Board games are enjoying a renaissance. It's well deserved, given the wealth of original ideas and remarkable designs they've been showing off. Simply rolling dice and moving counters is a thing of the past, and not only is the iPad one of the best ways to play new games, it's also one of the cheapest. Here are six of the best iOS board games.
Pandemic: The Board Game
Pandemic: The Board Game ($6.99, iPad) is a race against time to beat the spread of sickness (as people the world over crawl into bed with OJ and Netflix). It tasks one to four players with saving the world from dangerous diseases. You work as a team, dividing up roles such as Scientist or Quarantine Specialist, and face a difficult game that requires diligence and forethought to avoid being overwhelmed; you get four actions per turn to try to cure epidemics and save the world. The only downside is that you and your friends have to share the same iPad, as there's no online play.
If your preference is for the combative, BattleLore: Command ($9.99, universal) is the cousin of tabletop miniatures games such as Warhammer. It pares things down considerably, giving you dozens of units instead of hundreds, controlled by straightforward orders according to which flank they sit on. Nevertheless, it's still all about rolling lots of digital dice and casting lots of spells. The game has capable AI and offers a respectable amount of skirmish and campaign battles. Surprisingly, the game is not tied in with Game Center.
Suburbia ($2.99, iPad) is more considerate and constructive. Imagine SimCity with hexagonal tiles, specific objectives, and much tighter budgets. It's a game of city-planning that has you fitting together high-rises and highways as you try to build a town both profitable and attractive. It's a balancing act, as the more popular and more populated it becomes, the less appealing it looks. As well as online play, a series of single-player challenges will keep you hooked.
Then there's Galaxy Trucker ($7.99, iPad). Any game that starts with you assembling your vessel from a pile of spare parts is never going to be a space opera. Head out into space and you'll face pirates, smugglers, meteors and more. The iPad version is an impressive translation of an often ridiculous game and, while luck certainly plays its part, that doesn't make it any less fun, or any less funny.
Part card game, part board game, part abstract experience, Summoner Wars (free, universal) is almost chess-like in its precision, yet packed with possibilities. Two players take control of armies represented by decks of cards, but using cards to fight requires spending others as a resource. The strategy is in what you sacrifice. The base game is free, but additional factions (each with their own unique powers) will cost you.
Carcassonne ($9.99, universal) is one of the pricier iOS board game adaptations, but is absolutely worth it. There's canny AI and single-player challenges, but this simple yet devious turn-based game of building and seizing towns and roads is best played with friends, and there's a strong online community. Up to five can play, but two-player, head-to-head games tend to be best.
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