What is a board game that could never be replicated electronically?

Electronic Arts was my workplace in the 1980’s. During my time there, I was offered the PC rights to “Axis & Allies”, a board game. We gathered a group to play the game and then decide whether we wanted the license. Trip Hawkins, founder and president of EA, was part of the play-test group.

These are some shots of the board as it might look in the game.

When all was said and done, we decided that much of what made “Axis & Allies” fun was:

  1. A large map board that has lots of plastic arms, ships, and planes.
  2. You will be able to roll large numbers of dice for the majority of your attacks.
  3. The social interactions between Axis and Allied players are quite revealing.

A PC game would ultimately lose the three elements that make A&A such a unique tabletop experience. We decided to pass on the rest of the game because it is too simple and dry.

It was also a valuable lesson for me in understanding the differences between what makes a PC game and what makes it a great board game. It’s similar in many ways to how a good book doesn’t always turn into a great movie.

Electronic games will never replicate the “toy soldiers” experience. Electronic games offer rich audiovisual experiences that tabletop gaming can’t match.

Both types of games can be enjoyed in different ways, but they are rarely equally fun. Designers who are good at designing to the strengths of their formats are great.

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