Monday, March 3

Electronic Board Gaming

As I mentioned last week, my role at work has changed slightly over the last couple of years, moving towards Project Management and away from Software Engineering. As part of that I've been making more trips for work, often with my boss, Ian. Ian just so happens to be a Games Night attendee, so when we travel, I take the iPad and its collection of board game apps.

I used to be a very keen computer gamer as a kid, mostly RPGs and RTSs with a little first-person action thrown in too. As the games became more realistic, I started getting worse and worse motion sickness, so I gave up gaming. Similarly, my hobby design efforts moved from tiny bits of computer role playing games to fully fledged board games and Reiver Games was born.

As I became more and more interested (some would say obsessed!) in board games, computer games completely fell by the wayside and I stopped playing them altogether. Board games gave you a greater mental challenge in a shorter timeframe, without the frustrating dexterity element of having to push the buttons in exactly the right order at the right time.

I was a late adopter of smart phones, but we've had an iPad for a number of years and the draw of Carcassonne on the iPad (and later Windows Phone) sucked me back in. Being able to play good board games on my own when I had time to kill and no opponent was a fun way to fill the time, without the joylessness of soloing a game (which somehow feels lonely in a way that playing against a computer opponent does not).

The last two years I've been to a big conference in North America (Vancouver in 2012 and Minneapolis in 2013), and I've been with colleagues who come to my Games Night, so I've taken the iPad and we've whiled away the airports, connections and transatlantic flights playing games. I love board games (obviously!), but there's a time and a place for physical games and, for the vast majority of them, being crammed into cattle class on a transatlantic flight isn't it. But the iPad lets you play decent, complex, strategic games with almost no space requirements and as an added bonus you get a lot of the bookkeeping taken care for you and there's no setup or packing away time.

The Wife would tell you otherwise, but I'm actually a fairly conservative board game purchaser. I don't buy many games, and those I do I'll get rid of if I don't like them or stop playing them. I rarely buy a game without playing it a few times first (Firefly the Board Game and X-Wing Minis are a couple of recent exceptions to that rule). Strangely, the same is true of iPad board game apps, despite the much lower price point. Until recently, almost all the apps I bought were games I owned the physical version of, and I've only ever bought one game I'd not played before (Army of Frogs, and that was because I am big fan of Hive which doesn't have a native iPad version). Since the start of the year I've done two trips to Manchester for work (3 hours on the train each way) and next week I'm off to Tuebingen in Germany - pretty much 8 hours of travelling each way - again with my boss Ian.

We usually play Ra a lot, plus Hey! That's My Fish! and more recently Lords of Waterdeep and Puerto Rico. For the German trip I've also invested in Catan (I've previously owned a physical copy), Pandemic (I own a physical copy), Small World (I've played it a few times, but don't own it) and Forbidden Island (played quite a lot, but don't own). It would appear that I'm loosening up a bit.

With all this choice, the two games I play the most solo are Carcassonne (when I've got a few spare minutes) and Eclipse (which I own) when I'm on a journey and I've burnt out my travel companions!

While I'm very happy to play board games on the iPad pass-and-play with friends, I never play online games - either real-time or turn based. There's something about board games that I think is lost in translation if you're not all interacting in the same physical space.

Do you play electronic versions of board games? Which are your favourites?


GamesBook said...

I must admit I balk at buying e-copies of games I already own. I also do not travel that much and its rare for me to be somewhere where I cannot just simply setup a game.

The idea of try-before-you buy is appealing though; given the relatively horrendous costs of boardgames in my country (exchange rates + shipping + customs).

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Derek,

Yes, I can see the appeal considering the cost of getting games to South Africa.

Having a game I already own is great for travelling, I only own games I really like, so they are guaranteed to be things I want to play and it's worth its weight in gold to be able to while away 6 hours of travel playing decent communal games.



Anonymous said...

Have you not tried any of those stand-alone tabletop games which involve only cards (e.g. Cards Against Humanity; Anomia; Fluxx; Squarrels)? These are at least as portable as any e-game.

Jackson Pope said...


The only ones of those I've played is Fluxx, and I loathe it with a passion mortal man can only dream of! (I'm not a fan!). Cards Against Humanity looks fun, but I get the feeling it will shine with more than two players and when not cramped into a small space with a whole bunch of people who might be easily offended!

I'll take a look at the other two...



Unknown said...

Oh my God... !!!! There's a Firefly board game?!?!

That's so cool :)

Ummmmm... I kinda new to this blog thing... how do I get a hold of you directly?

I'm looking to contact Board Game Bloggers to help promote my new game on Kickstarter. I'd really like you to take a look at ... if you can help me with some blogging, I'd like to send you a digital copy of the game for your review. I'm going to start the kickstarter campaign in a week, so I'd really like to get a buzz going.

Thanks so much,

Iain Fletcher

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Iain,

There's two actually :-)

Thanks for the offer of a review copy of your KickStarter game, but sadly I have neither the free time nor the inclination to do game reviews. Check out some more established review sites - they will probably be interested.

Best of luck!