Like the backyard trampolines that are popping up all over the neighborhood, board games are a hot commodity these days.

In this new age of physical distancing, board games offer new ways for those living under the same roof to interact with each other. They offer an escape, entertainment, a new topic of discussion, and most importantly social interaction. Board game sales are up, board game swap groups on social media are busier than ever, and online board game sites are almost as popular as Zoom. Almost.


There are several popular online board games sites: Yucata, Board Game Arena, and Tabletopia are just a few of the most popular ones. All of these sites offer hundreds of classics and current popular games to choose from, and you can play for free, or upgrade to gain access to more services. You can play with your friends, by yourself, or make new friends. I’ve only tried Board Game Arena so far since that’s the site that all my friends were on, and my goodness does it ever make the current situation much more enjoyable.

Here are 5 great benefits of playing board games with your friends (or strangers) online:

1. Try before you buy

Sometimes it’s so hard to know if that game you bought but never played before will really see a lot of play time (or just gather dust on a shelf.) By testing it out virtually you can get a better sense if that game is for you.

2. It’s a great activity/conversation starter

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I love board games because it gives me something to talk about (other than super boring small talk about the weather) and encourages socialization.

3. You can play for free (or almost!)

Most board games cost around 50 bucks. They’re not cheap, but when you compare it to a family outing at the movies it’s a good deal for something you can enjoy over and over again. But not everyone can afford board games, and free services are always nice. Plus, for the same price or less than the cost of one game, you can play a huge variety of games online.

4. No setup required

Some board games take forever to set up. The worst are the ones that have a bazillion pieces and take longer to set up than to play! Virtual games require absolutely no set up time and can take a third of the time to play. This means you can squeeze in more games during your game dates.

5. Less waste

If you’re eco conscious, you’ll appreciate the almost zero carbon footprint of playing a game online.

A screenshot of Board Game Arena's Play Now page, showing favorite games and friends to play with.
Board Game Arena boasts 3 780 000 members (or new friends!) and 181 available games.


I have a confession to make.

I never liked the idea of playing board games online. It’s like reading books on a tablet, it’s just feels wrong. I honestly would much rather play in person than virtually. Plus, I’ve never been an early adopter when it comes to new gadgets, or social media platforms, or trends, so it took me about a month before playing my first online board game after my friends introduced me to it.


I’ve only played on Board Game Arena so far because that’s the platform that all my friends are on, but here is how I rate it:

User friendliness: Good.

It can be a bit confusing to figure out how to find your friends or invite a friend to play, (and some of the other functions as well) when you’re new to the site and you don’t have someone to guide you through it.

Game Selection: Great!

But only if you have a friend with a premium account to play with, or if you have a premium account. Then you can play great games like Dice Forge, Carcassonne, and 7 Wonders. The selection of free games is quite limited, but luckily a premium account is very affordable at only $34.80 CAD for a whole year of fun.

Socialization: Great!

Board Game Arena allows you to connect with your friends while playing through video and/or chat. But again, this service is only available to premium users or their friends. My friends and I often like to play multiple games during one session and it’s frustrating that you can’t keep talking when you’re not in a game or in the “lobby”. Maybe I should have rated it Good, but it feels so great to hear and see your friends as you’re playing!

Overall, Board Game Arena delivers a smooth game play that encourages conversation in between moves and turns. It understands that our quest for social interaction is the main reason why we play in the first place.

I still feel that it’s much better to play board games in person, but my aversion to playing board games online is gone.

Photo of Janelle Tang holding drawings of Meeple and Sheep

Janelle Tang is the Founder of Meeple & Sheep, a pop-up and online board game shop for families and casual players located in Ottawa, Canada. In a world overwhelmed with technology she hopes to encourage more families to disconnect and reconnect to one another through entertaining analog games. Janelle loves Star Wars and Star Trek almost equally, and also enjoys latin ballroom dancing, climbing, and painting.