By Jen Carman on September 19, 2014 at 8:00am
In the past decade or so, tabletop gaming has been making an amazing comeback and it certainly has a dedicated following (myself included), but there are those who think “board gaming” and “bored gaming” are interchangeable and, for that reason, won’t give the hobby a chance. But not everything is like "Monopoly." With that in mind, how can board game designers lure electronic gamers to the table? Simple: invade their space. And, you have to start somewhere.
App gaming is fast becoming more than just setting tasks on timers or crushing candies. There is actually a whole list of tabletop games that already exist in the app world, but there have been a few fairly recent developments that Player Theory finds particularly exciting.
"Sentinels of the Multiverse"
Who is your favorite super hero? In "Sentinels of the Multiverse," you can become a parallel-universe-type version of them, and take on the baddies! This “cooperative comic book card game” provides you with a small deck of cards filled with the powers of one of its super heroes, so you and a group of your friends can battle together to defeat evil. Greater Than Games has recently teamed up with Handelabra Games to bring us a digital version complete with 10 heroes, four environments, and four villains. Those of us who are already fans of the tabletop version know there are at least twice that many characters and places that have come out in expansions, and those will be available later as DLC. Greater Than Games has slated release of "Sentinels" for Oct. 16 for both iPad and Android tablets, and the title will cost $10.
At GenCon this year, Mayfair Games called BoardGameGeek to the booth for a special announcement. The company, makers of tabletop classic, "Settlers of Catan" among other highly acclaimed games, announced that they are developing their game, "Steam," into a mobile app. "Steam" is all about railroad and commerce building, one of the oldest genres in board gaming. During the game, you construct your railway empire through an ever-changing landscape (as are your opponent), and your main goal is to claim routes to deliver your goods from one side of the country to the other, securing the most profits by the end of the game. Train games are an enormous part of board gaming culture and I really hope Mayfair can pull this off. Look for its release in Spring or Summer 2015.
As far as “modern classics” go, Vlaada Chvatil’s is "Galaxy Trucker" distributed by Czech Games is near the top of the list. Special Editions and Big Boxes have been released and re-release because it is that popular with good reason. The game consists of you building a ship and then transporting goods to a destination so that you can get paid. Sounds sensible enough ... except you have to build your ship out of a pile of face-down tiles at the beginning of the game, racing against the clock for time and your opponents for pieces…and you can only use one hand. Then once you have ... something ... that might be a workable ship, you pilot the monstrosity in the face of physics and decency through asteroid fields while warding off attacking pirates all the while, hoping that the one strut you managed to pull from the blind pile of construction pieces that is the only thing keeping your cargo hold attached to your engines will survive the onslaught. The app is set for release on iPad within the next few weeks with an Android version sometime soon after that.
"XCOM: The Board Game"
Last, but absolutely not least, is from the incredible game makers at Fantasy Flight. Even if you’re not a tabletop gaming fan (yet!), surely you’ve heard whispers of games like "Netrunner," "Star Wars: X-Wing," "Star Wars: Armada," "Descent: Journey In the Dark," and "The Battles of Westeros," Talisman." Seriously, the list goes on. At this year’s GenCon, Fantasy Flight released yet another amazing game, XCOM: The Board Game complete with everything you love from the video game in a box and ready to (hopefully) see you to victory as you save the Earth from invading aliens.
“Now, wait,” you might say, “This article was supposed to be about board games becoming video games, not the other way around,” and you would be correct. But this board game based on a video game *uses a video game to play the board game*. We’ll let that settle in. When you set up "XCOM," you are instructed to download the helper app onto your iPad or to use the online tool, and it is integral to the mechanics of the game. You feed it the information from your particular instance of play, and it manages the pace of the game, but by no means does that mean it makes it easy. The app was developed alongside the game, not as an after thought, and it creates this delicious tension.
So there you have it, four really great tabletop games from four different genres all coming to your electronic gaming world. And none of them were "Monopoly!" (We even snuck in a quick review of an actual tabletop game that happens to use the electronic medium in a fantastically seamless way.) We hope the rest of your day is as fulfilling as this.
Greater Than Games Handelabra Games BoardGameGeek Mayfair Games Czech Games Fantasy Flight Games