Sunday 17 May 2015


I recently played quite a few games of Ticket to Ride and other games in the series with my family, both the physical copies and the electronic versions on tablets and smartphones. I find that I enjoy the physical versions more, which puzzles me. They take longer to play. You need to spend time setting up and shuffling cards. You struggle with the many cards you need to hold in your hand. You need to manually count who has the longest chain of trains. The electronic versions are implemented very well, and a game can be played very quickly. The only problem we had was connectivity problems. Sometimes when playing with four devices, one of them takes a long time to connect to the game, or sometimes the connection drops. That can be frustrating, and I get impatient even more easily because the digital version plays very quickly, making any downtime feel even more unbearable.

Ticket To Ride

My rational mind tells me playing the digital version is no different from playing the physical version. Information-wise they are exactly the same. The rules are the same. Playing the digital version should be better, because the computer takes away all the tedious parts of the physical game, leaving you with the key decisions to make. The digital version should distill the game down to its best parts, its essence.

The problem I have with the digital version (which others may not have) is probably that it makes the game experience too fleeting. Being more efficient does not equate having more fun. You don't slow down to smell the roses or enjoy the scenery along the way. With a physical game, you can touch; you can see real, 3D objects; you can smell too, if that's your thing. They make the experience real. You are doing something with your hands, manipulating physical objects, interacting with real physics. There is the chink of those tiny train carriages clashing. There is more toil, but that's part of the fun, or at least something that makes you think you are having more fun. I have read a theory about why we love our children, and it may be applicable here. The theory says that we love our children very much because we have invested a lot of time and effort on them. This irks me a little, as I'm a parent myself. However there may be some truth in it. Maybe part of what makes me like Paths of Glory is how much brainpower it takes to play and how many counters you need to push around the board. Maybe the fiddliness of Indonesia is part of its charm, although we don't admit it or we complain about it.



Lord of Midnight said...

The parallel here is no different to those in business or work who prefers to build collaboration on a high-touch approach rather than high-tech.

Or those practising Kanban who still prefers moving sticky notes on a physical Kanban board when electronic vers are so easily available.

The physical tactile feeling of boards, cards, voice engages all our senses... while the electronic ver shuts down most of them.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Indeed the computer is a very new invention in the history of mankind and we are not yet able to suppress or change our many thousands of years of evolution. I wonder how the next one or two generations will be, who grow up already immersed in technology.

Rob said...

I would definitely rather play a physical game to an electronic version, as I love the "toy" aspect (playing with physical objects appeals to me more than virtual objects -- I do virtual things for my job!) and having a physical focus for interacting with your friends is more appealing to me than having a network between you, even if you are next to each other.

Greg W said...

I thought the Sentinels of the Multiverse app would be the best thing since sliced bread. For years I had heard from people how it is the "perfect game for IOS" because of how fiddly the board game is. Yet once I got the appt and played it a few times, I haven't been back to it since. It has been months! Yet I have played the physical game 10+ times, so who knows.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

There are quite a few good iOS games which I have bought, but only played a handful of times. I think I simply prefer playing face-to-face. Playing on iOS is a fallback for me now, i.e. when I feel like playing something but I don't have human players handy. Playing on iOS is like a different hobby from playing F2F. It's a hobby I enjoy less and spend less time on.

Chen J. Y. said...

If we are really to be Luddites, it seems to me that we will resist games like the XCOM Board Game and Alchemists. Picture this: you are trying to resist the lure of playing on "smart" devices by playing a physical board game. Then you are told that you need a smartphone app to play the physical board game. *FACEPALM*