What are the things that the electronic version can do to enhance gameplay? Conversely, what could the board game version do to overcome this view? Feel free to use examples if it would help clarify your answer.
Computerized board and card games can have an advantage when it enables automation of what would otherwise be mundane or tedious tasks:
- Shuffling cards in Dominion is a good example; eliminating shuffling applies to lots of classic card games that have wide on-line audiences like hearts, spades, etc.
- Computer versions also work well if they can abstract away math that is part of the game, but not really a part of the strategy. Think about a game where anyone at the table would be comfortable helping someone get the calculation right; a benign example would be calculating the 10% income tax in monopoly or figuring out the price to unmortgage a property.
- Some players don't like the uncertainty involved in games with lots of dice rolling or probability calculations because they're not comfortable enough doing them in their heads to enjoy playing in person. Obvious examples include gambling games like poker or war simulations like Axis and Allies, both of which have active and thriving on-line communities.
Attributes that make a game ill-suited to being played on a computer:
- A high degree of player interaction, especially if characterized by collaboration. Examples would be Arkham Horror (highly collaborative) or Pictionary (lots of in person interaction)
- Games where access to the internet completely ruins them: Trivial Pursuit and Scattegories come to mind, as does Balderdash.
- Games where a significant fraction of the enjoyment comes from the atmosphere created by playing, like Arkham Horror or Betrayal at the House on the Hill.
- Games where players need to take in a lot of information at once. As Edward Tufte likes to point out, the resolution of the physical world is still much greater than the resolution of a screen and most board games take up much more real estate when played than a typical monitor size. I've never played, but looking at all the pieces in the box, Twilight Imperium seems like a potential example, and even playing Axis and Allies on the computer can suffer from a hindered ability to "see the whole board".
I tend to like Dominion more online than face to face. The game has a ton of shuffling, and hence you can play much faster online. Also, I am a bit biased, but online implementations often give access to game logs, which you can then crunch and compute interesting statistics from. For example, my Dominion stats site and my Race for the Galaxy stats site both produce interesting stats from game logs.
I tend to think strategic games that don't have a political element to them work better online than off. But I can't imagine playing something like BSG without being face to face.
Well, many a game's playing experience could benefit from a port to a PC. Usually those would be eurogames with little discussion at the table but quite a lot of math.
The computer can do a lot of heavy lifting and tedious tasks, making the game more dynamic, with less turn downtime and setup time. The shuffling in card games was already mentioned. But this could get even better.
Let's use an example: Imagine a digitalised version of Power Grid. Wouldn't it be easier if the game offered you direct info on how much it costs to buy a "house" in a city? It's simple addition, but the number of operations you have to make in memory makes it a chore. Everyone can do it, and they will do it, but it takes time and makes your turn longer. The game could tell you how much of a certain resource could be bought by your enemies before it's your time to buy, letting you plan spending money. It could show you how much cash the other players have. It could show you how many cities you can sustain using some or all of your power plants.
All this information is open, and quite easy to acquire; it's right there on the board. But processing it in our heads takes time, making turns longer. Wouldn't it be great if you could play two games of Power Grid in the time you used to play only one?
On the other hand, there are types of games that won't get better when digitalized, and those mostly include thematic and interaction based games. All the evil laughter when backstabbing your friends in Munchkin or Discworld is priceless and can't be done in a PC version. If you talk and laugh a lot at the table, its a good indicator that the game won't be very good when digitalized.