Back in the day, videogame companies were rampant at GenCon’s dealer hall. MMOs were gearing up (I still use my “Champions” backpack I got one year), and many of the big videogame names were there. Several companies had their games set up to play on the show floor. (I even heard rumors of the head of a currently well-known publisher belting out the tunes at a karaoke style setup someone had located across from his/her booth.) Those days are past (hmm, BGG karaoke contest anyone?) but the promise of digital adaptations of boardgames continues to grow so we now come full circle with more and more digital content shown off at the show. It’s nearly impossible to get decent screenshots so here’s a rather screen-lite rundown of games I came across. (Double bonus today – look for my other heavily pictorial report on random stuff I found interesting at the convention.)
You couldn’t spin a dead cat without coming across yet another boargame Asmodee Digital had announced was coming to the digital realm. The Lord of the Rings Card Game is a digital translation of the FFG card game (thus not a 1 to 1 copy.) It is coming to PC/Steam as an early access game in a few months. It will start out set up for solo play but the hope is to add in multiplayer cooperative modes (it will remain strictly players vs environment play.) had more announcements Scythe is coming along (out now on Steam early access) and will have a new update this month (August.) Future plans include a Mac port for those artsy types. Terraforming Mars is coming along. It should be fully released (not early access) in September and hopefully on mobile platforms by the end of the year. I’ve played it a bit on my PC, and was glad to see it now has a much more robust tutorial to the game. It is a 1 to 1 adaptation of the boardgame and will have a pass and play mode. The announcement of Gloomhaven heading to the digital realm in early 2019 was a pleasant surprise. It will start out as another early access game. It will remain a rogue-like style game but It isn’t a 1 to 1 translation of the boardgame. However, Isaac Childres is overseeing the development closely to make sure it fits into the world and its backstory. Munchkin will be appearing next year. Again, not a 1 to 1 adaptation but will feature the humor semi-cooperative game play of the original. Designed to be a casual game to play with friends as well as preserve some of that “discovery” of humorous content as one plays. As a videogame, it takes the opportunity to lampoon other video games and video game genres in addition to the normal Munchkin tropes. I’m not sure how they’ll pull it off but Mansion of Madness will appear in early 2019 on Steam. It (obviously – due to the silly bits of the game) will not be a 1 to 1 translation but will try to capture the feel of the Lovecraftian mixed with silly party game. It will be a solo game but players will use a group of adventurers to play. Other big-name games hitting the console realms include Carcassone on the Switch and Ticket to Ride on the PS4. Ticket to Ride is the interesting one from a technology standpoint. It is designed to be played on the big screen, but players will use their personal phones to interact with the game so that cards in hand will not be seen by other players. Pandemic will be coming to PCs via Steam. Onitama is a chess-like game appearing in Q3 2018. Gloom (the card game with clear cards) should be out by Halloween on Steam and mobile platforms. Five Tribes is slated with a Q4 2018 release on both steam and mobile. Finally, Bang is slated for a Q3 release (soon then!) and is a one to one adaptation appearing on Steam and mobile devices. It will also feature a pass and play mode.
Dire Wolf Digital
The people who brought you Clank! and Clank! in Space are actually a video game company (thus the whole “Digital” in the name.) It was a surprise to them to blossom into a boardgame company as well. Their Eternal Card Game is a typical TCG style game (two players battle it out with their decks) available on mobile and Steam (all accounts are linked.) The theme is sort of a wild west, wizards, and dragons. It is free to play and I am told it is extremely friendly to the casual player, where most of the purchasable stuff is in the cosmetic side of things. I’ve given the game an initial try and that may be true, but there is still plenty of opportunity to purchase more booster packs with cash. However, there are several interesting game modes – a campaign, playing vs the AI (which is decent), and of course casual and ranked play as well as tournaments. In a common practice elsewhere, players can consume extra cards to save up and buy (forge) the specific cards they need to round out that perfect deck. I suspect that players somewhat dedicated to the game could collect enough of the necessary resources to support the habit, so perhaps the “free to play” may be as they say.
North Star Games
Evolution continues along in its development. I don’t have a good feel for the strength of the AI, but I have to admit it looks great on the screen. It appears to keep all the important information easy to access, and I have to give it props for how the nice looking animations really fit into the theme.
SMG had a small booth, showing off their many varieties of the electronic version of Risk. Risk is one of those games that seemed great in my youth, but as I grew older I realized just how much time was spent rolling those dice. When digital implementations came along and I found I could play one game in about five minutes, I warmed up to the game again. SMG publishes Risk on mobile devices, complete with online multiplayer across platforms. That may sound uninteresting to the casual observer, but what did catch my eye were the many different alternate maps available as DLC (downloadable content – typically at a small extra price.) Like most of the DLCs, the Pirate Pack has a couple new maps and new “skins” to change the look of your avatar or your dice. Coming soon will be an Undead themed DLC hopefully arriving for halloween. It has maps from your favorite horror movies (the mall from Dawn of the Dead) as well as a supermax prison – interesting as six different areas lead into one central axis as the choke point for all of them. This expansion will also have a new game mode with some new rules (still under wraps, but a “zombie invasion” scenario anyone?”
SMG also makes Death Squared for most videogame platforms. It is a (multiplayer if you want) cooperative puzzle game where you maneuver four cute little cubic animals around a board, trying to avoid falling off. Puzzles include sending one cube over there to activate a switch for another cube to pass over here, or having one cube slide off a ledge onto a second cube which will then glide it across the open bridge to the other side. Four players can laugh about their seeming inability to coordinate their moves or two (or one) player can face moving two squares around at the same time (using two joysticks on the game controller.) I highly recommend it if that sort of came piques your interest at all.
The new-to-me game they had displayed was Super One More Jump. This is a side-scrolling game that really consists of a single button. Your little guy on the screen runs across its platform at a steady pace and you hit the jump button before it runs into things. However, when you get to the end of the platform you can also jump and circle around to land on the bottom of the platform going the other way. You could also be moving between two platforms and hit the jump button to hop between the (bottom of the) top and the (top of the) bottom. There are cooperative modes, where players are responsible for a color and must hit the jump button when its running on their color as well as competitive “endless” modes where each player gets as far as they can within a time limit (respawning when they blow up.)
After talking about the many flavors of the Legendary card game, I came across Legendary DXP, which is a (seemingly 1 to 1) port of the title to mobile devices but without any licensing, just Upper Decks’ own IP. Players can play it in a fully cooperative mode or in a competitive mode. It is now free to play, with most purchases focused on giving players changes to the deour, etc… There is also a campaign mode for those (like me) who enjoy that in their digital games.
Not so much a review, but I just had to take a photo of these guys playing Catan in virtual reality. Amusing to watch them looking around all the time as they tried to play. The computer screen displays what they’re seeing in the headset.
Now, for a taste of the weird, strange, or just interesting to me, hop over to the “kitchen sink” of photos I’ve posted in my Cabinet of Curiosities post.