If you have an Xbox 360, you have probably played Settlers of Catan. Heck, you have probably raged as your buddies trade you all the stone they have, and then use the monopoly card to take back all that stone. Dick move man! Dick move…
Anyway, I’m not here to talk about frustrating and probably strategically correct Catan moves. I’m here to talk about why the game caught on so quickly. Many people say it’s because much of the Xbox 360 community simply hadn’t played Catan before. Most people don’t have much experience with the world of strategic board games. Heck, most people really only know about Monopoly and Sorry. So when approached with a new cool game, it just caught on.
However, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. There are a lot of veteran Catan players who love the digital version of the game as well. Why is that?
Well, simply put, digital versions of board games are just easier to control than physical version, depending on how complicated it is. The more complicated the game is, the more digital versions are preferred.
Digital versions of board games never really caught on in the early days of gaming for several reasons. First of all, the games that were converted weren’t all that complicated. You saw a lot of Monopolies for the NES and SNES. But all you have to do with Monopoly is roll a die and basically buy anything you land on. Auctioning and buying buildings was actually a lot harder to do on an NES controller with two buttons.
But now we have controllers with a lot more buttons, and motion controls, and touch pads. In fact, touch pads alone have revolutionized the digital board game world. I think this is best shown in the digital version of Ticket to Ride for iOS and Android. Ticket to Ride is a game with a lot of pieces, a lot of decks to be shuffled, a lot of hands to manage, a lot of goals to shoot for, and so on. But in a digital interface, it is way, way, way easier to keep track of the cards in your hand and the moves you can make. Digital games of Ticket to Ride are, in my experience, 15 minutes shorter than physical versions just because everyone can figure out their turns a lot quicker.
Also, digital versions of board games make longer games a lot easier to handle. Look at Terra Mystica, which on average takes an hour and a half to two hours to play. However, the simple digital version which is implemented very bare bones style on a website (http://terra.snellman.net/) allows you to play the game by e-mail. You are sent a notification when it is your turn, and so you can simply take your move, shove your phone in your pocket, and go about your day. Heck, you can have 10 games running at a time and play them at your leisure, instead of sitting around a table and waiting for people to get over their analysis paralysis.
So I say we need more digital versions of board games out there. Heck, if people will drop $100 on the physical version of games like Caverna, they will probably drop $50 dollars on a well implemented digital version.
Former Contributing Writer