51: Hybrid

51: Hybrid

What do you think of electronic components in board games? Do they belong, and if so, what would you love to see them used for in future designs?

 

 

I think that if they’re used in the right way, it can be super interesting! I’d love to see more electronic components to be used to make the gaming experience more immersive and also to give games more replayability than they would otherwise have. It’d also be great to have electronic components used for kids games, so that kids can experience games without needing an adult to help make sure the game is going smoothly and to minimise other components and setup complexity.

Carla Kopp

I think that when it is done correctly, electronic components with board games can work extremely effectively. The second edition of Mansions of Madness is a great example, as it improves the players experience, cutting down on admin tasks and adding to the atmosphere. My only caveat is that electronic components should not act to alienate those people who are potentially unable to afford them…

Sam Illingworth

As an experience-first designer, I’d use electronics to add stimuli that elicit emotional responses from people, allow for many branching paths without needing a huge book, track character stats, and maybe even link the outcomes of group A’s game to group B’s – can you imagine a cross-legacy game? All of the electronics would have to add to what’s happening on the table, not distract from it. The implementation and set up would have to be transparent and seamless. Cost, internet access, batteries, support over the lifespan of the game… these are just some of the factors to consider with electronics.

Sen-Foong Lim

We’re seeing a lot of app integration in games, and I think there’s a lot of potential design space there (both good and bad). But I personally like the sound of using things like conductive ink (like Knizia’s 2003 game King Arthur), or RFID tags (like DropMix) to allow tabletop board games more power and flexibility while still acting like tabletop board games. I’m not sure if this is really feasible in a useful way though.

Seth Jaffee

It’d also be great to have electronic components used for kids games, so that kids can experience games without needing an adult to help make sure the game is going smoothly and to minimise other components and setup complexity. — Carla Kopp

When I started to design games, almost 4O years ago, I was sure virtual and real would soon merge in something like the Matrix – even when the Matrix came much later. Now I still think it might happen, but I’m not that sure, may be we’ll disappear first, and I know it will take time. Hybridisation might happen, and not only for games, but we’re not there yet. So far, I’ve enjoyed light stupid hybrids, such as Selfie Safari, but I’m not convinced by heavier games needing an app or an electronic component, if only because it usually means no drunk player, no spilling beer, etc… Electronic components – usually phones – still feel more special, more modern than cardboard and therefore make most games feel more formal than necessary. I can do with them, but I’m usually a bit wary.

Bruno Faidutti

Electronic components can have a place if well used in a board game. Apps that thematically drape timers in the game’s theme are one such use – and most people have phones 24/7. But if the technology gets in the way of the natural flow of a game, interfering in the social aspect or replacing things people love (dice rolling, etc) then it feels more like a video game with a physical mechanic slapped on. If in the end, it still feels like I am playing a board game, not a video game, then I welcome it.

Curt Covert

I feel that electronics must enhance the gameplay in a way non-electronics can’t, so no electronic dice please. Electronic timers are superior to sand timers, yet I’m in favour of ditching them as they’re essentially just additional plastic that none of us really need anymore. Most of us have cellphones with a timer, so I’m curious when we’ll stop adding that component and relying on the consumer to supply the timer. With all that said, I think clever electronics that add something of significance to the play can elevate the right game.

Kim Vandenbroucke

I’m entirely good with electronic components in games, but I’m a child of the late 70s / early 80s, a time where every second ad on kids TV was for some electronically enhanced game. Seeing how beautifully Restoration Games have updated Dark Tower gives me hope that we could see a renaissance in this style, especially with co-ops where the game does the heavy lifting in the background. Having to do the antagonistic elements in a game takes you out of the experience a bit, so if something else can do that for you, that can only be a good thing!

Michael Fox

Electronic components – usually phones – still feel more special, more modern than cardboard and therefore make most games feel more formal than necessary.Bruno Faidutti

They definitely belong, and are used to create novel experiences that won’t work as well without them. I’d like to see more boundary pushing. The best uses of them I’ve seen so far are as replacements for physical mechanisms that involve lots of upkeep or tedium. Once these systems are un by an app, they can be more complex. In X-Com the app runs the AI, allowing it to be more intricate than you could achieve with the more traditional “deck of cards” or “complex action flow charts”. Apps are also replacing “paragraph books” with a lot of success, such as with Chronicles of Crime’s “scanning QR codes” system. This allows story writers to make more intricate plots and to allow plot elements interact in surprising ways (such as an interview with one suspect leading to another changing their responses, etc). I’d love to see more games where players can interact with the app or electronic components in some novel way. Imagine this, for example, a sci-fi game where Hacking actions let you manipulate the internal rules of the game. In a classic board game this would be a real headache as players would have to be relearning rules all game. With an app, hacking could be limited to changing rules that the app manages in the background.

Jessey Wright

The techie in me wants them…the analog gamer in me loathes them. I see a future with app driven content, but I hope it goes that way, providing content – not a necessity to play an analog game.

Adrienne Ezell

There is no ‘platonic ideal’ boardgame. So whether something ‘belongs’ (whether that’s plastic, dexterity, or electronics) depends entirely on the design goals.

For me, Dropmix is a wonderful toy that needs both physicality and electronics.

I have enjoyed electronics taking the role of time-keeper, RNG-facilitator, or even GM. I could be curmudgeonly – or even just ‘truthful’ – and point out that I enjoy getting away from screens and focusing on the people around the table. I prefer to play ONUW doing the speech myself.

But there is room for everything – even if only as novelties – in our expanding world.

Bez Shahriari

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