Digital board game apps continue to be one of my favorite app experiences on my 12.9” iPad.
The tactile feel and large screen make it the ideal platform for consuming digital board game content…look at all of these titles that are available!
Unfortunately, 2021 saw the removal of quite a number of digital board game apps from the iOS App Store (many of them from Asmodee Digital) including: 9 Elefants, Abalone®, Assembly, Cahoots!, Camel Up, Card Quest, Chainsaw Warrior, Catch the Match, Club Beeper, Colt Express, Dream Home, Dreaming Dimension; Deck Hero, Gang of Four, January Uprising, Lost in the Dungeon, On Tour, Onitama, Perudo, Puerto Rico HD, Qwixx, Seikatsu: A Pet’s Life, Sheeping Around, Skip Solitaire, Splendor™, The Game, Thronebreaker, Tikal, Turn the Tide, Warhammer Quest, multiple Warhammer 40k apps and Zombie in My Pocket.
There is no clear reason why these were removed, it is likely due to a variety of reasons ranging from licenses changing hands with publishers, drops in sales meant it may not have been worthwhile paying to renew Apple developer license, and I suspect Asmodee’s purchase of Board Game Arena played a part as well.
It is a disturbing trend to say the least, but there are some developers working on new, great-looking digital board game adaptations of popular titles, which will be coming to iOS (as well as other platforms) THIS YEAR.
Here is a list of some of the upcoming digital board games that I am most looking forward to this year.
Quacks of Quedlinburg – Outline Development
German development studio, Outline Development previously brought iOS gamers fantastic digital adaptations of The Game, Qwixx, HexRoller and Noch mal!. Sadly both The Game and Qwixx were removed from the App Store last year due to a licensing change, but the studio also released a digital port of Kramer and Keisling’s wildlife park building game, Savannah Park.
Quacks of Quedlinburg will be the studio’s most ambitious project to date, however they have nearly completed the much-anticipated digital adaptation of this award-winning, push your luck bag-builder.
It is the 9-day Quedlinburg festival of quack doctors and you and your fellow charlatans must purchase good ingredients for your brew to help you make the best “healing” ointments in the land, winning you fame and fortune! Rolling profits back into your “business”, allows you to buy more and more powerful ingredients to put into your pot. Each round, player will simultaneously draw ingredients (one at a time) from their bags to add to their secret brews, however, don’t press your luck too much or you may try to add one ingredient too many and your potion will explode! It’s a super fun push your luck game with fun decisions and a great theme.
There was a small setback for the digital app last week when a late-found bug delayed its originally planned January 20th release, but otherwise it sounds like it’s just about ready for launch. As a HUGE fan of this game, I for one cannot wait to check out this digital release very soon!
Everdell – Dire Wolf Digital
With stunning digital adaptations of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, Lotus Digital, Sagrada, Raiders of the North Sea, Yellow & Yangtze, Root Board Game and The Fox in the Forest (which was just released this past Fall), the talented team at Dire Wolf Digital has consistently put out some of the BEST digital board game adaptations on iOS. Rather than just merely doing a cardboard on digital port (which in most cases would be plenty), they always take it to the next level, bringing the cardboard to life with beautiful visuals, sound and enhanced gameplay.
Their next project, Everdell from Tabletop Tycoon, is a gorgeous award-winning, card drafting strategy game that transports players to the charming valley of Everdell, leading a group of critters, racing to settle territories and cities and construct buildings before the Winter Moon rises. I’ve only had the opportunity to play the physical version of this game once (at PAX Unplugged), but I was immediately captivated by it. Having seen what the Dire Wolf Team did with Root, I have no doubt that this critter-filled game will be getting a digital treatment that is second to none.
The Networks – Wheeler Games
The Networks is an absolutely fantastic card-drafting and set collection game from designer Gil Hova, in which each player is a media mogul in charge of buying shows, stars and ads for their own TV network; deciding what time slots to put shows into and when to cancel them to maintain the highest number of viewers for their network and hopefully (more) than their opponents. The game is a blast, a great weight and features UHF-style TV show parody names and whimsical artwork from Travis Kinchy.
This is a game that I backed on Kickstarter when it was first released in 2016, then again for the Executives expansion and again for the two-player only variant, The Rival Networks. I cannot get it to the table often enough, so I am really looking forward to the digital release coming from the UK-based studio Wheeler Games.
This seems like a massive undertaking for a one-man studio, but Russell Wheeler has already previously released a digital adaptation of Reiner Knizia’s classic Masters Gallery (unfortunately only on Android at the moment) and Avowel (a digital port of Gil Hova’s/Formal Ferret Game’s) word game, Wordsy.
Due in Late 2022, The Networks: Digital will feature Solo play mode (like in the physical game), Single human player with multiple AI levels, Pass and play, Online play. Play vs friends, or in random matches, Weekly challenges and Tournament play. SO EXCITED!
Anyone interested in email updates on progress can sign up on Wheeler Games’ website.
Unmatched – Acram Digital
As was already previously reported on this very site, Acram Digital (the studio responsible for many brilliant digital board game adaptations including Eight-Minute Empire, Steam: Rails to Riches, Istanbul, Charterstone and (most recently) Concordia, have partnered with Restoration Games to bring their hit asymmetrical miniature tactical fighting game series, Unmatched, to digital platforms later this year.
Unmatched is a tactical, turn-based game where two (or more) people face off against each other in an epic battle. Each player controls a Hero and their sidekick(s). Each player has to perform two actions each turn – be it movement and card draw or playing an action card. The game ends when one of the Heroes (or Heroines) drops to zero health points. If one of the players runs out of cards – their Heroine (or Hero) starts rapidly bleeding out.
Mixing and matching sets can lead to crazy battles like Buffy The Vampire Slayer vs Bruce Lee or Deadpool vs Little Red Riding Hood. Acram Digital always puts out a stellar product and you can expect Unmatched Digital to have cross-platform Online Multiplayer w/ Synchronous and Asynchronous modes, 3 levels of AI for solo play purposes and more.
Look for this one sometime later this year.
Hero Realms – Wise Wizard Games
Finally, we have another studio that never disappoints, Wise Wizard Games, creators of such addictive deck builders as Star Realms, Cthulhu Realms and Epic Card Game.
After a successful Kickstarter last year (of which I was a backer), the Massachusetts-based studio is currently hard at work to bring their fantasy-themed deck battler Hero Realms to digital platforms. While the game is adapted from the same engine as Star Realms, the gameplay feels fresh thanks to the unique abilities of each player’s particular character archetype (Cleric, Fighter, Ranger, Thief, or Wizard) and this lends to very different strategies.
If you are unfamiliar with Hero Realms (or Star Realms), the basic gameplay is as follows:
Each player starts with a ten-card personal deck containing gold (for buying) and weapons (for combat). Each turn you get a new hand of five cards from your personal deck. When your deck runs out of cards, you shuffle your discard pile into your new deck.
Shared between all players is an 80-card Market Deck. The game begins with five cards from that deck revealed, creating the Market Row. As you play, you use gold to buy champion cards and action cards from the Market. These champions and actions can generate large amounts of gold, combat, or other powerful effects. You use combat to attack your opponent and their champions. When you reduce your opponent’s score (called health) to zero, you win!
As a Kickstarter backer, I’ve been able to play beta versions of the game for several months now and it is superb! The character classes allow for a ton of variety and force you to try different strategies. I love that you can level up your character across a multi-game campaign, upgrading both cards and your special abilities from an upgrade tree. There are multiple game modes, including a cooperative mode.
You can expect all the great features from Star Realms, including asynchronous and real-time cross-platform play, tournaments and more when Hero Realms: Digital releases this Summer.