Digital Boardgames: Getting Started

An Intro to Digital Boardgames, Part 2

I love boardgames. Seriously, I can’t get enough of them. I love the experience of playing them with friends, even if I end up losing more often than not. I enjoy learning new types of games, too, even if I end up gravitating to old favourites. Learning how to get my boardgaming fix without meeting with friends in person, or playing with physical copies of the games, has been a great experience, although it comes with its own challenges.

So let’s talk boardgames!

Elder Sign: Omens

A quick note: I wasn’t going to add links to any specific games just yet, since I’d like to discuss the web-based services in a longer post. But since this is our second blogpost about boardgames, I thought it would be weird not to have at least one link to an actual boardgame. Just keep in mind that there are cheaper options if you don’t want to spend money on any games right now.

Mysterium: A Psychic Clue Game

One easy way to play games with friends is the most traditional – basically, everyone at the same table or in the same room. Of course, in that case you may prefer to play a physical boardgame. That said, nothing stops you from playing most digital boardgames with people you live with. Most digital versions of boardgames have a “pass-and-play” or “hotseat” mode – basically, an option that lets several people play on the same device. If all the players take turns using the same computer, laptop, or mobile device, the type of device doesn’t really matter, so long as no one cheats. (That’s a joke. No one ever cheats at boardgames.) If you’re playing with a chat app that lets you share screens, like Skype or Discord, you can also use it to play pretty much any boardgame with a pass-and-play mode. You know, at a push. If you have Steam, I would heartily recommend cooperative games like Elder Sign: Omens, Mysterium: A Psychic Clue Game, or Pandemic – all of which are between R50 to R80.

Note that these games are all ‘standalone’ adaptations of specific boardgames, sold separately and with detailed instructions on how to play each. Although they are geared towards teaching new players how to enjoy the games, it can get expensive to pay separately for every game you want. That’s why we’ll cover web-based or browser-based services next week.


On the opposite end of things, another simple way to play is by play any one of the tabletop adaptations that let you play against other people across the world. Now, last time we said these articles wouldn’t focus on playing with or against strangers, but it gives you a lot more options if you’re happy to do that. Moreover, several card games are free to play (F2P), including Hearthstone; The Elder Scrolls: Legends; GWENT: The Witcher Card Game; and Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links. There’s also Catan Universe, which is an online version of Catan. I’ve linked you to the main web stores for each of those games, which lets you download the appropriate version of the game for your device.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

In fact, most of the platforms we’ll discuss in these posts allow you to play games in either of those modes – pass-and-play or online (against anyone who is currently logged in). Both of those modes are generally easy enough to use – at least, from a technical perspective, since the usual technical difficulties don’t apply. So they are probably going to be easiest to do if you want to avoid any issues. You should figure out how much you want to spend and consider your options. Whatever you choose, I’d recommend trying it out to see whether your group enjoys it before you spend too much money.

Another easy way to play is by using one of the various web-based, or browser-based services. These are services that let you play boardgames using a web browser. The biggest benefit is that each service can run on any device including PC, Apple/Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Also, everyone can use any device they like, so long as their device has a web browser. It’s great if your group has a range of different devices that usually don’t let you play together. 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.


Next week we’ll look at the pros and cons of the most popular web-based boardgame services in more detail. In the meantime, you can check out the Distance Gaming Guide, a super handy guide to playing boardgames over long (or at least, socially responsible) distances. You’ll find that on BoardGameGeek, a great site I can heartily recommend. Even so, that’s a long list, which is why I’ve decided to break it down a bit further.

Let us know in the comments if you have any specific questions about what we’ve discussed so far. Likewise, drop us a line if you end up trying any of these options, or if you run into any specific problems. In the meantime, happy gaming!

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