More and more excellent games and game-related apps are appearing for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The iPad especially is a fantastic platform for boardgamers. Here’s a look at some of the better apps to grab if you’re a gamer!
Fantasy Flight Games have begun to release high-quality iPhone and iPod touch apps (they’re also compatible with the iPad, though at lower resolution) to complement their boardgames and roleplaying games. Their first app was designed for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay players: the WFRP Toolkit. This fantastic little dice roller is just the thing for getting fast results from of those complex dice pools. Also, results can be saved for future reference, and—if stats happen to be your thing—you can get extensive statistical analyses of all your dice rolls. It’s a very polished app and the rolling dice feel just right!
Fresh from the FFG factory is the brand new Arkham Horror Toolkit for the incredibly popular Arkham Horror boardgame, based on the dark mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. This is a really exciting release—especially if you’re using a few expansions and your table space is beginning to prove inadequate for holding hold all those decks of cards! The basic app includes a Dice Roller, an Investigator tracker, a full set of Location cards, and the Arkham Horror map.
There’s an amazing amount of functionality here, and you can add all the expansion sets separately as small in-app purchases, and then turn on or off that extra content at will.
The Dice Roller quickly lets you add up to ten dice, shake to roll, and then gives you your number of successes (and you can change the dice to Blessed or Cursed dice, for their different ranges of success). Click on Investigators, and you can choose, or randomly have chosen for you, an investigator, and then keep track of his or her stats, money and clues during the game. Best of all, the number of Clue tokens you have appears in the dice roller, so you can spend them to roll extra results!
The Location Deck section lets you easily ‘draw’ a random card for a particular location, which then gets ‘shuffled’ back into the deck—imagine the table space and game time that will save! There are also the Other Worlds decks included, which saves even more time by automatically chosing a card with the matching colour for the particular dimension you are visiting.
Finally, the Maps section gives you the entire map board (and the expansion maps if you’ve purchased that extra content, remember). You can pinch to zoom into the map, or double-click on a location or Other World to automatically draw a location or Other World card!
The Arkham Horror Toolkit really looks like the standard by which all other boardgame supplement apps will be judged. Here’s hoping that this kind of thing becomes available for a lot of other games that have complex book-keeping processes that would benefit from being streamlined in this fashion. Say … Tide of Iron maybe?
But what about actual boardgames? The king of the current crop of boardgame apps—in my opinion— is the iOS port of the classic tile-laying game Carcassonne. Carcassonne for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is an incredible slick and polished production that every boardgamer should check out. There’s a special new solitaire mode, or you can play against the computer (there are 9 different AI players), over a local network, or even with random players worldwide over the internet. The entire app, from tutorials to original art, smacks of professionalism. Apparently the developers are working on some of the expansions as in-app purchases, which will make the game even more fun. Highly recommended!
Reiner Knizia has had quite a few of his games transferred to iOS devices, but unfortunately I personally think the graphic and interface quality generally doesn’t seem to be up there with a port like Carcassonne. One of the best, however is the application of his game Samurai. In Reiner Knizia’s Samurai you place tiles trying to surround and influence several castes in medieval Japan in your bid to become Shogun. The app works very nicely, and while I still think the graphics could be a bit slicker, the game is a lot of fun and challenging.
Neuroshima Hex is a clever tile-laying combat game from Z-Man Games, and the app version is another must-buy: Neuroshima Hex for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The artwork is excellent, and while you’ll initially be intimidated by the many icons and special powers if you haven’t played the boardgame, stick with it as it takes very little time to get used to how everything works. There’s a lot of luck involved, but there are many strategic choices as well, and the application is very professionally made.
The Settlers of Catan is a much-loved classic, and of course it has come to the iOS as Catan and Catan HD. It’s a shame that the graphics are not higher quality, and the interface could do with a little more work, but it’s a good start for Catan fans. Not perfect, but still fun.
Of course for people who like boardgames but have never heard of Settlers of Catan or Reiner Knizia, there are some excellent applications recreating classic family boardgame experiences. Hasbro obviously have some money to put into app development and it shows in the quality of such apps as Monopoly and Monopoly HD, Scrabble and Scrabble HD, Risk and Risk HD, and Game of Life and Game of Life HD.
This is a quick look at some of the better boardgame and boardgame-related apps out there. Are there any you’ve come across that you think need a mention? Let me know in the comments below!