Friday, August 6, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - The Red Ring and Board/Card Games

The morning after my late night emo post last week, I found out that the Super SF4 connection issues weren't connection issues at all; rather, they were death knells. My XBox 360 of nearly three years had seen its first Red Ring of Death. Considering how much I rely on the 360 for both my gaming and my movie entertainment, I wasn't entirely sure what I'd be doing for the next three weeks (let alone what I'd type on here). Thankfully, the geek is strong in this one, and I turned from the world of downloadable games to a much older past-time: board games.

When I say board games, I'm not talking about Monopoly or even everyone's favorite monkeys-with-dice-can-play-this-game Risk, though admittedly a few of mine are just as simple. I'm speaking more of Carcassonne, Alhambra, Dominion (yes it's a card game but the box is huge SO THERE), Formula De, and others. This of course includes my newest and nerdiest addition to the family, the "D&D Lite" Descent. The other night saw five hours devoted to one quest of epic proportions with said game, and the week prior lost a total of six hours to Dominion and Alhambra.

The sad part is, when I look at a lot of these games, I can't help but think how great card and board games can translate over to a console or PC setting. True, many board games already have a home on XBox Live, with classics like Catan, Carcassonne, Lost Cities, and Ticket to Ride all finding their way onto the Arcade, and quite a few sites on the internet have licensed or knock-off versions (many free and multiplayer) of many other board games. But what about original board games? The XBLIG Marketplace has seen a few over the last couple years. One of which, Ancient Trader, greatly impressed me, while another, Total Monarchy, showed promise. The bad thing about board games on XBLIG is the 8 minute trial, which makes it quite difficult to learn a game properly let alone play and get a feel for it. Oh, and the lack of any online community on XBLIG.

The negative point in general about digitally produced board games is the lack of touch. This sounds weird, but think of it this way: you give a pair of six-sided dice to your grandmother and say to her, "roll two dice," which she does with ease. Now hand her a controller or a mouse and keyboard and say the same thing. She has to relearn the simple act of rolling dice, learn the rules of the board game, AND learn how to do everything in said board game on the console or computer. One can argue "well, there's a tutorial", but that's really only good for people who have their own console or have access to someone else's along with some free time. Card games have a little less of this restriction, depending on the value of timing. For example, the Magic the Gathering card game on XBox Live plays smoothly, but simple three second acts such as "draw, play a land, pass turn" take a full minute with the console due to allowing a response from the opposing player(s).

Even with those things against it, I hope a lot of developers start porting or even creating their own board games for digital sale, simply because I believe there are few things greater than a group of people and a well-produced board or card game. If digital versions of these games extend how far that experience can reach, then I'm all for it. But I still won't stop buying expensive bundles of cardboard and dice for a night full of old fashioned living room nerd-outs.

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