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Top 7 digital board games you've never heard of

Bring up the boardies
Product: Kahuna | Developer: United Soft Media | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad, Board Game | Genre: Card/ board game
Kahuna Android, thumbnail 1
Board games are everywhere nowadays. From shelf space in bookshops to celebrity endorsements they're the next big thing in the hobby world. And that's great, because they're great, and they make great mobile adaptations.

So you've probably heard of big-name games like Settlers of Catan, Pandemic and Carcassonne. And you probably also know that there are some cracking versions available for your mobile.

Board games, though, are a broad church. And they've been around for a lot longer than mobile games have. As a result there are a lot of very good adaptations of very good games that, unless you're a board game insider, might have flown under your radar.

Here's 7 of the best and most obscure.


You may not have heard of Titan, but you've certainly heard of a game that it inspired: Magic the Gathering.

In Titan, one needs to get particular sets of creatures into certain terrain in order to summon more powerful monsters. This concept lay behind Magic's use of land cards to summon minions.

Billed as a "fantasy monster slugathon", Titan is an odd yet great game which blends abstract, strategic and tactical elements. It also takes forever to play. But modern players can enjoy games at their leisure thanks to this spanking adaptation.


What's better than going to Hawaii? Going to Hawaii and being a god, that's what. Now you can, thanks to Kahuna, but there's a catch: to enjoy your holiday in peace, you'll have to defeat a rival god. By summoning magical bridges between islands because ... well, because that's what Hawaiian gods do.

The original 1997 tabletop version of Kahuna was well-received. But it kind of got lost in the explosion of interest that hit the hobby around that time. This mobile version is smooth playing both against real people and a fun campaign against a competent AI. It's a great reason to rediscover this lost gem.

Twilight Struggle

This one you may have heard of. Not least because it was the number one ranked game on various hobby sites for years after its 2005 release. That's due to its addictive event system, where players madly invent strategies on the hoof to nullify each other's plays. As a simulation of the cold war, however, it has a somewhat undeserved reputation for complexity. And the rich strategy does take practice to master.

Either way, you've no more excuses not to play one of the best board games ever made thanks to this Playdek version. There's a comprehensive tutorial and a solid AI to practice against. The real meat, though, is taut, thrilling asynchronous games against other humans on Playdek's ranking ladder.

Phantom Leader

Here's a far more obscure wargame with a more deserved reputation for complexity. Phantom Leader is a simulation of combat flights in Vietnam.

The unusual thing, though, is that the strategy is all in the planning. You need to assess the target and take the right mix of planes, pilots and ordnance for a successful mission. In this, it's far more realistic than the majority of martial wargames.

The physical game is a bit fiddly with cards and chits everywhere. You can save yourself that pain and lose yourself in the strategy with this brilliant iPad version.

It's hard work at first: the tutorial will get you started but you'll still need to read the rules. Perseverance will be rewarded with the deep, gripping narrative campaigns that result.

The Confrontation

You might not recognise this one, even if you are familiar with the board game on which its based. That's because the original glories in a Lord Of The Rings franchise licence, while the adaptation does not.

As a result, you'll play this game with a pale cast of generic fantasy knock-offs in place of famous characters. Which is only a minor shame, given the brilliance of the game underneath.

It's very like Stratego in the hunting down of down of hidden pieces, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. But here there are only a few on each side.

That means their special rules can be much more detailed resulting in richer strategies. It also makes the game fast and very tense, right down to the last piece.


Uniquely on this list, the app version of Imperial is not a particularly great adaptation. While it boasts a fine interface, the AI isn't up to much and it's got no asynchronous play. It's still worth looking at, though, because it's such a clever and unusual game.

Imperial looks like a typical Risk-style conflict game, because it is. It's also a punishing economic game where players invest money into individual countries in order to control them.

The two layers nest within each other like never-ending Russian dolls, creating brain-burning strategy. You may or may not like the app, but playing it ought to drive you out to get the board game.


Word games are such a well-worn mobile genre that you might think there was nothing new under the lexical sun. It took a physical game to revitalise the concept with Paperback.

It's a deck-building game which means you buy cards in-game and expand your deck as you play. Except here your cards are letters, and you use your hand to form words.

Right away this adds several layers of interest to a tired old trope. You need to make good words, sure. But you also need to consider what your letters will buy you in terms of new cards.

And how the letters and effects on those cards fit into your existing deck. Now the game has come full circle back to mobile, so every budding author can try their hand at paperback writing test!

Reviewer photo
Matt Thrower 1 August 2017
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