International Tabletop Day is a celebration of one of the greatest of human inventions – playing games together. When you gather with friends around your favorite board and tabletop games, you’ll be taking part in a tradition that goes back thousands of years, when games such as Go and Senet were invented.
Over their lifetime, board and tabletop games have changed very little, as far as the way they are played. However, as with all the things, change is inevitable and augmented reality (AR) is one of the prime mechanisms leading the way. Let’s take a look at five devices at the forefront of this AR change to tabletop gaming.
HOLOGRID: MONSTER BATTLES
The idea of AR has been around since the early 1900s, but it was in the movie Star Wars: A New Hope, in the scene where Chewbacca and R2D2 are playing a chess-like game with holographic creatures (dejarik), where the world got to see what AR was, and what it is finally coming to be.
Phil Tippett is the creator of that miniature monster chess game and has since used his supreme visual effects skills to make more creatures come to life in iconic geek movies such as Dragonslayer,RoboCop, and Starship Troopers. In 2016, Tippett Studio partnered with Happy Giant to create and publish the HoloGrid: Monster Battle, which was successfully funded via Kickstarter with the help of 824 backers and over $100,000 raised.
HoloGrid: Monster Battle is an AR hybrid turn-based strategy/collectible card game made for two players or teams, available for iOS and Android devices, and with cross-platform play. It ships with two foldable device stands, two card packs, and rules sheet, and may be bought directly from the website, or from Amazon. The free AR app is available for download on Google Play and iTunes. Sadly, Chewbacca, R2, nor the Millennium Falcon come with the game.
LIVE GAME BOARD
The Live Game Board (LGB) AR device was introduced back in June 2014, and released in October 2014. The physical part of the game is a simple mat that acts as the game board. The AR aspects are overlaid onto the board and visible through mobile devices. The LGB mat can be bought directly from the website, is available on hard paper and plastic poster material, comes in a variety of sizes, and with US prices ranging from $7.50 to $14.50. LGB AR games are all currently free and available only for Android devices.
But LGB is more than just a game mat with multiple AR games at hand. LGB was designed to also be the world’s first AR mobile game publishing platform. The LGB software developer’s kit (SDK) for Unity and Vuforia is free to download from the game website, and you are invited to publish your games on the LGB game store. The LGB games currently available are few, with more on the way. In the meantime, you could be taking advantage of the LGB SDK to create and publish your own AR games.
The GAME-ON AR tabletop game system uses specially-designed playing cards created by GAME-ONcreator Damien Lopez, and the Aurasma app developed by Hewlett-Packard. According to the GAME-ON Kickstarter page and this Reddit post, Lopez is creating GAME-ON to be a full-fledged gaming system akin to Live Game Board, but using special playing cards as the AR medium.
GAME-ON is still in development, but the game’s YouTube page has videos of a small variety of cards that have already been designed for games so far. Lopez stated he will be “registering to attend gaming events as part of my continuing efforts to raise awareness for GAME-ON”, so look for him and the game at the gaming cons you attend this year.
GENESIS AUGMENTED REALITY
“Imagine if Mortal Kombat and Pokemon had an augmented baby.” That’s the premise behind theGenesis Augmented Reality gaming system, according to the games’ teenage creators, Long Roos and Ryan Neale.
Like the GAME-ON system, Genesis AR uses specially-designed cards as its base, but uses them more like a traditional trading card game. However, Genesis AR distinguishes itself in two ways – by utilizing real-time strategy gaming mechanics, and by having an RPG-like system already built around it.
Genesis AR players take on the roles of six drifters: Baron, Osirus, Tyran, Aurora, Erebus, and Alatus. Each character has their own skills, equipment, and origin story, and can be summoned to fight each other in AR with the cards and your mobile devices.
For a limited time, the Genesis Augmented Reality Starter Pack is available for pre-order on the website. The Pack includes “2x Random Genesis characters, Single Player Horde Mode & Rose Aurora Skin”.
Probably the most high profile device on this list, CastAR (developed by Technical Illusions) is coming at AR in a different way compared to the previous companies. Instead of viewing AR through mobile devices, it’s building on the current trend that virtual reality is on, but with actual eyewear in place of full headsets. No playing cards, no game mats.
But gaming is definitely a priority for CastAR. Technical Illusions was founded in 2013 by Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, two people who had previously worked on teams involved with developing virtual and augmented reality products at Valve. In August 2016, Darrell Rodriguez was appointed as its CEO, having previously been a president at LucasArts, and COO of Electronic Arts Los Angeles. And in September 2016, the company established CastAR Salt Lake City, a studio specifically tasked with developing mixed reality gaming and entertainment.
Sometime in 2017 is when the CastAR glasses are scheduled to meet the public eye. Until then, we’ll have to wait and see what effects it’ll have on gaming. Taking in everything being talked about, it sure looks like CastAR will be a positive benefit for games and gamers alike.