I love games of all types and have pride myself on introducing people to excellent titles they have never heard of. (And when it comes to learning from playing games, I approach it differently than most. These are not games that will teach students specific skills just by playing them.)
Here are the games I keep in my "School Games" folder of apps on my iPad. Some get played more than others, but I believe these are all great for the classroom. All except one are based on board and card games, which are my favorite types of gaming for thinking and social interaction in and out of the classroom.
I usually end up play these in math classes, but if time for games arises most can work well any content area--or in the cafeteria or anywhere else I find myself with a group of students. They allow for critical thinking, problem solving and (if played multi-player) practicing communication skills.
Prices are what I found on iTunes as of 7-19-2013.
Hey, That's My Fish! - $2.99 - This works for 1 - 4 players. Rules are extremely simple and the animations make it all the more engaging. Players compete to get fish points on a shrinking iceberg. Strategy and tension emerges as players balance getting to the most fish, trapping opponents and maximizing the chances of their own survival.
Olo - $1.99 - This is the only game here that's not based on an existing non-computer game. It is a two-player action game involving flicking disks of various sizes. It's so intuitive that students can start having fun with it right away, but there's room for skill. They score points if they stop in the scoring zone and players can reuse them up to three times each if they are flicked or bumped into their shooting zones. The fun comes in knocking the opponent's disk out of the scoring zones without returning them to the shooting zone where they can be reused.
Through the Desert - $2.99 - Here's a game I didn't expect to connect with the students from the remedial math class where I tried it, but they really liked it. It has a few more rules than most on the list, but the actions each turn are simple. Put two camels on the board. Points are earned in a variety of ways. The app makes the setup and sometimes cumbersome scoring effortless. If you work with students who like fresh strategy games, be sure to check out this one!
Sixis - $0.99 - This is a push your luck dice game with cards. I don't particularly like it because of some odd rules I never remember and I can't seem to roll the numbers I need! I have seen students really have fun with it though.
Can't Stop - $0.99 - This is the classic push your luck dice game. It makes a fun two-player game that my son and I enjoy. I used to have success in the classroom with the original board version and I thought the app would make it all the better. So far I haven't seen it catch students' attention, but there is a lot of potential here, at least for older students.
Ingenious - $1.99 - I have had a lot of fun with this app and the board game. It is very simple, but has plenty of room for strategy and interesting choices. The app allows two players to compete. I actually have not had a chance to teach students this game yet, but I think it will appeal to many in the upper grade levels. My big complaint with the app is that it's easy to accidentally place a piece in the wrong place or orientation, but there's no undo on the moves.
Ra - $3.99 - I keep Ra in my School Games folder, but like Ingenious, I haven't yet used it in class yet. The app does a great job of making a complex, long game very simple and fast. Each turn can take only seconds most times, but there are a lot of rules and to play well or even to care what's going on, there will have to be some explanation before the first game. So far I haven't been working with a group of students that I felt would sit through that. I absolutely love the game in the traditional form and the app. My son and I can speed through the three rounds of a full game in about 20 minutes on the iPad.