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Subject: Game that would work well as a mobile app rss

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Chris Wong
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What sort of board game do you think would adapt well to being an mobile app? I am a newcomer to modern board games and I don't have a lot of experience with game apps. At the same time, I'm thinking it would be fun to have a board game experience on the go. But most board games -- even those that don't need a "board" -- seem to require so much table space. Fitting the experience into a small cellphone screen seems underwhelming. I'm sure many board games would work well on a 10" tablet, but that doesn't fit my pocket well.

I guess something like 7 Wonders might be adaptable. Maybe. Any good examples out there? Apart from chess-like games, obviously.

Chris
 
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JPotter
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What fortuitous timing! You asked while summer sales are going on.

See these threads:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1800603/dislike-game-table-...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1800711/ios-asmodee-digital...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1800713/ios-steam-rails-ric...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1800399/android-carcassonne...


Not sure if you have access to Steam but if you do:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1800748/steam-summer-sale-2...
 
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Chris Wong
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Great, thanks!
 
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Laura Creighton
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cwong15 wrote:
Great, thanks!


You may find that this list:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/72020/android-versions-ac...

is of interest.

Unless you have an I-thing. In which case this is probably the list for
you.

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/67659/ios-versions-board-...

(Though I am an android person. If there is a better iOS list, then I may have missed it.)

Some games work better as an app. I think that Sentinels of the Multiverse does, for instance, because there is a lot to be said for having the app calculate all the + and - bonuses on every attack. Humans are more error prone.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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If you had asked me last year, I would have said that any game that took a long time to set up, and/or had a lot of components to track would be a candidate. Key example for me is Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set.

But earlier this year, I got Hanabi. And what surprised me is that the app might be a good way of "leveling the playing field" for the memory/logic skill levels.

That said, nothing compares to having the eye-to-eye, physical interactions over a real table. Being able to look at each other's facial expressions and sharing a physical experience is far more enjoyable.

 
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Chris Wong
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Thanks to the summer sale, I downloaded Pandemic and Splendor to see how board games transfer to an app. My phone has a 5" screen.

I did have fun with Pandemic. As a coop game it lends itself well to solo play, no AI needed. But, the UI felt clunky. I think the developers did a great job given what they had to work with, but I still found myself constantly scrolling, squinting, and otherwise having a hard time seeing the full picture. Pandemic is a great game IMHO, but given its reliance on a world map board it's hard to squeeze all that information into a tiny screen.

Splendor looked great. The board game is a visually attractive game, and I think a lot of this transferred over to the app successfully. The "board" -- the card selection area -- fit nicely within the screen and the cards were just the right size for a touch screen interface. Still, it's a busy screen and while the status indicators were compact and efficient, they lacked the attractiveness of having your acquired cards in front of you. So while I think the app adaptation was pretty good, it still lost something along the way.

I also took a look at screen shots of Androminion, and they looked pretty ugly IMHO.

I get that converting to apps have significant advantages, like the automatic score keeping, rule enforcement, tutorials, built-in shuffling and other conveniences. But a lot seems to be lost along the way, even apart from the social interaction. Many modern board games seem to want tabletop space, and when you squish them into a smartphone screen, we often have to make sacrifices.
 
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Matt D
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cwong15 wrote:

I guess something like 7 Wonders might be adaptable. Maybe. Any good examples out there? Apart from chess-like games, obviously.



7 Wonders mobile app status

All kidding aside, I'd highly encourage you to check out anything by Playdek. They make great ports of Ascension, Agricola, and Lords of Waterdeep. I'm sure with those three I've fix at least one of your interests - unless you only like wargames, and then sorry.
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Chris Wong
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Thanks, I'll look into your suggestions. 710 days in beta for 7 Wonders? Yikes, I had no idea. Really.

The reason I'm actually asking this is that I had been toying with the idea of writing a mobile app game, preferably with play characteristics similar to board games. Just as a hobby. I was trying to identify board game genres that will adapt well to mobile app conversion, and thought to check this forum. I want to build something that I would enjoy playing.
 
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Matt D
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cwong15 wrote:
Thanks, I'll look into your suggestions. 710 days in beta for 7 Wonders? Yikes, I had no idea. Really.

The reason I'm actually asking this is that I had been toying with the idea of writing a mobile app game, preferably with play characteristics similar to board games. Just as a hobby. I was trying to identify board game genres that will adapt well to mobile app conversion, and thought to check this forum. I want to build something that I would enjoy playing.


Yeah, 7 Wonders has been almost a recurring joke in how long it's been.

Another example of how not to do an implementation is Dominion. It's gone through several different developers for the app version, and they have all been...less than good, shall I say.

I think it depends upon what you want to do with your game. It's very well suited for most play styles.

I will tell you though that I think the toughest part of any board game app is programming of the AI. That could be your biggest challenge (unless you only have it as multi-player).
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Klaus Brune
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While sometimes I think the games I play would do better on a 10" tablet, for the most part I play on 7" tablets, which DO fit in my pocket (though I normally carry mine around in a hip pack). Plus 7" tablets are cheaper. I got my RCA for $50, and that's with a keyboard attachment and 90 gigs of RAM.

As to WHICH games, and looking it at it from, say, the perspective of a board game designer looking at the app development track as well... besides the time consuming artwork and making of a multimedia experience (which may or may not be necessary), the most difficult part of programming an AP is coming up with a decent AI/computer player. The more LUCK you have in a game, the less presser there is to have an AI that plays brilliantly every time. Though of course it's still there, because a well designed luck based game will still have some strategy.
 
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Klaus Brune
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For something deep and intense (and just happen to be the two that I find myself going back to the most right now)...

Zero luck, but some randomization in setup...
Terra Mystica
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.digidiced....

A bit of luck because of the luck of the draw, but still lots of strategy...
Race for the Galaxy
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.templegate...
 
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Klaus Brune
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Speaking of games that DID adapt well to digital media, to the point that I play them more on phones and tablets than I do on the table (and great game apps in their own right, board games aside)...

Elder Sign
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fantasyfli...

Galaxy Trucker
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.czechgames...

Though the latter I actually prefer on a phone instead of a tablet, because it doesn"t work in landscape mode


 
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Jeremy Lennert
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cwong15 wrote:
The reason I'm actually asking this is that I had been toying with the idea of writing a mobile app game, preferably with play characteristics similar to board games. Just as a hobby. I was trying to identify board game genres that will adapt well to mobile app conversion, and thought to check this forum. I want to build something that I would enjoy playing.

Oh! That's what I expected from the thread title, but then the initial post and first few responses made me think you were looking for a list of games that already have a good digital port, so I didn't follow up.

OK, well, let's start with some things that can make it harder to transition from a board game to a computer game:


1 Trivial Decision-Points

Sometimes a decision has a "default" answer that is what you want 99% of the time. You could let the monster kill you, but probably you want to use your shield to block. You could skip your draw phase, but more cards is nearly always better.

The most extreme form of this is a card that you can play at any point during an opponent's turn. Technically, you are making a decision after every single step of every single opponent's turn to NOT play the card. It's important that you have the option (otherwise you couldn't use the card at all), but you're going to pass on vastly more opportunities than you take.

In a board game, these decisions are often no big deal, because the time required to make the decision is small compared to the time required to implement it. The fact that you technically had the option to do something else does not noticeably slow the game down.

But in a computer game, the implementation is much faster, and the decision is often slower (you have to explicitly press a button instead of making the decision implicitly by continuing to the next game step). The decision time is no longer negligible, and so these decisions can make the game a lot slower (and the UI a lot more complicated) relative to the value they add.

Games work better on the computer if the computer only has to ask you a question at points where you actually have to think about the answer.

This can be mitigated somewhat through good UI design (make the default option really easy to input), but it still matters.


2 Frequent Control Switches

By "control switches" I mean when you move from a phase where player A is making all the decisions to a phase where player B has to make a decision. This usually happens at the end of a turn, but sometimes it happens in the middle of a turn--for example, if I play a card on you that gives you a choice, and I need to wait for you to make a decision before I can finish resolving the card.

When I switch from passively waiting to see what you do to actively making a decision myself, there is an overhead cost; it takes a moment for me to absorb what has happened and swing into action. (Responding after my own action is much faster because I was expecting it.)

Again, in board games, this is usually trivial compared to actually resolving the action; but in computer games, resolving actions can be lightning-fast, and so this becomes more noticeable. The game will flow faster and more smoothly if one player makes a bunch of decisions in a row than if you constantly switch back and forth between two players.

(Notice that "use at any point during your opponent's turn" stuff runs into both #1 and #2.)


3 Rich Context

Board games have a lot more "real estate" than computer games (especially phone apps, but even a full-size computer monitor is a lot smaller than most game tables). This allows them to give a continuous, panoramic view of a large, complex game-state.

Computers can easily remember all of that, but they can't display all of it simultaneously. So games work better on a computer when the amount of stuff you need to see at once is limited.



Of course, there are also some areas where computers have an advantage over board games...


4 Math & Algorithms

Any zero-choice game steps can be done super quickly and accurately by the computer, allowing you to breeze through many sequences that can get a bit tedious in the board game.


5 Visualization of Hypotheticals

Computers can help you "preview" the effects of a move or to quickly see all of your legal options, which allows players to spend less time calculating and more time deciding.


6 Teaching

Computers can peek at all of your hidden information and offer you relevant, impartial advice or information at every stage of the game. This is especially a boon in hidden-information games, games with lots of situational rules, or any game that's just tough to learn.
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Tim Davidson
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This recently released Galaxy Rise looks like a good app version of a game too... http://makeitsostudios.com/app.php?a=galaxyrise
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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hestiansun wrote:
I will tell you though that I think the toughest part of any board game app is programming of the AI. That could be your biggest challenge (unless you only have it as multi-player).

Depends a lot on the game in question.

The AI will almost always be harder than the basic gameplay (which makes sense, since the AI has to understand the gameplay), but the gameplay is probably the easiest part anyway; user interface and technical infrastructure (networking, saved games, notifications...) are frequently more time-consuming.
 
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Chris Wong
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Thanks, Jeremy. All good points, and I appreciate your insight. I was mostly agonizing over the "rich context" issue, but it looks like there are a lot more things to consider.

The multiplayer aspect of board games will be hard to transfer over. Even with good infrastructure, people over the Internet can suddenly decide to drop out of a game or take a long time to make a move. I imagine many apps simply allow asynchronous gameplay where a user is push-notified when his opponent has made a move.

The game will have to allow solo play, of course. The AI issue may or may not be difficult depending on the nature of the game. I'm not going to reinvent something like Go, of course. I recently played the app version of Pandemic and found it engrossing. Pandemic itself suffers from the rich context problem, with the big world map board and all. But one thing that it has going for it as a co-op is that it doesn't even need an AI for me to play it. I make all the players' moves, and the game just needs to supply the cards.
 
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Chris Wong
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Thanks, Tim. Galaxy Rise seems to transfer naturally to an app. But then, it seems to play a lot like a traditional card game. Card games have had electronic adaptations for ages: I think they are easy to adapt, at least visually. Probably less so the sort of board games that need substantial table top space.
 
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Chris Wong
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Whoa, when you play Terra Mystica or Race for the Galaxy, do you use a humongous mega-tablet or something? Those screen details look so tiny, I'd probably have to play on my cellphone with a magnifying glass and a toothpick. At least that's what it looks like based on the screenshots.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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cwong15 wrote:
The multiplayer aspect of board games will be hard to transfer over. Even with good infrastructure, people over the Internet can suddenly decide to drop out of a game or take a long time to make a move. I imagine many apps simply allow asynchronous gameplay where a user is push-notified when his opponent has made a move.

Asynchronous play is great if the game lends itself to that format; if it has frequent control switches (2) then asynchronous play becomes impractical.


Regardless, it's probably a good idea to have a time limit (asynchronous play should probably have one measured in days, but should still have one). This helps set player expectations about how long people should be allowed to take. There's lots of different subtle variations on how game clocks work, but my current favorite one is

X per turn + Y time bank

Where X is a time limit that resets every turn (whether you used it or not), and Y is a time limit that starts counting down after X runs out and carries over between turns (your leftover it carried into the next turn).

Some games give a small bonus to Y if you didn't use up all of your X.


Deciding what you actually do when the time limit runs out can be tricky in itself:

- With 3+ players, you want to try to allow the remaining players to continue as well as possible, which usually means that either an AI takes over for the missing player or you somehow subtract them out of the game without affecting the remaining players. (How practical either of those options are depends on the game, of course.)
* If you want to get fancy, the player who dropped can re-enter the game and take control back from the AI if they reconnect. (I did this for Hunt.)

- For a 2-player game (or any game when there's only one player still playing), you probably want to give the remaining player the option to declare victory (but they can also continue waiting if they prefer). Declaring them the "winner" doesn't salvage the experience of the game, of course, but there's not much else to do if there's only one player left.

- You can also consider a "soft" penalty for taking too long, such as a reduction in score, but at some point you have to either continue the game without them or end it.
 
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Klaus Brune
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cwong15 wrote:
Whoa, when you play Terra Mystica or Race for the Galaxy, do you use a humongous mega-tablet or something? Those screen details look so tiny, I'd probably have to play on my cellphone with a magnifying glass and a toothpick. At least that's what it looks like based on the screenshots.


I'm playing mostly on a 7" tablet with no problems. True in Race I have to zoom in to clearly read card details, but the UI to do so is fairly easy (tap-and-hold or drag up from my hand of card to zoom on card detail). Race can definitely be a poster child for mobile app UI done right.

Terra Mystica works fine as well. That one I've even played on a phone with a 4.5" screen (Motorola Moto G). Though for the vision impaired reading glasses would be pretty much mandatory (my close up vision is fine, it's distances that give me problems).
 
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