iOS Review: Tsuro

Tsuro is one of those games that will always be in my game collection. It’s ridiculously easy to teach, it will play up to eight, and a game will take 15 minutes to play, including teaching. The premise is simple – everyone starts with a stone which is on the outside of the board. On your turn, choose one of the three tiles in your hand to play in front of your stone. Move it along the path until it reaches the end of the tile, and draw a new one. That’s it. If you go off the board or collide with someone? You’re out. Last one standing wins.

The simplicity and elegance of this game are fantastic. You’re not going to find a deep brain-blowing thinkfest here, but it’s so satisfying.

Recently, Calliope Games and Thunderbox Entertainment announced that they were working on a digital port of this game. While it seemed simple enough to convert, I wasn’t sure if it was going to hold on to some of the charm of the physical version. It finally came out, so let’s see how it looks!

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When you start the app, you’re greeted by some very soothing music and an image of the box sitting in what looks to be a zen garden. And to start? You actually have to “lift” the box lid. When you lift the lid, the board unfolds, the tiles come out, and you’re prompted to choose a color and drag it to your starting position. Then? It’s time to choose opponents.

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If you choose to play against the AI, you’ll have three different options: silly, clever, and tricky. Simply drag their stones to the difficulty level you’d like them to have, and it’s all set. Then the cards get dealt out and it’s time to play!

Gameplay is…well, it’s Tsuro. You choose a tile, which you can rotate by tapping on, and place it on the board. Then your piece (and anyone else who might be bordering that as well) moves along the path. Then you get a new tile. A perfect representation of the actual game.

So how does it translate? Does it evoke the same feelings as the physical game? It sure does. There’s a lot to love about this app, and one thing to…well…I’m not going to say hate, but I will say strongly dislike.

Since I want to end on a high note, let’s start with that one detractor. For some reason, the developers decided to use Facebook as their multiplayer matching engine. The game connects to Gamecenter, so I’m uncertain as to why they didn’t just use that, and as a result finding someone to play can be challenging. Or, you know, nigh impossible in my case. A major bummer here, but perhaps this will be expanded in the future to include other methods of matching.

But other than that, the game is fantastic. The attention to detail here is astounding. The game board, which could look as perfect as they want it to, has a fold in the middle and looks identical to an actual Tsuro board. When placing tiles, there’s a good chance that the lines don’t exactly match up, kind of like when you play them in the actual game. The small things like that show the care that was taken with this implementation.

IMG_0135There are three different modes of play – you can play the classic “last person standing” mode, one where the player who traveled the farthest wins, or one where you want to loop back over your own path multiple times. I have not once thought about playing Tsuro any way but the normal way, so these came as a pleasant surprise…and they wind up being harder than you would think!

The sounds are pleasing, with a constant relaxing soundtrack and the sound of a stone being dragged over…um…another stone when the pieces move. Player knockouts are well done. If two pieces collide, or if one goes off the edge, it explodes in a shower of color. It’s really the little things that make this app so enjoyable.

And there’s pass-and-play, which works like a charm. In lieu of easy online multiplayer, this works well when relaxing with friends.

So should you get this app? Well, that depends on how much time you’re going to invest in solo or pass-and-play games. If you live to play other using multiplayer, you might want to hold off. But if you’re content playing this on your own? I wouldn’t delay at all. This is easily one of the nicest apps to come our way!

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Tsuro is available for $4.99 in the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tsuro/id957124541?mt=8

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iOS News: Two from Wallace and a Rosenberg

We’ve got some iOS news to cover today, with two big releases already out and one coming out tomorrow. Thursday will see the release of Martin Wallace’s Brass onto iOS devices. This one has been in development for a while and Cublo has texted the hell out of it. All accounts are that this one will be a classic. Make sure you pop over to the App Store tomorrow for that one!

So while you’re waiting for Thursday,  we’ve got another Martin Wallace classic to hold you over. Steam has gotten the digital treatment in Steam: Rails to Riches.

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steamTake control of a railway company, issue shares, build railroads, deliver goods along an ever changing network of tracks and stations and make profit to expand.

Can you finance both the most extensive track network and the most powerful locomotives?

Which routes will give You the best returns on their costs?

Can you beat the opponents to the most profitable shipments?

Will you make enough money to pay your investors?

You build the tracks, upgrade towns, improve your train, and grab the right goods to make the longest, most profitable deliveries. Score your deliveries and add to your income or victory points, balancing your need to invest against your quest to win the game.
The goal of the game is to score the most victory points and become the best railway company.

Features:
– official Steam™: Rails to Riches game
– original artwork
– ingame interactive tutorial
– languages: English, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese
– optimized for smartphones and tablets
– play with AI, with friends or both
– 3 levels of difficulty AIs with individual strategies
– 3-5 player maps
– climate sounds and music matched to maps
– adaptable animation speed
– inapp official rules
– unique, original board game feel on Your device
– colorblind mode

Steam: Rail to Riches is available for $6.99 in the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/steam-rails-to-riches/id1016459121?mt=8

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The next big title release is Uwe Rosenberg’s Le Havre: The Inland Port

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lhtipIn the award-winning board game, Le Havre: The Inland Port, you and your opponent compete in order to amass the most wealth by building up the iconic French port of Le Havre. The game can be played locally against the computer, in hot-seat mode or online — competing against friends or global players in order to advance in the rankings. Drop in and out of play anytime and play an unlimited amount of games with your friends simultaneously, when you want, where you want.

The digital version of the award-winning 2-player board game by cult author Uwe Rosenberg (2013 nominated best for the Golden Geek 2-player board game in 2013, nominated for the International Gamers Award – Strategy Games: 2-player board games and winner of the International Gamers Awards – Strategy Games: 2 player board game).

Use our convenient matchmaking service to challenge players of your skill level globally or play locally with a friend. You can also defeat one of the different computer opponents with varying difficulty. Friend lists and world rankings are included as well.

Features:

– A perfect conversion of the the award-winning board game
– Comprehensive tutorial and straightforward rules
– Drop in and out anytime and save your games in the cloud
– Beautiful art and sound convey the atmosphere of a French harbor
– Available languages: German, English, French, Spanish
– Worldwide cross-platform leaderboards: Can you take the #1 spot?

Le Havre: The Inland Port is available for $4.99 on the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/le-havre-the-inland-port/id1044671796?mt=8

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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.

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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

 

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Splendor is available for $6.99 in the App Store. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/splendor/id971215921?mt=8

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iOS Review: Galaxy Trucker

It goes without saying that there are obvious differences between a physical board game and a digital version that you play on a tablet. I’ve often said that while they aren’t substitutes for in person gaming, apps allow you to play games when you normally would be unable. And, you know, it’s a LOT easier to set up. But you do miss out on the social aspect, there’s no doubt about that.

So when I heard that Czech Games was making Galaxy Trucker into an app, I was a little hesitant. If you’ve played the cardboard version of the game you know that the ship building phase of the game is chaotic and crazy, mostly because everyone is simultaneously pulling from the same pile. I wasn’t sure that you would wind up getting the same feeling from the app, and that’s a big part of the game. But I do enjoy Galaxy Trucker, so I made sure to pick this one up when it was released.

IMG_0096There are two main modes of play here – singleplayer and multiplayer, and you can choose several styles of play within those modes. If you choose singleplayer, you’ll have three options: Campaign, Custom Game, and the Tutorial. Since I’m fairly certain you’re all familiar with what a Tutorial is, I’ll skip to the other choices.

The Custom Game will allow you to play against three different levels of AI, and they’ve done a pretty good job with each one. You can also choose the number of flights that you’ll participate in, from one to three. But the best setting of all is choosing between a real-time or a turn-based game.

The real-time mode is just what it sounds like and plays much like the board game. You grab one piece at a time and choose whether or not to put it on your board. Once you drag another piece over the top of your spaceship, the previous one becomes “welded” there and is now permanent. Each player is doing this simultaneously, and when you’re finished you pick one of the turn order tiles.

The turn-based mode uses an action point system to drive gameplay, with each action having a cost associated with them:

  • Turning up a new component – 1 action
  • Add a component to your ship – 2 actions
  • Store a component for later – 1 action
  • Look at the card stack – 3 to 5 actions depending on flight level

Each turn you receive 10 action points (except for the first player on the first turn – that player receives 7 points) and may spend them as you see fit. Each player may also hold back no more than three action points for future rounds. As pieces are revealed the will move onto conveyor belts, and when it is your turn they will show you which ones you’ve revealed and which ones others have revealed.

It’s really quite slick.

If you’re looking for something that’s a little more story based, you can select Campaign mode. In this mode, you wind up going on missions with specific objectives which will lead you to bigger ships and better equipment. For example, you’ll have to escort a business man from one planet to another while arriving with a certain credit amount in cargo. They aren’t easy, and there are many hours of fun in the campaign mode as the paths are branching instead of linear.

IMG_0093Since I’ve already gone into detail about how the turn-based game operates, you should be able to guess how well the multiplayer mode works. This was the thing I was most concerned with, and Czech Games handled it brilliantly. Designing a new way to play the game that preserves the spirit of the original while allowing for asynchronous play was a huge undertaking and they crushed it. Of course, if you’re able to find willing opponents, you can still play real-time using the classic mode…or just do a pass & play with some friends in the same room.

The app also allows you to change which card deck you use…the standard one that comes with the game, a digital version that has more cards, or the Hardcore deck which will challenge even the best Galaxy Trucker players. This, along with settings for “autopilot flight”, number of flights in a game, and many others make this app one that you will play for many many moons before you find yourself bored.

Settings aside, the presentation is top notch here. The graphics are exactly what you would expect out of  a Galaxy Trucker game, and they’ve paid attention to little details like asteroids and slavers, making them really come to life. The ships animate when defending themselves or moving to the surface of a planet, and it really gives a whole new spin onto the flying phase of the game.

GTAppIMG_0101GTApp

 

Between the extremely robust single player campaign and the ability for asynchronous multiplayer, this app is one that will be hard to beat. CGE really did an excellent job preserving the fun of the board game while giving us so many options and styles of play that the game will be fresh for years to come.

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Galaxy Trucker is available for $7.99 in the App Store. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/galaxy-trucker/id904013027?mt=8

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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. ”

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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:

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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.

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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: Qwirkle

Of all the types of board games that have been made into apps, abstract games seem to be especially suited for digitization. The rules have no grey area, gameplay is typically simple, and scoring is very straightforward. Abstracts tend to be rules light and strategy deep. All of these factors add up to a format which can be easily played on a tablet or smartphone. The digital version of Qwirkle, by Mindware Corporation, proves this point.

Qwirkle is a very approachable abstract with simple rules. The game is made up of 108 tiles, each of which has two identifying characteristics: one of six different shapes and one of six colors adding up to three complete set of each.

On your turn, you will either play tiles or swap tiles, refilling back to six at the end of your turn. If placing tiles, you must build in a line off existing tiles (except, of course, when you place the first tiles) and must continue in a straight line which can not duplicate either shape or color. That sounds more confusing than it actually is…but it’s easy to pick up.

Screen captures are tricky when piece are blinking - hence the black squares.
Screen captures are tricky when piece are blinking – hence the black squares.

After you’ve placed tiles, you calculate the score of that move by counting all tiles in a line that you built upon, regardless as to whether you played them or not. If, on your turn, you complete a line of six tiles of the same shape or color? You score the normal six points for the line, and an additional six points for having scored a Qwirkle! That’s pretty much the whole game.

Upon loading the app, you’ll be able to choose between playing against the AI, pass-and-play against people in the room, or online through the Game Center. There are four different levels of AI, and they’ve done a fairly decent job with them. Online play is solid, and they seem to have ironed out the kinks that were there when this app first launched.

3D mode!
3D mode!

The visuals in the game are quite nice as well. When playing, you have your choice of backgrounds – a wood grain table, beach sand, tablecloths, and…clouds. Cause, you know, I often play this game while floating. Although, I HAVE played this app while on an airplane, so I’ll have to remember that option for my next flight. There is also an option to switch from 2D mode to 3D mode – which is nice…but also seems a little pointless.

Placing tiles is intuitive and the app will even help you out a bit here. When you drag a tile out onto the board so you can place it, the screen will show you the various places that are open for legal placement. Hell, it’ll even tell you if you’re able to use that tile to score a Qwirkle. Swapping is simple as well, just drag the tiles over to the bag and complete your turn.

Let me just take a second to rant here as this is one of the most important features for any board game app – confirm and undo. There are some great apps that are infuriating because they won’t allow you to confirm a move before it is made and there’s no way to take back a mis…um…click? Press? Tap? A mistap? Sure. We’ll go with that. But in Qwirkle, you have the chance to undo your move and need to click the “done” button prior to ending your turn. High marks for that.

QwirkleLaziness being what it is, there are some things that make this app a little more desirable to play than the actual physical copy of the game – you have someone keeping score for you, there’s zero chance of playing a tile illegally, you always know how many tiles are left…nitpicky stuff, but it’s nice that they included it in here.

All in all, Qwirkle is an app that is worth owning – especially for the three dollar price tag that it has carried for a while. It’s going to give you a visually pleasing app that can be played in a variety of situations. And isn’t that what we’re after?

[well]Qwirkle is available on the App Store for $2.99. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/qwirkle/id684932119?mt=8[/well]