iOS Board Games

Among the best things in life is playing printed games in person with family and close friends. When those are not convenient we like iOS Board Games. News, reviews, previews, and opinions about board gaming on iPhones, iPads, iPods and even Android devices. (iPhone board games, iPad board games, iPod board games, Android board games)

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Review Roundup: Sentinels of the Multiverse Rook City and Hearthstone for Phones

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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Sentinels of the Multiverse: Rook City
Availability: iPad, Android
Price: $5.99 (for expansion)
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

As promised, Handelabra has been hard at work on bringing more content to Sentinels of the Multiverse the video game. The first full expansion is Rook City which ads two new heroes, four new villains, and two new locations. If you have been looking to add new variety to your digital Sentinels games, this is going to be a nice influx.

The new content is really fun to explore and master. The new heroes are pretty awesome. There is Expatriate who uses guns and ammo to really decimate her foes, as well as the Fixer who uses a combination of mechanic's tools and martial arts. Both of these heroes seem fairly easy to play and really focus on themselves rather than supporting others. The villains on the other hand are very challenging. My favorite of the bunch is the Matriarch. She summons birds to help her and through several mechanics, she will often flood the board with birds. You and your team will have to focus on crowd control. This boss is indicative of the whole set: there are some fantastic new challenges here and a lot to explore.

If you have been enjoying Sentinels of the Multiverse the Video Game, this is really a no brainer. This is not going to make the game any easier if you found it too challenging, but it will provide hours and hours of more play.




Hearthstone iPhone
Availability: iPhone, Android
Price: Free
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

Last week saw the release of Hearthstone on smartphones and, strangely, a dip in my productivity. They’ve been teasing this for a while now and it finally materialized close to the same time the game appeared on iPad last year. This is full Hearthstone experience you can have on a tablet or PC, just miniaturized. Did it make the transition well?

What really held up the release of Hearthstone on smaller devices, according to the dev team, was UI design. They knew the traditional UI and went through several iterations. What’s come out is certainly workable. The main focus here is the core gameplay. The layout is basically the same, with a few key changes. First of all, your hand is tucked to the side and must be tapped in order to access it. Once your hand is up, you can tap and drag cards as you usually would. Other changes include a simplified board with fewer clickables, a mana crystal number (only), and changed deck placement. The controls are basically the same, though it has taken some time to get used to the hand change. It is by far the biggest interruption to the flow you will be used to. Elsewhere in the app, menus have been simplified, but all the same functionality is there.

Admittedly, even with minimal changes, iPhone is not the ideal way to play this game. If you have another option, it is probably best to go with that, however, if you only have a smartphone, Hearthstone is a fine experience on the platform and certainly worth playing. The best part about playing Hearthstone on a phone is that, even though it may not be the ideal way, it is still a way to play! It now opens this game up to many situations that would have been cumbersome before, like busses, subways, doctor’s offices and more. For this reason, I find this version to be a great success.
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Tue Apr 21, 2015 6:00 pm
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Review Roundup: Boss Monster and Pickomino

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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Boss Monster
Availability: iPad, Android
Price: Free to Try
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

Playing the villain in a board game or video game is not a new concept, but Boss Monster has managed to imbue this genre with an extra dose of nostalgia. Featuring an 8-bit inspired aesthetic that is sure to turn your head, Boss Monster invites players to take on the role of video game bosses and setup their own dungeon to ensnare heroes. In some sort of unholy ritual, this video game inspired card game has now returned to its video game roots on iOS and Android.

Each round you will be building a new room in your dungeon. You can add a new room or upgrade/replace an existing room. Each room features a damage indicator showing how much it will damage a hero that enters, a special ability, and one or more loot symbols. Loot symbols are key to attracting heroes to your dungeon. Each turn heroes are revealed from the deck and will venture into dungeon with the most loot of their type. Once a hero is at your dungeon, they will go through room by room until they either are killed (take too much damage) or reach the boss. If they reach you, you take a wound, if they don’t you receive a soul. The goal is to earn 10 souls to win or be the last boss standing.

The rules go deeper than that, but those are the basics. As for the game itself, there are are varying opinions but most agree that it relies heavily on luck of the draw. Sure, there are important choices throughout, but you will often feel like you lack full control. For a light, fun game like this, however, it is not really an issue. Also, the easy play with the app makes it even better, delivering all the fun with no math to be done. Dang that was cheesy.

Boss Monster fits pretty well on iPad. The game features single player play against pretty smart AI and both local and online multiplayer. The only seems to be working pretty well, thought it is near impossible to find a live opponent. Because the game relies heavily on reaction cards, it is real time for the online play. These sort of reaction cards also affect the single-player experience. Currently, even when playing against AI, you must wait through a timer for each room in a dungeon when a hero ventures through, or any other time a card is played. This is skippable in some cases, but just feels out of place. The team has said they are working on this, but I can tell you, it won’t be a quick fix.

One fun part about playing Boss Monster is the ability to bring the video game nature to life. The game features really great 8 bit style art throughout both in the backgrounds and gameplay. One nice touch is that the heroes actually hop off the cards to venture into your dungeon. Overall, the screen layout works pretty well on iPad. You always see your dungeon and can toggle between your opponents dungeons. Even on a full sized iPad, a lot of the text can be challenging to read. I often find myself misreading a 8 as a 6 or something similar. The UI also leaves a lot to be desired in terms of consistency. It can be tricky to play certain types of cards and abilities and you will often find yourself missing an opportunity because you were fighting the interface.

Overall, Boss Monster is a fun game that could use some polish in a few specific areas. It really allows you to play this game in a quick, enjoyable way. The presentation is well done and really feels at home on the platform. While opinions vary on Boss Monster on the tabletop, for the digital version I really recommend checking out the free version. If you enjoy it, you can then upgrade to the full content. Definitely give this one a try.



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Pickomino
Availability: iOS Universal
Price: $2.99
App Store Links: App Store

We received the press release about the release of Pickomino about 5 days after it was available in the App Store, so let’s just say this one was a total surprise. Pickomino is a push your luck dice game from the venerable Reiner Knizia. While it appears similar to Chicken Cha Cha Cha, this is actually from USM, the folks behind Catan and more.

Pickomino has players take the role of birds vying for the most worms at a BBQ (but premise ever!). Each portion of worms on the grill has a target number that must be reached in order to claim it. On each of your turns you will roll all of the dice and choose one number to keep all of each roll. You can keep rolling until all the dice or locked or you can stop and claim a portion if you have the appropriate number. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to keep any dice then you are forced to put one of your portions back and the highest value portion remaining becomes burned (un-claimable). A round ends when all the portions have been claimed, and they player with the most worms is the winner.

Overall, this app is a model of great design. All the features you’d expect including AI, local, and online play, polished UI, and plenty of settings are present. While this may not be a game that will grab you constantly, what is there is highly polished and worked. The game is simple enough that this can work for both kids and adults. There are some important choices to be made, but a lot relies on the dice so it can even the playing the field across ages.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Pickomino so far and highly recommend it. It will not be a go to strategy staple, but it is a quick brain teaser that perfect in short bursts.



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      38 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk
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Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:24 pm
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Review Roundup: Dice Town, Sid Meier's Starships, and Card Crawl

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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Dice Town
Availability: iOS Universal
Price: $3.99
App Store Links: App Store

Poker dice may be some of the best dice ever created, in my humble opinion. Dice Town uses these dice to create an interesting poker game.

Each round you will roll five dice up to five times, keeping one or more each time. The goal is twofold: to build the best poker hand and to collect the most of one type of card. After dice are rolled the players head to town to collect rewards for the types of cards they have the most of. The player with the most nines collects gold nuggets from the mine. The player with the most tens gets all the money currently in the bank. The player with the most Jacks gets a card from the General Store. The player with the most Queens can still a card from another player. The player with the most Kings becomes the Sheriff (who wins ties). Lastly the player with the best poker hand gets to draw land deed cards from the Town Hall. Wow, I don’t usually go into that much detail in the rules, but it really is that straightforward. The goal is to collect victory points in gold, money, land, etc. The player with the most is the winner.

Dice Town has finally made its way to digital devices. We heard about it last year but then it was radio silence until suddenly it appeared. This app is what I would call a bare bones offering. The game features a pretty challenging selection of AI players, with a whole slew available to unlock. Sadly, there are no multiplayer options; this is entirely a solo affair.

The interface is another point of contention. You will eventually learn it but things are not obvious at first. One of the most frustrating things is that the design language seems to shift with each mechanic. One general store card can work completely differently from another. Sometimes you will find your self hunting for how to proceed the game.

Dice Town is not going to light your world on fire. It is great to have this game on the go and the single player game really has a lot of neat goals in place. The experience is pulled down by a lack of multiplayer and overall polish. If you can brave the interface and are ready for a solo focused experience, there is a lot of fun to be had here.



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Sid Meier's Starships
Availability: iPad (PC/Mac)
Price: $14.99
App Store Links: App Store

When this game was announced a few weeks ago, I must admit I was very excited. Finally, we would have a Civ game built specifically for tablets. In this regard, the game has succeeded. It is a perfect tablet experience (really, don’t play it on PC) adding to the complexity of Civilization Revolution while still being manageable.

Starships features two different types of gameplay. The first is strategic level control of your planets and the galaxy at large. In this part of the game you will build improvements on planets, research science projects, construct wonders, and improve your starship fleet. The game features four currencies with clear and specific uses. Energy is for upgrading starships, metal is for building wonders and improvements on planets, science is for researching new starship technologies, and food is for building cities which boost production on a planet overall. This is definitely a simplification but it makes strategizing and specializing very clear.

The second part of the game is combat. To expand your star systems you will either need to complete missions for neutral planets or conquer the planets of other players. These all involve combat. Each player has just one fleet, so positioning them between turns is key. Your turn timer is the endurance of your crew. Once you are out of endurance, you pass your turn to the next player. Combat is turn-based with players moving all of their ships at once. Battles are on a 2D plane and are based around using asteroid and other objects for cover and then getting the jump on your enemy. The goal of a given mission may range from eliminating all enemies to escorting a specific ship to safety. There is quite a bit of variety in these battles.

I have really enjoyed Starships, and I think a lot of that has to do with expectations. This is a mobile game at its core. If you are looking for a deeper experience, you will want to look to one of its relations on PC. At higher difficulty levels, Starships players a lot like a game of Eclipse. There are very specific objectives to achieve and you are racing to be first. You have to really specialize and choose a path to succeed.

The game is not without its flaws, of course. Like many Civ games, if you are going for a domination victory, the final battles can be tedious. The enemy’s fleet recovers between each battle so to conquer a player you will find yourself fighting a similar battle over and over. The TBS natures of these battle can make this a long process. Another frustration has been AI players folding to each other towards the of the game. There have been a few occasions when I had a commanding lead and then suddenly lost because three players combined and instantly had a wonder victory. It was very frustrating.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with Starships and it is now my go to 4x game on my iPad. While it lacks the depth that some would like, I think it is the perfect weight for quick sessions on the go. I really recommend it as a portable Civ game.



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      108 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk






Card Crawl
Availability: iOS Universal
Price: $1.99
App Store Links: App Store

This little gem should already be on your phone! Card Crawl is a new take on Solitaire that also manages to scratch the TCG itch. Your goal is to battle your way through a deck of cards full of swords, shields, potions, coins, and, most importantly, monsters.

Each round four cards are dealt and you can hold up to 3 in your hand. You must deal with three of the four cards before more will be dealt. Potions and coins can be collected by dragging them to your hand. You can also equip swords and shields which will help you “fight” monsters. Each monster has a number value and will do that amount of damage to you unless you lower that number with swords or shields. The deck also features special ability cards that allow you to manipulate the cards in the game. Using the right cards at the right time is key to succeeding.

Your character can take up to 13 points of damage. If you can make it through the deck with your character still living, you win, otherwise you;ll need to try again. As I mentioned, the game feels like a TCG game to me because it is all about trading wisely. You need to get two for one deals as often as possible in order to succeed. These choices are so interesting that the minute you are done with a game, you’ll want to start up again immediately.

This is a go to quick game for me now. If you find yourself with a few minutes to kill, this is the perfect companion. Card Crawl is one of the best surprises in recent memory.



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      121 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk
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Fri Mar 27, 2015 1:06 pm
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App Review: Wars and Battles: Normandy Campaign

Walter OHara
United States
Burke
Virginia
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad
Current Price: $6.99
Developer/Publisher: Kermorio
Multiplayer: Yes, local.
AI: Yes.
iTunes link: Wars and Battles


I was given the opportunity to play and review the recent game from the Battle Factory, called "Wars and Battles". The core of Wars and Battles is a hex based battle game with an old school look to it, set in a very narrowly defined battlefield in linked campaign. Battles are launched from a standard interface that should be able to host future campaigns from other eras.



The main screen


Kermorio is gambling on a standard interface approach, somewhat modular with unit icons OR 2D pieces being the default view. These are played on a standard 22 hex map with variable terrain features whose cumulative effect is usually reduction of movement or influencing combat or line of sight.


In game touch tip and tutorial help is very good, as you can see above.


A Campaign is essentially a linked progression of battle scenarios played out on these 22 hex battle maps. Campaigns are in game purchases, with the base game being 6.99, and at time of writing, the Normandy Campaign in WW2 is available for additional charge beyond the default basic game.

Having played through the Normandie (sic) campaign, I would recommend this IGP. Historical material is very well done and it's clear research went into this game-- each unit has a background piece and it's more than a drag and click interface. The historical campaign follows Normandy closely and I had no complaints based on what I know about the campaign from a historical viewpoint, which is a decent familiarity. Campaign missions follow a progression from Easy to Very Hard, and you are debriefed for success or failure at the end of each one.



Mission Debrief, end of every scenario


I'm not sure if the map sizes will expand beyond the 22 hex per screen standard or the approach will be to stay modular. I can see the benefits of a modular system when


More Normandy Fun



More of the Wars and Battles in tutorial mode


Artificial Intelligence in this game is decent to moderate and the decisions being made were okay, though predictable at times. I found it to be overly defensive and not as aggressive as it could have been, but if you factor in that Normandy actually is a defensive campaign for the Germans I guess that makes sense. The campaign structure is logical and sensible. Players will accrue experience over time and replacement units to fill in for casualties. In this respect I was reminded, strongly, of several other games I've played in the last year that use a similar progressive campaign structure-- in particular and variation of Panzer General or its various incarnations over time, or near-knockoffs. That's neither here nor there-- a campaign really needs some form of structure or it is difficult to execute, and the PG template works as well as anything.

The modular "game engine" approach is somewhat new for wargames on the IOS. Kermorio has high hopes of porting the same approach to many different battles, including Napoleonic or ACW era battles. I remain unconvinced the scales of those two eras will work in this engine, but I'd be willing to give them a try.

In Summary, Kermorio has had a very decent first outing with WARS AND BATTLES-- which is a mix of old and new ideas that will appeal to hard core wargamers and newcomers alike. For 6.99 plus a pittance for the IGPs, I certainly think there is plenty of value for the retail price.

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Note: Repost from the 3PoS (Third Point of Singularity) Wordpress blog.
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Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:00 pm
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Wargame Review Roundup: Ultimate General: Gettysburg, Pike and Shot, and Hell: Fight for Gilrand

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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Grognards unite! The last few weeks have played host to the release of several new wargames for digital devices. The settings vary from the American Civil War to a ghoulish fantasy realm. As I am very behind on my reviewing schedule, lets take a quick look at each.



Ultimate General: Gettysburg
Availability: iPad
Price: $7.99
App Store Links: App Store

This game has been tempting us with its beautiful design for more than a year. Ultimate General: Gettysburg is slow-paced RTS based on the famous battle. For an RTS, it really sticks to the history and provides the same challenges and lines you expect. On iOS the battle is split into different scenarios which cover a set number of hours. You are free to play both sides. While it is limited to the one battle, there is a fair number of scenarios and variety.

Units are controlled in real time but take quite a while to respond and move, this is not a twitch based affair. Units have some basic controls such as run, charge, fortify, and retreat. The use of these commands is key to success. There are also general units which an exert influence and increase morale. As you command your units you will see soldiers fall and lines form up. It is all presented in a beautiful way. This is hands down one of the pretties wargames I have played on iOS.

Ultimate General Gettysburg is difficult. I wouldn’t call myself an expert but I have played a few wargames in my day. With this one, however, I lose repeatedly. The biggest issue is I am not sure what to fix. While the game features an excellent tutorial, I feel like the first mission is directly into the fire. That being said, those wiser than I will not have issue, but for a more casual wargamer it is almost impossible to breach.

I really admire this game for its presentation, UI, and controls. They are literally some of the best on the platform. For me personally I found the game too crunchy and impossible to comprehend form a casual point of view. Your strategy game chops will really be the guiding light here. If you consider yourself a strong strategy gamer, this is not one to miss.



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How would you rate Ultimate General: Gettysburg?
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4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star
      58 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk





Hell: Fight for Gilrand
Availability: iPad
Price: $12.99
App Store Links: App Store

Back at Slitherine’s press convention in 2014, we learned about a fantasy wargame built in the BA2 engine by Hunted Cow. That game was Hell and last week it was summoned onto iOS. In Hell you command an army of fantasy units through a campaign fighting demons and other monsters. Much like Battle Academy 2, the game is all about using terrain to your advantage and properly flanking/supporting troops.

The main difference here is the fantasy world. instead of tanks and artillery, you have knights, wizards, and paladins. Each mission features a different mix of units and using each type of units wisely is key. The games features two lengthy campaigns and a well done tutorial. It is great to see the presentation of Hunted Cow improved through the Battle Academy engine.

If I have one complaint about Hell, it is that is too similar to Battle Academy. In many ways it feels like a quick re-skin. Many of the attributes and mechanics from BA2 are carried right over. This is not necessarily a problem as the BA series is very well done, however, it often does feel to dwell with the setting. Because it stays so close to its roots, battles feel slow and cautious. This made sense for WW2, you need to set up positions and attack the enemy. With a fantasy world, I expect more boldness and recklessness, but the system just doesn’t allow it. You are always on even power level with the enemy and need to use any advantage to get the upper hand. It feels disjointed.

It is great to see the Battle Academy engine branch out but here I think more could have been done. Hell is a fine strategic wargame but does not seem to bring much new to the table compared to the series it stems from.



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How would you rate Hell: Fight for Gilrand?
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      21 answers
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Pike and Shot
Availability: iPad
Price: $19.99
App Store Links: App Store

Pike & Shot is another title built in the Battle Academy 2 engine. Unlike Hell, however, the game feels fresh, different, and entirely unique. Some mechanics remain, but the core gameplay is very different.

In Pike & Shot war is a formal affair. On a given battlefield, you can get a clear view of all units on the board. Fitting in with the time period, this game is more about assessing the situation and finding a way to break your opponents. Each of your units has a very clear use that is explained beautifully by the game’s tutorial. Your goal is to correctly match up these advantages and hopefully cause the enemy unit to break. Most units have the ability to attack at range, but also the ability to charge. This ability is key as it is the main way you will set up fronts and push enemy units back. Charge also has its tradeoffs as it locks units in combats and prevents ranged attacks.

Much like Ultimate General: Gettysburg, this is game is all about setting up lines and knowing when to charge. Making these calls is the key to victory. The game features a tutorial along with two campaigns. They do seem lengthy and battles quickly escalate to a very large scale. There is a ton of wargaming goodness in this package.

I’ve really enjoyed Pike & Shot. It is a refreshing take on wargaming for iOS and shows great potential in what the Battle Academy engine can do. I really recommend checking this one out.



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Poll created by thequietpunk
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Wed Mar 4, 2015 3:00 pm
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Review Roundup: Capitalism Quest, Auro, Sopio, and Trouble with Robots

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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I am ashamed. I have been playing many great things, but PAX and Toy Fair have made it hard to find solid review writing time. As a glorious cop out, I present a series of quick hit reviews.




Capitalism Quest
Availability: iOS Universal
Price: Free
App Store Links: App Store

This game is a mystery. It is a free to play (no IAP) timer based game that has me totally hooked. Capitalism Quest is all about building resource producing buildings, collecting those resources, and building more buildings. Each time you exploit a natural resource your charity level goes down, but can go back up by planting forests. All this is done on a shared world with other players. You can build houses that you can eventually sell (and other players can buy) as well as establish markets to sell excess resources.

The gameplay is fairly simple but great for dropping in every couple of days. While timer based, there is no need to constantly be checking in. The developer has said he intended most people to check in about once a week. The real hook here for me is the persistent, shared world. In my few weeks of playing, I have seen new players come into the game and suddenly start building up around me. The players even teamed up to build a road that runs down the vertical and horizontal middles of the current map. Imagine Sim City lite in a shared world.

Capitalism Quest is an interesting social experiment. Much like Peter Moleyneux’s Curiosity app, this game keeps you coming back to see what they community is doing. I highly recommend it.



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      21 answers
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Auro
Availability: iOS Universal, Android
Price: $2.99
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

Keith Burgun is back again with another weird, bizarre, brilliant game. In Auro you are trying to bump all enemy monsters off the board with the titular character Auro. You have a series of spells and abilities to help you in this task, but it will also require a healthy amount of brain power. Auro is a deep, challenging puzzle game.

The game features a pretty lengthy tutorial which walks you through all the monster types you will encounter and the spells needed to defeat the. Some monsters are “heavy” and cannot be bumped without using a spell, others can only be bumped once they are frozen. You will want to do a good portion of the tutorial as the main game will expect you to have the majority of the knowledge contained within.

The main gameplay is a series of “dungeon runs” where you are trying to make it to the end of the dungeon and bump monsters off the board. Bumping monsters earns points towards a target score for that run. As you complete goals, you will level up which will unlock more challenging boards. The game is not afraid to throw almost anything at you. If you are a puzzle lover, you are going to find perfect gameplay here.

Auro features a beautiful animation style with sprites reminiscent of the SNES era. That being said, the monsters can be just plain weird, but that is part of the fun. Auro is a challenging game but a rewarding one. It makes you think and lets you celebrate your victories. This is a strategy puzzle game that should not be missed.



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How do you rate Auro?
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3 Stars
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      27 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk





Sopio
Availability: iOS Universal
Price: $1.99
App Store Links: App Store

Imagine, if you will, that Fluxx and Munchkin were designed from the ground up to fit perfectly on mobile devices. Both have a lot going on the table that really hinders mobile play (while the Fluxx app is a noble effort). Sopio is a game in the same genre (you lose because I played a card, haha) as the above, but is an digital original. Because of this the gameplay fits perfectly on mobile. This is by far its greatest strength.

In Sopio, your goal is to reach 1000 points. This is done by playing cards on yourself or others. Any card in your hand can be played on any player. You play one card each turn and draw one additional card each turn. Some cards give you points while others take them away. Additionally there are several cards that provide special actions like reversing the flow play or forcing a player to discard cards. Games go until either one player reaches 1000 points or a the deck runs out and ever card has been played. Generally it is the latter. It becomes this push your luck game of holding on to certain so your last play puts you in the lead.

Sopio is the best fit of this type of game on iOS. The flow is easy to follow and gameplay is quick. However, overall the game just didn’t grab me. This gameplay is fun in the right setting but solo against AI on mobile is not really it. It is a well done app, but a lackluster game.



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      16 answers
Poll created by thequietpunk





Trouble With Robots
Availability: iOS Universal, Android
Price: Free with IAP
App Store Links: App Store, Google Play

Don’t we all love a good defense game from time to time? Trouble With Robots takes the defense formula and mixes it with deck building. You are a fantasy army trying to stop an onslaught of robotic invaders. Accompanying your battles is a silly story with moments of humor.

Before each battle you select a deck of five to seven cards. These are then dealt to you in random order during the battle. Each card will either producer a certain type of unit such as peasants, elves, dwarves, and more, or a card may represent a spell. Unlock many defense games, the goal is to build up a larger and larger army throughout the battle. You even received rewards for not losing a unit during a wave. Healing is key and one of the main strategic choices in the game.

The game features half a dozen missions to try and then additional chapters via IAP. While not reinventing the genre, the deck and hand management does add a welcome twist to the defense gameplay. Definitely give this one a try.



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BattleLore: Command - App Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal/Android
Reviewed On: iPad Air
Current Price: 9.99
Version: 1.0
App Size: 443 MB
Developer/Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Multiplayer: Yes, local.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: BattleLore: Command

With the release of BattleLore: Command, the Command and Colors wargame system has (officially) come to mobile devices. This system is a light wargaming system developed by Richard Borg and used in games such as Command and Colors, Memoir 44, and, of course, BattleLore. This is one of my favorite turn-based strategy systems around and I overjoyed to see it on my iPad. Let’s see if BattleLore: Command lives up to my high expectations.

For those not familiar with the system, there are some basic things that set it apart. First off, the game is played on a hex board divided into three sections. Using different orders, you command units in one or multiple of these board sections. Units are represented by a group of figures on the board. The number of figures is the HP of that unit and losing HP does not affect combat strength. Combat is all dice based with hit, miss, retreat, and lore results. There are other additions such a terrain, but all of it is very clear and measured in terms of dice rolled.



BattleLore adds a few fantasy wrinkles to this basic system. Each unit has a special ability, for example Archers can attack twice if they don’t move on a given turn. Units in the game consist of infantry, archers, cavalry, golems, and flying units. There is also a spell system which always players to play spell cards that can change the course of battle. These are played using lore which is generated by dice rolls. Units in the game consist of infantry, archers, cavalry, golems, and flying units. All of this adds a bit of complexity and flavor to the existing base system.

Like many wargames, BattleLore: Command is played over a series of scenarios. The game features a campaign with a series of scenarios to play through, with branching paths and unique situations. It does a great job of walking you through both the basic gameplay and the specific units. The scenarios range from protecting herds of sheep to taking marked victory hexes, or even just surviving a given number of rounds.There is a tutorial built in and I was up and running in no time. After the tutorial, things do gets little crazy. The difficulty ramp is almost non-existent and you are quickly thrown into situations you will likely lose. It looks like they’ve tried to keep every scenario balanced (as they are replayable in the multiplayer Skirmish mode) at the risk of providing players the confidence earned by success. The being said, I have been able to progress but it does feel that luck can often ruin an entire scenario.



As mentioned above, there is a Skirmish mode for play against AI and other humans locally or via LAN (no online play as of yet). In this mode you can replay campaign missions as well as a series of scenarios ranging from a basic fight to the death to trying capture the other player’s base while defending your own. In these scenarios you have access to all the units for your faction (there are currently two) and buy units based on a point system. This really gives you a lot of freedom and the ability to define your own strategy.

The AI in the game does not have a difficulty setting, but has provided a challenge for me. The nature of the game system allows the AI to really play with the same constraints that you have (and, most importantly, the same luck). It looks like the AI has been tuned to each scenario, trying to stop you when necessary and being aggressive in other situations. As you know, I am at best a novice game player, so your experience with the AI may differ.



This game is downright gorgeous. It is surprising to me how well they’ve created these units in a 3D space. Each has unique animations, and you can really zoom in to get a better view. Information and UI design is very well done here. Symbols on the board will alert you when you enter cover (buildings and forests) or when your move puts an enemy unit in range. The game also does a great job of ushering you through the turn phases and alerting you when a card is playable. Everything is fairly intuitive: want to know more about a unit? Just tap and hold. Want to switch between units you are commanding? Just tap their image in the turn order window. After a few amazing wargames this year with deep gameplay but disappointing AI, BattleLore: Command is refreshing.

The real major disappointment here is the lack of online play and the limit of just two armies at the moment. BattleLore is characterized by two things: great head to head combat and variety of units. The latter appears to already be in the works as there is already a shop screen listing the word “Expansions.” At Gen Con the FFG team also mentioned that online play would be coming later on, so I guess we can take this time to hone our skills against the AI (which is no pushover).



There have been many amazing games released this year and BattleLore: Command is one of them. It brings this beloved wargame system to tablets with flying colors. This beautiful games offers hours and hours of gameplay. You can try both armies and many scenarios which provides a ton of possibilities. This is a game that truly cannot be missed.

One of the best of the year.

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Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front - iOS Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad
Reviewed On: iPad Air
Current Price: $19.99
Version: 1.2
App Size: 302 MB
Developer/Publisher: Slitherine
Multiplayer: Yes.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front

Battle Academy was a revelation on iPad for several reasons. It was, at that point, one of the deepest and most complex games on the platform. The breadth of content and amount of playtime available was outstanding. It also carried a price tag to match it’s depth. Now Slitherine is back with Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front. It promises more depth and a whole new campaign. Can it reach the already high standards set by the first game?

For those new to the series, Battle Academy is a turn based strategy game set in WW2 (although the engine will be used for several different time periods in the future). Each unit in the game represents either a group of 1-5 soldiers or a single tank, truck, or armored vehicle. The system is you go/I go, you attack and move with all of your forces and then the enemy takes their turn. The game is played in a series of missions within campaigns, and each mission has different primary and secondary objectives. Generally these involve capturing and holding victory point locations. The AI, even on easy levels, will do things to surprise you, launching counterattacks and more.



The series has a few wrinkles that really set it apart from the pack. Spotting and line of sight is a key mechanic of the game. Enemy units can wait in ambush in forests or buildings, and you often won’t see them until you stumble into the space next to them. There are scout units that can reveal enemies within their range, and most units can lay down suppressing fire on a space if you suspect enemy forces may be there. You as the player can use the same tactics, ordering units to hold fire until the enemy is in the perfect spot for an ambush. Battle Academy 2 adds smoke which allows you to actually create your own line of sight blockers and get into position.

The amount of rules can be daunting at first and sometimes the number of units you command can be downright tedious, but nothing on iOS really compares with this game in terms of scope and size (ok, maybe XCOM). Battle Academy 2 features four campaigns with an average of eight missions each. Any given mission lasts about an hour, so we are talking 30+ hours of content for a single play-through. Combine that with online play and the new skirmish mode with randomly generated maps, and you have an amazing amount of content.



Most of what I have said so far could be said of either Battle Academy or Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front. If you are new to the series be sure to read my original review of Battle Academy for more thoughts on the system itself (Disclaimer: I am much more of a wargamer now than when I played the original, so take my complaints about rule complexity with a grain of salt).

Let’s get in to what is new in Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front, for those that enjoyed the first one. First things first, for those expecting a new design, a new UI, and a breadth of new features, you are looking in the wrong place. BA2 is more of a sequel in a content sense than an entire new game. That being said, there is a massive amount of new content and features here that should not be scoffed at.

One criticism of Battle Academy was the comic book style that felt a little too cartoony and a little light for the tone of war. BA2 has taken that style and matured it a bit. Things are presented in darker tones and everything has added grit. Admittedly, I’ve found the new style does make it challenging to pick out units in trees and other cover (especially on the night maps). However, it does seem fitting not only for the game but for the tone of the Eastern Front. It was a very different war.

The Eastern Front also brings new units and abilities. A whole new slew of soviet units is available as well as new abilities for existing units. As mentioned earlier, throwing smoke is a new feature and provides a new layer of strategy. The ability to basically create your own cover opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The game also features an army designer which gives you options to customize your army with the units you prefer. You’ll be leading these units on very different terrain as well. Winter tiles sets and night time battles join the mix of possible scenarios.



By far, the coolest new feature is the skirmish mode. This mode allows you to setup random scenarios to play against the AI or online. We checked this out in our live stream and it was quite fun. The random nature keeps you on your toes and provides basically endless play. If you like the BA2 system, this is going to bring you hours of fun. Another feature I am dying to try more of is the online co-op mode. I loved teaming up in games of Starcraft as a kid and being able to do that turn based with a strategy game seems awesome. I look forward to getting more into this mode.

While the merit of these new missions and features can be debated, for me the best new features are under the hood. BA2 was designed with iPad in mind and the controls feel responsive and clear. While similar in UI design to the previous game, I felt like everything was much more polished here. The game feels natural on a tablet.

The game still carries its PC DNA which can be a blessing and a curse. As with the original, modding is available (on PC) and has been expanded in this version. Expect player created content to download soon. The PC baggage carries some clunky UI elements with it. They have streamlined some, but often times icons still feel entirely too small.



If you've never tried Battle Academy, this sequel is the place to start. It takes what made the original a hit and adds in new features. The skirmish mode and new online multiplayer modes have opened up hours of gameplay. If you fall in love with the system, the possibilities are endless.

For existing fans, this feels a lot like an expansion. There are improvements and new features across the board, more than come in the original game’s $25 expansion, so the value seems on track. If you love Battle Academy and want more content, dive right in. If you were on the fence about the game, the sequel will do little to change your mind.

Battle Academy is a step forward, not a leap. The same barriers that blocked it before still exist, such as a PC feeling UI and an odd save system. However, there is also a lot to love here and a raft of new features to keep fans busy. Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front is hands down one of the best and largest wargames on iOS. It is a must have for any digital grognard.

Battle Academy 2 is the wargame to beat on iPad.

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Slitherine's Great War Commander: A very challenging strategic wargame for multiple platforms

Walter OHara
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Commander The Great War
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd
Available on PC, Mac and Ipad
Itunes Link SRP as of review: $19.99
Ipad version reviewed

I've been meaning to get to this review sooner rather than later, but this is no light historically-flavored game, like my previous two Slitherine reviews (Quadriga and Frontline: Road to Moscow). Frankly, it's taken a long time to plod through just a few games. Commander The Great War (CTGW hereafter) is designed for serious wargamers who are in it for the long game-- and willing to pay a serious price for the privilege. Yes, that's right, CTGW is not going to be a cheap purchase, it's 20.00 as of this writing. Is it worth the high end price tag? Right up front I'll say yes, it is, with a few caveats that I will expand upon.



SCOPE: Commander the Great War is a grand strategy scaled game. Players assume the role of supreme leader of a nation or coalition of nations on either the Entente Cordiale or Triple Entente sides of the Great War (meaning World War One in this instance). In pursuit of this role, the player will be making strategic decisions for the individual nations on his or her side, including army movements and attacks, naval movements (and resulting battles) as well as research and development of new military technologies.


Game Start and setup-- with some nice multimedia bits

If I were to draw an analogy to a boardgame, CTGW relates to Advanced Third Reich and/or World in Flames the most, in that the player has to operate on the same grand strategic scale in a major theater of war, and there's a similar diplomatic and research element to those games. Yeah, I know, World War Two. I just don't know of any that fill the same niche set in the First World War era-- certainly not Guns of August. In terms of computer games, Matrix Games' own Guns of August (PC version) is roughly similar in scope, but not mechanics. To End all Wars (also published by Slitherine) looks similar in scope but is mechanically very different (being developed by Aegeon), but I have no experience with it.

The setting for Commander the Great War is vast; playing out on a hex map of Europe from North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula up to the North Sea, East to the Ural mountains, West to the Atlantic and French coast. That is a lot of hexes and a lot of ground to cover, especially in the grand campaign games after 1916, when so many fronts are opened up. This can get a little confusing on the Ipad, as one furiously swipes across the map to see what the enemy units are doing during his opponent's turn.

There are five preset Campaigns:

1914 The Great War
1915 Ypres – Artois
1916 The Battle of Verdun
1917 The Nivelle Offensive
1918 The Kaiserschlacht

Echoing the course of the Great War, the Triple Entente (Germany, Austria, Turkey) are favored in the first two scenarios and somewhat in 1916. In game terms, 1917 and 1918 become a real challenge for the Triple Entente player as more and more military technologies are present at start of the game (tanks, better airplanes, better artillery, armored trains, better ships, and etc).


I'm playing Serbia in the 1914 campaign versus the AI. Serbia is a thankless role, but the whole shooting match starts here and it's worth a shot as the Entente Cordiale player. I do have the advantage of interior lines, and a ponderous response from the Austrians, but numbers eventually tell.

No matter which you select, don't expect to be done with any grand campaign quickly. The AI is slow to make decisions (More on this later) and progress is very incremental-- there were no Schlieffen Plans for me.


Here are my vacation snaps from the invasion of the Low Countries (also the 1914 scenario). No grand Schlieffen Plan here; it's more like a bulge forming in the Allied line as the Germans pour in after limited local success. This pattern repeats throughout the game-- It's ALL about finding a spot to break through and exploit-- it's a real gamble, and broad front assaults are almost impossible

There doesn't appear to be any instructions or help file anywhere, but most of the action happens in a few screens and are very easy to figure out. Mechanically, moving land troops is just dragging them from hex to hex and clicking on highlighted squares when the moving unit is adjacent to enemy units. Terrain and Zones of Control factor into movement and combat in a very general way, in that you will move faster on a railroad and be held up by terrain features, or not be able to pass an enemy formation.


Example of moving Serbian movements into the abattoir.

The mechanics aren't the interesting part of the game, not so much. Movement and Combat are pretty simple. It's the other decisions you make per turn that will change the long game one way or the other for the player. Those decisions are made using a simple five tabbed menu:


How to fight a war, emphasis mine!

The management menus lead to production, research, diplomacy and management sub-menus. This is the point where I remind you of your role-- you may want to fight those tactical battles, they're fun and very visually rewarding. However, you're in it for the long haul here, and you are making decisions about what you'll be doing not just this year, but the next two years. So you need to start making the hard decisions early.. do I spend a lot of money on researching better weapons and hope I'm just lucky and don't need a lot of infantry replacements? Or do I feed more men into the meat grinder I'm dealing with right now?

The Diplomacy screen is rather innocuous, I haven't seen much come as a result of using it. Players need to focus on Production and Research decisions exclusively-- resources are what they are-- very precious. You have what you have and you must spend them wisely to be effective.


Serbia's rather bleak production options in 1914.


What can Serbia research this early in the war? Well, I'd choose barbed wire...

When you play a side, depending on the campaign you're playing, you are playing multiple fronts and multiple nations, with multiple national priorities. The Serbian/Austrian front at the start of the war is pretty much a doomed confrontation, so the Serbians need to do what they can do to stall the Triple Entente until the other powers can get engaged. So that "Cheap Infantry now versus expensive Tanks later" equation doesn't really work there, but it will for, say, Germany or England. You also have to consider what the major front you are working on needs-- not just now, but in three turns. For instance, Russia could use those cheap cavalry units. Sure, they are crap troops-- but they are great for moving vast distances without railroads fairly quickly, and can cut off troops nicely. The Germans will be tempted to spend it on better airplanes and artillery to force a result on the Western Front. The English may be the best power on Water but that superiority doesn't necessarily last forever-- and what about buying transports and more infantry, you know, to help those Allies out somewhere?


And this is where you get feedback from your decisions, each turn. What will be next in the production queue, what is coming up in the research queue..

There are a lot of variables in CTGW, and a lot to experiment with-- just don't expect a quick payoff. As I've already mentioned, this is a long game, and you NEED to be in it for the long game. Don't bother if you want a quickly resolving tactical battle game like Frontline. That's not the focus of Commander Great War. Even success creates tough situations-- combat is often very bloody for both sides-- when you lose most of your attacking force in a victory, what then? What happens next year when the other side comes roaring back in a counterattack? I certainly hope you planned for reinforcements!

What does all this mean? You have to plan ahead in almost every turn. In this respect, the game really generates interesting, and often historically flavored results. The game really does feel like World War One-- there's no way a broad front strategy works-- The Western Front ends up a pushing match, the Eastern Front has great scope for movement. The best results for the Western Front is to exploit a salient and push through in localized areas. That often is such a grinder that the Entente player really IS tempted to explore other fronts like Turkey.

The technological developments really enhance that feeling. Germany is tempted to use its finite surface fleet early-- but things really change for them when U-boats come into play.

If I sound enthusiastic, I am-- however there are a few drawbacks to this game-- it's slow, which is why I found it harder to review, than, say, the last 2 Slitherine games I've bought. I find that the AI is very capable, but is facing so many decisions that it does bog down somewhat after about four turns. Before the last update, the AI was consistently freezing right about turn 4. That seems to be fixed. It's still not greased lightning but remember, this isn't an arcade game. Each turn will require a lot of actions on the player's part, expect that to be the case for the AI as well. The other element that I find a drawback to total enjoyment is the lack of transparency. I often was stumped about units appearing out of the "Fog of War fog" that is on the edges of the map.. sometimes I was asking myself how the heck that unit got THERE.. teleporting? I also would like to know what the AI player's decisions were in the proceeding turn. I know it's historically appropriate for the human side to NOT know this, but it would help understand the mechanics, which certainly aren't explained.

Summary: Commander Great War is like a sipping whiskey; drink it too fast and you'll choke. CTGW is far too complex of a brew to be swallowed whole on first sip. You'll have to be patient, take it in gradually. This game will reward patience and foresight, but not an arcade player. Commander The Great War is a game of elegance and simplicity, and it will reward a player with a strategic mindset. Is it worth 20 bucks? That's up to you. I think there's a LOT of game in that 20 dollars, and a real wargaming fan will consider his money well spent. Replay value is excellent.
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Thu Oct 23, 2014 3:00 pm
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Sentinels of the Multiverse - App Review

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, Android Tablet
Reviewed On: iPad Air
Current Price: $9.99
Version: 1.0
App Size: 255 MB
Developer/Publisher: Handelabra/Greater Than Games
Multiplayer: Yes, pass and play
AI: NA
Itunes link: Sentinels of the Multiverse
Google Play link: Sentinels of the Multiverse


Few games have taken the tabletop world by storm like Sentinels of the Multiverse. This was the Super Hero card game on the market before the big guys even considered the space. It features a cast of original heroes, some pretty direct copies of existing properties, that face off against a cast of villains, each with their own plots and powers. The game’s popularity has spawned spin offs, actual comics, and more. We now have, on our iOS and Android devices, the chance to play the game that started it all.



Admittedly, this is my first time playing Sentinels of the Multiverse. Super heroes have never really appealed to me. I find most of the stories to be a predictable arms races. Does it matter that you are super when everyone you fight is also super? That foolish prejudice of mine aside, it is a cooperative game I have always wanted to try, and I am excited to have it on my iPad. It is important to now that this review is coming from someone very new to the game (Dave is a huge fan of this game and should be reviewing it on that other publication soon).

Being new to the game, I first hit the big “How To Play” button on the front menu. What I saw was a text rulebook, and my heart dropped. “Another game with no tutorial?” I thought. Luckily, nestled in the top right corner was a “Play Tutorial” button. What followed was an excellent tutorial hosted by an animated version of game designer Christopher Badell. It is a superb tutorial teaching both the rules and basic strategy.

That being said, there is still a lot to learn. Each villain and hero plays differently and has a slew of new cards. The amount of new content for each character can be daunting to new players. While the tutorial was great, I would love more ways to ease into the remaining content. In the game setup screen you can see the special abilities of each character and villain, but it would be great to get a better summary of how each character is meant to play, even a brief overview.



Sentinels of the Multiverse is a cooperative game, and, on mobile, can be played solitaire or pass and play (no online play). Once you’ve selected your heroes, the villain, and the location, it is time to fight! The heroes’ goal is to bring the HP of the villain down to 0. Each villain can win by either defeating all the heroes or, for some villains, by another mechanic, for example Baron Blade wins by getting his discard pile to a certain number. The game is played in turns, one for each hero, one for the villain, and one for the environment. The heroes’ abilities are represented by cards ranging from one-off attacks to powers and on-going effects. Each hero can play one card from their hand and one power each turn. Powers range from dealing damage to drawing cards, it depends on the strategy of each hero. There is a wide variety of strategy and mechanics. On the villain’s turn, they follow a preprogrammed set of moves which could involve playing cards from the villain deck and dealing damage to the heroes. The environment or location also gets a turn, usually playing cards that affect both the heroes and villain, adding another wrinkle to the strategy.

All of this is presented in amazing comic book style. The locations are brought to live with well done 3D backgrounds. The heroes and villains have different artwork as they take damage or become more powerful. If you are fan of the board game’s art style, you are going to love what they have done here. The comic book feeling is carried into to the menus and the gameplay screen. Each character is given their own panel, and these panels shifts as turns change. You can tell the folks at Handelabra have a love for Sentinels of the Multiverse as well as comic books in general. I may be getting greedy, but I would loved to see them take this one step further. Currently there are no combat animations, which I think, if added, would help round out the aesthetic and give your actions more weight. However, what’s there now is excellent.



The lack of combat animations is just one part of a lack of information in some parts of the game. With so many different factors influencing each action in the game, it would be great to understand these more clearly. Admittedly, the game does this well with combat, clearly explaining why you are being hit with a certain amount of damage. These needs to be carried to other areas. For example, I would love to know how many cards the Villain will play next turn, or how close they are to their special victory conditions. This information is all available out of context on the cards themselves, but I would love to see it within the flow of the game. As a new player, there is currently a lot to keep track of. The team has tried to make identifying card abilities easier with a range of icons. This is a great first step, but still a bit overwhelming for new players.

While Sentinels of the Multiverse could give more information in some areas, it also suffers from a case of too much in other areas. Each time damage is dealt, either to your heroes or to the villain, you must decided in what order it is allocated. This is useful on some occasions, but there are many times when the choice is irrelevant. Luckily, there is a choose for me button to automate this, but I do wish it would be automated in cases where the choice truly doesn’t matter. Not only is it a bit clunky and happens often (several times a turn), as a new player I found the choice confusing. I kept picking my brain to figure out why damage order mattered in a given situation.

All of this does not tarnish the fact that Sentinels of the Multiverse is really fun to play. The amount of content available is amazing. The possible combinations of heroes, villains, and locales is staggering. There is nearly endless variety. I am excited to solve the puzzle that is each villain and learn the synergies of the different heroes. This iPad version makes gameplay quick and easy, managing all the book keeping and letting you focus on the real choices



The gameplay that has made this game a cult hit shines bright in this digital version. The tutorial makes the game welcoming to new players and is a great place to enter this renowned series. This is a must have addition to your digital board game collection.


This compelling cooperative game is so close to being super.

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Poll created by thequietpunk
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Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:28 pm
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