Online board games to relieve quarantine boredom

Everyone is missing our regular socialization activities right now, but if you are a board gamer like me, there are actually still plenty of online options for playing some of your favorite games against friends, strangers, or even bots.  So check these out if you are looking for something more interactive than drinking with your friends over Zoom (though to be honest, that sounds great, too).

Town of Salem

If you are familiar with the party games Werewolf or Mafia or any of their variations, you will love this version.  Upon joining a game, you are randomly assigned a role, either one of the townspeople with various abilities, like Sheriff or Doctor, or a villain like a werewolf or a member of the mafia.  (There are dozens of roles in all, but the base version has about 15 options.) Every night, the evildoers will kill one or more townspeople; the next day, the town members accuse and try to lynch the evils.  There’s obviously some strategy involved, and each role requires different tactics.

You can play with a friend if you queue together or with strangers; there are also ranked games if you want to get competitive.  It can be played on mobile, through Steam, or in your browser. Also, I actually find Town of Salem just as fun to watch as to play.  There are many players that stream their games if you want to see some gameplay; here are three of my favorites from YouTube:


Dominion is a staple of Euro-style board gamers; it is a deck building game that can be played with 2-4 people and is fairly easy to learn.  The online version is remarkably good and can be played for free (the game’s many expansions can also be purchased by subscription at €3.90/mo).  You can create tables for your friends, play with random strangers, or sharpen your skills against bots like “Lord Rattington.”

Suck it, Lord Rattington!


AsoBrain: Xplorers and Toulouse

Well, you can copyright names and images, but you can’t copyright gameplay.  So AsoBrain has developed online versions of some Eurogames that probably will seem very familiar, though they are not official licensed versions.  Xplorers involves four players settling an island with various resources that can be traded between players. Toulouse involves laying tiles to create cities and farms that are then populated by meeple.


I have been playing on this site for nearly 15 years now; there are a few hoops to jump through, but it is worth it. To play, you will need to download Java on your computer, and register with a limited domain email address (use your college email; accounts like gmail and yahoo are not allowed to prevent banned players re-registering).  The site allows you to make games for friends only, play with strangers (even ranked games), or play against bots that are named after Friends characters (I beat Ross all the time).


Board Game Arena

For even more options, this website has dozens of classic games like Yahtzee and chess as well as popular Eurogames like Puerto Rico, 7 Wonders, and Jaipur.  The majority of them are free to play in your browser, and can be played with friends or strangers. A premium subscription (€4/mo) gives you and your friends access to the most popular games and expansions and lets you integrate voice and video chat.


Apps (various)

There are plenty of board game apps available on mobile, but most good, official ones cost money.  Asmodee Digital, for example, sells app versions of popular games like Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Splendor for around $5 each, which you can then play with others online.

How are you guys filling your time at home?  Did any of these games sound interesting?  Are you now watching Town of Salem videos on autoplay on YouTube?


International Tabletop Day

What comes to your mind when I say “board games?”  Maybe something like Clue, Risk, or the dreaded Monopoly.  These are the games that Americans of my generation grew up with.

But that only scratches the surface of the current state of board games.  For the past 5-10 years, a little sub-culture of gamers has been popped up, in conjunction with the rise of “Eurogames,” like Settlers of Catan, which tend to have relatively short playtimes, simple economy-style mechanics, and emphasize strategy a little more than luck or chance.

Playing Mysterium

I am not a competitive person, and I won’t say that I enjoy all board games (I am TERRIBLE at bluffing games and intimidated by heavy strategy/wargames).  But there are such a variety of fun games out there, it is easy to find something you like to play with your spouse, grandmother, or a group of friends.

Today is International Tabletop Day, and I’d encourage you to check out some of my favorite tabletop games: Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Dominion, Mysterium, Splendor, Codenames, and 7 Wonders.  They have all different fun themes, and some are for groups, some are cooperative, some are card-drafting, etc.  Something for everyone!

If you want more info about different board games, check out Jaysen’s Now It’s Your Turn series on his blog for detailed descriptions with some humor.

If you want to find a meet-up in your area for Tabletop Day, go to Geek and Sundry’s Community Event locator.  If you’re in Northeast Ohio, the Board Gamers of Greater Akron (BOGA) meet at the Quirk Cultural Center in Cuyahoga Falls.  Board gamers tend to be very friendly people, so go meet some and have some fun!

Now Playing: Board games from the BOGA retreat

B and I had a great time a few weekends ago at the annual Board Gamers of Greater Akron retreat.  In addition to learning some new games and playing old favorites, I got plenty of downtime for reading, too–crucial for an introvert like me!

Here are some highlights; check these out if you like board games!


I wrote about this fun social deduction game before, describing it as a co-op mix of Clue and Dixit.  I recently played the American version that came out last year; it has really nice pieces and adds some new gameplay elements that make it more of a “game.”


The name and spy theme may remind you of The Resistance, but this large-group team game has more in common with Password or Taboo.  Each team has a spymaster, who gives one-word clues to the other team members to get them to guess certain words on the board.  The result is always hilarity.

Being the spymaster is hard but fun.  I think the key is to not be too pedantic and try to think how your teammates think!

Ticket to Ride: Team Asia

Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite Eurogames, but I’ve only played the USA and Europe maps of this fun train-building game.  So I jumped at the chance to try the Asia map, which has one side for a team version where you share some route goals with a partner.  I loved it!

The hardest part of this game is finding the cities you need to get to on the map.  You will feel incompetent at geography.


I asked for this card drafting/set collection game for Christmas before I ever played it, and sure enough it’s awesome.  First, it’s just a pretty game: nice pieces, nice artwork.  It’s also fairly simple and quick, and has great replay value.  Plus I won the first time I played! (To be fair, I think there’s a first player advantage).



I was referring to this as the “camel game” when B informed me that there are, in fact, multiple Eurogames with camel themes.  Who knew?

Anyway, this is a quick, easy, 2-player game with a fun merchant-trader theme.  Did I mention the camels? I love the camels.

Christmas Haul!

I got so many awesome things from my family and friends this Christmas!  One of my friends actually made me pottery.  How cool is that?

Millenium Falcon

You’ve already seen the awesome Falcon my husband made me…it was filled with candy, as well as Star Wars-themed cups.  The cups had images from various movies, etc., but I was kinda disappointed that the Rebels one had Ezra, Kanan, and Zeb but not Hera or Sabine. 😦  I did get a Captain Phasma lollipop though!

Look, there’s even a satellite dish and a spot for the cockpit to angle off.

He also got me some Christmas lawn decorations.  There was some jumping and excited screaming involved.


Yes, that is a T-rex with a Christmas present.  Yes, his head moves.  YES, THERE IS A MATCHING STEGOSAURUS WITH A SANTA HAT THAT ALSO MOVES ITS TAIL.  I’ll post pics of that one some time, too.

My husband is the best.

Books (aka the best gift ever)

  • xxxHolic v1 by the incomparable CLAMP and Ms. Marvel v1 —I want to read more comics this year!
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde—all my friends rave about this author
  • Several sci-fi and fantasy books by local authors, including The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Skylights by Luther Siler—oh wait, I bought that for myself.

Board Games

  • Splendor—a very fun card drafting/development game with very pretty art.  It has pretty simple mechanics, plays 2-4 people, and has good replay value.
  • Mysterium—the English version of a fun social game I wrote about previously; it’s like a mix of Dixit and Clue
  • B also received One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Codenames
The board game pile keeps getting bigger.

Other Media

  • Frozen—there’s going to be a lot of singing
  • The Force Awakens soundtrack by John Williams—I can’t wait to get a better listen to this.  I think it will be great writing music!

Last but not least:

  • R2 soup—yes, my parents got me a can of Star Wars soup as a Christmas present.  I absolutely ate it and it was delicious.
The Star Wars shapes totally make it taste better.

At the board gaming retreat: Mysterium is super fun and slightly crazy

Back in March I spent a weekend out at a campground playing board games with my husband at the annual Board Gamers of Great Akron (BOGA) retreat.  It’s a great time for me to not only play my favorites (Carcassonne, for example), but also get some down time to read/write/play KOTOR II while my husband is playing games that I have no interest in (typically games that are long, strategy-based, or social deduction).

During one of those times, I got pulled into a group playing a new game: Mysterium.  It’s a European game (the English version will be out this year) that was billed to me as a cross between Dixit and Clue, but cooperative.  How could I say no to that??

The Russian edition
The Ukrainian edition

A murder has been committed, and the victim’s ghost is sending clues to the players via their dreams to help them figure out the weapon, location, and perpetrator of the crime.

The “ghost” player, who can’t talk, gives each “dreaming” player a picture every round to try to hint at one of the answers (it’s different for each player).  But the pictures are basically like Dixit cards, so the clues are never straightforward, and what you infer from it may be completely different from what the ghost intended.  The images can be very detailed, and range from bizarre to slightly creepy.

This is actually a Dixit card, but same idea.

Ghost: [Hands you this card]

You: Oh, I think my clue is for the poison, because it’s a liquid and this card has a lot of water.

Other player: Or it could be the fork thingy, because the backgrounds are the same color blue.

Ghost: [Twitching]

You: Actually, I’m leaning toward the candlestick now, because it’s a lighthouse, so kind of like a candle.

Ghost: [Headdesk]

You have a limited number of “nights” in which to guess, but if all the players guess their individual weapon, location, and person cards correctly, they have one last night where the ghost tries to tell them which suspect was the actual murderer.

The people I played with say that pretty much no one ever “wins” this game, but I’m pretty sure nobody cares.  The fun is just sitting around for an hour bickering over the minutia of the dream cards and watching the ghost try to not throttle the other players.  Actually, having the ghost be two people is not a bad idea if you have lots of people; the game already plays 2-7 people.

If you want to play some games like Mysterium in the NE Ohio area, stop by BOGA every 2nd Friday and 4th Saturday at the Quirk Cultural Center in Cuyahoga Falls.