Games that my iPod Ruined!

I’ve had an iPod Touch pretty much since they came out, which means that I’ve been able to be right up in there with most of the boardgame conversions to the iOS platform.  I don’t have an iPad as of right now, so I can’t get all of them or anything, but I’ve certainly played a goodly number.  And as Days of Wonder reported a few months ago, iOS versions of board games can actually help introduce, teach, and improve sales of actual cardboard n’ plastic versions of the game (up to 70%, in fact).  

But it’s not always that pretty.  And in fact, my experience with a few iOS games has been quite the opposite; where playing the electronic version of the game downright ruined the real thing for me.

Roll Through the Ages

The poster child of this phenonemon for me is definitely Roll Through the Ages, particularly when played solo.  Because prior to its iOS release, RTtA was probably one of my go-to solo games.  It was quick and simple, fun to play, and was easy to get out and put away.  But no matter how easy it is to play any physical game, it’s a heck of a lot easier to pull out your iPod, fire up an app, and play one or 5 or 17 games of it.  

And worse than that, being able to play so many games of it so quickly made me realize real soon that the game wasn’t quite as interesting or deep as I Photobucketthought it was.  Now, I’m not saying that I ever believed it was a wondrously profound well of dice-chucking depth or anything, but prior to this, I held a mostly well-informed belief that choices really mattered and that no dice rolls were inherently “better” than any other.

But pretty simply, getting more workers early on is better than anything else.  And if you don’t get up to at least 5 or so cities very quickly, you’re not going to do all that well.  There certainly are some good choices to make about which developments to buy and all, but as my play level improved, my actual score became more and more dependent on simply the roll of the freaking virtual dice.  So while I’ll still fire it up from time to time on my iPod, the idea of waiting for two or three other people to take their turns around a real table to slog through a game of it is pretty abhorent to me.


When it came out, I really liked playing Ascension at game night.  Mostly, it was quicker and more compact than Dominion, which I’ve always felt was just too long and fiddly for its depth, but it still offered some nice, dynamic choices each turn.  But since it came out for the iOS, I think I’ve played maybe 2 or 3 games of it in person.  

Once again, the sheer speed of playing electronically, along with totally removing the hassle of flipping cards and shuffling cards and organizing cards and tossing around little plastic gem-thingies, makes it so much easier to play.  And while it’s not quite as bad as RTtA, playing a lot can also help you see some of the weaknesses related to luck that are inherent in the game.  

Quite different from RTtA, however, I’m still very interested in playing Ascension on my iPod.  Between the fun density of the game itself, the choices it still offers, and the freshness added by the downloadable expansions, I still gladly play against either the AI or human opponents more or less daily, but I have little patience to sit down with the “real thing” anymore.

Elder Sign

When it first came out, I was really impressed in how quickly Elder Sign played, especially when (in my opinion, of course), it captured just about as much of the theme as did it’s predecessor Arkham Horror (which I think is very clunky and waaay overrated).  But then the awesome implementation for iOS was released by Fantasy Flight, and I think I’ve played one time since.

Fantasy Flight is not known for always delivering, shall we say, a “complete” product in the first edition of their games.  And for boardgames, that usually means huge FAQ’s, errata, and maybe even “fixed” components that have to be replaced.  But with an electronic game, all they have to do is release a new version of the app that fixes whatever problems their developers and playtesters missed.  So in addition to clarifying some big questions from the boardgame and simplifying/”fixing” the endgame, the iOS version of Elder Sign: Omens was better than the real thing right from the get-go.

And now, considering that they’ve also released a pretty huge update with some downloadable content that actually adds to the gameplay experience (with the new “location” in the Cthulhu quest and unique monsters for each old one), playing my hardcopy version would sort of be a letdown.  Plus, as with all digital versions, it’s quicker and easier to get into, and saving your place until later is as easy as hitting the power button on your device.  


I could go on, of course, but you get the point.  So, has playing any games on a mobile device or computer ruined their “real” versions for you?


  1. I would actually say that my iPhone SAVED Ascension for me. When I first played it, I thought that it was way to random and reactionary. However, when I was able to download the Ascension: Lite (since pulled from the app store) for free, I figured, why not. As a quick 5 minute game, I find it fun enough to play repeatedly, whereas I had no intention of playing the physical game again.

  2. Rober

    I play Ascension all day, every day. But haven’t played it on the kitchen table. So I can’t help you on that one. But with Carcassonne it’s a different story. I play that a lot on iOS, and it is still the most played game at our hous as well. Playing on iOS and at the table are two whole different game expiriences for me. On iOS it is quick and clean and very usefull when you have no-obe at home to play with, or for those lost minutes to make a quick move. But you don’t have the fun and annoied faces at the table when you make a brilliant move that blockes your opponent. So for me, they both have their own purpose.

  3. Craig

    Keldon’s Race For The Galaxy program (for PC) has completely replaced my physical copy. I *want* to play against my friends, but the game’s steep learning curve creates a significant investment of time and teaching. The PC game fills my need to play, and the AI is no slouch (or maybe I’m just that bad at the game). Of course, I’m sure that some of my friends are happier for not having to be subjected to the game.

  4. Brian Peace

    I played Tigris and Euphrates for the first time on the iPad. I bought it because I had heard good things about it, but no one I know owns it. Having played it two or three times, I now know for certain that T&E and I will never get along. It is both the worst and best iOS purchase I have made. I did not like the game,but at least I found out before buying a physical copy.

  5. Jonadonalingo

    I had the same experience with Ascension! I became so spoiled at the speed of games on the swipe interface that real games seem to crawl. Also, the slower pace of games seem to lend games greater depth. But after rapidly churning through multiple Ascension games, the enormous benefit some players get by randomly drawn cards undermines the sense that your choices have value. You can make the best choice possible on your turn, only to have the card revealed after your purchase be far superior to the options you had available. By stripping away the setup time and component handling, you reach conclusions about game play much faster.

  6. Robert

    The reasons you say these games were ruined by the iPod are precisely the reasons why they have saved them for me. Ascension is far too slow for a fun game with physical components. Roll through the ages is designed to be a quick mindless filler–nothing more. Perfect for the iDevice. And Elder sign is actually great both ways. The subtle differences between the physical game and the digital game make it fun both ways.

  7. The Ascension app put me off buying the physical product, although I love the iOS version I can’t see me ever breaking out a game of the physical version with any of my fellow gamers. I also feel the same about Elder Sign. I wasn’t very impressed with the actual game, but with extra immersion of the electronic version, what with the music and graphics, make it a fun few minutes of gaming.
    Nightfall, on the other hand, works so much better as a physical game in my opinion. It’s a game that requires you to see the look of dismay on your opponents’ face as you play a full hand of combos!

  8. Aaron Brooks

    My wife and I play Ticket to Ride on our iPhones. So much better than fiddling with all the trains, etc… I always thought that I liked board games with nice plastic pieces 🙂

  9. Wow, I so totally didn’t check all the pending comments until just now! Thanks for all the feedback, everyone!

    I can see that many of you agree with me in one way or another, and even Robert, I think that we’re basically saying the same thing (that the iOS/electronic version is better than the physical one) even though we have a different take on it.

    And Brian, even though you’re tragically wrong about T&E, at least your iPad helped you recognize your preferences before investing in the real version.

    I must admit, however, that there are a handful of games that the iOS version have “made” for me as well. Most namely, it gave me the chance to try out Neuroshima Hex, which is one of my all-time favorite apps and also a ton of fun to play in person.

  10. How can I forget about Neuroshima Hex?! This is definitely a game where the app has made me want to play the physical game more. It’s also helped a great deal in showing me some of the rules.

    Chris, have you tried Neuroshima Hex Puzzle? Its a separate app but its a series of scenarios where you have one turn to win the game. Its really good.

  11. Chris Norwood

    Yes, I’ve got NH Puzzle, but I got a little tired of it after a while.  I also bought the expansion armies for regular Neuroshima Hex, but I don’t actually like either of them very much (certainly not as much as the original four).  But I’ll still pick up other armies as they get imported, just for variety.

  12. Chris Norwood

    Yep, and a couple thousand extra hits…

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