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Controversy of Board Game Apps

Regrann from @mackothemeeple (6).jpgBoard gaming is an inherently social activity, where people have to be fully present to make the most of the experience. For that reason, I prefer that when people are playing a board game with me, that they kindly stay off their devices with the exception of taking a quick picture or two. It helps the game run smoother, and keeps people invested in the outcome of the game.


This policy has been fairly clear cut until recently. The trend of including apps into board gaming has become popular across a variety of different game types. I am on the fence about how I feel on this trend. It is clear that there are some clear positives of using apps in boardgames. They can help do a variety of different things that can benefit gameplay. For instance, many of these apps add a lot thematically that while could be included in other ways, really highlights the theme of the game. One game that does this very well is Meeple Circus. The addition of the music as a timer adds a lot to the theme, but otherwise a similar mechanic could be achieved with another kind of time keeper. Other games really benefit from apps as they add clarity and simplicity to gameplay. Both Mansions of Madness and the Unlock! Series come to mind when discussing this benefit. I love that these apps are so easy to use, and really help make set up a breeze.


Regrann from @mackothemeeple (5)While there are clearly benefits, I also see a lot of drawbacks to having these apps be apart of the game. Three reasons mostly stand out to me. First, when the phone is apart of the game, it seems that other people tend to be more likely to check their phone or be distracted by other devices during playing. I have found that this is especially true in games like Unlock! where there may not be specific turns. Second, I am terrified of breaking someone else’s device. I am a total klutz. Holding another person’s phone always makes me nervous. Finally, I hate having to have a charged device to play a game. It really limits the places that I might be able to play these games. While I normally have my phone charged and with me, I do not always want to use it’s entire charge on a game such as this. Remembering to charge iPads or Kindles is not always high on my priority list before game day.


I think while a well integrated app can really make a game stand out in great ways, I also worry that without proper consideration they can take away from a gaming experience. What do you think about this trend? Do you like the addition of apps into your board games?


4 thoughts on “Controversy of Board Game Apps

  1. While I have no trouble with apps in a game, I actually have never played with one. So maybe experience will make me decide differently!

    I do like how, with the advent of boardgaming social media, we have to make that caveat about phone usage: “with the exception of a picture or two.” LOL

    I also track my plays on Boardgame Stats, including the game length. Thus, I set up the game in there and let the timer run. So I’m on my phone then. But I can guarantee that I’m never on my phone texting, checking Twitter, or anything like that (unless somebody responds to my tweet, in which case I get a notification and I may consider the reply depending on what the response is)

    Does any of that make sense? LOL


    1. I laughed at the caveat too! I could not complain about people taking pictures because of my influence with social media. Though I do try to take my photos before or after the game has been played.

      I really want to try and start to log my plays. I had began to log them earlier last year, but fell out of the habit. It is pretty cool that you even include the time length. Once a game begins (or once I start explaining the rules) I do not check my phone for social reasons with the exception of emergencies. Most of the time I don’t even have the urge to, which is nice, but not too odd for me. I am not normally someone attached to my phone because I cannot have it on me during work since I am a teacher. That may be the difference between myself and others who I know struggle with this. I don’t mind a quick response to something either, but it bothers me when a person spends their whole time on their phone, and then struggles with AP because they did not think ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, someone spending their time on their phone and then not knowing what to do on their turn is a big no-no to me as well! As for my own usage: I try to take a picture every once in a while to let the kind folks on Twitter know I actually play board games every once in a while (and not only talk about them). More often than not, though, I get so caught up in the game, in planning my moves, watching what others do, joking and laughing with my fellow players that I entirely forget about the pictures.
        As for dedicated board game apps: My experience with them is limited. Except for app implementations of games (looking at you, Twilight Struggle), I’ve only played LEADERS which requires you to do a few things in the app. The app also does bookkeeping for you (very handy), allows for some secret actions (trying to sabotage a player without them knowing, forming an alliance…), and reinforces the visual style of the game. The app is used sparingly, though, and the most interesting action is still on the board with miniatures and dice and all that. The app doesn’t make LEADERS a great game – but it makes it better.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you’re right about not being as attached to your phone because you’re a teacher.

    And if you do want to log your plays, BG Stats is a wonderful app, and it’s even on Android now. You don’t have to do the timer if you don’t want to. Just log the play afterwards. But I like how it has a timer so, if you want to, you can have the time down to the minute.

    When I do that, I don’t include teaching or setup time, though. Just actual game play.

    But it’s so versatile you can use it however you want.

    It’s so great, I even did a blog post about it 🙂 :

    Since I did that post, I’ve since deleted and no longer keep track of iOS and online plays.


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