2011 Retrospective

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It was about this time last year that I joined iPadBoardGames as a reviewer. As James (the guy who started this site) will undoubtedly tell you, my passion for board games has helped catapault iPadBoardGames into one of the top websites for iOS games. I thought it was time to look over the games from 2011. If you like feel free to consider these the Angelus’ Choice Awards, but do so under the knowledge that these opinions are highly subjective. For me, this is an opportunity to show other designers what I think was done really well, as well as to give a shout out to a few of my favourite underdogs.

Gameplay

Trying to choose a highlight for gameplay from 2011 is a real challenge. There were a number of superlative games released last year and most of them had some excellent game going for them. However, if there is one game that definitely deserves your undivided attention for a great game, my pick would be:

Ghost Stories

This game is unbelievably challenging, with a steep learning curve. However, I have found that it is not beyond the reach of most people and once they have gotten past that tipping point the game is still challenging but incredibly rewarding. In my eyes, Ghost Stories has that rare balance of complexity and comprehensibility.

User Interface

This is probably going to be a controversial choice for some, but for me it was a no brainer. While there were many games that had excellent user interface one game showed real innovation:

Puerto Rico

What makes this game deserve special notice is the manner in which codito took a game with a variety of different player mats and included them into the same space. Their design choice of lit buildings and animations shows how an implementation can be done inventively. Additionally, the accessibility towards game information is always at hand and very transparent. For me, the design was clever and innovative.

Graphics and Sound

There was no doubt in my mind that this game would have to feature somewhere in this retrospective. It could have easily won many of the categories I’ve outlined here. However, this game has managed to distinguish itself on this category:

Ticket to Ride

It is probably no surprise that Ticket to Ride is held in high regard. I have said time and time again that Days of Wonder are setting the benchmark for how to do iPad board games. Where they really shine in this instance is the absolute polish they’ve given to this game. There are lavish graphics, sounds, and design everywhere: from the front of house to the set up menus behind.

Teaching Model

What is meant by this category is how a game introduces itself to you. I have found over the course of this year of reviews that it is crucial to have a tutorial, especially for the more complex games. This notable mention goes to a game that I believe demonstrated excellent introduction to game. This one is probably no surprise to people either:

Tigris and Euphrates

With possibly the longest tutorial I have yet seen, it is clear that Codito have gone the extra mile designed to walk you through a fairly complex strategic game. They effectively give you a step by step outline of how the game works and how to resolve the various challenges of the game. It was incredibly well done.

Underdogs

I would now like to take a moment to draw your attention to a number of games that I think deserve a chance to shine but have not managed to stay in the top 20 of our ranking system:

Hey, that’s my fish! is a surprising little game that is mostly for children but could readily entertain adults. It is suprising because there is emergent complexity, so while the rules are reasonably simple the strategy is deceptively deep.

Imperial might not look like much from the game menu, but that’s okay. It turns out to be a really excellent implementation of a classic strategy game done by an independent developer. Once you get past the menu screen you’ll encounter a really slick game screen.

Army of Frogs is the last game I wish to cite as worthy of your attention. It is cute, it’s simple to play, and not so easy to master. You should find a lovely diversion here.



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    • Angelus Morningstar

      I omitted Ascension, partly because I favour board games over card games, and partly because it got major loving from the BGG iOS Awards already.

  1. Gene Koo

    Can I suggest a couple of things for the site as a whole – (1) this is minor but almost caused me to give up on the site, which is that the clickable area of each review on the home page is really small. I tried clicking on the image, the text… finally discovered only the title of the post links to the review. Just a small UI change that might help with people getting to the content! (2) I can tell you guys are real people by reading through several reviews, but it would really help your credibility to have an “About” page that introduces your staff, so we know you’re not just a bunch of SEO spammers!

  2. Withnail

    I was surprised to read your description of the Tigris tutorial – “incredibly well done” etc. I found the Tutorial bewildering, and I ended up watching 3 videos on YouTube to understand the rules instead.

    A huge flaw in the tutorial is that it’s possible to make a mistake following the instructions. e.g. you can place red tiles when you should be placing black ones. Then, later in the tutorial, you need those red tiles … and you haven’t got them! It took me a while to work out that was happening!

    I think the Tigris tutorial still needs a lot of work.

  3. Withnail

    I was surprised to read your description of the Tigris tutorial – “incredibly well done” etc. I found the Tutorial bewildering, and I ended up watching 3 videos on YouTube to understand the rules instead.

    A huge flaw in the tutorial is that it’s possible to make a mistake following the instructions. e.g. you can place red tiles when you should be placing black ones. Then, later in the tutorial, you need those red tiles … and you haven’t got them! It took me a while to work out that was happening!

    I think the Tigris tutorial still needs a lot of work …

    • Angelus Morningstar

      Understandibly people have different experiences. I guess that’s why I was careful to frame these statements as my subjective opinions. I found the tutorial excellent, but perhaps I am iased because I own the actual game.

      However, I guess for my part, I appreciated the amount of programming that went into a half hour interactive tutorial. You don’t see that level of commitment very often.

  4. Withnail

    Thanks for the reply, Angelus. If you already understand the game, I can imagine that the tutorial seems a lot more impressive! Perhaps it would be useful to get a new player’s perspective before giving so much praise to a Tutorial? New players are the main audience for a tutorial, after all. Anyway, thanks for your contributions to what is a great website!


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