Board games were once just a tabletop activity, but now you can play online board games with friends from anywhere. Online board games are quickly becoming a popular way to spend time with friends and family who may 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. Pretend You’re Xyzzy
Cards Against Humanity is one of the funniest, easiest to pick up card games out there. The “Card Czar” picks up a black card, reading out a strange sentence with one or two blanks in it. The other players use their imaginations to fill in the blanks, then the Czar reads out each player’s option. The one that gets the most laughs wins!
You can play Cards Against Humanity free at Pretend You’re Xyzzy (which has been authorized by the official publisher). The site is amazingly basic, almost like a site from the 90s, but features a few servers where you and your friends can join the same server and start a game.
Warning: a lot of the cards are on the foul-mouthed naughty side, so this one is for the adult rather than family Christmas occasions.
2. Catan Universe
Settlers of Catan is one of the most on-trend, hip board games out there. The German-designed game sees you and several players establishing settlements on the titular island, gathering and trading various agricultural and industrial resources. Have the most settlements and cities, and you win the game.
Catan Universe is the online version of the game. You can just jump straight in and play the base game for free, though you’ll need to pay if you want to unlock the expansions and other extras, you’ll need to buy them. You can play Catan Universe through your browser, or download it free for Steam, Android and iOS.
For a simpler (but less good-looking alternative), you can also try the unofficial browser game Colonist.io.
Roll20 is a tool that lets you create and recreate your tabletop roleplaying adventures online. At a time when many a D&D or other RPG odyssey have been stalled by the onset of the global pandemic, Roll20 is a great way to carry on the fun online.
Sure, you could just do D&D over Zoom, but Roll20 has everything you need from digital character sheets, to digital boards, even the ability to create ambience and atmospheric soundtracks to immerse you in the game. It’s frequently updated and now features things like dynamic lighting and mouse-based map navigation.
There may be a bit of legwork to set up a game, making sure every player is connected and so on, but once you get going, it’s a wonderfully complete package that lets you play everything from D&D campaigns to Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and many more.
4. Board Game Arena
Board Game Arena is a fairly simple-looking site with a lot under the surface. Through the efforts of a team of volunteers, the site has ported over many popular (and not so popular) board games – with the permission of the publishers, of course. Many 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.
5. 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.
Many of the most popular board games have official Tabletop Simulator versions 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 the experiences of those games.
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, 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 nearly replicates the feeling of a real card table.
There are a few premade games, like Go Fish and Joking Hazard, 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. They used to have a Cards Against Humanity clone, but that’s been taken down. There are other sites that let you play variations, though.
Yucata is a German site with a fairly good English version and a 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.
BuddyBoardGames: this free site is perfect if you want to start playing games like Uno, Yahtzee, Azul quickly. No signup required!
Brettspielwelt: much 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.
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. They even have a selection of dice games.
BoardGamePlay: a site with a decent layout and a few interesting-looking games. Seems promising! There aren’t many active users just yet, though.
Papergames.io: simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Battleship with a straightforward, easy-to-use interface. You can also buy an ad-free account if you’d like.
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.
YourTurnMyTurn: play a variety of classic games like Battleship, though there are a few more modern games like Carcassonne. The interface is a bit dated, but there are still plenty of options here for free.
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.
Instead of going online to play board games, you can also play board games on your Windows 10 computer.