Boardgames on the Xbox 360

As my loyal readers (gotta be at least 8 of ya) know, we are pretty avid boardgamers. The family loves sitting down on the weekend and spending hours playing boardgames. Actually, the kids would love to play even more. Our game closet at home must have 50 different boardgames in it.

Lately, the boardgame industry seems to be dominated by German games. The Germans have come up with numerous really good games. A couple that we have liked the best and that are the most popular are Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. These are very fun games that are easy to pick up, yet can have many nuances of strategy that keep you coming back. Both also feature tiles that make up the boards which mean the board is different every time you play. Several additional German boardgame titles are on our short list to acquire though we usually wait for the kids Birthdays or holidays to add games to our collection.

Recently, the Xbox 360, through Xbox Live, has added both Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne to its list of available of games. We have purchased both since they cost less than $10 on Xbox Live. Both games have given us additional hours of fun and have lived up to the real boardgame. In fact, in some respects, they are better than the actual boardgame since you don’t have the setup and tear down time.

Both games allow you to play against computer AI (one or more), which makes getting up a game much easier than getting the whole family to play. They also allow you to play against other folks around the World on Xbox Live, again, making finding a game very easy. Carcassonne also allows you to play local multiplayer games. The kids and I have played dozen of Carcassonne games already. It’s very simple to start and games can be played in 15 – 20 minutes. The visual representation of the game on the Xbox 360 actually speeds up the game and helps the kids with tactical decisions.

Unfortunately, Settlers of Catan does not allow local multiplayer. This is due to players having/acquiring cards in the game that are supposed to be hidden from the other players view. Video games haven’t come up with a good system yet for these kind of games. I wish they would just implement some simple system, such as just asking the other players to look away while you take a glance. While obviously not optimal, it would make local multiplayer games possible.

For both actual boardgames, we have added multiple expansion modules to the game that have grown the size, complexity and enjoyability of the games. These expansions are not yet available on the Xbox 360 version, though Carcassonne does come with the river expansion, but will be soon for a small fee that will again be a fraction of the real cost.

It also appears that another Germany boardgame, Alhambra, will soon be making it’s way to Xbox Live. We don’t yet own this boardgame, but it is next on our acquisition list based on reviews and rankings that I have done in research on boardgame sites. With Sean’s Birthday approaching in August, we have begun to start thinking about which boardgames to add to our collection.

I don’t see the video version of these games replacing our love of physical boardames, just complementing them. There is still the allure of gathering around the table plus we can’t take the video version when we travel.