So here it is – my top 10 euro games you can play for free online. Covid 19 and the associated lock down mean many of us are largely housebound. And the possible ‘second wave’, as winter nights start to draw in, means ‘staying home’ is only going to become more common.
So, what better way to while away the hours than in the company of friends online – plus some brilliant board games?
All the games below are free on the site listed: ‘BGA’ = Board Game Arena, ‘BaJ’ = Boit a Jeux or ‘Y’ = Yucata. Games that have a * next to either BaJ or Y are also available at BGA, but are listed as premium (which means a paying member of the site needs to start the game). I did not include Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator because those websites need a much greater understanding of the games to play there; so, in my opinion, aren’t as good or accessible for learning new games.
Criteria: What is a euro game?
The term, ‘euro’ games stemmed from Germany in the late 90s and early 2000s. They tend to be light on direct player interaction and are usually quite abstract (although they all have ‘pasted on’ themes). They also shy away from ‘output randomness’ (such as roll-and-move). Instead, they thrive on input randomness – for example, where a number of random cards or dice are revealed before players choose which to take, or what to use them for. Strategy tends to be as important, if not more so, than tactics.
I had to draw a line somewhere in terms of complexity, so used the Board Game Geek complexity ratings. Any game averaging a rating below 3.00 was left out. Which ruled out titles I’d largely describe as gateway euros: Stone Age (Y*), Vikings (Y), Firenze (Y), Egizia (Y) and Deus (BaJ). All brilliant games and highly recommended, but not quite complex enough to make a euros list. (All game name links go to my full-length reviews.)
That left me with a solid list of 14 games that was very hard to break down to 10. The four honourable mentions that just missed out were Agricola (BaJ), Navegador (Y), Tzolk’in (BaJ*) and Vanuatu (BaJ). I’ve listed them in BGG complexity order, from the lightest to the heaviest. The first five games have less than a 3.5 rating, while the rest range up to 4.4 (out of 5). But nothing here is what I’d really describe as a properly heavy euro.
Top 10 euro games free online
Snowdonia (Y – 1-5 players, 1-2 hours)
A brilliant worker placement game with two original, stand-out mechanisms. Weather drives what actions are available each turn, and how effective they will be. While a clever AI system can move the game along around you. Both these elements make every game feel very different, ensuring no single strategy will work in every play.
Oracle of Delphi (Y – 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
In many ways a typical Stefan Feld design, with dice controlling actions and a plethora of choices each turn. Plus the potential for some bad luck to spoil your plans. But unlike his common ‘point salad’ scoring mechanisms, this is a flat-out race to complete 12 quests. And this great online implementation really helps narrow down your options and find locations.
Concordia (BaJ – 2-5 players, 2 hours)
This action selection game (pictured above) works via a clever card play/light deck building mechanic. Collect resources to help expand your empire, drafting cards that double up as extra actions but also end game victory point multipliers. While there’s no direct conflict, few euro games keep your eyes fixed on your opponent’s moves as much as this one.
Macao (Y – 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
Another Feld euro, with similar levels of dice, choices and the fear of rotten luck. I love the push-your-luck element here. You choose cards, then plan to get the right colours together in the same turn to activate them. Do you go for simple cards, that you’ll definitely be able to complete? Or the risky ones which give so much more if you manage to pull it off?
Yokohama (BGA – 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
This worker placement game builds on the route-style mechanism of games such as Istanbul and Five Tribes. But it is far more satisfying here, adding contract fulfilment and end-game bonuses that encourage long term planning. The variable board adds lots of replayability, while the chance for limited blocking adds a bit of spice to proceedings.
The heavier games
Bruxelles 1893 (BaJ – 2-5 players, 2 hours)
I learnt this online (pictured above), having missed it on release – and now need to pick up a copy. It has the usual euro game tropes: worker placement, action selection, resource manipulation, victory point multipliers. But everything seems to knock on to everything else. While the indirect conflict is some of the most significant I’ve come across in a euro game.
Trajan (BaJ – 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
If anyone was going to make the mancala mechanism in a euro game, it was going to be Stefan Feld. Here it works much like a rondel, as you manipulate the pieces to both take actions and trigger bonuses. Despite the roman theme this is a heads-down puzzle of a game, with many point-salady routes to victory for the player who is most efficient.
Nippon (BGA – 2-4 players, 1-2 hours)
Disclaimer: I’ve only played once so far, but loved it. The game has cutthroat area majority elements that reward perfect timing. But alongside that is a clever heads-down euro puzzle steeped in tough, interesting decisions. Action selection here is refreshingly original and tough too, often forcing you to choose between financial penalties or juicy bonuses.
Terra Mystica (Y* – 2-5 players, 2+ hours)
One of the true euro greats (pictured top of page), it is a territory building game without direct conflict. Each player controls a different fantasy race which has unique powers it can unlock, leading to different strategies. There’s a tight action selection economy, with tricky decisions at every turn. Plan for the long game, but be prepared to shift tack at any moment.
Kanban (BaJ – 2-4 players, 2hours)
Euro gamers shouldn’t be put off by the undeserved 4+ complexity rating. Sure, this car factory line production game has a lot of moving parts (ho ho). But thematically they all slot together to make sense. A single worker per player opens up a set of actions for you each round. While a clever, competitive scoring system drives most of your decisions.
* Enjoyed my top 10 euro games you can play for free online? Check out my other Top 10 gaming lists.