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iOS Board Games

Among the best things in life is playing printed games in person with family and close friends. When those are not convenient we like iOS Board Games. News, reviews, previews, and opinions about board gaming on iPhones, iPads, iPods and even Android devices. (iPhone board games, iPad board games, iPod board games, Android board games)

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News Bits: Wabash Cannonball Price Drop, Medici Update, Bang! Update

Gabe Alvaro
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• Wabash Cannonball Price Drop, Lowest Ever!
• Medici and Medici HD Updated
• Bang! Updated, Now With Character Abilities!




• Wabash Cannonball Price Dropped to All-Time Low $0.99! - Mar 8
The iOS app of Harry Wu's investment & train game Wabash Cannonball has dropped twice in price today. First it got its only price drop ever to $1.99 and then immediately again to $0.99. That is its lowest price ever! Supposedly it will remain at that price all week. Apparently there is a code update to v 1.1.1 as well:

Quote:
What's new

* Summary View and map both accessible during auction
* User defined player names saved
* Updated AI

Go and get it!


• Medici and Medici HD Get Updates - Mar 8
Reiner Knizia's Medici for the iPhone has been updated to v 1.4
Quote:
What's new

- Bidding UI now larger and does not obscure scoring pyramid
- Improved readability of welcome and scoring help text
- Changed font for numbers to make them easier to read
- Moved game menu buttons into a single pop-up menu

A more substantial update will be coming soon!

Reiner Knizia's Medici HD for iPad has been updated to v 1.5
Quote:
What's new

- Added support for iOS 4.2 (fast app-switching)
- Changed font for numbers to make them easier to read
- Moved game menu buttons into a single pop-up menu

A more substantial update will be coming soon!


BANG! the Official Video Game gets updated to version 1.1.3 - Mar 8
The iOS version of the spaghetti western card game Bang! has gotten an incremental yet very verbose update. The important item seems to be the addition of character abilities! Check it out below:
Quote:
What's New in Version 1.1.3
- Multi-Language Support: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
- Even Higher Definition on Retina display
Enabled both game difficulties: in Easy mode, some features are disabled and some actions are automatic.
- Added Abilities for all available Characters (not in Easy mode).
Note: some abilities are mandatory, some others must be activated by tapping on the character's image.
- BARREL is now manual (except in Easy mode): you can use the barrel (if you remember to) or avoid to do so.
NOTE: to use the Barrel, when available, tap on the main deck to draw the card.
- Added possibility to play BEER with no effect (in two players or when at maximum life-points, not in Easy mode).
- Added possibility to play PANIC and CAT BALOU on self (not in Easy mode).
To play one of those cards on yourself, drag it to the center.
- Added option to skip full-screen animation scenes (in the options menu).
- Added choice of discard order when you are eliminated.
- Improved AI in all game modes. Improved card selection.
- Added alert animations on card deck to draw from and on card effect icons.
- Improved Role Cards and Tactics View (lower-right screen corner to use): now your role is more evident.
- Improved Peeking View (double tap on a character during your turn): you can click on a character from peeking view to read about her/his ability.
- GATLING/INDIANS: Fixed winning conditions; now winners are calculated only after GATLING/INDIANS have completed their effects.
- JAIL: now compliant with the latest rules (players in Jail don't have to discard)
- Several other fixes and improvements.
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Tue Mar 8, 2011 10:18 pm
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Patterns and Prophecies: Why board game publishers MUST NOT ignore iOS and other digital platforms.

Brad Cummings
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Dear Readers,

I know this post is long, but please bear with me. I believe this is something many need to hear. It builds off some of our previous opinion articles.

Introduction (or On Beyond Avalon Hill):
From this gamer’s point of few, the board game industry seems to be in a sort of heyday or golden age. More board games are being produced than ever before and more and more start-up companies are entering the market each year. We have seen games from small or new publishers become successful and highly ranked on BGG. Services that allow game designers to self publish and fundraising websites like Kickstarter are creating more opportunities for games that would not otherwise be printed. The industry, from a consumer’s perspective, is doing well.

Another reason for the current success of the industry may be the fact that many gamers who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and other collectible/time consuming games have now matured and are looking for a gaming experience that is compatible with family life and careers. Euro games and other designer games that allow high re-playability in a small package and within a short time-frame fill this niche.

The most impressive development stemming from the success of the board game industry is that the icy stigma surrounding hobby gaming (largely created during the 80’s and early 90’s) is beginning to thaw. Many games that target light players and families are being produced and are some of the communities highest rated titles. With this change some game stores have become places that a soccer mom would enter to purchase a game (this, in my opinion, is a good thing). Also the wide availability of board games online (especially on major retailers such as Amazon) allows consumers to make purchases without having to brave unbathed 14 year old stench or sometimes rude and odious employees. These family games, with their easy to learn, hard to master designs create a great connection between gamers and families and build a bridge to the land of mainstream consumers.

This blogger feels that all of these developments are great, and I delight in the success of my hobby. However, I fear that there is a change that is being widely ignored by the board game industry that could prove to be its undoing. That change is the digitalization of media.

Digitalization and Other Industries (or History Does Repeat Itself):
The digital distribution of media and information has changed the way that we as users and consumers receive goods. I am not talking about online purchases, that is a different discussion, I am talking about the digital download of information and goods. Great strides forward in innovation have eliminated many of the old constructs and have created new markets and new opportunities for those willing to invest in them. Sadly, old distribution channels suffer or even collapse due to digitalization. Smart industries have used digitalization to their advantage, foolish ones have crumbled and fallen. Let’s look at a few examples in hopes of highlighting a pattern:

Music: In 1999 Napster went live. It quickly became the largest peer-to-peer sharing site, but more importantly it introduced millions of teenagers to the concept of digitally downloading music. Napster got the music industry’s attention. They strove to shut it down and eventually did, however, the seed had already been planted. In 2001, iTunes was launched, currently the largest digital music distributor. Not only did it offer an easy way to digitally purchase music, but it has created a quality user experience. It seamlessly integrates with ipods and other mp3 players, it provides recommendations and much more. The music industry is suffering because of this, not the artists but the labels. CD sales continue to spiral downwards. Apple and similar distributors hold all the cards: they control pricing and the distribution channels (and they take a cut), music labels must bend to their standards. The labels can try and compete digitally, but frankly, they are coming into the game far too late.

Film and Television: More recently a similar pattern can be seen in the world of film and television. After suffering crushing defeats in the world of DVD rentals which was a huge profit source, the film industry remained stagnant instead of looking for the next major trend. Ok, that is not entirely true: major networks NBC and Fox teamed up to bring out Hulu. They did it only after mass piracy, youtube, and movie downloads on iTunes had led to crippling loses for the industry. Netflix has also started the streaming of major hollywood films, and many TV shows. It stands as a major competitor to Hulu. Services like Apple TV and others are also allowing customers to stream movies or download them if they like. These new services are innovative and easy to use. Many networks and studios are working with Netflix and iTunes, but again, they are at the whim of these new distributors, rather than controlling the distribution. Netflix also allows independent filmmakers to distribute directly through their site, rather than going through a traditional distributor. Many studios are still trying to find winning digital strategies, something that should have happened a decade ago.

Print Media: This is a more recent development. Yes, e-books have been around for many years, however, the Kindle and the iPad have put digital readers to the forefront. By combining a platform for selling, a digital product, and a hardware platform Amazon and Apple are starting to change the way we read. More digital books are being sold than ever before, and Amazon claims they are selling more digital books than paperback books. This new method of distribution eliminates the need for book stores, and sometimes even publishers. Borders is suffering greatly, closing many of its stores (if you live near a closing store you may be able to grab some board games for cheap), and perhaps other major booksellers will follow. Publishers are also being hit hard, they are laying people off and consolidating departments in some cases. Amazon also allows authors to self publish their books. Steven Covey is going to digital publish his next book. This gives the author a profit margin of usually 70%. Also new authors can publish their book on Amazon and after garnering a following can approach a publisher to release a physical book. Digitalization is changing the way we read.

Some trends we can see from these examples:
- Piracy always precedes the digital revolution.
- The media always survives, it is the publishers, etc. that are affected. New players step in to be the major distributors.
- Digitalization finds ways to recreate the analog experience. They have done it for many types of media.
- Digitalization provides new features and ease for the consumer. It increases the audience for product.
- Digitalization provides ways for the little guys to break in (ie unknown authors, independent filmmakers).

Will Board Games Have a Digital Revolution? (or Never Say Never):
The answer is yes. It will not be complete, just like people will not stop going to the movies, or reading physical books. We will never ditch our game collections for entirely digital versions of our games. The physical game can never be replaced, but the industry will not continue to grow as it is assailed on all sides by digital media.

The gaming industry is already being affected by digital media. The stigma used to be that video games were for children, or man-children (count me in). The industry went from a social event (pong, arcades) to games with long stories, violent art, and the like. These games are great, but they drove gaming away from the mainstream. The answer to this for many families was board games. Board games provide a wholesome family activity that encourages social interaction. However, innovations like the Wii and Kinect have moved onto board gaming turf. Families can join together to play these devices. One board game publisher I spoke to months ago said he feared families gathered to play Rockband rather than a board game. It is a threat to the board game industry.

Publishers and player alike must be aware that in order for the hobby to survive and continue to succeed we need more players and a greater audience. Economics drives everything. If there is no money in the industry then we will have lower quality games (both components and rules). An industry cannot be a perpetual labor of love, we are operating in a capitalist system. Digitalization has the potential to increase the audience and the platforms games are available on. There must be a greater support for board games in digital forms.

The Attitude of the Board Game Industry Toward Digitalization (or All Is Well):
The general attitude of many on BGG and in the industry toward digital board games is a very dismissive and mocking attitude. I agree with you all that board games are meant to be played socially, I understand that is one of the crown jewels of our hobby, I only want to inform you that I feel digitalization will change this industry, and we can either fight it and die, or work with it and build something greater. I know some readers will disagree with me, perhaps angrily, I only ask that you keep your comments constructive and polite.

To this point I would like to share a story. Last month, at my local game store (which happens to be in Manhattan) one of the largest board game publishers held a promo event. At this event there were several executives from the company and they gave away prizes as well as mingled with the dozen or so gamers that showed up. At the time this blog was just starting and I thought this was a great opportunity to get an awesome interview to go up on the blog. I first approached one of the Vice presidents of the company. When asked about iOS board games he told me they had one app (of their most popular game, not developed by them, but by a German company) and that he did not have a device so did not really know much about it. Later on I had the chance to speak with the VP of Sales and Marketing. I asked him what he thought of digital board gaming. He said, “Tell me this, have you ever been able to bluff a computer?” He then went on to mock and scoff at the thought of digital board games. This is the VP of sales and marketing! It was his comments and the utter dismissal of the topic that led me to write this article. Frankly, his attitude scared me. We must learn to take digitalization seriously

This one publisher does not represent the entire industry, however it does demonstrate a general attitude held by the industry and board game community. The board game industry is in a really good place right now. There are more games and larger conventions that ever before. Many do not see any problems arising. I must contend, I think we need to be aware of the changes brought on by digital media. Publishers and developers need to work together to bring games to digital devices. We need to compete in the markets that are threatening to eat away the industry, like video games. Many developers are beginning to release great games and even some publishers have been directly involved, but the effort has just begun and in many cases is not wholly supported.

I am no prophet, I can’t see the future, but I do fear that this upswing and positive climb of the industry will not last forever. If we are able to move into new and budding markets (digitalization) I believe the industry can not just survive, but thrive.

Why We Must Take Digital Markets Seriously (or My Two Cents):

The Dangers:
In my opinion, digitalization is on its way to the board game industry. The new advent of casual games in the video game market is cutting into board game profits. Families are sitting around in front of the TV instead of around the game table. In order to get families and casual players to play games we have to fight an uphill battle. Not only must we compete against video games, but we must also continue to break down the stigma that has surrounded hobby gaming.

The other danger I see is that unless we as gamers, publishers and developers do not work together to move forward, the industry will suffer even more. There have already been huge divisions in the digital board game world due to cloning. Despite your opinion, cloners are creating clone games because they see a need that is not being filled and are taking the initiative to fill it. Publishers then take steps to get these apps taken down to protect their properties. Because the whether these apps or legal or not is up for dispute this has begun to create a rift for consumers. Suddenly an app will disappear. I understand both developers of these clones and the publishers who force them to be taken down are doing what they think is best, but this battle in the end hurts the consumers. The publishers do not replace the clone apps with licensed versions so in the end the consumers are left with neither apps. The digital progression of board games is being hindered by this infighting.

If we embrace digitalization and work in tandem with it, we can reap the benefits that will help the entire industry.

The Good:
1. Digitalization opens new markets and sources of profit:
The board game industry is small in comparison to many. The businesses are usually run by a small group of individuals. For these reasons there is not cause to leave the market of digital board games untouched. By creating licensed and well done versions of board games, a publisher can create a new source of revenue for themselves.

2. Digital platforms can bring innovation while preserving the analog feel:
Tablet devices allow games to be played by multiple players on the same device. The Small World app is a great example of this. Others, such as the Jenga app use the gyroscope on the iPad to recreate the feeling of carefully removing a block. It is being proven that many of the original elements of game can be preserved when ported to a digital form.

3. Digitalization allows New Features:
There are so many new features that can be added a board game when it is digital. These new features allow for the game to be improved upon or experimented with. Worldwide multiplayer, wether asynchronous and synchronous, opens up a new world of competition for board game players. It will be possible to hold tournaments online with players around the world. Apps also add small improvements that could only exist in a digital space. Scrabble offers a teacher that will tell you, after you play, the largest word you could have played. In Jenga the computer will tell you which blocks are harder or easier for you to remove. Games can also offer new modes, for example Carcassonne offers a single player puzzle mode.

4. Game Designers can self publish an app:
Developing an app is cheap. You can download the software from Apple for free. You can then either learn to program or work with a friend who can program. Through this you can then create an app version of a game you are developing. This allows you to 1. make a small profit on your game, and 2. see how well the game does. Zombie in My Pocket has done this. If your game does well in the app store then it seems logical that a publisher may later want to pick it up. The app store can become a testing ground for new games.

5. Digital games can break the stigma and advertise to new audiences:
The key to the board game industry surviving and thriving is by opening up the games to more audiences. Eric, from the Dice Tower, once shared story about he Carcassonne app. It has received a lot of good press. In Eric’s wife’s office the game was being played by everyone who had an iphone. One day an employee was telling her about it, Eric’s wife explained to the app player that Carcassonne was an actual board game. Through the Carcassonne app Eric’s wife was able to introduce a whole office full of people to hobby board games. If high quality apps are produced by publishers, that take full advantage of the devices and their capability, they will be noticed on the app store by non-gamers and then it will increase the visibility of the hobby. It is a great way to get around the stigma by presenting our board games in a new way to new consumers.

Conclusion (or the End):
Digitalization is transforming all types of media. It has started to and will continue to have an effect on the board game industry. We can ignore digitalization and the hobby will survive, however, if we can embrace and work with digitalization I believe the board game industry can continue to thrive. Publishers need to stop fighting clones and start focusing on getting their major properties on to iOS. Publishers need to ensure that their apps have great features, they must find developers that can deliver. Board game apps must have the quality to compete with the rest of the app store. I want to challenge all players, publishers and developers to support and work together to create great board game apps for the iOS and other digital platforms.
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Mon Mar 7, 2011 2:00 pm
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News Bits: Neuroshima Hex Puzzle, Magnifico for iPad, New iOS Site, Small World Award, iPad 2, iOS 4.3, Army of Frogs, Disc Drivin' Tournament

Gabe Alvaro
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Seems we missed on posting a bit of news (big stuff you no doubt read elsewhere) and some more that happened this past week. Apologies for the tardiness. When I finally checked the fishing nets here's what I found:

• Neuroshima Hex Puzzle Coming
• iPad Version of Magnifico
• New iOS Board Game Web Site
• Small World Wins PocketGamer Award
• New iPad 2 Announced
• iOS 4.3 Released to Developers
• Army of Frogs in Pre-Alpha
• VGG Disc Drivin' Tournament



• Neuroshima Hex Puzzle Coming in March - 2/18
Big Daddy's Creation, the folks who brought you the excellent Neuroshima Hex! for iOS are getting ready to release Neuroshima Hex Puzzle, a solo play app focused on 100 different strategic situation puzzles one could encounter in the board game. The release is set for some time in March 2011, that's this month! They've presented these before on their web site in the form of contests. I think it's a pretty unique approach in the world of board games. Reminds me of the old Chess section in the newspaper that would present a Chess problem for its readers to figure out. Good stuff.


• iPad edition of Magnifico Being Worked On - 2/27

I don't know much about this "Risk-like" board game that somehow involves the fantastical creations of Leonardo Da Vinci. Evidently, its creators are working on an iPad version.


• (Another) iOS Board Game Web Site - 2/27
Add this new web site to a growing list of web sites featuring iOS board games.

http://iboardgame.wordpress.com/


• Small World Wins PocketGamer Award - 3/1
The folks at Pocket Gamer have awarded Small World 2 its 2011 Best Strategy/Simulation Game for iPad award.


• New iPad 2 Announced - 3/2
In case you have been hiding under a rock, Apple announced its new iPad 2, which will be available on March 11. Basically it's thinner, lighter and has new (cameras now) and faster (2x) chips, but same price structure and memory configurations as previous iPad.


• iOS 4.3 Released to Developers - 3/2
Along with iPad 2, Apple announced and released v4.3 of iOS to developers. Nothing much that will help iOS board games, just some improvements to AirPlay, faster Safari (which might help with web games), better WiFi stuff like iTunes home sharing, reclamation of the side switch (you can get your hardware orientation lock back!), and hotspot WiFi tethering.

I guess it would be kind of cool if the makers of a game like Disc Drivin' gave the game AirPlay capability so you could watch flicks on your big-ass HD TV, but I won't hold my breath.


• Army of Frogs for iOS in Pre-alpha - 3/2
Łukasz of Big Daddy's Creations posted some screen shots of the upcoming iOS version of Army of Frogs on their web site. The game is now in pre-alpha and is scheduled to release in May 2011.


• VGG Disc Drivin' Tournament - 3/4
Newly appointed VGG admin,

Joe Wasserman
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has already hosted one very well-run and fun tournament for the PitchCar-inspired Disc Drivin'. He's just opened signups for the 2nd tournament. This one will feature team-play! So check out all the details here.

Second VGG Disc Drivin' Tournament - Dual Meet - Information and Discussion Thread
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Sat Mar 5, 2011 8:01 pm
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Review: Tricky Chicken

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad(2x), iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Current Price: $2.99
Developer/Publisher: Tech20 Group, Inc. (Designed by Michael Schacht)
Version: 1.0.1
Size: 5.7 MB
Multiplayer: None.
AI: Yes. Quite challenging with varied play styles.
Itunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tricky-chicken/id394279847?mt...



The Good:
A challenging AI that creates a great solitaire experience.
The Bad:
A simple game with a simple purpose. Don’t expect more than that.
The price m

Summary:
Tricky Chicken is an excellent solitaire version of the Michael Schacht game known as Crazy Chicen or Drive. It does lack pass and play functionality, but it is a great game that can offer a quick solo diversion.

Gameplay:
I must be honest. Before playing Tricky Chicken, I had never heard of Drive or Crazy Chicken, I guess they were a little before my “time” per se. This being said, I am grateful Tech 20 Group has taken the time to bring such an interesting rummy style game to iOS.

In Tricky Chicken there are 9 suits of cards with the number of cards in those suits ranging from 20 to 6. The number of cards in each suit is equal to the amount of points it is worth at game end. Players start with 3 cards. They draw two cards each turn from either of the two draw piles or the two discard piles. Each turn a player must either play a set of cards or discard one card. Play ends when all nine sets have been player or a single player plays six sets. The tricky part is that once a player has played a set of one suit, their opponent can play set of the same suit if they have a larger set. This creates a great twist and adds an element of press your luck to the game.

Implementation:
Tricky Chicken feels like an effort that was built for iOS from the ground up. The presentation and controls feel natural and fluid. The cards of the deck are displayed as squares to allow a bigger size. The entire playing area fits nicely on the screen. Playing cards is as easy as taping and sliding.

As I mentioned above, there is no pass and play feature in Tricky Chicken. It is strictly a solitaire affair, and as far as I can tell, this is what it was intended to be. When you lose, it says “The Chicken wins” implying that you are in fact trying to outsmart said tricky chicken. I like this thematic touch as it gives me the feeling I am playing a form of solitaire rummy against a challenging AI rather than a game that was intended to be played multiplayer. The solo play also allows games to go fast, the average lasting around 5 minutes. It is optimized for quick plays.

The graphic design of Tricky Chicken is an area which could be improved. It is true that all functions are clear and the game works brilliantly, but I would love to see the graphic design improved to give it less of a home-brewed feel. It is important that apps look their best, since often a consumer may only see the icon and a few screenshots before they make a decision to purchase or not.

Conclusion:
Tricky Chicken offers a great solitaire experience. Like Solitaire it is addicting and quick to play, but it does lack the meat of some heavier game available on iOS. Sometimes light is what we are looking for, therefore despite its home-brewed look Tricky Chicken offers a great game on the go.

Rating: 3/4 Good
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Wed Mar 2, 2011 2:00 pm
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Unofficial iOS Implementations of Our Favorite Board Games

Gabe Alvaro
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I Want My iOS...
I love board games. I love iOS. I love playing board games on iOS. In a perfect world, every print board game (where it makes sense) I own would have been developed for iOS by someone authorized by the game's original designer or publisher and would be the officially licensed iOS version of that game.

That is not the world we live in.

While it is true that more and more games are coming out on iOS, very few of our favorite games have iOS versions. We are beginning to see more partnerships between game designers/publishers and iOS developers but many games are just not there yet.


Send in the Clones
In the Wild West-like land rush of apps to iOS, we are also beginning to see a few developers release unofficial versions of our favorite board games for iOS devices. Whether this is good, bad, fortunate or unfortunate depends a lot on what you value, how you view and where you stand in the board game industry and the iOS game app industry.

If you are not familiar with which board games have received unofficial implementations, have a look at these forums and GeekLists.

BGG Threads and GeekLists
GeekLists
GeekList - Attack of the Clones: iOS Board Game App Clones
GeekList - Great Boardgames - Digital Ripoffs

Threads
Forum Thread - Attack of the Clones: What is Going on With Unofficial iOS versions of Board Games?
Forum Thread - Is it OK to make your own copy of a game?


Infringement Or Not?
Let us make one thing clear first. No developer, to the best of my knowledge, has unofficially implemented a board game onto iOS that brazenly uses original art, written rules, labels or any of the original copyrightable material from an original print board game. The developers who have written unofficial app implementations of board games have in all cases replaced art, relabeled mechanics, and rewritten rule text. Only the mechanics and gameplay resemblances have been brought through.

Whether they realize it or not, the fact is that a game's ideas, mechanics, and gameplay of a board game, are not copyrightable and thus not subject to infringement. It seems obvious to me, however, that these iOS developers do know exactly what they are doing. Though I would hesitate to mark them as devious thieves, many of these developers would honestly tell you that they cribbed a particular board game's idea and mechanics and are well within their legal rights to do so.

It is essentially no different than when companies of various types make unofficial versions of the hugely popular game of Monopoly. You have no doubt seen one of these knockoffs which share some of the same playing features, but also incorporate changes so as not to infringe on copyrights. Such implementations of Monopoly have been done for smaller cities, sometimes as charity fundraisers, and some have been created for college and university campuses. Others have non-geographical themes such as Wine-opoly and Chocolate-opoly and there is not a damn thing Hasbro can do about it if their copyrights are not violated. You or I might despise or be completely oblivious to Monopoly and its knockoffs, and could probably not give two breaths to vilifying those who crib from it.


The Train is Leaving the Station. Who is On It? Where is it Going?
I am here to tell you that, like it or not, your favorite board game is no different. It can be rethemed, relabeled, reskinned, and presented again with new art by anyone with the skill and enterprise enough to do so. As far as I know, no one has done anything like this going from printed game to printed game. It is happening, however, as games go from printed to pixels.

Though obviously these developers are inspired by the games themselves, I am not certain that these developers share the same awareness of the relatively close-knit designer-board game industry. Though they may have heard of Reiner Knizia, I am not so sure if they have ever heard of the Alan Moons, Jay Tummelsons, Martin Wallaces, Wolfgang Kramers, Uwe Rosenbergs, Friedemann Frieses, those luminaries of the designer-board game world and its relatively short history. That is also to say that not only may they not be members of the "BGG Community", they may also not be members of the larger "board gaming community" if one can even be said to exist.


But Wait They Can't Do That...Can They?
I bring up this point and these names because many designers, would-be designers, publishers and those who would share their views on print board game design and publishing are here at this site and no doubt watching what is starting to happen in their industry. Whenever one of these unofficial board game adaptations gets released, it is invariably those on the "producer-side" of this print industry who object the strongest to the presence of these unofficial versions of popular printed board games, calling them brazen "rip-offs", accusing them of thievery of ideas and charging them (usually incorrectly) with copyright infringement.

I have already pointed out what is and what is not copyright infringement. To those who understand it, there is not much to discuss when it comes to board games. If you are unsure please have a look at what the US Government Copyright Office has to say about games. About the only thing a rights holding designer or publisher can do to protect the mechanics and gameplay of their game from being "borrowed" is to get a patent on their game. It is not easy, nor is it cheap, and will probably be unsuccessful. Most game publishers in the designer-board game industry probably don't have a war chest big enough to make the business case to go down that path.


What's a Rightsholder to Do?
So what is a designer or publisher of a successful printed game to do when an app developer creates an unofficial iOS version of their game under a different title using different art, written rules, and labels?

The Big Take Down
They can take advantage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's "Take Down" provision by sending out a DMCA take down notice to the site that is hosting content which they believe infringes their copyright. Right or wrong, taking this action usually results in a site like the Apple App Store or Android Market removing the offending material in order to protect against liability. That's all it takes and usually that's the end of the story if an accused developer backs down because they are in fact wrong or because they have been bullied and are not aware of the legal standing of their activity.

Hey Put That Back!
But it is not the end of the story for a developer who believes and knows that they have published their app well within their legal rights. For the DMCA also contains a "Put Back" provision as well. When a Take Down notice is sent by a rights holder, the developer is notified by the App Store, as is required by law, that their material has been taken down. If the developer believes and knows their app to be legally viable, they can send a counter notice to the App Store. It then becomes the obligation of the copyright holder to file suit. If the rights holder does sue, then the App Store can leave the material off. If they do not file suit, then the App Store MUST replace the material on the site.

Here is an example from Wikipedia's entry on OCILLA (Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act)

Wikipedia wrote:

Take down and Put Back provisions

Takedown example
Here's an example of how the takedown procedures would work:
1. Alice puts a copy of Bob's song on her AOL-hosted website.
2. Bob, searching the Internet, finds Alice's copy.
3. Charlie, Bob's lawyer, sends a letter to AOL's designated agent
(registered with the Copyright Office) including:
a. contact information
b. the name of the song that was copied
c. the address of the copied song
d. a statement that he has a good faith belief that use of the
material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the
copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
e. a statement that the information in the notification is accurate
f. a statement that, under penalty of perjury, Charlie is authorized
to act for the copyright holder
g. his signature
4. AOL takes the song down.
5. AOL tells Alice that they have taken the song down.
6. Alice now has the option of sending a counter-notice to AOL, if she
feels the song was taken down unfairly. The notice includes
a. contact information
b. identification of the removed song
c. a statement under penalty of perjury that Alice has a good faith
belief the material was mistakenly taken down
d. a statement consenting to the jurisdiction of Alice's local US
Federal District Court, or, if outside the US, to a US Federal
District Court in any jurisdiction in which AOL is found.
e. her signature
7. If Alice does file a valid counter-notice, AOL notifies Bob, then
waits 10-14 business days for a lawsuit to be filed by Bob.
8. If Bob does not file a lawsuit, then AOL must put the material back
up.



You see, the DMCA is there to protect the legal rights of all parties with its provisions and procedures. If a copyright holder has a valid claim and is willing to fight for it, the DMCA protects their interest. If a developer is accused but not sued, then the DMCA protects the developer. Bystanders like us can stand on the sidelines and kibitz about who stole what, but only a court can make the determination and only if suit is filed.


Taking Responsibility and Getting Out in Front

Do It Yourself or Hire Someone
The other thing that a rights holding designer or publisher can do about it is to get out in front of the issue and take responsibility and action so that any app that uses the mechanics and gameplay of their game should only appear in the App Store through their blessing and official licensing. This could be by developing their own app, either in-house or, probably more commonly done, by working with a 3rd party app developer and letting their prospective customers know that what's coming and when.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
If an unofficial app version of their game is already released, then perhaps it would make sense for a rights holder to request a meeting with a developer and try to work out a deal. Any such deal could and should be worked out to benefit all parties involved so that the app is officially supported, branded and maintains its integrity of game play established in the print version.

Go Toe to Toe
Alternatively, the publisher could take the previously mentioned route and still opt to produce their own official app despite the presence of a competitor app. Such a move would no doubt garner the respect and support of such ardent fans of a printed game from a site like BGG. It would remain to be seen, however, if the user base beyond BGG would be so eager to support. It is the opinion of this blogger that most users would probably opt for the better app, regardless of developer, with a small minority possibly also purchasing both apps.

So Get On It!
I cannot say enough about how much I think that the rights holders to our favorite board games should get out in front of the iOS board game trend and begin testing the waters with their customers. That may not mean plunking down a chunk of change to have a 3rd party develop an app in 3 months, but it might mean transparently communicating to their prospective customer base openly (perhaps even here on BGG/VGG) about where they stand in regard to whether the future holds an official iOS app of their game.
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Tue Mar 1, 2011 1:00 pm
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The Future of Party Games...

Brad Cummings
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Hello Readers,

This is not quite news and not quite a review. I guess I am trying to alert you to and give my opinion on a new trend in iOS board games. That trend is the increasing amount of party games being made available for iOS. There are several already available and hopefully they are the first of many to come.

Games, especially party games are meant to be played face to face. Bringing some party games to iOS allows us to have them in a cheaper and more portable version. Due to their nature converting them to iOS is very simple. Most consist of just a deck of cards, a pad of paper, and perhaps a timer. Transforming all of this into an app does not change the way we play but instead innovates the way these games are made and enjoyed.

One great example of this is the Reverse Charades app which was released recently. It includes the entire play experience of the recently released board game. Rather than carrying a game box, you can just bring your phone or ipad to your next get-together. It also allows for more options than the physical version. Through the use of in-app purchases you can buy additional decks to add to the game. This offers the consumer more control, allowing them to purchase more of the game as they need it. This also offers the designers the option to quickly introduce new expansions to the game. For this type of game, an app seems like the perfect model.

I do not believe that digitalization will ever be the complete future of board games. However, it may be the future of party games. So many of them could be converted into this portable form. This is an area where I feel board game publishers and app developers must focus. This is a piece of innovation that cannot be ignored. The gaming industry must move forward with technology.

Of course this is just my opinion. Please chime in with your thoughts below.

Thanks,

Brad

Below are a few party games I have found while snooping around the app store. I am sure there are many more that I have missed, but you get the idea.

Reverse Charades - A licensed iOS conversion of the card game from last year. This game has received praise from podcasts like the Dice Tower.

Party Games - A combination of several basic party games like charades and catch phrase. From a brief look it seems very well laid out.

Word Party - This is a Taboo clone. Seems very well done.

Kwingle - A strange game that seems similar to Apples to Apples or Dixit. You read a word and everyone writes a word associated with it. The group then votes on the one they like best. Feels a little half baked.

Family Feud - A conversion of the TV show. Works well in large groups.

Would you choose... - Would You Rather clone. This includes online connectivity that adds another element to the game.

in Reverse - This seems like a very interesting game from Rusia. One teams sings a song, the second team hears it in reverse and tries to guess the song. If they can’t then they try to mimic the reverse sound and it is then played forwards for them, they then try to guess again. This is a good example of using all the capabilities of the iOS device.

Phrase Party - A Catch Phrase clone. It seems to try to mimic the electronic Catch phrase device.
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Mon Feb 28, 2011 2:00 pm
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News Bit: Yahtzee HD (iPad) Free

Gabe Alvaro
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• Yahtzee HD Free!

Yahtzee HD Free for the first time ever!
Ok, I know it's just Yahtzee and it's only for the iPad (sorry iPhone peeps). It's the first time it's ever been free in the 17 months since releasing at $4.99. Plus, it was developed by EA, a major game company that spares no expense when it comes to slick User Interfaces. Yahtzee HD has a very slick UI.

Besides a free game, it's kind of a small bit of news that EA would begin to make any of their games free. I don't expect Yahtzee HD was one of their best sellers because I've been seeing it go down for a while. If they've done it before, I'd love to know which game. Could it be a small sign of things to come?

http://itunes.apple.com/app/yahtzee-hd/id389191032?uo=4&mt=8...
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Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:59 pm
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News Bits: Battleline Update, Mana HD Update, Blokus HD Pricedrop, Boggle Free

Gabe Alvaro
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• Battleline Updated to Version 1.4
• Mana HD Updated to Version 1.1
• Blokus HD Price Dropped
• Boggle Free!


Reiner Knizia's Battleline Updated to Version 1.4 - Feb 23
Quote:
What's new

Improved support for devices running older versions of iOS.


Mana HD Updated to Version 1.1 - Feb 24
Quote:
What's new

Support for network game with Bluetooth or Game Center.
Added support for multitasking.
A new button is available to discover the game Kamon.


• Blokus HD Price Drop - Feb 24
Blokus HD has dropped in price from $2.99 to $0.99
http://itunes.apple.com/app/blokus-hd/id377471930?uo=4&mt=8&...

• Boggle is Free Today Only! - Feb 24
http://itunes.apple.com/app/boggle/id327836363?uo=4&mt=8&at=...


News note: I'm debating whether to include price changes as "news". There is not much other news right now, so I've included them. Thinking about, however, in the future only including price change news if they're historic and hit never before seen highs or lows. Thoughts?
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Review: Zooloretto

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad(2x), iPhone, and iPod Touch, iOS 4.0 and higher.
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Spin Bottle Games/Chillingo
Version: 1.20
Size: 15.9 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and Play. Up to 5 players.
AI: Yes. No difficulty settings.
Itunes link: itunes.apple.com/us/app/zooloretto/id312840471?mt=8

The Good:
A faithful reproduction of the board game.
A solid single player experience.
The Bad:
Multiple rule breaking bugs.
Gameplay can become stale after a few plays.

Summary:
The iOS version of Zooloretto offers a satisfactory recreation of the board game, and though it lacks serious multiplayer, it can provide a fun solo diversion. However, rule bending bugs and a non-existent updates make this one title to be cautious of.

Gameplay:
Zooloretto was the Spiel des Jahres winner in 2007. If you are a fan of European board games chances are you have played and passed judgement on this game. If you are new to this genre, Zooloretto is a great family game that shares elements of Rummy and Go Fish. Its push your luck mechanic creates a tension that really drives the game.

In Zooloretto, each player is the owner of a zoo. During the course of the game players are trying to fill each of the three(or four) enclosures in their zoo. Each enclosure can only hold one type of animal. Each turn players draw a tile from the pile and put it on one of the trucks (each holds 3 tiles). These tiles can be animals, stalls (ice cream, souvenirs, etc) and coins. Instead of taking a tile, a player use their coins to expand their zoo among other things, or take one of the trucks (ending their play for the round). The game progresses until there are less than 15 tiles left in the pile. At this point players get points based on how full their enclosures are and how many animals they have that are not in enclosures.

The iOS version of Zooloretto is true to its roots. It provides a quality recreation of this great family game.

Implementation:
Zooloretto offers a clear and straight forward user interface. If you are new to Zooloretto there is a tutorial (automatically turned on when you install the app, though you can shut it off in the options menu) which can quickly explain how to use the interface and play the game. It usually functions correctly, but there have been moments when I have dropped a tile on the wrong truck because of an error in the interface. It includes a couple options that you would not have in the board game version, like being able to see how many points each player has at given time. It also displays how many tiles are left to be drawn, letting you gage how many rounds remain. One annoyance is that there is no way to skip through AI turns. You are forced to watch the animations for each player’s turn causing a game to take between 20 to 30 minutes (close to the playing time of the board game).

A unique part of the Zooloretto app is the shop. It allows you to use points you have collected by playing to buy additions to the game. They include a 4th and 5th player and “the polar bear” option which adds a new rule to the game. Though there are only a few rewards to earn, the shop gives you motivation to play your first few games.

Graphically, Zooloretto takes a safe approach. It combines traditional elements from the board game with cartoony graphical representations and animations. For example, players still draw and drag tiles from a stack onto one of the trucks, but when place in enclosures the animals become animated sprites. These childish elements are found throughout the app, even the start up screen features a cartoony zoo keeper and a random encyclopedia blurb about one of the animals featured in the game. Though the childish representation does make it feel like you are playing a “kids” game, it is fitting for the theme of the board game.

The AI in the game is easily bested. I have to admit that a adding more players increases the difficulty, but my win percentage is still over 80%. For an app that seems to be intended to be played solo, the lack of challenging AI is inexcusable. And that leads to one of my greatest complaints about Zooloretto: it lacks longevity. This game is much less variable than most euro games, and it need expansions to add the flavor and depth. Yet, the app has received little to no support by its developers, and the functionality that is there eventually becomes stale as you triumph almost every game.

A little TLC could really make an ok app great. Two bugs have been submitted by players over and over, yet there has been no remedy. One is that a computer player will sometimes play an animal of a different type to fill their enclosure. Another is that tiles may be placed on a truck that is no longer there (only human players can do this) allowing tiles to be dumped (they later appear in the next round). They, in my opinion, do not break the game nd can be overlooked. The AI is so weak, that if this bug does allow them to win, it is a rare occasion, and as for placing tiles on trucks that are not there, that should not happen unless you as a human player decide to cheat. What cannot be overlooked is the apparent disregard of the developers for their app. I guess a big publisher like Chillingo has bigger fish to fry and cannot be bothered to fix two bugs that have been brought to their attention over and over. Honestly, one of the benefits of working with apps is that they can be updated so easily, the producer can be in direct contact with their consumer. They can use feedback to quickly improve their product...but I digress (Perhaps we will explore this in a later rant...urr I mean post).

Conclusion:
Don’t get me wrong, the Zooloretto app is a very faithful and quality recreation of the board game. It offers a single player experience of Zooloretto on the go. However, it lacks the love and care that has been put into so many other great iOS board games. Zooloretto is a popular game and Chillingo is a large publisher, and, in this reviewers opinion, where much is given much is required. Therefore, despite its pedigree, Zooloretto falls short of what is expected of it.

Rating: 1/4 Needs Improvement
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Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:00 pm
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News Bits: Zombie Dice Update, Wabash Cannonball Update

Gabe Alvaro
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• Zombie Dice Updated to version 2.0
• Wabash Cannonball updated to version 1.1.0


• Zombie Dice has been updated to version 2.0 - Feb 16

http://itunes.apple.com/app/zombie-dice/id376949996?uo=4&mt=...

Quote:
What's new

Universal app for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Game Center Achievements and Leader boards



• Wabash Cannonball updated to version 1.1.0 - Feb 19
Wabash Cannonball has been updated for the first time. Better AI. Better gameplay.

http://itunes.apple.com/app/wabash-cannonball/id392800625?uo...

Quote:
What's New in Version 1.1.0
* Summary View and map both accessible during auction
* User defined player names saved
* Updated AI
* Minor iOS 4 related fixes
* Previously available but I don't think anyone noticed: charts are pinch zoomable
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Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:55 pm
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