In days past, GenCon was full of videogame vendors. Over time, fewer and fewer showed up. However, the digital side is coming back, thanks to the increasing offerings of boardgames translated into the digital realm.
Having said that, Asmodee Digital was not at the show. However, that doesn’t stop them from having a slew of titles recently released and coming soon. Terraforming Mars (on Steam) has been out for awhile, Scythe has a new DLC (Aliens from Afar), Pandemic is now available on the Switch (which now means it’s available on Switch, Xbox, iOS, Android, Steam, and even Amazon – did we miss anything?) The On the Brink expansions, however are only available on Steam.) If you’re the type that isn’t into the 2D of a computer screen, Catan VR (on Vive, Oculus, and PSVR) has got you covered.
Finally, Bananagrams has just come out for iOS and Android. Looking towards the future, Gloomhaven is on early access on Steam, but don’t expect its official launch for some time. The most imminent release is the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game that will come out on (a somewhat delayed) August 29th. It will eventually be available for PS4, Xbox, and Steam, with a Switch version coming along later.
One would think computers are a great fit for games with hidden information, thus the block games from Colombia Games would be a natural fit. You would be right. At Gencon, Avalon Digital was showing off their current state of the block game, Richard III. While it is not yet out on Steam (should be out Fall 2019 though) you can download a demo of the game for free. The demo includes one of the three campaigns that will eventually be a part of the game.
Dire Wolf Digital
Of course, Dire Wolf’s Eternal is still going strong, with its fifth expansion released a short while ago. For those who haven’t tried it, I give it high marks for anyone looking for a CCG with depth approaching that of Magic: the Gathering. It takes advantage of the digital realm to bring in some mechanics that just don’t work in a physical game, like the ability to affect a creature permanently, even after it gets discarded. Other interesting traits are Warcry which makes your next unit drawn more powerful, Warp that lets you play off the top of your deck, Echo which duplicates a card when drawn, or the ability to affect a creature permanently, even after it gets discarded.
Not to be shown up by their tabletop side (Clank!, etc…) they have just finished up an excellent (I’ve played it a bit) version of Raiders of the North Sea. It’s out on iOS, Android, Steam, and the Switch. It should run cross-platform, but there is no local (pass and play) abilities yet, although they are on the drawing board.
The next release will probably be Yellow and Yangtze, the Knizia update to the T&E classic. It was up and being demoed at the booth. It should come out in September for all the same platforms (the Switch version might be delayed) and they are hoping to have a pass and play mode done when it releases.
With a few boardgames under their belt, Dire Wolf is planning on releasing Root, Sagrada, Wings of Glory, and they have joined with Wizkids to produce digital versions out of some of their extensive catalog (think Mage Knight, etc…)
Campfire Studios has joined with Greater Than Games to produce a digital version of Fate of the Elder Gods (Kickstarting on September 14th and possibly releasing in March of 2020.) This isn’t a straight port of the boardgame, instead they’re trying to put you right into the action in a sort of first person story environment that follows along much of the events occuring in a typical run of the boardgame. Expect it to have a story campaign with up to 80 hours of material. While it will not be competitive, they have plans to make it multiplayer in that multiple players may be running around in the same game, although working on different tasks – so some of the NPCs you meet might actually be other people.
I recall meeting with the Dized folks a couple years ago and they had big plans for their digital tutorial system. It looks like things are coming right along. Free for consumers, the program already operates as a rules-lookup system (with 70 games and counting) and is working towards being a more involved interactive rules tutorial. Players use the app to step through game setup and the first few turns (or however many turns) through the use of animations, images, and video. Many publishers are involved, but only a few have utilised the full animation tutorial options. To help publishers get up and running with tutorials, Dized is putting together a drag-and-drop system for animation/tutorial construction. A publisher would import their art onto tables or cards and then use drag and drop features to animate the cards through a system of logic trees, with each step in the tree linked to an animation or video. The publisher tool is in development and they hope to release it in a few months.
Continuing to work with Greater Than Games titles, Handelabra currently has Sentinels of the Multiverse, Bottom of the 9th, as well as One Deck Dungeon (yes, I know that’s an Asmadi Games one.) They now have Spirit Island on their plate with a possible Kickstarter for the game coming out soon. The closest release is the port of Aeon’s End (the cooperative deckbuilder) which is still in early access but is releasing “very soon.” If you have already tested it out a “real” tutorial for the game should be coming out within the week.
On a whim, I sat down in front of one of the screens in Mattel’s demo area. I wasn’t sure what kind of game Age of Rivals: Conquest would turn out to be. As the demo-person started to step me through the start of the game, I did a double-take and looked back up at the name. It was almost exactly the same as a favorite digital game, Age of Rivals (which I have on iOS and Android, although I think they’ve both stopped working.) A few minutes more with the demo (no need for extra help) and I was pleased to see the new game retains much of the previous one. The two big changes are the lack of different resources (everything is cash here) and a slightly different attack phase. The game is all about card drafting. Players have a budget and then take turns drafting (and paying for) cards to get a total of eight. Each player drafts from their own tableau of four cards (which change after each card selection) although a few times you will have a choice of one of your partner’s undrafted cards. Once cards are drafted they activate. Cards come in several types: soldiers & knights (which do damage), castles (which have a lot of health), and other buildings that grant points, money, and other abilities. First, damaging units are played onto one of three villages (in a sort of blind bid), with players earning points if they have the majority. Next, all damage is assigned to your opponent’s cards (every card has some defense.) You assign the damage on your own units and there is strategy here to take advantage of rounding. One of all the “destroyed” cards is then turned into junk, while the others come back at half health. This is significant, because cards earned in early rounds will come back into play in later ones. (I expect there to be around 4 rounds in total.) To add variety, players choose from a set of personalities, all of whom grant special abilities during the battle and have an associated solo mode campaign. Asking about the release date, I was informed it was “coming soon.”
North Star Games
Demoed at their booth, if you haven’t given the digital version of Evolution (Steam, iOS, Android) a try, it is one of those games that uses all the same boardgame rules, but ismore than a simple straight-up digital edition. The animations are festive, the tutorial is solid, and there’s multiple AIs. I like how you can “collect” special species art after combining the correct types of animal traits within the game. Top it off with a campaign mode, and it gets a strong “thumbs up” from me.
Not a boardgame port, but the folks at Underbite Games are working on a tactical videogame based on the Sentinels of the Multiverse setting entitled Sentinels of Freedom. With a story and background developed by the folks over at Greater Than Games, this is a turn-based RPG-ish game where players manage a squad of heroes through encounters. (Think X-Com or the like for fans of the genre.) Combat is action-point based, with what I found to be a nice user interface. Basic stats were easily displayed on the screen and more detailed analysis appears over on the side for those looking for it. To capture the “stance” feel of many of the Sentinels heros, characters have two “stances” they can choose between at the end of each turn. For example, some heroes may switch between a melee and a ranged stance, or the hero Bunker can be set to be movable or turret mode. Each mode allows a different set of power options to be used. If you really need to change stances mid-turn you can also just spend some of your action points. In what I think is a festive move, there won’t be any of the expected energy types (electrical, cold, sonic, etc…) Instead, all powers have comic-book sounding types of attacks. You can attack with a “Thwack” ability or something that does “Foom” damage. (I assume that’s something like blunt or area damage… but I still like it.) They are hoping to get the game up and running for a release in February 2020 and it will appear on Xbox, PS4, Steam and the Switch.
White Wizard Games
I know the digital version of Star Realms has been out for some time. I particularly enjoy the campaigns that are accessible as one purchases the different expansions. For those who haven’t played in awhile, there is a “new” arena mode for PvP games where there is a “rule of the week” that changes the game in some significant way – shaking up what might otherwise be a player’s typical go-to strategy.
Hope that gives you some ideas to check out. As a parent, I find it hard to get together for face-to-face gaming, and the wealth of digital options is a great thing to have. However, don’t let that digital gaming get in the way of some quality face-to-face games!
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