The Best Card and Board Games on iOS

We all love a good video game, but gamers often overlook some of the best kinds of games out there: card and board games. Sure, everyone’s played Monopoly and Scrabble at some point, but the world of tabletop games extends far beyond those old standards. Below, in no particular order, we look at the best recent iOS games that started out as non-digital experiences.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Created by three Magic: The Gathering tournament champions, Ascension bears obvious similarities to the classic card battling game. It sports a fantasy theme, featuring a mighty array of magic and monsters. But here you build your deck on the fly as you play, which makes it stand out and adds a great deal of strategy to the proceedings. If you’re already a fan of Ascension, then we don’t need to convince you that this is a worthy download. If you haven’t tried it, the iOS version has a fine tutorial to introduce you to the game. Either way, this is one you’ll want to play.

Our ReviewBuy It ($4.99, Universal)

Carcassonne

Carcassonne has you plot out medieval towns by drawing tiles and laying them down strategically to build roads, churches, fields, and castles. It might not sound exciting, but when you and your opponents near each other in your race to success, it can feel as heart-pounding as a car chase. With loads of multiplayer options, both online and local, Carcassonne makes the transition from tabletop to iOS with grace. They’ve even added a clever solitaire mode to keep your skills sharp between matches.

Our ReviewBuy It ($9.99, Universal)

Lost Cities

Lost Cities is a fast-paced two-player card game that’s easy to squeeze in whenever you have a few minutes to spare. You and your opponent (either the computer or an online foe) draw a card each turn, then either play a card or discard a card from your hand. The rules are simple as card games go, but it all comes together in a nicely strategic and enjoyable mix. When the draw pile runs out, the player with the most points wins. When you win, you feel like a champ. When you lose, you want to try again.

Our ReviewBuy It ($3.99, for iPhone)

Magic 2013

Magic: The Gathering has been wildly popular for nearly 20 years, and the reason is obvious: it’s awesome. You and your opponent play as powerful wizards who summon creatures and cast spells to battle it out for supremacy. This year’s iPad version of the game is a faithful recreation, and one of the best card games available on iOS. You can play against the computer in the campaign mode, or go up against real-life opponents over Game Center. Magic 2013 is a Must Have for any card or board game fan.

Our ReviewBuy It (Free, iPad)

San Juan

San Juan is based on a concept that might sound boring to anyone who didn’t major in history. You play as a Spanish plantation owner who wants to create a successful life in the new colony of Puerto Rico. To do that, each turn you try to expand your holdings and accrue more victory points than your opponents. Thanks to a solid tutorial the rules are fairly easy to learn, but they pack enough complexity to emphasize strategy and forward thinking. Try this one out if you think you can hold your own as a big-shot Caribbean colonist.

Our ReviewBuy It ($7.99, Universal)

Scotland Yard

A criminal named Mr. X is on the run somewhere in London, and a team of detectives is on the chase. In the iOS version of this classic board game, you can play on either side of the law, and the computer will handle your opponent. Or, if you’d rather play with friends or Game Center folks, you can do that, too. Any way you slice it, Mr. X has the advantage of being hidden from view most of the time, but the detectives have the numbers. However you decide to play, you’re in for a good time.

Our ReviewBuy It ($5.99, Universal)

Ticket to Ride

Building the railroads might seem an unlikely setting for a board game, but Ticket to Ride makes it downright thrilling. You and your opponents have to lay tracks from one city to another, collecting cards and selecting your path as you connect cities across the continent. Reaching your destination with more points than your opponent requires skill, strategy, and a dash of luck. Play this game to find out if you have what it takes to connect the dots.

Our ReviewBuy It ($6.99 for iPad, $1.99 for iPhone)

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