This weeks Gamer Challenge was to play a game on your phone or tablet. There are thousands of games on the market, but I limited my scope to games that were adapted from board games, which seemed the most relevant for us cardboard crack addicts. However, when sitting down to work on this challenge I immediately noticed something: I would only be able to speak effectively to half of the smart phone toting audience. Why? Because I have an “Android” phone.
There are two major operating systems that dominate the phone and tablet market. The first one is the Android OS, which is what I have, and which runs on a lot of different devices. However, there are also Iphones. These are phones that are specifically made by Apple, and are the ones that paved the way for smart phones and even tablets. While these two different operating systems are both similar in their design, they each have their own app store where users can download games. This results in vastly different software being available on one then the other. For this reason, I needed to track down an Iphone user to help me cover that side of the story. Luckily for me I knew just the person: My co-author for this week, Lauren Hack, author of such blogs as “Hall of Lamers” and “Babies in Stuff”
While my guest reviewer played games on her phone all week, I did the same on mine. Concentrating on two different game adaptations: Dominion and Settler’s of Catan. Both of these are iconic games in the board gaming world, both having won the Spiel des Jahres (Germany game of the year), in 2009 and 1995, respectively.
The Android version of Dominion has the handle “Androminion”, but it’s the same game of Dominion that we all know and love. This was produced by a smaller company, and has none of the pretty card pictures that grace the actual cards. But the game is completely functional: it creates a random deck of cards, it has AI for the other players, it allows you to do all the buying and playing that you are used to.
While this is an awesome time killer, I found the AI to be predictable. Each AI character will only buy 1-2 different types of kingdom card and the rest is money and victory points. The extreme focus on buying victory points at every turn made the games very quick, usually only a dozen turns, but was remarkably effective for the AI. However, given the singular thought process, once you figure out how to beat that strategy, winning becomes pretty easy. It would have been nice to see them spice it up a little more.
The Settlers of Catan app, unlike Androminion, has a little bit more polish. This is a full feature game, with pretty graphics, competent AI, and lots and lots of options for the user to customize. However, all that shininess is going to cost you. While Androminion was a completely free to download game, Settlers of Catan is going to run you approximately $4. Not a lot of money, but a little bit higher then most apps.
What do you get for your $4? You get a gorgeously illustrated complete base game of Settlers of Catan, and you get a sampling of things from Seafarers of Catan. Granted, if you want the complete version of Seafaers (which will also allow you to enter campaign mode) you have to fork up a few more dollars. I haven’t done that, I’m still having plenty of fun with the base game, but for those who are a settlers addict, it might be worth it.
Some of what gives this version of Catan such great replay potential is the myriad of variations the base game allows you to set. You can implement some house rules, such as getting any resource after five rounds of not getting anything. Or allow for random distribution of numbers, or forcing the computer to set the grid using the spiral pattern. You can play some games that are purposefully scarce in a given resource, like oar. You can force the computer to use cards instead of the dice, in an effort to get a perfect distribution of numbers. The possibilities go on and on, which helps keep your $4 investment fresh.
Hello, my name is Lauren and I like words. When Victoria mentioned that this week’s Challenge was to play a game on a mobile device and that she needed someone with an iPhone, I was immediately interested.
Ever since I can remember, I have loved word games. As it is, I have about six on my phone right now. However, we’re going to only look at two of them today. Two of which were actually adapted from a board game.
First, let’s take a look at Boggle. Boggle is a word game designed by Allan Turoff and trademarked by Parker Brothers. Usually the game is played using a plastic grid of lettered dice, in which players attempt to find words in sequences of adjacent letters. That being said, it’s been adapted to a one player game via mobile devices. At first, I was a bit skeptical, seeing as I’d only ever played it with other people using the actual game. The game is simple, you shake your phone, it shakes the letters and the timer begins. Before the timer runs out you must find as many words as you can. You get three minutes, and when it runs out it takes you to a screen that shows you all the possible words that could have been made and highlights your words in green. It’s easy, it’s quick and it even gives you an option to play with other people by passing the phone back and forth.
All said and done, there a ridiculous amount of ads. Every time you log in an ad pops up. There is also an ad running across the top of the screen on the main page and when I went to start my first game another one popped up. At one point, it took me a good few minutes to make the ads go away. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the game is free and that is how they bring in revenue. But, it’s close to being too annoying and almost makes me not want to play it all. That being said though, I would definitely shell out the 99 cents to get rid of the ads…if I played this game more.
Alright, let’s move on and play Scrabble! Ah, yes, the game that most likely started it all for me. I remember being at family functions and my uncle always brought out this game and we would all play together. Quite frankly, I miss those days. But enough about me, let’s talk about the game.
Scrabble, for those of you that don’t know (what? have you been living under a rock?), is a word game in which two to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a game board. That being said, the iPhone game is really no different. You can play with “the computer”, in fact you can play with up to three of them. You can also play random opponents, friends or create a local multiplayer game (either by creating a network of people in the room or by passing the phone around).
I usually like to play with the computer. Why? Because that is the quickest/easiest way to start a game. There is another word game that everyone usually plays that is similar *cough WORDSWITHFRIENDS cough* that has taken away most of the user base for Scrabble. A few things that I like about playing with the computer is that it gives you a few options that you could never possibly do with the board game. For example, after you have played a word, the computer will show you the best word you could have played. From there you, you will either kick yourself or pat yourself on the back depending on what you played. Also, you get 4 options for the computer to pick the best word for you, during your turn. It’s like you’re cheating, but it’s actually allowed. Not only that, but it also gives you access to a dictionary so that you can look up words before you play them. Because of this, I kind of prefer to play the other word game that shall not be named. Why? I actually like a challenge.
This app kind of takes the challenge out of the game and essentially just makes it easy for you to win. *Yawn*
Would I recommend either of these games to people? Yeah, I would say so, especially if you like word games. However, there are better ones out there. If you interested in checking out either of these games they are both available in the App Store, Boggle is either free or 99 cents and Scrabble is $1.99.
P.S. While searching for pricing I found an interesting app for iPhones/iPods that only works if you have an iPad. Basically, it turns your iPad into the board game and your iPhone/iPod into the tile rack. That is something I will definitely have to try out one day.
So this weeks challenge was a very successful group effort! Next weeks challenge seems much harder though, “Play a game without talking”. So I guess on my game night, might lips will be sealed. Good luck to those playing along!
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