Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Electronic Gaming Tools: Play on Target Podcast Ep. 36

This week on Play of Target we look at electronics at the table. I start with a Luddite joke this session, but in reality I use much less tech at the table than I imagined ten+ years ago. As you'll hear in the episode, that's pretty much restricted to a machine playing ambient background music. On the other hand, I've also moved to gaming much more online- running and playing regularly. But even there I keep things pretty modest. I've seen GMs doing amazing dungeoneering tools with Roll20. OOH I pretty much stick to simple maps, tokens, an initiative tracker, and a dice roller. I'm torn between utility and the time necessary to get a handle on it. 

I also have to point out irony of connection/noise errors we had for this episode on Electronic Gaming Tools. 

Electronic Gaming Tools
Play on Target Episode Round Up

This year has seen the development of at least three board games using apps as a major component of the experience. Golem Arcana has a strange mix of the tactile awesomeness of a miniatures game with electronic tracking of the map, model statuses, and resolution. Its interesting, yet when I'm watching the demos, I'm not sure what those tools actually bring to the game. With a couple of exceptions, everything seems like it could be done just as easily without the apps. Perhaps you wouldn't have to flip through rules and notes as much? The app format has some costs as well. Golem Arcana uses abstracted zones rather than a measured map. I don't like the loss of terrain features that involves.

Fantasy Flight's X-Com tries to bring the experience of the video game to the tabletop. When I heard about this, I assumed it would be a co-op game where players moved their individual squad member and the app tracked line of sight and combat resolution. That seemed like a cool idea- I've always wanted to do an X-Com style game with Roll20. But the X-Com board game actually plays at the global level. Players have different roles have have to make timed decisions for the organization: allocate resources, launch interceptors, choose missions. That's less appealing to me, though it might be great. It reminds me of Space Alert, another timed game I thought I'd enjoy but ended up kind of hating. 

Alchemists offers a more conventional Euro game. The app in this helps track randomized hidden information. It contains a physical method for setting up and tracking that, but it requires a judge and a clunky cardboard matrix. The apps takes care of all of that. That's a pretty smart approach. The designers found a portion of the play experience which could be better served by an app. 

I think that's the real challenge facing these tools. They need to find some play element which obviously and incontrovertibly be awesome handled electronically. I suspect that's going to be an rpg designed with that in mind from the ground up. 

Electronic Gaming Tools
Play on Target Episode Round Up

If you like RPG Gaming podcasts, I hope you'll check it out. We take a focused approach- tackling a single topic each episode. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the podcast's page at

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