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 Pro last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions really was the main reason for my getting one. After dinking my way through numbers 11-50 (five at a time). I'm finally going to wrap up my lists with my Top 10.
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 counting back from 10 to number 1...
This game has gone through a couple of revisions trying to improve the AI (the original AI was bad). The current AI is just ok. Sadly, this implementation doesn't have any online play either, so how in the world is this a top 10 game for me? Well, Dominant Species the game itself is ridiculously good. My biggest issue with the game on the tabletop isn't the length of the game, but rather that it is a hassle trying to understand the state of the game after every single change. When the application handles that for you and you can instantly see what has happened without rechecking everything, it makes the flow of the game that much better. So while I sit and wait for the online multiplayer feature (never going to happen) I can still get in a play or two of what is a really fun game. It won't be something that everyone will appreciate, but as one of my favorite games, its hard not to rank this high on my want to play list.
Twilight Struggle is a brilliant card driven game that so perfectly captures the tension and feel of the Cold War that it is hard to describe if you didn't grow up in it. One of the game's only shortcomings was that it was truly at its best with players that were familiar enough with the cards to know when to press an advantage and when to feint. Because of the game's length and because the game was a two-player game, it was often hard to find a match and a reasonably matched opponent. Twilight Struggle the app was developed and released cross-platform, which opened up the game to a whole new set of people that might have not been able to play and learn the game and allowed fans of the game to finally find a match. The app is brilliant in presenting the game and enforcing the rules. You can get the odds of success (or degrees of success) before you commit to a course of action and you can play in realtime against your opponents or play asynchronously. This is one of the best games to be released in the last few years, both in terms of the game itself and in the execution of the application.
I like word games. Scrabble is a family favorite and Words with Friends is a favorite online game. When Paperback was released this year, it was a breath of fresh air. I had never heard of the game, but what could be better? Let's mash up a word game AND a deck builder! One of the best thing about playing electronic word games is that you (and your opponents) cannot play a word that will be argued about. It either is accepted or not - play on. And play on I did. I played a lot of online games against friends this year (and happily played random online games as well). The game is just fun and a joy to play. I do have to warn you, the hard AI cheats. And by cheats I mean - it will use obscure words you never knew were words - that kind of crap. Despite that (and really, how else do you expect the hard AI to be harder?), even games against the AI are fun (and fast).
It has been seven years since this game first arrived for our mobile game playing pleasure and it still screams out to be played. As a game system, Carcassonne has stood the test of time because the game is both simple and engaging. The application? The application still stands as one of the best table-to-mobile device conversions ever done. It is intuitive and easy to use, it looks great, it is easy to create a game for pass and play, solo, or against online opponents, and when playing online, the notification system is top notch (I still don't know why other applications can't show you that the other players are in the game like Carc does). On top of that, there are a wealth of expansions available which make playing this game a joy. I wish there were more (like some of the mini expansions and bridges). This is how good this game is - developers should have to play this game at least 20 times before they are allowed to start making other boardgames into mobile versions.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
Pathfinder Adventures (as the app is properly named) is the mobile implementation of the amazing Pathfinder ACG: Rise of the RuneLords. A purely card based game, the tabletop game somehow mashed up something of a deck builder with what is basically a dungeons and dragons style campaign. Like a lot of card based games, the biggest drawback to playing is having to setup and teardown the card stacks each game. Well, problem solved! Not only does the mobile version of the game solve the card management problem, they enhanced the game, taking the implementation of the game to a whole different level. Each adventure has a small bit of dialog and story to make the whole game really come together and feel less like just a mechanical card game. It is really fantastic. There are a wealth of expansions and cards available and the development team spent a lot of time putting in extras. And this is where I'm torn on the game. There are lots of extras - character decks, story decks, dice skins, etc. All which you need to buy after the original purchase. I'm ok with that, it is a viable and not unreasonable way to make money on this game. This was the first game that I spent "real money" (ie more than $4-$5) on for an iPad game and I got my money's worth as far as I'm concerned (and only the chapter packs are necessary for advancing the game, the rest is just chrome).
Really, the game is so well done that I just wish they were spending time converting the other PACG sets instead of sticking more stupid crap into this game. I don't need 10 more fancy dice skins, or 10 more new promo cards that I'm never going to see in the game because I have all the other cards in play already. That's right, my only complaint with the game is that I want more real content.
My Top 5!
Steam: Rails to Riches
Steam is one of my favorite games of all time. I learned to play Age of Steam and was a huge fan, but have since become a convert and prefer Steam for some of the streamlining that it offers. All of which is a little irrelevant since there is only Steam: Rails to Riches available on the iPad. For the record, this is a really decent implementation and it lets me scratch the itch to build a rail line and move some goods. The AI is ok, though not overwhelmingly hard and there are a good number of free and pay to play maps available to mix things up - some of the maps are designed for specific number of players and adjust rules slightly. If you get tired of beating the AI, play online with your friends. This didn't appear on anyone's list on the BGG Top 10 list, but I have to believe that is only because the game itself is something of a niche genre. Otherwise, this is a great game even at full price ($5).
Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite games of all time and this app could have easily been my number one favorite game, but it isn't. The idiots at Queen Games decided that rather than having a separate online presence for this game, they'd make this application simply a hook into the online game on BSW. And that might have been ok, except that online play on BSW is live only. Here is a game that would have been perfectly suited to asynchronous play and instead, your only option is live play after you get online and create an account on BSW. Oh and by the way, anytime BSW updates things, they won't actually test that you can still get into a game from the application that you bought. Also, since we are tied to the BSW implementation, you never get any of the expansions for KB either.
Despite those complaints, I really like the game enough to still pull this out and play - occasionally when it isn't broken, online too. I really do wish they'd disconnect it from BSW and do this game some real justice. Then all they have to do is add async play, an undo feature, and start adding in the expansions. If they ever did this, Kingdom Builder is probably the only game I'd play for the next three months.
Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is one of my favorite worker-placement games. I think the reason that I enjoy the game is that (generally speaking) the number of workers you have is set. This pushes you into a game of tactical choices and guessing what the other players are going to try and get and getting there first. The theme could really be anything, but the D&D theme works here. Not only is this a fantastic game, but the Skullport expansions are also fantastic and make the game even better. When you tie that all together with an application that is very well done and lets you play this amazing game solo, pass and play, or asynchronously with your friends, you have a no-miss combo. This is another game that every board-gamer should have in their app collection.
Ticket to Ride
I love me some Ticket to Ride. The original game by itself is a fantastic gateway game that gamers can love. But the game is more than just TtR, it is a franchise of maps, each with their own quirks and modest variations on the rule set. It is all the small differences that have given this game its incredible longevity.
So what about the app? The app is great and offers a wealth of additional expansions that very nearly make it a pure digital translation of the game. What really makes this an exceptional port is that it is hooked into Days of Wonder's online game setup, which means that all the online players (regardless of platform) can play together, which makes finding players and matches a cinch. Truly a great game that has been well updated on all its platforms.
If you have been following this blog this year, this is no surprise and one could argue that this doesn't belong in the list, but despite the re-skin of the game, this is straightaway Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game (just without the Marvel part).
Legendary is one of my all time favorite games (deckbuilder or otherwise). I find the game engine works really well whether playing solo or competitively. The only thing I really dislike about the game is the amount of time it takes to setup and put away the physical game itself. Legendary DXP solves that problem as well as enables you to play with online players. The game is so quick that a three-player game takes only a few minutes and then you are starting the next one. For months I played the heck out of the game and only recently have I slowed down with my plays. The app was a bit rushed when it was first released but the rough edges have been sanded a lot and the game continues to get better. Once they start working on expansions, I might not play anything else for a long time.
And there you go. There a lot of good games coming out or that are out that are currently on my radar as well as a ton of older games that I'm waiting for updates on. Here are some that I hope to try out soon:
- 7 Wonders
- Cottage Garden
- Through the Ages (if you like this sort of thing)
- Smash Up!
- Everything - https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/223422/mobile-board-games-release-status
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