From Bits to Chits: The Conclusion
We’ve talked about board games that would make great video games and video games that would make great board games, but now we should discuss what’s actually out there. What are some of the best, worst, and obscure adaptations?
SimCity: The Card Game
Magic: The Gathering shares at least one thing with Nirvana: they spawned a series of imitators in the 90’s as everyone and their Uncle Merle tried to cash in on a trend. I was just a few years too young to really be involved with either of these scenes, yet somehow I had a booster pack of SimCity cards. My grandparents had taken me inside Babbage’s, and the three dollar booster was the only thing in the store that fit in my measly budget of pocket lint and candy wrappers.
I thought they were trading cards, and I had no idea that the cards could be used as a game. I was also unaware of the need for a starter deck with a rulebook. Yet once I found out a game was inside, I decided to make up my own rules. I sat at my grandmothers TV table, and started building my city. When I had completely filled the table with with skyscrapers and post offices, it was time for disaster to strike so I could rebuild. Fans of the Sim City video games might be having fond memories of their own right now, but that was my first foray into the world Will Wright created.
Since I never found out how to play this game and haven’t played much of the video games, I can’t really say how great of an adaptation this was. I would love to give it a shot fifteen years later, however, so clue me in if you know where I can get a set of these cards.
Another interesting note about Sim City: The Card Game is that it was published by Mayfair Games. I was supporting Euro games in 1995 and didn’t even know it.
Tetris is another adaptation I’ve never played, but it actually looks pretty awesome. Released in 1989, it shares a lot in common with our 2009 “Best Light Game” runner-up, FITS. FITS is often compared to Tetris because it is so similar to how you might imagine Tetris to play as a board game. I’ve seen some YouTube clips of this game in motion, and it’s pretty fair to say that, yes, it is like a prehistoric FITS. You’re even scored on how many open spaces you have, just like in the Knizia game.
The big difference here seems to be that you play the game in real time, drawing tiles at random from a shared pile. I’ve seen some pretty heated system link matches of Tetris on Game Boy, and this game seems like it would follow suit in inspiring new ideas of how to murder your friends. Just replace a system link cable with cardboard L shapes.
John-Michael tells me he has actually played this game. In fact, he may have mentioned it’s in his basement somewhere. Or maybe not. Either way, this game has inspired an odyssey that will take me to every yard sale in the tri-county area looking for one.
I’ll skip the research on this one, and just go off of the astounding photos I’ve seen. This one image should tell you that this game lets you roll a Mecha Pac-Man around a maze, gobbling marbles. I’m going to make wild assumptions and say that in this game, four players are Mecha Pac-Men (Pac Fource?), and one player controls the ghosts. In other words, Descent via Japan.
This the last of the ancient board games I’m going to detail, but there are so many more: Frogger, Pitfall!, and Pole Position, for example. But it is so disheartening to see Board Game Geek list the authors of these titles as “Uncredited.” I’m sure most of these were quick cash-ins and most self-respecting game designers wouldn’t want to be associated with these, but too often I realize how recent it is in America to see an author’s name on the box of a game.
Half of Fantasy Flight’s Catalog
I know we seem like a shill for FFG most of the time, but the truth is, they make very good games. A lot of their games are licensed products too, often based on video games. Not every game is a winner — I was unimpressed with the WoW Adventure Game — but Starcraft, Doom, and the big box World of Warcraft game are all very solid games in their own right. I’m also looking forward to their take on Civilization, which seems to have the look of Civ V and the feel of Civ Rev.
While I dug up plenty of games from the past and showed that FFG release a variety of video game based board games, video games are still a popular inspiration for game publishers. CCP Games, designers of EVE Online and parent company of White Wolf, publishes the EVE: Conquests board game, Cryptozoic has picked up the rights to the World of Warcraft TCG, and Green Ronin is seeing a lot of success with their Dragon Age RPG, which I hope to review soon.
I could go on for a while about all the great and terrible games out there, and I don’t even want to get started on the numerous video game adaptations of board games (think: lots and lots of chess. Chessmaster, Battle Chess, Chess Royale with Cheese…). As you can see, there’s a lot of games. It’s obvious that there is a lot of market crossover between board gamers and video games, so it’s not surprising that publishers want to capitlize on that. Thankfully, the quality of these games has improved since the sugar cereal fueled marketing blitz of the 80’s, so we can count on fewer disappointments when we try to live deeper in our virtual worlds.