Playing Boardgames in Your Web Browser

An Intro to Digital Boardgames, Part 3

Welcome to another article about digital boardgames! Let’s look at the pros and cons of the most popular web-based boardgame services.

TL;DR: These are services that allow you to play boardgames on any device that has a web browser. Most of them allow you to play a large number of games, so they can be much cheaper in the long term than buying dedicated adaptations of specific games.

Here are four popular web-based options:

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Board Game Arena

Board Game Arena allows you to create an account for free, and most games are free to play. However, at least one person in your group will need a Premium account if you want to play some of the highest rated games. (It also has a tutorial that teaches you how to use the site, and a tour of the site that lets you choose your preferred setup.)

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Boiteajeux has a slightly older user interface than Board Game Arena. It has fewer games than Board Game Arena, but many of them are not available on BGA. Also, free is free, right? 

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A free account on Tabletopia currently gives you access to about 800 titles. You can also sign up for a Silver or Gold Membership that gives you access to additional features and about 50 premium titles. You can also install the Tabletopia application for Android or Apple devices.

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Like Boiteajeux, Yucata has a slightly ‘dated’ UI and fewer games than Board Game Arena. However, ‘free’ is still a great price for about 150 games.

All of these services include copies of each game’s rules, as well as links to ‘how to play’ videos.

The biggest drawback of Boiteajeux, Tabletopia, and Yucata are that the games aren’t fully automated. In other words, the games include basic dice-rolling and card manipulation, but none of the game rules are coded or scripted into the games themselves. Although the games use recogniseable versions of the components, you’ll need to understand the rules as if you were playing a physical boardgame around a table. So you need to read the rulebook and make sure you understand things like the turn order, what the components are and what they’re used for, and what players are supposed to do every turn. (Also, it won’t tell you if you’re doing something incorrectly.)

Board Game Arena’s big advantage over the others is that it includes tutorials to teach you new games, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to play. If you want to learn a game before trying it with other people, you can use the hotseat and training mode to do that. We’ll cover that in a later post, since it requires a bit more explanation. However, at least one person in your group will need a Premium account if you want to play some of the highest rated games. (That includes games like Sushi Go!; 7 Wonders; Carcassonne; and more.) The advantage is that anyone can join a Premium table once it’s started. Either way, you can play excellent games like Takenoko, Seasons, Krosmaster: Arena, and Tokaido, plus most classic games, with a free account. Of course, the free version often restrictions. For example, you’ll need a Premium account to select most of the Krosmasters.

Again, these are not your only options. Next we’ll look at possibly the most popular boardgaming service out there: Tabletop Simulator. 


Until then, a final note for any budding boardgame fanatics: BoardGameGeek is an online board gaming community where you can find tons of information, reviews, and resources related to board games. It’s free to join; it’s also a great place to meet other boardgamers.

Two links that you may find particularly useful at the moment are the list of free boardgames, either specifically related to COVID-19 or more generally. From their site:

We are a worldwide community of folks who love board games. We’ve put our heads together to make this guide about games people can play with their friends and family, wherever they are in the world, while staying safely at home.

Games are great way to relax and take your mind off things while spending quality time with family and friends. Gaming is a great way to bring people together, even while we have stay physically apart. In short, now is the time for gaming!

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