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 thought 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.
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?