20. Tokaido (Funforge)
Designer Antoine Bauza loves Japanese themes in his games, with gorgeous artwork to match, with the app version of Tokaido bringing the same graphics while adding some cute animations to make the board feel less static. The real Tōkaidō, or East Sea Road, was a major thoroughfare in Japan during the Edo period, traveled by foot, and connecting Kyoto to what is now Tokyo. Players in Tokaido travel along with the board, stopping wherever they wish, with each stop allowing them to do something that eventually leads to points — collecting artifacts, donating to the temple, collecting portions of artworks, or buying meals at the inns along the route. Although there are several different ways to rack up points, usually you just want to stop everywhere you can, both to gain the benefits and because you can block another player from stopping there.
19. Terraforming Mars (Asmodee Digital)
Terraforming Mars is one of the most popular and best-reviewed complex strategy games of all time, and bringing it to digital had to be a significant undertaking given the difficulty of creating competent AI players for the app. Based on the popular trilogy of Mars novels by Kim Stanley Robinson, Terraforming Mars has players competing to build complex engines of cards that will help generate six different resources they can use to buy and play more cards. Players will also terraform the board, placing greenery and water hex tiles — as well as the occasional city tile — on the planet, further boosting the planet’s temperature, oxygen, and water, driving the game toward the end conditions. There’s a lot going on here, all the better to have the app to handle the accounting and the cleanup for you.
18. That’s Pretty Clever (Brettspielwelt)
This is my current favorite solo app, based on a physical game that plays two to four with a solo mode. The app doesn’t offer multiplayer and it’s designed for you to play this solo in one sitting … but it’s super fast and so addictive that you aren’t likely to stop mid-game or to play just once. It’s a dice-roller: You’ll roll your set of six dice 18 times across six rounds, selecting and removing one die after each roll to fill in a spot on your scoresheet, which has five areas matching the colors of five of the dice. (The sixth die, the white, is wild and can be used on any color.) Filling in certain squares unlocks bonuses, including the all-powerful “plus one” ability that lets you select and score an additional die. The goal is to get the highest score you can; anything over 200 is good, and 300 is Hall of Fame material.
17. Patchwork (Digidiced)
A clever two-player game from Uwe Rosenberg, usually known for heavier games that involve gathering wood and raising farm animals and take two hours just to set up, Patchwork is a bit like competitive Tetris. Players take oddly shaped fabrics from a rondel that limits choices on each turn, placing them on their nine-by-nine boards and sometimes gaining buttons, the game’s currency, to allow them to buy bigger fabric pieces or gain more choices from the board. The graphics in the app don’t correspond to the physical game’s imagery, though, and are frankly a little too cutesy.
16. Eight-Minute Empire (Acram)
It’s like the title says: This is a map game of area control and takes just a few minutes to play. Everyone starts in the same space on the board with three-foot soldiers and gains a certain number of moves each turn by taking a card that grants goods as well as either movement points, military units, or the right to build a city. Scoring at the end is based on control of continents and collections of goods, with the biggest bonuses coming if you collect a lot of anyone good. It’s fast and the AI players are good.