Which pending board game app releases have us excited for 2018?
The board game boom has been in full swing for a while now and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with instant-classic games being released every year. The board game app world isn’t far behind. Heading into last year, the only BGG top ten game to see a digital port was Twilight Struggle, but even that was a limited iOS, tablet-only port (fact checking: the Android version was actually released in late December, ‘16). By the end (or maybe middle) of 2018, half of the top ten BGG games will be available on iOS and Android (BGG list subject to change, obviously). That’s a fairly remarkable turnaround and the games on that list slated for a 2018 release are all relatively new, so it’s not like we’re getting ports of games 5/10+ years after their release, these ports are starting to make their way to market within a year or two.
The future is bright if you’re interested in mobile versions of your favorite tabletop games, here are the ten announced games we are most looking forward to in 2018, in alphabetical order. (The images will link you to the Amazon listings for the physical game.)
Among the Stars (Developer: Cublo Games)
7 Wonders in space! Any game with a card drafting mechanic is “7 Wonders in ______” at this point (7 Wonders with sushi, anybody???) Among the Stars has the same basic “pick a card and pass the rest” card drafting mechanic as 7 Wonders, so the comparisons are fair. The biggest wrinkle Among the Stars adds is introducing a spatial aspect to the card placement. You are building a space station in this game and where you play cards relative to other cards in your station is important. The 7 Wonders port finally came out late last year, and it’s pretty good, so there’s a chance this port is coming a year too late, but the game itself adds enough of a difference that we are excited to see how it is ported to mobile. With a strong online system, we could see getting attached to Among the Stars as our go-to card drafting game on our phones.
Evolution The Video Game (North Star Games Digital)
We have our hands on the beta of this for tablets. We’re not special in that regard, their Kickstarter backers all got this privilege, but the game is shaping up very nicely. Evolution pits players against each other as they try to create stronger species to rule the watering hole. Your creatures are either gatherers relying (mostly) on a limited pool of shared food, or carnivores which seek to prey on weaker species. Add defense and feeding mechanisms to protect your creations and keep them alive as any species which goes unfed dies off at the end of the round. It’s a fun game which looks to have a strong implementation, we can’t wait to see what the final product looks like.
Hostage Negotiator (Peter Kossits)
The true solo game is a rare and interesting beast. Only two of the top 25 BGG solo players games (user-voted) are actually designed exclusively for solo play. Most solo games are co-ops which allow one person to control multiple players to make it a solo game. A few are competitive games which have automas or “best your best score” options to play solo. However, true one player games are rare. The two most notable are Onirim and Friday and both got app releases last year. Next up: Hostage Negotiator. The game involves you attempting to save some hostages from bad guys who have captured them. The bad guys have demands, you attempt to talk to them to get hostages released and maybe even try to off the bad guy. Your attempts at making progress are determined by dice rolls, so there is some luck here, but if you manage to keep the threat level low enough, you get more dice to roll, increasing your chances for a successful negotiation. We can see Hostage Negotiator playing out quickly in app form, and providing a constant challenge it could be a very fun app. Detailed stat tracking and maybe some online leaderboards would be great additions. Onirim is essentially the blueprint for this genre making the jump to app form, hopefully Hostage Negotiator follows that lead well.
Isle of Skye (Digidiced)
This one is a logical step up from Carcassonne, introducing some new aspects and changing some others. It is an easy Carcassonne comparison simply for the city-building tile-placement aspect. It doesn’t take long to see the major differences, however. First, players build their own boards rather than play on a common board. The other big change is a gold/auction system used to acquire new tiles. Think Castles of Mad King Ludwig where you set the tile prices, but that happens every turn. You get three tiles, toss one and set prices on the other two. If somebody buys them, you get the gold. If not, you have to pay the gold at the price you set. Very much a risk/reward situation. Scoring is also a bit different here. So, what I’m saying, is that it is nothing like Carcassonne except it has tiles. The main reason for excitement here is that this is a game which falls squarely in the middle-weight, board game category that is very much under-served in the app world. Take a look at this list you are reading right now. Ten games: six are mostly card/dice-based, two are heavy, and one very light. (Yes, you could nitpick some of those broad generalizations, but this is our list, darn it, so we’ll generalize to prove our own point if we want!) There aren’t many releases in this category so we are excited to see what Isle of Skye brings to the digital table.
Lord of the Rings The Card Game (Fantasy Flight Interactive)
(note that the above link is for the first expansion, Amazon was being rude with their preview images on the core set) When Fantasy Flight Interactive was announced, we took a look at some of the possibilities we would have loved to see. To our surprise, one of those mentioned actually ended up being the first game FFI announced. Lord of the Rings: The Card Game makes a lot of sense to go digital, despite our skepticism that it would actually happen. The game is aging a bit, having started in 2011, it is a huge IP title, there are an enormous amount of expansions available, and the game is being pushed (or surpassed, if you prefer) by Arkham Horror: The Card game which fills essentially the exact same niche as a solo/two-player co-op living card game. Given all of those factors, why not try to release it digitally and see if they can open up a new revenue stream from the fantastic game? It will act as a great test run to see how successful an LCG port can work, a market FFI is no doubt very interested in testing. However, in another twist, FFI decided not to simply port the base game and then sell us expansions that match what the physical game had offered. No, they are flipping that model on its head and allowing players to purchase individual cards with in-game currency (which, of course, can be purchased, but also can be earned by playing the game). We’re running out of room here, but the bottom line is that this is a fantastic, challenging game and we are extremely interested in seeing how, exactly, FFI ports it to mobile devices. Our hope is a great digital version and some insight into how FFI might handle future LCG ports.
One Deck Dungeon (Handelabra Games)
The next game from Handelabra Studios is coming soon. Check out our interview with the developers behind the project here for some more insight into the project. Handelabra has done a great job with Sentinels over the years and we’re excited to see how they will handle One Deck Dungeon. We didn’t know much about the game before their Kickstarter, but after learning a bit we are excited to see how they port this streamlined dungeon-crawling co-op.
Onitama (Asmodee Digital)
This one has really grabbed our attention since it was announced relatively quietly at Essen Spiel. The game is a quick playing chess-like two-player matchup in which the goal is to capture the opponent’s primary pawn or land on their starting tile to win the round. Movement is controlled by cards which are passed between players, allowing for some very interesting decision making to play out on each turn. Like chess, you will know what your opponent can do, but the fun comes in trying to figure out which option they will pick. The quick playing nature of the game could make this a hit for online play if it is well implemented.
Roll for the Galaxy (Temple Gate Games)
Roll vs. Race. Race vs. Roll. A classic debate, at least over the past few years. Each of the two has their fans and haters, we aren’t here to argue one over the other, we’re here to get excited about another port from Temple Gate Games. They knocked Race for the Galaxy out of the park, it has landed on our year-end and best iOS/Android games list. We fully expect them to do the same for Roll. We’ll leave the Race vs. Roll debates up to you, but rest assured you will soon have the choice between strong ports of each on your mobile device.
Scythe (Asmodee Digital)
Scythe was only released two years ago but already has a home in the top 10 BGG games list. Scythe is a resource management, engine-builder with elements of area control and combat mixed in. That’s a few weighty mechanics, throw in some good old fashioned variable win conditions and variable starting powers and you’ve got quite a mix in one game. We’re very interested in seeing this hit mobile devices. The game takes place in the 1920s' in an alternate history world where mechs battle it out for supremacy. The artwork on this game is just plain cool. The app originally appeared to be headed towards a full 3D implementation as Knights of Unity would post weekly pictures on their Twitter feed with some of those models. However, things went silent for a while last year before Asmodee Digital announced the game would be releasing under their name. Regardless of what it looks like, we’re very excited to get a chance to play Scythe in digital form.
Terraforming Mars (Asmodee Digital)
We made this list alphabetically, but if we were ranking our hype levels, Terraforming Mars would probably be at the top. Having never played the physical game makes our anticipation level that much higher. The game quickly found a spot in the top 10 on BGG and has been backed by quality expansions. Terraforming Mars is a heavier game with a two hour play time. Players take control of corporations vying to best terraform the red plant, earning victory points along the way. The game plays as an engine builder, but with a longer tail than many, so you get to stick around long enough to see your engine shine or crash and burn spectacularly. One of the interesting things here are the number of game variants included in the rules ranging from solo play to adjustments to speed up or slow down the game, we look forward to seeing them implemented in app form and can’t wait to see what all the hype is about.