Revolutionizing Board Games: The Emergence of Hybrid Games Combining Physical and Digital Play

Tabletop Games
Woman wearing a VR helmet

Do you want to look like this while playing a board game? Maybe.



The world of board games has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. With the rise of digital technology, game designers have been experimenting with new ways to blend the physical and digital worlds to create entirely new gameplay experiences. From a simple smartphone app that helps you learn and play a game, to VR tabletop gaming experiences with friends over the internet, this tech has given rise to a new category of board games known as hybrid board games.

Hybrid board games combine the physical components of traditional board games with digital elements such as fully interactive apps or augmented reality digital assets. This allows players to interact with the game in new and exciting ways that were previously impossible. Below are a few examples of popular hybrid board games and how they blend physical and digital gameplay.

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Mansions of Madness: Second Edition

Mansions of Madness is a cooperative game of horror and investigation set in the Lovecraftian universe. The game uses a companion app that acts as a game master, directing players through the game and providing atmospheric sound effects and music. The app also generates randomized puzzles and clues, making each playthrough unique.



Alchemists is a strategy game where players take on the role of alchemists trying to discover the properties of various ingredients. The game uses a free companion app that provides players with an interesting feature; the players test the results of their concoctions with the app determining the results. In each game, the app changes the rules of how the ingredients work, so each play session is entirely unique. Players can use their smartphone or tablet to scan the ingredients on the board, and the app will provide information on the properties of each ingredient. This enhances the game without being too intrusive, as the game is still a traditional board game like you know and love. These digital enhancements open up gameplay possibilities that traditional board games could not easily achieve.

XCOM board game

XCOM: The Board Game

XCOM is a cooperative game of global defense where players take on the roles of the leaders of the XCOM organization to fend off an alien invasion. The game uses a companion app that provides players with timed missions, enemy movements, and other crucial information. The app also simulates the tension of running a global organization, forcing players to make difficult decisions on where to allocate resources. Given that a computer is behind these elements of the game, the players feel a level of pressure as the scenario progresses, which is an interesting element that this app enhanced gameplay brings.

Chronicles of Crime

Chronicles of Crime is a cooperative game of investigation where players take on the role of detectives trying to solve a crime. The game uses a companion app that provides players with a 360-degree view of the crime scene. Players can use their smartphone or tablet to scan QR codes on various cards and components to gather clues and solve puzzles. VR glasses are also available for this game, which provides an even more immersive experience. While most hybrid games use an app to help with rules or serve as the storyteller, this game combines several technologies for a truly hybrid experience.


What Hybrid Board Gaming Brings to the Table

Hybrid board games offer a new level of immersion and interactivity that traditional board games can't match. They allow players to experience unique gameplay mechanics that wouldn't be possible without the technology. They also offer a level of replayability that would be impossible for traditional board games to pull off, thanks to the use of randomized elements and app-generated content. App enhanced games can even receive content updates; so your favorite scenario based board game could get new DLC content, much in the same way as video games.

However, hybrid board games do come with some downsides. They require players to have access to a smartphone or tablet, which may be a barrier for some players (though I doubt this will be an issue for most). They also require players to be comfortable with using technology, which may not be the case for those folks who "don't do computer". Additionally, board game traditionalists may find that hybrid board games come a little too close to providing what video games offer. I would say, with confidence, that as time goes on, these downsides will disappear. Years ago, I feared that video games and digital entertainment would phase out board gaming altogether, but it appears that the board gaming hobby has become more healthy as technology increases.  

Augmented Reality and Tabletop Gaming

One of the most exciting aspects of hybrid board games is the use of augmented reality (AR) technology. AR overlays digital content onto the real world, creating a unique and immersive experience. In the world of tabletop gaming, AR has the potential to revolutionize the way players interact with their games.

AR game from the Star Wars: A New Hope film

One example of AR in tabletop gaming is the game HoloGrid: Monster Battle. This game uses a mobile app that creates an AR battle arena on the tabletop, where players can place holographic creatures and battle them against each other. The game uses a mix of physical cards and digital content to create a new kind of gaming experience. Board Game Geek likens this game to the game that R2D2 and Chewbacca played on the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: A New Hope. Players use cards that, when seen through the camera of their smartphone, become 3D animated monsters.

Youtube Video Clip

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AR has the potential to take tabletop gaming to new heights by creating fully immersive and interactive gaming experiences. Imagine playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons where the dungeon map is projected onto the table in front of you, or playing a game of Risk where armies are represented by holographic miniatures. The technology is already here

While AR technology is still in its in the tabletop gaming world, it's clear that it has the potential to create new and exciting gameplay experiences. As technology continues to improve, we can expect to see more and more tabletop games incorporate AR into their designs. The future of tabletop gaming looks bright, and AR is sure to play a big part in it.

Why Not Just Play Video Games?

There may be a few of you that don't understand why hybrid board gaming is even a thing. After all, we live in a time where video games can produce fully immersive gaming experiences that rival blockbuster movies. But for me, there's something appealing about the physical aspect of board gaming. To hold the pieces, to roll the dice, to see the creativity and craftsmanship that went into creating the board games that I love. But I also enjoy what technology brings to the tabletop, and am excited to see where this goes. Apps can bring complex gameplay elements into a game without having to burden the game with complexity. Apps also handle a lot of the crunchy elements of the rules for games, allowing players who may normally not try a more complex game to be able to enjoy such gaming experiences. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for tabletop board game design, which is very exciting.

Overall, hybrid board games represent an exciting new frontier in board game design. They offer a level of interactivity and immersion that traditional board games can't achieve on their own. Whether you're a hardcore board game enthusiast or a casual gamer, hybrid board games are worth checking out.








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Note: The views contained within this article represents the author's views alone, and may or may not represent other's views within Toy and Tee. We're all different here, and celebrate diversity of perspectives.  



  • Cartoon pic of the authorJay C. Shepherd
  • Content Creator
  • Jay is a graphic designer, board game enthusiast, and professional wrestling fan who loves all things 80's, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and of course, video games. He is one of the rare few that believes that one can be a Trekkie and Star Wars fan at the same time.