iOS Review: Splendor

When it was announced that Space Cowboys was teaming up with Days of Wonder to release a digital version of Splendor, I knew it would be an instant purchase for me. The game, while having the most pasted on theme of any that I’ve played in years, is an excellent engine builder and I was very excited to see how it translated to a digital form.

SplendorSo let’s talk about the gorilla in the room right away – Splendor, as of now, does not feature online multiplayer. It has pass-and-play multiplayer, but that’s it. But, you know, it’s Days of Wonder. They aren’t going to let that one just slide by the wayside. The Ticket to Ride multiplayer is great, and I’m sure the Splendor one will be just as good.

Now that we’ve gotten the multiplayer bit out of the way, let’s chat about this app.

Splendor offers you three different styles of play: the aforementioned pass-and-play, a regular mode against up to three other AI opponents, and a solo campaign which will offer challenges which make each game a little different.

The app is well done, and the user interface is quite intuitive. You tap on the gem chips to select them, and can change your mind mid-draw if you’d like. The cards are selected the same way. One tap and you’ve got it in front of you, to reserve or purchase. And if you’re looking to reserve a card from the draw pile, the stacks are contained within slots in the tabletop.


Your gem count is easy to read as well. There will be a number on top of a stack of chips to represent how many chips you have, and a card shaped indicator with a number in it to represent your tableau of cards. Any cards that you reserve go to the right of your gem count. It’s well thought out and very easy to get the hang of.

The pass-and-play and the regular game play…well…they play like a game of Splendor would if you were sitting with the actual game in front of you. That’s a pretty major compliment. With four different levels of AI to choose from, you can expect a different experience from game to game. The only downside I’ve seen is that you can’t seem to reserve a card if you have the gems available to purchase said card. I’m sure they’ll fix that, and it’s a minor issue.

SplendorBut where Splendor is really quite awesome is in the single-player challenges. There are currently three different regions that you can go to, each with six different challenges. Each challenge will change the basic rules of Splendor, turning the levels into a puzzle of sorts. Sometimes you’ll have no chip taking limits, and other times there are no chips at all but you start with a tableau of cards. The goals are different for each one and you’ll find that a few of them are quite difficult, requiring multiple tries before you can complete them.

All in all, Splendor is a marvelous app. This is a game that was really quite easy to take to a digital platform, and Days of Wonder knocked it out of the park. Yeah, yeah…there’s no online multiplayer yet. But it will come. And when it does this will be looked at as one of the best board game apps out there.




Splendor is available for $6.99 in the App Store.


Game News – Splendor Goes Digital, Talisman Updates, and More Middle-earth

Well, Origins has come and gone and still the game news comes rolling at us like a hippo in a mudslide.

First up, Ares Games has announced a second expansion for War of the Ring with their new title Warriors of Middle-earth:


wotrThis new expansion will include Ents, Dead Men of Dunharrow, Great Eagles of the Misty Mountains, Corsairs of Umbar, Wild Hilmen from Dunland, and Giant Spiders.

With the new expansion, these warriors and creatures of Middle-earth – previously featured only as special Event Cards – will become an essential part of the game, with unique figures and specific abilities.

Warriors of Middle-earth will also present new mechanics to enhance the game: Faction Dice and Faction Events, used together with the new figures, will open up new and exciting strategies and make the War of the Ring Second Edition even more challenging and fun. The expansion is fully illustrated by John Howe, one of the world’s foremost Tolkien illustrators, and the main artist of the War of the Ring line.


War of the Ring: Warriors of Middle-earth is expected to release in November of 2015.

In digital news, Days of Wonder has announced that they are teaming up with Space Cowboys to release a digital port of Splendor. According to the press release:


SplendorDays of Wonder, an Asmodee studio and a leading developer and publisher of board games, is proud to announce the upcoming digital release of the flagship game SPLENDOR on iOS, Android and Steam in partnership with Space Cowboys. This new version is a faithful adaptation of the original board game, which sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. With the digital adaptation of SPLENDOR, Days of Wonder confirms its talent and skillfulness with a quality title, gracefully crafted in 3D, delivering an impressive realistic renaissance atmosphere.

“We are delighted that Space Cowboys confides editing the digital version of Splendor. This is a real opportunity for us to help a huge audience discover or rediscover the game!” says Yann Corno, CTO of Days of Wonder. He added: “Splendor really deserves a digital adaptation! It is a fascinating and rich game, and players can now play anywhere, anytime, regardless of their mobile platform. ”


Look for this one coming to iOS, Android, and Steam this summer.

Finally, one of my favorite iOS apps saw an update this past week. Talisman players can now tackle The Sacred Pool! Along with the new expansion come some new features for the app:


The Sacred Pool is here!

The fifth expansion release for Talisman: Digital Edition includes 4 characters, 72 Adventure Cards, 16 Spell Cards, 3 Alternative Endings and two new decks – the Stables deck and the Quest Rewards deck.

Save slots –
You can now keep up to 10 offline saved games.

Sudden Death mode –
The Sudden Death house rule allows the host to choose how many rounds the game will last for. At the end, players receive one point for every Strength and Craft point gained (not from objects or followers), plus one point for each gold, Spell, Follower, Object, Magic Object and Quest Reward they have.

Replacing Quests –
This new house rule gives players the chance to replace their current Warlock Quest, when they are offered a new one.


This is an app that is well worth owning, as I’ve said in the past. So run your updates or pick this up today!




Digital Version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig Announced

Well, the title about says it all – this morning Bezier Games announced via Twitter that a digital port of Castles of Mad King Ludwig would be hitting devices later this year:



This is fabulous news, and we aren’t going to have to wait for over a year to see this hit the streets. As Bezier has already put out a digital version of Suburbia, and these titles have many similarities, I’m guessing that this design process was a bit simpler…hence the short wait. It’s nice to see that they are putting it out for both iOS and Android, and the addition of a campaign mode will make things interesting. In the “we’ll wait and see” department, I’m very curious about the development of an AI for single player matches. The decisions the Master Builder is making every round would require a lot of forethought from a developer’s standpoint.

As this has been one of my favorite games of this year, this will be a very welcome addition to my iPad!

iOS Review: Talisman

The world of digital board game implementations has been growing quite steadily over the past few years, and gamers with tablets and smartphones have been reaping the benefits. About a year ago Nomad Games released a digital version of a classic board game, and since then I’ve been wandering the world of Talisman on a weekly basis.

Talisman is a game that has been around forever, enjoying staunch support from a loyal fanbase and plenty of new content coming from Fantasy Flight Games. It is a game that hasn’t enjoyed a huge influx of new players because it has a tendency to be quite chaotic and very luck based. Combine that with a setup and play time that can drag out (especially with newer players) and it is approached with caution.

Talisman iOSOne of the benefits of a digital version is that setup time is reduced to…well…whatever time it takes you to open the app. And the app does all the messy housekeeping for you with rules, tracking life points, keeping an eye on item limits, and so forth. Of course, this will be true of any app, but with Talisman this is certainly a selling point.

Simple bookkeeping benefits aside, this is a beautiful port of a board game. The graphics are absolutely top notch…to the point where the actual board game falls behind a bit. I mean, I don’t have the time and patience to paint any of my figures, so that alone puts it above the physical copy in my book.

The developers did an excellent job with making the gameplay quite intuitive as well. I guess this wasn’t ever a game that left you burned out from 10,000 rules, but it’s nice to have everything laid out properly and helpful hints the first time you play. Combat, which could grind most tabletop versions of this game to a halt, is sped up as the app handles all of the “well, I’ve got a sword, but also the Holy Lance, and this is a dragon so I should…” for you.









Now, that’s not to say that this is a perfect app by any means. There are a couple flaws, one that could be taken care of and one that, well, cannot.

The first has to do with the AI. There are times where it will make sensible decisions and times where it is an absolute idiot. I have seen it enter the Portal of Power only to exit on the next turn…about six times in a row. It will use an axe to create a raft, sailing across the river…and then cross back over in two turns. Again, this isn’t a constant thing. But when the AI goes off the rails, forget about it.

The second issue is mostly a personal thing. When you play Talisman, especially with a group of friends, it turns into a storytelling event. You wind up laughing at your misfortune, you make grandiose excuses for why you pissed the farmer off, and the time flies. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate with the app. The AI isn’t exactly looking to have a beer with you.

As a side note, I haven’t played the online multiplayer version of this yet. Pass-and-play, yes. I’ve heard there are some minor bugs with it, but I haven’t encountered any on the solo side of things.


Perhaps one of the best thing about this app are the expansions. Nomad has already released four expansions to date and they are working on more at the time of this writing. Along with the standard expansions, there are also various characters that you can purchase. When new content is released they also tend to put the existing stuff on sale, so paying full price for anything isn’t necessary if you’re patient.

But, those small things aside, this is a great app worth adding to your collection. Now you can enjoy the Talisman experience, well most of it, anytime you want!

[well]Talisman is available on the App Store for $6.99.[/well]

iOS Review: Carcassonne

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile face-to-face gaming is an amazing way to spend time with friends, sometimes you don’t have a willing opponent at hand. Thankfully we now live in a world where there are alternatives to just sitting and staring longingly at the games we aren’t able to play. Both the iPad and Android tablets have seen a bevy of board game ports giving gamers the ability to scratch that itch without having to put on a pair of pants.

A few years ago one of the elder statesmen of the board gaming world received the digital treatment – and Carcassonne has never looked so good.

Carcassonne hit the board game scene in 2000 and has had a very steady following since then. Okay, sure, it has seen more expansions than the waistline of a college freshman. And yeah, other games have come along that are deeper and more involved. But good old Carcassonne had new life breathed into it once this app hit iOS devices. Not too bad for one of the steadfast gateway games, right?

But let’s be honest here, this game isn’t really a gateway game. Not once you see it for what it is. If there’s a gateway here, it’s more like an iron portcullis operated by a dwarf standing on a three-legged stool who is suffering from alcohol withdrawal. He’s five minutes from ending his shift and wants nothing more than to quiet the voices in his head with another round of ale.

And you just made eye contact with him.

Carcassonne AppThe app is, in a word, stunning. From the moment that you load up the app, you are greeted by pleasant music and a very intuitive menu. You can start games with others via Game Center, can do a local game with others on the same network, or even play a solitaire game.

If you are new to the world of Carcassonne, there’s a very detailed tutorial that will walk you through the game and teach you everything you need to know about this classic.

Once you start a game, you find that the graphics and user interface are just as good on the inside as they are on the main menu. All of the tiles have been faithfully reproduced and look just as good as the ones that come in the actual game. The meeples are vibrant and perfectly shaped, and the “table” you play the game on has a beautiful wood grain.

As this is a digital production of the game, the developers were able to add functionality that the face-to-face version lacks. Worried that you’ll never get the one tile type you need to close that city? Pull up the list of tiles and see how many are left. Not sure where to put the tile you were just handed? No problem! The app highlights the spots on the board where the tile can legally be played. Once a space has become dead (no tiles left in the bag that will go there), an “X” appears on that spot so you know that it’s a goner. These features aren’t for everyone, and purists can choose to shut them off in the settings.

The developers are quite dedicated to getting new expansions out.
The developers are quite dedicated to getting new expansions out.

Of course, no Carcassonne app would be complete without some expansions. To date there are seven expansions available (for a small fee, of course) and they range from the simple ones like The River to the gameplay changing Inns & Cathedrals. Each expansion has been meticulously recreated in the digital format and brings a little something different to each game.

Now you might be saying “well, sure…that sounds fine. But it’s still Carcassonne. Isn’t that a little…….boring?”

Let’s chat for a second about that. When was the last time you played Carcassonne? Chances are fairly good that you used it to introduce new gamers to the hobby. Or maybe you played it with your family on a holiday at home? A nice friendly game with your mom and your sister?

Well, friends. This is not your old beat up copy of Carcassonne that forlornly watches from your shelf as newer, sexier games come in and take its place on the table. This isn’t the friendly game where everyone sets off on their own to build cities and roads, ignoring all others. This is most certainly not the game where whiny gamers start slapping house rules onto the game to make the decisions “more meaningful.”

When you play this app, especially online?

This game is war.

End game scoring summaries show you just how badly you got beaten.
End game scoring summaries show you just how badly you got beaten.

Every tile that gets placed is immediately beset on all sides by the other players, trying to horn in on your sweet city building action. Roads are usurped. Cloisters pop up together to the point where they should be called “Clusters”, as everyone tries to make other people do the work for them. And farms? Hell, playing a farm in this game is like painting a target on your forehead. Within two turns you’ve lost majority and been blocked off from all hope of rejoining.

After a while, it makes you stop and think about that sweet little gateway game that you once brought out to show people just how different board games could be. This can’t be the same game, can it? This brutal, take no prisoners, screw over every other person at the table, shark tank of a game? Oh, it is. And then you toss an expansion in the mix it becomes even more amazing.

Time will go by and suddenly you’ll look at Carcassonne differently. You’ll see that this is truly a chameleon of a game. A conflict averse group can play an entire game without bumping into one another and be perfectly content. A more aggressive group? I can guarantee that the first f-bomb is dropped by turn three.

So go ahead. Pull Carcassonne out some night soon. Dust it off. And be a complete bastard. It’s quite fulfilling. And if you can’t? Well, it’s a good thing this app exists.



Carcassonne can be found in the App Store for $9.99. Don’t worry. It’s worth it.


Carcassonne App
A game using all the available expansions, plus the new Winter tiles.