One of the things I love about games is that there are so many evolving and new mechanics and elements every time you look at what game designers are creating. In this article I pulled together a few highlights from some of the games that are doing something new and unique in the design, mechanic or game play arena. I hope this inspires the game designer that lives in each one of us!
Chronicles of Crime’s Use of Technology
If you ever wanted to experience an episode of CSI as the lead investigator, this is your playground!
Because of how the game utilizes technology, the game world is massive and the options for how you want to play are nearly limitless.
In this cooperative crime solver, players are given a scenario, with just a crime scene or perhaps a missing person to start with. One player explores the crime scene on their device (with or without the 3D viewer) and looks for clues while the other(s) pick up the clue cards mentioned. Scan your clues to see what you have that may be useful. You can go to locations, question people, question people about clues, and call up your colleagues to learn more about clues or people’s motivations.
Each world is quite large with plenty of red herrings and events that happen during your investigation.
What game designers can take away from this game is how technology can truly augment and make a game’s world scaleable in a way that physical components make unfeasible. If you were to try to create this game completely physically, it would be very cumbersome to play. Likewise, an application-only game would lie flat without the ability to cooperate with your fellow detectives to solve the crime. The application and VR make this a true hybrid board and application game.
I hope we see more games that fully utilize the possibility of technology to create immersive worlds for board games.
I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of designer Ken Shannon at Gen Con and he was super excited to share Maiden’s Quest.
What’s unique about Maiden’s Quest is that it is a card game played entirely in your hand. No table, specific location or specific set of time is needed to play this game. Create your deck, shuffle and then play anywhere, popping it into your pocket or purse to play while you wait in a line. While very much structured as a solo game, there are rules for cooperative play, and each box can create 2 decks (for two players).
In Maiden’s Quest, you are a maiden trying to escape a tower and captor. You build your deck, including items such as your powerful dress, characteristics such as charisma, cunning and strength, and random item cards such as bunny slippers, swords, and fairy dust. You also include your captor (the boss you must defeat to win), other adversaries, treasure boxes and potential allies. As you encounter your adversaries, you’ll be able to use the next five cards in your deck to help you escape or defeat it. As you vanquish enemies, your items and stats grow more powerful, just as you climb the levels o the tower to face more difficult adversaries, and eventually your captor.
Game designers can take a lot away from this game. Just the fact that you can pause this game and play again at any time and any place is pretty neat. While mainly a solo game, the option of cooperative play and the legacy elements are nice additions – I like how the legacy items are completely optional. Also, just how you use the cards to upgrade and downgrade and move through levels is pretty awesome.
While there are some challenges I discuss in my video review of Maiden’s Quest, I think future designers can devise improvements and really take the unique mechanics in Maiden’s Quest to the next level.
In addition, the theme is very empowering for women; while this type of theme shouldn’t stand on it’s own, the theme matches the game mechanics, which is a big attraction to me. Big thanks for Ken Shannon for devising this game!
Ultimate Werewolf is a classic in our household. What Ultimate Werewolf Legacy does is combine those classic elements with a unique story experience that is sure to make even more memories with your (large) gaming group.
In Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, players are given a House (or family) in addition to their secret identity card. While your identity (villager or werewolf) changes from game to game (or year to year in the story), your name and house remain the same. It adds a different element to a well-known game. At one point we choose as a group not to open a box, and now it will forever remain a mystery! (Until we purchase another and play again!).
What can game designers take away from the success of this game?
One-time play (legacy) games are gaining in popularity, but often players don’t know what to do with the game after it is complete. Ultimate Werewolf Legacy solves this problem by containing the game in a nice book, where you can track everything that happened and create a nice keepsake of the game that can adorn your shelf or coffee table long after you’re done. Some of our group’s most intense memories and stories are from playing werewolf, and the final keepsake is a big plus!
Sagrada is a turn-based strategy game where you are building your stained glass mosaic using colored dice. However, you must follow certain rules for building (for each adjacent piece, the color and number must be different than those surrounding it) in addition to following the pattern on your individual window building plans.
It’s also a great game to build productive struggle and learning from mistakes, because you get much better the more you play. Although competitive, you can also just play to beat your personal score each game.
I think game designers can take away from Sagrada how perfectly the theme complements the game mechanics. And the art and components add even more. I love how the dice fit perfectly into the player board (no sliding or jostling around here).
When the different elements of a game fit together so perfectly, it creates something special that players notice. No surprise, Sagrada has won a ton of awards these past two years since it was published.
A recent addition, the expansion, adds up to two additional players, as well as more objective cards and more tools. Additionally, you can add individual dice pools to draw from, which can negate some of the competitiveness I mentioned in my original review of the base game.
For many of us, classic board games remain a beloved part of our childhoods. Maybe Trivial Pursuit with family over the weekends, or perhaps a game of Snakes and Ladders with friends after school.
No matter your favorite board game, there’s likely a digitized version of it. Whether a video game, online game or a mobile app. Some games are successful (Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride), and others are downright weird (Surgery Simulation, Monopoly Slots).
Here are the online and/or video game versions of classic board games worth knowing about. Are they worthy successors to their tabletop origins? That’s up for you to decide.
Dungeons and Dragons
Okay – so Dungeons and Dragons is not technically a board game (and not the only time you’ll find the definition is loose in this round-up). However, it is most definitely a game that will illicit nostalgia in any 80’s kids.
The world famous role-playing game known as Dungeons and Dragons spawned several video games which vary considerably in quality. Many of these video games drew from the D&D universe in creating characters and plots. Others are built entirely around the distinctive role-playing aspect.
The best Dungeons and Dragons video game of all time? According to Ian Williams at PASTE magazine, that prestigious title goes to Planescape: Torment of 1991, but is closely followed by Bioware’s Baldur Gate from 2000.
We’ll also mention the ambitious Neverwinter Nights take on the RPG. This allowed up to 64 players to connect to a single server when it was released in 2002.
Words with Friends
The only way you haven’t heard of Zynga’s hugely successful take on Scrabble is if you’ve somehow managed to resist Facebook over the past ten years.
Annoying as those game invitations are (especially from your twelve-old nephew who failed to take the hint when you spelled out ‘vexatious’), Words with Friends is a great game.
Typically played through Facebook, but also available as a stand-alone app, the modern version of Scrabble allows you to challenge contacts in your friends lists, or get randomly paired with complete strangers. You may have heard heartwarming stories of relationships that blossomed over random pairings of opponents.
The closest thing you’ll get to the classic tabletop Operation in video game format is the utterly bizarre Surgeon Simulator.
After the disturbing Goat Simulator, pretty much any game ending with ‘simulator’ should be avoided. Instead they offer surreal gameplay with intentionally ridiculous graphics.
Bossa Studios’ Surgeon Simulator is no exception. It’s notoriously difficult controls make picking up tools as challenging as the actual surgery part. Grotesque, unrealistic, strange – but with the same stress factor which makes the original Operation board game so much fun. Surgeon Simulator is worth a go if you want a laugh. Or maybe just watch YouTuber ‘Markiplier’ get hilariously frustrated playing the game.
When you’re playing the Battleship board game, you have to imagine those epic explosions as you sink your opponent’s ship. Not so in the 2012 video game. Although receiving mostly negative reviews for Xbox and PS3, it was well-received on DS and Wii. On the latter consoles, the game used the more traditional format of a turn-based strategy game. But the Xbox and PS3 versions, featuring a first-person shooter mode, were much less popular.
If you’re a big fan of the board game and want to see Battleship come to life with animation and sound, then the video game might still be worth your time.
Monopoly inspired many online multiplayer games. However, the online casino slots is definitively one of the more bizarre adaptations of a classic board game.
Admittedly, Monopoly is a game all about money, albeit virtual. So it’s not too far-fetched to consider its theme applied to games where you can win real cash. There are several different Monopoly slots that are played both online or in traditional slot machine format at regular casinos. Featured on the reels, instead of classic fruit symbols, are the famous game pieces and the Monopoly Man, who usually function as the ‘Wild’ or ‘Scatter symbol.
Strategy meets geography in the universally loved Risk, and its potential as a video game has perhaps not quite been realized.
Possibly the reason no full-scale Risk video game has yet been released is because players who want a more elaborate version of the board game opt instead for game like Civilization. Risk: Global Domination was released in 2003 to PlayStation 2 and received mixed reviews.
One thing which arguably makes the video game preferable to the board game is the ability to collect medals by progressing in the game. In addition, it offers different gameplay modes.
Pictionary has taken many online formats with various names. But it’s always based on the same basic concept of one party guessing what the other is drawing. There’s an official Pictionary app where two or more friends join an online game and play at the same time.
You can also play a version of the game in your browser, known as Drawasaurus – or else try Draw Something through Facebook.
You may be surprised to know that Pictionary, just like Chess or Solitaire, can also be played against a computer. Artificial intelligence, developed by Google, can recognize the subject of your sketches and doodles with alarming accuracy. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.
The murder mystery premise of Cluedo (or Clue, if you’re in North America) makes for a fun online gaming experience.
Marmalade Game Studios brought the iconic game to life in both app and desktop format in 2016. Reviews have been positive. The gameplay includes the typical elements of the board game, such as weapon and character cards, and suspect sheets for deduction. You can play against an AI or else join an online game of up to six players.
Perhaps the most fun part of the game is seeing the different mansion rooms brought to life with such amazing detail and color.
Carcassonne isn’t the only turn-based strategy board game to debut on Xbox in 2007. Vivendi games also based a video game on Settlers of Catan. However Carcassonne is the only game of the two which can still be purchased or accessed through Xbox Live Arcade today.
The more successful Carcassonne includes expansions to make the game extra interesting. In addition, four people can play offline on the same console. The app, meanwhile, allows for up to six players in online mode.
An obvious, and arguably even boring, addition – yet a game without which this list could not be complete. We’re of course talking about chess.
There’s a countless number of websites and apps through which you can play the 1,500 year-old strategy game. But did you know that humans could first play chess against a computer as early as 1974? And a World Chess Champion was beaten by a computer for the first time in 1996?
Well, let me introduce you to the crazy concept of three player chess. That’s right – you can go straight to this website, invite two equally nerdy friends to join a game, and then battle it out over a three-player chess board. Good luck!
We focused on the most classic of all board games in this article. We’ve no doubt missed out on mentioning some other truly epic tabletop-to-online game transitions. Did you know, for example, that you can play Cards Against Humanity online?
But for all the online variants of traditional board games, there’s something to be said for crowding around a table with friends, holding physical game pieces in your hand, and being able to literally tear apart the rules book when things aren’t going your way.
Monopoly is a hugely popular board game created initially by Lizzie Maggie, in an attempt to highlight the economic theories of Henry George.
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Monopoly was first released in 1935 (although initially conceived in 1903), and is evidently a timeless classic which is by far the most popular board game that’s ever existed. It has seen multiple variants being released, including some unconventional yet quite imaginable versions such as ‘Monopoly Gamer.’ It’s simple and easy-to-learn concept offers decent gameplay and in some cases can be played by as many as ten people simultaneously.
Sounds great so far, but when you actually scratch beneath the surface, it is clear that Monopoly is not all it’s cracked up to be. The first few games you ever play you’ll be hooked, but then starts a steady regression of the enjoyment until the very idea of the game makes you scrunch up your face in horror.
Winning Over Enjoyment
Nobody likes to lose. Whether it’s an Olympic finals, or simply just another game of Monopoly with your roommate, the desire to win is strong. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of Monopoly is the trading side of things. But you know every game you’ll play there is going to be that one player who just won’t trade.
Free will and all, that is fair enough. However, to win and therefore end the game, players must go bankrupt. For this to happen, properties (hotels and houses) must be built as the rent cost for the ‘site only’ is pittance. All sites of the same colour must be owned in order to build hotels and houses, so if one player has one card of each colour, they can effectively ensure the game does not pass the primal stage and onto the exciting part where everyone has hotels and houses.
Instead, that one player may just have one set of properties with hotels on them, giving them the only significant power to bankrupt other players. Sure they will win, but damn will it be a boring game. But I guess that is literally the definition of a monopoly.
Mayfair is the most expensive property in the traditional UK Monopoly.
Do You Have a Spare Ten Hours?
Ever sat down with a group of friends or your family, wanting to play a board game and intending said game to go on for 10 hours? No, of course you haven’t! That sounds like a hellish reality But that is what you are going to get when you play Monopoly. Especially when one player is as described in the previous point.
A stalemate is very much a possibility, where perhaps the last two players remaining have a balanced share of properties. What results is then a scenario where unless one player lands on Mayfair and Park Lane (with hotels) ten turns in succession, it is nigh-on impossible to actually make the opponent bankrupt. Strap in for hours of uninterrupted ‘fun.’ Monopoly? More like very balanced and equal market…
What Are the Rules Again?
As mentioned earlier, this game is seriously popular. Everyone has heard of it and knows how to play it, therefore nobody actually ever takes a couple of minutes to sit down and look at the rules. With Monopoly being over 80 years old, in that time hybrid versions (where players adapt existing and adopt new rules) have become more of the norm. This has lead to confusion and no common house style played by all players.
Landing on ‘Go’ gets you double the money – no it doesn’t. Landing on ‘Free Parking’ wins you all fines and tax money that’s accumulated previously – nope, they’re meant to go to the bank in the first place. You’re in jail so I don’t have to pay you rent – wrong again! Convicts have rights too!
It’s All Luck and No Strategy
Is there any skill involved at all in Monopoly? Or is it all simply just luck? Definitely the latter. There’s no real strategy to adopt in Monopoly.
It’s not like other board games or even video games, where strategy is absolutely paramount to ensure you have the best possible chance of victory. Whether it’s staying away from populated areas in a battle royale to survive longer, or perhaps thinking tactically when choosing to attack in a battle situation, most games require some sort of strategy to succeed.
Whereas with Monopoly, players simply buy property when they can and generally let the dice decide their fate.
…Okay it’s Alright
Perhaps we’ve been a little harsh on the game here. At the end of the day, you don’t sell over 250 million copies and not be fun and entertaining.
However, it just seems that as you get older and have experienced that excitement for the first couple of times, the novelty fades somewhat.
Is it an all-time great? I think it’s safe to say it is. However, it is also definitely overrated nowadays and possesses a few major flaws.
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The month of October is upon us, or as my boss said, “Happy Halloween month!” If you’re looking for some great horror-themed games to play this month leading up to Halloween, we’ve got you covered here at Unfiltered Gamer.
We’ll start with a few family friendly games, then delve into the darker horror themes later on!
Haunt the House
Haunt the House by Kids Table Board Gaming (KTBG) is a 2-4 player game for ages 8+. In Haunt the House, players play as ghosts trying to scare away the ghost hunters. It is a shorter, family-friendly game, taking about half an hour to play.
Twisting the role of the players to be the frighteners, instead of the frightened, helps ghosts seem like something less scary and more relatable. Also, many of the game pieces glow in the dark, which adds a fun bit of whimsy for a crisp, fall evening.
Lucidity has been on a lot of our tops and favorites lists since it launched on Kickstarter last year, and in addition to having great mechanics, the game has a cool factor that elevates it in the horror theme space.
It is a push your luck style game, with beautiful and terrible dice. If/when you bust, you become a nightmare with special powers, and you still have a chance to win!
Ages 14+, the deluxe version of the game came with two art styles, one more kid-friendly, and one darker. It plays 1-4 players and takes about half an hour to play, sometimes less!
Lucidity - Kickstarter Board Game Review - YouTube
Bullets and Teeth
Bullets and Teeth is a great horror card game! In Bullets and Teeth, players are running from a horde of zombies, taking turns acting as the bait. Remember, you don’t have to outrun the zombies, you just have to outrun your friends. It plays 3-5 players, and last about 20 minutes, unless your friends are really into it!
Bullets and Teeth - Unfiltered Gamer - Kickstarter Card Game Review - YouTube
Ghost Stories is a classic. A cooperative game that is super difficult to beat, this 1-4 player game is overflowing with difficult decisions, multiple things to juggle and just as many ways for the players to lose.
This game is a bit longer than some of the others, at least an hour, unless you fail and fall horribly to the legions of ghosts.
Growl is my new favorite werewolf-style party social deduction game. Unlike traditional werewolf, it’s a lot more difficult to die, so players tend to be able to play longer (sometimes we have zero players die). We love how it can play up to 10 players, but the minimum required is 4, which is less than most social deduction games. The cards you have to swap with other players gives you clues as to who might be a werewolf, and who is just a villager trying to survive, like yourself!
Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get the game in time for this Halloween, but you can still pre-order Growl and have it in time for the winter holidays.
Growl - Card Game Review - YouTube
Escape the Dark Castle
This role-playing style cooperative game has all players (1-4) waking up deep inside a dark castle. With very limited supplies and specialized abilities, you have to work together to defeat the obstacles and denizens you encounter in the dark castle.
The art and theme of this game is perfect for a candle-lit October evening. Taking turns reading the encounter cards aloud adds to the ambiance and the tension! With 30 minutes you a game, you can immediately play another game, as the story cards change each game.
Escape the Dark Castle - Board Game Review - YouTube
Another cooperative game (you can tell I get easily scared this time of year and need to trust my friends!), Elder Sign is a 1-8 player dice rolling adventure game that takes over an hour to play.
Immersed in the world of Arkham University and Cthulu, players take on the role of investigators working together to close gates before a big bad gets through. Players roll dice to complete different adventures, gaining benefits and sometimes elder signs that can be used to stop the gate from opening. The most entertainment though is definitely when the Ancient One does get through before players close the gate. These guys are no joke and can easily decimate an unprepared team!
This game is intense! Especially if you are playing as the famed vampire Count Dracula, attempting to evade the rest of the players as they hunt you across Europe. Dracula has a few tricks up his sleeve (as do the hunters) in this hidden movement, one vs. many game.
For groups of 2-5 players, the game takes around 3 hours to play. Fantasy Flight will be releasing a fourth edition soon, but if you can’t wait, it’s available on Amazon.
Thank you for reading through my list of favorite horror games for this season. I hope you found a new game to try out or two. Please let me know in the comments if I missed any of your favorites!
Unfiltered Gamer was not paid to post about any of the board games above – while some games were given to us for free, the review is our unfiltered opinion. Some links go to affiliate links which help contribute to the upkeep of this site. Thank you for supporting Unfiltered Gamer!