Growing your board game collection as an iOS gamer

Three ways to know when to buy

There is a dirty little secret I'll have to admit to introduce this article. Whenever you hear people complaining about the App Store it has to be either about free to play, discoverability or the race to the bottom in pricing. I don't like to see developers playing the sale game dropping the price, angering early adopters but it doesn't mean I like sales way after the product is released.

For those situations you have AppShopper: a site that keeps track of new releases and price changes on the App Store. There is also the satisfaction of knowing you are grabbing a good deal or discovering something cool your might have originally overlooked. In addition, AppShopper is also one of the most user-friendly ways to keep track of new releases on the App Store, which probably accounts for a lot of the launch day sales.

The reason I'm talking about this is because I'm looking for an AppShopper type of site to feed my new-found hobby: board games. The first thing you realise when you start looking at those Euro style board games is that they can be quite expensive! Things as mainstream as Settlers of Catan, Carcassone or Ticket to Ride are anywhere between £20 and £50, so some budgeting must be in place if you are attempting to begin your board game collection from scratch. And that's exactly what I'm doing.

Check out Kickstarter regularly

A good place to begin is Kickstarter. My experience with crowdfunded projects has been a hit-and-miss affair but there seems to be a promising flourishing community on the tabletop games section. The great thing of looking for expansions of popular independent games, is that you get the chance to get hold of the original, which might have limited copies. As part of the backer deal, shipping costs are reasonable and a lot of the projects have an EU-friendly tag these days. This means they are shipped from Europe and are not subject to surprise custom charges.

A good example of this approach are the Tokaido and Viticulture - Tuscany kickstarters. You get the original game, some limited edition content plus the expansion that is being funded for production. There's the added benefit of the community, as people supporting the project tend to mingle on the comment threads discussing very interesting topics. I cannot put a value to this, but community interaction and contact with the creator it's definitely one of the best things of buying board games this way.

Proper Kickstarter people say the site is kind of broken although I find the discover fine for my needs. I filter the results with active projects and most funded everywhere and look what's going on. Kicktraq is usually mentioned as the best alternative to keep on top of new projects, so you can use a filter for board games pledging too.

Go to your local game shop

I haven't found the reason yet, but for those living outside the US, buying games online, bidding on eBay or trading on BoardGameGeek can involve prohibitive shipping costs. This list contains independent shops specialised on board games and I'm lucky enough to have Orcs Nest and Leisure Games in London. It's always worth checking their sites, calling to check for stock and just visiting to browse. More often than not you'll bump into something that would be too expensive to ship home. On top of supporting your local community, popping by the local game shop can be a nice opportunity to chat about games with experts, people really passionate about what they do.

Use price trackers

For someone starting a game board collection from scratch, I have the advantage of wanting older classics that are available on sites like Amazon for a good price. Those not sold by third party merchants usually come with some free delivery and a competitive price.

Whenever I read about a cool game on sites like Board Game Quest, I used Amazon's wishlist feature to remember them. This allows you to bookmark products on your account for the day you want to treat yourself. I've taken this to the next level using the price tracking site Camel and have set up alerts whenever there is an actual sale of a game I have tracked with them.

Even if I decide that I'm not that interested in a game to set up an email alert, I've found the site to be really useful. You can get the price history for a product and know if the current price is a good deal or not. Kingdom Builder, for example, currently sells for £30.88 but was as low as £20.98 last summer. The Amazon listing says it's currently £30.88 and that I'm saving 23% from the last price of £39.99 — which is only half true because that was its highest price one year ago for one day. I've found this price tracker to be very useful, saving me some money in games I wanted to buy but had no rush in getting them.

In summary, growing a game board collection slowly can be managed in an economic manner following these three tips instead of pure impulse purchases. Using the remind me option on Kickstarter to know when a project in nearing the end of the pledging stage as well as making a list of wished for titles is essential. There is the added benefit of the interactions with very knowledgable people using these methods, which is invaluable.

Top image by Jess Loughborough

Actions continues to rule the second screen experience with scripts and macros

One of the best things of following and supporting indie software is seeing how a product matures, evolves over time. It seems like it was yesterday when Actions was included on Apple's list 'Best of 2012' and gained the Editors' Choice spot on the App Store.

Although it appears incredibly technical at first, Actions is a great tool to combine the iPad with your Mac or PC as a second screen that makes interactions with your desktop apps much easier. Seeing the pictures of the app in action just gives you the idea how cool those chunky buttons are, but you need to try it — the wireless interaction is quite something. On my original Actions review, I was hesitant to adopt this new double-screen paradigm.

Just like these two apps, Actions for iPad is not designed for everyone. Although a lot of work has gone in simplifying the setup and adding the most obvious actions for popular apps, Actions is not for newbies. In fact, it draws the geek line quite high, making me doubt if this is something for me. The power user, though, will love to tinker with it, create custom actions and tweak all that magic in the same way they try with Keyboard Maestro and Launch Center Pro.

The developer team based in Italy has been pushing the envelope lately. A new update of Actions is out and I want to take the opportunity to play with the more sophisticated triggers in the same way you could use scripts or macros. The Flows add-on, which I discovered thanks to this in-depth tutorial for Evernote, allows you to tap one button on your iPad and begin a sequence of actions in a pure IFTTT for your computer. This includes things from tweeting a selected text to move files to specific folders. Believe me, it's really worth researching a bit about it, download some of the sets available online and try to tinker a bit with your own.

The latest Actions update includes a Sleep mode to preserve iPad battery by obscuring the screen when it's not in use — a nice touch that shows the app is still in active development.