Developer: Snarl Software Ltd.
Price: free Download on the App Store
Boardz is an iPhone app that contains four classic two-player strategic board games – Chess, Go, Shogi, and XiangQi. It is designed to work over a network connection and seeks out other players as opponents. If you’ve tried Chess With Friends, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how Boardz plays out. Being a game that supports online play, always a bonus in my book, Snarl Software’s Boardz is an app to watch.
Working in its favor is the graphical design. Each board game and relevant game pieces are well designed and display decently on the screen, which in reality is only a fraction of the size of an original board. Sometimes shrunken down board games simply don’t look right or feel right, but the games in Boardz are authentic enough. With primarily tap to move control, taking your turn is simple and straightforward and with a back button included, undoing a move before submitting it is simple enough too. Setting up a user account is fast and easy and you can begin searching for matches in mere minutes.
Online game play is an added bonus any time a game includes it, but when a game is solely based on online game play, it requires a large fan base to be beneficial for users. With no alternative computer opponent option, Boardz relies on a large user base and the end use of push notifications. By turning on push notifications, you will receive updates when it is your turn in real time. Once an online match is created, a player has six days to take their turn. If it appears your opponent is no longer playing, you can resign from the game and it is moved to the "old games" file where you can delete it.
Aside from the absence of a computer opponent is the absence of an in-game “help” button. The included help button takes you to a developer designed website with directions for navigating the screens, as well as links to Wikipedia pages for each game. Classic as Go and XiangQi may be, I don’t have the first clue how to play so having quick access to the rules is essential. I would have liked the chance to read a quick set of rules within the app and then venture on to further reading if necessary since the navigation out of the app and between web pages is kind of cumbersome, but at least the developer points you in the right direction.
The features of Boardz that do work well are the main screen that displays all of your created matches and whose turn it is in each one. You can create random matches or search for a specific user by username, which is really nice for playing with a buddy on a slow day at work. This screen also keeps track of recently played games and your wins and losses. There doesn’t appear to be an abundance of random players yet, so creating a match may take a few minutes.
Though Boardz has a way to go to become an online board game collection of epic proportions, when compared to Chess With Friends at the same price, you get four games with Boardz and we're told that Checkers/Draught is forthcoming, as well as a few other possibilities. The developer definitely appears to be on top of user-feedback, so Boardz could prove promising for those who love classic strategy board games. Don’t know how to play Chinese Chess a.k.a. XiangQi? Then reading up on the rules should definitely be your first move.