Board Game of the Year 2016: Twilight Struggle30 Dec 2016 3
It feels like mobile board games have had a bit of an up-and-down year in 2016. Don’t get us wrong, there have been some fantastic releases and digital ports show no sign of slowing down so 2017 should be a good one. But there have also been a few cases, like Colt Express and Galaxy of Trian that have showed it’s very easy to get a board game adaptation wrong by neglecting key mechanics.
The adaptation of Twilight Struggle however is a perfect example of how you can get a board game adaptation very, very right. It is ridiculous how good this game is in mobile form, and a lot of that is down to Playdek’s commitment to quality and about how they crafted a very robust multiplayer infrastructure for people.
You can read Kelsey’s review to find out more about why this deserves to win Boardgame GOTY, but we thought it might make a nice belated Christmas present to have the man himself come back and say a few words:
There’s a moment in American Beauty in which Annette Benning’s character walks in and asks her husband, Kevin Spacey’s character, whose car is out front. He responds “Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird—the car I have always wanted, and now I have it. I rule!” That’s part of what makes Twilight Struggle such a meaningful game for many of us. It held the top spot at BoardGameGeek longer than any other game, and for a decade or more, we longed to play. But it was finicky. It required exactly two players, and was famous for having a steep enough learning curve that it was best to play many times with a partner who was learning along with you. If you couldn’t arrange that, you might as well just leave it on the shelf at your favorite shop. Now, we have it, and it has been given the sort of translation we expect from Playdek (that is, brilliant). Every time I think I’ve found a flaw in this game—it’s too easy for one mistake to cause a nuclear war, say, or you can never tell which part of the world is about to become crucial, or the space race is cool but doesn’t really do much for a while—I reflect on the reality of the Cold War, and I’ve just been taught a lesson.
Many thanks to Kelsey for taking the time to come back and contribute to our GOTY schedule this year. You can find Kelsey and a few other old and current PTers over at the new outfit they've started called Stately Play, if you want to keep following their words and thoughts on videogames.
Runner-Up: Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Castles of Mad King Ludwig stands out not only for its expert adaptation, but also because it’s one of the few digital ports to have ignored online multiplayer and gotten away with it.
Other games have been punished for abandoning the social aspect of boardgames, but Ludwig’s particular design meant that the mobile game performed very well without it. As Kelsey states in his review:
While there are definitely a number of avenues for randomness to affect the result, in most of my losses, I felt outmanoeuvred rather than unable to draw the cards or rooms I needed. That makes Castles of Mad King Ludwig feel meaningful and serious enough to really engage the mind (jokes about boob- and penis-shaped rooms notwithstanding). Paradoxically, that's probably why it's smart to have foregone online play--Castles isn't as staid as chess, but it's more demanding than games with the mass appeal of Ticket to Ride, so the audience is likely smaller. If these are the corners we need to cut in order for games like this to pay off well enough that we get more of them, it's a compromise I'm glad to see adopted. But if it had online multiplayer, I'd be eager to challenge my fellow readers and staff to a game, so we at Pocket Tactics might be just the sort of people to feel the feature's absence while also appreciating the excellent solo and single-device options.
Congratulations to Playdek & Jeremiah Maher for their awards. Stay tuned for more GOTY coverage over the coming week.
To keep track of all the winners and runner-up’s during the 2016 Awards, please see the Awards Index Page.