Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Playing Digital Board Games to Save Your Analog Ones

Ascension iOS. If Magic and Dominion had a child...

As a person who doesn't have his own dedicated game-night group, it's hard to gather friends for one night of pure board gaming (And believe me, I've tried). You try to get people excited, pour your heart into rules explanation, and by the time the game really gets going, you've lost their attention. Can I suggest something entirely unconventional?

Play the same board games digitally.

"But the whole purpose of game night is to gather friends and play in good company."

Yeah, yeah, I know that. But hear me out. There are some unique benefits gained when playing the game digitally.

Digital Rules


Ticket to Ride iOS. Bet you didn't think you'd have fun with trains, didja?

Any board gamer can relate to this, but there's that painful period of time when you rake through the rules over and over, making sure everything's covered. And just when you think you know the rules, you discover, halfway into the game, that you did one rule completely ass backwards, making everyone calling foul, and forfeiting the entire game in the end.

But in the digital app, you can see how the game is meant to be played. Can't discard a card? The rules don't allow that, AND NOW YOU KNOW! Can't move your agent there? It's because the app knows better, better than YOU! (Of course, this is under the assumption that the programmer configured the rules correctly from the start and didn't fuck up the entire app.)

What's even more important is that you can visually SEE the proper actions taken during a turn! Do I discard first and then draw? Play the app and observe! Do I roll first then complete quests? Check the app! Do I have to...you get the point.

And once you play a few games of this, the rules will be embedded into your head, and flow like water the next time you whip out your physical copy of the game!

Try-Before-You-Buy


Lords of Waterdeep iOS. Online is a MUST!

Buying board games is a lofty investment, one you hope will garter returns in many play sessions with friends. It would be a shame to buy a game, get lost in the rules, and when you finally play it you find you weren't really interested in it in the first place.

This is where the much-cheaper digital app comes in! Compared to the actual physical product, you're looking to spend at most times less than 20% of the retail price. Or even better still, sometimes completely free if you wait long enough!

With these games at the cost of a decent lunch or a cup of coffee (Yeah, I said it...don't bitch to me how apps are expensive. We spend the same amount on much more frivolous things), it's practically nothing nowadays to get a game and try it out. And if you don't like it, you'll have a piece of mind knowing you didn't fork over an arm and a leg just for a box to collect dust in a lonely corner.

But if you find the game to be utterly spectacular, then making the physical purchase just became much more easier for you!

Embrace the Community


Playing a digital version of a board game on a mobile device becomes a juggling act of sorts when it comes to multiplayer. Most games use a "pass-and-play" feature locally on the same device, which is fine if you can gather people locally long enough to play one game passed around on one device. Thankfully, most digital apps now employ online gaming, allowing players to connect and play through anywhere. And what better way to understand the competitiveness of a game than to play it with real people who want to play?

But why stop there? There are actually some dedicated board game sites and apps that allow free play of most classic and modern board games. And the online players you'll find in each are as real as you and me.


boardgamearena.com - Their site is very inviting and warm, with a pleasant "wooden table" theme that really brings the term "tabletop" home. Their game list is varied, but surprisingly has some modern games I never thought I'd see digitized, like Tzolken. Plus, they have a spectator mode, so you can just watch live games as they're being played.


yucata.de - To be honest, I just heard of this, but doing a quick glance shows that their library is quite large. Not as inviting as boardgamearena, but I'm sure something will catch your eye faster.


Vassal - An open-source engine that allows board gaming online or through email, Vassal is a very fan-dedicated app. There are PLENTY of mods out there to download and check out. Your milage may vary, though, since it's open-source.

How does this help your physical game night? You can observe people's strategies in games. With chat-enabled games and a willing participant, you can figure out why people make their moves. With this added knowledge, you can perhaps share this with your buddies at game night, or use it to your own secretive advantage.

Catch-22


Elder Sign: Omens. Chuthulu hunting on the go.

Sure, it's a bit ironic that you need to play board games to be able to play with friends, but until you gather a physical group, digital apps are a perfectly logical solution. You can learn rules correctly, buy only the games you know you will love, and maybe learn a few tips along the way. And all it requires is some spare time and a couple of dollars.




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