Andrew and I have been lifelong video-gamers. There are many great video games out there that capture aspects of the tabletop experience. The best ones take those elements and augment them with mechanics that can only be accomplished on the computer, like quick calculations and random generation.
In making this list, the games had to meet two criteria:
- Minimal need for hand-eye coordination
- Can run on lower-spec computers
Because precision aim and quick reflexes are not naturally part ofs a board gamer’s repertoire, we wanted to choose games that didn’t require those skills. We also didn’t expect everyone to have a video game console or high-end gaming PC.
If you like: deckbuilders, creating combos, min-maxing turns, clever card play, board games like Ascension, Shards of Infinity, Aeon’s End, Xenoshyft, Dominion
If you don’t play video games, you may be surprised that deckbuilders are actually an extremely popular genre in the digital space. Spurred on by greats such as Slay the Spire and Dicey Dungeons, digital deckbuilders allow for game-breaking combos: without having to keep track of math, you can upgrade cards to skyrocketing attack values (and be pitted against equally powerful foes).
My favorite of these games is Monster Train, developed by American studio Shiny Shoe. In Monster Train, players play as a demon race that rides through Hell on a three-story train in a quest to bring their piece of the pyre to reignite the underworld (which has been invaded by angels). It’s a unique premise, and on the journey players collect better cards, items that grant passive bonuses, recruit allies, and upgrade their deck in preparation for the final boss.
These cards might act as creatures that defend your train or as spells that can do damage, heal units, cast debuffs, and even move characters up and down the train floors. Just like in a tabletop deckbuilder, finding the best combos of cards, ensuring the combos trigger efficiently, and trimming the deck of weak cards are all keys to success.
With excellent mechanical depth and a hands-off, let-the-player-experiment approach to mechanics, Monster Train is an excellent deckbuilder, tabletop or otherwise.
More Video Games Like Monster Train: Slay the Spire, Dicey Dungeons, Griftlands
Into the Breach
If you like: tactical combat, figuring out the puzzle, heavy strategy from simple rules, board games like Gloomhaven, The Others, Chess, Lords of Hellas
On its face, Into the Breach already looks like a board game. Playing on a simple 8x8 grid, the game tasks you with commanding your mechs to fight the invading bug-alien-monster things so that they don’t destroy the city. The most intriguing part about Into the Breach is the fact that the game gives you perfect information: all of the computer’s moves are telegraphed. The player must decide how to deal with every threat, from focusing fire on an enemy that’s about to do particularly high damage, to pushing enemies into the ocean, or even manipulating enemies so that they deal damage to each other.
This aspect of perfect information makes Into the Breach similar to a classic tabletop dungeon crawl (and the deep analysis that comes from those games as well). There’s also a chess-like quality in that there’s always a sense that the best move can be found, if you just consider all of your options.
More Video Games Like Into The Breach: It’s pretty unique! But it reminds of Fights in Tight Spaces, Wargroove
If you like: synergy, fierce competition, balance of tactics and strategy, using unique units, board games like Rising Sun, Dice Throne, Battle for Rokugan
Teamfight Tactics (my personal favorite of the great auto-battling genre that includes Auto Chess and Hearthstone Battlegrounds) is about crafting a team of champions that gets pit against other players in several rounds until one team is crowned the victor. Players must fight over the same pool of champions, manipulate the tight coin economy to be able to purchase the best combinations, and upgrade champions by purchasing multiples of the same champion for more powerful versions.
The game doesn’t allow you direct control of your team’s action. Rather, battles are conducted automatically. Fast reflexes aren’t usually required to win—strategic placement, long-term planning, and game knowledge are the most important.
To my knowledge, there isn’t an auto battle equivalent in the board game space. However, I believe it’s only a matter of time before one comes out!
More Video Games Like Teamfight Tactics: Auto Chess, Despot’s Game, Teamfight Manager
Luck Be a Landlord
If you like: manipulating chance or dice, getting lots of fake money, reacting to random effects as in roll and write games, games like Welcome To, Ganz Schon Clever, It’s a Wonderful World
Luck Be a Landlord is extremely unique. Without much explanation, the game requires you to pay off your rent by making money off of a slot machine. I cannot recommend this strategy for the real world.
After every spin, you collect your winnings, but then add a new icon onto your field. Some icons pay out bigger with multiples, some multiply adjacent types, and some interact in more unique ways (spin a dwarf next to a beer, and he destroys the beer icon for a good chunk of change).
This kind of gameplay really evokes great roll-and-write games such as Welcome To or Ganz Schon Clever. You’re at the mercy of some luck, but it takes skill to best use what you’re dealt with.
More Video Games Like Luck Be a Landlord: No Idea!
If you like: spatial puzzles, tile laying, games like Patchwork, Azul, The Isle of Cats
Though I love tile laying games, I can’t think of many video games that utilize the same kind of mechanic exactly. Golf Peaks, however, captures a bit of that brain-bendy spatial awareness feeling though! You have to putt a golf ball into the hole with a set number of strokes (played from a hand of cards). These strokes are based on number of tiles, so understanding how the ball will roll down slopes, bump into walls, or get stopped in sand are keys to victory. There’s usually only one solution to each puzzle, so trial and error is inevitable.
The beautiful art style and calming music make for an extremely pleasant experience and a pace that fits right in with board gaming.
More Video Games Like Golf Peaks: Helltaker, Hitman GO
If you like: solving mysteries, hunting for clues, games like Chronicles of Crime, Mansions of Madness, Exit: The Game, Unlock!
In Her Story, the player’s tool is a search query bar on an old (Windows 95-ish) database to comb over police interviews trying to solve the mystery behind the main character’s missing husband.
As more and more detective board games come out (especially ones that feature app integration), I can’t help but remember the experience of playing Her Story for the first time. When a player goes down a wild clue-following rabbit hole in a game like this only to be matched by the game’s creativity, the feeling is incredible. In a culture fascinated with true-crime, Her Story places you firmly in the driver’s seat of your favorite Netflix documentary.
More Video Games Like Her Story: Hypnospace Outlaw, Phoenix Wright, The Wolf Among Us
Murder by Numbers
If you like: number puzzles, Sudoku, deduction, games like Cryptid, The Search for Planet X, Mental Blocks
Murder by Numbers is mostly a polished, narrative driven version of the classic puzzle “nonograms”, which I first encountered in the awesome Picross games on the Nintendo DS. In my opinion, a better number puzzle than sudoku!
Murder by Numbers adds a very silly visual novel aspect to the game, and nonogram beginners can enjoy a good tutorial and ramping-up of puzzle difficulty. Don’t get coky, however. Late game puzzles can get quite brutal!
Deduction/induction is an important aspect of many tabletop games, from social deduction in One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Secret Hitler, and Resistance to more spatial puzzles like Cryptid and Zendo. Please add nonograms to your list if you love these kinds of games!
More Video Games Like Murder By Numbers: Picross 3D
The Jackbox Party Pack Games
If you like: party games, laughter, trivia, games like Wits and Wagers, Codenames, Wavelength
The Jackbox Games (They’re up to Party Pack 6!) are great collections of trivia, comedy, and deduction games. The main game is broadcast on the TV or computer screen, and players visit the Jackbox website on their phones to participate. This removes the intimidation of having to use a game controller or mouse to play.
Jackbox fits right into a board gamer’s collection. It wouldn’t even be out of place to have a Jackbox component to a tabletop game night.
More Video Games Like The Jackbox Party Pack: All of the other Jackbox Party Packs, Among Us
If you like engine building, expanding economies, this-triggers-that-which-does-that, games like Terraforming Mars, It’s a Wonderful World, Race for the Galaxy
If your brain gets pleasure from building engines and making pieces fit, shapez.io is the purest form of that kind of game. Making squares move along conveyor belts with perfect efficiency feels so good, and the minimalist style and generous sandbox of shapez.io allows for stress-free building. It’s great for someone new to video games.
More Video Games Like shapez.io: Factorio, Satisfactory
If you like: pen-and-paper roleplaying, combat-light or theater-of-the-mind RPGSs, games like Fiasco, Six Candles, Dread
There are a lot of awesome, modern CRPGS on the market (like Pillars of Eternity or the criminally underrated Wasteland 3), but they’re not exactly the easiest to run on computers, so I struggled to think of a great one to include on the list.
That’s when I learned that Disco Elysium had an update that allows it to run on very low-spec computers. From the update notes: “With this latest update, Disco Elysium's minimum specs have been dropped down to Mariana Trench levels.” So, if your computer is a few years out of date, Disco Elysium will still run pretty well.
Disco Elysium is, by far, the most impressive digital rpg when it comes to allowing players to be creative. While some video games have simple “good” or “bad” options, romance opportunities, and simple skill checks, Disco Elysium creates the illusion of an imagination-driven, one-of-a-kind story. Just looking up how other players dealt with situations will create many “you-did-what?” moments.
More Video Games Like Disco Elysium: Wasteland 3, Pillars of Eternity, Star Wars: KOTOR
Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)
If you like: playing games for the wholesome interaction, fostering community, writing, games like Fog of Love, Artefact, Polemic, A Question of Scruples, True Colors
Kind Words can feel more like a social experiment than a video game. You’re given a pen, paper, and a window. You receive short letters from strangers (real players with their own pen, paper, and window), and are given the chance to respond.
Good vibes. Venting. Inspirational moments. Just sharing. The combination of anonymity, calming music, and the simplicity of writing into the void combines into a beautifully thoughtful ecosystem. Mental health resources are shared directly in the game, and in my experience it truly feels like a good, kind corner of the internet. Hopefully the moderation tools are helping keep the game that way.
More Video Games Like Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to): Spiritfarer, Dream Daddy, Coffee Talk
What did we miss? Because I am always on the hunt!