Tabletop games seem to translate well to the iPhone and iPad. Their turn-based nature and the fact that you are moving pieces around a board lends itself well to a touch screen. They also tend to work better on the iPad, as there is much more screen real estate to work with.
We have a new board game vying for iOS supremacy, and it is called Scotland Yard (Universal App, $4.99). I am not a big board game player in real life, so this game was completely new to me. Apparently, the physical version of the game launched back in 1983, so this game as been around the block. How does it stack up on iOS? Stick around to find out.
Scotland Yard is a fantastic looking game. The menu system is easy to navigate and it looks gorgeous. Board games do not really need high-end visuals to be functional, but the visuals in Scotland Yard are well worth noticing.
The games themselves look great. The colors are vibrant, the pieces animating around the board look great, and overall, the game is just a joy to look at. Everything is presented from a top down perspective, just as if you were looking at the actual game board. You can move the camera around and zoom in and out to get a different perspective on the playing field.
Scotland Yard is a board game where there are six players on the board. Five of them are Scotland Yard detectives hunting the illusive criminal known as Mister X. One player moves Mister X around the board, and the rest control the detectives.
Does this sound unfair? Do not worry, because Mister X has plenty of tricks up his sleeve to keep from being caught. He can only be seen every few turns, so the detectives have to deduce where he is going in order to corner him or land on the space on which he resides. The detectives also have a limited number of moves around the board, and each time they move, Mister X will gain a card allowing him to use the travel method they just used.
The only other thing the detectives can tell about Mister X’s location is the method he is traveling. They can use the lines around the board and the fact that his location is revealed every few turns to try to guess which way he is going.
Moving around the board is accomplished via one of the transportation methods. You can take a bus, taxi or subway to move. Each has pros and cons, and the detectives only have a limited number of each. Mister X also has the ability to travel via boat and he has power moves that do not show his method of travel and that give him two moves in one turn.
If the detectives do not find Mister X in 22 turns or they run out of move cards, Mister X wins. If they corner him, or one of them lands on the space he is on, the detectives win. It is a fun board game mechanic overall, but sadly the game has some problems.
The AI in the game is not very well done. Sometimes they seem too smart, and other they seem like bumbling idiots. It just never seems to find a balance. Playing online should rectify the situation, but finding a game and actually staying connected is next to impossible.
It is unfortunate that the AI and the multiplayer do not work as well as it could, because mechanically, the game is very sound.
Controlling your pieces is done by simply tapping them, choosing where you want them to move, and tapping the card for the method you want them to travel. They are simple, and generally, very effective. You can also zoom out by pinching your fingers and move around the game board by sliding the direction you want to look.
In the end, it is hard to screw up the controls for a board game. Scotland Yard does not rewrite the book on board game controls, but it takes a good system and executes it down to perfection.
I wish the AI were better in Scotland Yard. The same goes for online match making. When I was able to get a game going online, it was great fun, but generally, it just did not keep a connection to a game. If they made the AI and matchmaking better, this could be a great game.
Most of the good parts of Scotland Yard come from the design of the original board game. It is too bad; because this is a really cool game that is not executed nearly as well as it could be on iOS. The controls work well, the game looks great, but the AI and online experience just leave me wishing for more. 6/10