Things of No Interest: 50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (35-31)

Things of No Interest: 50 iOS Boardgames - 5 at a Time (35-31)

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 35-30 (five fairly different games)

San Juan
San Juan is (roughly speaking) Puerto Rico "the card game". I actually prefer this card game a good bit to its inspiration, as I think it is faster and less "scripted". In coming posts, I'll speak to the randomness of Race For the Galaxy (which was essentially built on this engine) being a game I'm not in love with, but for whatever reason, the randomness of San Juan is what makes it ok. Of course, none of that matters beyond some personal preference for the tabletop games - we are here to look at the app conversions and my preference for playing those versions.

This is one of the few Ravensburger applications I have that doesn't have a bunch of extra play modes. You simply have online play and local games. Local games can be done pass and play or against a set of AI players who are not horrible, though not expert either. I have not played against anyone online, but the game is surely a little slow (I'm basing that on my experience playing Race For the Galaxy async). Solo against the AI is ok, but the game isn't especially deep, so it gets a little stale after a bit, thus its ranking landing here.

Eclipse
If you have never played Eclipse before. you are missing out on a decent 4X game. It has dice so is a little Ameri-trashy, but it has a reasonable mix of euro with the randomness of combat. If you haven't played before, you can get to playing on the app without too much effort - the tutorial/walk-thru of your first game does a decent job of explaining how to play Eclipse in the app. I'm not really sure you'd want this to be how you learned to play the tabletop version of the game though. It'll get you 85% of the way there, but there is some information that app does a good job of presenting you that is different from the tabletop game, so be aware.

Otherwise, the app is really well done. It plays smoothly and the information (of which there is a ton in the game) is presented well. Offline solo play is great for fans of the game (though I haven't played enough to have any clue how tough the AI is). You can setup the AI to be peaceful, normal, or aggressive and play pass-and-play games. You can also play async online games, which is a good way to feed your Eclipse addiction (if you have one) with your friends. Eclipse can be something of an "event game" with a larger play count, so being able to play/practice against AI is one way to get in more of the game while learning some of the ins and outs of the various races and the technologies that are available so you don't waste time when you do finally get to play face-to-face.

Elder Signs: Omens
Elder Signs (the tabletop game) is a co-op dice game. Each turn the player/investigator checks out a mystery in what has to be the worst museum ever (based on everything that will happen over the course of your investigation). Each turn/investigation is basically rolling dice and hoping to match up the symbols to whatever is going on in that location. I am normally not a huge co-op game fan, but I do personally like Cthulhu themed stuff. I love Eldritch Horror because it tells such a good story. And while there is a story in Elder Sign, it feels so much less integrated. Both ES and EH have dice rolling to determine a turn's outcome, but in EH, you get a mini journal entry whose story is told based on the outcome of the die. In ES, there that isn't the case - your turn is all about the dice mechanics. On your turn, you simply go to a location and roll the dice a bunch, then pass to the next player. In fact, I'm pretty sure this game's mechanics could be re-used to create a number of co-op games and I'm a little surprised they haven't.

So anyway, I don't love the tabletop game much. However, the app implementation is good for solo play (you can of course do a bit of pass and play if you like). The app is creepy and the sound is good (one of the few games I like playing with the sound). The intro story to each game is well done, which begs the question - why didn't they put a little more into each investigation and really story up the app (or the real game for that matter)? If the story wasn't just bookending the game, I'd probably play this more than I do.


Mü is a card game. From BGG: Players reveal cards to declare their bids: the highest bidder becomes the Chief and the second highest bidder is the Vice. Both the Vice and Chief choose a trump (either number or suit), and then players try to capture tricks to score the most points. The Chief chooses a partner and tries to cover the bid to score bonus points, while the Vice and remaining players seek to stop the Chief from reaching his goal. If you like trick taking games, this one is pretty good and I think best with five, which can make it an odd one to get to the table.

This implementation is decent enough, though just like with a number of trick taking games, it is hard to get a decent AI. Solo play can help you to get the game down, but multiplayer is only supported on a local network (though the game is iPhone friendly, you'd still need everyone to have an Apple device of their own plus have them buy the game - just go get the real cards and play at a table). I like playing a quick game of this odd little gem - on occasion. I wish that they had developed more than just Mü (the card game itself is sold with other game rules/titles), but by itself it is still fun.

Warhammer Quest
WHQ was one of those grand dungeon crawls from Games Workshop. The box had loads of minis and was notable for a couple of reasons - it was a co-op and had a campaign you could work through. On top of that, it was like the original Diablo video game - randomly created dungeons. In other words, this game screamed to be made into a video game. They actually ended up making it into two!

As I only have the original version, that's what I'll talk about here. There is both a lot to like in this game, and a fair amount of annoying stuff too. First the good. The game looks pretty good. You have a cool overhead view of the dungeons and you can rotate and zoom in and out as you need. The animations are nice and clean and things look good (there is a lot of blood splatter when you smack or get smacked and it stains the dungeon floors as you move about). There is a nice variety of equipment to be found and it is always fun leveling up your party and seeing them get tougher and meaner. The game plays out as many a dungeon crawl, with a travel interlude to town in-between each adventure. Sometimes stuff happens to give everything more of a tied together feel. In town, you can sell and buy loot and occasionally level up your party. Everything you could want in a dungeon crawler.

Now the bad. There are a lot of things that you can buy via IAP and the game feels very much like it was built to suck money out of you. There are four characters in game, but if you want to play the others, classes, you have to buy them. Leveling up takes gold and that isn't something you earn at exactly the same pace as you will be advancing, which means either buying gold, or doing a LOT of grinding. Which brings me to the next annoying thing - the game gets repetitive pretty quickly. This isn't the app's fault per se but more likely a limitation of WHQ - there are only a handful of monster types, so the dungeons all start to be the same thing. You are also limited in the areas of the world map that you can travel to (unless you pay to get to another area via IAP). I haven't done so because I don't see the point to paying for more of the same. Sure, you'd get some differently storied quests, but mostly all the quests are - go into the dungeon and kill everything until you get to the end. Different flavor text doesn't make it new and better.

I still go back to the WHQ when I haven't played any dungeon crawlers in a while and don't feel like setting up Descent on the tabletop. It scratches the itch well enough to get me by, but it doesn't keep me going for nights on end like a true Dungeons and Dragons kind of game (like Baldur's Gate) and it is definitely inferior to Descent (which will never get a true app conversion/implementation).

Next time, we break into the top 30 with another strange mix of games.

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