Things of No Interest: 50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (45-41)

Things of No Interest: 50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (45-41)

There are a lot of app conversions of boardgames out there - believe me, that was the sole reason I got an iPad back in the day and why I upgraded to a new iPad last year. While I do more than just play boardgame apps on my iPad, playing boardgame conversions was the main reason for my getting one. This series will do a countdown of my top 50 boardgame apps - five at a time. I took 50 of the best and dropped them into Pub Meeple's Ranking Engine so I could sort them and here is what I got...

** Note: There are a ton of boardgame apps I never purchased, and a huge number that I have, but that are currently not playable on iOS 11 - I'm only covering those that I can play and still have installed on my iPad.
Numbers 45-41

Tricky 6
If you've never heard of Tricky 6, that's because it is a rip-off clone of one you might have heard of - Qwirkle (or as a friend once called it  - Scrabble for Dummies). Note, there is no official Qwirkle app, (there was supposed to be one under development, but no such beast that I ever found). The gist of the game is - lay out your colored tiles in combos on the board, building off the shared tableau. Everything in a row or column must either match in number or (i.e. all 3s) but be different in color or be the same color, but different in number. You score for the number of tiles in a line (or lines if you can create more than one row or column. It should be noted (for all you Qwirkle purists), legal plays are slightly different in this game.

I ended up getting rid of Qwirkle (I'd rather play Scrabble or nearly anything else), so I have it so I could play with my kids - no other real reason. For what its supposed to be, it does its job. You can play async online or vs AI. One thing to note, this is an iPhone app, not a universal game, so playing on an iPad means playing the silly "scaled" version. The game is also locked into portrait mode (which makes no sense - the tableau expands as you play and you can zoom out, so why lock the rotation)? If you really like Qwirkle, this isn't a bad choice (might be your only choice I think). Also, I mentioned numbers (and the screen shot shows numbers, but you can change to symbols in game if you like).

Lost Cities
Back in the day... Lost Cities was king of the two-player games. Simple to learn and clever. This little card game was the inspiration for the Spiel winning Keltis (which is really just a 4-player version with a couple of bells and whistles). The original "duel" game that was almost universally recommended for two-players looking for a small game.

The app does a really good job of presenting the game in electronic form, allowing you to play async games or against the AI. It is also not universal on iOS, so like Tricky 6, it was designed as an iPhone game that is playable on your other devices. Where else does it falls down a little? There is (was) an app version of Keltis, which I prefer by a large margin over this game. Unfortunately the Keltis game hasn't made the iOS 11 leap yet. This does have a leg up over Keltis in that you can play a game asynchronously  (Keltis stupidly only played live games) vs your friends. I pull this out on occasion, then remember that I'd rather go play Keltis.

Summoner Wars is a minis game, except there are no minis, just decks of cards. Each player takes a faction and summons troops (cards) to the board for some tactical fighting. The appeal of this game lies in the multitude of available factions that let a player tailor their approach to the game.

For the app version, the developer - Playdek - elected to go with a free to play single faction. This allowed players to "demo" the game against the AI. Additional purchases of factions could be made in-app and any purchase unlocked online play. At some point (I'm sure during on of the bazillion sales Playdek has done) I bought a faction pack. Despite that, I haven't explored the game much - and while the implementation is great (Playdek almost always does a crazy good job of boardgame conversions), I just never got that into the game. I just never felt like exploring the factions that much on my own - it felt like too much work. Not sure any of my friends ever bought this either. This is another title that I should probably revisit a bit in the near future, but without a real opponent, I'm not sure I see the point - this is the kind of game where really knowing your faction and how to best use it to drive your friends nuts is when it is at its best.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island (if you have been living on one and not heard of this game before) is a family friendly gateway-co-op. I'm not a huge co-op fan, but co-ops are a decent way to introduce the kids to gaming, so I acquired a few over the years and when this came out, I grabbed it so we could play when we weren't at home.

The app is a good implementation of the boardgame, even allowing two players to play with the tablet on the table between them, and automatically switching the view between the players on their turns. This implementation is a good one and a good alternative to the real game if you like co-ops or want to put a game in front of your kids when they spend all their time on your iPad. Since I'm not a huge co-op player (and for solo games, there are others you'll see later that I'd rather play) this doesn't get much attention from me.

Here it is, one of the all time favorite games on BGG (currently #15 all time) and yet it didn't even make my Top 40 app conversions. Well my friends, what can I say? I prefer a load of Ewe's other games to Agriola and since this list is all about my preferences...

Putting aside my general feelings about Agricola (the tabletop game), this might be one of the few game conversions that I just don't love. The app developer decided to make the odd choice of revamping the UI of the game, taking it away from the familiarity of the original boardgame and giving it more of a farming town look. Now, Lookout games has done a pretty good job with their boardgame conversions, but instead of the familiar boards you have a small farming village which you have to scroll back and forth on to see everything - no zoom. Sure, there are cutsie animals walking around doing things, but you won't care as you scroll around trying to figure out what is available to you. I have the large iPad Pro (almost 13") and yet I still am forced to scroll around rather than being able to just play and zoom when I need or want.

My other main issue with the game is a complaint about the game itself. There is too much information for a newer player. On the tabletop, all the cards I have (occupations and such), all the improvement cards, etc are out where everyone can see them. Obviously, this doesn't work well on a tablet, so there are fly-outs for each of those and you can tap on a card to get the full card's description. But you can only look at one card at a time and scroll through - its hard to compare multiple cards. For someone (me) that isn't in love with the original game and doesn't know all of these cards, it makes making choices tedious.

All of which is why I hardly ever play this game and why it is ranked after 40 other apps on my iPad. If I liked the tabletop game more, maybe I'd put more time into the app and these complaints would probably go away. But nothing about the app makes me want to like the game more than I do now and put in that time to get more familiar with it. A good app should help me appreciate the game, not only appeal to me if I was a fan of the original.

Next time - numbers 40-36. Including another Knizia favorite.

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