The iPod App Article I’ve been wanting to do forever…

In some ways, my iPod Touch is the center of my day.  In addition to listening to a crap-ton of podcasts, I also play a good number of app games on it while waiting for one thing or another.  If you’re like me, you’re always looking for another great app, especially one that is an implementation of a “real” boardgame.  So, here’s my thoughts on what I’ve been playing on the old iPod…

Actual Boardgames for the iPod/iPhone

Settlers of Catan (Catan: The First Island) – One of my favorite apps.  I like Settlers as a boardgame, but it often drags on longer than is fun.  With this app, I can play in game in less than 10 minutes, which is more than perfect.  Just be sure to change the animations to “turbo” after you get over how ‘cute’ they are (which will take all of 1/2 a game).       
Pros: gorgeous and intuitive interface, up to 4 human or bot players, AI is very solid at a number of different difficulties, able to put it into “turbo” animation mode that makes the game absolutely fly, great continued support for enhancements.
Cons: It may just be my imagination, but I think that there’s a bit of a meta-game discrimination against trading with the human player.  Seems to drain my batteries pretty quickly, but maybe that’s just because I get caught up in the game and don’t realize how long I’ve played.

Zooloretto – I like Zooloretto, and at first, I thought that this app was the bee’s knees.  It’s absolutely beautiful, and there’s a way to flip between the “animated” view and a more “boardgamey” view that makes it easy to keep track of everything you want to do.  The AI is pretty difficult, and it came with a meta-score feature that allowed you to unlock additional opponents and the Polar Bear expansion.  Unfortunately, this app has not been supported well, and no additional unlockable features have been added.  If you like the game, though, this is still a solid implementation.
– Pros:  Looks good, good AI, usable interface, feels like playing the real game.
– Cons: Poor support, and the game is very slow because there’s no way (that I’ve figured out, anyway) to turn off or turbo through the animations, even on the AI players’ turns.  You can turn off the music (so you can listen to good music instead of the game music), but you have to go through the device’s “settings” menu to do so, rather than from somewhere in the app itself.

Roll Through the Ages – This is brand-spankin’-new, but it’s great.  It’s just like playing the real game, and even includes the Late Bronze Age expansion.  The solo game even includes achievements (which I’ve already completed, except for one), and you can connect to Facebook to post your results on your wall.  If you like the game, you must own this app.
– Pros:  Clean and simple interface.  Great game. Not too much animation, so it doesn’t seem to drain the batteries like some other apps (see Settlers above).
– Cons: It’s a little hard to flip between screens to see all of your information (resources, developments, and current dice roll), but it’s not too bad once you get used to it.  I love the achievements, but there aren’t enough of them.  Raises a difficult point about whether solo games “count”, since you’re playing a solo variant designed by the game author, but with an electronic interface (probably only bothers me, though).

Hive – I really like this game, but it’s hard for me to find 2-player game opportunities (since Gwen doesn’t like it).  This app was the solution, and it works pretty well.  They tried to get too fancy with the interface, though, and it’s some kind of wonky 3-D thing where you can zoom in and change perspective and stuff.  But there’s no real benefit from that in gameplay, and it tends to just get in the way. 
– Pros: Nice implementation of the game, includes the Mosquito expansion.
– Cons: Wonky 3D interface, pretty weak AI (but I’m pretty good, I think, so maybe it’s not too bad)

Poison – I didn’t really like this as a “real” game, but it was cheap when I bought the app, so I gave it a try.  I actually ended up liking it pretty well.  There’s a lot of randomness, but as a solo, timewaster app, it was fun enough.  I also like how the 4-player and 6-player game are so wildly different to play that it’s almost two different games.  
– Pros: Quick and pretty fun.  Very nice and simple-to-use interface.
– Cons: You can’t turn off the infernal music, so you can’t listen to actual music/podcasts while playing.  The AI is pretty hard, because it’s a game where counting cards and tracking what’s left is very possible and useful to do, which computers are pretty good at.  The rules are a little too elemental, and don’t give things like the card breakdown, which would be nice if you wanted to count them yourself.

Crokinole (Croke) – I’ve never had the chance to play Crokinole in real life, but I’ve enjoyed this app for a long time.  The controls are easy to figure out, and while the skills are different from the flicking of real life, it’s still a dexterity game. 
– Pros: Easy to use, looks nice.  Good “AI” at different levels which even seems to respond to how well you’re doing in the game. 
– Cons: Nothing really, unless you just don’t like game itself.

Carrom (touchCarrom) – I really like real carrom, but this app is a pretty poor implementation of it.  The discs seem to move realistically, but it’s very hard to position, aim, and flick the striker.  Games (as in real life) also tend to take a while, and I’m not sure that you can really get “skilled” at what you do in this version.
– Pros: It’s Carrom, if you like that sort of thing.
– Cons: Poor controls, difficult to use, not sure whether you can improve much because of the interface.

Kachina – Originally, I would have given this a big thumbs down, because it only included a Kahina-like solo game.  But they’ve done a pretty good job of supporting it, and you can now also play solo against AI opponents or pass-and-play with humans.  I really don’t like the way they handle your hand of tiles, however (you have to touch and hold the corner of the device, then slide up the tile you want to use), and I really wish they would have just put your hand down at the bottom of the screen and visible all the time (espeically in solo mode).
– Pros: Looks like the real game, pretty fun and relatively easy to use.
– Cons: Crappy way to handle your hand of tiles, a little difficult to see the whole board in late game.

Robot Master – I understand that there is a “real” version of this game, but I can’t imagine that it would be a good thing to play.  As an app, though, it’s decent.  The biggest issues I have with it is that it’s both very random and pretty obvious what you need to do.  If you get the “cards” you need, you can do well, but sometimes you just get screwed.  Still, I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it, and it a nice solitaire game.
– Pros: Easy to use, decently fun puzzle game.
– Cons: Random, too simple at times, pretty weak AI

Money – I had never actually played this before as a card game, but between its reputation and my desire for new apps, I pulled the trigger and picked it up. And I have been very satisfied with it so far.  The game itself is a very interesting auction game, and the interface is clean and easy to use.  The AI is a bit weak, but it’s been getting better with some of the upgrades. 
– Pros: Fun game, easy to use, addictive.
– Cons: Sometimes it’s hard for my big, sausage-like fingers to hit the right card, and it can play a little slowly at times due to the animations. 

iPod/iPhone Only Games

Dungeon Solitaire – Okay, I totally admit that there’s no good reason for me to like this game.  It’s very random, and many times, winning or losing has nothing to do with how well you play.  But maybe because of its name, I think of it less as a real game and more just like a fantasy-themed solitaire, so that random winning or losing is less of a big deal.  And still, there’s a lot of chance for nice card play and setting yourself up, so there are a lot of choices to make in the game.  More than anything, it’s just addictive, and I find myself dialing it up most anytime that I have a few spare minutes. 
– Pros: Nice art, easy-to-use interface, lots of achievements to unlock through the “OpenFeint” network thingy.  Pretty awesome artwork on the “cards”.
– Cons: Very random.  Big balance questions in the card mix, especially with the expansion packs.  The fact that they sell “expansions” for $1 each (but which my addiction has caused me to buy anyway).

Medieval – This is a pretty basic tower-defense game with lots of flicking to fire your ballista.  I like how you can spend points to unlock bigger and better weapons, but then pretty soon, you max out and the game gets very stale.
– Pros: Looks good, pretty fun and addictive, get to choose paths of tech advances to pursue.
– Cons: It gets pretty boring once you max out the advances, and my hand tends to cramp up sometimes from all the flicking.

Reiner Knizia’s Roto
– I had heard some good reviews of this puzzle game from Knizia, so I picked it up.  But to me, the play is neither interesting or fun.  Basically, you rotate little wheels that have colored wedges on them, trying to get colors on different wheels together.  I can’t say that I’ve had any real fun with it at all, and it’s one of my few real disappointing iPod app purchases. 
– Pros: Not much at all.
– Cons: Boring.

Plants vs. Zombies
– An even better tower-defense game where you’re planting various types of, well, plants to fight off waves of a zombie horde.  The art is absolutely fantastic (quirky, cartoony zombies and plants), and there are a variety of different board setups and zombie threats to keep things fresh.  There’s a ton of opportunity to try out different strategies (and plant combinations) to use against the zombies, and it’s always pretty challenging.  Lots of fun!
– Pros: Looks great, lots of variety, tons of fun.
– Cons: Once you finish the “adventure” mode, the game gets a little stale as well.  The achievements keep it pretty interesting, but I still got bored with it after a while.

I also play with a few other “basic” apps, like Enjoy Sudoku, BeeCells, Word Warp, and a really cheap Solitaire version, but I think that pretty much does it for more “gamery” apps.

So, what do you think of these apps?  Are there any that I’m missing?  Have you tried the Carcassonne app yet (’cause I’m not sure it it’s worth it to me since I don’t like the real game much, and I’m afraid of how it will look in the iPod)? 


  1. Mark Wilder

    I downloaded Carcassonne and it’s beautiful. It’s really beauifully implemented. I’m also not a huge fan of the game, but it really is well done from what I’ve seen.

    Other ports of “real” games: Ingenious (def worth checking out), Keltis Oracle, Mu, Knights of Charlemagne, Blokus, Rummikub. There’s also “Honey, that’s mine” that’s an implementation of “Hey! That’s My Fish”.

  2. *waves* Hi.

    This is pretty much what I do, haha.

    Games I’ve played, and…heck, I’ll use your scale too:
    Real board games:
    Lux DLX (Risk) >
    Zooloretto ^
    Robot Master ^
    Knights of Charlemagne ^
    Poison ^
    Honey, That’s Mine! (Hey, That’s My Fish) (iPhone/iPad) ^^
    Reiner Knizia’s Money! (iPhone/iPad) ^^
    Mu (iPhone/iPad) ^
    Carcassonne ^^ (And not just because I like the game…this is a really solid implementation. Also, they’re updating it with full iPad support later for free, but it looks nice enough in 2x as it is. I can show you next time I show up and remember to bring my iPad if you’re hesitant about the $5.)
    Small World (iPad only) ^ (2-player only, but otherwise it’s really nice. No matter how bad Ingersoll is at hitting the buttons. I mean, he uses the tip of his finger. Amateur.)
    Word Slam (Scrabble Slam) VV (The AI is just ridiculously good. Way, way too good. At that point, just don’t put it in there.)

    Similar stuff:
    KarmaStar ^
    Mecho Wars ^
    Xeno Sola (Carc-ish) >
    Plants vs. Zombies HD (iPad) ^^ (Seriously, 12-finger support and a larger screen make this one a delight. I’m sure you can imagine.)
    Battle for Wesnoth HD (iPad) ^^ (Wasn’t too into the game with its computer implementations…but this version is nice.)

    That’s the stuff off the top of my head.

  3. Chris Ingersoll

    Wait… twelve finger support?

  4. Okay, I just looked it up, and apparently it’s just eleven.

    But no, I don’t think they designed the game specifically for Count Rugen. It’s so people can help you.

  5. tomg

    I’m always ready to play Hive. And I think Kenny keeps his copy in his bag.
    Speaking of 2-player games, I’m thinking about picking up Roma and Arena (Stefan Feld games) so I’ll be bringing them at some point.

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