When is a video game not a video game? PETER HOSKIN reviews this week’s games
When is a video game not a video game? Why, if it’s a board game, of course: PETER HOSKIN reviews this week’s selection of games
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (£109.99)
The Search for Planet X (£44.99)
When is a video game not a video game? Of course, if it’s a board game.
There has been a lot of overlap between these two game disciplines in recent years. Board game adaptations of video games. Video game adaptations of board games.
But the form that caught my attention over Christmas, when the family didn’t quite make it, was a more intriguing form of hybrid: the app-supported board game.
These merge the very tactile experience of counters and cards and dice with the very edgy experience of pressing the screen of a phone or tablet. When it starts, both experiences complement each other.
Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (£109.99) comes in a box almost as bulky as Tolkien’s book; Inside are hundreds of beautifully illustrated cards
The game invites hours of exploration – especially when you add one of the Journeys In Middle-earth expansion sets
And it comes off very well in Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth (****, £109.99). This app-supported board game comes in a box almost as bulky as Tolkien’s book; Inside are hundreds of beautifully illustrated maps, dozens of small cardboard landscapes, and a set of nicely detailed plastic miniatures. Setting this thing up is a tedious task in itself.
Then download the app, which not only enhances the atmosphere of your tabletop sessions – although it certainly does that with stirring music and storytelling – but also guides you and up to four others through various campaigns against Sauron’s insidious agents.
Where to place map tiles; what happens in each; the mood swings of all the goblins and balrogs…all of these things are controlled by the app. And thanks to its digital intelligence, no two games ever play out exactly the same.
It makes for hours of exploration – especially when you add in one of Journeys In Middle-earth’s expansion sets – but be warned it can be quite challenging in the spirit of the Ring-bearer’s quest.
The Search For Planet X (£44.99) is a more traditional type of board game that pits you and up to three others against each other to discover a new planet in deep space
There are a lot of monsters, maybe a bit too much combat, and it’s almost impossible to get through the campaigns unscathed.
Still, I liked it so much that I’m now checking out the same company’s app-supported Descent: Legends Of The Dark. More monsters. More fights. And an even bigger box.
In the meantime, however, The Search For Planet X (****, £44.99) was a welcome change. This is a more traditional type of board game that pits you and up to three others against each other to discover a new planet in deep space.
Think of it as a scientific, intergalactic take on Cluedo: It was the gas cloud in Sector 1 that experts verified existed…
The app in this case is a more clinical affair. It serves to randomize the choices of celestial bodies on the game board and provide players with new information about the night sky. But in the end it adds a lot to the fun as you protect your phone and its secret knowledge from the eyes of rival astronomers.
Now just give me Cluedo herself, with an app that lets you date Miss Scarlet. That would certainly have helped make Christmas pass by merrily.
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