For a first posting on this site, I though I would put up some ideas on a topic that is relevant in the future of games, how does technology help or hurt the boardgames. Let me set the stage with my background before I put up the ideas. First, I have been playing with games for a while. Starting with good old Avalon Hill all the way to today's publishing leaders like GMT. I been part of many clubs and attended a convention or two, but I am not a developer or a publisher. On my other side I am heavily in technology and have been for years. I find that it is very interesting, and lucrative, with new technology. This is especially true when it solve a problem and improves our lives.

With this stated, I would like to put forward some thoughts on applying technology to board games. I love the "real" games. The cardboard, the rules, the counters, the boards, all of it I love. The ability to tactilely move counters and roll dice really appeals to me and I will choose this over electronic games. I feel there is something unique about setting up and playing the game rather than just starting up an "app". I feel others do to or there would not be so many "real" games sold. But I also believe the demographic for the "real" board game players is getting older, older and older. I look to my son and his friends and electronic games are easier to setup play and get the instant gratification of a game. I say there is more satisfaction in setting up the game than is given. Studying the counters, maps and rules is very gratifying to me, it's like reading a novel that you need to figure out. Reviewing the stuff also makes me want to find out more about what the game is modeling. If it is a war game I am playing I will look to read more on the battles and the strategies. But I see with the electronic version that people play for something to pass the time or achieve the highest rating, but that's it nothing beyond it.

But technology and electronic versions can be a big help to the board game community. There are somethings that technology can magnify and help as well as open a bigger would to the cardboard world. First some of the simple stuff, rules, FAQ's, clarifications, updates stored electronically is huge. The fact that a game can be dynamic and have updates available in PDF or some electronic form makes one continue to play the game and look to it to evolve. Every game going back to the AH days can still have life with this technology. Second, helper apps, from dicerollers to spreadsheet apps, these help the play to remove some of the mundane tasks and focus on the counter moving and winning the game. Third and most important, social applications over this internet. From CSW to BGG to non game items like Facebook and Skype, all can take the boardgame experience even farther, but not as what you may think. I don't and will not advocate making electionic versions of the games and placing on there, but to find, communicate and play the boardgames together. My case in point, I currently have found other players from England, US, Canada, South America and China to play the games with. We play some with VASSAL and Cyberboard, but more often than naught with game in front of us and a Skype connection.

For those who have not heard of Skype, it is a tools to communicate with someone else, from computer to computer for free. You get a headset, something easily purchased, setup a free account, then connect with another player of a game you want to play and off you go. One other point you will need is a diceroller and you may need to iron out rules for any cards or non-dice tools, but not hard to resolve. The games can be very satisfying as you can open your worked to many new players, as stated above, I have world wide people who I can play with too. It is probably the biggest advancement that technology can bring to the boardgame world.

As for games on the mobile devices, it is still to soon to see what effect it will have. If it only gives you the same game in electronic form, the future will be limited. But if they are used to increase the cardboard game experience, then this will have more appeal. I believe the mantra for the use of these with the boardsgames needs to be "enhance not replace", continue with the "real" games but look to technology to enhance it.

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Comment by Dan Stueber on July 19, 2011 at 9:02am

In my opinion technology has definately helped me play more games than I used too. With a career, family, friends, and life in gerenral it is very difficult to find time to set up and play a game face to face. So I use ADC2 or vassal to play games. No need for me to worry about the cat or kids destroying the game because I simply save when done.

 

However, I would much rather have the actual game set up. There is something about staring at the actual map with the actual cardboard pieces on it. That was one of the reasons I got into wargaming; to play the actual games on a table. Maybe when I retire I will be able to....

Comment by David Mignerey on July 18, 2011 at 12:35pm

"how does technology help or hurt the boardgames"

I am not an AI technology expert in any sense. However, my reading of the literature suggests that AI is not much more advanced now than it was 10 years ago. In no way does it match the myriad of psychological, social, historical etc. viewpoints that a human being brings to the table or the unpredictable way everyone of us may react to a situation on the map/gameboard.

 

Plus, the broad sweep of a game map adds to the experience while the digital game has an almost antiseptic.

 

A group I am a member of; Columbus Area Boardgaming Society (CABS), packs in 100+ Euro and War Boardgamers four times + monthly. So, I think you can conclude that Boardgaming is healthy.

 

Sadly, we wargamers are a minority that I think will shrink long term.

 

Comment by Roger Morley on July 17, 2011 at 6:13am
I think the computer and gaming consoles really brought about the serious decline in board wargaming, but on the flip side, i think the Internet has actually brought new life into board wargaming, with the likes of Vassal and Cyberboard, plus wargaming companies can sell their games direct without the use of distributors and middlemen.
Comment by Stephen G on July 17, 2011 at 5:24am

Yep, Vassal and Skype has made a huge difference. Whil FTF is still the best experience, I find I am enjoying the actual physical set and breakdown of a cardboard game. I actually feel VASL has some advantages over FTF ASL due to features like hidden placement, winterization of boards, ease of applying an overlay etc.

 

The future may well be a digital playboard that handles set up and can then be unrolled and laid flat on a table and touch activated to move pieces etc.

 

That said, I'm not about to give up paper and cardboard any time soon.

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