In our coverage of The Apple Blog’s 10 best board games for the iPad, we might have been…a bit… dismissive? We can’t help it really – some of those games just aren’t good board games – and moving ‘em over to an electronic format doesn’t make them any better. So, in answer to Geek: Aaron’s challenge, we humbly present our 8 favorite board games for the iPad (and 2 we’re really jazzed about):
- Small World – Is Small World the perfect iPad board game? Almost. This area control game from Days of Wonder was one of last year’s breakout hits and remains popular with many gaming groups. The game itself is gorgeous and couldn’t make the game any easier to play – in fact, it’s become my preferred method of playing a 2-player game of Small World. And therein lie the two only problems with the game: no AI and only two players (though I would kill for the ability to save a game in progress…). Put those quibbles aside and you have the ultimate travel version of one of my personal favorites. ($4.99 US)
- Honey, That’s Mine! – “Hey! That’s My Fish!” is one of those great board games that anyone can play. An area control game with a twist (taking control of an area removes it from play, causing the board to be constantly in flux), Fish is accessible to younger children, but complex enough to make it interesting (and quite cutthroat) for adults . Honey, That’s Mine is a direct port of Fish (though the center hex is removed from the board), except the beloved penguins have been replaced with bees seeking honey. The game includes a standard board game mode as well as providing an AI – a solid interpretation of one of my favorites. ($1.99 US)
- Pathology HD – I love Tsuro. And I do mean love. This light path creation game is simple to teach, quick to play, scales amazingly well up to eight players and is gorgeous to behold. Pathology HD is a direct port of Tsuro, though it loses a bit in the translation. The beautiful Chinese imagery from the board game is gone and the game is limited to only six players, but they give you the option for AI players and also provide the prerequisite board game mode for up to six players (though you either have to pass the iPad around or allow open information). Pathology HD definitely scratches my Tsuro itch, though it hasn’t replaced my desire to see the game in play ($2.99 US).
- Scrabble – Yeah, Scrabble is on my list too. Truth be told, I don’t much care for the crossword puzzle game in real life, but on the iPad, the game works really well. That said, I still don’t play it normally, relying on the Facebook integration to play extended games with friends that allow me to play when I’ve got the time as opposed to carving out an hour or so. Also cool, but totally superfluous, is the ability to use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a rack for in-person game – a bit overkill, but very cool looking. My only gripe with this app is it seems fairly overpriced at $9.99 US.
- Rush Hour – I’m kind of tough to please when it comes to puzzle games – there aren’t a lot of them that I really like and even those tend to have some more traditional board game elements in them (Galaxy Trucker is a great example). However, I’ve always had a soft spot for the old Rush Hour game where you’re attempting to rearrange cars so that your car can escape the board. Simple, simple concept with trivial rules, but a clever design that allows for some truly fiendish puzzles. This is one of those games that’s better on the iPad than it is in real life – no fiddling with the cards – just swipe the cars from spot to spot and be done – need to reset the board? Just hit the “reset” button. A great implementation of a classic puzzle game. ($2.99 US although there is a free trial version that’s absolutely worth your time)
- Money – Money is the first of Reiner Knizia’s games to be ported to the iPad and I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t have been my first choice. Money is a fine game – essentially a set collection game with an auction mechanic (well within the good doctor’s wheelhouse), but it’s just not one of those games that’s ever gotten me real excited. However, the iPad version is pretty special – providing a beautiful recreation of the game and throwing in six different AI’s with differing approaches/personalities to the game. This is a great example of taking a game that might not be all that popular in person and making it a bit more entertaining as an electronic offering (though an option to play against other humans would be nice). ($2.99 US)
- Werewolf-Curse of Pandora – I play Werewolf a fair bit – it’s just one of those games that seems to work for me (as I’m prone to having large groups of gamers in a single area). The biggest problem I have with the game is the need to carry around Werewolf cards or make new ones out of scrap paper when in a pinch. With this app, I don’t have to. Curse of Pandora is an absolutely gorgeous recreation of the popular party game which pits players against one another in a deductive voting game. Curse includes a ton of options to customize the game to your preferences, has anti-cheating measures and even includes original powers that I’ve not seen in any of the published versions of the game. And for the price, it’s really hard to say no to this one ($0.99 US).
- Keltis-Das Orakel – This spin-off of Keltis (which is itself a spin-off of Lost Cities) is a great example of a real-life board game that just makes more sense as an electronic game. Keltis, the second game on this list from Knizia, is a set collection game with a few twists thrown in by special cards that change game play. Not my favorite on this list, but a solid game that just works better in electronic form due to the ease and speed of play (that board just seems too much for a physical game…). ($4.99 US)
- Carcassonne – Let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, there’s a fair than better chance that you’re familiar with Carcassonne. The tile laying game that spawned a thousand expansions is scheduled to be available for the iPhone this May, with an iPad version following shortly thereafter. Not much is known about pricing at this time, but we do know that the game will feature single player and multi-player options and looks gorgeous. That said, we’ll see how this plays out on the screen (I love Carcassonne on the XBox360, but sometimes the map just gets too large to adequately see).
- Through the Desert – Yet another Knizia game, this area control game is well known in Euro-gamer circles for it’s pastel colored camels and deep game play. No word on when this will be released, but we know it’s currently in development (by Tribeflame, the same team that developed Keltis-Das Orakel).
So why did we go with two games that aren’t even released yet? Because while the iPad does seem to be a great platform for board games, it’s still a bit early to declare it the perfect board game device and the selection of designer board games is still pretty light (though with such strong early titles as Small World, it seems like a safe bet that the list will grow rapidly). We look forward to updating this list after the device has been on the market for a year!