Digital board games that don't suck

These excellent board game adaptations are well worth a look for video game lovers.

Why on Earth would you play digital board games when video games are right there? Typically, we’d be with you on this one – there are plenty of slapdash board game ports out there after all. And when playing on PC, you’ll all too often find that you’re loading up a game that’s clearly been created with mobile devices in mind. But put those groans aside, because for the dedicated dice tossers out there, recent years have seen some impressive adaptations. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite digital board games on PC that are well worth checking out with your friends.

Digital board games that don’t suck

Almost all of the games in our digital board games list below are available as standalone releases on Steam. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Tabletop Simulator as well. The controls and interface won’t be for everyone, but if you’re willing to put up with them then ther range of game mods on offer make it one of the best places to get your board gaming fix.

Root

Digital board games that dont suck root - best digital board games
 
© Dire Wolf

Cole Wehrle’s Root is one of the most deceptively pretty board games out there. Hidden under the gorgeous and undeniably adorable art is a ruthless game of strategy and planning. Each player takes control of a unique woodland faction in a battle for the forest’s heart. The Marquise de Cat fights a typical strategic battle, constructing buildings and martialing troops to face off against the imperious, decree-led Eyrie. Both of them will need to keep the guerrilla-style Woodland Alliance under control, and all three together will need to balance relations with the Vagabond player, who’s running around in their own little RPG world.

Root is a bold, complex take on asymmetric gameplay, and one that requires all players to be of a similar skill level. As such, it’s a great game to play repeatedly with the same group everyone honing their skills together and adapting to the tactics of the game’s last winner. It helps that this is one of the finest digital board games about, with entertaining animations and music that liven up the experience. Plus it’s a great chance to shout “I am Root!” whenever you when a game. Root is available on Steam, here.

Scythe

Digital Board games that dont suck scythe best steam board games
 
© Asmodee

Not had your fill of tactics yet? Us neither, which is why we’re still playing Scythe’s Steam release on the weekly. If you’re a real-time strategy fan – rest in peace, our beloved genre –  Scythe will feel right at home as you plan build orders and resource production in a race to victory points. Combat is, typically, minimal, but that doesn’t make it any less brutal when someone boots all your pieces back to your starting space. Much like Root, this is a title to be learned and replayed as a group. Once you combo turns together though, you’ll scratch an itch that only Scythe can scratch. 

The interface can prove a little unwieldy at first, but once you get to grips with it, turns rattle through at solid pace. It doesn’t quite have Root’s quality in art and animation, but the digital release handles plenty of the pesky scoring and management systems for you. It’s also much quicker to learn, with only a few key differences between the faux-european factions. Get a group heavily involved and there are several expansions to play with as well. Scythe is available on Steam, here.

Wingspan

Best digital board games wingspan
 
© Monster Couch

If all that strategic planning has left your mind in a stressful puddle then let us offer a moment of respite. Bathe yourself in the soothing sounds and sights of Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan. The premise sees you competing to attract feathered friends to your forests, fields, and wetlands. Collect food, play birds, then encourage your flock to pop out some eggs. Each bird placed grants a power, allowing you to build up an engine that unlocks more and more actions in subsequent rounds. It’s a satisfying experience that, while technically competitive, will largely be spent blissfully expanding your collection alongside your friends and family.

The physical edition has won numerous awards for its clever design, stunning art, and delightful theming. While the digital version can’t quite match the tactile production qualities, it compensates beautifully with sound effects for each and every bird. Throw in an achingly lovely soundtrack and Wingspan’s digital port rightfully earns a place as one of the best chillout games of the year. You can soar over to Wingspan’s Steam store page here.

Mysterium

Digital board games that don't suck mysterium
 
© Asmodee

Have you checked the obituaries recently? We’ve got bad news, because one of your friends has been murdered! Thankfully, you’re a psychic medium capable of figuring out who’s to blame. This co-operative experience sees a collective of players work together in deciphering clues from their acquaintance=beyond-the-grave. Speaking from spiritual realm isn’t easy, however, and the ghost player can only communicate through abstract art cards. If each investigator can piece together the who, where, and with what’s of the killing, they’ll get a chance to identify the real killer from a lineup.

We’re breaking our own rules here a bit, as Mysterium’s Steam release is very much a mobile port, complete with a slightly shonky interface. But given how much fun the core game is and just how little you need to interact with the UI, we’re willing to give it a pass. Whether you win or lose at Mysterium, each game will end with an explosion of chatter from the ghost, who’s likely had to sit in silence as your group of detective dunces goes off on tangents and misreads the most obvious signs. You can grab Mysterium on Steam, here.

Codenames

best digital board games codenames
 
© Czech Games

Codenames is one of the greatest party games ever created, welcoming in both seasoned and beginner board gamers alike. Two teams face off over a five by five grid of words. Two players on each team take the role of spymasters who can see which words belong to their sides. Giving single word clues with a number to indicate connections on the grid, they take turns helping their side guess correctly. Just make sure to avoid accidentally linking the assassin word, as one wrong selection there will mean instant game over.

Handily for a year in which face-to-face interaction is limited, Codenames is also one of the easiest and best to play online. The creators have put the entire game online in a free, browser-based edition. All you need to do is create a room and then send the URL whizzing over to your mates. Best of all, when playing online the Spymasters won’t need to work on maintaining a poker face. That said, a mutable microphone may be necessary to hide a few frustrated sighs each time your team convinces themselves not to pick the correct option. Click here to try your hand at the online version of Codenames.

Those are our picks for digital board games that don’t suck! Got a few others that you enjoy loading up on the regular? Share your favorite digital board games with us in the comments section below!

Associate Editor

Henry Stenhouse serves an eternal punishment as the Associate Editor of AllGamers. He spent his younger life studying the laws of physics, even going so far as to complete a PhD in the subject before video game journalism stole his soul. Confess your love of Super Smash Bros. via email at henry.stenhouse@allgamers.com, or catch him on Twitter.

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