So here’s your situation. You’re dealing with the shame of only owning Monopoly and Cluedo. You’ve made the decision to upgrade but you’re struggling to take that first step. I understand. It’s a big investment. You have to spend the money, then find the time and people to pay with.
Fortunately, there’s a cheap alternative. Cheap if you already own an iPad, that is.
In my article about the horrors of Monopoly I mentioned three games worth checking out. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. All three of these games are available on the iPad. A perfect way to try before you buy! Well, you still have to buy before you buy, but you don’t have to buy as much. Of course, you do miss out on the pure, unadulterated, joy of punching out the little cardboard pieces of a brand new board game, but you’ll cope.
iPad board games offer three ways to play. Solo, online and pass-and-play. Solo of course means you play by yourself, a habit of most professional board gamers. Online involves logging into a server and waiting for other players to become available. Pass-and-play is for when you have real people in your house and the conversation has gone stale. You make your move in the game then pass the iPad to opponent to take their turn.
Carcassonne offers solo and online play. Online play gives you the option of quickly finding random opponents or creating tables for you and your friends. When playing solo you have two choices. You can either play solitaire or against an AI. The solitaire game is more of a puzzle, trying to create a city in as small a rectangle as possible. The AI offers choices of difficulty levels and can make for some very challenging games. What’s more, you can even purchase in-game expansions, which currently include River and Inns & Cathedrals. The former simply changes the topography of the game slightly and the latter adds in new elements to the scoring mechanisms.
Ticket to Ride offers an amazing array of options. You can play solo, online, over a local network (either Bluetooth or wi-fi) and pass-and-play. It also allows you to download several different expansions. Europe and Switzerland give you new maps to play and the other expansions change the way you play on the USA map. It’s nice playing this on the iPad because you don’t have to worry about holding a hand full of cards and shuffling things around so much.
Settlers of Catan does something a little different. You can play a standard game, custom game or a campaign. The campaign is great because it adds something to the game each time. There are also lots of customised games which can be unlocked with the purchase of the Seafarers expansion. The only downside is that you can only play against an AI.
The advantages to iPad play are obvious. Firstly, it’s significantly cheaper. Secondly, it’s easier. You can play where you want, when you want. Thirdly, you will always be able to find as many opponents as you want. Either real players or AI.
Don’t be fooled though, there are downsides. When you own both an iPad and physical version like I do, it can become hard to justify getting out the real game. Why go to the effort of setting it up when you know you can play it just as well later on? Also, I find that you don’t play as well on an iPad. Without real people to ridicule my losses I tend not to care about strategy as much. I lose a lot more games that way than I do in real life. On the other hand it does make it easier to try out new strategies.
The biggest downside though is the loss of camaraderie. There’s nothing quite like having a bunch of mates over, eating junk food and talking crap while you play. Board gaming is a social exercise, and playing on a computer takes away its biggest draw card. Keep that in mind when considering this piece of advice: try them on the iPad, buy the real thing if you like it. Invite some friends around, order take out and buy a big bag of M&Ms. Forget the wine, get a couple of bottles of Mountain Dew.
Welcome to Geek Town, population us.
Real life versions of games available here:Ticket to Ride Settlers of Catan Carcassonne