For me, board games are an absolute essential at every social gathering. With the pandemic going on, however, my friends and I are unable to congregate in person to indulge in the delights of Monopoly, Ticket to Ride and Catan. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites that can quench my thirst for strategy games. Here are some of my favorite online board games that will bring joy to board game geeks and novices alike. Regardless of your gamer background, be sure to check them out.
Social Deduction Games
These games are always a hoot, especially for those who love deception and intrigue. Conveniently, most of the games listed below can be found on the same website: netgames.io. Netgames does a wonderful job of keeping gameplay consistent with the original games while maintaining a user-friendly, online interface. Most of these games will require discussions with fellow players, so it will be helpful to set up a group call on Zoom, Discord or another platform.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
In this discussion-based game, players are assigned certain roles — such as a werewolf or a villager — with actions they must complete. Players will then work together to expose the pesky werewolves and rid the town of danger. Each round only lasts about 10 minutes, but they can be addictive. On several occasions, I’ve played Werewolf for hours on end.
Although it is titled “Codewords” on netgames.io, this is the same as Vlaada Chvátil’s classic word association game, Codenames. One “codemaster” from each of the two teams will give clues to their teammates, trying to get them to select specific word tiles on a grid of words.
In this game, the Fascists and Liberals fight to gain control and pass their party’s policies. Despite the not-so-happy title, this game is a bucket load of fun.
In this Camelot-themed adventure, the “Loyal Servants of Arthur” embark on quests while the secret “Minions of Mordred” try to sabotage them. Like Werewolf and Secret Hitler, Avalon is discussion-based, and the more passionate players are about proving their innocence, the more exciting the game will be.
In each round of Spyfall, all players except the randomly-selected “Spy” are given a specific location in which the game takes place. Everyone must then ask each other questions about the location, attempting to discover who the spy is, while the spy tries to avoid suspicion and deduce the location. This is a game of wit, attention to detail and blending in.
This card game is full of influence, deception and murder. Players work to eliminate each other through coups and assassinations; the last person standing is crowned the victor. Coup is not on netgames, but you can play at coup.thebrown.net.
Classic Strategy Games
Board game geeks from across the nation can appreciate these classics. If you haven’t experienced the following strategy board games yet, now is the perfect time to give them a try.
What could be more classic than this real estate board game? It’s full of negotiation, dice-rolling, bankruptcy and fun for the whole family. You can find Monopoly for free on either solitaireparadise.com or playrento.com.
This is one of my personal favorites. Players flip over illustrated cards in a large grid, trying to remember where the cards are in an effort to find matching pairs. The website pairs.one/en allows you to customize grid size, number of players and theme — some of the “hard” level themes can really mess with your brain.
Ticket to Ride
This is the quintessential family board game. Players build train track routes across a map of the U.S. to complete tickets and score points. The game has been remade with maps of several different locations, including Europe, Nordic countries and Asia. Although I have not yet found a quality version that’s free online, you can purchase it on Steam for $9.99 or on the app store for $6.99. Trust me, it’s well worth your money.
I used to play this deck-building game daily with my family, and I was delighted to discover this great online version. Dominion.games allows you to play the base game against bots or other online players for free, although you will need to pay a recurring fee to use expansion cards.
Found at cardzmania.com, this version of the classic trick-taking game has it all. You can play with friends or against the computer, and you can adjust the game settings to fit almost any version of Hearts in existence. Hearts is my personal favorite card game, but cardzmania has a lot of other snazzy card games that you should check out as well.
Catan checks all of my board game boxes — strategy, negotiation and a little bit of luck from the dice. Catan Universe — the official online version — requires payment, so I would recommend colonist.io, an impressive online spin-off.
Looking for something fun to do on date night? Any one of these online board games should be satisfactory. Most of them don’t need much explanation — they bring us back to board game basics.
If you’re looking for an engaging two player game to pass the time, Stratego is perfect for you. The gameplay is somewhat similar to chess, except that players are unable to see which of their opponent’s pieces are which. Stratego.com/en/play works fairly well, although you’ll have to create a free account.
You can play checkers on one computer at 247checkers.com — you’ll have to use screen share and one player will have to dictate their moves to the other — or multiplayer with slightly worse graphics at cardgames.io.
So, if you find yourself missing the crazy board game nights from pre-pandemic times, don’t despair. Nothing can beat the crisp shuffle of a new deck of cards, but some of these online games come pretty close. Give the internet a chance to create a great board game experience for you and your social(ly distanced) group.