Online Board Games, What Are They Good For?

“Board gaming is a social activity.” “Why would you play games without other people?” “Is that even enjoyable?” “Why wouldn’t you just play a video game?” “Wouldn’t you rather….” Bla bla bla bla bla. I’ve heard time and time again, “board games are a social activity, that’s why I play them.” I’ve probably even said that on some occasion, but is that all that they are? Do board games offer anything else of value that would justify playing them without other people or are they purely in existence to be a social activity? I’ve said before I’m a solo gamer, but this isn’t about solo gaming, this is about online gaming; the options and the value of playing an otherwise social activity with some or all social aspects removed.

The options

Not all of the options for online gaming are void yucataof social interaction. Sure sites like Yucata and Boardgame Arena don’t necessarily encourage social interaction, but technically the possibility to interact with others is there. This hasn’t stopped the sites from existing and in fact Yucata (the one I use most often) has been adding games throughout the course of its existence. There has to be something that brings people to the site to play a game or two or three hundred.

Some apps provide an area to chat too, while others lead to taunting, rejoicing and praising Star Realmseach other on Twitter instead (see almost anyone when losing to Suzanne @425suzanne). Regardless if the apps provide any option for socialization (cough, cough Star Realms) there are more and more board game apps that are being made. Not everyone is in favor of this transition and some even refuse to play them, but at the same time a bunch of people are playing and buying these games.

Then there are options like Skype or Google Hangouts that blur the line between in person and online play. I have had multiple occasions where I have been able to play games with others in this way. There are limitations to this way, but it works pretty well. One of the players needs to own the game, and it has to be an open information game and sure you may not be able to do the famous Rhiannon throat punch to someone over Skype, but you are able to talk and carry on a conversation with others as if they were there.

There has to be some inherent value in playing games online with or without the social interaction. Maybe, just maybe board games do more than allow us to hang out with other adults and attempt to crush them with our mad skills in a particular board game. But what could that value actually be?

The value

Online board games are probably not for everyone but there is value in them. In fact there are a bunch of reasons that make playing board games online more than OK.

Courtesy of Aldie on BGG, from Days of Wonder
Courtesy of Aldie on BGG, from Days of Wonder



It’s fun to play games, so who cares where, how and with whom you play. If you enjoy playing games, then play games.

Introducing board games to non-board gamers

Board games have a stigma, whether we like it or not, but apps don’t. Why not introduce your friends to something way better than Candy Crush (or whatever ridiculous app is super popular right now) and then surprise them by saying it is also a board game? This could backfire and not encourage them to play that exact game, but if you let them know that there are other games that are similar or even more fun to play in person, you might just have a new convert on your hands.

Try out games

I personally have heard of a bunch of games that sound interesting, but I don’t own them and no one I know owns them either. My budget is tight, so how am going to figure out if I want to buy one game over another? Sure I can read the description, reviews, or watch videos, but instead I can also hop on Yucata and play. So far I’ve played Targi (which I have since bought), Balloon Cup, Can’t Stop, Castles of Burgundy (which I also bought) and a few others as well. Because of sites like Yucata I can make a more informed decision on whether I want to own any of them, or if my group will play them.

Play with people far away

Playing games online has allowed me to not only play games without any social interaction with people from far away, but I’ve also played games like oddball Aeronauts and Ghost Stories with people in America, the UK and people in other areas of Germany as well. It might not be the same thing as playing with people across the table from me, but how awesome is it that I can to play a game with people thousands of miles away? If I can get my family into playing games this would also allow me to spend quality time with them which is not so common since they live 4480 miles away (but who is counting, right?). What better way than to spend our family Skype times doing something fun.


I am not this competitive, but I know some who are and if you are then playing games online might be a good opportunity for you to try out different strategies. Alternatively maybe you teach games to your group, then playing a game couple times can be a big help allowing you to be even more familiar with the intricacies of the rules.. Not only does this allow you to practice a new strategy so you can get an advantage and beat your arch nemesis (We all have one, don’t we?) but you can learn the rules and actually see them in play. This is a huge help to any teacher out there. I wish I could learn more games before I have to teach them so I don’t stumble over all of the rules and have to constantly flip through the rulebook for that one obscure rule that my friends always seem to ask me about.

Not all solo games are equal

If you are ok with solo games, but can’t find good options then playing a game online with or without the social interaction can be a good supplement. Plus, in honesty there are a lot of games out there with a solo variant, that are just bad games, so playing a good multi-player game online is a much better option.

Play out of print games

There are a lot of good games that have gone out of print and whether your distant friend has a copy or if it’s on one of the board game websites, playing online allows you an opportunity to play a game in which you might not be able to play even if money wasn’t an issue. It might also help you to decide if it is worth spending a ton on eBay to get that one copy that comes up every so often.

Playing games online can give you experiences that you otherwise might not have. At the same time, it isn’t the same thing as playing face-to-face with other people and I will fully admit that. On the other hand playing games online has allowed me to play games that I don’t own, with people I don’t live near and to that I say, “Who’s next and what are we playing.”

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