it's in my mind for a very long time, last weekend i discussed it with my best friend, with some unexpected arguments, so i want to continue discussion here.
My idea was to create some assisting software for board games.
Main problem in our favorites games, e.g. Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition or Arkham Horror, is to keep track of all played cards. So i thought of some kind of software, where you can f.e. input all buyed technology-cards for each player, and this software will combine them, if possible, and display result, for example to keep track of combat/movement values per ship type/player. Or to summarize all played items in Arkam Horror, or something else, i think you understand what i mean.
So you only had to input card-number in a notebook, or scan some barcode on card via webcam, but that would not be part of this discussion (i hope ).
I thought this was some great idea and it would support our games pretty much. My favorite game, TI3, is very interesting, but as game proceeds and more technology/political agenda is played, combat is much more looking-at-cards than combat itself. But main argument against software like that from my friend was that keeping track of/concentrate on played cards is main part of complex games. So f.e. if you forgot to check your technology and you buyed some incredible hyper-beam-laser some rounds ago, it's your fault if you didn't recognize it.
To make clear: i'm not speaking of hard-/software like Microsoft Surface (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n94E3IeBquY), where all rules and other game stuff is administrated by computer. A day i'm sitting nearly 12 hours at a pc, but i'm a really big fan of board-games and won't miss face-to-face and all the little figures and cards.
So what do you mean? Would a computer-assisting board-game handicap/destroy gameplay, or allows it to focus on main parts like combat?
Maybe question is: is keeping-track of your/played cards main part of a game or unavoidable ill due to limited design-possibilities?
Another question is, but thats something else, is computer-calculated result for combat, based on dice-result, better or worse than manual resolving? Think of a webcam which could read dice-results and figures, the only thing you have to do is to roll the dice and look at the result on pc. Background on this question is, are accidentily mistakes during resolving part of the game or not?
It's a pad of sticky notes!
A personal story about computer aided board gaming:
I wrote a small Java program last summer for our Arkham Horror games. It's function was to replace the Arkham Encounter and Other World Encounter cards, which (for the most part) don't stay in play after they're resolved. I then added functionality for the Mythos Deck, by allowing each deck to have "active cards", cards that stay on the table. When writing the program, I wished it to be useful in other games, so it is totally void of any game specific things.
The point is, this software was praised at our game nights. I took my netbook, run it from there, and suddenly we had tons of free space on the table, and saved some time not having to sort the encounter and Mythos cards.
I'd share the program if it wasn't for one thing: It was supposed to be a, so called, "weekend hack", but it bloated into a 3 week project. Hence the code is awful, the user interface not nice, and it hogs a ton of memory.
But still, it's possible for computers to help if you don't mind the sound of cooling fans ambiencing your die rolls
I think smartphone apps are really going to take off in this area. It's niche but I think it's going to be really popular with gamers who aren't allergic to all electronics. I know 18xx has a popular moderator (lemmi) on computer, should be a small step to acclimate to similar smartphone apps.
There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night, and if you go no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone. Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.
To seek the sacred river Alph, to walk the caves of ice, to break my fast on honey dew and drink the milk of paradise... I had heard the whispered tales of immortality, the deepest mystery, from an ancient book I took a clue.
I totally applaud your willingness to consider doing this for your board games. Magic Realm has a computer based setup program called "Setup Stooge" that simulates what you are describing, but just for this one game.
I have looked over this as well as the java based "Realm Speak" (http://realmspeak.dewkid.com/) and started exploring the same options you describe in your original post and came to a simple conclusion;
That the effort and time to create such an item would become more than it was worth, considering that I could instead be using the time to play the actual board games themselves. Granted this was an individual assessment and decision, but maybe worthy of consideration by yourself before you actually begin.
I do wish you the best of luck and hope that your efforts are rewarding and successful!