The Best PC Board Games

By Matt Thrower 23 Aug 2020 4

Board games are enjoying a huge renaissance right now. A lot of that is due to the quality of the games on offer, which are leaps and bounds ahead of the Monopoly and Risk you knew growing up. Modern games are compact, exciting and challenging to play. 

No surprise then that many of them have also migrated into digital form. There are many advantages to doing so: it makes them easier to learn, faster to play and means you can find matches against other humans online. Which is a little ironic given that increasing face to face time is another driver of the rising popularity of board games. But hey, we're happy with anything that gets more people playing.

What are the best PC Board Games?

  • Yellow & Yangtze
  • Raiders of the North Sea
  • Scythe: Digital Edition
  • Fort Sumter
  • Galaxy Trucker: Extended Edition
  • Twilight Struggle
  • Slay the Spire
  • Terraforming Mars
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Lords of Waterdeep
  • Istanbul: Digital Edition

This is a ‘living’ list, in the sense that there are many worthy candidates and not enough room to fit them all in. Every so often (especially as new games come out), we’ll give this list a refresh and an update to bring some other titles their turn in the spotlight.

The header image is from the digital edition of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, which is due to release into Early Access in Q3 2020.

Yellow & Yangtze

Developer/Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital
Platforms: Steam, Mobile 
Price: $12.99
Multiplayer: Solitaire, Online Multiplayer, Local Pass & Play

yellow yangtze pc board games

Dire Wolf's second entry on this list, Reiner Knizia's Yellow & Yangtze is a classic empire-building game set during China's 'Warring States' period (it's not all about those Three Kingdoms, you know). You take turns developing your city state by either trying to cultivate the land and trading, or by deploying warriors to keep your opponents in check.

This is a tile-placement game, and another key mechanic is combining tiles of the same nature to create pagodas. As with Raiders below, Dire Wolf have done an expert job porting this game to digital - it looks good, runs smoothly, and the game comes with plenty of options. There's a solo campaign, as well as multiplayer. This is one of Dr. Knizia's older designs, but it still holds up today.

Raiders of the North Sea

Developer/Publisher: Dire Wolf Digital
Platforms: Steam
Price: £11.99
Multiplayer: Online, Local

raiders 4

The Viking era is very evocative and has led to some excellent table-top games over the years - no more so than the Euro-style award-winning 'North Sea' trilogy of games. The second game, Raiders of the North Sea has you assembling a crew and setting forth into the unknown to pillage and plunder, bringing glory and gold back to your chief. It's the first one to get adapted into digital form by Dire Wolf, and we're pleased to say they've done a fantastic job.

Maintaining the excellent 2D art style and blending it with tasteful 3D effects, Dire Wolf have really brought the board game to life in a way few ports have. Their adaptation of the mechanics is solid, and there's plenty of help and documentation to draw on to learn the game, a long with some respectable solo content. The recent edition of local-multiplayer has also solidified this game's place as one of the best PC board game releases of 2019, so you won't want to miss this one.

Scythe: Digital Edition

Developer/Publisher: The Knights of Unity / Asmodee Digital
Platforms: Steam
Price: £15.49
Multiplayer: Online, Local

Scythe pc board games

If you threw a bit of each genre of boardgame into a melting pot and cast the result into an alt-history steampunk mech, you'd get something a lot like Scythe. This thrilling blend of economic engine, narrative and robot war took gamers by storm in 2016 thanks partly to its incredible art. It helped that the game was pretty ace too.

This digital version preserves much of the artwork in glorious high definition and adds to it with some sweet 3D effects. The original is information dense, but some clever interface tweaks make it as accessible on screen as is realistic. But the real pull here is simply the ease of being able to enjoy this long, expensive yet excellent game online. With ever turn teetering on the see-saw of choosing to gather resources or spend them in the fight, it's rarely less than compelling.

Fort Sumter

Developer/Publisher: Playdek
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: $8.99
Multiplayer: Online, Cross-Platform

Fort Sumter 5

Playdek grace this list once again with another excellent adaptation of this abstract historical strategy board game. This is a card-driven game where players must try and control several key zones in the lead up to the American Civil War. Historically, the Confederates opening fire on Fort Sumter itself marked the start of the conflict, but in this game the Unionists and the Confederate players must exert their political influence through the tactical use of cards to gain the upper hand.

The digital port is excellently made, with some unique visual options to offer a smoother - and more legible - playing experience, and Playdek's multiplayer infrastructure is as robust as ever, meaning your online machinations will be a breeze. Fort Sumter features much of the nuance and tension of Twlight Struggle, but is played in a fraction of the time. If you'd rather not take up more room on your physical shelf, than this may be the perfect digital board game for two.

Galaxy Trucker: Extended Edition

Developer/Publisher: CGE Digital
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £7.19
Multiplayer: Online, Local & Split-screen, Cross-Platform

Galaxy Trucker pc board games

Although this digital adaptation dates from 2014, it remains the gold standard for the genre. It's two race games welded together. First, players frantically grab face-down parts from a communal pile and try to puzzle together a functional spacecraft. The literal melee this engenders has no equivalent on a screen, making this an unlikely candidate for virtual play. They then fly their rickety constructs down a random course of aliens, pirates and asteroids trying to be the first to finish.

Not only does Galaxy Trucker capture the feel of scrabbling for virtual components very well, it even adds an all-new point-based building mode. It also boasts all the standard features of digital adaptations like a tutorial and online play. But as well as solo play against an AI it had a full single-player campaign, so good that play was even better offline than on.

Twilight Struggle

Developer/Publisher: Playdek / Asmodee Digital
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £7.19
Multiplayer: Online, Local/Same Device, Cross-Platform

Twilight Struggle pc board games

The undisputed king of hobby board game rankings for years, Twilight Struggle had accessibility issues. Its subject matter, the history of the Cold War, was niche. And its mechanics, which borrowed from complex card-driven wargames, proved daunting for many. What it needed was a digital adaptation to help teach new players the ropes and in Playdek, it found an able developer.

With help from its tutorial and hints, anyone can now enjoy this brilliant slice of ever-increasing DEFCON tension. The heart of the game is the way it makes cards keyed to either the US or USSR player. You can take actions by playing an opponent's card, but the card effect triggers anyway. This makes every turn of every play an absorbing, baffling balancing act of limiting damage while maximising gains.

Slay the Spire

Developer/Publisher: Mega Crit Games
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £19.49
Multiplayer: Not Available

Slay the Spire pc board games

This is the only game on the list that didn't start life as a physical board game. But it could have: there's little here that wouldn't work on a real-life tabletop. Your adventurer starts with a small deck of weak cards which they must use to battle up the ever-tougher levels of the titular Spire. Along the way, you'll gain magic items and have plenty of chances to add to, upgrade or remove the cards in your deck.

Tabletop veterans will recognise this as an offspring of the deck-building genre. And it makes the best of very simple attack and defence mechanics to create a fascinating card game in its own right. But it then uses the PC platform to burnish the basic mechanics with all manner of rogue-like delight. Random maps, unexpected encounters and the ever-uncertain whim of the card gods combine to create an addictive wonder.

Terraforming Mars

Developer/Publisher: Luckyhammers / Asmodee Digital
Platforms: Steam
Price: £19.49
Multiplayer: Online, Local

terraforming mars digital

The digital version of this acclaimed heavy strategy game was a hot ticket in the build-up to release. When it arrived, however, it proved unfinished and riddled with minor bugs. We gave it a lukewarm review, accordingly. But in the months since developer Asmodee Digital has stepped up the plate with a host of updates. And while the interface remains a bit obtuse, the game itself is shining as it should.

Terraforming Mars is, at its core, an engine building game. You'll buy and play cards to generate various resources. But the game sparks to life when you come to spend them. You're not buying abstract effects here but adding water and forests, cities and climate to the surface of the red planet. Illustrated by the game's rich graphics, squabbling for space adds hot interaction to the dry but demanding economics of card play. The most recent update (at the time of writing) has further improved the UI, as well as introduced a new 'draft' format which allows for a more strategic start to the game, meaning you can somewhat control & choose which strategy you end up pursuing. 

Ticket to Ride

Developer/Publisher: Days of Wonder / Asmodee Digital
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £6.99
Multiplayer: Online, Local, Shared/Split Screen

Ticket to Ride PC board games

Such a popular breakthrough boardgame demanded a polished digital version for mass consumption. And boy did Days of Wonder deliver, with a smooth, shiny interface onto the game. A combination of Rummy and rail games, Ticket to Ride has players collecting sets of coloured cards to claim routes on a map. But the fire in the engine is the limited lines that connect distant cities for bonus points, creating a fierce competition to claim first.

It proved well suited to the online experience, delivering fast, tense games that were a perfect fit for the light, fun mechanics. There's cross-platform play ensuring you're never short of opponents. And fans had the extra convenience of being able to buy and play the plethora of maps and expansions in one place. (I've personally found it a great game to play with my wife on mobile-ED)

Lords of Waterdeep

Developer/Publisher: Playdek Inc.
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £10.99
Multiplayer: Online, Local, Shared/Split-screen, Cross-Platform

Lords of Waterdeeop pc board games

You'd never believe that one of the best Dungeons and Dragons video games has you hiring adventurers rather than being one. Yet here it is. You'll play as a powerful noble in the City of Splendors, using your resources to complete quests and build buildings. For all the resource management, there's also the huge satisfaction of sticking one over on your foes with worthless mandatory quests.

It's a worker placement title which owes a big debt to another game, Caylus. But Lords of Waterdeep strikes deeper notes with easier rules, more variety and a richer setting. This adaptation makes the latter really come to life with digital dragons soaring over the board. And the well-encapsulated player turns make it brilliant for online asynchronous play to hone your skills. 

Istanbul: Digital Edition

Developer/Publisher: Acram Digital
Platforms: Steam, Mobile
Price: £7.19
Multiplayer: Online, Local, Shared/Split-screen, Cross-Platform

Istanbul pc board games

Amid the mass of optimisation games, Istanbul stands out for its clever innovation in movement. Each time you move to one of the sixteen tiles and get its effect, you have to leave an assistant piece behind. If you run out, you have to waste an action to get them back, so it's far better to plan a route that lets you pick them up again. But doing that, of course, means you might not be getting the effects you want the most.

Layered atop a more typical framework of gathering and trading resources, assistants push Istanbul to a new level with tons to think about every turn. This digital version doesn't have the nice plastic rubies of the original. But instead you get online and AI play and you don't have to faff setting up the tiles anew for every session. That's way more than an even deal.


Here are a few extra suggestions. Some just missed out on the list or maybe aren't quite considered 'board' games. Others are too new to bed in or have had significant updates that we haven't had a chance to re-evaluate.

  • Gloomhaven (Early Access)
  • Aeon's End
  • Potion Explosion
  • Faeria
  • Talisman: Digital Edition
  • Race for the Galaxy
  • Evolution: The Video Game
  • Into the Breach
  • Shards of Infinity
  • Small Worlds 2
  • Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns
  • Mystic Vale
  • The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game

What are your favourite digital & PC board games? Let us know in the comments!



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