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5 Great Tabletop Game Conversions for iPad

Digital versions of your favorite tabletop games are becoming popular. They offer some fantastic benefits but also sacrifice some of the experience for convenience.

Virtual or Actual?

There are benefits and disadvantages to both iOS and physical versions of games.

It's hard to cluster four players around a single iPad to play a game, but cleanup and setup is way, way faster with the iOS versions. Some titles can be sent to an Apple TV with AirPlay or Apple's Lightning to HDMI adapter, making the small screen less of an issue.

"House rules" are nearly impossible on iOS games, unless already selectable in a preference somewhere in the game —for instance, some of the more popular Monopoly rules, like money on the "Free Parking" space are generally toggle-able.

One might think that the barrier to entry on the iOS is the cost of the iPad, but if you add up all the savings for all five titles here, you're looking at about $500, far more than the retail of a new iPad.

Regardless of the list of pros and cons, iPad gaming goes far beyond simple school-house favorites, with something for everybody.


Ticket to Ride

"Ticket to Ride" is a railway-themed board game designed by Alan R. Moon and published for the tabletop in 2004 by Days of Wonder. It was developed for iOS, and was among the first of the Eurogame translations to hit the Apple ecosystem when it was released in 2011 for the iPad.

The game has a relatively simple non-collectible resource deck mechanism, with players attempting to complete railways connecting one city to the next, also selected randomly from a separate deck.

Scotland Yard

"Scotland Yard" is a board game in which a team of players, as police, cooperate to track down a player controlling a criminal around a board representing the streets of London. It is eponymously named after Scotland Yard, the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police Service.

"Scotland Yard" is an asymmetric board game, and unusual in that the detective players work cooperatively rather than competitively, solving a variant of the classic pursuit-evasion logical and logistical problem under a time constraint.

Neuroshima Hex

"Neuroshima Hex" by Polish publisher Wydawnictwo Portal is played on a hexagonal board. Each player periodically draws from a deck of hexagonal tiles, symbolizing different types of military units.

Annotations on the tiles denote the combat strength of each unit. Each player has one special headquarters tile, with players take turns placing their generally immobile tiles on the board with the goal of destroying the opposition's HQ tile.

At first glance, the strategy seems simple, but different units have different special abilities, like a net to disable a nearby unit, or fast speed, to act before another unit. Other units have no inherent offensive potential, but give boosts to units around them.

Space Hulk

"Space Hulk" is set in the "Warhammer 40,000" universe, and draws a certain degree of inspiration from the Alien movies. A "Space Hulk" is a mass of ancient, derelict starships, asteroids, and other assorted space debris, which a group of Space Marine Terminators is sent to investigate.

One player takes the role of these Terminators, while the other player or the iPad controls the Genestealers, an aggressive alien species who have made their home aboard the Hulk.

Settlers of Catan

Known simply as "Catan" on the App Store, "The Settlers of Catan" is a multiplayer board game designed by Klaus Teuber and first published in 1995 in Germany by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag as "Die Siedler von Catan."

Players assume the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources.

Players are rewarded points as their settlements grow and their reach expands; the first to reach a set number of points is the winner. "The Settlers of Catan" was one of the first German-style board games to achieve popularity outside of Europe.