Five of the best board game conversions for your new iPad or iPhone

Posted:
in iPad edited December 2017
A niche category of the expanding game market on iOS are board game translations. AppleInsider goes beyond Monopoly and Scrabble and looks into five of the best more advanced board games that benefit from an iOS implementation.


Ticket to Ride

"Ticket to Ride" is a railway-themed board game designed by Alan R. Moon and published for the tabletop in 2004 by Days of Wonder. It was developed for iOS, and was among the first of the Eurogame translations to hit the Apple ecosystem when it was released in 2011 for the iPad.

The game has a relatively simple non-collectible resource deck mechanism, with players attempting to complete railways connecting one city to the next, also selected randomly from a separate deck.




"Ticket to Ride" retails for $7 on the iOS app store and is complete in its own right. It has seven in-app purchases as expansions: USA 1910, Europe 1912, Switzerland, Asia, India, Nordic Countries, Pennsylvania, and Germany. All told (when not on sale) the entire Ticket to Ride package for iPad sells for $37.

Once upon a time, the "Ticket to Ride" for iPhone and iPad were not universal, so if you've got an older installation, be sure to update your app to get all the benefits of the new one.

Some of the maps have recently been re-released bringing down the price differential some, but the total for the Amazon physical copies are still priced at $104 -- an $87 difference compared to the complete iOS version.

Scotland Yard

"Scotland Yard" is a board game in which a team of players, as police, cooperate to track down a player controlling a criminal around a board representing the streets of London. It is eponymously named after Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police Service.

"Scotland Yard" is an asymmetric board game, and unusual in that the detective players work cooperatively rather than competitively, solving a variant of the classic pursuit-evasion logical and logistical problem under a time constraint.




The game costs just $4 on the App Store, and there are no in-app purchases or expansions for it. The physical copy of the game is $60, a $55 dollar difference.

Neuroshima Hex

"Neuroshima Hex" by Polish publisher Wydawnictwo Portal is played on a hexagonal board. Each player periodically draws from a deck of hexagonal tiles, symbolizing different types of military units.

Annotations on the tiles denote the combat strength of each unit. Each player has one special headquarters tile, with players take turns placing their generally immobile tiles on the board with the goal of destroying the opposition's HQ tile.

At first glance, the strategy seems simple, but different units have different special abilities, like a net to disable a nearby unit, or fast speed, to act before another unit. Other units have no inherent offensive potential, but give boosts to units around them.




Combat is turn-based, with the army herd being thinned as the game wears on. The victor is the player who scores more points of damage on the enemy's headquarters.

The iOS version of "Neuroshima Hex" is by Big Daddy Creations, and sells for $5 when not on sale. In-app purchases for nine different factions retail for $2 each, bringing the total possible cost of the game to $23.

With the physical version, the 3.0 version of the game retails for $37. With all the factions purchased for the physical game, the complete set comes to around $120 -- a $103 difference over the iOS version.

Space Hulk

"Space Hulk" is set in the "Warhammer 40,000" universe, and draws a certain degree of inspiration from the Alien movies. A "Space Hulk" is a mass of ancient, derelict starships, asteroids, and other assorted space debris, which a group of Space Marine Terminators is sent to investigate.

One player takes the role of these Terminators, while the other player or the iPad controls the Genestealers, an aggressive alien species who have made their home aboard the Hulk.




This was a tough one to include. The original game developer, Games Workshop, has a checkered past with its fans over the better part of the last three decades; the iOS and PC versions of the game shipped with some enormously show-stopping bugs.

Recent patches on both mobile and computer have cleaned up most of the major issues (but none have brought 64-bit code to the title), with the exception of the massive 4-gigabyte footprint the game occupies on the device after download.

The game on iOS retails for $10. In-app purchases for more campaigns and unit skins are available for an additional $17, bringing the total package up to $31. The limited re-release of the physical board game in 2014 is currently available on Amazon for $142, with an original retail price of $200.

The second edition of the board game from the '80s is available on eBay, routinely selling for $50 and up. Even assuming the lowest retail for the second edition ruleset from 20 years ago, this is still a $19 dollar difference between the digital and physical versions, and possibly much, much more depending on version. For the sake of argument, we'll use the normal $142 price for the more complete 2014 re-release, and call it $111 differential between the board game and the iOS release.

A note of warning about "Space Hulk" for the iPad: We really don't recommend playing it on older hardware. It really demands a beefier processor for adequate play. The iPad Air 2, the new iPad, and any iPad Pro make this game sing.

Settlers of Catan

Known simply as "Catan" on the App Store, "The Settlers of Catan" is a multiplayer board game designed by Klaus Teuber and first published in 1995 in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag as "Die Siedler von Catan."

Players assume the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources.

Players are rewarded points as their settlements grow and their reach expands; the first to reach a set number of points is the winner. "The Settlers of Catan" was one of the first German-style board games to achieve popularity outside of Europe.




When not on sale, "Catan" sells for $5. While the physical version benefits from many more possible expansions to buy, the ones available have a combined retail price on Amazon $129, a difference of $114 between physical and iOS versions.

There are both iPhone and iPad versions of "Catan," which is unfortunate. Try as we might, we couldn't get our in-app purchases to propagate across versions, so pick the version you want carefully!

Choices, Choices

There are literally dozens of board game implementations for iOS available. We spoke earlier of "Monopoly" and "Scrabble," which are oldies, but goodies. Some of the rest of our favorites are "Carcassonne," "Blood Bowl," "Agricola," "Castles of Mad King Ludwig," "Le Havre," and "Splendor." As a bonus, many of these titles have versions for older operating systems, so even your original iPad you've got stashed somewhere might be able to get in on the action.

If you prefer the physical versions of games, there are many play-aids for games available -- "Catan" has an official one, '80s robot-stomping game "Battletech" have a few which are difficult to suss out sometimes, and the board game implementation of "XCOM" requires an iPad to play!

"Dungeons and Dragons" has about a thousand different play-aids. For the more generic needs, there are hex-map apps, and dozens of dice rollers.

Fantasy Flight games has taken a slightly different tack to apps for some of its boardgames. It has built an artificial intelligence to play its dungeon crawler Descent, and an artificial intelligence for Star Wars board game "Imperial Assault" is now available too.

If you've got a favorite, leave us a comment and tell us about it!

Virtual or Actual?

There are benefits and disadvantages to both iOS and physical versions of games.

It's hard to cluster four players around a single iPad to play a game, but cleanup and setup is way, way faster with the iOS versions. Some titles can be sent to an Apple TV with AirPlay or Apple's Lightning to HDMI adapter, making the small screen less of an issue.

"House rules" are nearly impossible on iOS games, unless already selectable in a preference somewhere in the game -- for instance, some of the more popular Monopoly rules, like money on the "Free Parking" space are generally toggle-able.

One might think that the barrier to entry on the iOS is the cost of the iPad, but if you add up all the savings for all five titles here, you're looking at about $500, far more than the retail of a new iPad.

Regardless of the list of pros and cons, iPad gaming goes far beyond simple school-house favorites, with something for everybody.
zohaali146

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    One of the things that I've wanted to see is ports of board games (like Avalon Hill ,TSR and their peers) that use iOS multi peer networking, so everyone has their own screen. I think scrabble and monopoly do somethimg like this - IIRC Scrabble supports a mode where the iPad is the board everyone can see, but the private sets of letter tiles for each player are on each player's iPhone or iPod Touch.

    I think AppleTV also opens this right up with the TV becoming the board everyone can see.

    if you were playing "War in the Pacific" you'd need a really big TV, but you get the idea.

    now if only someone would port "Freedom in the Galaxy" and not get sued by Disney (its a very good, asymmetric space opera game that's thematically a shameless Star Wars rip off)

    The other thing it opens up with Game Centre is semi - virtual peer-peer , where if some of the participants are remote, they can still play on their own devices.

    mrboba1mac_128mike1pscooter63propod
  • Reply 2 of 20
    One that wasn't mentioned that I found pretty fun was Splendor. Other than above normal battery use on my iPad, it was pretty well done. 
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,689administrator
    One that wasn't mentioned that I found pretty fun was Splendor. Other than above normal battery use on my iPad, it was pretty well done. 
    Splendor's mentioned towards the end, but not detailed.
  • Reply 4 of 20
    As a kid I loved the board game, Gettysburg, a Civil War game. Units arrived on the scene in actual historical sequence, but after that it was up to the two players (opposing generals) to deploy and move them. It took hours to complete, but absorbed us. I should think that an iOS version would add a lot to this tho of game. 
  • Reply 5 of 20
    I love Hotel, it's like a shorter more fun version of Monopoly.
  • Reply 6 of 20
    You you missed two of the best board game adaptations of all time for iOS, Twilight Struggle and Galaxy Trucker. 
  • Reply 7 of 20
    One that's become my go-to game on the iPad, "Paperback". Technically it's a card game - it's a deck drafting game with letters. Like "Dominion", you start with a starter deck of wild cards and letter cards. On you turn, you deal yourself a hand of 5 letters, make a word, score it, and then buy one or more cards with the value of your cards. You can buy wild cards worth victory points at the end, or letter cards which have no victory points but are worth money to buy cards. Many of the cards have special abilities when they are played. Strongly recommended.
  • Reply 8 of 20
    I think the comparison to Ticket To Ride's price on Amazon is a bit misleading.  I am not criticizing Apple Insider.  I am just pointing out that the pricing for this game on Amazon is NOT typical.  I bought it through Toys "R" Us for my brother this year (on sale) for about $32.  I think $40-50 for the game is pretty typical, but deals can be found for around $30 from time to time.  I am also not accusing Amazon of gouging.  This is a very popular game, and it is possible that the prices on Amazon are for earlier editions that are collectible.

    So, here is my opinion on the price of the app versus the cost of a physical game:

    The full price of the physical game is fairly consistent with the price of the app.  That said, scoring in this game is not simple and requires patience.  Having that handled automatically in the app would be a very useful feature.  Also, it is possible the full price of the app includes the game that has a European map.  A physical copy of the game with a European setting exists, but it is a separate game, so the full app may have more content than the physical copy. 
     
    If you do get the app and plan to play the physical version at some point, be sure you wrap your head around scoring.  The physical game does provide a way to track score by moving the player's token to numbers that surround the board.  I am sure there are house rules centered around this mechanic.  Recalculating the score in the end is a pain, and I would certainly see some people insisting that forgetting to move a score piece forfeits the score.  
    edited December 2016
  • Reply 9 of 20
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,689administrator
    The $164 wasn't for just the core game -- it's for the core game, plus the expansions listed as in-app purchases.

    Tt's hard to compare TTR expansions for the board game to the app on a 1:1 basis. Best done as a bunch.
    rednival
  • Reply 10 of 20
    The $164 wasn't for just the core game -- it's for the core game, plus the expansions listed as in-app purchases.

    Tt's hard to compare TTR expansions for the board game to the app on a 1:1 basis. Best done as a bunch.
    Ok. Appreciate the clarification. I would consider amending article to say, "The total on Amazon for the physical copy of the game, including all expansions in the fully unlocked app, is currently $164...". That explains where your number comes from. 

    I just know I've seen some weird prices for Ticket to Ride on Amazon, but maybe those are bundles with everything included. 
  • Reply 11 of 20
    I used to enjoy Scotland Yard, the board game. If they update the app to 64bit, I'll buy it in an instant.
  • Reply 12 of 20
    anomeanome Posts: 956member
    uroshnor said:
    One of the things that I've wanted to see is ports of board games (like Avalon Hill ,TSR and their peers) that use iOS multi peer networking, so everyone has their own screen. I think scrabble and monopoly do somethimg like this - IIRC Scrabble supports a mode where the iPad is the board everyone can see, but the private sets of letter tiles for each player are on each player's iPhone or iPod Touch.

    Avalon Hill? Think of the possibility of porting Advanced Squad Leader to the iPad. Not having to cope with the overly complicated rule system directly can only help.
    I think AppleTV also opens this right up with the TV becoming the board everyone can see.

    if you were playing "War in the Pacific" you'd need a really big TV, but you get the idea.

    now if only someone would port "Freedom in the Galaxy" and not get sued by Disney (its a very good, asymmetric space opera game that's thematically a shameless Star Wars rip off)

    Now that would be interesting. TSR bought SPI, and Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, so who owns them now?

    More to the point, SPI had a whole bunch of solo games either sold in boxes, or sometimes in their in-house magazine, that would be interesting to see on iOS.
    mike1
  • Reply 13 of 20
    My wife and I have played Carcassonne, Scrabble, etc. On our iPads. We now play Pandemic via the AppleTV. Where is Pandemic and Carcassonne on this list?
  • Reply 14 of 20
    uroshnor said:
    One of the things that I've wanted to see is ports of board games (like Avalon Hill ,TSR and their peers) that use iOS multi peer networking, so everyone has their own screen. I think scrabble and monopoly do somethimg like this - IIRC Scrabble supports a mode where the iPad is the board everyone can see, but the private sets of letter tiles for each player are on each player's iPhone or iPod Touch.

    I think AppleTV also opens this right up with the TV becoming the board everyone can see.

    if you were playing "War in the Pacific" you'd need a really big TV, but you get the idea.

    now if only someone would port "Freedom in the Galaxy" and not get sued by Disney (its a very good, asymmetric space opera game that's thematically a shameless Star Wars rip off)

    The other thing it opens up with Game Centre is semi - virtual peer-peer , where if some of the participants are remote, they can still play on their own devices.

    Completely agree. I have no business coding anything like these things, but I've been wishing for at least Vassal (vassalengine.org) or something like it get onto the iPad for quite a while.


  • Reply 15 of 20
    Flabbergasted that the awesome Carcassonne did not make this list. Brilliant game, and great adaptation. 
  • Reply 16 of 20
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,689administrator
    Carcassonne is named near the bottom, but not detailed. This article was never, ever going to name them all.

    The Vassal developers at one time were planning on an iOS version, and appear to be working on a code overhaul away from Java to something more iOS-friendly for Vassal 4.

    edited December 2016
  • Reply 17 of 20
    sabonsabon Posts: 126member
    I *wish* someone would create a *GOOD* D&D game for iPads. I think there is an online game but from what I've been told, from people that know how my group played D&D for about ten years (about twice a month) it wouldn't allow us to play how we liked to play so it wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun. 

    I wish Wizards Of The Coast would come out with an iPad version of D&D where we could choose how we want to play. Having rules that you can't change because you feel they really affect the fun of the game in a very bad way would not be good. It needs to be flexible in the way rules work. I tried to get a couple programmer friends of mine to work with me to create this where you could have to a dozen people, each with their own device, with one iPad Pro in the middle keep tracking of where you are and what you are seeing while the players' iPads would show you your character sheet and be able to choose if you want to attach with your weapon or cast a spell or use a potion or whatever, and the iPads keep track of the rolls. It ***COULD*** be really great. Yes it would cost money to buy all the iPads/iPhones (or android devices) but grow up and realize that to have anything you have to spend money. I would gladly pay $59 for a Really Good version of D&D with some flexibility in rules. 

    My friends loved my ideas, which I said we could pitch to Wizards of the Coast and see if we could either get them to license it from us or buy it from us (and maybe hire us to keep working on it. But they didn't want to put in the work because they didn't think Wizards would want to buy it or license it from us. So I suggested making a new game that changes things just enough to be our own game. We worked on it for more than a year and it turned out that they really hadn't done much at all but were just screwing around. Oh well. I BIG opportunity wasted. Asking around I found out that they were known for not getting much done. A wasted year. But I would love to have a D&D game for computers and mobile devices where you each have your own AND that the rules are flexible with the understanding that not everyone plays the same way. That's what I would have liked for Christmas.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,022member
    uroshnor said:
    One of the things that I've wanted to see is ports of board games (like Avalon Hill ,TSR and their peers) that use iOS multi peer networking, so everyone has their own screen. I think scrabble and monopoly do somethimg like this - IIRC Scrabble supports a mode where the iPad is the board everyone can see, but the private sets of letter tiles for each player are on each player's iPhone or iPod Touch.

    I think AppleTV also opens this right up with the TV becoming the board everyone can see.

    if you were playing "War in the Pacific" you'd need a really big TV, but you get the idea.

    now if only someone would port "Freedom in the Galaxy" and not get sued by Disney (its a very good, asymmetric space opera game that's thematically a shameless Star Wars rip off)

    The other thing it opens up with Game Centre is semi - virtual peer-peer , where if some of the participants are remote, they can still play on their own devices.

    I agree. I hope Apple is involved with developers to create Apple TV oriented game experiences.

    One traditional game missing from this list which has been a standout for 2017, is Cluedo, or Clue in the US, from Marmalade. For a relatively inexpensive app price of a few dollars, a player has a full multiplayer experience with a worldwide audience for an all time classic. No more trying to find six people to represent Miss Scarlett, Col. mustard and the gang. The add-on packs offer various themes to keep the old game fresh for each play. How about a Halloween themed edition with Mr. Green as Frankenstein?

    There's a private invite multi-player mode which would be perfect for gathering friends and family around the Apple TV, each with their own device (Apple or Android) for keeping track of their cards and revelations, while everyone enjoys the action and animations on the big screen. There's still no substitute for the physical game where grasping ones token, and moving it around the board (especially with Cluedo and its unique weapon tokens), or exchanging cards, money, etc. with other players for a communal bonding experience. But certainly having a focal point in a room like an Apple TV would provide, serves a similar experience. It would also help reduce the clutter of so much information competing for so little space, which all devices but the iPad Pro have to deal with.
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 19 of 20
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,646member
    uroshnor said:
    One of the things that I've wanted to see is ports of board games (like Avalon Hill ,TSR and their peers) that use iOS multi peer networking, so everyone has their own screen. I think scrabble and monopoly do somethimg like this - IIRC Scrabble supports a mode where the iPad is the board everyone can see, but the private sets of letter tiles for each player are on each player's iPhone or iPod Touch.

    I think AppleTV also opens this right up with the TV becoming the board everyone can see.

    if you were playing "War in the Pacific" you'd need a really big TV, but you get the idea.

    now if only someone would port "Freedom in the Galaxy" and not get sued by Disney (its a very good, asymmetric space opera game that's thematically a shameless Star Wars rip off)

    The other thing it opens up with Game Centre is semi - virtual peer-peer , where if some of the participants are remote, they can still play on their own devices.

    I would be thrilled if somebody would port the Avalon Hill games. Would love to be able to play Panzer Leader or Squad Leader.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,646member
    I much prefer the XBox version of Catan to the iOS. Game play is much more intuitive, in my opinion.
    williamlondon
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