An introduction to... The best places to play awesome board games online! Part 1

About one year and a half ago, I became hugely interested in board games. All of it began “offline”: Me and my SO got us the game Jaipur, a 2-player card game involving trading goods and camels. We got hooked instantly and grave battles were fought to win the sympathy of the Maharadscha. When we lived apart for a time, we didn’t want to stop playing this great game, and as fate would have it, there existed not only one, but several online platforms that had this amazing game in their collection!

And that was not the only one. Over the following months, I started to devour lots of different game rules, from easy, low-investement games (so-called “fillers”) to complex, super-strategic hardcore games that last for hours and involve so many pieces that you will not ever catch a cheater (which is a strong plus for online board games and/or having trustable friends). I never realized how much amusement I got out of cardboard/plastic/offline board games (as opposed to video games) and since then try to excite my friends in the same way. Which does not work always - so good that some big online communities exist of willing board game players 1.

Three platforms really stand out on the web, and on these ones I tend to play a lot. What they all have in common is, that they have all big, friendly communities and that each of them has awesome games - some are shared, but some are unique to each site. You might want to look into each one of them to see if there are some games that you already love or are really interested in! I will present some of my favourites of each split up into proficiency categories - for just trying the sites out I recommend to look at the beginner games, as they mostly take less than 10 minutes to learn an so you can focus on the features of the site! For players looking for more intricate games with complex rules, look at the more advanced categories, although they require some studying of the game rules.

Interestingly, the sites are either originally german or french, but people from all over the world are using them and almost everyone speaks english. That’s convenient if you ever run into a problem on the site or during a game.

1. Yucata

Yucata was the first site I discovered due to the game Jaipur being featured on it. It was started as a hobby project by Kay Wilke, who wrote lots of the games on the site himself but since has been expanded vastly by the community.

###The awesome games

But there are lots more to discover, and I only played a small minority of them until now! With more than 100 different games available, that’s hardly a wonder.

The awesome parts

Yucata centers on turn-based games. Yucata is 100% free-to-use and ad-free. This spirit comes also from the circumstance that the site and the games on it are all developed as fun projects in the creators spare time. The site is donation driven to compensate for the server’s running costs. A really cool feature of Yucata is that they always incorporate the rules of every game into the site. Those documents do not only include the actual rules of the games themselves, but also indicate differences of the gameplay in the implementation (thanks to the digital medium, a lot of processes are automated and skipped, so you don’t have to do them - e.g. counting points at the end of each round) or in the games interface (e.g. the only interaction possibilities are highlighted so you don’t have to think about what you are restricted to). Additionally, with the new framework, it has also become a standard to create a short, summarised version of the rules as well as the original rules text (i.e.: lengthy and detailed ), which you can inspect on a sidebar. This is very handy and time-saving for when you come back to a game after not playing it for a while.

###The other parts No “real” live games. This can be a turn-off to some hardcore gamers that want to finish games in one go - there is no penalty if someone just decides to log out and leave a game unfinished. Sometimes for weeks. Games get also deleted after 30 days of inactivity, so that can be annoying if you had a really good go at one game, but you can’t get it completely finished.

This got longer than expected! I will focus on other sites in another post, at another time. Hope you enjoyed!

  1. Compared to playing your friends, it is sometimes more satisfying if you play, let’s say, a french opponent online in ‘Through the Ages’ and they succumb to your giant army led by Napoleon - Ze tableaus ‘ave turned, mon ami! Only to have your opponent play Gandhi in the next go and rendering your whole power useless. D’oh… 

  2. One way to find those, is to look at the “Yucata Game Statistics”. Often, the most played games on the sites are also the easiest and shortest - like “Can’t Stop” in this case. 

  3. Especially for the times you just can’t persuade anyone to play that awesome new game that takes two hours and another one to explain and set up