There seems to be a polarization of app-assisted board games. Some people can’t get enough of them, while others want nothing to do with them. No matter what side of the fence you live on, it’s also hard to deny that app-assisted board games are not only here to stay but are able to do things that other games just can’t. With that in mind, the BGQ team are here to talk about our favorite app-assisted board games. So, grab your tablets, phones, or other devices and get ready for some fun on your tabletops.
The Best App-Assisted Board Games
Chosen by Brandon:
The second Dune film is coming soon and that means we’ll see more interest from gamers in returning to the Dune IP. Dune: Imperium has already crept into the top ten on BGG and remains a hotness mainstay. The reason: it plays great from one-to-four players and features excellent deck building and tactical decision space. Lower player counts feature an automa card system to keep the board tight, but this can be replaced with an official app companion that is incredibly slick. The app assists with setup, faction selection, and highlighting the info that needs to be reviewed each round. It makes jumping into solo play a breeze which is a great boon for those looking to dig into all the potential card combos and strategies for future games with friends. The app also features two additional three-to-four player modes not included in the physical game with the Blitz! and Arrakeen Scouts modes. Blitz! creates faster play and introduces secret decisions for advanced players. Arrakeen Scouts creates random bonus missions and events to shake up any stale metas your group is falling into. I will not play the Dune: Imperium system without the app at the lower player count. Essential. Do not fear.
The Search for Planet X
Chosen by Chris:
The correct selection for this list is Dune: Imperium, something you just heard my dear friend Brandon Bryson talk about. So as a replacement option, I’ll go with one of my favorite deduction games from the past few years: The Search for Planet X, which uses an app to not only reveal the solution at the game’s end, but also as the tool players use to gather their Intel as they play. By its very nature, the app isn’t necessarily “immersive” but it’s an efficient way of conveying information, especially given the fact that players receive information when they search for clues regularly during the game. Deduction games in general work well with app integration; Awkward Guests and The Alchemists also use them effectively.
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Chosen by Tony:
I love me some app-assisted board games, so I had a tough time narrowing down which one I wanted to choose. I was teetering between Descent: Legends of the Dark and Star Wars: Imperial Assault. The former is much newer and has a more refined app integration, but the theme and presentation of Imperial Assault always seem to draw me back in. The game was originally released as a 1 vs Many game, but with the addition of the Legends of the Alliance app, the game can be played fully cooperatively. The app handles running the bad guys, tracking the campaign, and works with all the many expansions. Interestingly, if Legends of the Alliance wasn’t your thing, there is a fan-made app called Imperial Commander that gives players another take on the app-as-a-dm. Between the plethora of content for this “completed” game, and the options to play it 1 vs Many or with one of two different apps, Imperial Assault remains a fantastic game, even after all these years.
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Chosen by George:
Mansions of Madness was the first app-assisted board game I played and to be honest it has set the bar for how any publisher should integrate technology into their game. Not only does it allow for the scenarios to be randomized for layout each play through but it had let Fantasy Flight push through digital content for new scenarios without having to have a physical release. Sound effects, narration, and gaming overhead were all taken care of by the app and allowed players to just immerse themselves in the story. I love not having to keep track of each monster’s health and how many times I have succeeded on skill checks. This is on top of having digital puzzles to solve throughout the adventures that were made doable by the app. Overall this was a huge win for app-supported games. The only downside is we don’t get new content to solve mysteries in anymore.
My Father’s Work
Chosen by Alex
While I completely agree with my fellow writers, my favorite app-assisted game still must be My Father’s Work from Renegade Games. The app takes what is a solid standard worker-placement game and turns it into something special, by setting the tone and telling the story of the chosen scenario, managing all the twists and turns and choices. However, the best part of the app is when it directs you to give it to a single player, giving them hidden knowledge and letting them make secret choices that affect gameplay. While most of the other games on this list fulfill all the public-facing game management, this extra aspect of My Father’s Work makes it the superior app-assisted board game.
Chosen by Spencer:
Project Elite is a real-time, dice-rolling co-op game of intense alien fighting. You can probably tell from that one sentence if you’ll like it or not. Each player has a character with a special ability. Depending on the mission, your team of heroes may need to destroy some alien nests, collect alien samples by trapping aliens, fully explore the map, etc. During a round, players are simultaneously rolling their dice, trying to get movement points or specific symbols to charge weapons or special abilities. Meanwhile, the aliens move closer and closer, threatening defeat if they breach the starting area or kill a hero. While technically not needed, the app assists with tracking time during the real-time phase and tracking rounds, while playing some mood music. I love that this game is broken up into two-minute sessions of intense dice rolling, moving, and attacking—often full of close calls and near misses. Between rounds, players create a plan of attack for the next round. This reminds me of a football huddle. Just like football, a lot can go wrong once the timer starts. Project Elite fixes a lot of issues I have with co-op games, including quarterbacking and a lack of true collaboration. On top of the hero special abilities, there are tons of different pieces of equipment and weapons to find on the map, which make your character feel unique and powerful. On the other side, alien bosses all have crazy powers and rules to keep it challenging. Ultimately, it’s a tense and fun experience that can handle up to 6 players very well.
Return to Dark Tower
Chosen by Brian W
This reimagining of the 1981 classic by Restoration Games was thankfully not a reprint of the original but instead an upgrade with an interactive app & tower and amazing production values. This game should fill most gamers with nostalgia for the classic but where most should be very happy is with the custom-integrated app. Yes, the Tower is still the centerpiece like the classic game but the app drives all game actions and outcomes. On a turn the app may spread corruption throughout the map, provides a unique combat mechanic, dungeon-delving experiences, and increases difficulty as players progress. Overall, it’s a vast improvement to the original game with updated technology that provides a new experience that all players should enjoy.
Chosen by Marcus:
Released back in 1989 originally, and given an extremely faithful reprinting finally in 2021, HeroQuest is probably not one you’d expect to see on a list of app-assisted board games. The 2021 reprint, however, came with a much-hoped-for feature: an app to run the forces of Zargon to allow for easy solo play or let everyone play on the side of the heroes… so that no one needs to sully their hands being the evil GM. The app works exactly as you want it to and is pretty seamless. As it has been updated with the latest quests over the last couple of years, several difficulty options have been added. It can be as easy or as hard as you like. The app also features voiceovers which are simultaneously a great feature, and an annoying one: the intros from Mentor provide some nice atmosphere, while Zargon’s commentary is Shatner-esque levels of over-the-top. Overall, it is a welcome addition that makes this classic accessible to a wider audience (I’ve certainly played it more once I could play it solo), while preserving the feel of the original.
Raiders of the North Sea: Solo Variant
Chosen by Matt:
I don’t play a lot of app-assisted games, but the Raiders Solo app has been a welcome digital addition to my solo gaming. Unlike later entries in Garphill’s excellent catalog, such as the West Kingdom series, Raiders of the North Sea does not include a solo mode out of the box. So, initially, in order to solo Raiders, you’d need to separately obtain a 23-card solo variant produced by Garphill. However, the availability was fairly limited, and snagging a copy could be costly. In the last few years, these decks have consistently sold on BGG for around $40+. Thankfully, solo gamers not wishing to invest more into the solo mode than they paid for the game itself can rely on an inexpensive ($1.49) app available from Garphill Games. Raiders Solo is essentially a digital version of the Solo Variant deck of scheme cards. The AI is simple to run, and even simpler in app form. No need to shuffle or flip cards as a tap of the screen shifts to the next scheme; and the rules are another quick tap away. An Honorable Mention goes to Mindclash’s Anachrony Sound Effect Pack app, which doesn’t add anything gameplay-wise, but is pretty hilarious.