Published on July 2nd, 2011 | by Greg0
Trouble Brothers Cargo Runners: Board Games For A Digital Age
We’re fans of board games here, whether they’re European style Settlers of Cataan or Scabble, Boggle, or Apples to Apples. But board games tend to take up a lot of space when traveling, and often are a bit hard to setup or require an actual table. And while the iPhone and most other smartphones aren’t great for serious gaming due to the sheer size constraints, the new tablets are, and the iPad is foremost among them. We’ve tried quite a few games on the iPad, and while some- Ticket to Ride, for instance- get the formula nearly perfect, there aren’t many board games that are purely digital.
Cargo Runners, from Trouble Brothers, is precisely this- a “real” board game feel but one that has no hard copy. Available now for the iPad, we’ve enjoyed a chance to play the game over the last few days and appreciated it’s growth since seeing it at Macworld. And while it isn’t perfect, it’s definitely worth a try- a few interface bugs and some responsiveness issues do plague this version of the game though are likely to be fixed in updates.
The goal is fairly simple- take your ship and collect a bunch of cargo from around the world, then deliver specific goods to particular ports to earn money. The exact end point of the game depends on the number of players, but is usually after a few successful contracts. There are “mystery” cards that affect gameplay, both positive and negative-for example, storms that can block routes and a card that allows you to have five cargo slots instead of four on your boat. We mostly tried pass-and-play, but online multi-player is available. No real single player exists though, unfortunately, and there are no “bots” or AI opponents.
The map is lovely, and is uses the digital nature to reasonable effect- your movement points can accumulate over multiple turns, which would be tough in an analog version. And the distance you can move is highlighted on the map, a nice touch that can help you decide where to go. No statistics or rankings are currently available for online play, and no chat feature is present either. And the price feels a bit steep at $7.99. But it’s a unique and quite deep game with plenty of replayability and room for future expansions and small updates. It doesn’t quite feel as fun as, say, Carcasonne though. We felt that it lacked personality- color and style indeed, but the cities are interchangeable and the goods mere symbols, the cargo goals seemingly unrelated to the ports. The limit of a single card at a time felt too constraining. But the timing seemed right, with games taking about 30 to 45 minutes. And it’s fairly simple to pickup, and suitable for most any age.