Tag Archives: Ticket to Ride

State of the Union 2011: Part One – The Digital Bit

It’s already been said a lot this year, but 2011 really has been incredible for games. I’ll write about why I reckon this is so soon, but in this – the first of three end-of-year wrap-ups – I really wanted to focus on the iOS games that seem to have exploded this year. Sure, if you don’t have access to a device capable of playing them (iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch), this may well be no more than a vaguely interesting read (hopefully!) but I felt that these fantastic interpretations deserved a tip of the hat.

Seriously, I love this one. Exactly how a game should be translated to iOS.

Out of all the games I’ve played on my iPhone this year, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer has taken up a huge amount of my time. A perfect replica of the original release from Gary Games (which you can see a review of here), it’s a brilliant version of the quick-playing deck builder. It’s very easy to explain to new players yet still has enough depth in there to not leave experienced gamers bored. One of the most appealing aspects with Ascension is the fact it runs asynchronous play – a very important addition to any iOS game release! The push notifications that signify it’s your turn are always a welcome sight and turns take mere moments, but if your opposition are online, games can also be played in real time. With the recent addition of the first expansion (“Return of the Fallen”) there’s now a whole raft of new monsters to defeat, heroes to recruit and additional mechanics to try out, plus you can also combine both versions. An excellent game all round and one of my favourites of the year.

The daddy of them all is still going great, especially now it finally has expansions.

A long time favourite that has recently seen a new lease of life thanks to the addition of expansions is the fantastic Carcassonne. It’s been out for some time and is pretty much the poster child for how iOS games should be made: there’s an excellent user interface, the rules are straightforward and – again – there’s that all important asynchronous play facility. This has been a mainstay of my mobile gaming life since it was released back in 2010 and I always have a couple of games on the go, but with the recent additions of The River and Inns and Cathedrals expansions I’ve noticed a rise in the number of players who are getting back into it. One minor downside is the price – at £6.99 / $9.99 you don’t need a laser pointer to realise it is one of the most expensive iOS game releases, but it is well worth handing over the cash.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, sure – but Arkham fans will love it.

The portable version of Fantasy Flight’s dice-rolling extravaganza Elder Sign is an incredibly high quality production. Specifically built for solo play, it’s actually called Elder Sign: Omens and from the moment you boot it up you’ll be impressed. It’s a stunning looking game that sees you choose a group of four investigators looking to save the world from the Great Old One Azathoth. While it’s referred to as casting runes in the game, it’s all about rolling digital dice and matching them to symbols that make up missions. When missions are completed, the player will be rewarded with objects to assist their quest and – with luck – the titular Elder Signs that are required to imprison Azathoth for good. While I really enjoy this game, I’ve seen that it can be a bit marmite with others – the main feeling amongst those who have negative opinions is that it’s too difficult and random despite being a stripped back version of the original. However, if you’ve even got the slightest interest in the Cthulhu mythos, it’s a fun diversion. Now, if we could just get a few different GOOs to take on? Please?

Amazing how well this one works on such a small screen. A fantastic adaptation.

Another simplified version of a larger game next. Ticket to Ride Pocket was released specifically for iPhone and iPod Touch late in the autumn, the little brother to its big iPad sibling. This pocket version focuses on single-player action against a range of AI bots but also offers options for Pass & Play as well as Local Play – fantastic if you’ve got a couple of people armed with their phones! Using the original USA map, the game is incredibly speedy and does everything it can to make your life simple. Destination tickets can be prodded to have them show up on the map and placing tickets by playing cards is a simple matter of dragging your finger across the screen. Anyone who has sat around and tried out the original will take to this immediately, especially as it looks exactly the same as the tabletop game. A minor downside: there’s no compatibility with the iPad release, but to compensate for this Days of Wonder have made it dirt cheap!

There are, of course, hundreds of other games out there that you can play on your various shiny iOS devices, but those four mentioned will keep you happy for a minimum amount of cash. Not everything is a bright and shining piece of brilliance, admittedly: there’s a lot of digital takes on Hasbro titles that really feel like cash-in efforts, for example. However, a little digging about will throw out some little gems… just try typing “Knizia” into the search engine on the App Store and see how much pops up! Just avoid FiTS, OK? Through the Desert is pretty good though… maybe I’ll grab that one again…

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Episode 15 with Days of Wonder’s Mark Kaufman and the return of Daniel Solis!

It’s taken a little while to put Episode 15 together, but at last… here you go! Once again, there’s a pair of interviews for your listening pleasure, beginning with a discussion about the past, present and future of Days of Wonder with one of its co-founders, Mark Kaufman. DoW are (of course) responsible for some incredible games, not least Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44 and the excellent Colosseum. We discuss how technology is impacting on the company and how they become one of the most recognisable names in the industry, as well as their upcoming new release – Cargo Noir. After that, it’s the return of one of my favourite folks to talk to: Daniel Solis. Following his last appearance on the show, I had many emails asking when he’d return, so who am I to fly in the face of public opinion? We talk about designing in public, something Daniel has occasionally been known to do, and what’s more important – theme or mechanics?

Chris gets another episode off – preparing for a wedding is taking it’s toll! – but I hope this week’s competition makes up for it. You may be aware that one of my favourite Trading Card Games is the brilliant World of Warcraft TCG and I’d like to share the love. Thanks to the guys over at Tomy, The Little Metal Dog Show is giving away TWO Worldbreaker Epic Collections. Doesn’t matter where you are in the world – everyone is eligible to enter. There’s a question in the show that requires an answer which needs to be sent to littlemetaldog@gmail.com, making sure you’ve put ‘WoWTCG’ in the subject header. Closing date is Saturday 12th February 2011! Winners will be chosen at random from all correct entries and will be contacted via email, as well as on here.

Now, if you fancy an extra entry, you could always become a fan of the show over on Facebook! Yes, I’ve finally succumbed to the march of progress and put a Little Metal Dog Fanpage up. Have a look, spread the word, and keep an eye out over there for exclusive updates and upcoming competitions… you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Little-Metal-Dog-Show/118250901580941

Thank you, as always, for listening and supporting the show! It’s available now on iTunes or directly from this link right here – enjoy!

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News & Stuff – 25th June 2010

If it’s Friday, it must be Little Metal Dog News Time!

This week sees the return of one of America’s biggest gaming expos – The 35th Origins event takes place in Columbus, Ohio and has got a huge amount of stuff happening. Aside from first views of many new games and representation by most of the big gaming companies, the occasional curiosity springs up. For example, Microsoft have announce that their new computer interface – Surface – will be there, running a fully working version of the classic Settlers of Catan. Here’s a video if you fancy a look.

I love how the whole thing looks and runs. I think the best part is how they cope with the whole keeping your cards secret aspect – such a simple way to deal with it: you just push a button to flip them! While this isn’t the finished version, it certainly impressed me. So much so, I want one, right now. The gaming possibilities are endless! Vectorform (who are responsible for the conversion) are doing a great job. I’ll be doing a full report on Origins after the event has finished, so keep an eye out on the blog for updates.

It’s a time for reprints, it seems. Days of Wonder have announced that their originally Scandinavian-only version of Ticket to RideNordic Countries – is to be rereleased so the rest of the world can have a go. When it originally came outin 2008, more hardcore TtR fans did manage to get their hands on the limited English copies (it was also printed in limited stocks in French and German) but ended up paying something of a premium. Specifically designed for 2-3 players, it will now be available in more sensible numbers from September. Fantasy Flight have also announced a reversion of the Reiner Knizia co-op Lord Of The Rings, this time seeing it added to their Silver Line. The new box will be smaller but will still be exactly the same game, even retaining the artwork – the drawback though is that it will not be compatible with previously released expansions… another way for FFG to wring a few more dollars out of the cash cow, it seems!

(Also, after last week’s story about the Ticket To Ride World Championships, a winner has been crowned! Click here for the full story, and well done to all involved.)

Finally, the new Spielbox has hit the shelves, the third one since they started to publish the magazine in English as well as German. One of the guys I play with at my games club has his hands on it already and has posted about it here on his blog, but the thing that really caught my interest was the announcement of a Dominion competition. Rather than something simple such as designing a brand new card of two (I’m sure Donald X Vaccarino still has plenty in his mind!) entrants are required to submit a set of rules for a campaign version of the game. Curiously they’re not bound just to using the cards – dice, counters, meeples or whatever you can lay your hands on can be used. Results from previous rounds must also have an effect on forthcoming ones, which could make for some very interesting ideas…

In show news, Episode 5 is nearly ready to roll. There’s nearly 3300 subscribers now, which (to me) is reaching scary levels. To celebrate this massive amount, I’ll be running a little competition when the new show is officially out. Not sure what to give away yet, but it’ll certainly be game related!  Cheers for all your emails and messages, they’re all appreciated. Also, if you’re waiting for the new episode but want to listen to something good in the meantime, please check out the wonderful Robert Ashley’s A Life Well Wasted – while it concentrates on video game culture, it is so beautifully constructed and well researched, it always sounds great. One of those podcasts that you can listen to even if you’re not entirely into the subject matter.

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News and Stuff – 18th June 2010

This weekend sees the Final of the Ticket To Ride World Championships, taking place in the French town of Issy-les-Moulineaux at the Musée de la Carte à Jouer. Qualifiers have spent the last few months playing games all over the world in a bid to make it to this last blow-out and Saturday will see a series of matches taking place using various TtR set-ups. If you fancy watching it, you can go through the Days of Wonder website or Tric Trac TV – the overall winner will receive the glory of being recognised as the world’s best player, but will also walk off with a shiny set of gold train pieces and a trip on the legendary Orient Express – although surely that should be a prize for the winner of the Mystery Express championship (if that ever happens…)? The fun starts at 12 noon local time (11am in the UK, middle of the night in the US, I think).

Next up, while the more noted geeks amongst us will more than happily drag a few games along whenever we go on holiday, there’s not many of us who are able to have a whole vacation entirely based on games. However, now you – yes YOU – have the opportunity to spend your valuable time with one of the men behind everyone’s favourite gaming community. Board Game Geek’s very own Derk Solko is guest of honour on Geek Nation Tours Essen 2010 extravaganza, details of which you can find right here. Having looked through the itinerary, it actually looks pretty cool – Germany offers a lot more than just games, and people who take up this trip will experience the best it has to offer, including (of course!) plenty of beer und schnitzel. Wonder if I can get out of work?

As for the rest of the news… well, there’s not much except a few announcements of upcoming releases. The Mayfair version of Martin Wallace’s Automobile has finally had all artwork confirmed and shoudl be out by late Summer – Martin will also be a guest on an upcoming episode of the podcast! The latest iteration of the Out Of The Box 10 Days in… series has also just seen the light of day, this time seeing players travelling through the Americas – one day I’ll actually give this one a go! There’s also an expansion to the Frag Gold Edition (entitled FTW – they know their audience!) that seems to be offering pretty much more of the same – that’s due soon, as is AEG’s very pretty looking City of Thieves… So many games, so little time.

In show news, subscriber figures are still going crazy – over 2600 people now get the show automatically through iTunes, and there’s also a healthy amount grabbing the show directly from the site. Thank you to each and every single one of you – I’m still amazed that anyone listens, but appreciate that you take the time to do so. Obviously, if you want to get in touch, you can email me at littlemetaldog@gmail.com  – always gratefully received! There’s also going to be a rather splendid competition when episode five is released, so keep an eye out…

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Digital Love – Boardgaming on your 360

Good as it is to get your mates, gather around a table and throw some dice or cards around, sometimes it’s difficult to get stuff organised. In this age of technology there are many options available to people who want to get a game going though: there are many websites out there that offer the chance to play against real people or AI bots – BrettSpielWelt and gamesIplay both spring to mind, for example. Along with those, there are often flash versions of games on their official sites; Blokus is a good example, as mentioned in my recent review. iPhone versions are ubiquitous as well – the App Store is teeming with conversions and adaptations of great games. Online multiplayer is a bit of a rarity, but it doesn’t stop versions of Zooloretto and Catan being enjoyable. And don’t get me started on Words With Friends (actually, do, it’s a brilliant Scrabble clone that you can grab for free).

One great way of getting your fix is settling down in front of the TV with a controller in your hand and firing up your Xbox 360. While the PS3 is a great machine, it must be said that board gaming is not a well represented genre on the PlayStation Network. XBox Live Arcade is a much better proposition – there’s a fair few classics up there to play, and more to come. Dig into the Indie Games service and you’ll find yet more examples. To whet your appetite, here’s a list of five of the best on XBLA (and if you fancy a game of any of them, add me on Live; my GamerTag is Sumimasen).

Settlers of Catan:

Sun-Tzu? We're screwed! He wrote The Art of War!

The daddy of them all! The gateway classic is well adapted on 360, although I really wouldn’t bother playing against the AI. You really need to be playing Catan with mates online for one simple reason: The Trading. Once the computer opponents get it into their virtual brains what they want, they’ll cycle through the same offers of wood for sheep again and again and again. And again. With real people though, it’s a much better proposition – the interface is really easy to use, the tutorial is straightforward and graphically it’s very pleasing. Probably one of the better board games on Live.

Lost Cities:

I have no idea why I like this game so much.

It’s true – I’m an absolute junkie for Lost Cities. Probably my favourite 2-player game, it’s the story of two competing explorers going off on expeditions by playing numbered cards. Way better than it sounds, I promise. Playing in real life can be a bit of a pain for some people because it involves some pretty nasty maths, but that’s where the Live version improves the experience: it does all of the calculations for you, so even the numerically lazy can enjoy this fine game. Annoyingly it isn’t actually available on Live at the moment – it was published by Sierra Games who were recently bought out by Activision. Toys were thrown out of prams and Lost Cities was removed – it’s due to come back, though. The sooner the better.

Carcassonne:

If they forget about Farmers, punish them.

One of the best implementations of a board game on XBLA, Carcassonne was actually the first one released on the service. You can really tell that the developers love this game. It’s so easy to play, even a novice will be able to pick it up within moments – place tiles using the control stick and A, spin them with the triggers, and that’s it. The game even shows you spaces it’s fine to lay your tiles down – no mistakes here. There seems to be a decent amount of regular online opponents and the AI is pretty intelligent too, offering up a decent challenge. A nice touch is that you can also download a few of the expansions available for a small extra charge – but whoever you play with will need those expansions too, so if you’re looking for a human player to go against, make sure you’re set at the basic version.

Magic: The Gathering:

Wait until I throw out my Black Lotus.

I actually played Magic: The Gathering – Duels of The Planeswalkers (to give it the full name) before I tried out the actual CCG. In retrospect this was a pretty good call, simply because the XBLA game gives you a really simple introduction to the card game’s rules. You’re given a starter set of cards to play with, going up against a range of AI opponents – beat them and you’ll unlock new ones which you can then put into your deck. The computer characters offer up some pretty hefty challenges as you progress further into the game – this is no easy ride, especially as you near the end. You can also take it online against human opponents, but be ready to have your arse kicked – there are some scarily good players out there.

Ticket to Ride:

San Francisco to New York via Houston and Montreal. WHO'S WITH ME?

Up to five players can participate (real, AI or a mix) in Ticket to Ride – the original game is up on XBLA along with the European version, though like any expansion it’ll cost you a few extra Microsoft Points. Games can be completed pretty quickly as you don’t have the worry of tiny trains spilling out all over the place – everything is put down for you automatically, and routes and cards are very easy to select. It’s one of the more expensive offerings on the Marketplace, but it’s such a good way to play it I don’t begrudge the price.

So there you go – five ways to both hog the television and play some classic board games. If you want more, the best way is to try them out (and of course if you like them, buy them). It may not be as good as setting stuff up on your table, but they’re all good interpretations and well worth giving a try – and if you see me online, give me a shout!

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