If you’re a board game enthusiast like myself, the tabletop gameplay alone is often not enough to satisfy your playing needs. Lack of time, space, or opponents can be detrimental to how regularly we run a board gaming night.
Therefore, we frequently try to get our fix from other sources. Digital implementations of board games have been on the rise in recent years. Their nature allows you to play anytime, anywhere, and against anybody, negating all three reasons from the first paragraph.
What is Board Game Arena?
Although there are other services and places where you can play board games, by far the largest is Board Game Arena, a browser-based service (+ they have a great phone app) with many of the most popular board games, all fully licensed.
You can play for free, or you can buy a premium account, which unlocks a few more features and makes is easier to get into premium games. Well, that’s what I did a year ago, and during this time, I’ve certainly got my money’s worth of games back.
I mostly play turn-based, as the added flexibility best suits my daily schedule. Often, I’ll also join tournaments, a series of games against a more experienced crowd, which really puts your knowledge of the game to the test.
Anyway, I wanted to highlight some of the titles to raise awareness of this awesome website. Here are my favorite 10 games on Board Game Arena as of September 2023.
Please note that this is a strictly subjective list. These are not the ten best games, ten best implementations, or ten most popular games on the site. They are simply the 10 board games I have enjoyed the most on board Game Arena in the last year or so.
10. 7 Wonders (Duel)
The main reason I enjoyed both 7 Wonders games is the sheer simplicity of play. On BGA, the cost for adding a card to your tableau (as well as to your opponent’s tableau in the Duel version) is always displayed, allowing you to fully focus on your gameplay, without the need to do the accounting.
This makes the gameplay very smooth and quick. For example, a 7 Wonders game can be finished in little more than 5 minutes, regardless of the player count (since the gameplay is simultaneous). Good luck completing a tabletop game of that scale in less than an hour!
Additionally, 7 Wonders Duels allows you to include both Pantheon and Agora expansions; and there’s also the 7 Wonders Architects, a standalone spinoff, available.
What more to say about this brilliant board game from Elizabeth Hargreaves and Stonemeier Games that hasn’t been said over and over again? The elegance of play (only four different actions) is hard to match, as is the strategic depth the thick deck of birds allows. It caters to both beginner and expert players.
I’ve been on the Wingspan sideline for too long, and with over 50 games played on BGA (add several dozen more on the tabletop) I’m happy to finally be fully on board, as this is rightfully one of the best board games published in recent years.
The BGA implementation is virtually perfect, the only nitpick I have is: where are the expansions?!
Azul is often regarded as one of the best tile-playing board games of all time. Deceivingly simple to play, this abstract gem hides a lot more strategy below the surface. It’s not just about taking the right tiles at the right time, but also about denying your opponents the tiles they need and setting up future moves.
The BGA version also included the Chocolatier variant, but other than that, it’s just super clean and fast to play.
7. La Granja
La Granja is probably my favorite board game never played in physical form. Despite that, I have around 50 games of this farming simulator played combined on both BGA and Yucata. I enjoy the min/maxing my farm a lot and the multi-purpose cards give the game the needed long-term appeal.
Comparing the two versions, I find the BGA one much better overall. Yes, the interface works perfectly fine in both, but it’s the possibility to do the farming phase simultaneously that just speeds up the overall gameplay to something you can actually finish in decent time, compared to a slog it turns into on Yucata.
6. Teotihuacan: City of Gods
I actually own a physical copy of Teotihuacan, but it hasn’t hit the table too much. Basically, I just used it to learn the game. Unfortunately, I currently lack gaming partners for such a heavy game, and the solo system, although very good, is too fiddly for my liking.
But all these negatives are washed away on BGA. The computer takes care of the fiddliness and there are opponents aplenty. This lets you focus fully on optimizing your turns and forging your strategy.
It also comes with a great feature of letting you undo your entire turn, which allows you to experiment with your moves and try out different things. You’ll often spot a better move mid-turn, and giving you the chance to take back your turn is a blessing. (Most games on BGA (and also on Yucata) have this feature, but it’s in complex games such as Teotihuacan where it really comes in handy.
Unfortunately, no expansions are available at the time of writing, but luckily, the base offers plenty of replayability as it is.
5. Gaia Project
Frankly, I could have also put Terra Mystica here, but I’ve decided to go for Gaia Project because I find the gameplay much more rewarding (if done right). It’s resource system offers greater flexibility, producing some powerful and satisfying later game rounds.
Also, I believe the factions and setup in Gaia Project demand a more specialized approach in each session, making games more unique and memorable.
As for the BGA implementation, it’s very good. Varaible tiles setup, factions bidding, it’s all here. It even allows you to play solo against an automa (you can finish that one really quickly), but it does come with a flaw. It doesn’t have the undo turn option (as mentioned with Teotihuacan).
This means you need to change your mindset and think before you do as there won’t be a second chance. Although this sounds good, Gaia Project is such a complex game where one wrong click can easily have long-reaching consequences, that it just needs the undo function.
Of course, one such nuisance won’t stop me from enjoying a fantastic game.
4. Memoir ’44
Another game in my collection that doesn’t get enough table time is Commands & Colors: Ancient. Unfortunately, this game is not on BGA, therefore we must settle for Memoir ’44, which is pretty much the same game, only repainted and adjusted for the WWII setting.
But we do get a lot of gaming with it. All of the expansions are included, which means you won’t run out of different scenarios to play for a long time. Although unit variety is less than in C&C: Ancients, Memoir ’44 makes this up with the aforementioned number and variety of scenarios.
Every one of them is historically-based and comes with historically-based objectives, often presenting different goals to one side and the other. Sometimes one side will be in a significantly weaker starting position, but the games are normally played in two rounds, switching sides and taking the overall result from both matches to determine the victor.
Although luck plays a significant part, the game bets a lot on tactical positioning, making use of terrain, probing enemies for weak points, etc., and thus delivering a decent wargame simulator.
3. The Castles of Burgundy
Combining all platforms, including physical, The Castles of Burgundy is probably my most-played board game with well over 200 plays. and I’m still actively playing it.
The BGA implementation is as good as any. The interface is perfect, with the undo option fully operational. There are both the first edition and the 2019 edition available, both with looks and updated tiles. Interestingly, you can change the looks independently to whichever version you’re playing. This way the tiles can look like whatever suits you best.
The Castles of Burgundy is one of the most popular games on BGA, therefore you’ll get plenty of people to play and tournaments are also frequent, giving you the chance to compete against the best. On identical boards, ideally.
2. 6 nimmt!
This tiny card game is regarded as a gimmick by many, but there’s a lot more to it than just selecting a card. The more you play, the more layers of strategy get revealed.
Suddenly, you are thinking several moves ahead, taking into consideration which cards have already been played, and anticipating what will each player play next. Setting up traps, taking deliberate small losses, playing differently against different players – there’s a lot going on here. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a “professional” variant included.
The game works great in both turn-based and real-time play (it takes about 20 minutes to finish a game) and it’s easy to find players in almost every player count. I like it best with 5 players.
1. Ark Nova
The zoo management game has truly taken the BGA world by storm since it was introduced earlier in 2023. It has quickly reached the status of the most played game on the website and I’m certainly among the loyal player base.
The main reason is that it’s just a phenomenal game. I know the randomness of the draw has been criticized (I’ve been among the critics), but the more you play, the less of a problem it becomes. The rest of the game mechanics are just so polished and satisfying to play. It’s possible to play on identical boards, giving all players equal chances.
The implementation is also one of the best I’ve seen. A general overview of all the icons, hovering over action or cards reveals extra information, and so on.
It’s also one of those games that reveals extra layers the more you play it. Different maps and initial conservation projects help with the variety, forcing you to adapt your strategy. I’m enjoying discovering the layers immensely and Ark Nova is really becoming one of my favorite all-time board games (beware Mage Knight!).
What about you? Do you play board games on any of the digital platforms? What are your favorite games?
Also, if you would like to play a game with me, hit me up on BGA, my username is VictoryConditionsCom.
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