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 STEAM FEATURE

What sort of board games work best on digital?

Ameritrash or Euro?
Product: Space Hulk | Developer: Full Control Apps | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad, Steam, Board Game | Genre: Card/ board game
 
In the world of board games, there are very much two schools of thought. One of them dwells in the realms of chance, where dice rolls determine the outcome of most actions, and the best laid plans can come crashing down in a shower of ones.

Then there's the other school, where randomness is kept to a minimum, and players are bound to their decisions by a set of rules that can range from the incredibly simple to the head-scratchingly complex.

The question we want to ask here though, is which of these is a better fit for digital play? Is it the rattling dice-chaos of so-called Ameritrash games, or the more measured, considered beat of the Eurogame school?

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It certainly looks like the Eurogame school currently has the high ground on mobile. There are exceptions, like the Talisman games, but for the most part the big games on mobile are about worker placement and building.

And there's a pretty good reason for that. It's sort of hard to make rolling dice interesting when you're playing digitally. Sure there's still some thrill, and Tin Man Games's ouvre shows how jiggling your device can add even more fun.

But there's none of the gorgeous rattle, of the straining faces of your friends as they peer over to see whether you've managed to pull off something incredible, or fallen woefully short of performing even the most simple task.

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One of the finest examples of how it doesn't really work is the adaptation of Space Hulk. When you're playing it in the real world, the dice rolls of both sides add to the fraught nature of the game. On digital, where those rolls are behind the scenes, it makes everything painfully sluggish.

That's not to say that randomness can't be instilled into digital games, it just means that developers have to think about more interesting, and engaging, ways to do it. Look at the success of card games if you want an example.

In almost all of them, especially the deck-builders, there's an element of chance. You can win and lose depending on the cards that end up in your hand.

And that chance is resolved quickly - there's the joy of pulling the right card at the right time, and the crushing misery of ending up with a bunch of damp squibs.

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It's not an unassailable problem then, but it's unlikely we're going to see the biggest Ameritrash games making their way onto the App Store or Google Play Store any time soon. Instead, it'd be great to see randomness and chance making their way into digital board games in other ways.

There's always a thrill to seeing how whether the bones fall in your favour, and having more of that on digital is definitely going to open up board gaming to more people who might be put off by the slightly stuffy nature of Eurogames.

But wholesale translations probably aren't the way forward. Instead we're hopefully going to see cards, dice, and other random elements, making their way into board games designed from the ground up for mobile and digital.
 

Reviewer photo
Harry Slater 23 May 2018
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