Ever wanted to open up an iPad app and have an entire game closet with just about every game ever tumble out? Well, given enough time, that's what could happen with an appropriately titled app called EveryGame [$3.99, universal].
The app is the brainchild of Andrew and Nathaniel Dirksen and it's a strange little bird. Basically, the app is a way for graphics files to sit on top of other files – i.e., a pawn image in a board image – and EveryGame is designed from the bottom up to make it possible to play the game you want on the iDevice you have.
There are a lot of apps with multiple board games built in (something we want to review/compare in the coming weeks, so if you've got a suggestion for a good one, say so in the comments), but EveryGame allows you to build your own. Sure, there are computer-based apps that offer this functionality (like Vassal), but those don't have a magical touch screen. How does EveryGame work in practice? Is it the game closet app to beat all others? Read on to find out.
Given the nature of the app, this section will be different than the way it is in my other game app reviews. I mean, most everyone knows how chess and checkers work, and there's no real challenge to learning how to play cribbage or reversi. For the other games built into the app (well, except tic-tac-toe, of which I will say no more), here are two links to more information: Hnefatafl (pictured) and Go. Also, the cribbage "game" is actually just a cribbage board; a deck of cards is still required to play. Everything else is self-contained. One game, Freez!, deserves special mention, because it is a 1993 game that has been revived thanks to EveryGame. The potential is here, for sure.
Game copyright is a somewhat tricky thing, because no one can trademark a mechanic (i.e., the rules). Artwork and design, sure, but not how you play. Thus, EveryGame includes My Apologies, a Sorry clone. So, if you want to make an EveryGame yourself, there's nothing stopping you from importing any game you want. Well, except for time and effort and knowing how to correctly format the files.
I haven't tried to build my own game because, frankly, I was intimidated by how complicated it looks. Now, just so we're clear, I haven't programmed a line of code since I did a simple Basic addition program in seventh grade over 20 years ago, so I might not be the best judge of how easy it actually is to make a game file in EveryGame. Reading some BGG forums about the game makes it seem that the most recent versions have made it easier to build your own game, which will hopefully inspire people to create more.
It's important to note that there is absolutely no AI in EveryGame. These games are meant to be played face to face, like Small World was before the update. Given what EveryGame is trying to be, we're more than OK with this. Also, while rules are provided within each game, the app doesn't enforce anything. Just like you could put a chess piece anywhere on the board in real life, you can tap and drag a pawn to any space on the board. The app does recognize where a piece can go (on the squares of the chess board, not on the intersections, for example), but that's about it.
EveryGame's mascot is Eggy, the smiling square who sets up and remembers your games. He's a multitalented little guy, with the ability to save, load and undo a ridiculous number of games and steps. For developers, Eggy is there to help you create the necessary image files and other tidibts to get your game to operate correctly. You can put in decks of cards, pawns and places where these things can go. In the near future, the developers hope to add support for a zoomable, scrollable board and, "New XML file features, to allow pieces to perform multiple actions, on any other piece when tapped. This will make piece that act like buttons much easier to create."
You can upload your own game files using iTunes, but in a perfect world it'd be great to easily share these files online. Given the copyright issues with game art, it's not easy to do right now, but you might be able to find them with a few clever searches. Online resources include the EveryGame blog and BGG lists like this and this.
Overall, EveryGame seriously deserves attention, especially by game designers who want right now release their games as free print 'n play PDFs over on Board Game Geek. That practice should continue, but making the game available in EveryGame could be a big reward for little effort. We hope that creating a game becomes easier over time (and soon) and that people create and find ways to fairly share the apps they build so everyone can enjoy EveryGame.