Your Turn: Digital Board Games

Posted by Andrew L {Avid Gamer} | 19-Mar-14 | 45 comments

Your Turn - A Discussion

Hey there, I’m Andrew; game industry professional, reviewer, gamer, fellow member and the host of’s discussion series called “Your Turn.”

This is your chance to let us know what YOU think about a variety of topics related to hobby gaming. I’ll start the conversation and then it’s “your turn” to chime in and add to the discussion. Each Your Turn discussion will have a new topic, and we may even have some special guests make a surprise visit down the road. In the meantime…

Digital Board Games

I have played a lot of video games. Being the age that I am, I worked up from the very early beginnings when folks used the word “baud” to describe how fast a “modem” was. I went through Commodore, Atari, Sega, Nintendo, Xbox, Playstion(s), Wii… you name it. Still love ‘em.

I also love board games… and I have been playing them only a little bit longer. It’s where board games meet video gaming that I’m torn.

Back in the day, computer chess was one of the first electronic (video game) implementations of a “board” game that I can remember – mainly because of the opportunity to play against an “A.I.”

Around the same time that home systems went online, online board game sites started to pop up.

One that did recreate board games very accurately is a site called BrettspielWelt. On there, I actually learned to pay Dominion with my brother. Then, I went out and bought the card game. Now there are several of these sites.

Which leads me to digital versions of board games. Not sure what the first one was – but it hit my radar when Days of Wonder reported a sales spike in the analog version of Small World when the iOS app came out. I am new to digital board game apps. I currently have two: Summoner Wars and Lords of Waterdeep. They are great! But I seem to have twice the fun when playing “IRL.” Plus I have a feeling that when I play Lords of Waterdeep again, it won’t be quite the same. I can blow through a game in minutes on iOS. What will this do to my patience level when playing with my friends of family? It has helped me learn better strategies through frequent play… and these apps do offer accessibility to play when players cannot be found. But I can’t see my opponents… ARGH see what I mean?

I don’t know. I am torn. I like the digital games, but I also love the instantaneous creativity of live people in a room – where emotions can wash over the players and the environment. I like to know what my fellow gamers are doing out there.

Questions: Do you play digital board games? If so, which ones? What device(s) do you play them on? Do you have the analog version of these games? Do they affect the way you enjoy the real board game? Or do you think these games should be played the way they were designed originally – as live board games?

Your Turn…

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Comments (15)

Gamer Avatar
Pick a Favorite LGS
Robots on the Line fan
Miniature Painter
I play blue

Hey guys, I just signed up for reddit, and posted a link to this article on it. (click here for the reddit discussion)

Feel free to share your thoughts there as well!

Gamer Avatar
Pick a Favorite LGS
Robots on the Line fan
Miniature Painter
I play blue

What I really enjoy about digital board games is that they allow me to enjoy the hobby when I’m on the go and/or can’t find anyone else to play with. Also, they’re a great way to learn the game or “try before you buy” the physical version.

Here’s how I’d rank how I most enjoy playing:
1. Physical version
2. Digital version on a touch screen device
3. Digital version on PC/Mac
4. Digital version on Xbox/Playstation/Wii

You loose a lot of the “magic” of playing a board game when you have to use a mouse or controller.

Gamer Avatar
Jungle Elves - Summoner Wars
I play blue

I play a few digital board games and actually just purchased Ghost Stories and Yggdrasil today for my iPad. My favorite games to play digitally are Elder Sign, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic. I tend to play digital games on the go or when no one else is around to play with me. I own the real Elder Sign and Pandemic but if it’s just me playing at home the digital version takes less time to set up. For some games, I find the digital version is easier to play because it remembers all the rules for me like turning the clock forward in Elder Sign.

I prefer the real board game to the digital versions, though I have found that the digital version of some games is a good way to get other people interested. While visiting my parents, I downloaded Ticket to Ride Europe on their iPad because I was tired of playing Ticket to Ride USA on my small iPhone screen. After I left, my mom discovered it and became addicted. She doesn’t have any desire to play the real board game of it but since then she’s been more open minded about playing the “new” type of board games.

Gamer Avatar
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph Beta 1.0 Tester

Digital board games go against the original reason I got back into board gaming… for the social aspect of it. However, I have found them to be great for several reasons:

1) To learn the game if I haven’t played before.
2) To play the game when no one is available.
3) To practice the game so I can crush that smug jackwagon at the next game night! (My personal favorite).

I don’t usually play digital board games with anyone else, but they have come in handy while waiting in line with my wife and kids.

I also think they might help prop up game publishers a bit… giving new life to a game through app sales.

Gamer Avatar
Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
Eminent Domain Fan

I absolutely love digital board games. When I can’t play with my friends in person, I can play with them online. This counts double for friends who I can only have contact with online, such as folks that live in different states or countries. Sure, it’s not nearly as much fun as playing with a group of people all in the same room, but it’s SOMETHING, and I get to share my love of the hobby with folks I otherwise wouldnt be able. And, honestly, there’s no downside to being able to play a board game on, say, the train!

I also really like the sort of “try before you buy” aspect of digital board games. They’re significantly cheaper so I won’t feel so burnt paying only a few bucks for that instead of spending upwards of fifty for a game I end up not liking.

Gamer Avatar

Since a majority of my board gaming is solo (due to time/family, etc) playing digital board games is a natural extension. For some games, (Ascension, for example) its cheaper to pay 2.99 per expansion instead of 20 for one.

Gamer Avatar
Professional Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester
Silver Supporter
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan

I don’t play much digital board games. For one, I have an Android device, so my options are more limited. Even though I do have a few, I usually opt for simple word games on my mobile device that plays quicker, and my smartphone screen is too small for most digital boardgames.

My wife has the iPad, and Ticket to Ride on it has ruined her from the cardboard version. She doesn’t like to play it as much. However, she would prefer to play San Juan in person than on iPad. Go figure.

But like Granny said, I like the social aspect of the board game over the digital. Usually if I’m playing a digital version of it, it makes me want to play the real thing.

However, I’ll pay for a digital version of the game if I haven’t played the real one for two reasons:

A. Figure out how to play it.
B. Figure out if I want to buy the real version after I learn it.

That way, I might be out $3 to $10 dollars if I don’t like it instead of $30-$60 for the boardgame. For instance, I’m glad I played digital versions of Le Havre and Caylus… they were snoozefests.

Gamer Avatar
Rosetta Stone
Football Fan
Explorer - Level 5

Digital board games are great. The only gripe I have is that the current state of business means I rarely get copies of games I can play.

Most games come out on iPad, or at least on iOS, which means my Android phone and I don’t get to play them.

Gamer Avatar
The Gold Heart

The only digital board game I play is Risk. I have a version on Sega Genesis, Xbox 360, and a board game copy. I like playing risk on xbox because steps are clear and never missed or wrong. The only other version of Risk I played was my first experience ever with the board game, and we played with a house rules mod (which I added on the Risk Tips page) called Zombie Risk.

These digital versions allow for little (if any) allowance for house rules, which is a major participatory flaw.

I’m not drawn to any digital board games except classics like Chess, Checkers, and Risk. Risk is the only one I favor digitally. Nobody has to worry whether they grabbed the right kind of miniature to keep track of their armies, less room for doubt, more space to have snacks (which is essential for how long some conquests can last).

I don’t do online games ever though. Only local digital games. I would not download an app even if I did have a smartphone. I need player interaction for these kind of games.

Gamer Avatar
Spread the Word

I’ve started playing some of the digital versions of board games (Neuroshima Hex, Elder Sign) just because I can’t get enough gaming. But I far, far prefer plying IRL. The banter is better in person, and so much can be communicated in an expression; you can’t get that digitally.

Gamer Avatar
Old Bones
The Silver Heart

I have both digital and physical versions of Summoner Wars. I prefer the physical game, but the digital has some things going for it. Deck customization with the digital version is nice. I don’t have to worry about keeping track of how the deck came off the printers. It is also an easy way to get a game in without having to set things up, and pass and play is pretty close to a physical game.

Gamer Avatar
I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness

I’m with @Granny and @Jay – digital board games go against my very purpose for playing board games. But even if I wasn’t worried about losing the interaction and group experience of physical games, I’d likely never pick up a digital game… I get paid to sit in front of a backlit screen for 50 hours a week, so sitting in front of a backlit screen during my leisure time is the last thing I want to do.

Then again, I’m typing this on my iPad during my few free evening hours before bed then back to the grind… I’m just a big ball of hypocrisy.

Gamer Avatar
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter

Nope – I avoid them, then again I’m also one of those people who are holding out by reading books of paper.

Like @Account Deletion – I spend hours staring at a screen typing away the majority of most days (and sometimes nights), then I pop on here and poke around. I’m screened out.

Games are best unplugged. A time of friends, the occasional adult beverage, laughter and table flips. How am I supposed to curse the dice if I can’t hold them in my hand?

Gamer Avatar
10 Beta 2.0 Tester
Went to Gen Con 2012
Summoner Wars Fan
Video Game Fan

I’m definitely a fan of digital board games, although I’d always prefer to play physical copies when I can. In my case, I don’t have a regular gaming group, so it’s sometimes difficult to find the opportunity to play. Playing solo games will scratch the itch some, but they don’t compare to competing with another opponent. Digital versions of board games are excellent because they provide the chance to play a game against others when I might not have that chance normally. Of course, it’s not as fun as the real thing, but it’s sometimes the closest I can get.

In addition, I always have 6 or 8 games of Ascension and Summoner Wars running, and it’s hard to beat the convenience of pulling out my phone or iPad and making a few moves while I’m otherwise doing nothing.

Gamer Avatar
Filth - Summoner Wars

I have to say, even if Digital Boardgames look really good and some of them are really nicely done, they remove the exact purpose of boardgaming: human interactions.
Another thing: nothing compares with the moment when you buy a boardgame, arrive home and open the box. With Digital there is no such thing(yes, they are way cheaper, but still)

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