The Dirtbags of Holding: When You Don't Have Enough Spoons For Board Games
Picture: “Spoon” By tablexxnx. unaltered from https://flic.kr/p/f6x8pf
Are you familiar with the Spoon Theory? I've linked to wikipedia for some quick info, but there's a lot more in depth stuff available to read on. Also, I'm not an expert, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Basically, the idea behind the Spoon Theory is that people only have a certain number of "Spoons" in a day, representing the amount of energy you have to conduct activities. For those with disabilities or mental illnesses, some tasks require more "spoons" than they would for another person, especially activities that require interacting with other people.
I bring this up because my wife has Fibromyalgia. She experiences chronic pain that can flare up at any moment and make life difficult. Even when the pain isn't extremely severe, it can be mild enough to affect her sleep and mental state during the day. Things that seem "simple" to you and me require a lot more energy from her. So, she has to prioritize her life to conserve her spoons.
This includes board games. She's not as into tabletop gaming as I am (her vice of choice is currently Minecraft, which is a very low-impact game for her), but from time to time wants to get in a game with me. However, board games can be a high-spoon activity for her, especially when they are more complicated or are newer games that she needs to learn (or relearn, if it's been awhile). Sometimes this means she feels guilty that she wants to enjoy games with me, but doesn't have the spoons available to devote to playing a game.
Over the past six months or so though, we've found ways to change that. The increasing availability of app versions of board games and games that use apps in them have made a big change in the amount of time that we game together. Mansions of Madness has become one of her favorite games, and one of mine because of how much fun we have together. She told me that she enjoys how the app keeps track of things for her and reminds her when she needs to do something. In a sense, the app is reducing a large spoon activity down to something that is much more manageable to her. Also, because memory fog is a big side effect of Fibro, she has less stress in trying to remember how to play because the app will easily remind her. We also play plenty of digital board games. She enjoys Splendor and Catan, but we rarely pull out those board games and instead will sit on the couch and play the app version of these games on our iPads.
Last month, Asmodee Digital released the PlayLink version of Ticket to Ride on the PS4 for $20. Given our unique situation, I wanted to give the game a try for a couple of reasons. A) Ashley had never played Ticket to Ride – is it her style of game? B) How does this PlayLink version of the game work (I saw some explanations but it wasn't extremely clear)? Also. C) Is it really worth $20???? I know $20 for a digital game can be a bit pricey for board gamers, especially when there are plenty of good physical board games for that price. I was given a review code of the game for me to try out so I could report to our podcast listeners on whether or not it was worth the investment (assuming you have a Playstation 4).
I'll have a full review of the game in episode 118 of Boards & Swords, but in short the answers are A) OMG YES, B) Oh, okay I see, and C) Maybe. The PlayLink version basically acts as a PS4 version of Ticket to Ride, with the only difference being that after you launch the game, you can then pull out your phone/tablet, download the Ticket to Ride PlayLink app, and use your device to interact with the board game. This means that the TV will display the current map, all the train cars, etc., but each player uses their device to choose train routes, pick their colored cards, and choose where to lay trains. Each of these choices is then relayed on the TV for all the other players to see. If you've played the app version of Ticket to Ride, then you'll be extremely familiar with the iconography.
Going back to my wife and question A, she had a bad flare up last week and was home with me recovering on my day off on Friday. I pulled up the PS4 version and gave her a quick explanation of the game, as I thought it might be a low-energy activity to take her mind off of things. We ended up playing the game 4 times that day, which is a huge record for us. We rarely play that many games together in one given day, but she kept requesting to play the game. And the PS4 version made it easy for her to get into it. Since then, I've shown her the app version of the game and she's not sure which one she likes more.
Which brings us to C – Is this worth $20? This isn't worth going and buying a PS4, that's for certain. If you have a family that loves games, then yeah I think so. While the game offers many of the same features as the mobile app, and family sharing can allow you to share the iOS/Android version to your various family members, most of the time in-app purchases are not included in those sharing program. So if your family likes Ticket to Ride and you want to play the new Germany map, you have to spend $2.99 on each device in order to play. On the PS4 PlayLink version, you just pay a one-time price of $6.99 and it will allow anyone to play on that map. Also, if you have get togethers at your house a lot, I can see this being a good "party game" version of Ticket to Ride, as the app to use your phone is free to download and use. So when your family is getting together for the holidays and all the kids are sitting around with their eyes glazed over while you are talking with extended family members, you can throw this on the TV and even get Grandma or Grandpa into the game easily. Outside of that use case, then you probably are fine sticking with the stand alone iOS/Android Ticket to Ride app.
Given all of this, it should not be a suprise to hear me say that I am super excited for all the app versions of board games that have been announced and are still to come. There's Carcassonne for the Switch, Terraforming Mars on the phone, Gloomhaven, etc. - all games that I might not get the chance to play normally, but will definitely play a lot more when there is a digital option available for me and my family. So the next time you have a debate about "Are board games with apps still considered board games?", remember that for some people, that might be the only way that they get to experience said game.