Digital tabletop gaming may seem like a contradiction, but many video games on Steam and other platforms are framed around digital versions of physical cards, miniatures, and boards. These tabletop video games are often based on existing board games, TTRPGs, trading card games, or deckbuilding games, but some are entirely original titles that simply emulate those games’ mechanics and physicality. For those interested in checking out the genre, here are some of the best digital tabletop games available.
While people sometimes equate tabletop gaming to pen-and-paper RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, this isn’t always the case. Tabletop gaming encompasses trading card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon TCG, as well as board games like Ticket to Ride and Monopoly. Anything that’s played with physical objects around a table (or the floor) falls under the tabletop umbrella, and digital tabletop games recreate those parameters in a virtual space.
Tabletop Simulator is a catch-all solution, providing a physics-based, digital area to create and play tabletop games in. It can be a bit unwieldy, however, and many players may prefer a more self-contained, scripted experience. The best tabletop video games span genres, but all capture the feeling of turn-based strategy that physical board games and RPGs are known for.
Dorfromantik Is A Laid-Back, City-Building, Digital Tabletop Game
Dorfromantik is a (surprisingly strategic) newcomer to the tabletop-inspired video game genre, but it has quickly gained praise due to its relaxing gameplay and arcade feel. Players pull one tile at a time from a procedurally generated stack, then match its edges to others on the board based on whether they have town, farm, forest, river, or railroad on them. The game ends when the stack runs out, but players gain points and more tiles if they’re able to build large-enough groups of the landscape types - and thus, the score chase begins. Dorfromantik is never pushy and always serene, but the game has a natural way of getting players hooked. After a round is ended, it might inspire players to look at their finished map and take another shot at making something even more expansive and beautiful.
TaleSpire Is A Powerful Tool For Digital Tabletop RPG Play
For years, TTRPG Dungeon Masters and Game Masters have been able to use Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds to play games online with other players, but a new tool in Steam Early Access, TaleSpire, lets DMs, GMs, and independent tabletop RPG designers create tabletop games and campaigns that feel like video game adventures. With a 3D editor that supports multiple different styles of terrain, buildings, and character designs, DMs can make dungeons and cities for one-shots or full campaigns of whatever RPG they like. There’s all sorts of customization options available and tons of pre-made assets that can make any session sparkle. It takes some work to build a full dungeon, but the payoff of a custom RPG level is worth it.
Root Is A Digital Adaptation Of A Unique Strategy Board Game
For those looking to get into digital tabletop gaming with friends, Root is a wargame with a twist: Unlike Risk or Axis and Allies, each player has their own, special goal unique to their faction, and each faction – different collections of woodland creatures – has its own way of gaining an advantage. The Marquis of Cats builds buildings and develops the woods, for example, while the Woodland Alliance tries to gain favor through mobilizing sympathizers in opponents’ regions. Whether or not it is the right move to attack opponents and expand into new regions can vary wildly depending on what turn it is, what cards are drawn, and what factions are in play, so each game plays differently. The digital version does all of this while also maintaining a wonderful, chibi art style and a cheery, animated aesthetic. Root is complex but will net hundreds of hours of playtime and fun, especially among similar-minded playgroups.
Gloomhaven’s Digital Version Is A Quintessential Tactical RPG
Gloomhaven often lands on “Best Board Games Of All Time” lists, largely due to the fact that it’s a cooperative game that doesn’t shirk on the depths of its mechanics. Gloomhaven lets players roleplay characters with a wide range of playstyles, offering a strategic and tactical take on a traditional dungeon crawler that still lets players fight, loot, and forge their own stories. It’s a hybrid of traditional board gaming and Dungeons & Dragons, and its digital version feels in many ways like a traditional RPG video game. Gloomhaven is difficult and thought-provoking, however, so players shouldn’t go in expecting to be able to grind to victory. There are character-specific actions to master, and even with randomness at play, the enemies are tough as nails. Still, its cooperative nature makes it a great game with friends, and the depths of its campaigns match those found in D&D and Pathfinder.
Ticket To Ride Is A Faithful Digital Tabletop Classic
For board gamers that want a no-frills (most likely Steam Deck-playable) version of a classic casual and competitive board game, the digital edition of Ticket to Ride should tick every box, and then some. The original game tasks players with collecting sets of cards and using them to connect destinations on a map of America before someone else cuts them off. The digital Ticket to Ride comes with online and offline modes and captures the fast-paced and strategic fun of the original, without sacrificing any gameplay elements. Most of the expansion boards are also available as DLC, and each comes with new rules, challenges, and landscapes, making this the ideal way to play Ticket to Ride for those without access to the board game or a local playgroup.
Beyond these titles, Steam Early Access provides a constant influx of new, tabletop-inspired video games in development. There’s a large amount of deck-builder roguelikes and traditional RPGs in the works, but the genre goes beyond that, with digital projects that appeal to tabletop gaming’s social elements, casual experiences, and heavily strategic playstyles.
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