Miniatures / App hybrid – the next attempt?

There have been several attempts at combining Miniatures Wargaming with computers over the years.

Carnage & Glory II is a spreadsheet-tastic way of computer-moderating a large wargame on a Windows PC. The interface is not at all user-friendly, and it only runs on a PC or laptop, so perhaps not particularly portable. It’s still available to purchase, though whether it has been updated to run on the latest Windows operating systems, I do not know.

ExillisWargaming2GlowIf you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may well be familiar with our misadventure into Ex-Illis. I still think that this game was really good, but I was obviously in the minority.

This was a combination of a miniatures game with an app, which moderated combat and spell effects, as well as managing your forces (it even allowed for your army to gain experience and level-up, this gaining new abilities, as it fought battles). I think one of the primary reasons for its failure was that many people looked at the app, and wondered why they should purchase the miniatures to go alongside it – thus many saw it as a video game, rather than a hybrid game, as was intended. This game is well and truly dead, and is no longer playable (it requires a server connection to the game database, and this is all now offline).

golum-arcanaNext came Golum Arcana, which again used an app to moderate the gameplay. This was released in 2014, but by the start of 2016 the developers announced that they were no longer producing new content for the game, and they have just announced that the cloud software licence is expiring. They are looking to produce an app for the game, but the writing is on the wall, and this game has effectively gone the way of the dodo.


More recently, Fantasy Flight Games have been using Apps in some of their boardgames.


In X-COM, an App is used to control the aliens, and also manage the turn order, whilst the Second Edition of Mansions of Madness sees an app take over the role of game master, a role that was allocated to a player in the first edition. One practical aspect of this is that Mansions of Madness is now playable as a solo game. I must admit that as a fan of all things Cthulhu, I am starting to get very tempted by this game (Damn Dave Hickman for showing it to me the other day!)

Feedback on these two games is somewhat mixed, but it is generally believed that their reliance on technology isn’t universally welcomed in the boardgame community.

I also know of at least one other wargame company who is currently developing a phone app to help players with their rules – again the app is being used as a game/rules moderator (whilst still allowing players to roll dice, should they wish!) We have yet to see the final version of this.

dungeon-mini-2Now Ynnis Interactive are looking to produce a dungeon-crawl style game where the dungeon and monsters are created on a tablet, and you play using a miniature.

The game is called Dungeon Mini, and is currently funding on Kickstarter.

dungeon-mini-1When I first saw this game I was really interested, as it seemed that we were getting something of an interactive dungeon crawl, with rooms being generated by the application as they were explored. However, once I viewed the Kickstarter video, it quickly became clear that this isn’t really the case. The app looks to be a real-time video game and the ‘miniatures’ in question are, in reality, little more than a very ornate stylus. This is a shame, as the idea of generating dungeon maps on a 7″ or 10″ tablet and then playing on them with miniatures must surely be one that has some appeal – much in the same way when the idea first appeared in the age when video game screens were first put into tables.

Maybe this is something we will see in the future, but today is not that day.

7 Comments on Miniatures / App hybrid – the next attempt?

  1. I agree, I was very disappointed when I actually read the Kickstarter page for Dungeon Mini. It didn’t look anything like what I was anticipating.

    I’m always on the lookout for the next app-enhanced game, because I really believe that if done right, it can really heighten the experience of a tabletop game. I’m honestly surprised we aren’t seeing more of it with all the emphasis on more streamlined rules and systems with less rules overhead for the player to manage.

    • I really think that this is a missed opportunity. It’s almost like they were on the right track, and then turned off in the wrong direction – at least for me.

  2. I had a lot of fun lately with my wife playing Descent 2nd ed. with the Roads to Legend App. She does enjoy co-op games, so the app really reinvigorated the boardgame for us, as we don’t need an overlord (who by default is out to get the players and not – like a DM – attempts to offer a good story and fun for everyone). The app is not perfect, but in this form (and the ability to play offline) I really welcome such gaming aids. Something like this for DnD would be excellent. It could track some important things, like initiative, inventory and could even generate one-off encounters.

    A pity that the Kickstarter is for a videogame with fancy stylus miniatures. Maybe we see more like this from FFG or Wizards.

    • I didn’t realise that FFG did an App for Descent too. That sounds really good.
      Though most likely not as good as playing against a human, at least it means that you don’t have to play 1 v 1 all the time.

      Now I just need to repeat the following :

      “I do not need to buy another FFG system, I do not need to buy another FFG system, I do not need to buy another FFG system…”


      • It is true, a human overlord will be more of a challenge. That said, the app does randomly add a movement point or range to monsters and they use differemt strategies and attacks each turn. So you can game it, but it is not as easy as it could be. We found the campaign actually quite hard, but with proper equipment and skills it gets easier now.

        The main advantage for us is, that nobody needs to be the ‘bad’ guy and we can curse at the app instead ;).

        It id fun, but if you have the Star Wars or Cuthulu version it pretty much is the same experience as they all use the same dice and rule system.

  3. D&B, I agree that Imperial Assault (IA) or Mansions of Madness (MoM!) 2nd ed. offer a similar experience and would add that the IA and MoM system have cleaned up a lot of the issues from Descent which, theme aside, make them better games.

    I’ve been playing a lot of Mansions of Madness 2nd edition lately and have to say that the app is a far more elegant management system than the overlord/GM piles-of-cards was. With the added bonus, as Neil said, of two people being able to play on the same team.

    About 10 full adventures of MoM in my worries about having an app play the overlord have vanished and, despite my fears, the tablet is not a massive distraction on the table. There is loads of player chat and interaction as you jointly work to solve the puzzles and mysteries and plenty of cheering and groaning when a die roll goes your way, or not.

    I do have a ‘legacy’ concern that once they put out an Arkham Horror like number of expansions for MoM, what then? And how long are they going to update and support the app? 5 or 10 years from now I can dust off my Imperial Assault, Descent, or any other self contained game and play it. I’m sure someone, maybe even Fantasy Flight, will eventually publish an ‘overlord pack’ or some such thing that will allow a person to play the GM. Perhaps as they mothball this version in favour of the next. Investing in a tech driven game is a crapshoot at this point. We’ll have to wait and see.


  4. One moderated game you left off was Shipbase III. This was a navel combat game for 1890-1946 and it worked brilliantly for large games. The game Master could report visible damage to opposing players, and only share details with the affected side. The computer would track hit degradation in firepower, mobility and even the progress of fires. Too bad it was only designed for DOS. I still have it on 3.5″ floppy

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