Skip to main content

Board Game Overload

Agricola board game on iPad tablet and iPhone mobile

The effect that the iPad has had on the board gaming community is amazing. The potential of the device as a board game platform was immediately apparent and since release designers and developers have been choosing a wide variety of titles to port across based on various criteria such ease of conversion, suitability for AI play and popularity. Some, such as Ascension have been spectacular successes, others like Bohnanza have been very questionable choices but the stream has been constant and steady and most of the products well worth checking for their extremely reasonable app store prices.

But it seems to me that suddenly, we’ve reached a tipping point. That stream has very suddenly become a veritable flood, at least if you include all the titles for which conversions are promised as being in the pipeline. Amongst the excellent games that I’ve read will be sent to the iPad in the near future are Commands & Colors: Ancients, Survive: Escape from Atlantis, Nightfall, Summoner Wars, Eclipse and Twilight Struggle. Others, such as Imperial and Cyclades are poised to receive important updates. There are more I can’t mention because I’ve forgotten them, or because the bases games aren’t interesting enough to be on my radar.

I don’t doubt that this sudden rush to market has something to do with the fact that Days of Wonder publicly observed that sales of their Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride: Pocket apps were driving sales of the physical game and vice-versa. And as a hobby gamer it’s a pretty exciting time – that link between physical and digital sales that Days of Wonder CEO Eric Hautemont observed holds up the possibility that this may be the watershed moment we’ve all been longing for when certain more accessible hobby games penetrate the wider conciousness meaning that we have more people to play against and further dispelling of the pejorative perception that games are just things for kids. It’s a good time to be a gamer.

READ ALSO:  Homefront Reviews Cause THQ Stock to Plummet?

But there’s a part of me that’s worried. It’s probably the same part that would niggle me with doubts about future happiness if I were to win a multi-million lottery prize in this case certainly driven by annoyance over how I’m going to afford all these things and find time to play them. What worries me is that in the rush to put everything on a tablet, some people, especially nascent board gamers attracted by the new titles but without wide experience of the hobby, will forget why board games have attractions over video games in the first place, to whit human interaction. I mean, the fact that someone thought Bohnanza would make a great experience without a cut-throat table full of people to bargain and haggle with doesn’t bode well in this regard, nor does the absence of messaging facilities in more appropriate games and nor does the downward march of the European game design paradigm that seems determined to squeeze every last ounce of direct player interaction out of the game experience. Casual gamers may come to modern board games through mobile devices, but if they continue to find them as dry and soulless as many of them are now, they certainly won’t stay.

Matt Thrower

Matt is a board gamer who plays video games when he can't find anyone similarly obsessive to play against, which is frequently. The inability to get out and play after the birth of his first child lead him to start writing about games as a substitute for playing them. He founded and writes there and at

17 thoughts to “Board Game Overload”

  1. Hi! I am about to pick up my first i-device today. The iPhone 4S. There are a lot of reasons, but one is because board game support seems to be a lot better on the IOS than Android. Ascension is definitely on my radar, but do you have a kind of a biggest hits list you could share?

    1. If you’re just interested in board game conversions I can’t claim to have played them all but my most-played have been Ascension, Ticket to Ride Pocket and Catan.

      I also play Ghost Stories a lot but I think that’s iPad only.

      I can’t fault the implementations of Neuroshima Hex, Tigris & Euphrates and Tikal but they’re just not games I play all that much. Your mileage may well vary if your taste in games veers more in that direction.

      Others that I’ve tried, including Bohnanza, Ra and Medici I just don’t think work very well without face to face play.

      Of course there are plenty of other boardgame-like and non-boardgame titles that are worth picking up.

      1. Oh come on Medici is like crack. I’ve never even played the actual board game but this is an awesome single player iOS game that you can bang out in 15 minutes.

        1. You can bang out pretty much any board game iOS conversion in 15 minutes so that’s no great selling point. Medici is an auction game, and to enjoy an auction you need real people. There’s just no tension or excitement when you’re effectively watching a computer increment numbers.

          1. Totally disagree it’s a very fun game and the AI is pretty decent. Isn’t ever board game going to be better in person then an iOS port?

            I would of never played Medici if I hadn’t grabbed it from the app store for 99 cents and because of that it is on my list of future purchases.

  2. Neuroshima Hex is still one of THE best boardgame apps around. A great boardgame and a perfect iOS port.

  3. For solo play, Elder Signs: Omens is pretty solid. You’ll die about half the time even when you’re good, but good tactics improves your odds, unlike solitaire. You can also pass-and-play to other players by assigning people characters.

    1. No! Don’t listen to him! Omens is awful. Awful I say!

      I’m telling you: Neuroshima Hex. Small World isn’t bad either.

      1. The randomness is hateful, I’ll confess. But it’s infinitely less worse than Solitaire, and Cthulu mythos is an easy sell for me. I also don’t like most of the other iOS Lovecraft games currently on offer.

        As for Neuroshima Hex, I’ll give her a go.

  4. “Casual gamers may come to modern board games through mobile devices, but if they continue to find them as dry and soulless as many of them are now, they certainly won’t stay.”

    C’mon, you guys are better than this. At least acknowledge that there is a huge variety of games available and a huge variety in game preferences. That’s one of the great strengths of the board gaming hobby.

    And I agree with premise of the article. I am getting an iPad based almost exclusively on the number of board games coming to the platform (dry and soulless as they may be). Le havre, Agricola, Through the Ages are at that top of that list.

    1. I think you may have misunderstood the conclusion. Whilst I do think a lot of European games are dry and soulless, it’s all about taste and about variety and certainly a lot of the games picked for conversion so far are the cream of the crop. What alarms me is that a rush to market will make publishers pick games indiscriminately of quality and – more importantly – of suitability for play on tablets. Electronic play robs some games of all their charm and interest and renders them dry and soulless when they shouldn’t be. Too much of that, and the leap won’t happen.

  5. I’m not getting excited about the flood boardgame apps until Advanced Squad Leader gets announced for tablet.

    Okay, the non-sour grapes version is really: I’m not getting excited about them until I actually have money to buy a tablet of some form. Though C&C:A is about the only game I know about going to tablet that I have any prior experience with. Hope they do a good job on it.

  6. I just bought an iPad 3 for my fiance and pretty much agreed to the purchase so we could play some of these board games together. Problem is, is that I don’t know which games are capable of being played together on one tablet. Any suggestions for this?

    1. Ghost stories works very well as it’s co-operative and so has no annoying hidden information requiring pass-and-play: you can both look at the tablet all the time.

      I haven’t played Elder Sign, but it’s also co-op and may work well for the same reasons. Of course the gameplay may suck for all I know

      1. ‘Of course the gameplay may suck for all I know :)’

        I think I’m in the minority but I *hate* that game.

  7. 122331 332415Right after examine a couple of with the weblog posts within your site now, and I truly like your manner of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site list and may well be checking back soon. Pls take a appear at my site as effectively and let me know what you feel. 109647

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *