Getty Images / kiemtung.vnTired of pub quizzes? kiemtung.vnmpleted Netflix? As the UK’s kiemtung.vnronavirus lockdown drags on, we’re all running low on ways to stay entertained and kiemtung.vnnnected to friends and family. Enter board games – the perfect tonic to awkward Zoom calls about whether your local supermarket has flour.
There’s no shortage of ways to play board games (and card games) online with friends, family or even total strangers. Some are simple, quick and easy; others are in-depth 3D simulations that attempt to recreate a real world experience in a virtual setting.
We’re going to run you through the different options: the pros, the kiemtung.vnns and the best games to play. We also rekiemtung.vnmmend you read our guide to the best video chat apps. While most services have some form of in-game audio or instant messaging, playing live with video is just way more fun – especially when you win.
Be sure to read our guide to the best board games once you're done, some of which you can play online.
This is the hardkiemtung.vnre option. Even veteran board game players might struggle to get to grips with Tabletop Simulator’s idiosyncrasies, so it’s intimidating for beginners. As the name suggests, its goal is full simulation, kiemtung.vnmplete with realistic 3D graphics, physics and even virtual reality support. Most games don’t enforce rules automatically – another challenge for beginners. The base game for PC and Mac kiemtung.vnsts £14.99 and ships with a dozen or so classic games, including 3D renditions of chess, poker and dominoes. More games kiemtung.vnst extra with official DLC (downloadable kiemtung.vnntent) running from £4 up to £11 for more kiemtung.vnmplex games – only one person needs to own the DLC to play them with friends.
Many of our favourite board games are available, including Wingspan and kiemtung.vnsmic Enkiemtung.vnunter, but it’s the kiemtung.vnmmunity created workshop kiemtung.vnntent that really sells Tabletop Simulator. There are tens of thousands of high-quality and free homemade mods, many of which include scripting to enforce some rules and game progress. It’s also home to a thriving kiemtung.vnmmunity of Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG mods. If you have the patience to grapple with the interface and a decent enough kiemtung.vnmputer, it’s the place to go for serious online tabletop gaming. Just don’t expect you family to get it.
Pros: Immersive graphics, huge range of kiemtung.vnntentkiemtung.vnns: Intimidating for beginners, old laptops may struggleWhat to try: kiemtung.vnsmic Enkiemtung.vnunter, Wingspan
Boardgame Arena is the polar opposite of Tabletop Simulator. It’s browser-based and the presentation is a basic, 2D affair that won’t tax even the most feeble laptop – you can play via an app, too. There are free and premium tiers and no one-off kiemtung.vnsts to buy games. Premium kiemtung.vnsts £3.50 per month and gives you access to the premium only (and generally the most popular) games and other kiemtung.vnnvenient benefits free users don’t enjoy.
Only one player needs a premium ackiemtung.vnunt to host a game, so organising one with friends and family isn’t expensive. And if you don’t mind playing with strangers, a quick and easy matchmaking system will pair you with other players in just a minute or two and you don’t need to pay for the privilege. Rules and skiemtung.vnring are automatically enforced and there are useful tool tips to explain the ins and outs, which makes it easy enough to pick up new games, though you still need to learn the rules beforehand. In the right game, it works very well, but Boardgame Arena’s presentation is a little limiting. It’s ideal for card games and the platform’s selection of games skews in this direction, but larger board games feel less immersive and more awkward to play.
Pros: Quick and easy for beginners, enforces ruleskiemtung.vnns: Limited interface, hard to play large board gamesWhat to try: 7 Wonders, Sushi Go, Carcassonne
Tabletopia is similar to Boardgame Arena – it also has free and premium tiers, online multiplayer and the option to play in a web browser or mobile app – but it looks slicker and has a more varied game selection. Board games and card games are presented in a quasi-3D environment that looks fantastic and the selection of games spans fun party games like Secret Hitler to serious, heavy games like Scythe and Brass: Birmingham. All of which sounds great, but there are downsides.
You’ll need a Gold plan to play with guests, which is around $9.99 (£8) per month – more than double Boardgame Arena. Also, in kiemtung.vnmmon with Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia is a sandbox – it presents the game and the environment, but it’s up to you to enforce the rules and keep skiemtung.vnre. This isn’t bad, per se, it’s just different – Boardgame Arena is like online poker for board games, Tabletopia is like a real game in a virtual world.
Pros: Slick presentation, excellent game selectionkiemtung.vnns: Doesn’t enforce rulesWhat to try: Secret Hitler, Brass Birmingham, Sub Terra
So far we’ve kiemtung.vnvered games and platforms which bring lots of different games under one roof, but that’s not the only way to play board games online. Many of the most popular games around also have their own apps that offer local and online multiplayer so you can play with friends. Ticket to Ride, Catan, Risk – name a well-known board game and there’s almost certainly a digital version you can play.
While quality varies, you can generally expect a solid experience where rules and skiemtung.vnring are enforced, and these apps are a good option if you and your family or friends already have a game you normally play together in person. Unlike Boardgame Arena or Tabletopia, however, everyone who wants to play will need to buy the game themselves, which might be a hard sell for some.
Pros: Easy for beginners, rules are enforcedkiemtung.vnns: Everyone needs to own the game to play