GenCon 2017 Mega Rundown – Digital

Greater Than Games (1)

Handelabra getting a bit too much into character.

Among all the boards and dice at GenCon are those who are working towards eliminating those same things.  Not that there’s anything wrong with physical games, but sometimes it is difficult to get all the players you need together in the same room.  In fact, digital boardgaming has been drawing non-boardgamers over into the boardgaming fold.  For those like me, who are often opponently-challenged, being able to play a favorite boardgame against my tablet (or an online opponent) is a big deal.  Since digital games cost far less than their physical counterparts, it allows me to own and play far more different boardgame titles than I could typically afford (or even afford to store.)  Here’s a few of the digital offerings headed your way or already released into the wild.

Asmodee Digital

asmodee digitalAsmodee Digital continues to blast out title after title (perhaps it’s because they have such a large catalog to draw upon.) Watch for the release of Ticket to Ride: First Journey. Produced in a “super cute” format the game will be local or pass and play only, as eliminating online play for this game is an actual feature. Both the US and the European maps will be available.

Carcassonne is set for a new release for Android and PC (the digital rights to the iOS Carcassonne aren’t available.) The new version is produced in a fancy new 2.5D format (ie. isometric to look like 3D) and has the option to turn farmer scoring on or off. The river expansion will be available at launch and the Abbot expansion is free if you link up to your Asmodee digital login.

AEG’s Smash Up is coming to the small screen. At first only the base game and the (BGG) Geek factions will be available.

Catan Stories is yet another new take on Catan. Rather than a game it is more of a text/point and click adventure. Supposed to have very pretty graphics and eight (so far) fleshed out characters with which to interact.

Zombicide is on its way but does not yet have an expected release date. It will be ported to mobile and will have the expected solo play choices, etc…

Mille Bornes, that French-y card game I remember from the 70s will be coming out in Q4 of this year. Players play cards to advance their race car while simultaneously playing hazard cards on other players. A somewhat complicated scoring system warps a quick game into a bit more strategic longer haul game. (Think one hand of Bridge vs a whole game.) As for me, I’m waiting to play a nice juicy coup-fourré on my sons…

Taking the long view, Bananagrams (mobile), Scythe (Steam), Terraforming Mars (????), and Gloom (everything but Mac) are all in the pipeline.

 

DIZED

dizedI sat down with DIZED at the convention for a personal tour of their vision of what an electronic gaming assistant should be. The germ of the idea for the DIZED program is to solve the rulebook issue. It is so much easier to learn from another person than dig through a set of rules. DIZED is not meant to be a platform for gaming but an assistant to players while they’re playing a physical game. For example, the program can get players up and running by bringing up rules as they become important. When first teaching players Carcassonne, the program will ask which tile was drawn and then proceed to describe how to use it. Road scoring for a road tile, city scoring for a city tile, and the rules for a monastery don’t come up until the first one is drawn. Sure, strategically it is good to know all the rules to plan for the future, but the point here is to help players through their first game.

DIZED plans to offer up the tutorial offerings for free to all players, but will offer a subscription model if players want advanced features such as dice rollers, stat trackers, soundtracks, or timers. Given its flexibility, the program could even be set up to serve as an AI opponent. When not playing a game, the app can log game plays and keep track of a player’s library (just zap the bar code on your game box.) It is out on Indigogo as you read this (as of August 28th) and the plan is to roll out the full program for iOS and Android in August of 2018 (with some features perhaps usable sooner.)

 

Handelabra Games

handelabraSentinels of the Multiverse is a fun multiplayer cooperative game. Since it is a co-op, one would think it would make a fine solo game as well. Unfortunately, the game is quite difficult with a single hero and trying to run multiple heroes at once can be quite a challenge. Thus, Handelabra Games has come to the rescue with an excellent port of the card game as well as a Sentinels Sidekick designed simply as a way to help reduce the fiddly bits when used alongside the physical game. The full Sentinels of the Multiverse game is playable practically everywhere (iOS, Android, Steam, Mac, even Amazon) and fully supports cross-platform gaming (at least with Steam/iOS/Android.) Handelabra keeps chugging away at the game adding in content. They have almost caught up with the physical game and I expect them to have the complete game available soon after the final physical expansion is released.

bottom of 9thHandelabra’s new port is Bottom of the 9th. Available for iOS and Android, the port includes three levels of AI play, pass and play modes, as well as online play between friends or ranked matches.

 

MetaArcade

TTA_banner_FinalI spoke with MetaArcade last year to hear about their efforts to put together a method of bringing the old choose-your-own-adventure style of game book play into the digital age. Partnering with Flying Buffalo and their Tunnels and Trolls franchise was a natural fit as T&T was pretty much the definitive solo RPG gamebook company in the early days of the hobby. August 17th was the launch day for the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures program, which is available for iOS, Android, PC, and Mac. The game is free to download and there are five adventures available for purchase at launch.

In addition to adding more content, MetaArcade is working on a set of tools that will allow any interested party to create their own adventures for the digital system. Work is also going on to branch the program out to other game systems.

 

North Star Digital Studios

evolution digitalNorth Star’s in-house studio has been hard at work adapting their popular Evolution game to the digital screen. A Kickstarter campaign starts in September giving backers a chance for early access to the game. The development seems to be well thought out. The basic game is taught through a tutorial by a friendly professor figure so that reading a stuffy rulebook. I’m glad to hear they’re working on single player options such as campaigns, challenges, and boss encounters. Multiplayer matches will track skill levels so that matchmaking will have a better chance of pairing up players of similar ability.will attempt to pair up players of similar skill levels.

 

Temple Gates Games

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA lone figure was sitting by the digital Race for the Galaxy display so I struck up a conversation about present and upcoming plans. The RftG multiplayer is getting a bit of love in order to make the online play experience better. The game will consider players to be online (so they can be contacted or notified) while they’re playing in a solo match against the AI. The timers will be improved (I think to allow longer times), a rematch button will be added, and players will have the option of adding an opponent as a friend at the end of a game. The expansions keep rolling in with Brink of War coming up and Alien Artifacts in the queue.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Roll for the Galaxy is also in development. I’m a bit hesitant as part of that game’s greatness is the chance to roll piles of dice. However, there are still interesting mechanics there and I can see myself playing a digital version. As with the digital card game, Roll for the Galaxy will be taking advantage of the talents of AI Keldon Jones who developed the definitively strong AI for Race for the Galaxy.

 

There was plenty of non-boardgame related digital action going on at the convention as well.  You could get together with friends and man your own starship (take your choice of two popular simulators – note that I’m told the newer, Empty Epsilon, program is also open source if you want to try to set it up at home…

 

I found another starship offering in the big open space occupying the floor of the football stadium..

 

If you’re a die-hard videogamer and no little namby-pamby digital boardgames will do, you could step into one of several videogame-dedicated rooms to get your PvP online game fix…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And now all I have left is to tempt you into returning tomorrow where I dredge up the leftover photos which I found interesting, amusing, and possibly a bit bizarre…

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About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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