Which is the best board game on the iPad? We've collected the 8 finest iPad board games, suitable for all the family to enjoy this Christmas 2013.
Along with presents, arguments and drunkenness, good clean family fun, in the shape of a fusty old board game, is an essential part of the Christmas experience: squeezing on to the sofa after a heavy lunch and enjoying some mildly competitive quality time with your siblings, nephews, grandparents and family hangers-on.
It's possible to blend tradition with modernity, too, and there are many advantages to trying out some board games on your iPad this Christmas 2013. There's variety, for one thing: there are literally thousands of options on the App Store, as compared with the copies of Risk, Monopoly and Ghostly Galleon* in your cupboard, each of which has been played to a state of ragged decrepitude.
iPad board games are also a lot cheaper than their cardboard and plastic equivalent. They tend to cost a shade more than the average iOS game, with price tags of five or six quid about standard, but you can take a punt on something interesting at that price: you'd be more cautious about spending £25 or more. And there are plenty of cheaper or free alternatives. What's more, you don't have to brave the cold weather to buy an iPad game.
So without further ado, here are some of our favourite iPad board games. If someone's been given an iPad for Christmas, what better way could there be to spend the afternoon than getting the whole family involved in a game of something charming and harmless?
Best iPad board game for tactical depth with an educational side: Puerto Rico HD (£2.99)
A beautifully designed and strangely evocative board game, this, which we've discovered this Christmas 2013.
Up to five human or AI players take the role of various important figures in the history of Puerto Rico (stop yawning) and compete to set up thriving colonies on the island. You grow plants, from sugar cane to coffee, and build warehouses, docks and factories to help you process goods for sale or shipping back to Spain. There's no fighting; you just sit next to each other on strips of land and do your thing. But it's no less compelling for all that.
With its non-violence, slyly educational tone and politically correct roster of characters, Puerto Rico HD is tremendously middle-class; you could imagine it making an appearance in the Private Eye comic strip 'It's Grim Up North London'. But don't let that put you off. This is a calmly brilliant board game.
Best iPad board game if you want to discover a superb new board game: Catan HD (£2.99)
The more discerning gamesters among you may already have a copy of Settlers of Catan. It is an absolute stone-cold killer classic, the greatest board game this writer for one has ever played. With forensic skill, designer Klaus Teuber created a simple but fiercely tactical tile-based conquest game where no one gets knocked out and everyone has stuff they can work towards even if they're miles behind the leaders.
It can get aggressive but a few house rules - no robber until everyone's had two turns, say, or just being nice and not picking on people who are struggling - should keep it friendly.
If you've not got the full set, though (and it'll set you back £25 for the basic game and almost as much for the near-essential Seafarers expansion), the iPad edition is pretty sweet.
Read our full review of Catan HD for iPad for more information, but here's the gist: it's a decent adaption of a superb board game, much faster-moving because the iPad works out all the victory points for you, and a bargain at £2.99, and £2.99 per expansion. (Seafarers is wonderful, Cities & Knights not quite as essential but still an excellent introduction to that expansion's more complicated rules.)
The computer players are much more vicious than real-life players, but that shouldn't affect a family game with human players only.
Best iPad board game if you want something gentle for a kid-heavy gathering: Ticket to Ride (£4.99)
Hardcore fans may disagree, but our experience suggests there isn't enormous tactical depth to Ticket To Ride, yet it's fun and gentle enough for both the relatively young and the extremely hungover to join in. Essentially you pick up cards that let you build various kinds of railway rolling stock, and use these to build a rail network that connects enough points on the map to fulfil the various missions you're given.
Best iPad board game if you're ready for something with real complexity and a touch of humour: Small World (£4.99)
Our games editor tried to get this classic included in our recent '50 best iOS games' feature, but got outvoted by the rest of the team. We've all been playing it heavily since, however, and it may well make the list next time.
Small World is set in a Tolkien-esque fantasy universe with a facetious flavour. Your aim is to amass victory points by conquering and holding tiles on the map, but there are numerous special rules that affect this, depending on the race of characters you select at various points in the game, and the special ability which has been randomly assigned to them for that game only.
The combinations of races and abilities are huge so no two games turn out alike. And the brevity of each game (not to mention the back-and-forth flow of almost every skirmish) means there's none of that gradual sinking feeling you get for the last two hours of a game of Risk where you know the end is coming. It's only two-player, sadly (the board game allows up to 5). We hope this is addressed in future.
UPDATE: Superbly, with version two (which is a free update) this has now been fixed, and you can play with up to five human and AI players, making this a must-buy.
Best iPad board game if you want a digital version of a classic: Monopoly (normally £4.99; on sale for 69p at time of writing) or Scrabble (£6.99)
So Regent Street is torn, most of the Chance cards are gone and someone pinched the iron. Or you've lost all the vowels, half the letter stands and the board. This is the natural and inevitable end of a much-loved family board game, particularly if it regularly goes on journeys to Grandma's or the local.
If you raid the games cupboard and discover that an old favourite has finally reached the point of no return - or realise that your kindly hosts don't have a copy of something you were depending on - then one option is to download the digital version to your iPad. The official Monopoly and Scrabble apps will serve you well, but bear in mind that there is likely to be a cheaper, similar game on the App Store if you can do without the correct branding.
Best iPad board game if you're in a silly mood: Fingle (£1.49)
Like Small World this is for two players only, but you can always take it in turns. It's a lot of fun, but somewhat unsettling and deeply odd.
Fingle is essentially miniature Twister, using only your fingers. Small shapes appear on the screen, and the two of you have to place your fingers in the right place, and keep them on the shapes as they move around. You'll find your fingers more entwined than a couple of freemasons playing thumb wars.
Best iPad board game if you want to test your trivia skills: Trivial Pursuit Master Edition (69p)
A bargain option, this, and a lot of fun. The main down side is that the questions are multiple choice, which makes things a lot easier (quite often you'll be able to rule one out right away, leaving it as a 50/50 shot), but really nothing beats hassling your in-laws with trivia questions, and this has loads.
*This may just have been the Price household. It's an odd game, but quite fun.
For more iPad (and iPhone) games worth buying, check out Macworld's reviews section.
For more information about Apple iOS devices and software, why not download the iPad & iPhone User Newsstand app? It's free and includes a free full issue of the magazine.