A few years back my wife and I got on a kick of playing a board game together every night. Since this was before my world of board games were “card-driven” or “euro”, our choices were limited. We usually ended up playing Scrabble every night. We had fun and got better as we played.
We played with an official Scrabble dictionary by our sides. We used it on occasion to find words and certainly to verify spellings, but we weren’t allowed to bury our heads in the book until we found a word every turn – this kept the game from dragging on. I also had printed off a list of all the 2- and 3-letter words as well as the “Q without a U” words. I have no idea what some of them meant but they sure were useful. Our scores increased by quite a bit and we enjoyed the mental stimulation – not only of words and letter permutations but optimizing the score for each play as well. I look forward to using Scrabble as well as other board games as educational tools with my children (more on that in a future post).
But with work, family and other hobbies those game nights diminished. They also changed. We don’t play as often and when we do, we play Euro-style games when it’s the two of us or simpler games when our oldest joins us. However, recently the board game and especially Scrabble-itch has been scratched in a different manner: Wordsmith. It’s essentially an electronic version of Scrabble but with a different tile/letter distribution/value and board layout. The nice thing about this is that we can take turns when we have the free time, we don’t have to leave a board laying out – which wouldn’t last long with 3 kids under 5 around the house! Plus we still get to have a friendly competition in a game we are fairly well matched.
I’ve really enjoyed the ‘board game on a touchscreen’ experience with this app. I have sought out a few other games and so far it hasn’t been too bad. There is also more support from the major game publishers as well: Settlers of Catan is on just about every platform that exists. Days of Wonder has a couple of their games already on the iPad. Fantasy Flight Games recently put out a game and GMT is actively working on them.
I still prefer sitting down to a table with a board and friends, but I’m also excited at the possibilities of electronic board games in the future. Will these methods replace board games – I don’t think so. But the line between “video game” and “board game” has certainly been blurred, and in my mind, for the better.
I have Ticket to Ride, Catan and Carcassone for my Xbox and very much enjoy playing them electronically. The AI is not necessarily the best, but you can challenge real people via xbox live.