Board games have been going through a renaissance over the past decade, and it doesn't take a lot of digging in the Google Play Store to see that's the case on Android as well. If you're having trouble getting everybody together under one roof or just don't have any more shelf space for another box, pick up your Android phone or tablet to grab these board games.
It should be noted that finding highly-rated board games on the Play Store is an uphill battle. Whether it's because new updates broke the UI, fundamental aspects didn't get ported over correctly, or the spirit of the original was lost in translation, many of the board games here barely pass my muster. However, there are a few gems.
We've also included a couple of great apps to have on hand when you do get the gaming crew together. And when you're done here, be sure to check out the best Android games!
AI Factory Limited games
I had trouble just picking one game from this excellent developer, so we're featuring its whole library. AI Factory Limited pushes out the traditional games a lot of us grew up on — chess, checkers, backgammon, and so on — but it does so in great ways. AI's chess, for example, is my go-to chess game on Android, and I've had it installed on my phone for many years.
There are also card games, sudoku, tic-tac-toe, and more. If you like the classic stuff, AI Factory Limited has you covered. Most, if not all, of the games have free versions available, or you can pay a couple of dollars to unlock the ad-free version if you so choose.
Among the Stars
Among the Stars is another board game adaptation for Android. It's set in a war-ravaged galaxy with alien races who must band together in order to stave off an oncoming threat. The goal is to build the greatest space station ever known. Even though this is the mobile port, it's still a board game at heart that uses cards for building purposes.
Each card represents a new room on the space station, which is where the competitive element comes in. You can play cards to improve your space station or put something into play that hinders another player. Among the Stars requires a lot of planning to get things right, such as making sure there are enough power reactors for your station.
There's a single-player campaign with the Android version, as well as cross-platform multiplayer, local or online. It's a very good port of an interesting game. Go on, give it a shot.
You wouldn't be very far off the mark to describe Armello as Game of Thrones with animals. That's a bit of an oversimplification though, as Armello combines strategy board games with card gaming elements wrapped up in a grandiose fantasy RPG storyline. You'll play as one of three characters, each on a quest to become Queen or King of Armello. To take the throne, you'll need to explore the land, hire your own agents, obliterate your foes, and even employ magic to give yourself a brutal edge in the war for dominance. Did I mention that the animations and art style are also gorgeous?
There's a lot to like about Armello, but there are a few less than stellar facets of the game, the first being that Armello hasn't been updated since 2018. Additionally, some players have reported repeated freezing bugs, and the matching in multiplayer mode can be lengthy given the game's age. If you can look past a handful of cons though, this game has some great potential and can be a blast in single-player mode. Free to play with ads and in-app purchases, Armello could easily make your shortlist if you're looking for a more in-depth experience to try out.
There are a couple of versions of Catan available in the Google Play Store, but they seem to be hopelessly broken these days, even after countless user complaints and reviews. It's a real shame because, in my opinion, Catan is one of the greatest board games ever made.
Better Settlers is an app that aims to fix any unfairness by using algorithms to create a board that encourages fair play. While it's not a standalone Catan emulator that you can play on the go, it is a great option if you're a Catan fan and want a new way to enjoy a classic game with your friends and family.
Yes, this app used to be called "Better Catan Board Generator," but I'm going to guess that the developer got a request to change the name.
Carcassonne is a polished adaptation of the classic board game from highly-esteemed developer Asmodee Digital. It was recently re-released in 3D, and it looks and plays better than ever! It's a tile-based, kingdom-building game where players each take turns trying to complete roads, cities, and cloisters.
Each turn, players also drop a limited number of "meeple" onto landmarks in an attempt to claim points once the feature has been completed. If you can't fully enclose a city or finish a road by the end of the game, you can still get a few points.
Carcassone also features six expansions at the time of writing, all available via in-app purchases. These expansions change up the game, adding new elements and landscape embellishments, or even ways to greatly increase the number of points you can earn. That all sounds awesome, but they're totally optional.
The Castles of Burgundy
The Castles of Burgundy is a fun board game brought to Android in an awesome digital port. It's a calming game, I find, and so I'm glad to see it hit the Play Store. It's not new on the scene, but it was new to me while I was working on finding new games for y'all to try.
You play as a French aristocrat in charge of a tiny fiefdom. The goal is to build settlements, practice trade, mine, and interact with other travelers. There are five rounds of five turns each. Each turn, players can toss their two die to make additional actions or moves to establish their settlement.
To win, players must collect victory points that are awarded with hard work and careful planning. There are many paths to tread on the way to victory and no two games are alike. It's a very complex game, but it's worth trying out if you like building board games.
Chwazi Finger Chooser
Choosing who goes first in a game or splitting a group into teams has never been easier or more fun than with the Chwazi Finger Chooser app. With Chwazi, everyone just places a finger on the phone or tablet screen and the app randomly selects one finger. It's like drawing straws, but using technology!
Alternatively, you can have the app choose more than one finger and eliminate someone. There's also an option for creating groups. Chwazi says they can support up to 32 fingers at one time, but you might be limited to the number of simultaneous inputs your phone or device can handle.
Elder Sign: Omens
It's one of the oldest entries on this list, but Elder Sign: Omens is nonetheless one of the best board games available on Android. For a mere $2 upfront, you get a spectacular arcane mystery where you're competing to find the most magical items, clues, and more.
You're in a fight to stand against the approaching Ancient Ones, like Yig, Azathoth, Cthulu, and Ithaqua. Though the focus is less on the eldritch horrors, it's still a fun game and worth the price to entry and cost to unlock the additional Ancient Ones. This game was adapted from the old-school Elder Sign dice game, but it's gotten a few changes to make it more palatable for modern mobile audiences.
Though there are a slew of things to do, Elder Sign: Omens is a standout title that's worth your time if you like mystery board games with a Lovecraftian setting.
So far, the board games on this list have been rather... grounded. So let's take the fun to space with Galaxy Trucker. Build your ships as you battle the final frontier and all of its harshest attempts to kill you. You assemble your ship using a variety of tiles and then you're off to face terrors like meteors, pirates, and smugglers. Whoever ends up with the most credits at the end of the game wins.
The game features a real-time and turn-based mode, depending on your preference. Of course, you can play locally with your friends, or go online and try your skills there; you can even run multiple online games at once! This mobile rendition of the board game of the same name features some extra goodies, like a campaign, special parts, and so on.
You can get started with Galaxy Trucker for $5 and grab the optional expansion for another $5. For the kind of experience this game offers, that's quite the deal.
Good Knight Story
Good Knight Story takes your typical tile-matching game and puts a welcome little spin on the genre. In this case, the added bonuses come in the form of a genuinely good, and hilarious, story mixed in with a few common RPG elements. The tile-matching portions play out like battles, with better matches helping you deal damage to your foes or shield yourself from the pain train. Tiles can be matched horizontally, vertically, and diagonally in any combination of three or more, which is yet another light spin on a simple formula that keeps things interesting. As you progress, you'll be able to upgrade your knight and your gear to take down some big bosses and recover your lost memories.
Another perk is the ability to choose whether or not you want to see ads while you play, which is a delightful touch that I wish more games would employ. However, Good Knight Story does get a tick against it for having a boss later down the line that is borderline impossible to defeat unless you spend some real cash to purchase an extremely powerful sword that can lead you to victory.
It may not be a perfect game, but this free-to-play title has got more going for it than most tile-matching games by a country mile, so that's a solid win in my book.
Mahjong manages to fly under many avid board gamers' radars, which is a shame because it's fun, easy, and challenging at more advanced levels. Mahjong couldn't be easier to understand: you match a tile to its twin counterpart to clear them both off the board. Tiles are stacked on top of each other in intricate arrays and you can't match a tile until you clear the ones on top of it. The goal is to clear the entire board of all tiles. Easy enough, right?
In Mahjong Epic, you gain more points upon board completion for things like finishing in under X amount of time and for completing the board without using any hints or tile shuffles. There are over 1,800 boards in this expansive mahjong collection, along with gorgeous 1080p graphics, daily challenges, different tiles sets and backgrounds to use, and more. For mahjong lovers out there, this is more likely than not the definitive mobile version.
Mahjong Epic is free to play with ads and in-app purchases, but you can pick up the ad- and IAP-free version through Google Play Pass for an even better experience.
Risk is a classic board game that's incredibly fun to play, but it's a pain to set up and typically takes hours (or even days or weeks) to complete. The mobile version automates most of the more tedious aspects of the game and lets you play on your own against AI, offline with friends using pass and play, or online for remote play against friends or strangers.
It's the classic strategy game action you know and love, but enhanced with fun animations and a faster pace of play. If you're one of those people who really enjoy playing Risk but can't find friends to play in person, this is a great version to take with you. It's amazing what technology can do, eh?
RPG Simple Dice
There's nothing more frustrating than setting up to play a board game only to find that the dice are missing. Fortunately, there's an app that's also packed with other thoughtful features. The RPG Simple Dice app gives you an endless selection of virtual dice to roll, and lets you roll up to 100 dice at one time with a single tap. There's also a history feature, so you can check what your last roll was.
As the name suggests, this is also an ideal app for any tabletop RPG fans or for games that require dice of all sorts — from standard six-sided die to all the way up to d100s. There's even the option to create a custom die to fit whatever need or situation you could possibly want.
It's absolutely crazy that this app is free, especially with no ads to be seen. If I had any D&D friends, this would be a must-have app on my device.
Sea Battle 2
Don't let anyone sink your battleship! This reimagining of the classic game lets you play against AI, a random online opponent, or the person sitting next to you. It goes beyond mere battleships to include planes, radar, mines, and submarines.
All the while, you climb the ranks from a lowly recruit to an admired admiral. Name your proud fleet, watch your scores on the global leaderboard, and use the in-app chat feature to discuss strategy. There are also arenas, gameplay over Bluetooth with friends, tournaments, and the choice between classic and advanced game modes.
The old-school graph paper design will take you right back to playing sneaky Battleship rounds during junior high study hall. Going against random people online is a blast; it's a perfect example of how the internet can integrate with the old school.
When it comes to strategy board games, Risk and Stratego are two that come to mind. Though I spent far more time with the former as a child (Lord of the Rings Risk, anyone?), Stratego always felt like a close second. Much like Risk, it has seen new life on Android.
There are two versions of Stratego, a single-player and a multiplayer. The former pits you against an AI opponent in classic 40v40 or a quicker 16v16 mode. There's a ton of replayability in the single-player mode, but if you fork over a few more dollars, you can get the multiplayer version.
With multiplayer, you get ranked matches, a friends list for some quick play, and the same choice between 40v40 and 16v16. Between the two versions, there's a lot of Stratego to go around.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride gets players to build sprawling rail empires by gathering colored cars to connect cities. Every turn, a player gets to either pick two cars, claim a line by spending cars, or take on a new ticket, which challenges players to connect two cities before the first player runs out of cars.
All the while, your fellow players will be trying to build their own railways and impede your progress, so it's in your best interest to keep them from succeeding. There's a single-player as well as local and online multiplayer.
On the whole, Ticket to Ride is a fine combination of competition and construction. The in-app purchase grants you access to a new bundle of maps and boards, all of which are totally worth the price.
In this digital rendition of the popular tabletop game, you play a traveler attempting to walk from Kyoto to Edo. Despite having a destination though, you'll be focused on the journey. Stop to take in beautiful landscapes, try new foods, find the best hot springs, and partake in other things that make Japan such a lovely place along the way.
The player who has the most satisfying journey — i.e. finds all the coolest stuff along the road — wins. How you go about your trip is up to you, but your goal is to discover as many hidden marvels as you can.
Tokaido is in an inexpensive game that's relaxing, fun, and great for multiple players. But it has a huge leg up just based on the visuals alone.
Want a totally new game experience each time you load a board? Then Tsuro, a tile-based game, is for you. Lay your tiles and follow the path you created while you also try to derail your opponents as they lay their own paths. It's a wildly fun adventure of patience and gall. Did I mention that it's also a gorgeous game?
Tsuro features achievements, local and online multiplayer (up to eight players!), and new modes exclusive to the mobile version. It's another one of those easy to learn, difficult to master types of games, and it's well worth your time. If you want to hone your skills, there are three different AI levels to pit yourself against before taking on human opponents.
This is one of the best games on this list by far and well worth the money. If you're looking for a new board game to pass the time during this pandemic and quarantine, then be sure to check out Tsuro.
Wild Jack: Card Gobang
This is my current favorite card-based board game that I can now play on my phone. You may know this game as the 80s card-board game Sequence. This is a game for two or three players where the goal is to make two lines of five chips on the board by playing cards that correspond to the spots on the board.
If you're up against just another player, you only need to complete one sequence. However, if it's you and two others, then you need two sequences to win.
It sounds really lame to explain it in text, but it's a ton of fun to play. You can play against AI and online opponents, whichever suits you. You'll get automatic matchmaking to keep your gameplay experience as smooth as possible.
Avoid boredom with these board games
Nothing truly beats the experience of sitting down with some friends and family to play a board game, but when that's not possible, these mobile versions do just as well. I'd recommend all the games on our list, but in particular, I think Carcassonne and Tsuro are some of the best board games for Android you can buy. The games themselves are really fun, and they've been lovingly recreated in full 3D for smartphones.
Another game that I'd highly recommend is Elder Sign: Omens. I adore Lovecraftian fiction and even though there isn't any kind of eldritch horrors in Elder Sign, it's still a fantastic game. And Galaxy Trucker is another great way to kill some time, especially since its premise is unique in this list.
Lastly, I have to give a shoutout to Chwazi, which is the best and simplest way to choose who goes first in any board game situation or also for dividing a group into teams for other fun games around the holiday season. It's a free download and an absolute must-have app if you love to play board games.
Updated October 2021: Added Mahjong Epic to our list.