Gaming iPhone and iPad

The Top 5 iPad Designer Board Games You Can Gift This Christmas

James Bruce 09-12-2011

ipad board gamesGiving apps as gifts can be great little stocking fillers for your loved ones, and if you know someone who loves both boardgames and their iPad, then I have the perfect list for you right here. My own review site has been gathering user ratings of board games on the iPad for almost a year now, and some clear winners have shown themselves. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce a little about the top 5 and what kind of player they’d be suitable for.


All of these games have physical counterparts, but of course this is a tech blog so I’ll be talking about the iPad implementations. If you’re looking for a larger gift though, you might want to consider the real-life versions of these for your family.

Tigris And Euphrates: [iTunes link – $5.99]

Debuting only last month, straight to first place is Reiner’s Knizia’s masterpiece of epic struggles for land and power in ancient Egypt.

Essentially, it’s a tile-laying game. You build your empire with the help of your four leaders, and gain points for each leader depending on the tile you lay down. At the end of the game, only your lowest scoring leader is compared – thus ensuring a well balanced game where players don’t try to dominate one type of land only. Only one of the same type of leader can exist in a single landmass at any one point, so joining two empires results in epic battles and loss of land, as well as large point gains for the victor.

ipad board games

This game is 95% strategy, the only chance stemming from which tiles you draw each turn. Once all the tiles from the draw pile are gone, the game is over. I’d say this game has a pretty high initial learning curve and certainly isn’t suitable for children, but ultimately it’s a fantastic game you can keep coming back to. In terms of multiplayer, you can play this either on one iPad by passing it around (pass and play), or online. Due to the nature of having to keep your cards secret though, it’s not something you can place in the center of the table. Highly recommend for established board game fans.


Ticket To Ride: [iTunes link – $6.99]

From Days of Wonder, Ticket to Ride is a game the whole family can enjoy, with familiar subject matter of building the first pioneering train lines across America. It’s a very simple concept and easy rules to grasp, with a healthy dose of chance thrown in. You collect ‘train’ cards of matching colors and lay them on the board to claim a route, eventually connecting the two cities on your destination cards to claim those points. The longest contiguous route gets a bonus and ends of the game, and that’s about it. Simple, effective, fun.

board games apps on ipad

Multiplayer options abound too, from Game Center online games to local play between other iPads and the separate pocket iPhone version of the game, or by simply passing the device around. Games can last about 30 minutes to an hour, so this is a great family game I think.

Carcassonne: [iTunes link – $9.99]

Another tile laying game of medium difficulty, but the basic rules should be easy enough for older children to grasp. Each turn you draw and lay a tile, and then have a chance to ‘claim’ a part of that tile. Tiles must be connected to matching side pieces, and you can only claim something that hasn’t already been claimed. It’s a very simple concept once you get the hang of it, but the strategy can really can get quite cut-throat if you want it to.


board games apps on ipad

This one also has all the expected multiplayer options from internet to local and pass-n-play, and I’d highly recommend it for families with older children or seasoned players alike. Games usually last about an hour.

Catan HD: [iTunes link – $4.99]

Another classic Euro-game, the physical version of which has gained almost cult-like status for being a ‘gateway game’ that introduced them to the world of euro-gaming at large (as was the case with me in fact). It’s also the only game in the top 5 to use dice, the outcome of which determines which resources are produced each turn. Resources can be traded between players (something that is somewhat lacklustre in digital versions), and used to build roads, more towns, or buy chance cards.

board games apps on ipad


While the game can be slow to start, things quickly hot up and really can get tense; even with a perfectly honed strategy the dice can always fall against you. It’s this element that makes it a classic.

Though there are multiplayer options, the game is let down by the nature of trading resources needing real human interaction. The iPad version includes the seafarers expansion though, and would be well-loved by players who enjoy a full single-player campaign model. Be warned though – games can be as long as 2 hours and they’re incredibly addictive, so expect to lose yourself on this one!

Forbidden Island: [iTunes link – $4.99]

Uniquely, this game is semi-cooperative in that you play together to defeat the challenge of the environment, rather than competing with each other. The theme of the game also makes it suitable for children, so this could be a great family game.

ipad board games


Having chosen a role, each of which has a particular play style or special ability, you then attempt to rescue treasures from an island that’s slowly sinking. The rules are simple, the theme is family friendly and it’s cooperative – what more could you ask for? Perhaps online multiplayer – this is strictly pass’n’play or tabletop style only.

I do hope you consider gifting a board game app or two this Christmas, and maybe it’ll even spark a lifelong love affair with board games. Do you have a favorite we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out all our other ipad gaming articles for more great free and premium ipad games.

Related topics: Board Game, Christmas.

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  1. Codito Development
    December 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Tigris & Euphrates just got even easier to give to yourself or others!
    It's on sale for the holidays for just $3.99!

  2. Codito Development
    December 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Tigris & Euphrates just got even easier to give to yourself or others.  It's on sale for the holidays for just $3.99!

  3. Anonymous
    December 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Match Up is a good retro memory game for the iPad. It's photorealistic so it looks like an old fashioned (heh) tile game.

    • James Bruce
      December 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

      Thanks for the tip off .. Uther?

  4. ckmp
    December 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Great article and selection of games!!

    But, Tigris and Euphrates is set in Mesopotamia, not Egypt.

    • James Bruce
      December 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

      Whoops. Wait, there's a difference?! j/k. Thanks!

  5. Dsutter6
    December 10, 2011 at 7:53 am

    can you talk about the top 5 kid-specific games?

    • James Bruce
      December 16, 2011 at 12:52 am

      I don't have kids, so that would be difficult for me. Top 5 kid specific *board games*? Or just ipad games in general? I could do board games, but not just any random ipad games for kids. Not really my speciality I'm afraid.