There's no denying that Microsoft's Surface is one cool piece of technology, and it's definitely not just a giant iPhone. The entire surface (hence the name) can read IR codes and other goodies, and that allows developers to play some neat tricks. There's a Dungeons and Dragons student project for the table that allows you to play a traditional game of D&D on it, complete with a Dungeon Master coordinating the game from his laptop.
But that project, called SurfaceScapes, isn't officially sanctioned by Wizards of the Coast, holder of the D&D license. Mayfair Games has partnered with Vectorform to bring Settlers of Catan to the Surface. It's only one of the most popular boardgames created in the last 50 years, and has sold over 15 million copies. Haven't played it yet? You need to. Just maybe give the boxed version a try before you pony up $15,000 for a Surface.
You may have played this before in someone's dining room, or seen it on Xbox Live or the PSN, but I spent some time checking this out at PAX this year, and it nearly made me break down and sell my car just so I could have it at home. It supports three of four player play, has trading in it, uses IR-coded dice, has a little x-ray visor to keep your cards hidden and ... it is just a geek's dream come true. Especially by using a massive gadget.
Check out the video above from Vectorform, and the one I shot below from PAX. If they ported most of my favorite German-style boardgames to this thing, I'd definitely have to buy it. And if they announced tomorrow that Galaxy Trucker or Through The Desert was coming to it, I'd pawn everything in my apartment to buy one. Catan on the Surface is a great start. Check this out in person if you possibly have the opportunity, and you'll see what I mean.