An Interview with William Keeler of Roll for Crit Cast on Youtube on the Future of Board Games in the age of Apps

Interview with William Keeler of Roll For Crit Cast on YouTube, a channel that reviews table top games.

Noelle:  While researching the Fantasy Flight Games new products, I came across the Lord of the Rings game: Journeys in Middle Earth.  Unable to find much about it led me to your YouTube channel, and the review you gave it.  Apps with board games seems to be a new thing.  Can you tell me which games (that are popular sellers) use apps and how?


William Keeler: There have technically been apps for games for a while, but only recently have they been a major component of the game. They used to be more along the lines of rolling dice or keeping track of score.  But the first game that comes to mind where the app became a key component was World of Yo-Ho, where you would download the app and turn your phone into the pirate ship you played with on the board. I however did not play that game and it has a score of 6.6 of BoardGameGeek, not a great rating.

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Fantasy Flight is definitely the company to look at when it comes to apps in heavier games. As stated earlier, they are making the Lord of the Rings game, but they also have games such as Mansions of Madness Second Edition and X-COM that use apps. X-COM uses the app to time your actions, give out random events, and provide your income in real time. This does require one person to be in charge the app as the Central Officer, but allows for a real time CO-OP strategy game. Mansions of Madness is probably going to be a lot closer to the new Lord of the Rings game, but it did have an older edition where there was no app. In the first edition, one player was the “keeper” who goal was to stop the other players from completing the scenario goal.

The second edition give that job to the app, allowing for random events as well as having everyone playing on the same side instead of a one vs all. That said, apps are appearing everywhere and in plenty of different kinds of games. Werewords, from Bezier Games, is a party game that is a fusion of 20 questions and werewolf.

The app will show the one player, the mayor, a choice of three words, and then the other players will try and ask the mayor yes or no questions to guess what the word is. And of course the werewolf is trying to stop people from guessing the word without revealing their role. It even allows you to choose different themes of word list, or make your own.

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Some games use apps to help replace their own components. Welcome to… is a game we recently reviewed on our channel, where you write on a sheet of paper and score houses based on a deck of cards. There is also an app that makes it easy if you run out of spare sheets and helps calculate your score. While I have not I am sure there are apps designed for whatever system you are playing, as well as if you are a Game master or a player.

Noelle: When I was talking to the game store owners in my area about apps with games, they mentioned Pokemon Go!  Though it’s not really an app with a related game, the CCG doesn’t even really compliment the mobile game, it is an interesting concept that I hadn’t thought of before.  Are there other CCG’s with complimentary apps and do you see CCG’s with apps that work with the games being something we might see in the future, or have I missed one already?

William: As for apps with CCGs, that’s a bit more of a tricky area.  Part of the issue is it is hard to carve out a space for yourself in the CCG market when other competitors such as Pokemon or Magic the Gathering hog the player base.

Unlike a board or video game, usually CCGs are money sinks, and you don’t feel as confident to jump into a new card game if you’ve already devoted a significant amount of cash into one game.  But it is possible something new using an app can shake the marketplace, similar to how Hearthstone redefined the digital card game space. After Hearthstone we’ve seen other major game companies focus more in their digital area.

Wizards of the Coast just released Magic Arena, the app based version of their popular card game. While there is no direct interaction between the physical cards and digital as of me writing this, the possibility is out there.20190123_145505.jpg

Pokemon, while not using the app in game play, has codes included in the packs and products that allow you to redeem them for content on their digital platform. This is where I think well likely see CCGs use apps, less as a part of the game and more as a symbiotic relationship between the physical and digital format.

However we can’t deny that technology can always bring new surprises.

There was a Kickstarter for a game called Malkyrs where they used NFC chips implanted into the cards to allow you to have both a physical and digital card game experience. I have yet to play it and I believe its not out until later this year. And a while ago there was a PS3 game called Eye of Judgement that used the Playstation camera to combine AR effects with the cards. I don’t think it did that well but with VR really beginning to shine and becoming more portable, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took another crack at a physical card game with AR features.

Noelle:  While surfing gaming boards for more data about games with apps, I ran across a thread where a group of Gloomhaven fans were trying to figure out how to run a game online together– hangouts, skype or facebook chat–and though you’d think that the entire point of a table top game is to play it on the table together, there’s no denying that figuring out how people can play the same table top game together online is going to be a market companies will want to exploit.  Do you know of any games that already encourage this type of interaction?

William: While board games are designed with the idea that everyone is sitting at the table, players have long been trying to play with people who are a bit farther from them.

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People used to (they might still but probably through email now) mail chess moves to each other, allowing them to play opponents who could be miles apart. I don’t feel any board game specifically encourages online play outside of the digital versions of existing board games. Like the digital CCG games I mentioned earlier, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Carcassonne, and may other popular games have seen a digital version added to Steam and other popular consoles. This allows players to play the game with friends or with strangers from around the world.

Recently Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator have allowed people to pretty much make any game they like over it, granted it requires you to put in the work of uploading the art, making the board, etc. The Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator also make for more of the original in-person experience, where you will have to move the pieces and no program tells you the rules and if what your doing is illegal or not. I’m also pretty sure one of them as a flip the table option.

Noelle: What do you think about the direction of board games?  It doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all.

William:  Thanks to Kickstarter, we’ve seen a boon in the board game industry. Kickstarter has allowed anyone to make board games, making for many interesting themes and new companies to spring up. There are so many board games coming out its becoming a bit of an issue.

Two board game giants wrote articles about this, and we did a video on them this week and I highly suggest reading them. I do believe that we will eventually hit a board game plateau where the release of new games will slow down a lot. But as for now that doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon.

Noelle: If you count card games in the table top games genre, the amount seems to be expanding.  I have bought two card games on kickstarter myself: Unstable Unicorns and 5-minute Dungeon (with an awesome timer app).  My husband buys almost every expansion and version of Munchkin available.  We saw Exploding Kittens and had to buy it even though we’ve only played it once.

While the market might have been indicating a move toward video games would remove some of the base for table top gamers, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  What do you think about the market for table top games?  Is the inclusion of apps a late reaction to the market or just a new innovation?

William: First off tabletop game including anything on the table! Be it card, RPG, or board all are welcome! I feel tabletop games are definitely growing strong because were finally throwing off the stereotype of board games equaling just Monopoly or card games meaning Go Fish.

We are rivaling video games in terms of themes, whether they are more party fun games or more deep adult themes. With RPGs, Gloomhaven, or legacy games, board games are able to tell a story as well.

Platforms like Kickstarter have allowed more niche themes to enter the tabletop world, and because of the nature of board games you require much less time and resources to create a tabletop game compared to designing a video game. And of course, as technology grows, people are going to think of innovative ways to incorporate them into tabletop games. Whether its using an app to control random events or take on the roll of the Game Master, using RFC chips in cards to allow you to scan them into a device, or taking advantage of the internet or VR to allow people to play with those around the world, we will always be trying to push the boundaries of what board games can do. As long as we don’t roll a critical miss.

Noelle:Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, William.  Would you like to direct readers to your youtube channel or other webpages?

William:  Yeah if you don’t mind! People can find us at or Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @RollforCrit. We do have a web page but its currently being revamped so unfortunately, we’ll wait on that one.

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