2013 Workgroup Topic Proposals

How to make great in-situ digital board games

How can we create new shared experiences around a table that make the most out of tablets and smart phones?

I mentioned this topic a couple of years ago. I think that with the advent of games like Spaceteam, it’s even more relevant now.

There are some crazy ideas out there (like http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1613260297/golem-arcana?ref=live ) but no real design framework that I can find.

  • Can we come up with designs that solve the lack of hidden information problem without relying on randomness or on each player having his own hardware?
  • Are there games where players can play simultaneously without making the experience a mess? (or maybe, as in Spaceteam, how do we create new and fun kinds of mess?)
  • Are digitally-enforced rules the gateway to more tactical/strategic yet more accessible board games?

I’d like to find out 🙂

5 thoughts on “How to make great in-situ digital board games

  1. I would suggest broadening this. SpaceTeam is just a few locally-connected iOS devices, and already this opens the door to a number of interesting design possibilities with the same hardware framework, but there’s even more that could be done here.

    What about using smartphones as a necessary (or optional but augmenting) component to a physical tabletop board game? Already this year at Origins, I saw more than one board game that comes with its own free app download, usually as a themed timekeeping or scorekeeping device. What about using an app as a randomizer (think Dark Tower, Stop Thief, and other similar electronic board games, but now without the need to include an electronic device in the box)? What if each player has their own device and can use it to view their own private information (hidden stats or roles a la Mafia/Werewolf, viewing your hand of cards, etc.), especially if these are algorithmically generated in such a way that it couldn’t actually be done with a physical deck of cards? Or using a smartphone’s camera and image recognition to reveal hidden information on physical cards, via QR codes or some other mechanism – not just eye candy like “ooh, look, a 3D monster coming out of the card” but possibly some actual secret info, like a high-tech version of a secret decoder ring. Lots of possibilities here. (Yes, this would be a different market – think of it less as “selling a board game that requires people to have a smartphone” and more of “sell a smartphone app that comes with material components shipped to you”…)

    Or consider using multiple smartphones along with a shared big screen – like if you had a little HDMI dongle that you plugged into your TV or monitor input, and that received a signal from your smartphone via Bluetooth, so everyone has their own private information on their smartphone, plus public information on the TV. Or an app which requires N+1 devices for N players, where the extra device is placed on a table and visible to all, no need for fancy iOS-to-TV tech. (Or, heck, just consider the Wii U which is basically the same thing.) What could you do with that? Card games and board games are obvious (I’m sure Texas Hold ‘Em would sell well) but I’m also sure there are some interesting play patterns yet to be discovered.

  2. I really like these ideas, Ian.
    I also would like to explore the space for one tablet/phone, N players. Being in a shared space with a shared device can open up very interesting gameplay avenues.
    The most obvious is something along the lines of advanced Liar’s Dice, with maybe long-term strategies that play out over several turns, but what else is there?
    What can we do with a shared small screen?
    Editions Volumiques is doing some crazy things marrying iPads and game pieces. How far can we go?

  3. Space Cadets has a really nice implementation of a “value-add” for smartphones. In that game each player has one or more “role” cards, which are all wildly different in how you play the game. The cards have a brief summary of the actions you take on the front.

    But on the back, the have a QR code, which links to a short video explaining how you play that role. It sounds a bit crazy, but it was actually really useful to have everyone simultaneously reviewing the rules for their role via personal-streaming video.

  4. By the way, I pitched this on-site again this year. Not *quite* enough traction to make a group.

    Next year for sure, Stephane! Even if you and I have to go rogue!


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