Mobile Boardgaming - Some Great Selections - hist Blog - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

Mobile Boardgaming - Some Great Selections

Some of you may remember that I've been getting into board games a lot lately. While I am getting back into the video game groove, I still enjoy the thought of playing cards or moving pieces around on a board, and I've even joined a bi-weekly gaming group here in Vancouver that scratches that itch.

For the most part.

But what if that itch is more common, and there's nobody around to make it go away?

That's where your mobile device comes in. Or even your tablet.

I am an Apple junkie as far as mobile devices go (still a PC guy, though). I have an iPad and an iPhone 5. One thing I love about the Apple devices is the Game Center, where you can play a lot of multiplayer online games, hook up with friends, earn achievements, and all of that. Because I'm Apple guy, I don't know much about the Android market, but I do know that there are some (but not nearly as many) board game opportunities out there for Android users. Unfortunately, none of the games below are available on Android right now, at least to the best of my knowledge.

As for iDevices, there are tons of great board games out there for those who are looking to either play with friends across the country (or the world) or just have a quick game against the AI.

Here are some of my recommendations:

1) Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer


In my mind, this is the best adaptation of a board game on the iOS. It is a deck-building card game where you are trying to score the most honour points at the end of the game, from a finite pool that changes based on how many players there are (that's the number in the "star" in the picture). You start out with ten cards with really low-level heroes (eight Apprentice cards and two Militia cards) and build your deck by buying heroes and constructs from the center row using the runes that some of your cards generate. You can also use strength points that other cards generate to kill monsters that are in the center row. Every time you remove a card from the center, it's replaced by something else from the Center Row deck. Each hero is worth a certain amount of honour points at the end of the game, and killing monsters gets you honour as well. Since you don't know what your hero honour point total is until the end of the game (unless you have a photographic memory), you're never sure who's going to win. Your opponent may have you beat in the honour count on the board 42-18, but if you've been buying a lot of heroes and constructs, you can make up that difference quite quickly at the end of the game.

Each turn, you draw five cards (or more if certain cards allow you to as you play them), use the runes or power that they give you, then discard them. Once your deck is depleted, you shuffle your discard pile. When you buy a hero or construct, it's put into your discard pile (most of the time) so it's not available to you until you've shuffled your discard pile again.

It's enormously fun and the games are really quick. If you are playing a game live (either against humans or the AI), a game will likely take 10-15 minutes maximum. The cool thing is that the app has asynchronous multiplayer as well. This means you can take your turn and then put your phone away, doing something else. Your opponent can play his/her turn at their leisure, and you are notified when they have taken their turn. This means you don't have to be tied to your phone the entire game. Unless one person's extremely busy and away from their phone all day (the game can have up to 4 players), even an asynchronous game will probably only take a day or two. I've played over 100 games with a friend of mine in Chicago, and it's been wonderful.

This isn't currently available on Android devices, but there's a new Kickstarter going that is working towards that goal.

2) Penny Arcade: The Card Game

This is another deck-building card game, though it has slightly different mechanics. Each game, there is an assortment of cards that you can purchase to build your deck, either via "tokens" or "power". The assortment is randomized, so you won't necessarily see the same cards each time. The idea is to score victory points by using your "power" cards to purchase red cards that give you VPs at the end of the game. There are also both Green and Red "boss" cards that take more power (Red) or tokens (Green) to purchase. As the boss cards dwindle, their cost goes up. Some red cards have "PVP Attacks" (player-vs-player) that, unless they are defended against (some cards allow you to do that), can cause you to discard cards out of your hand or give you "PAX Pox" cards (which count as -1 VP at the end of the game if they're still in your deck). The game ends in one of three ways: 1) The final boss card from one of the stacks is purchased, 2) six of the stacks in the purchase area are gone, or 3) all of the PAX Pox cards are gone (I've never seen a game end that way). 

Penny Arcade has the same "draw/discard" mechanics as Ascension does.

This is a fun game too, and one of the other games I play with my Chicago buddy. It suffers a bit because it's prone to having one player go on a roll and then the other players are out of luck. There's really no way to recover if one player has purchased most of the boss cards as their effects can be devastating. Still, it is a blast. It also has asynchronous multiplayer.

3) Ticket to Ride

This is a classic board game whose iOS adaptation is simply wonderful. There are two versions that unfortunately must be purchased separately: the "Pocket" edition for your phone and the HD version for the iPad. The pocket edition has asynchronous multiplayer but for some reason the iPad version doesn't.

This is a game where you're basically trying to form train routes to get the most VP at the end of the game. You do that by taking one of three actions. First, you can draw two coloured train cards (either the ones that are laid out for you or a random one from the deck). "Locomotives" (the multi-coloured ones) are wild cards and can be used as any colour. If you draw a locomotive from the displayed cards, then you can only draw one card (drawing one from the deck is fine, though). Or, you can lay down the required number of train pieces for a section of a route (as seen in the picture). You start with up to three routes that you're trying to build (from Vancouver to Montreal, for example) and the third choice of action you have is to draw new routes if you've completed the ones you already have.

It's a fun little game and very easy to play. I have two async games going on my phone, but sadly the iPad version doesn't get played as often because of the requirement for real-time multiplayer.

4) Bang! (HD)

This is a fun little card game Western that's only marred by the dismal multiplayer. The mechanics of the game make it almost impossible to have asynchronous multiplayer, as a number of the cards played have results that immediately effect multiple players, and these effects must be resolved before play can continue. Sadly, the two times I've done multiplayer, it was marred by a really low number of players, connection issues, and players who abandon the game when it's clear they're going to lose.

However, I include it on this list because it is immensely fun against the AI and I've played this game a lot since I bought it a couple of weeks ago.

In a 5-player game, there's a sheriff, a deputy, two outlaws, and a "renegade" (the numbers go up with more players, with additional outlaws and even a second deputy). Everybody knows who the sheriff is, but all of the other roles are secret. The sheriff and the deputy win if all the bad guys are eliminated. The outlaws win if the sheriff is eliminated (the deputy can still be in play). The Renegade is the ringer, though. He acts like a deputy, in the sense that if the sheriff dies when outlaws are still running around, he loses. He has to make sure all of the outlaws *and* deputy are dead before he can start gunning for the sheriff. He has to be the last man standing.

The cards you have in your hand have different effects. The "Bang!" cards are one way to deal damage to somebody, though your opponent can play a "Missed" card to avoid getting hit. There are also other cards that have other effects, like "Indians" which forces every player to play a "Bang!" card or take a hit. "Beer" cards give you one hit point back. One thing to be aware of is the range between players, as you have to be able to reach that player with a shot or you can't shoot them. You can play various guns that give you better range, but there are also cards that will increase the range between opponents.

I really like the mystery involved in the roles, though that can become obvious at times (the Renegades not going to start shooting at the sheriff right off the bat, for example). Also, there are numerous characters that you are chosen to play at random at the beginning of the game, and they have various abilities. One of the female ones, for example, can turn any card in her hand to a "Missed" card. That can make her hard to kill unless you deplete her hand (and there are cards that can help with that).

It's a really fun game. I just wish the multiplayer was better.

5) Other suggestions/options

Some other classic games are on iOS that I just haven't bothered to spend the money on. Carcassonne is a great game on XBLA that I just haven't sprung for on the iOS, but I've heard good things about it. Another classic is Settlers of Cataan (another great XBLA game that I just haven't bought for iOS). There are tons more.

Just on my iPad, I have purchased San Juan, Puerto Rico, Summoner Wars, Nightfall, Fluxx, Lost Cities, Food Fight, and a whole bunch more.

One suggestion if you are a boardgamer interested in going the iOS route but concerned about the cost of some of the games. Get an Appshopper account, get the app for your phone so you can get push notifications, and then find the games you're looking for on Appshopper. Put them on your wish list, and you'll be notified when they go down in price. These things have sales all the time. I picked up Ascension when it was free (normally $4.99).

Actually, if you're an iOS user in general, Appshopper is great. Find whatever you're looking for (productivity app, whatever), wish list it, and buy it when it goes cheap/free.

It's a win-win!

Finally, if you are an iOS gamer, hit me up on Game Center! I'd love to play these or any other game.

My username is "histerin" on there. Send me a friend request.

Do you play games on your phone/tablet? If so, are they Angry Birds or other similar games, or do you enjoy the board games?

Edit: Apparently, the Appshopper app isn't available in the US? Very weird. However, you should still be able to go to the web site and make an account, and then it will email you when something changes (a price drop, increase, or the app is updated). Not as convenient as a push notification, but at least you don't have to keep checking.

comments