Board games have traditionally been a tabletop activity, but in the age of the Internet, there’s no reason every player needs to share the same table. Online board games are quickly becoming a popular way to spend time with friends and family who might not share your geographical location, and it’s not just online chess anymore. Here are some great sites for you to play online board games with friends.
Disclaimer: There are many online board games, which means I don’t have a lot of personal experience with all of them. I’ve tried to keep this list to sites and programs that are well-maintained and user-friendly, but your mileage may vary. And, of course, if I missed something good, please let me know in the comments!
1. Board Game Arena
Sliding into first place is Board Game Arena: a fairly simple-looking site with a lot under the surface. Through the efforts of a team of volunteers, the site has ported over a lot of popular (and not so popular) board games – with the permission of the publishers, of course. A lot of the games, especially the less popular ones, are free to play, though some publishers opt to make their game “premium,” meaning you’ll have to subscribe to a Board Game Arena account to play.
You can play both public and private games, and while they’ve been running into server issues due to a sudden influx of players, the site remains one of the best places to get your game on.
2. Tabletop Simulator
The only reason Tabletop Simulator isn’t number one on the list is because it’s not free. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the best thing on this list. The base Tabletop Simulator game is essentially a sandbox that allows you to create anything you want with it, provided you have the time and motivation. Multiplayer games happen around a virtual tabletop that mimics the feel of a real board-game experience, making it relatively simple to take your knowledge of real-world game mechanics to the digital realm.
A lot of the most popular board games have official Tabletop Simulator versions that you can buy, and there are also plenty of free fan-made clones floating around. The program comes with several basic games, like chess and checkers, but there are tons of other games available as downloadable content.
Tabletopia has a wide selection of popular and semi-popular board games, but what really sets the site apart is its design and animation. If you’re looking for something prettier than Board Game Arena, but with the same general feel, Tabletopia is where it’s at. The games are mostly free to play, though you’ll have to pay to unlock some of them, and not all the features are free. It can be a bit slow and buggy, but once you get a public or private game going and learn the controls, it generally works as you’d expect.
Spendee is not Splendor, Azee is not Azul, and Sevenee is not 7 Wonders. Wink wink. The games on Mattle.online were merely inspired by the official versions of several popular board games, and they just happen to have done a pretty good job of capturing those games’ experiences.
Seriously, though, Mattle has a nice, simple interface and all of the games on their site work quite well. Creating a private room can be a little difficult since there’s no invite system. You’ll have to create a game and then get your friends to click the “Join” link before some other random player does. Once the game gets going, it’s pretty much bug-free. The games aren’t licensed, but they are free and fun!
The genius of PlayingCards.io is how simple and intuitive it is. Want to play cards with friends? Just set up a table, send the link to your friends, and then let everyone use their mouse to drag cards around the screen and turn them over. Unless the servers are heavily overloaded, it works bug-free and really almost replicates the feeling of a real card table.
There are a few premade games, like Go Fish and Remote Insensitivity (a Cards Against Humanity clone) where the table is set up for you, but you can drag and drop decks of cards, game pieces, spinners, and other elements to create whatever game you want.
Yucata is a German site with a fairly good English version and a whole ton of games. It’s a bit vintage-looking, and setting up games and inviting players isn’t as straightforward as it could be, but if you’re a dedicated board game nerd, you’ll probably make your way here one way or another. The games usually work quite well, and there’s a fairly active community that you can start a game with if you don’t have a friend group ready to go.
Brettspielwelt: A lot of this site is in German, which makes it a little difficult if you don’t speak the language, but Google Translate gets it mostly right. It’s a little confusing to figure out, but they have a good selection of games.
Roll20: This gets an honorable mention because it’s more of a role-playing game tool than a board game site. There’s a lot of crossover between the two communities, though, so it’s worth a mention!
HappyMeeple: A nicely-designed site with a selection of quick two-player games. It’s easy to use, and they have a nice tutorial system to help you get started.
BoardGamePlay: A site with a decent layout and a few interesting-looking games. Seems promising!
Papergames.io: Simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Battleship with a straightforward, easy-to-use interface.
Boiteaujeux: The English version is good, but the interface is dated and a bit confusing. They have a decent game selection, but many of those are available on easier-to-navigate sites.
Triqqy: Has a mix of simple traditional games and some more elaborate modern board games. Worth a look if you want to play one of their titles, and it’s not available elsewhere; otherwise, there’s not much to set it apart.
Rather than having a menu of games available, these sites are dedicated to a single board game, which means they typically have more features and versions available.
- Colonist.io (Settlers of Catan)
- Rento (Monopoly)
- Codenames Green
Instead of going online to play board games, you can also play board games on your Windows 10 computer.