Tuesday, November 14, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (30-26)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 30-26 (finally! Top 30!)
If you aren't familiar with the original tabletop game, essentially it is a puzzle game that looks and feels a little like Tangram, but with Tetris shapes. The object being, given a couple of the shapes and an outline, who can solve the puzzle first. That is the gist of the game. Oh sure, there is some weird scoring, but all that matters is the puzzle race.

The app does a decent enough job of translating this to an electronic form, however the online servers have been offline for quite a while, meaning there is no way to go head to head against opponents, even on the same tablet. My daughter loves the game, which is why I got it in the first place. That being said, the single player puzzle mode is about like trying to get through levels of Angry Birds or Candy Crush - just a puzzle to solve and then on to the next one. Except this game has you racing against the clock. Since I enjoy spatial puzzles like this, this breaks into my top 30, but just barely.

Neuroshima Hex!
I struggle to describe this game. It is a strategy / war-game with hex tiles that represent your armies. The forces are all asymmetrical and there is a little bit of randomness (draw your armies from the stack) and a lot of tactical choices. The goal is kill the enemy's base before yours is destroyed.

The app version of the game is well done and I pull this out from time to time because the app is well done. I don't have to remember the (not so complex) rules - the app keeps me from doing something wrong. Which is to say that I never played nor fell in love with the tabletop game. Honestly, the graphics/art presentation didn't appeal to me (having played, I understand it, but that didn't make it more appealing). At least for me, this is one of those games that is BETTER as an app implementation then a tabletop game. I don't have to figure out if I can attack and when - the game lets me know. It is all easy enough to figure out I guess, but this is a game that I just play once in a while. I usually have a good time, but don't go out of my way or have longing to play it all the time, but the app is really well done, so also found its way into the top 30.

Tikal was one of the first games I learned when I got into this hobby and what a fantastic game it is. One of the best from Kramer and Kiesling's Mask Trilogy of action point games. When I heard there was an app version of the game, it was a no-brainer for me to get. You see, the only real problem with the tabletop game is that there is NOTHING to do when the other players are going. Downtime is bad. Unless you are playing an asynchronous game electronically!

The app version of the game is a little flawed, but mostly delivers on that electronic Tikal experience you'd hope for. Sadly, the app is HORRIBLE about notifying you when it is your turn, which is a huge pain when playing with a couple of other people since nobody knows when it is their turn. If everyone is paying attention and checking, then it works decently. We had some other weird issues last time I tried a multi-player online game as well, which is too bad - not sure if the age of the game is at fault or if the online code just wasn't stellar. The solo game isn't bad, but this is one where the AI is hard to make tough. It'd have been nice to have the bid for tiles variant as well, but c'est la vie. My love of the game and the fact that they have at least kept this playable on iOS 11 keeps this in the realm of apps to play occasionally.

Manhattan Project
I had heard a lot of good things about the Manhattan Project as a worker placement / engine game, but never had a chance to play it. When I heard there was an app released for the game, I jumped and bought it, but there was no walk through or tutorial, so it sat on my iPad, unplayed, for a long time. Then about a year or more ago, I acquired the Manhattan Project:Chain Reaction game, which was pretty straight forward and quick fun. I vowed I would pick up the app and learn it. But that still didn't happen. Fast forward to about two weeks ago. While going through my apps I saw this one app glaring at me and I sat down and read through the rules. I realized that I had the gist of it already from the card game, and started playing the app.

Other than a lack of tutorial, the app does a pretty good job of presenting the game in almost a virtual table style, which is great and quirky (there are some scrolling and zooming that bother me a little, but only a little). Really, the app is well done enough that I don't understand how it has been so overlooked - honestly, I had to add it to the BGG links and add a screenshot. For a tabletop game that has done well and has a fair number of fans, you'd have thought that a well done game like this would have received a little more attention. Having really just started playing and not knowing anyone else that has the game, I have not yet played an online game, so I'm not sure if there is async play or not (there should be, but you never know). I'm sure the newness factor is the primary reason this is in my top 30 at the moment, but I am still enjoying the puzzle factor of the game against AI.

Brief History of the World
Rounding out the games today is a game that is overlooked or not all that well known in general. A Brief History of the World is a modified/revised version based on the Avalon Hill/Hasbro game History of the World, which is a slightly Ameritrashy civ game. The game is played over epochs during which players bring in new civilizations in different areas of the board and sunset their old ones (and not entirely unlike Small World or Vinci, you get to keep those old ones around to score points and get in the way of other emerging civs). So basically, an expand and conquer game.

The app version makes what is a little bit of a long game (despite the title) into a reasonable experience and it is well done. The app was developed by Sage Boardgames (which was on a roll for a while with really well done conversions) and is well done. It is missing async online play, but does support pass and play, which is ok for this game. The AI isn't horrible either, so when you need a civ game fix, you can get a reasonable experience with this game in a reasonable amount of time. If you like Small World, you should check this out.

Next time, we finish out the top 30 with numbers 21-25 where the games are starting to get really good.

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Collection Churn - October 2017

After no collection changes in September, I managed a couple of changes in the collection this last month. Nothing major, just a couple of sell offs, a trade and a review copy.

Out the door:
  • DVONN - TRADED. I like the GIPF series of games, but they just don't get played much - and I have all of them. Of the series, this is probably 3rd or 4th for me overall (GIPF and YINSH are 1-2 and I could go either with PÜNCT or DVONN after that). So when I had a chance to trade DVONN for Legendary: Civil War, it was pretty much a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. Clear out a game that is behind a bunch of others that are all sitting on my shelf for something I love. 
  • Alhambra: Big Box - SOLD. Some friends and I had worked through all the expansion modules for the first three sets. We found a couple good additions and some duds. In the end, it was all still just Alhambra. Which isn't bad, I just ran out of interest in exploring the game. We hadn't visited the set in a long time and honestly, I didn't care, so I sold off the big beastie.
  • Fields of Arle - SOLD. I traded for it, waited forever to get it, and then never bothered learning how to play it. Another Ewe farming game, but strictly two-players. That would have been ok, but I still have Agricola and Caverna. I still kind of want to try it, but I'm ok with having sold this and not played it.
  • Spires - I wrote a review about this great little game. It is currently part of a semi-regular rotation at my office and I am reluctant to pass it along to another Punchboard Media member. I guess it is a sign of a good game that I'd purchase this (and I'm sure I will when the review copy leaves me). A great little game with interesting choices packed in a shorter time frame.
  • Legendary: Civil War - I love me some Legendary: Marvel. And while I thought I finally had more than enough, I guess I decided that more isn't a bad thing, so I ended up with some more. Of course, I justified it by trading a game out of my collection (DVONN) for this expansion. The Civil War story was really an Avengers story, which is also fine with me - I've been a comic book Avenger fan for a long time. I'm not entirely sold on the dual card concept, but its ok I guess. 
While I'm thinking about it, if anyone has both sets (Legendary: Secret Wars – Volume 1 and Legendary: Secret Wars – Volume 2) that they want to trade, check out my trade list on BGG and make a reasonable offer. 

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (35-31)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 35-30 (five fairly different games)

San Juan
San Juan is (roughly speaking) Puerto Rico "the card game". I actually prefer this card game a good bit to its inspiration, as I think it is faster and less "scripted". In coming posts, I'll speak to the randomness of Race For the Galaxy (which was essentially built on this engine) being a game I'm not in love with, but for whatever reason, the randomness of San Juan is what makes it ok. Of course, none of that matters beyond some personal preference for the tabletop games - we are here to look at the app conversions and my preference for playing those versions.

This is one of the few Ravensburger applications I have that doesn't have a bunch of extra play modes. You simply have online play and local games. Local games can be done pass and play or against a set of AI players who are not horrible, though not expert either. I have not played against anyone online, but the game is surely a little slow (I'm basing that on my experience playing Race For the Galaxy async). Solo against the AI is ok, but the game isn't especially deep, so it gets a little stale after a bit, thus its ranking landing here.

If you have never played Eclipse before. you are missing out on a decent 4X game. It has dice so is a little Ameri-trashy, but it has a reasonable mix of euro with the randomness of combat. If you haven't played before, you can get to playing on the app without too much effort - the tutorial/walk-thru of your first game does a decent job of explaining how to play Eclipse in the app. I'm not really sure you'd want this to be how you learned to play the tabletop version of the game though. It'll get you 85% of the way there, but there is some information that app does a good job of presenting you that is different from the tabletop game, so be aware.

Otherwise, the app is really well done. It plays smoothly and the information (of which there is a ton in the game) is presented well. Offline solo play is great for fans of the game (though I haven't played enough to have any clue how tough the AI is). You can setup the AI to be peaceful, normal, or aggressive and play pass-and-play games. You can also play async online games, which is a good way to feed your Eclipse addiction (if you have one) with your friends. Eclipse can be something of an "event game" with a larger play count, so being able to play/practice against AI is one way to get in more of the game while learning some of the ins and outs of the various races and the technologies that are available so you don't waste time when you do finally get to play face-to-face.

Elder Signs: Omens
Elder Signs (the tabletop game) is a co-op dice game. Each turn the player/investigator checks out a mystery in what has to be the worst museum ever (based on everything that will happen over the course of your investigation). Each turn/investigation is basically rolling dice and hoping to match up the symbols to whatever is going on in that location. I am normally not a huge co-op game fan, but I do personally like Cthulhu themed stuff. I love Eldritch Horror because it tells such a good story. And while there is a story in Elder Sign, it feels so much less integrated. Both ES and EH have dice rolling to determine a turn's outcome, but in EH, you get a mini journal entry whose story is told based on the outcome of the die. In ES, there that isn't the case - your turn is all about the dice mechanics. On your turn, you simply go to a location and roll the dice a bunch, then pass to the next player. In fact, I'm pretty sure this game's mechanics could be re-used to create a number of co-op games and I'm a little surprised they haven't.

So anyway, I don't love the tabletop game much. However, the app implementation is good for solo play (you can of course do a bit of pass and play if you like). The app is creepy and the sound is good (one of the few games I like playing with the sound). The intro story to each game is well done, which begs the question - why didn't they put a little more into each investigation and really story up the app (or the real game for that matter)? If the story wasn't just bookending the game, I'd probably play this more than I do.

Mü is a card game. From BGG: Players reveal cards to declare their bids: the highest bidder becomes the Chief and the second highest bidder is the Vice. Both the Vice and Chief choose a trump (either number or suit), and then players try to capture tricks to score the most points. The Chief chooses a partner and tries to cover the bid to score bonus points, while the Vice and remaining players seek to stop the Chief from reaching his goal. If you like trick taking games, this one is pretty good and I think best with five, which can make it an odd one to get to the table.

This implementation is decent enough, though just like with a number of trick taking games, it is hard to get a decent AI. Solo play can help you to get the game down, but multiplayer is only supported on a local network (though the game is iPhone friendly, you'd still need everyone to have an Apple device of their own plus have them buy the game - just go get the real cards and play at a table). I like playing a quick game of this odd little gem - on occasion. I wish that they had developed more than just Mü (the card game itself is sold with other game rules/titles), but by itself it is still fun.

Warhammer Quest
WHQ was one of those grand dungeon crawls from Games Workshop. The box had loads of minis and was notable for a couple of reasons - it was a co-op and had a campaign you could work through. On top of that, it was like the original Diablo video game - randomly created dungeons. In other words, this game screamed to be made into a video game. They actually ended up making it into two!

As I only have the original version, that's what I'll talk about here. There is both a lot to like in this game, and a fair amount of annoying stuff too. First the good. The game looks pretty good. You have a cool overhead view of the dungeons and you can rotate and zoom in and out as you need. The animations are nice and clean and things look good (there is a lot of blood splatter when you smack or get smacked and it stains the dungeon floors as you move about). There is a nice variety of equipment to be found and it is always fun leveling up your party and seeing them get tougher and meaner. The game plays out as many a dungeon crawl, with a travel interlude to town in-between each adventure. Sometimes stuff happens to give everything more of a tied together feel. In town, you can sell and buy loot and occasionally level up your party. Everything you could want in a dungeon crawler.

Now the bad. There are a lot of things that you can buy via IAP and the game feels very much like it was built to suck money out of you. There are four characters in game, but if you want to play the others, classes, you have to buy them. Leveling up takes gold and that isn't something you earn at exactly the same pace as you will be advancing, which means either buying gold, or doing a LOT of grinding. Which brings me to the next annoying thing - the game gets repetitive pretty quickly. This isn't the app's fault per se but more likely a limitation of WHQ - there are only a handful of monster types, so the dungeons all start to be the same thing. You are also limited in the areas of the world map that you can travel to (unless you pay to get to another area via IAP). I haven't done so because I don't see the point to paying for more of the same. Sure, you'd get some differently storied quests, but mostly all the quests are - go into the dungeon and kill everything until you get to the end. Different flavor text doesn't make it new and better.

I still go back to the WHQ when I haven't played any dungeon crawlers in a while and don't feel like setting up Descent on the tabletop. It scratches the itch well enough to get me by, but it doesn't keep me going for nights on end like a true Dungeons and Dragons kind of game (like Baldur's Gate) and it is definitely inferior to Descent (which will never get a true app conversion/implementation).

Next time, we break into the top 30 with another strange mix of games.

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Friday, November 03, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (40-36)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 40-36

First thing of note - these all ranked out pretty evenly. They are all pretty different kinds of games, so it really depends on my mood as to which I might prefer, so don't infer that I think Labyrinth is better than Tigris (or vice versa) per se.

Reiner Knizia's Tigris and Euphrates
Tigris and Euphrates is one of Knizia's top games and both it and the app have been around for a long time. The implementation here is pretty decent, but I've never been very good at this game - it just never clicked all the way in my brain. Really, this is the only reason I hardly play this game. The interface is fine, the game looks and plays well, the AI is good (at least against me since I suck at this game). You can also play against your friends asynchronously, so really, there is not much to dislike here.

6 Takes!
6 nimmt! is a card game where players have cards and play them with the goal being to try and avoid being the player to play the last card in a given row. If you are, you take the cards and lose points. The game is pretty simple and something of a party game (at least as far as I'm concerned, the game is more fun with more players). The app does a good job of playing the game, but... there isn't any async play. You can play live or pass and play the game, but why? Solo this is fine, though again, this is a game best when you are laughing at your opponents. Laughing at the AI is less interesting. Even if you were able to play against friends in async play, against a bunch of players, it might be a bit slow to get everyone to take their turns.

Take it Easy
While I don't own the tabletop game (nor any of its variants), this app is one of my family's favorites. The game supports playing live against other players (either on different devices or the same) or AI. Like a lot of Ravensburger's apps, they included new modes of play as well, including a timed version of the game where you have to rearrange all the tiles to meet whatever the goal is. My daughter is some kind of savant at this mode to the point that nobody will play that mode with her. She is like the TiE Rainman. Unfortunately there is no async play for a game that could really use it. We've also run into problems connecting (live) before so periodically we try playing it again and then go to something else if there are issues. When it works, the game is a good quick bit of competitive puzzle play. If you could run async games, this might have been ranked higher for me.

Small World 2
In 2010, Small World was the first digital board game to ship on a tablet, the same day the iPad shipped! The original game wasn't bad, but didn't have async (offline) play, which made no sense as one of the biggest issues with Smallworld on the tabletop is downtime between turns. Well, Days of Wonder went back and completely redid the application (thus Small World 2).

While the game implementation is good, my friends and I had played the heck out of Vinci (which was the pre-cursor to Smallworld) back in the day. As such, the desire to play this isn't way up on the list. Its fine, we just overplayed the mechanics of the game a while ago.

The aMAZEing Labyrinth
Yet another Ravensburger game makes the list! Labyrinth is an ok game - a variable puzzle game where each player is trying to solve their current situation while trying to account for what other players might do. That is one option available (the boardgame implementation itself) - there are also puzzle modes and timed mode where you try and get as many treasures as you can. In multiplayer modes, you can play against others (live) online or on the same device with Pass and Play. Unfortunately there is no async setup for playing. There is also no undo. And while that is ok for the "sliding a tile" portion of the game, it is just silly for the move your player part - if you touch the screen, you move and are done.

This one is ranked higher for me as I like the puzzle solving nature of this game. The interface isn't perfect, but the additional game modes and the nature of the game itself appeal to me and make this higher on the list than the ones I've talked about previously.

Next time I'll finish up the remaining games from the top 30 with five games that are worlds apart.

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

What I've Been Playing - October 2017 edition

Apparently, I'm too busy (or lazy) to do this weekly. Actually fall is stupidly busy and typically ends up with a lower play count and less time for board gaming since the kids have a football and diving and then there is Husker Football and NFL games all weekend. It makes for busy times. That being said, there still was some gaming (albeit a lot of it was digital). Anyway, on with the report!

I don't particularly love this game, but I found a pretty good 3D print for a box replacement for this game, so I printed it. And since the 3D printer I use is at work, that's where my game was located. One day, my co-workers noticed the box and asked about it, so I showed them the game and they (of course) love it and ask to play. So we've gotten a few games in during the last month. This is hit or miss depending on who you play with - if your team doesn't think the same way, then it can be annoying and frustrating. I don't particularly love that kind of game. For party games, I'd much rather play something like Telestrations or Times Up!

Fast Food Fear!
I received a copy of this to review and so the kids and I  sat down and played a bunch of games to get a feel for it. The game is a little shorter but a nice little family filler. For a little co-op, its just about right for me (not a super lover of the co-op). Generally speaking, my kids prefer to beat each other instead of working together (plus we then have the alpha player issue) so we tend not to play co-ops. It was nice to be able to get them to play together for a little bit.

This was another that was passed along to me as a review copy. I didn't know what to expect from this game, having never heard of it. I pulled it out at my office to play with co-workers to see what was in the box. What we found was a great game that is especially good for four players. There is a little set collection (not unlike Parade) but a lot more player interaction as each turn all players are making selections via blind bids - sometimes you get a card with no competition, sometimes you are not wanting any cards and hoping to stick someone else with cards, but that means guessing what they might try for. One of the better new small games I've played in a long time.

Ascension - Deckbuilding Game
For whatever reason, I started playing this again on my iPad and pulled my buddy Robert into a game online. I am of two minds on this deck building game. Playing it face-to-face on the tabletop, the game wouldn't be all that fun and I'd just want the game to be over. On the iPad? This is a really great 5 minute game. Despite being one of the earliest games out, the game plays fast (I've never run into a bug or seen a hiccup in the game). Async is a little slow since your turns are so fast and then you have to wait for the other player, but it is tolerable. If you get bored with the base game, there is a LOT of expansion stuff for you to buy to freshen up the game. This isn't my favorite deckbuilder by any means, but it is pretty good in its electronic form.

Biblios continues to be requested by our little work group on Fridays. This time around, we taught a new guy that we roped in because the more the merrier! Turned out to be the right move. The next week he brought in Splendor, so I discovered another gamer. I'm slowly building a gaming group at work - and this is the game that kicked it off for us. I like this game because it has that split-the-cake and push-your-luck components followed by an auction. What a great mix of mechanics in a quick game that can be played in 20 minutes. Pretty good with three or four players.

For Sale
Another quick but fun game I introduced to folks at my office. We try and play a couple small games each week during Friday lunch (or we kick off early on Friday and play). I grabbed this from my shelf since it rarely is played at home and it is a decent little filler game. Your approach depends a lot on the other players, but hey, it is a short filler right? Its always fun to laugh at a co-worker for buying that outhouse...

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
I made a trade last month for the Civil War expansion to Legendary, which made was prompted by me playing a quick head-to-head match with my son (which he won). I thought all my playing of Legendary DXP (the iPad app) would have given me the edge, but my son had a slick Gambit and Daredevil combination going on that trumped what I had put together. He was piling up the bystanders and Masterminds, while I had a mess of crap most of the time. As fun as it is discovering combos, it is just as fun seeing my son find something cool and flaunt it at me. Hopefully we get to try out some of the new Civil War cards this coming month.

This popped up for $10 on Amazon last spring and it sounded interesting, so I grabbed it. It sounded ok, but after a couple of plays, it just keeps falling flat for me and this last time it was me and my kids and they didn't really seem to find it any more interesting than I did. Oh well. You get a hand of card and play them. The trick is - you can use them to change what the scoring condition for the round is - if at the time you play the card, you would score the most points for the condition. Other players can stop playing at any point to try and keep the winner from gaining tons of points, but it doesn't feel like you have enough cards for that to matter much. You don't get new cards until the next round, so each round is just - whatever you got. I don't know - maybe the deal is supposed to be a whole lot of dropping out right off the bat each round (not entirely unlike how Texas HoldEm is really done), but that seems boring as heck. Sorry, we have lots of little card games we'd rather play.

Wyatt Earp
One of the folks I play with at work likes Rummy, so I thought I'd try this out with the group and see if this held any interest for anyone. It seemed to go over decently, though we were a bit rushed because of time, so we'll have to see if this gets anymore table time. IIRC, this was a precursor to the Mystery Rummy series (Mike Fitzgerald did this and those). It is a decent choice and normally pretty easy for non-gamers to pick up and learn. This was is a little more fiddley than the other Mystery Rummy games because of the rewards and such, but not horribly so.

And that's it for last month. I suspect there is some Splendor in my future (and hopefully more Legendary).

Be sure to check us out at PunchBoard Media!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (45-41)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 45-41

Tricky 6
If you've never heard of Tricky 6, that's because it is a rip-off clone of one you might have heard of - Qwirkle (or as a friend once called it  - Scrabble for Dummies). Note, there is no official Qwirkle app, (there was supposed to be one under development, but no such beast that I ever found). The gist of the game is - lay out your colored tiles in combos on the board, building off the shared tableau. Everything in a row or column must either match in number or (i.e. all 3s) but be different in color or be the same color, but different in number. You score for the number of tiles in a line (or lines if you can create more than one row or column. It should be noted (for all you Qwirkle purists), legal plays are slightly different in this game.

I ended up getting rid of Qwirkle (I'd rather play Scrabble or nearly anything else), so I have it so I could play with my kids - no other real reason. For what its supposed to be, it does its job. You can play async online or vs AI. One thing to note, this is an iPhone app, not a universal game, so playing on an iPad means playing the silly "scaled" version. The game is also locked into portrait mode (which makes no sense - the tableau expands as you play and you can zoom out, so why lock the rotation)? If you really like Qwirkle, this isn't a bad choice (might be your only choice I think). Also, I mentioned numbers (and the screen shot shows numbers, but you can change to symbols in game if you like).

Lost Cities
Back in the day... Lost Cities was king of the two-player games. Simple to learn and clever. This little card game was the inspiration for the Spiel winning Keltis (which is really just a 4-player version with a couple of bells and whistles). The original "duel" game that was almost universally recommended for two-players looking for a small game.

The app does a really good job of presenting the game in electronic form, allowing you to play async games or against the AI. It is also not universal on iOS, so like Tricky 6, it was designed as an iPhone game that is playable on your other devices. Where else does it falls down a little? There is (was) an app version of Keltis, which I prefer by a large margin over this game. Unfortunately the Keltis game hasn't made the iOS 11 leap yet. This does have a leg up over Keltis in that you can play a game asynchronously  (Keltis stupidly only played live games) vs your friends. I pull this out on occasion, then remember that I'd rather go play Keltis.

Summoner Wars is a minis game, except there are no minis, just decks of cards. Each player takes a faction and summons troops (cards) to the board for some tactical fighting. The appeal of this game lies in the multitude of available factions that let a player tailor their approach to the game.

For the app version, the developer - Playdek - elected to go with a free to play single faction. This allowed players to "demo" the game against the AI. Additional purchases of factions could be made in-app and any purchase unlocked online play. At some point (I'm sure during on of the bazillion sales Playdek has done) I bought a faction pack. Despite that, I haven't explored the game much - and while the implementation is great (Playdek almost always does a crazy good job of boardgame conversions), I just never got that into the game. I just never felt like exploring the factions that much on my own - it felt like too much work. Not sure any of my friends ever bought this either. This is another title that I should probably revisit a bit in the near future, but without a real opponent, I'm not sure I see the point - this is the kind of game where really knowing your faction and how to best use it to drive your friends nuts is when it is at its best.

Forbidden Island
Forbidden Island (if you have been living on one and not heard of this game before) is a family friendly gateway-co-op. I'm not a huge co-op fan, but co-ops are a decent way to introduce the kids to gaming, so I acquired a few over the years and when this came out, I grabbed it so we could play when we weren't at home.

The app is a good implementation of the boardgame, even allowing two players to play with the tablet on the table between them, and automatically switching the view between the players on their turns. This implementation is a good one and a good alternative to the real game if you like co-ops or want to put a game in front of your kids when they spend all their time on your iPad. Since I'm not a huge co-op player (and for solo games, there are others you'll see later that I'd rather play) this doesn't get much attention from me.

Here it is, one of the all time favorite games on BGG (currently #15 all time) and yet it didn't even make my Top 40 app conversions. Well my friends, what can I say? I prefer a load of Ewe's other games to Agriola and since this list is all about my preferences...

Putting aside my general feelings about Agricola (the tabletop game), this might be one of the few game conversions that I just don't love. The app developer decided to make the odd choice of revamping the UI of the game, taking it away from the familiarity of the original boardgame and giving it more of a farming town look. Now, Lookout games has done a pretty good job with their boardgame conversions, but instead of the familiar boards you have a small farming village which you have to scroll back and forth on to see everything - no zoom. Sure, there are cutsie animals walking around doing things, but you won't care as you scroll around trying to figure out what is available to you. I have the large iPad Pro (almost 13") and yet I still am forced to scroll around rather than being able to just play and zoom when I need or want.

My other main issue with the game is a complaint about the game itself. There is too much information for a newer player. On the tabletop, all the cards I have (occupations and such), all the improvement cards, etc are out where everyone can see them. Obviously, this doesn't work well on a tablet, so there are fly-outs for each of those and you can tap on a card to get the full card's description. But you can only look at one card at a time and scroll through - its hard to compare multiple cards. For someone (me) that isn't in love with the original game and doesn't know all of these cards, it makes making choices tedious.

All of which is why I hardly ever play this game and why it is ranked after 40 other apps on my iPad. If I liked the tabletop game more, maybe I'd put more time into the app and these complaints would probably go away. But nothing about the app makes me want to like the game more than I do now and put in that time to get more familiar with it. A good app should help me appreciate the game, not only appeal to me if I was a fan of the original.

Next time - numbers 40-36. Including another Knizia favorite.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

50 iOS Boardgames - Five at a Time (50-46)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.

Numbers 50-46

Full disclosure - I don't really love Tsuro in general, so it should be no surprise that I don't really love the app all that much either. Honestly, if the Zombie Dice app had been upgraded to iOS 11 support, that game would have been here instead. So why do I have this app at all? Well, I sold my tabletop copy and my kids like Tsuro enough that I spent a buck or whatever so we could still play this on occasion.

That said, despite being the last choice of apps to play, this conversion was really well done. It plays smoothly and is gorgeous to look at. It supports online and solo play. It also has a pretty cool AR feature that lets you have your screen on a table and you can move around the table for a different view (which is cool if you are doing pass and play, but this is really just a novelty that may or may not interest you). But it is still just Tsuro. I'd rather go play Angry Birds or something on my iPad than Tsuro...

I'm probably going to get a bit of flack for this one being at the "end of my list". Truth is, I heard this was a great solo game that finally got an app, so I figured I'd try it. Time killers are good right? Eh. I found this to be marginally more interesting than "The Game", but not much more interesting than Freecell or any other solitaire-like card game.

The game is certainly pretty and does what it is supposed to do - let you play a quick solitaire game. If that's your thing, you should check this out.

I played the tabletop Suburbia game a couple times and decided that it just wasn't my thing. I think the variable goals are a good way to keep the game fresh, but combined with the way that tiles come out and you can get games where you can have a hard time meeting the goals simply because of bad draws. Despite this, I purchased this app when it came out to see if I was missing something since a lot of people really like this tabletop game. One thing I love about playing boardgames on my iPad - it really lets you deep dive games. Unfortunately, I only played the app a couple times and then never went back. If I recall correctly, the early release of the game had an big bug and though it got fixed in short order, I had already moved on. I'm going to try and play this a bit in the coming week and I'll throw out a note in a future post about any updated thoughts I have after spending some more time with it. There is a cool campaign game for playing solo and you can play async games against friends online - so we'll see.

I really don't have any complaints with this implementation, I just don't love the game enough to want to play it very much. I actually liked Alspach's followup better - Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but I never grabbed the app release of that game. It is on my list of games to get the next time there is a holiday sale on apps.

Scotland Yard
Ravensburger was one of the companies that jumped in early developing their games into apps for iOS and Android. Scotland Yard was one of their first to get converted. It is a game of chase - one player is Mr. X and trying to escape, while the other players try and coral Mr. X in the streets of London so that he is caught by the detectives. A little like Mr. Jack on steroids, or Fury of Dracula lite.

This implementation (like most of the Ravensburger implementations) is excellent - you can pinch to zoom around the map and things are animated, but there are only enough animations to let you know you are playing an electronic version of the game without being overly superfluous and making the game drag on as you watch them. You can play against the AI, or against real players asynchronously. All in all, this is a good implementation, but it isn't a game I yearn to play all the time. This is another where my kids like the game, but don't ask for it much, so I figured a couple buck for the app was better than a game on the shelf collecting dust.

Café International
I remember this being one of the first game conversions I purchased. Not because I knew and loved the tabletop game, but because it was one of the first that was available when I got my original iPad 3 (yeah, a while ago). The implementation is well done with goofy accented voice-overs for each nationality saying "Hello" in their native tongues. The AI isn't bad, making this a decent enough solo game, and while there is online async play, none of my friends were ever interested in getting the game to play. Like a lot of the implementations, the developers did a great job with the game, but if you don't like the source material, it doesn't matter how good they did with the conversion.

The game itself feels a bit random - you can get a bad draw of cards, and when you need points, the choice between actually getting some points vs setting up another player isn't really an interesting one. This is the main reason I rarely play it. It mostly is ahead of the above games only because the game is simple enough that I don't have to go back to rules when I choose to play it after months of not giving it any time.

Next time - numbers 45-41 (including one that I'm sure a number of folks love and will want to know how in the world it is in the bottom ten of my app games).

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