Most gamers prefer a head-to-head boardgame experience, but sometimes that’s just not an option – thus the rise of digital adaptations. Long gone are the days when Ticket to Ride was the only big name on the app store and almost any strong selling game will get a digital port. Here’s a few I came across while wandering between the booths…
Czech Games Edition
Codenames is finally getting an official app, should be within the first half of 2023. No Duet mode, for now, but it will feature some new ideas for the digital world. There will be daily puzzle-type events where you will be provided with someone else’s clues for a specific game state and will try to guess correctly. You can also provide clues to see how others fare. Players who give out the best (or at least better) clues can earn keys. Keys are used to unlock new sets of words (like the boardgames category.) In another game mode, players will be given non-standard setup “missions’ with which to play, such as only a 4×6 grid but all the answers are videogames. A “detector gadget” type mode allows players to hold down their finger on a card and get hints about the nature of surrounding cards (typically how many there are of each type.) Players will “level up” through gameplay which will unlock new options for their avatar and possibly benefits like access to more daily puzzles. Of course, there will still be the standard game app stuff like trophies to acquire, etc…
Originally a digital company, Dire Wolf was true to its roots and showing off running copies of Everdell and the wargame-ish Wings of Glory. Both are available iOS, Android, and PC with Everdell also coming out on the Switch. Both games have a full suite of play options including cross-platform play, asynchronous games, and pass and play modes.
As I mentioned in my Gamelyn Games post, Dized has been creating interactive tutorials on how to get up and playing on quite a number of titles. They have most of the Tiny Epic game line and are always adding more. Recent ones include Terraforming Mars,Castle Panic, and Everdell. They go through all the steps of setup (including taking into account the player count) and then walk players through a few turns. It is interactive in the sense that the tutorial has a branching style and will cover topics in a different order depending on when you come across a new idea. Our play of Tiny Epic Dungeons was pretty good, although we took an unusual action which threw the game off a bit. A little bit into the tutorial the interface turned into a handy reference guide, providing rules and information based on offered categories. This was helpful, but sometimes the exact question we were asking didn’t seem to be there and we had to resort to looking through the rulebook. This wouldn’t be a problem except we had just spent time trying to figure out if the Dized tutorial had the information or not. My final verdict is that the tutorial was very helpful in setting up the game and kickstarting the first turn or two. As play progressed we found it more reliable to transition over to using the rulebook directly.
Hasbro (Avalon Hill)
While discussing all the nifty game bling in the glass cases of Avalon Hill, the head programmer wanted to let me know that there is a (optional, of course) companion app for Heroquest. Running on iOS and Android the app can control all the bad guys in the game to make it a cooperative experience for the rest of the players. It has all the current content and should continue to be updated as more expansions are released.
The Last Gameboard
The folks behind the multi-use tabletop screen, Gameboard were once again present at the convention. It’s a square touch-sensitive 22” display unit with speakers underneath. The board also network-capable so it can link up with other Gameboards for a shared experience. The most common project would be to use it as an interface for a role playing game. The board could sense movement of a physical miniature and display that movement through a 2D avatar to Gameboards at another location. Thus, everyone can play with their own miniature. Several RPG-focused titles are available such as Foundry, D20 Pro, and Battlemapp virtual tabletop.The board also runs standard boardgames. Many public domain ones like chess, dominoes, or rummy, but also a few meatier things like Viticulture, Ogre, or Mystic Vale. It looks like preorders are still open for boards to be shipped by the end of the year.
Sovranti is a web site that provides a place to play a wide range of boardgames in a 3D environment. Like most 3D games, one can rotate, zoom, and slide the perspective around. It also has a useful “jump to player” button. By hitting a single button the perspective will jump over to another player’s board view. The interface is also smart enough to set up the central board so it is in the optimal rotation. In other words, all players will have the game set up so that the card text is rotated toward them. It has an integrated voice and text chat so it can serve as an all-in-one online solution. It is subscription-based with a free option that makes 4 to 5 of their titles free to play each month. The gold level ($3/month) opens up all the games in their library for the user to play. At the “Family” level, one person pays $9/month and can then host a game for any number of other free or gold level players.
Pardon me, but I’m off to play a board game, in digital SPAAACE!
For more Gen Con 2022 content, check out the following reports as they are published:
Gen Con 2022 – Publishers A to C
Gen Con 2022 – Publishers D to H
Gen Con 2022 – Publishers I to P
Gen Con 2022 – Publishers R to X
Nope, the day cardboard transforms into mostly digitized format is the day I quit board gaming. All the appeal of board gaming is the “board” and the interpersonal experience of playing a game with other present human beings.
If I want to play a video game, which digitized board games arguably are, then I would spend my money on that hobby.
I loath the encroachment and hostile takeover of board gaming as we know it that the transition to digital board games portends. I will continue to go out of my way to snub board games that digitize in part or whole their games.
However, I’d rather chat with my friend while playing roll for the Galaxy online, then not get to play with him at all.
You have a very valid point, there are things digitized board games can do that tabletop games cannot. I guess we’ll see which way the industry goes forward based on the most egalitarian of all metrics – consumer dollars. I just hope that if further digitization is inevitable that a personal, tabletop experience isn’t transformed into a genre of video games, as it very well could become. There’s something to be said of playing a physical game with people present and the tactility of it all, I think much of that experience is lost in the ones and zeros of digitization.
I’m 100% behind tabletop is better. Just that some of my best friends are 1000s of miles away. That doesn’t less the joy of in-person games with my son and local folks. Digital just has its uses.
Oh, one more thing. Digital games are much, much cheaper. I was only able to try Ruins of Arnak because I played it online (at BGA I think.) I wasn’t going to be able to plunk down $40+ just to give it a try. My “digital collection” (on my tablets & computer, not just online sites) is far, far larger than my (reasonably sized) physical collection.