Tech Tabletop

pic2917096_mdUp until this point I didn’t really know how to feel about tech/tabletop cross over. I’m not talking about app versions of board games, but board games with an app that is somehow integrated. I didn’t feel much about it I guess. The first game I was interested in that did this was Alchemists, although I’m sure it wasn’t the first to do it. I was intrigued, but actually more put off than anything else. At the time I didn’t like the idea of something so organic to me needing a technology element. Also I liked that when it was ‘game time’ it means your phone is put away (which I get told off for nowadays because I’m always taking photos of games when I’m playing) I also wondered if it would work efficiently and possibly be annoying and disrupt the game. A couple of years on I am still thinking about buying Alchemists because I think it looks like fun and now I know that the app isn’t integral to the game itself, you can still play without it. The app in Alchemists is pretty basic; it combines ‘potion ingredients’ at random as far as I know. Recently I asked an Instagram friend if the game is good and if the app works ok and he said it did. I do think it’s slightly concerning if a game relies too heavily on an app so that any hitch would result in the game being unplayable. Darren at wrote a good article about this and I agree that it’s not exactly ideal if a few months down the line it’s not updated and runs badly.

However I’ve seen three games of late that have turned my head. First up is Mask of Anubis. I believe that this is the first board game to combine Virtual Reality with analog. Last year I wasn’t fussed with VR in the slightest. I’ve never been hugely into video games, or 3D or VR. I’m quite traditional. I have enjoyed video games in the past but I’m not very good at them. I had a Nintendo 3DS for a while but mainly became way too obsessed with it and frustrated. I tried an AR game called Spirit Camera which didn’t work very well and mostly annoyed the hell out me, I was like wow this would be so cool if it worked. Earlier this year I  tried a family member’s Oculus Rift. I didn’t have high hopes! Now I mainly regret that nobody filmed me using it, because I looked like a complete idiot but it was a lot of fun and I was mostly genuinely terrified. Despite having pretty hefty anxiety issues I’m often the first person to do anything scary that gets my adrenaline going, whether it’s horror movies, rides, ghost hunting, jumping off things, exploring places I shouldn’t, presentations, being in any kind of spotlight, things I pretty much fear and enjoy simultaneously. The Oculus felt… real. Watching everyone else playing I was a bit skeptical, but when I tried it I found it bizarre, like I knew I was in the front room, I could see the carpet slightly beneath me, I knew I was safe. But one of the demo games was being in a long hallway with a T Rex running toward me and I still screamed and removed the goggles immediately. Then of course I wanted to go again.  I saw a funny You Tube video of  an Oculus gamer that could not complete a horror game because he was too scared, and I completely understood (even though I really wanted him to finish!) because it is so real when you’re in it. So…. I guess I was converted.


Back to the tabletop stuff; Mask of Anubis. It’s a co-op game where one player wears a mask i.e.- self assemble phone holder/goggles, and enters an unexcavated Egyptian pyramid, which is like maze. The aim is to find the King’s chamber and the hidden treasure. Each person takes it in turns to wear the mask, and you each land in a  different spot, and you’ll see a 360-angle view of the maze through the VR app. You only have one minute to describe what you see in front of you so that the other players create the maze using the analog game pieces and solve the puzzle. I’m definitely down for the VR side, I think in the past few years it’s evolved to be so much better, so it’s not as…naff as it sounds but actually pretty awesome. I also thought of retro games like Atmosfear and the TV show Knightmare, very early 90’s, the kind of thing I think is cool. I’m definitely one of these grown adults who are still searching to recreate my childhood in some way. So I’m pretty much dying to try this game. I couldn’t help but to think ‘is this a bit gimmicky?’ but having read an interview with the designer Takashi Hamada I realised that his previous designs had all been geared towards those with visual impairments, and you can read the interview here if you are interested to find out more.


Another game that caught my eye recently is Queen Strike from Chinese publishers HoPLAY. It probably isn’t the kind of game I would usually play but I’d definitely be interested to try. This is another co-op analog/app driven game, this time requiring a tablet. In Queen Strike players move around the ‘Music Kingdom’ in a dungeon crawl fashion, collecting musical notes to complete a ‘Rainbow Score’ in order to undo some sort of magical spell. When you encounter the Queen’s guard you enter the “combat mode” which displayed in the 3D holographic app (a tablet set up in a cute platform) and this is the point where players use their combat cards to defeat the guard using a rock-paper-scissors mechanic. Event cards also bring some random animation into play. It looks to be a mix of cute/kitsch/traditional and innovative. Like Mask of Anubis, it’s finding a way of combining a simple tabletop game with the new fangled.

Lastly I want to mention a game that is nothing like the previous two in terms of game play but has a novel concept and has used  innovational printing technology to make a real life scented action-point-allowance-memory game. It’s called The Perfumer by Chu-Lan Kao and real fragrances are “printed” onto cards. Players collect ingredients from all over the world to fulfill custom perfume orders and are also on a mission to figure out a mysterious age-old formula by identifying ingredients…by smelling scented cards! This sounds pretty cool! It’s not for everyone, in fact this is possibly someones worst time ever. But it’s certainly different. There have been some questions posed to the designer as to the longevity of a game such as this. Apparently this printed scent technology has a shelf life of 1000 scratches and there are also spare cards included. Possibly booster packs as a future possibility. You can’t say fairer than that really.

I think at this point I have to say I’m all for it! This could be just the beginning for techy tabletop. Or not. For me at least I don’t think that anything can replace the traditional tabletop experience, part of me can’t help but to think ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ but I still feel that it’s a very exciting time for new possibilities and I’m looking forward to seeing what is dreamed up next. Because why not?

Next post- my ‘I wish I was at Essen wish list!’