Board games are called “bored games” by people who miss the point and prefer ancient puns to actually enjoying themselves. But it’s not their fault! These poor souls had their sense of fun beaten out of them by a barrage of games which should be banned under the Geneva Convention. Mouse Trap taught you that life was random chance and a huge system designed to destroy you (and which won’t work), Snakes and Ladders was a Sisyphean nightmare, Monopoly really was designed as a horrible moral lesson, and Risk is the incarnation of endless futility. To this day millions can’t look at dice without shuddering.
There are thousands of fantastically fun games and you can play them right now. iPad board games are the perfect fusion of high and low tech. Using a computing tablet to replace cardboard might seem like overkill, but that’s the point of the iPad: not to do supercomputing, but to make life lighter and easier in the simplest and smartest ways. All of these games challenge your mind, start your strategic thinking, and basically build your brain instead of boring it to tears with another fifty rounds of Angry Birds.
Small World is the perfect starting point, a fast and fun game for one player against the computer and an ideal time-killer for two. Players take turns to conquer the Small World. Dont’ run away! There are thousands of games like that, most of which need degrees in Middle Management of Imaginary Resources, but Small World simplifies the combat to one rule: you need more troops. Then makes the game interesting anyway with incredible troops.
At the start of each game each army is given a random benefit, creating countless variations in strategy and silliness. Hill Dwarves defend themselves against Merchant Vampires while Commando Amazons dominate the board. This is where the iPad shows off: you never need to check the rules, ask if you can do something, or search the back of the sofa for that little marker you lost last time. The iPad takes care of everything with helpful tips, tutorial modes, highlighting possible moves and explaining everything you’re allowed to do at any time.
After one game you know how to play. After three you’re thinking of cunning strategies. After fifty you realize this game is very, very good, and you’ll definitely get back to work after just one more round.
iTunes Store Link: ($6.99)
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride steams past classic and into legendary, one of the best-selling board games of all time, and playing it even once reveals why. Your mission to build a continent-spanning railway, and more importantly, to beat others trying to do the same thing.
Playing on the iPad is even better than on the original board because you no longer need to shuffle cards or count cars, simply dragging and dropping. But the real strength is the incredible (if antisocial) advantage of playing against computer players. Instead of waiting half an hour per turn while everyone hums and haws, the computers blast through their moves and get you back in the action almost instantly. So whether you want to hone your skills for the next social game, or just want to play a fun and fast game without wasting five-sixths of your life waiting for slowpokes, this is the game for you.
iTunes Store link: ($6.99)
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan isn’t just a board game, it’s a board rite of passage, a badge of honor, and a lot of fun into the bargain. It’s the dice equivalent of puberty — it might be confusing for the first while but you’ll be far better for getting through it.
You might feel that a trading game is less satisfying with soulless robots instead of human players, but only if you’ve never played the game. If you have, you know that the instant you pass halfway all your “human friends” are revealed for the contrarian backstabbers they truly are. The iPad turns this into an ideal time-killer with a single player mode, expanding the game mechanics to a series of challenges ideal for playing anytime, anywhere, and advancing through the entire world while you wait for your bus.
iTunes Store link: ($4.99)
Image credit: iStockphoto / MKucova