It never ceases to amaze me that Monopoly is always one of the best selling board games and board game apps. It is a game with no decision making and one where you are at the whims of the dice for 2-4 hours at a time. But it’s ok, I don’t blame you if you love it, you just might not know that there are better options out there. Over the last 20 years board games have come a long way and thankfully the last 5 years have seen digital ports of these great new games hitting our devices in swathes. So if you’re sitting there enjoying a game of Monopoly on your phone I’m here to tell you about the better versions of your favourite games available to download right now.
If you’re a fan of Monopoly
Lets start with the big one. In theory Monopoly is an economic set collection and trading game and while this is true it is a dull and broken game. The problem with Monopoly is that the only question it ever asks you is “do you have enough money in your hand to be able to buy the street you just landed on?” It’s not a decision you have to make, it is simply a yes or no question and a matter of book keeping; play Monopoly enough times and it becomes clear that you have to buy everything you can as soon as you can. It’s this lack of decision making and reliance on the random roll of a dice that makes it a dull and infuriating game to play.
So if you’re looking for a board game app to replace your beloved Monopoly then look no further than Catan, the digital version of the classic gateway game Settlers of Catan. Catan borrows from some of the mechanisms you’re familiar with from Monopoly such as set collection, trading and upgrading cities to increase your production not to mention it is all determined by dice rolling; however it achieves this in a way that has you making impactful decisions at nearly every turn. You’ve collected a set that lets you buy a development card but doing so will mean you can’t afford to build a new settlement, building that new settlement means you can’t extend your road and get the victory points for the longest road. It’s an exercise in understanding the opportunity cost of your decisions all wrapped up in a game which is barely more difficult to understand than Monopoly.
As a next step, Catan is a simple transition from Monopoly and the apps available for it do a great job of walking you through everything. I guarantee that once you have played a Catan app you will be uninstalling Monopoly and preaching to the world about this new world of board gaming you have taken your first tentative steps into.
If you’re a fan of Cluedo
Unlike Monopoly, Cluedo isn’t an intrinsically broken game. I enjoy the logic based deduction as you work your way methodically through rooms, murder weapons and suspects and although it’s a game that rewards good book keeping along with an element of luck it’s still a fun board game. However if you’re looking to take that flavour in a more interesting direction than you should take a look at Mysterium where you are psychic detectives trying to uncover the murderer, room and weapon, sound familiar.
What makes Mysterium an interesting evolution from Cluedo is that it moves from the realm of a logic puzzle to a game of feelings and opinion. Rather than asking yes or no questions and getting a definitive answer clues in Mysterium are provided by one player who is a ghost. The clues come in the form of vague and unrelated pictures which the ghost player will choose the convey a feeling about either the suspect, room or weapon; does the picture of a blue city walls surrounding a distant mountain refer to blue back ground of the rope murder weapon or does that triangular gap in the mountains refer to the widows peak on one of the suspects. What the ghost might see in one of these picture cards might be something completely different to what you see in it and this is where the game is at it’s best.
If you like deduction games and are looking for a new interesting take on it then Mysterium is the next step for all you Cluedo lovers out there. I would be remiss if I didn’t issue you with a word of warning with the Mysterium board game app however; this is a game that works wonderfully as a multiplayer experience against humans, trying to predict what another human is seeing in the vague cards is where the joy of this game lies. When playing the app against an AI you lose that a bit as it just isn’t as enjoyable trying to predict what a computer is trying to get across. The app version of Mysterium is a great way to learn the game but doesn’t work as well as a solo game against the computer. Despite this it’s a great next step for anyone who loves playing Cluedo against their friends and wants a modern spin on this classic game.
If you’re a fan of Chess
Far be it from me to slate the game of Chess, any game that can find it’s origins in the 9th century and still be being played today deserves a bit of respect. I’ve played Chess since I was 7 years old and have enjoyed countless bouts, mainly against my Grandpa but more recently against all of my friends thanks to the hundreds of chess apps out there. So with all that said, why am I trying to find a better version of a Chess app for you to play and how can you improve on centuries of gameplay perfection?
Well the one thing I will say about Chess, even on an app, is that it can really go on a long time. The back and fourth and complex decision making can stretch a game out anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on who’s playing and how proficient they are. I simply rarely have that kind of time to sit on my phone playing a game and if I do I want to play something else. That’s where the board game app Santorini comes in; Chess like decision making finished in about 10 minutes. The base game offers a true head to head competition of movement and building but the addition of the option God cards which provide a game modifier for each player provide an unique level of tactics to each game. Thanks to the limited number of moves a player can make on each turn thanks to there only being 2 pieces per player on the board means you never have the analysis paralysis you often see with the slew of options in Chess.
If you’re looking for a game of Chess for people who don’t like Chess then you can’t go far wrong than downloading Santorini and challenging your friend to a quick bout.
If you’re a fan of Risk
I’m going to cheat here, but it’s for your own benefit. When I came to put together this list of board game apps and started thinking about better versions the choice for Risk was an obvious one for me. Twilight Struggle takes the dudes on a world map mechanic and ramps it up to the max by adding in a tonne of new mechanics, loads more win conditions and a plethora of added complexity. It’s this ramping up of difficulty that has lead me to offer two options for better versions of the game of Risk rather than just one.
Twilight Struggle has two of you competing as opposing sides of the Cold War, spreading your influence along the regions of the globe, playing events which benefit you or even your opponent as well as juggling both the space race and the DEFCON tracker, trying to be the first to put a man on the moon, avoiding causing a nuclear disaster while also playing a tug of war of influence. It is like Risk on steroids and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a better version of Risk. The trouble is, it’s definitely not a game for beginners or even intermediate players. It requires you to understand multiple mechanisms you may not be used to in a board game and most importantly be able to juggle multiple ways to win which is something that most players haven’t had experience of. Therefore I decided to add a second option of game for fans of Risk and that is the board game app Eight Minute Empire.
Eight Minute Empire is an area control game similar to Risk in which you are recruiting and moving your soldiers around a map trying to be the player with the most countries and continents under your control. It is a simple and quick game to play but has enough strategy to keep fans of Risk entertained despite it’s significantly quicker play time. Eight Minute Empire doesn’t rely on dice based combat in the same way Risk does and so the frustration of luck of the dice is removed and you are left to battle it out on strategy alone.
Both Twilight Struggle and Eight Minute Empire make great additions to your digital board game collection and if you don’t feel ready for the step up to Twilight Struggle you can still enjoy Eight Minute Empire and get a better version of Risk on the go.
If you’re a fan of Dominoes
Don’t get me wrong, Dominoes isn’t a bad game; it’s fun to find creative ways to make multiples of 5 and wrack up big scores and it is a refined and sleek game. With all that being said there is a card game I prefer and that is 6 Nimmt (called 6 Takes if you’re looking for the app version).
6 Nimmt is another numbers game where players simultaneous choose a card and play it onto one of 5 rows of cards in numerical order. If you are forced to play the 6th card in a row then you have to pick up all of the cards in that row which adds to your score at the end of the round. The player with the lowest score when one loser hits an agreed losing number wins the game. It’s elegantly simple in the same way Dominoes is however the addition of simultaneous play adds a much needed feel of poker to the proceedings. Trying to anticipate cards your opponents will play and attempt to force hem to take the 6th card in a row is exciting and adds a layer of risk with each card you play. It’s the feel of dominoes with the added risk of simultaneous play which means it’s a game I pick up far more often than I ever would pick up Dominoes, and if that’s not a sign of a game being better I don’t know what is.
If you’re a fan of Battleships
Similar to Monopoly, Battleships is a flawed game due to the fact it is a game that is devoid of any real decision making once your initial set up has been decided. From turn one it’s a case of running down the clock hoping that you’re the first one to accidentally hit on some boats before your opponent; the decision making has gone and the game loses all enjoyment.
Step forward King and Assassins a board game of hidden identity and underhand tactics for two players beautifully ported to a board game app. One player plays as the king, moving around the board with his guards attempting to get safely around the grid into his castle. The second player controls 3 assassins as well as the remaining towns people, the twist is that the assassins look like towns people and as such the King is unaware of who is coming to kill him. It’s a fantastic to and fro of bluffs and double bluffs as the Assassin player throws wave after wave of towns people towards the King in the hope that he can slip an Assassin passed the guards undetected.
If you’re looking for a two player game of guessing and bluffing across a grid then you should forego your Battleships and download King and Assassins to enjoy a far better game of hidden tactics rather than aimless guessing.
If you’re a fan of Connect 4
I used to compete in Connect 4 tournaments as a child and so it will always hold a special place in my heart as a fun game. However once you have figured out a couple of basic moves the game follows very similar patterns every time you play. So much so that I used to win a lot thanks to the fact the other kids my age hadn’t sussed these moves out yet.
When I found the app version of Quarto I was delighted that I’d found a short game with far more decision making that I ever found in a game of Connect 4 but with a very similar feel. Quarto consists of a 4 x 4 board and 16 pieces each of which are either short, tall, light, dark, square, round, hollow or solid. Players take it in turns to select one of the pieces which the opponent must then place on the board. This continues until a player creates a line of 4 pieces which all share one of the attributes.
The rules are easy to pick up but the tactics involved can be mind bending at times. Games run along at a pace but give you plenty to think about. It really feels like a game of Chess meets Connect 4.
If you’re a fan of Yahtzee
Who doesn’t love a roll and write game, I know I do. Yahtzee was my first introduction to this genre as I’m sure it is for a lot of people however it has moved on a lot since and some games now do this mechanism much better, one of which is Ganz Schon Clever.
Ganz Schon Clever has you rolling dice and selecting which you will be using to tick off boxes on your board. The more boxes you tick off the better your score will be. Each colour of dice has a different method of scoring as well as varying rewards for you depending on how many boxes you tick off. It’s basically the same as Yahtzee but with rewards that let you collect more dice throughout the game.
The app version of Ganz Schon Clever has been an ever present on my phone as I’m addicted to trying to best my previous scores and I am always left with the feeling that I could have done better. This is a feeling I just don’t get with Yahtzee where often on a turn there is only ever one good option; compare this to Ganz Schon Clever where each turn there are multiple good options and so you are sacrificing one thing for another. This is the key to why it is a better game than Yahtzee and why I’d recommend upgrading your Yahtzee app to Ganz Schon Clever.
Better versions of your favourite games
So there you have it, a list of better versions of your favourite games. This is in no way a slight on these much loved games, they have a special place in all of our hearts and childhoods however now’s a great chance to find some new games to enjoy and hopefully they can find a way into your hearts going forward.