There are a huge number of boardgames now available on the iPad. Covering every genre: from trading card games to abstract strategy; themed games with gargantuan rulebooks to recreations of the classics. And make no minstake, they are one of the most popular types of game on the tablet, appealing to all ages and to gamers of all abilities.
But will implementations on Apple’s device ever truly replace their real-world counterparts? Can the iPad ever take the place of the thrill of sliding open a physical box and taking out the contents? Is a game on the iPad worth two in the hobby store?
Let’s examine a few areas and compare physical boardgaming with its electronic counterpart: and as we’re talking about gaming, let’s award each side a victory in each and see if we can find a champion.
No more pieces lost down the back of the sofa
Some physical boardgames have literally hundreds of pieces. Counters, miniatures, tokens, chits: and often more coins than the local bank. Sure, these can be great to look at – and to handle – but there’s no denying games with loads of bits and pieces can be a bit fiddly.
The main risk is losing a vital component, or having a family pet decide it looks like the tastiest thing since bacon. Even a misplaced cough or sneeze can result in a confetti storm of game counters fluttering down around your ears.
So, apart from the physical pleasure of being able to touch game components and see them all lined up in neat rows, columns and piles, I’m going to say the iPad definitely wins here.
This is further cemented by the fact some physical games with lots of pieces can often take as long to unpack and set up as it does to actually play. Not so on the iPad. Here, all you generally need to do is click the game icon, choose a few settings and press ‘start’.
No more arguments
With an iPad implementation (or, to be fair, any computer version of a complex game), the rules are automatically enforced. Legal moves are highlighted, actions you can’t take are disallowed, points are automatically calculated: taking the headache – and the potential for rules-based bust-ups with your opponents – out of the gameplay experience.
And most come with tutorials to ease you into the game, letting you discover the nuances and depth of the title without having to spend a massive amount of head-scratching and bewilderment.
Another win for the tablet…
No friends required
Whether you count this one as a victory for the iPad really depends on your personal taste and circumstance. If you’re the kind of gamer who loves sharing the physical experience with real people, then the tablet is a poor substitute for sitting with your friends around a big table with the physical game laid out before you.
Sure, many titles are pass-and-play enabled, but handing the iPad from one player to another doesn’t have the same feeling of shared experience as poring over a board and watching as your fellow gamers make their moves.
And whilst online play allows you to play against real people, you can’t see the whites of their eyes as you deliver a crushing blow; or try to gauge their expression to see if they’re holding all the game-winning cards. And sharing virtual beer and pizza just isn’t the same…
If however you’re a boardgame fan with a lack of game-playing friends and family members, iPad titles with AI options are a godsend. If you’ve drooled over games like Carcasonne or Settlers of Catan but not had enough real people to play them with, then the iPad comes up trumps – always available, always willing and – on titles with well-programmed AI – always with an uncanny ability to beat you.
No more games cupboard
If you’re an avid collector of physical boardgames, you’ll have encountered one of the hobby’s problems: they’re not called big box games for nothing. Anything more than half a dozen boardgames can end up taking up more room than you have closet space – and unless you have a very understanding partner / parents / roommate, this will end up leading to grief before too long.
Here, the iPad is once again victor. Constrained only by its memory, it can fit an entire library of games into its sleek and slender frame. No more teetering piles of boxes (with the title you want to play invariably at the bottom). No more throwing out clothes so you can fit one more box into your collection. No – the iPad will happily store a collection of titles that you would otherwise need a second home to accomodate.
And the winner is…?
We have to declare the iPad the winner (and not just because of our website’s title).
Apart from the lack of physical pieces and the lack of physical friends, the tablet’s advantages are many. Indeed, it may even be helping to reignite interest in the boardgame genre, with a whole host of new gamers discovering the delights that boardgaming has to offer.
Is it the future? Will it ever replace conventional board games? Ultimately, who knows?
But one thing’s for sure – the iPad is a superb platform for gaming of all genres, and boardgames in particular.
Long may it reign.