Gaming in a pandemic – Apps

Since face-to-face gaming has been denied most of us in recent months we have had to find various alternatives. There are many available, including such platforms as VASSAL and Tabletop Simulator, with various people also coming up with inventive ways of using social media to stream live gaming.

However, outside of the work environment, the vast majority of my online time is spent using a tablet rather than a PC or Laptop, so my gaming options have been a little more limited. That said, I have found several boardgames that have had very good conversions to digital apps. What follows are a few of my favourites from the past months – though I will exclude Twilight Struggle as I wrote an in-depth review of it a couple of months ago.

Lord of Waterdeep

Lords of Waterdeep
There is no doubt that Lords of Waterdeep has become one of our favourite worker placement games in recent years.

The premise of this game is that each player needs to recruit various adventurers (Warriors, Clerics, Fighters and Rogues) in order to complete missions. Each mission completed scores victory points. Whoever scores the most points at the end of eight turns wins. A very simple premise for an absorbing game. Whilst it’s a game that can be played by two people, it’s ideal when played with three or four.

The game can be played solo, with AI opponents, or played online against other people. Online games can be played over a number of days should players wish, or in real time if you should wish.

low 2
The App is a pretty much seamless implementation of the boardgame, and both the Undermountain and Skullsport modules are available to expand the base game.

Highly recommended.

Raiders of the North Sea

rotns 1
Another worker placement game, in Raiders of the North Sea players take the roll of Vikings, gathering crews to raid the coast and inland settlements of far lands in order to gather loot, loot which can then be converted into victory points, or perhaps better armour or weapons for future raids…

Raiders combines a number of different mechanics (cards, dice, workers, resources) to interesting effect. It takes a couple of games to get your head around the mechanics, but the result is an enjoyable game.

rotns 2 The graphics of this game – both the Viking village and the land that you raid – are very nice indeed and greatly add to the appeal of the game. Seeing your ships row across the sea to assault a port is a wonderful moment.

I’ve only played this game against one other online player at a time, and as a two player game it is pretty decent. I would like to try it with more.

I must admit however that the solo game, though good for learning the rules and the game interface, isn’t particularly great.

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars is a great card drafting/engine building/resource management game in which each player takes the role of a corporation trying to make Mars habitable. This is done by placing water on the surface of the planet, increasing the temperature and oxygen content of the atmosphere and by placing vegetation and cities on the surface, all through the playing of cards and resources.

It is one of those games where there are multiple paths to victory, and due to playing different corporations and the sheer number of cards in the game it is virtually impossible that any two games are ever the same.

The boardgame is fantastic, but does suffer from the fact that it takes up a lot of space. Due to the sheer number of potential synergies in the game it also has something of a steep learning curve. The App helps tremendously with this – during your turn you only have available cards that you can play, for example – and everything is explained well. Plus, the graphic implementation is really very pretty. Vegetation grows out of the red soil, cities rise and even the odd volcano explodes! I would go as far to say that whilst having a board spread out before you on a table is great, playing via the App seems a lot quicker and easier.

Whilst it supports two players well, this is probably best as a three or four player game, though beware, if you are playing in real-time, 4+ players can take some time to play.

Probably the only thing to let it down is the fact that the interface to find friends online is incredibly clunky and by no means user friendly. Once that is done though, this is probably my favourite of the online versions of boardgames that I have played in the past few months.


All these games are available via Steam for PC, and are on iOS and Android. We have successfully played them cross-platform online, so this has not proven to be an obstacle.

Even as life slowly gets back to normal, I think these online versions of games will continue to be a feature of my gaming moving forward, especially as I have been playing with friends that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to face across the table, since they live in different cities, countries and continents.

3 Comments on Gaming in a pandemic – Apps

  1. jimmylogan0916 // August 4, 2020 at 01:58 // Reply

    I have been playing Terraforming Mars off and on as well, though more against the AI.

    Ascension is another good one!

  2. Colin Peake // August 4, 2020 at 07:14 // Reply

    Great article Neil
    I now have RAF and will be downlading the VASSAL Module
    Also Cruel Necessity, Journeys into Middle Earth & Imperial Assault are keeping me sane

  3. Thanks for the heads up, Neil! It’s funny,so many board gamers view solo as a desperate alternative, but it’s actually my preferred mode. I think this is true for many. No travel, play for a little bit at a time, at your leisure.

    I also agree that having the computer keep track of all the die modifiers as well as possible options is great. The hardest thing about solo is keeping track of everything and remembering where you’re at in the turn sequence.

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