I'm an enthusiastic tabletop board gamer with a long history of playing board games in-person. I've even met some of my closest friends through playing board games. Like many board gamers, the pandemic caused my board game community, and support network of gaming friends, to disappear almost overnight. There was no longer the option to play board games in-person and I felt stranded and alone–until I discovered a platform called Board Game Arena.
Board Game Arena, also known as BGA, is a platform that allows you to play games online with other gamers. Becoming a member is simple: you only need an email address to sign up. Then you can access its entire game catalogue for free. I speak for many gamers when I say we love it and we love it for many reasons.
The community is vast.
Board Game Arena experienced a boom during the pandemic. That means you can now play games with your friends or any of its 8 million members. It has games in over 42 languages and players from 200 countries–I recently played a game of Kingdomino with players from four continents. The community also accommodates gamers of varying abilities. You can play in casual mode or enter arena mode for competitive gaming, where scores are added to a quarterly leaderboard.
The catalogue is extensive.
I've invested hundreds of hours into Board Game Arena and haven't made a dent in its catalogue of 480+ games. The catalogue comprises indie games and Asmodee games like Splendor, 7 Wonders and Carcassonne–a number set to grow after Asmodee acquired the platform in 2021. Our very own Trekking the World has been available on Board Game Arena since November 2020.
Because the catalogue is vast, everyone is sure to find some favorites. Mine include Kingdomino, Patchwork and Sushi Go. You can easily keep track of your favorite games by clicking the heart icon next to the game image and accessing all "hearted" games under the Favorite Games section on the homepage.
Different play options.
GBA gives players the option to play in real time, playing one game in a single sitting, or turn based. This means you can play several games at the same time and play across days or even weeks.
Board Game Arena has adapted the games for online play with a simplified 2D view and nifty features that make gameplay easier online. I particularly love not having to shuffle cards or set out a complicated game board!
It's compatible across devices.
Accessible in the browser, you can use Board Game Arena on any device that can access the internet. I've played games on my mobile phone, tablet and laptop. You can access Board Game Arena whether you have a PC or Mac, on iOS and Android systems, and even on devices like your Playstation, Wii U or Xbox One! Although it's compatible across devices, I found that some games, like Tokaido, aren't suitable for smaller screens.
Learn to play new games.
What I love about Board Game Arena is the ability to learn how to play games I don't own and don't know. Each game's page includes a quick video tutorial and written rules, which you can read in advance or alongside the game as you play. There's no tutorial mode for games per se, but if you're new to a game, you're given an extended turn time. You can even spectate at an existing table to watch a game before playing it.
For newer players, avoid overwhelming yourself by scrolling through the entire catalogue. Instead, find your perfect game by browsing the catalogue with filters, like number of players, complexity, theme or mechanism.
Built in safety features.
Although every user has a profile, you have full control over what's viewable by other players. For example, I don't list my age, gender or city on my profile. The only required fields are your username and country. You have an avatar image, but you can choose it from a list of game-themed images. I have an avatar from the game Sushi Go and a username with no identifying characteristics.
Board Game Arena has many games that are completely free to play, like 6 Nimmt. If you want to play one of the premium games, i.e. those that you pay to play, you need a premium member in your gaming group. Board Game Arena will add that premium member if you choose to have your opponents on automatic selection. That means you can even play two-player premium games like Patchwork for free, as long as you play against a premium member. In a game with friends, only one group member playing a game needs a premium membership.
A premium membership adds benefits.
The premium membership adds benefits like not having a wait time on games, video and voice chat, and unlimited access to all games. It costs around $6 per month, or you can get a whopping 50% off if you pay yearly. Board Game Arena often offers discounts, so it's worth waiting to get a good deal.
Even after lockdown restrictions have ceased in my country, I still use Board Game Arena to play games with friends around the world and to learn new games. If you're a board game enthusiast, it's a great new way to access and enjoy hundreds of board games. I recommend starting with Trekking the World!
If you're looking for more people to play board games with, check out this list of ways to meet other gaming fans.