley (Nomadic Games)

Enlarge / This one features the awesome illustrations of the game.

Mystical valley is a “card making” deckbuilder, where you buy cards from the market and use them to upgrade cards that are already in your deck. Each map has three slots that you can upgrade, and you can only add a new map to an existing map if the correct slot is left unused. As with most deckbuilders, you try to acquire as many victory points as possible, mainly through card values, but here there are additional points in a shared pool that you can acquire through the right combinations. Cards.

The digital version does a great job of letting you cycle through both market rows and your two rows of cards (in-play cards and permanent cards), widening or removing focus as needed, and highlighting cards you want. you can buy and play legally every turn. My only problem with the app is that the game ends so abruptly – there is no warning unless you look at the victory point pool to see that it is almost depleted.

7. The end of the aeon (Handelabra Games)

You can't let something so ugly get the best of you!
Enlarge / You can’t let something so ugly get the best of you!

I wouldn’t have given The end of the aeon a second thought before trying this app – which is in the high end of the $ 9.99 board game app price bracket – but this implementation really sells the game itself and does a fantastic job of explaining to the player what options are available sums. A cooperative deckbuilder, The end of the aeon pits players against a single opponent who operates from his own deck and must be defeated over multiple turns while he strikes back and adds damaging cards to player decks. The enemy can have 60 hit points for players to use up, while the enemy can gain by depleting the player house hit point value of Gravewell, which starts at a much lower number. Player decks only include two types of cards (beyond what the enemy adds), attack spells (which, uh, attack bad guys), and currency cards (which help you buy money). best cards on the market).

You’ll get a tail kick the first few turns, but eventually you’ll get more powerful cards, open more “breaches” so you can cast more attack spells, and start to see the tide turn in your favor. The app works great and the in-game help is incredibly helpful. There were rare instances where I didn’t immediately understand what the app wanted me to do, but on my second reading I had stopped it.

6. Duel of the 7 wonders (Digital rest)

Seriously, this one is awesome.
Enlarge / Seriously, this one is awesome.

This version of the app has received little fanfare despite the cardboard game’s exalted status as the top rated two-player game on BoardGameGeek. (Ars also highly recommended it in our own two-player board game guide.)

Duel of the 7 wonders reinvents the great game of 3 to 7 players 7 wonders like a more interactive two-player conflict. In each of the three rounds, players deal an array of cards in a table-specific shape among themselves, then alternate buying cards from the unblocked cards visible in that tableau. Some of these cards grant resources, some grant points, others grant military strength, and many give you free cards in later turns. You can win Duel of the 7 wonders by earning the most points, or you can stop the game sooner by getting a big military advantage or by collecting six unique science tokens.

The app clearly shows the cost of building each map via a number at the top left that changes color if it’s beyond your means. The game is playable on small screens as well, as long as you’re okay with frequent tap-and-press movements to take a closer look at various maps. The only flaw is that building Wonders is not intuitive: you have to click on your Wonders to activate a pop-up screen, then drag a card from the board to the Wonderland you want to build. AI gamers seem strong – or I’m just not that good – and move fast so you can play a full game against the app in just a few minutes.

5. North Sea Adventurers (Say digital wolf)

Let's start looting!
Enlarge / Let’s start looting!

Raiders is the first worker placement game from Shem Phillips in a trilogy of worker placement games that has since been followed by two more games in another trilogy of worker placement games (get it?), all of which have the same artwork wacky but wonderful. North Sea Adventurers was perfect for a port to the digital space as it’s a lot of parts set, so setup and cleanup is a bit of a chore. Players gather supplies in the village, placing a worker to use an action space and picking up another worker to use a second action space, and collecting coins to hire a crew to raiding ships . Once they qualify to loot a space at the top of the board, players can raid, collect rewards and victory points, but often lose a crew member or two in the process.

The app not only looks great, it moves well and the developers let you go from the village to the raiding section so it’s always clear what action spaces are available and what they’re doing. or cost. There is a campaign mode that requires you to play around with some variations and stretch a bit, but I didn’t find it difficult enough. The AI ​​players were too weak in the initial release, but they’ve at least been beefed up slightly in subsequent updates.


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