Board games can be fun for all the family or friends, sitting around the table, maybe after… Well, let’s stop right here because that’s precisely the problem we’ll deal with here!
We all know that “board games can be fun”, but they also demand the presence of other people. However, modern life’s frantic rhythms and new rules mean that those people, like us, are probably in their own homes. Also wondering how to spend their free time by themselves. Without boards. Or dice. Or us.
What they don’t know is that you’ll be training, refining your skills on the most popular board games, for when you eventually meet again.
We’ve compiled a list of the ten best board games you can install on Ubuntu right now. So, put “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat in the background, and sudo-apt-get the following titles. Then, start preparing for the eventual obliteration of your frenemies over your favorite board games the next time you meet face-to-face.
Most adults eventually realize there’s usually a catch in all “get X for the price of one!” promotions. Unfortunately, GTK Board ain’t different.
GTK Board offers an extensive collection of games in a single and easy-to-install package. However, at first look, most people would consider almost all offerings as sub-par. Avid games could even call them “horrendous” before returning to their beloved Steam collection.
Here’s the thing, though: you could say the very same thing about Windows’ Solitaire and MineSweeper. And yet, countless office hours have been “burnt” on their altar.
There’s a reason elders prefer such games. With age comes wisdom. Ask anyone over 40, and they’ll happily explain why “it’s not the looks that matter (but the gameplay”).
Also, our eyesight and reflexes suck.
To install GTK Board, fire up the terminal (CTRL + Alt + T by default) and use:
sudo apt install gtkboard
Then, you may find yourself also wasting hours upon hours on such theoretically half-finished, almost-prototype games. Soon you’ll realize you’ve spent half an evening playing the included Chess. Then, go rant on some forum about how GTK Board’s version sucks compared to other, better Chess games.
Finally, just like we did, you’ll probably rerun it. You’ll “waste” some more evenings on it (and the rest of the games in the collection) to ensure how much it sucks. All the while, you’ll somehow be unable to force yourself to uninstall it.
In a world of perpetual copyright, Chess would remain a best-seller for eons. Thankfully, Chess is open-source-friendly, and there are many variants of this classic board game you can play for free.
Some have better “engines”, the code-machinery behind the scenes that’s responsible for how “smart” they are, ensuring you’ll never be able to win them at their best. Others present fancier graphics with animated characters or 3D chessboards.
Gnome Chess has none of that, in that it probably wouldn’t be able to beat Kasparov, nor take advantage of your modern GPU.
What it offers, though, is a straightforward chess experience, with serviceable graphics and presentation, but most importantly, convenience. You see, it’s only a…
sudo apt install gnome-chess
…away, and off you go. After installing it, you’ll find it among the rest of your apps (look for “chess”).
Run the game, and you’re straight into the battlefield (OK, “on the chessboard”) as the white player. HoiEngine is responsible for the black player’s “smarts”, but you can also play against a human opponent. At least, if one comes over, or you visit them. AKA: there’s no support for net-play.
Old-schoolers have spent years trying to dominate their friends in The Settlers of Catan, but today the classic board game is known simply as Catan. And you can also play it on your PC, without having to buy the game. Or have friends. Ain’t technology fabulous?
Like with many classic board games, you can find multiple digital interpretations of Catan. We particularly like Pioneers because it comes with numerous maps, is in the repositories, and is free. It also helps that although it lacks in presentation, it’s an excellent – albeit unofficial – implementation of the famous board game.
To install it, use:
sudo apt install pioneers
You can play Pioneers against the computer or other players, and yes, it supports network play. You can even set up your own server and invite friends over.
TripleA is a digital implementation of the popular Axis & Allies board game. It’s played in the same way, with players taking turns over a map, moving units, attacking each other, trying to out-wit their opponent.
And it also has orcs.
To clarify, this is a digital re-incarnation of Axis & Allies, presenting the same “militaristic” action by default. However, it also supports maps and skins, with which it can change the “theme” of the on-screen battles.
It’s a minor thing that shouldn’t make a difference, and yet, for this humble writer, it did. I could find myself spending hours on a map, playing the very same game I couldn’t tolerate in its “vanilla” form with army units.
You can install TripleA with:
sudo apt install triplea
Then, you can play versus the computer or other human players, and yes, it also supports net-play.
Ace of Penguins
People worldwide love hating (or was it the other way around?) Solitaire. Especially the “Spider” variant that comes with most versions of Windows. However, Ace of Penguins will give you much more than that. We feel you should know what you’re getting into beforehand.
You see, yes, Ace of Penguins is even less polished than the version of Spider Solitaire that came decades ago with Windows XP. It’s also less organized, presented as a group of individual games instead of one title with multiple modes.
Also, as is usually the norm with Linux board games, It doesn’t have fancy graphics, support ray-traced reflections, or demand gigabytes of VRAM.
What it has, though, is the same engaging gameplay popularized by Windows’ Spider Solitaire, plus more alternatives for when (if?) you ever get bored of the same card game. So, after Penguin Spider, you’ll find Penguin Canfield, Golf, and more waiting for you.
The command that will lead to a significant chunk of your time going down the drain is:
sudo apt install ace-of-penguins
Soon you’ll find the game among the rest of your apps. Search for “Penguin”, choose the variant you want to play, and off you go.
GNU Backgammon, better known as GnuBG, can help you reach your goal despite its simple looks. That is, if “your goal” is becoming a world champion in backgammon. It can play and analyze games, has adjustable difficulty (so you can ease yourself in), and even a tutor mode that will help you learn the ropes.
You can install GNU Backgammon with:
sudo apt install gnubg
However, you won’t find it with that name among your apps – use “Backgammon” instead.
You can play “locally” against the computer or other humans or connect to backgammon servers for online matches against others.
It’s even possible to play directly in the terminal, with GnuBG “spitting” ASCII characters into a rough representation of the board and pieces.
Transcending the role of a mere game, GNU Backgammon treats its subject like science. It supports multiple bearoff databases, keeps statistics, exports and imports positions, games, and matches, and adds Python Scripting as the cherry on top. So, if you know your Pythons, you can even extend and customize it precisely as you wish.
Those six games are only a small selection of the board games you can play on Ubuntu. However, this article’s already taken more time than we’d like, countless hours of… er…
…”testing all software to ensure it’s worth your time”.
That oozed professionalism, right?
Thus, those six titles should do for now. We promise we’ll return in the future with more suggestions for great digital implementations of board games that will eat up (the rest of) your free time.