From the Archive: Two Top Digital Boardgames

By Joe Robinson 18 Jul 2017 1

This is the first article in a new series we will be doing that will highlight strategy games that existed prior to the birth of Strategy Gamer. Overtime, our sister website the Wargamer has covered many a title that are just as much "strategy" as they are wargames, and that are highly relevant to the audience here.

From the Archive will bring older reviews over from The Wargamer, tied together by a core theme, to allow you to rediscover old gems while we work on exciting, new content for you on the latest upcoming releases.

In today's From the Archive, we're looking at boardgames! Boardgames are becoming more and more popular as the years go on, and they've been some cracking strategy-based releases in recent years. As boardgames grow in popularity, so too does the desire to port them to the digital space and provide new platforms for audiences (old and new) to experience these titles. The Wargamer reviewed two great examples of digital ports, and we've got their reviews to share with you today.

Twilight Struggle (PC, iOS, Android)

This is a master-class in strategy-based boardgames. Mostly card-driven and focused on board-control, this was ranked as the top game on boardgame website BoardGameGeek from 2010, all the way through to January 2016. It was originally published in 2005.

The digital versions of the game were crowdfunded to the tune of $391,047 back in June 2014, although it wasn't actually released until 2016 – April for the iOS version, and June for the PC version. Playdek, a company known for boardgame-to-digital conversions, had the task of making these new ports.

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Matt Thrower reviewed Twilight Struggle for Wargamer back in April 2016 had been very impressed with the physical version (enough to back the Kickstarter for the digital game), but was a little apprehensive of how it would translate as a videogame. He was pleasantly surprised.

“On these foundations is built an astonishing artifice of strategy. Your goal is to spend your action points to bring countries under the sway of your superpower, either by safe diplomacy or the dice-based violence of a coup or political realignment. This must be balanced against the need to mitigate the effects of enemy cards you've been unlucky enough to draw. If, for example, the US draws the Brezhnev Doctrine card, which gives the USSR player bonus points on every card, it's wise to play it at the end of the round to minimise their chances to use it.”

“I hope this adaptation has the power to reach out beyond the converted, to those who were daunted by the tabletop game or who have never heard of it because every strategy gamer should play Twilight Struggle without fail: it's just that good.”

Having played it myself in both physical form and on Android, I think this is a great strategy game for those who fancy something a bit more slow and calculating. It even serves as a great vessel with which to learn about the history of the Cold War, and the AI is smart enough to give you an extremely tough challenge. Great for pick-up-and play for when you don't have a lot of time to dedicate to long sessions. The iOS version also got 5-Stars from Pocket Tactic's Kelsey Rinella a few months later.

You can read the rest of Matt's 5-star review on Strategy Gamer here.

Heroes of Normandie (PC, iOS)

The debut project of boardgames company Devil Pig Games, this is is a WW2 strategy boardgame that is inspired by the heroic antics of WW2 Hollywood movies. It's a turn-based, and focuses on tactical skirmishes between small groups of forces. Slitherine Ltd. were tasked with porting this game to digital.

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Dave Lane reviewed the PC release for Wargamer back when it released in October 2015. He enjoyed the game, although noted that it could sometimes feel very much at the whim of the fates with its handling of chance:

"At its best, Heroes of Normandie’s tight scale -- battles feature a handful of units and rarely last more than six turns - and relaxed approach to realism forges some thrillingly cinematic moments. Objectives prioritise eliminating key targets or securing an area over simply annihilating the foe. The climax of one mission might see your heroic, lantern-jawed sergeant dive forward under the cover of suppressive machine gun fire to lob a grenade into the farmhouse containing a German officer, then, at the start of the next turn, burst in through the door to finish off the Nazi bastard in hand-to hand combat. Normandie is a game that wants to be a rollercoaster ride instead of a calculated affair, and its energy is infectious.

Heroes of Normandie gets a lot of things right, with smart ideas that turn out memorable moments at regular intervals. All the same it feels like an interloper in the digital space, an excellent beer-and-pretzels game which doesn’t work as an impersonal strategic challenge. Players who want to feel like battlefield chessmasters may find Normandie cruelly random -- this isn't a game for deterministic gameplay zealots. If you want a game which depicts combat high on tension and unpredictability but low on number-crunching, Heroes of Normandie is going to be a wonderful toybox for you."

I tend to agree with Dave on this one – Normandie is a great tactical WW2 game that keeps a player on its toes, and the physical version was always a bit of a nightmare because of the sheer amount of bits that it had. Also, the rulebook was quite terrible at explaining itself. A digital version was always going to enhance the best bits of this game, but sometimes I did feel this was an especially harsh game when it came to digital dice-rolling. Slitherine released the game on iOS in 2016, where Pocket Tactics writer Alex Connolly gave it 5-stars.

You can read Dave's review in full on Strategy Gamer here.

This article discusses a game published and/or developed by members of the Slitherine Group. For more information, please see the About Us page.

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