It's not always easy to gather enough friends to play your favorite board games, but luckily PC gaming has provided a solution. Many of the best board games around—Catan, Carcassonne, Twilight Struggle, to name a few—are getting digital editions worthy of their name, making it easier than ever to play at the drop of a hat with friends, AI, and strangers alike.
While there are plenty of great physical , and games like Civilization or Armello bring a board game style experience to your computer, these are some the best existing games full of dice rolls and that you can now play online. It's often hard to translate the appeal of a physical game to the PC, but this list full of awesome games with great digital recreations—or just games so good it doesn't matter how you play them.
Colt Express puts you in the shoes of train robber, trying to predict your opponents' actions to get the drop on them and steal money. Part of the appeal of the physical game was the 3D cardboard train cars that acted as the board. Somewhat ironically, that part isn't quite as novel when the game is digital and the train is rendered normally like every other video game. Still, it's a fun game with some customizable perks added to its digital release.
Currently the third highest rated game on (it was in the top spot until a couple years ago) Twilight Stuggle is a 1v1 game where players control either the US or the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. It's full of political espionage and complex strategy, and the PC recreation has been rated nearly as highly as the physical version. A nice perk is the inclusion of asynchronous multiplayer, which lets you start a game with someone and then let it play out over a long period of time, each player taking their turns whenever they have the time to do so.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is an easy-to-learn game about building railroads across america. You try to complete specific routes given to you while competing to lay down those tracks before your opponents. An interesting part of Ticket to Ride's digital edition is that there are eight different DLC packs you can buy set in other countries around the world. This mirrors Ticket to Ride's actual expansions and alternate editions, making it one of the few digital board games to reproduce itself so comprehensively.
The Witcher Adventure Game
The Witcher Adventure Game is the video game adaptation of the board game adaptation of The Witcher video game… which is an adaptation of The Witcher book series. You take control of one of four Witcher characters—including Geralt himself—and travel across the game's world fighting monsters and completing quests. The digital version can be played with up to four players either locally or online. There's also singleplayer against AI, but apparently it's not very challenging in that regard.
Small World 2
Small World 2 is about conquering a fantasy world with a series of fantasy civilizations that rise and fall throughout the game. Each player takes control of a race with a randomized trait and has to claim plots of land to get points, then abandons that race and gets a new one when the first is stretched too thin. Despite having a '2' at the end of its name, this is basically just the original Small World as people who've played the tabletop version know it, but with the addition of DLC races and a whole suite of other extras.
Splendor is a deck-building game about being a merchant during the Renaissance for up to four players. You take turns adding cards to your deck, trying to be the first to reach 15 victory points. It was made by Days of Wonder, who also created Ticket to Ride and Small World, so the creators have a great track record. Additionally, the digital version adds a challenge mode based on actual historical events of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Yomi is the digital version of a card game adaptation of the fighting game genre—similar to The Witcher Adventure Game in its circularity. Each fighter has their own unique deck of moves, and you fight your opponent by playing punches, combos, dodges, and special moves. The base game comes with 10 fighters, with DLC that unlocks 10 more, which definitely makes it a better value than buying individual Yomi decks in the physical version.
Blood Bowl 2
Probably the game on this list that's stretched farthest from its tabletop roots, Blood Bowl 2 is a Warhammer take on turn-based football—the American kind—and in true Warhammer fashion, it's full of orks, skaven, and lots of death and dismemberment. This is the recent sequel to the original Blood Bowl adaptation from 2009, which was based on the tabletop Warhammer game of the same name. It's become a little bit of its own beast now, but between the two we'd recommend the more recent game.
Patchwork is a 1v1 competitive quilting game from Uwe Rosenberg, designer of the much loved board game Agricola. Players take turns placing different shaped fabric pieces into a box, trying to pack more in than their opponent. This is one of the easier to understand games on this list, and definitely one you could play with younger kids. It's also another game with asynchronous multiplayer, and the digital version has even added replays.
There are at least three different versions of Risk available on Steam, but Risk: Factions is the one you'll want to go with if you are looking to conquer the world online. It's got some cute (if unecessary) theming to it with zombies fighting cats and robots, but it's Risk as you'd expect it below. Another version simply called is single player only, and the most recent version called is getting slammed hard in the reviews for its poor performance and missing features. So while Risk: Factions may not be a completely faithful translation, it's the adaptation worthy of this list.
Carcassonne tasks you with placing down square tiles to build out a large map, claiming cities, fields, and roads for points as you go. You only have a limited number of pieces to claim with at a time, and everything becomes more difficult as the map fills out. This version of Carcassonne is only available on the Windows Store as it was actually made around the time Windows 8 came out, which is also why it looks like it was designed specifically with touch controls in mind. Carcassonne is also probably my personal favorite board game, so I was excited to find any version of it available.
Catan Universe (early access)
Hopefully you've at least heard of Settlers of Catan's hexagonal resource-gathering at this point. The German strategy game puts you in competition with up to three others to build settlements and roads, all while fighting for space. Unfortunately I've got rough news for Catan fans: there isn't really a great way to play the game online right now, but there's at least one decent option if you're as in love with Catan as some people I know are.
There was a site called that has shutdown for anyone who was not already a member, and a with no online multiplayer that reportedly crashes at the slightest dice roll. But the version I'd recommend is called . It's an online version of Catan being developed to replace PlayCatan.com that has most of its basic features available for free while it's in early access testing. So it doesn't look pretty yet, and it'll eventually cost you some cash to play, but it's currently the best way you can find to play Catan online.
Dominion is a deck-building card game—in fact, it is the first deck-building card game ever made, inspiring countless others—where you start with a small number of cards which you use to buy new ones and grow your deck. Similar to Catan, Dominion is in a bit of a rough state right now, with the previous site running it online closing on the last day of 2016. A new site has emerged to replace it, but it's not exactly the prettiest to look at. It runs the game fine, but it doesn't actually teach you how to play or let you look at the cards before you buy them, so you hopefully already know the rules.
Tabletop Simulator (AKA: all the rest)
Tabletop Simulator is a program for playing or making tabletop games, including card games, board games, or even D&D—we have a whole primer about if you're interested. On its , you can find fanmade recreations of pretty much any game you could possibly want, including games that aren't otherwise available digitally.
For example, , , and even the have been faithfully recreated. If you are dissatisfied with the versions above, people have made versions of , , and . Even games with upcoming digital versions like and are available here free.
Now, it needs to be said that these Tabletop Simulator mods represent a legal and moral grey area, to say the least. The mods aren't being sold, and developer Berserk Games has actually partnered with some designers to offer official recreations of their games as purchasable DLC, but these custom recreations are using the art and assets of a game they don't own to essentially pirate a physical product. I encourage you to support the games you like if they are officially available, but Tabletop Simulator provides a fantastic crowd-sourced service to play the games that aren't with friends in other cities.
Two notable games have digital versions on the way. is a co-op Clue-style mystery game where one player is a silent ghost trying to guide the other players toward who killed them with nothing but vague 'vision' pictures. It was supposed to release digitally last month, but was delayed to sometime early this year.
Another favorite, , is a game about farming the land and desperately trying to feed your family. That digital version is on its way to Steam after late last year. Know of any other great digital board games out now or coming soon? Let us know in the comments below!