Reviewing Games on Boîte à Jeux – Previously Reviewed Ones

Boite a Jeux logoI’ve been playing a lot of board games recently on the web. I discussed these in general a couple months back, but I should start talking about the specific games as well. It actually seems a little tricky to review: How do I tell if my opinion is based on the game itself, or the way it plays on the site? So I’m going to start by looking at games that I had already played in person and reviewed before I played them online. Today, I’ll look at four on Boîte à Jeux, and next week I’ll talk about ones on Yucata.

My reviews for these games are focused mainly on why they work, or don’t, online. I’ve already covered the mechanics in earlier articles. My grades here do account for whether or not I enjoy the games in general, but also how they work in a turn-based system and how well they were implemented.

It turns out that the games I already knew are some of the best ones on Boîte, so the reviews here are very positive in three of the four cases. Strangely, the Yucata games I have reviewed already are some of the more disappointing ones there. Don’t think the extremes in these reviews represent the whole sites, though. As you’ll see when I get around to reviewing other ones in a month or two, both sites have their good and bad games.


Trajan on Boite a Jeux

Trajan on a web browser

Trajan

(Originally reviewed here, with a follow-up here)

Trajan is a good example of what makes a game work in a turn-based online implementation. You make no decisions other than on your turn, and then it might take some time. Why bother waiting around while other people move, when you can just check back in later to see if it’s your turn? This being Boite, there’s a good history report of everyone’s moves and a clear view of the current status.

Boite’s server-based processing is annoying here, though. Every time you click, the results post back to the website and a new page is served up. Since each turn starts with you placing one to twelve pegs on spaces, that can involve a lot of page refreshes. On a slow cell phone connection, this can be annoying. That’s especially so because you need to zoom back in to the right area of the board to keep from tapping on the wrong peg. Fortunately, you can undo your choices here, as long as you haven’t placed the last one. After that, some actions offer limited support for undoing choices, but it’s usually too late to change your mind.

In general, this is a good implementation of a good game. It could be cleaned up some, but it’s one of my online staples.

Grade: B


Casles of Burgundy on Boite a Jeux

Castles of Burgundy on an iPhone screen

Castles of Burgundy

(Originally reviewed here, with a follow-up here)

Even more so than Trajan, Castles of Burgundy is a perfect game candidate for this site. It’s one of my favorites in recent years, but the downtime is bad enough to be a serious flaw when face-to-face. Its scoring system can also feel weird, with a lot of points being awarded at the end for collecting various tiles. It isn’t supposed to feel like hidden scoring, but the game would take even longer if everyone tried to pay attention to how the others were scoring. On Boite, neither of these are issues at all. There’s an extra button that will calculate what the final score would be if the game were over at that moment. It really helps the game by taking away some uncertainty that shouldn’t be there.

Burgundy also stands above most Boite implementations by actually having confirmation at the end of each turn. You don’t need to worry about mis-clicking or miscalculating how tiles will fit together, because you can undo it if you realize you made a mistake. The system is still a little weird, though – You can the option to Confirm or Cancel at the end of each dice action (or Black Market action), but since actions can trigger bonus actions, you may actually be confirming a series of four or five moves at once. On the other hand, once you start your second dice action, it’s too late to undo your first. If those two actions were dependent on each other, and you realize too late that you can’t do what you intended, you may still be stuck with that first action!

Other than that, though, Burgundy is a perfect example of what a play-by-web game can be. Complex, strategic, but still easy to follow, this implementation highlights only the best aspects of the tabletop game.

Grade: A


Dixit is the one game in this review that fits easily in a web browser

Dixit

(Originally reviewed here)

Dixit is a stranger choice for an online game. Basically Apples to Apples with evocative pictures and real game mechanics, it’s largely a social experience. Online with people you don’t know, and stretched out over days or weeks, it feels fairly pointless.

It does work as a nice “filler” game. Since you don’t need to bother remembering a strategy or complex situations, you can play any number of games of Dixit at once without trouble. And since most of the moves are simultaneous choices, it is fairly fast even with five or six players. (Or at least, it would be fast if the players were quicker. In my limited experience, this seems to draw slower players.) But if you play thirty games at once and treat them as a source of moves available whenever you want to play something, then the last vestiges of the social experience are gone.

The people who play online are nice, frequently congratulating each other on clever clues or explaining their thinking on the previous round. And sometimes they’ll put twists on it, asking for games where all clues are themed (rhyming or referencing Harry Potter, for example). But after playing several times, I still don’t get it.

Grade: C


Dungeon Petz on a web browser

Dungeon Petz on a web browser

Dungeon Petz

(Originally reviewed here)

This was a great surprise! I originally gave Dungeon Petz an ok review, because it’s a clever but somewhat awkward-feeling game, with lots of rules and a few big card draws that can derail an hour of planning. But the online version is nearly perfect. The big colorful board is fun, and its arbitrariness is easier to forgive when you don’t have to sit there watching the other players in between turns.

Like all games on Boîte, there is no in-game tutorial. You’ll need to read the (very long) rules before playing. However, I was pleased to see that it had enough hints and visual clues to keep the game easy to follow if you know it. I had not played Dungeon Petz in a long time, and I was able to jump in and start playing without any trouble at all. The top of the window has a little imp with a word balloon to explain what phase the game is currently in, and complicated actions like allocating the “need cards” to each pet are a lot easier to follow when the information is laid out on the screen.

Those complicated actions also, fortunately, make use of some client-side processing. This makes it different from every other game on Boîte, and makes things flow much more smoothly. The biggest choices actually form a little solitaire session a few times every game – organizing cages and assigning need cards. It’s pretty fun to have that all laid out for you on a screen, and everyone gets to take that move simultaneously. Also, the game is good about giving you confirmation buttons to prevent mistakes. These buttons vary from action to action, as Boîte still doesn’t have a standard UI for this, but they give you a chance to cancel before it’s too late, often with big obvious pictures to remind you what you’re choosing.

Dungeon Petz is still a flawed game, but I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more in this version. It’s a very recent addition to the site, but it rekindled my interest in playing games on Boîte à Jeux.

Grade: A-

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