Here we continue our rundown of the best iPad & iPhone games: from strategy and action to roleplaying games, these are the very finest iOS gaming apps. The next category is:

The best board games for iPad & iPhone

(For more great iPad board games, check out our Christmas board games roundup.)

Best board games for iPad & iPhone: Space Hulk

Agricola

'Euro' design from its head to its toes, Agricola is light on conflict (although not entirely devoid of it) and heavy on strategy. It's a board game about farming. Wake up at the back.

In fact, despite that unthrilling description, Agricola is a bulletproof modern classic: a finely tuned killer of a game that will drag you in and never let go.

It's a worker placement: each member of your family gets to perform one action each turn, whether that is collecting a resource (wood, stone, livestock), building or renovating a room, putting up fences, ploughing or sowing the fields or (look away, grandma) 'family growth'. But the various actions can each be performed only once per turn - hence the worry that an opponent will jump in ahead of you and grab whatever you need.

You can't die, but you'll be amazed by how much it hurts if you fail to collect enough food for your family on one of the designated feeding phases (knowing when you can afford to expand the family is key to success) and shamefacedly pick up one or more point-docking begging cards. And getting your farm running smoothly, with the crops ripening and animated baby animals appearing at the proper time, is hugely satisfying.

I always feel that the games end too soon: just one more turn, I think, I'm starting to get the hang of this. But that's probably a good sign.

£4.99 | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | View Agricola on the App Store

Best iPad & iPhone games: Agricola

iPad Air 2 review | iPad mini 3 review | All iPad reviews | iPad buying guide

Carcassonne

Simultaneously accessible enough for beginners (it's consistently rated as a 'gateway game' for inducting newbies into the hobby) and deep enough that it's still being played competitively 15 years after its release, Carcassonne has perhaps the broadest appeal of any board game available today. If every copy of Monopoly on the planet could be magically replaced by Carcassonne, the world would be a happier place.

The game is all about using tiles to build a map. Each turn, a player draws a tile - which will be illustrated with parts of a city, abbeys, sections of road and green fields - and places it next to a compatible tile on the board. A city edge has to line up next to another city piece, and so on.

You've each also got seven meeples, which are game pieces you can use to 'claim' one geographical feature that your tile forms a part of, and which hasn't been claimed by any other player; you'll then amass victory points based on how big that feature becomes. Say you put one of your meeples on a road, and other players add tiles to the road until it's seven tiles long and closed off at both ends - at that point you'd collect seven points and get your meeple back.

All of this probably sounds quite pedestrian, and it can certainly be played in a spirit of gentle co-operation. But it's much more fun with a bit of backstabbing. Rather than focusing on your own point acquisition strategy, for example, it's often more productive to spend a turn or two deliberately arranging awkward configurations of tiles around your opponent's features. And everybody loves the tactic known in my household as 'horning in': claiming a tiny city next to someone else's big city, sneakily joining them up, and grabbing a load of points that someone else earned.

With such a wonderful game to work with, you'd imagine that the devs had an easy job making this iOS adaptation a must-download (which it absolutely is, by the way). It does all the simple things well: the graphics are clear and richly colourful, the multiplayer modes are user-friendly and the AI computer players are decent and cover a nice range of difficulty levels. And while £7.99 is on the high side for an iOS board game, the expansions are a snip - we'd recommend Traders & Builders first, but Inns & Cathedrals is a strong second choice.

£7.99  (expansions available as in-app purchases) | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | App Store link

Best iPad & iPhone games: Carcassonne

Catan

Graphically, this is a faithful rendition of Klaus Teuber's superb and deservedly idolised tile-based island conquest game. Having the iPad handle those tiresome banking duties and victory point calculations makes things far more fast-paced than the board game, and you can view statistical tables at the end of the bout.

The computer players can be absolute swines - they'll merrily gang up on you in a way that most human players would consider beyond the pale - but hardcore gamers may even consider this a plus. And the original game is such a work of genius that this couldn't help being great fun, even if it's not the perfect iOS port.

£3.99, plus £3.99 for each expansion | iPad & iPhone (separate apps) | Read our full Catan HD review | Download Catan HD for iPad | Download Catan for iPhone

Catan HD iPad board game review

D&D Lords of Waterdeep

Some gamers (this one included) may be tempted into this digital board game adaptation because it carries the Dungeons & Dragons name. But the truth is that the cosmetic trappings of high fantasy conceal a relatively dry 'worker placement' game that rewards careful play and long-term strategy rather than derring-do. It's a terrific game, but don't expect fast-moving action.

You're a lord: precisely which lord is determined by random chance, and kept secret from the other players. (The different lords get bonus points for fulfilling different objectives.) And you're a lord who doesn't do anything he can get someone else to do for him.

What you'll be doing is recruiting adventurers - fighters, wizards, clerics and thieves, just like the characters in a game of D&D - and sending them on quests. But within the game, these recruits are just coloured cubes, and their adventures appear as static images on cards. This isn't about the glory of adventures so much as the logistics of organising them. "Why yes, I would love to clear out the temple of the spider queen. I just need one more white cube - I mean cleric - and two more gold coins."

But it's still gripping, because you're all competing to send your agents to a limited number of buildings where recruits can be found, and desperately trying to get your hands on the resources you need. At the start there's one building that spits out fighters, one that spits out wizards and so on, and once a building has a player's agent inside, it can't be used by anyone else for the rest of the turn: so every move counts. (You can also buy new buildings of your own, expanding the range of options. If someone else uses your building, you get a sweet fee.)

Lords of Waterdeep is a fine, mentally taxing, intensely competitive game. It's just that, for all its D&D branding, at times it can feel a bit abstract. And if you're okay with that, you'll love it.

£4.99 | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | View D&D Lords of Waterdeep on the App Store

Best iPad & iPhone games: D&D Lords of Waterdeep

Galaxy Trucker

One of those physical board games that many people thought were undigitisable. But they've done it - and it works great.

Galaxy Trucker is divided into two phases. In the first, the players compete - with one another and with a timer - to snatch cards (which when flipped reveal guns, storage tanks, engines and other spacecraft components) from a central pile and add them to the growing, ramshackle vessel in front of them. It's a bit like Carcassonne with a gun to your head.

There are optimal positions for the various types of card and you need to make their connectors line up as neatly as possible (because bare connectors make your vehicle more prone to damage). But the limited pool of cards - and the shortage of time as your opponents constantly take the items you need - force you into compromises. Generally everyone ends up with a massive bodge job.

In the second phase, which is much more sedate, all the players put their spaceships to the test. You line up on a stylised progress track and turn over further cards that trigger various 'adventures' (usually being attacked by space pirates or meteors, but occasionally getting the chance to collect valuable cargo) and trying to get to the finish line without disintegrating completely. The winner is determined by points, allocated for finishing position, attractiveness of spaceship, cargo collected and so on.

The contrast between frantic tile-grabbing and turn-based relaxation is fun, as is the moment when you all finish your ships and look around to see exactly how badly the first phase went for everyone else. (Although one amusing element has been lost, according to fans of the cardboard version: in that game, sections of your ship that in the heat of the moment had been attached by the wrong type of connector would simply drop off and float away, whereas the digital game won't let you form illegal connections.)

But it's a beautifully designed game throughout: a simple concept executed perfectly. The dialogue options in the campaign mode are genuinely funny; the look is cartoonish but lovely; and this most characterful and physical of board games has made the transition to the iPad with its soul intact.

£3.99 (iPhone version), £5.99 (iPad version) | iPad & iPhone (separate apps) | View Galaxy Trucker for iPad on the App Store | View Galaxy Trucker Pocket for iPhone on the App Store

Best iPad & iPhone games: Galaxy Trucker

Le Havre (The Harbor)

If you're anything like us, you'll need three or four games of Le Havre before it clicks, and that's a long learning curve for a board game. But if conflict-light, strategy-heavy resource management games are your thing, it's well worth the effort.

Le Havre is another Euro game, like Agricola, and is if anything even drier and more analytical. It's based around the economic activities at a bustling harbour; each turn you can collect one resource from the docks (fish, iron, grain or whatever), build a mill, brickworks or other facility, or use one of the buildings (paying a fee, if the building belongs to one of your opponents) to process one resource into another or perform some other function. If you can do all that while feeding your workers and amassing enough wealth to win the game, you're doing alright.

It's a good 'un, this, with tremendous depth and highly rewarding gameplay once you get the hang of it, but make no mistake: it's hard. And as we said, it's quite dry - the conflict with other players is all done indirectly, and there are no militaristic options.

£3.99 | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | View Le Havre on the App Store

Best iPad & iPhone games: Le Havre

New World Colony

Most well-designed board games take pains to avoid the death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling of impending, inevitable defeat that hangs over the final 16 hours of the average game of Risk. In Catan, above, losing players almost always have something to aim for even if victory is unlikely, and Small World (below) invigoratingly flushes out the board every turn or two, giving it a feeling of constant possibility. New World Colony is not like that - but it's still a great game, somehow.

Like Catan, it takes place across the hexagonal tiles of a newly discovered landscape, with rival settlers competing to establish a thriving base. But unlike Catan, it's quite happy to pitch player against player in bloody head-to-head battles - you can invade and dismantle any of your rivals' tiles if you have sufficient resources. This makes for a thrilling and almost chess-like middle game, but once you establish a substantial advantage, things tend to revert to a process of mopping up. For this reason we recommend NWC as a solo game: computer players don't mind being slowly crushed, but your real-life friends might.

£2.29 (free Lite version also available) | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | View New World Colony on the App Store

New World Colony iPad game review

Pandemic: The Board Game

My goodness, this is intense.

Pandemic is a vastly popular co-operative board game in which up to four friends work together to defeat four diseases sweeping the globe. Each turn you'll travel from city to city, treat the sick and research cures, hoping that the random new infections don't strike in that worst possible place and snowball into multiple outbreaks (spoiler: they always do). It's unbelievably tense, and winning feels amazing. And everyone is involved, since you're each allocated a role with special powers that will prove crucial in particular situations.

The iPad version works far better as a solo experience, but it still induces a massive (but pleasurable) panic at its key moments. And presumably the euphoria of victory is also sweet. But it also seems, oddly, to be much harder than the cardboard version; on the easy difficulty level my own group wins more often than not, but I've yet to do so on iOS. Perhaps this is a clue that I'm not the brains of my gaming group.

£4.99 | iPad & iPhone (Universal) | View Pandemic: The Board Game on the App Store

Pandemic iPad board game review

Puerto Rico HD

Probably the most middle-class game ever created, Puerto Rico invites up to five players (human or computer-controlled) to compete in an entirely non-violent way to establish the most thriving plantation colony. You have to pick one of the iconic figures from Puerto Rico's history to play as - one of whom is a female playwright - and grow corn and coffee, build universities and haciendas, and gain in prestige by shipping resources back to Spain.

All of which makes it sound like the Bible board game that Ned Flanders makes his kids play, but it's actually brilliant. One gimmick we've not seen elsewhere, for instance, is a mechanism whereby the various phases of the game (building, trading etc) only happen if someone picks the related 'role'. Picking the role that will benefit you and offer little to your foes is one of the ways you can twist the knife - pacifism be damned.

£3.99 | iPad only | Read our full Puerto Rico HD review | View Puerto Rico HD on the App Store

Puerto Rico HD iPad game review

Small World 2

The mechanic at the heart of Small World involves two decks of cards: one featuring races of fantastical, Tolkienesque creatures (trolls, elves, ogres and so on) and the other featuring adjectives (heroic, peace-loving, wealthy). In each game these two decks are matched up at random, and on your first turn, and whenever you elect to dump your current lot and try something new, you get to pick a combination. The two cards you get will dictate the special rules that apply to your armies.

Beyond that, Small World is basically fantasy Risk with jokes: you conquer territories with armies and get points for the area you control (and a few other things, depending on your race and attribute). It's fun, and surprisingly deep (particularly if you buy one of the expansions - Grand Dames is great). But the best thing is the way that every game is different, thanks to the random card-matching.

£4.99 | iPad only | View Small World 2 on the App Store

Small World iPad board game review

Space Hulk

Space Hulk is a decent digital recreation of a wonderfully tense board game beloved of spotty teenage boys in the early 1990s.

You control a squad or two of genetically modified super-soldiers in immense suits of armour, and trudge around an abandoned space ship stuffed to the gills with evil aliens. (The AI player always plays as aliens, but in the two-player mode you can take a turn as the baddie.) It's turn-based, keeping the slow-burn fear of the original, but with added kill animations and atmospheric first-person camera views.

It's not perfect, and we'd recommend playing the cardboard game itself if you can find a second-hand copy, but this is still a good effort and a lot of fun.

£3.99 | iPad only | Read our full Space Hulk review | View Space Hulk on the App Store

Space Hulk iPad game review

iPad Air 2 review | iPad mini 3 review | iPhone 6 review | iPhone 6 Plus review

Ticket To Ride

One for the trainspotters, you might think, although experience suggests that this simple but engrossing game will appeal to everyone. 

You collect coloured cards (seen on the right and along the bottom in the screenshot below), which you then use to build railway infrastructure across the map, attempting to connect up the cities named in your (randomly allocated) objectives. Tactically we believe it's relatively straightforward, but the competition for critical stretches can get fierce. And in the end there's not much in life more satisfying than building a railway. 

On the iPad version, the default map covers the US, and there are European expansions available as in-app purchases; on the iPhone there are separate Pocket apps for the US and Europe maps.

£1.49 (Pocket iPhone version), £4.99 (iPad) | iPad & iPhone (separate apps) | Ticket To Ride for iPad review Ticket To Ride Pocket for iPhone review | Download Ticket To Ride (iPad) | Download Ticket To Ride Pocket (iPhone) Download Ticket To Ride Pocket (iPhone, Europe version)

Ticket To Ride iPad board game review

Want to read about more great games for the iPad and iPhone? We've divided our list of the best iPad & iPhone games into 15 genres or themes - click the area that interests you to see the brilliant games we recommend in that genre:

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See also: Classic iPad games: 6 iOS games you need to have played