"I've kind of been the driving force behind this." Chris Ewington describes what board games mean to him in passionate bursts. "It's who I am. It's what I do. It's what I was meant to do." Chris is the head honcho at Codito Development, an outfit that specializes in securing licensing and then reproducing tabletop games on iPad under the banner of Sage Games. Chris' experience with porting the tabletop experience stretches long before iPad came into our lives. He used to make "homegrown" computer versions of his favorites to share with friends and family.

In a lot of ways, he's the perfect guy to be doing this. His studio has the talent, and he has an astounding amount of reverence for the art form and what it does differently in today's modern gaming landscape, which is dominated by stupid games like Angry Birds.

 

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"There's a lot to be said I think in terms of entertainment value for things like Angry Birds and those huge hits out there where you can go play for 10 seconds and get some fun out of that, but with board games there's a little more thought involved," he tells us on this week's bonus episode of the TouchArcade Show.

"They offer a lot of the other great things that some of those hit titles have, and particularly these euro board games have really great theming. You can kind of get into the world of the game if you will. They also have the replayability and fun factor -- there isn't just one way to win this game," he says, picturing a title. "If I play it again, even with the same people, it's going to be a completely different experience."

Before iPad was even announced, Chris was thinking about iPad. He and his pals had been talking about playing board games on something just a little bit bigger than an iPhone or iPod Touch. He describes the announcement of iPad as an "Apple Saves The Day" kind of moment, as it gave him a legitimate outlet to take his passion and put it into a series of digital products. The list of official ports since is long: Chris has had a hand in Puerto Rico, TikalRaMedici, and most recently, Tigris & Euphrates.

In a weird twist, the growth of the App Store has given Chris a calling. The majority of App Store consumers are casual-leaning, so they aren't familiar with titles like Puerto Rico [$7.99] or Tigris & Euphrates [$4.99]. Chris says its his studio's mission to get people to play these kinds of games, to show them that games can offer so much more than cheap thrills.

"...it's part of our mission to open some eyes and introduce people to the joys of it. You can sit down and play a game like Puerto Rico or Tigris and you don't know what's going to happen. You have a rough idea how to play the game, but you don't know what the interactions are going to be." Chris says that the fact that most board games don't have a single win condition is one of the most interesting things about them. The high-level strategy, complex theming, and even proximity are several of his other favorite aspects on his personal list.

His goal is lofty, but Chris is still grounded. He realizes that the world of gaming has moved on from tabletop. Much more visceral games like Pong, Mario, and Call of Duty have been re-defining what games are. It's a new landscape, new audience, new world. But the things he most celebrates about board games are what he thinks will keep people around.

It's also why he'll continue doing what he's doing.

"Board games are a natural fit for my interests and personality. I think more in 2D than 3D. And so, it's not just ... experiencing this big 3D world and trying to blast people. It's more cerebral than that. It lets you focus more on the interactions between the players and the strategies of the game," he tells us.

Le Havre

Chris is putting his 2D brain to good use with the studio's next project, Le Havre. This title will mark the first time Codito Development will ever use a board game's original art in a port. Chris believes this will add to its appeal for older fans, as it'll be a much more authentic-looking experience than normal. That said, Codito will do the same thing it always does with its borderline masterful board game ports: honor the design and only streamline the mechanical parts of the experience.

Chris explains what Le Havre is all about. "It's largely a card-based game where, rather than having little squares or pieces, it's based on cards you collect. Those cards represent different buildings you can use in the game. Again, the theming, is really what makes these games stand out above other board games and other games in some cases," he tells us.

"It's got this really cool feel of being in the harbor and you're trying to develop your interests and amass the most amount of wealth at the end of the game. And to crush all of your opponents."

Le Havre is a fairly recent creation. Publisher Lookout Games released the title in German and Australian English in October 2008. Board Game Geek has a scary breakdown of how it works, but we advise that you not look. The upcoming iPad version, as with all of Codito's awesome ports, will focus on cleaning up the experience and putting the rules in the background.

"Our challenge is to take care of as much of the mechanics as we can and support the game experience without taking away from it. Let's get all the other crap out of the way so you guys can just have fun playing the game and have fun with the theme and figuring out how to kick your friends ass without having to remember all the rules and picking up all the pieces and sort them out," Chris says.

Chris has a lot more to say on this week's show, so give it a listen. We do podcasts with interesting folks in the iOS space at least twice a month. We'll be back later this week with another regular episode of the TouchArcade Show.

Oh, and as a special-special bonus to our podcast listeners, Codito is offering up three of its games for $1.99. Here's some links:

  • Reiner Knizia's Ra [$1.99]
  • Tikal [$1.99]
  • Reiner Knizia's Tigris & Euphrates [$1.99]
  • Evan Macdonald

    Wow! Good for him, I too am sick of these 5 min games like Angry Birds which are always dominating the top 25 on the app store, I hope games like this that actually make you use your brain can make it on the market!

  • blindspot

    Woot! Board game apps on iOS ftw!

    Codito is one of the original developers of quality board games on iOS. While there are certainly others who have come after them and do great work, it's been good to see Codito evolve, improve, and bring ever better experiences to their customers.

    Print board games in comparison to the instant thrills of video games take a lot more focus, concentration, and understanding to play, but can be infinitely more rewarding in terms of replay value and strategic thinking. Bringing board games to the digital space is great happy medium that gives you a bit more cerebral content to chew on while leaving out the chore of initially learning the rules and managing the game. Glad to see them get more exposure here on TA. Keep up the good work Chris!

  • subshell001

    I own all of them, but I would say Puerto Rico and Tigris & Euphrates are probably my favorites. They have great AI, at least in my opinion. I don't ever think I am good enough to play people online (they feature asynchronous play) as people have been playing these games for years & years... I would probably immediately lose.

    Really looking forward to Le Havre!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Kauth/1408893611 Scott Kauth

    I love playing board games with my friends and one of our favorites is Dominion, even though its more of a deck builder than board game.  There is a really good free Dominion game on iOS right now.  There was even a touch arcade article on it saying that Rio Grande would come out with a real version of the game developed by them within a few weeks but that was months ago.  I WOULD PAY GOOD MONEY FOR DOMINION AND ITS EXPANSIONS ON IOS!!!!!!!!!!!! More than 99 cents like so many games on the app store lol

  • bluebluesky

    I tried learning Puerto Rico but it was a bit over my head. Guess I'll try to learn again!

    • Playpunk

      Yes, you really should. [b]Puerto Rico[/b] is considered to be among the top strategy games of all time all over the world. And once you learn it, it really pays off. I admit it's tricky, learning all those buildings and the roles that you can take and how they benefit each other, but after that, it's a breeze. I promise.

      [b]Codito[/b] has a lot of good titles coming up in the next year. [b]Medici[/b] is still a favorite of mine and one where the ai can beat me more often than not.

      And if you'd like to play [b]Tikal[/b], a game of Aztec exploration and temple building, please add me as playpunk[/b] on gamecenter. I've only been defeated once so far. :)

    • JCat_NY

      Although not part of the same group - I find Ghost Stores is difficult to grasp, but I really need to take a full eve and just keep going over the rules as I play. 

  • Taerdin

    Hey! Actually good board games for a change!

    Sometimes I feel like 99% of the world thinks board games are just about rolling the dice to move along a board until someone arbitrarily rolled them enough to 'win'

  • mark skier

    I would love to see Avalon hill's starship troopers

  • http://twitter.com/yortps3 Troy PS3

    When the description for these games say "turn-based via Game Center," can I assume that is asynchronous turn-based? I can never coordinate a single block of time to play one of these games, but I can do my turn whenever I have a few minutes, so if that's the case, count me interested...

    • http://twitter.com/CollinsBrianJ Brian Collins

      Most of these have async, yes.

  • UnSurreal

    Playdek has been doing amazing things as well... long live boardgames on iOS. Can't wait for Le Havre.

  • Sean Humby

    I love what board games on iOS is doing for the actual board game industry. It's pumping a lot of new blood into the hobby. Remember that these games are IRL cardboard things (amazing games) before they become apps. Without a healthy cardboard hobby the iOS versions wouldn't exist.

    • Playpunk

      Funny thing is, when some of these European games sarted coming out on iOS, I sold a few of my boardgame versions ( such as "ra" and "carcassonne"). Last week, I did the exact opposite and went on amazon and bought a game ive been playing on my iPad, "take it easy", a really highly recommended game for anyone, even your friends who say they don't like games. I ended up with a slightly more complicated version called "take it to the limit". It was so beautiful breaking it out of the box and oh those millions of pieces!

  • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

    Allied General and Panzer General please!