Playtable: The Future of Board Games?

A lot of board games have been translated into digital games as of late and some of the ports are really quite excellent, but, of course, these games must be played on mobile devices. The tiny screens restrict a programmers in what and how they can display and sometimes that can lead to less than ideal circumstances (just look at Rob’s review of Baseball Highlights 2045 Mobile edition for example).

So what happens when you put a mobile board game on a BIG screen?

You get Playtable, a tabletop gaming console. The system was designed specifically for board games and allows you to hold a large gaming library in a compact unit. It will set up the board for you, let you modify your games, and allows you to use physical pieces, called SmartPieces, and NFC stickers to interact with the games.

PlayTable currently has over 30 games signed for launch and can run standard android apps (Netflix, YouTube, Gmail, etc…). While the company cannot officially reveal which games are licensed yet, they say that they have included: Settlers of Catan, Smash Up, Love Letter, Star Realms, Ticket to Ride, Splendor, Coup, Avalon, Codenames, and Scythe. You can play with your friends and family around a table or online as well.

While I really love the look an feel of physical games, it is highly appealing to have an entire library compressed into one small device and the design is pretty slick. It comes in 3 colors (ash wood, cherry wood, or brushed aluminum) and has a 24-inch diagonal screen and a 27-inch diagonal device top with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Playtable crew has designs for different sized models that they hope to produce in the future. I think it is only a matter of time before someone creates tables with embedded screens like Playtable. Maybe some sort of Geekchiq/Playtable crossover?

So is Playtable the harbinger of the future of Board Games? Well, I’ve seen more and more games going digital and that movement has its advantages and its drawbacks. The price tag is the first hurdle. MSRP is looking at $599. That is a hefty chunk of change for many gamers and is more than most video game consoles.

On the flip side, if you live in a small apartment and can’t store 100+ games on your shelves, something like Playtable is great. You can store a huge number of games in a small space and it has a nice design that stores easily away. For people who like components, Playtable also has that appeal covered in a limited way.

I think where it falls short is that it is limited currently. The system only has a small list of games so far and not all games support components. Digital board gaming is a give and take that the industry is still just beginning to sort out. Products like this are exciting as they point to a more integrated future for games and they spark my curiosity as to where the next leaps in board game tech will go.

If you want to learn more about the system check out Playtable’s website.

What are your thoughts on Playtable? Is it the future of tabletop gaming or will you stick to your cardboardy ways? Let us know in the comments below!

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