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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Card Dungeon - iOS Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 6
Current Price: $1.99
Version: 1.1
App Size: 168 MB
Developer/Publisher: Playtap Games
Multiplayer: NA.
AI: Na.
Itunes link: Card Dungeon

Cloning and copying is rampant on the app store. As a part of the mobile games industry, apps like 2048 make me a bit furious. True, all video games and board games copy from one another, but the problem comes in the ease of directly copying mobile games (due to small teams and project scopes). When I first saw screens for Card Dungeon, my initial reaction was that it was an attempt to cash in on the potential success of Card Hunter (an earlier web based game with nearly an identical art style). As development continued, it became clear that Card Dungeon would beat Card Hunter to mobile, and potentially snatch the fans of the original.

Now that the game has launched, it is clear that art-wise, this is 100% the case. Everything from the level headings to the card art is extremely similar to Card Hunter. However, mechanically the game is entirely different. Gone is the brutally difficult TBS gameplay, replaced by an interesting rogue-like mechanic that has conquering a series of challenging dungeons. It really is it’s own unique game, I stand partially corrected.



Card Dungeon hinges on a simple card mechanic. At any given time, you can have three cards in your inventory. These cards each feature an attack or spell that you can use against the monsters you find in the dungeon. The trick is that each card is slowly deteriorating. The more you use it, the closer it gets to being destroyed. This is represented graphically by the card turning more and more ragged. This means you need to constantly be refreshing your available actions by picking up new cards found by slaying monsters and searching chests. Your move set is constantly shifting, which means you have to constantly be learning and perfecting new strategies.

To start a run of Card Dungeon, you select one of several dungeons, each featuring their own boss. You then choose a character as well as a perk and a weakness. With this setup, you head into the dungeon, attempting to pass all the levels of each dungeon and defeat the boss without dying.

Like many games in this genre, you can have good runs and you have bad. The selection of cards that come up as you kill monsters and open chests, will determine how far you can get. Many runs will be awesome, while others will just be frustrating. The randomness of card selection (and a pretty large variety) forces you to innovate and find new ways to solve problems. It is rewarding to discover a new way to take on a room of monsters.

The cards range from basic attacks to powerful spells that can even change the dungeon. The game excels at presenting many possible solutions to any problem. For example, when encountering the first boss, I placed a lava pit in a doorway and lured the boss into it repeatedly until he was defeated. As moving and attacking have to be done on separate turns, positioning is a huge part of the game. Many attacks will send enemies flying, while others can pull them to you. There is quite a variety here and a lot to be discovered. This is, by far, the most compelling thing about Card Dungeon; this is where the game really shines.



Card Dungeon is turn-based. Each turn you move or use a card, and then each monster in your vicinity gets a move. It’s a game about timing and planning. You want to get each monster in the right place at the right time to avoid damage and make use of your cards. The turn-based mechanic is awesome for board gamers, but also creates challenges. In combat the system is great, but once you want to explore, the turn system can really slow things down. The game features neutral monsters that will not attack unless provoked. The problem is, if they are in a room you are trying to cross, they all get a turn, meaning to move one square can take 15 to 30 seconds. It just seems unnecessarily slow in the exploration portions.

The game is presented in portrait, which led me to believe this is a phone-centric game. After trying to play standing on a train, I can tell you, it is a challenge to operate with one hand. The biggest crux is the game’s camera. it is rotated by two fingers and is necessary to really get an idea of what is in the dungeon around you. This is challenging to do even on iPad (the sensitivity it strange), and is a huge challenge while playing on an iPhone. I would love to see a feature added to allow dragging around the map with one finger. Getting a read on a dungeon room is important in the game, I just wish it was easier to execute.

Card Dungeon and I got off on the wrong foot with the art style. However, gameplay, especially combat, proves that this is it’s own game, with some neat ideas. In the end, the turn-based exploration really slows the game down, and, combined with the odd camera controls, makes it a challenge to play. Even with these challenges, it does bring some interesting ideas to the table and is worth a look if you enjoy rogue-like mechanics.

A fun rogue-like that could use a bit of polish.

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Tue Oct 14, 2014 2:00 pm
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Pokemon TCG Online - iPad Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad
Reviewed On: iPad Air
Current Price: Free
Version: 2.23.0
App Size: 504 MB
Developer/Publisher: Pokemon Company
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Pokemon TCG Online

Pokemon was one of the first video games I played on our family’s brick of a Game Boy, and consequently, the Pokemon Trading Card Game was the first hobby game I ever player. Of course, I had not comprehension of that at the time. My best friend showed up at my house one summer day with two brightly colored red and blue boxes. My friend was not into video games, but his grandfather thought the game was cool and purchased the cards for him as payment for helping on the farm. This bizarre combination of events can only mean one thing: it was destiny. We played for hours, and I promptly picked up my own set as soon as my funds allowed.

I played this game for a few years, finally moving into Harry Potter, then Magic: the Gathering, and so on until I reach modern board gaming. The Pokemon Trading Card Game holds a special place in my heart. It is a game meant for younger audiences, there is strategy, but it can be swingy. Like many card games, but also more often than others, you can find yourself in no win situations. All that being said, it is an interesting game to experience for several reasons including that it was an entry point for many gamers, and it is a great example of great licensed game.



This new iPad version provides an opportunity for those that may have missed the game to check it out for free. If you are an old fan like me, or have kids, it also is a way to play digitally and on the go. Let’s take a look at what this version has to offer and if it lives up to high expectations.

To start off, Pokemon Trading Card Game is more like Magic Online than Hearthstone (in fact it is always online). You will receive a free deck and cards just for signing up, and the game features no in-app purchases. That is right, you can’t drop real money for cards in the game. So how do you get cards? One way is to buy actual cards in a store, which will provide a code exchangeable for the same product digitally. You can also buy cards with Player Coins which are earned by playing games, logging in daily, watching the Pokemon cartoon in a companion app, and more. It is an interesting system and seems very kid friendly. I do wish I could just give them a bunch of cash, but I do see what they are trying to do. So this app is more about playing with your existing Pokemon Trading Card Game collection, than necessarily quickly building a new one.



Of course, the real focus is playing the game. You can play against AI or Online against real players (constant internet connection required for any mode). The AI is not amazing, but luck can make for some challenging competitions. Online play is actually pretty seamless and game timers keep games tight. I have found many players will quit a game after losing a big Pokemon or a having a bad start. It feels like the community is a little hit or miss. You should check out our stream from last week to see how frustrating this can get.

While I do lament the access to cards (let me give you money!), with just a few packs I felt ready for some minor deck building. The interface is extensive but can be a bit daunting to navigate. It hearkens back again to the PC origins of this game. The filtering options, however, are pretty impressive. There were options there that I didn’t even know what to do with like “retreat cost”. If you are more versed in this game, it looks like there is a lot there for you. It even features an auto-build option where you pick two favorite cards and it builds a deck around them. This great in a game like Pokemon when your deck is usually built around a couple large Pokemon.

Pokemon Trading Card Game started out as a PC and Mac application, and the iPad version suffers for it. The whole thing has been retrofitted for touch controls, but many menus are still a bit clunky. It also has this bizarre art style that seems inspired by avatars from the Yahoo games system. It seems strange that a game world with so much depth can be presented in such a shallow way.



After doing a live stream of the game on Thursday, I proceeded to play another round of matches the following morning. The claws were back in. Admittedly, a bunch of those games ended poorly for me despite my choices, and yet I had a blast the whole time. The interface is burdensome, the gameplay is swingy, and the online community is a little fickle, but it still captures the fun I remember about the game. Evolving a Pokemon is just as satisfying as it ever was. It’s a formula that still works.

I am not saying this game is for every player, it is not genre defining like Hearthstone, but there is a fun experience here. If you are an old fan, this is a fun way to visit and old friend. If you have never tried it, I recommend giving it a quick look. At least you can see what all the fuss was about. As for me, I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause. I will travel across the land, searching far and wide. Each Pokemon to understand the power that’s inside.

A nostalgia trip that leaves some things to be desired.

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Tue Oct 7, 2014 2:00 pm
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Galaxy Trucker - iPad Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad (iPhone and Android Coming Soon!)
Reviewed On: iPad Air
Current Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0.3
App Size: 72 MB
Developer/Publisher: Czech Games Edition.
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Galaxy Trucker



Fastening a perfect double engine to the back of my spaceship, I grab the first player token and declare my construction complete. Quickly I realize I have forgotten to attach a laser gun to the front of my ship, leaving me vulnerable to asteroid collisions. It is not long into my space flight that a meteor strikes my open spot and splits my spaceship in two.

Galaxy Trucker is a game of stories, it is a game of laughing at others’ misfortunes and screaming at your own demise. It is a highly social game, one that may appear impossible to recreate digitally. That is the magical part of this port, CGE has managed to bring this experience to our iPads (also Android and iPhone soon), not just through online multiplayer but throughout the entire experience.



The humor in Galaxy Trucker comes from the very structure of the gameplay. Your first task in any game is to construct a ship. This is done by drawing tiles and attaching them to the existing tiles on your ship. Tiles represent ship parts such as crew quarters, laser guns, cargo holds, engines, and more. There is a puzzle element to the game as tile connections vary, and you have to match like tiles in order to add them to your ship. This is all done in realtime, so mistakes are often made. Maybe you forgot a key component or overlooked an entire strategy.

After your ragtag ship is welded together, it is time to fly. The flying portion of the game is a race, you are trying to be the first to reach the finish and have the prettiest ship. Each flight is represented by a deck of cards full of hazards. These could be meteors that strike your ship, pirates, war zones, planets to collect goods from, and more. Your goal is to earn as much cash as you can and try and survive. Because the cards are fairly random, you don’t always know what is coming and could be totally unprepared. You may have what appears to be the perfect ship, but then it will be ultimately destroyed.

At the end of each flight you earn points for cargo, your place in the race, and more. The player with the most cash after a set number of rounds (3 in the full game) is the winner. Subsequent rounds feature bigger and bigger ships as well as more difficult hazards. This experience is recreated point for point in the app. You can play online against players in real time or you can challenge AI opponents. If this were the extent of Galaxy Trucker on iPad, it would be somewhat shallow experience, however, CGE has gone far beyond this. Both in single player and multiplayer CGE has found ways to extend the gameplay and make it more accessible and enjoyable.



Apart from playing traditional Galaxy Trucker with AI, there is a full fledge campaign mode. In this mode you are flying ships from planet to planet, earning money and completing quests. It features a hilarious cast of characters and many planets to explore (I’ve only scratched the surface after a week of play). I can’t stress how developed this mode is. It is not linear, but rather full of branching paths. The conversations with characters are not just well written but often hide secrets about your upcoming flight. Each flight from planet to planet feels different. Sure, there are some that are just the standard mix of Galaxy Trucker hazards, but others feature entirely new challenges. For example, in one mission you are hired to transport drinks for a bar. These are new tiles that must be protected or you fail the mission. Another route is entirely meteor cards that you must defend against. You will find yourself sinking hours and hours into this mode.

Along with realtime play, there is an entirely new turn-based mode that lets you play asynchronously. In this mode, ship building is done with a series of points. You use points to reveal tiles, store tiles, or attach them to your ship. You can also save up to three points from the previous round. You play back and forth until each player has finished their ship. It is an interesting system and really opens up Galaxy Trucker to online play.



All of these features are packaged in what feels like the board game art come to life. The ships animate as they go down to planets, asteroids and lasers actually strike your ship, shields burst to life, and more. While still true to the board game, they have made it truly a video game experience. The UI and interface are easy to use and surprisingly intuitive. The included tutorial doesn’t just teach gameplay, but also walks you through app controls, which is great for new and experienced players (also the tutorial is quite funny, so I would check it out even if you are a pro).

Galaxy Trucker is the standout iOS board game of the year, so far. It hits all the right notes and provides hours and hours of gameplay. This is truly a board game turned into a video game, not merely a port. Each mode of play is deliberate and well thought out. This is not one to be missed.

Game of the Y...too soon to call!

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Poll created by thequietpunk
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Tue Sep 30, 2014 2:40 am
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1st & Goal - App Video Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal, Android
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPad 2
Current Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Size: 55.9 MB
Developer/Publisher: R&R Games
Multiplayer: Yes, pass and play
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: 1st & Goal
Google Play link: 1st & Goal



This football game is a surprise hit for me.

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Wed Sep 10, 2014 2:00 pm
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Review Roundup: Cahoots, Letter Pix, and the Manhattan Project

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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Amidst a busy Gen Con month (and a move to a new apartment) there were many excellent releases. Sadly, I have not had time to review them all. In an attempt to make my way through some of the backlog, here is a roundup of three games that came out this month that you should check out.



Cahoots!



The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 5
Current Price: $1.99
Version: 1.0
App Size: 12.0 MB
Developer/Publisher: Josh Edwards
Multiplayer: No
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Cahoots!

Trick taking games often feel right at home on mobile as they are easy to play and generally an AI can provide an excellent challenge. This month, Cahoots joins the ranks of the likes of Tichu and Mu on mobile.

Cahoots is a trick taking game with six suits. Each player can score points on three of the suits and shares one suit with each of the other players. Each trick players will play two cards (of any number and suit) and the suit with the highest total is the winner, giving two points to each owner of that suit. The game creates and interesting dynamic as you are trying to help yourself but also need to decide which of your opponents you will benefit. At the end of each round you select one card from the trick to keep and one to discard. This step us one of the most important in the game as it gives you some control on what will be available in the future.

This design, a digital original, is excellent. One of my biggest complaints with most trick taking games is that I often feel like I have no good move or that I have nothing to participate in the current trick. Cahoots solves both of these problems; each decision is important. A trick could appear to be going to one suit after the first round of cards, but then could swing entirely during the second card drop. This is currently my favorite trick taking game, digital or tabletop.

As an app, Cahoots is a bit on the basic side, but it gets the job done. Play is limited to AI at the moment, but for me, that is all I really want to play this type of game on mobile with anyway. The game features a short tutorial that teaches you the basics and then hands you the reins. The UI overall is pretty clear and all the actions makes sense in context. It is the not the bell of the ball, but it does everything it needs to for the type of game it is.

Cahoots is an excellent trick taking game and a gem to have on mobile. If you are looking for a quick brain teaser for your commute or other travel, this is definitely a potential go to.



Letter Pix



The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal, Android
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 5
Current Price: Free
Version: .75
App Size: 78.6 MB
Developer/Publisher: Kaio Interactive
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Letter Pix
Google Play link: Letter Pix

Michael Elliot sat down with Dave and I at Gen Con to show off his latest game. If you are not familiar with Michael, he is the designer of Quarriors, AND MORE. His latest game is a mobile original called Letter Pix and represents a new venture for him.

In Letter Pix, players are trying to find words in a word search. Each letter in the chosen word is removed from the board and a picture hidden behind the letters is partially revealed. After finding word, the player has a chance to guess what is in the picture. It’s a pretty fast game as after just a few rounds, a good portion of the picture is revealed. As the starting player has a clear advantage, the game allows the 2nd player to guess even if the puzzle has been solved, and they score equal points.

The game features AI, but I have found it most fun as a social game. You can challenge your friends and compete. This mashup of game mechanics seems to work really well. You often want to find the largest word possible, but you also need to be able to identify the photo. Also, each time you guess a word, you are also helping your opponent. It is a trade-off that makes for many interesting decisions.

The game can be played against AI or Facebook friends. It really shines in multiplayer, so I recommend getting online as soon as possible. There is a fair amount of content available upfront, but you are also able to purchase additional content as desired.

Letter Pix is a light social game, not a deep strategic experience, but don’t let that scare you away. It features a nice blend of mechanics and fills a unique place on mobile. As an added bonus, it really works with kids. I definitely recommend checking this one out. It may not be something you play all the time, but it is a unique game that is worth a look.



The Manhattan Project



The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal, Android
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 5
Current Price: $6.99
Version: 1
App Size: 71.8 MB
Developer/Publisher: Domowicz Creative Group
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: The Manhattan Project
Google Play link: The Manhattan Project

This is a game you would expect a full-fledged review on, and we may have one in the future, but due to scheduling, I wanted to give you a quick rundown. The Manhattan Project digital was Kickstarted a few months back and is now available. It is basic yet complete translation of this popular strategy game.

In The Manhattan Project, players are competing to research, build, and test nuclear weapons. Each round you will assign works to different tasks, getting the resources you need to make progress. Unlike other games in this genre, you can actual attack other players to slow their progress. The game is a race to a predetermined point total based on the number of players. It does an interesting job of portraying this unique point in history.

Playing the Manhattan Project on iPad is going to take effort and heart. To start with, if you are new to the game, your only guide is an included rulebook. This is the rulebook from the tabletop game, so even after completing it you will need to adjust to the included interface. I understand this is how tabletop games work (if you are the teacher of your group) but I generally expect more from digital games. I believe a tutorial was a Kickstarter stretch goal that was missed, which explains its exclusion. Just seems a pity as it hinders new players.

The gameplay experience is very much an amalgam of the tabletop game. You pick up and drag actual workers (which can be dropped randomly around the board) and have a pile of yellow cake cubes. For those that are not a fan of the adjustments made visually with digital board games, you are going to enjoy this one. It is as close to a tabletop experience as you can get.

If you are a fan of the game, or willing to do the work to enjoy it, there is a great experience waiting. AI play allows you to get in a game any time you want, though I can’t really speak to its difficulty as I am new player. Online play will let you challenge other players worldwide. There really are some great options to play, if this is your cup of tea.

Your mileage with the Manhattan Project is going to come down to your patience. If you are a fan of the game, you will slip right in and play more than you ever have. If you are new, it is going to take some work to start enjoying yourself, so be ready for that.
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Fri Sep 5, 2014 2:00 pm
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GenCon 2014 Part 1: Hands on Impressions with Battlelore, 7 Wonders, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and more

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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Amidst our long walks each day around the convention center, Dave and I had the opportunity take some time with a handful of games coming later this year. We will have reviews and more impressions of these games as we near release, but I wanted to give you a quick update now.

7 Wonders
After the excellent helper app released by Repos last year, my hopes have been high for the iOS version. There is a lot of information to communicate in this relatively light game, and it looks like they have done an excellent job. The graphic design is true to the board game while being polished and tailored in a few places. The iOS version is not afraid to introduce some digital help. When you receive a hand of cards to choose from, each is color coded, telling you about the cost to play the card. Another interesting addition are persistent VP scores, so you can quickly see where you stand at any given point. I was impressed by the tasteful use of digital innovation.

One final note: this release will not only include the base game but also the Leaders and Cities expansions as IAP. I think this is a really great move. The minute you download the app you will be able to dive in for more 7 Wonders. As someone who has never gotten around to picking up the expansions, this is certainly a bonus. The release window is still TBD, but we should know more later this fall.

Note: We've been asked to hold the video for now, but we will post as soon as we get clearance.
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Wed Aug 27, 2014 2:00 pm
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Star Realms - iOS Review

Brad Cummings
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Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal, Android
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 5
Current Price: Free ($4.99 for full game)
Version: 1.0.5
App Size: 94.0 MB
Developer/Publisher: White Wizard Games
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Star Realms
Google Play link: Star Realms



Star Realms has been on of the most anticipated digital board games of the past few weeks, with a steady hype flow coming from early previews. After making debuts on Android, PC, and Mac, Star Realms dropped onto iOS amidst the flurry of GenCon. Having finally had a chance to play this “Ascension killer,” let’s take a look and see if it lives up to all the hype.

Just to start off, Star Realms is a great deck-building game. It takes some mechanics you may know from Ascension while adding many new and interesting things. The game is a head to head sci-fi battle card game. Each player start with an authority total and your goal is to lower your opponents authority to 0. Much like Ascension, you start with a small deck of cards that can give you trade and attack values. Trade is used to buy cards from a center row. When a card is purchased, it is then replaced by one from the draw deck. Attack is used to lower the authority of your opponent. Deciding how to focus on these two resources is key to succeeding in Star Realms (much more so than Ascension).



The deck of cards to buy is made up of four factions. Each faction has unique cards and a few clear strengths and weaknesses. Almost every card in the game has an Ally ability, which triggers some sort of bonus if another card of that faction is already in play on your turn. It then becomes essential to focus on just one or two factions in any given game. Another interesting mechanic are bases and outposts. These stay on the board from round to round and can give you bonuses each turn. They can also act as buffers for your authority, as with outposts your opponent will have to destroy them before going for your face. Star Realms is an excellent, if iterative, design. It breaths new life into an aging genre.

In converting this design to iOS, they’ve gotten a lot of things right, while stumbling in several places as well. Star Realms is using the freemium model, meaning you can download the game and play for free, as much as you want, with the easy AI. If you want the full feature set, there is a one time purchase of $4.99. This includes online play, more challenging AI opponents, and a full campaign.



Most of my play so far has been against the AI and it is quite enjoyable. The Easy AI is pretty easy to walk over, though i have been surprised a few times. At the higher difficulties there is certainly some challenge. This single player experience is carried over into a puzzling campaign. Each level provides some sort of rule-breaking foe to overcome, along with normal and hard versions of each. It’s no Naxx, but it does provide a deeper single-player experience.

Of course, most of us will be spending our time playing online, and Star Realms does provide some excellent cross-platform multiplayer. Logging in online will also transfer your full-game purchase from device to device. The online is of course short of the forthcoming Playdek online system, but it gets the job done and can provide hour of entertaining play.

In spite of the all the great content, design is where Star Realms fails as an app. The UI appears to be built cross-platform, sacrificing a lot of finesse for one interface across all platforms. This results in odd commands for iOS, like the inability to scroll through cards and double tap to play something (usually a zoom command on iOS). These will throw you off as a player during the first few matches, I guarantee it. I also had some trouble with hit zones, often pulling up my deck while trying to end a turn on iPad. Some of the flow is also challenging. executing some special abilities can be a several step process.



It is far from unplayable, and I plan to put many more hours into the game, but it is disappointing to have such a lackluster design after so much hype. The best iOS board game apps feature a great game and great design. Those that only get 50% there fall short of what is required. Star Realms is such a game. It features excellent gameplay and excellent features, but is marred by too many cut-corners (in the service of multi-platform). Be sure to check this one out, as the gameplay is not to be missed. I just hope we see design improvements in its future.

Great game, poor execution.

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Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:00 pm
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Catchup - Abstract Strategy: iOS Review

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iOS Universal
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPhone 5
Current Price: $2.99
Version: 0.8.1
App Size: 4.5 MB
Developer/Publisher: Martin Grider
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Catchup - Abstract Strategy



One of my favorite parts about digital board games is it gives me an opportunity to play things I would never be able to get to the table for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the game is to complex, or perhaps hard to find, or maybe I am just to busy (read lazy) to print and construct one of the great PnP offerings on BGG. Catchup falls firmly into this category. It is quite a fun abstract game that would be right up my alley, but I missed initially.

Catchup is an abstract game, meaning there is really now theme to speak of. The game is played on a hexagonal grid board and players take turns laying down pieces of their color. The goal of the game is to have the largest group of your pieces at the end of the game. You have two pieces to place each turn and placement is possible on any open space, but there is one catch. If, by placing a piece you increase the size of your largest group, your opponent gets to place three pieces on the following turn. This “catchup mechanic” is the main crux of the game and winning or losing relies on knowing when to start connecting pieces.



Like many abstract games, it is easy to learn and the provided tutorial is a nice start on the path. After you finish the tutorial there is a variable AI to play against. If you leave the setting on auto, the AI will increase and decrease in difficulty based on your win record. This is a fun way to play and gives the feeling of being on a streak or leveling up. You can of course set the difficulty manually if you like, but where is the fun in that?

Aside from single players there is pass and play and online multiplayer. Pass and play is great in this game if you have an iPad. Because there is no hidden information you can lay out the tablet between you, just as if you had printed out the game. Online multiplayer uses Game Center asynchronous which seems to work really well. It is not a feature rich system but great for quick games back and forth.



Visually, the game is pretty basic. Of course, this is to be expected with an abstract game. The UI is pretty clear and carries the hex theme throughout. There are also surprising amount of options, including the ability to change the colors of the game pieces. There really is a lot you can adjust here. Don’t be put off by the basic look, there is a great abstract game in here.

Catchup is not a game that is going to be a staple of any collection but it is an excellent digital version of a great game. There many ways to play, with a special focus on a great singe player experience. Abstract games are not really a main event and are more about mastering a system through repeated play than a game of constant variance. It is not a game for everyone, but it is an excellent abstract strategy game on the system.

A unique opportunity to play this PNP game.
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Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:00 pm
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Blood Bowl - iPad Review

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad
Reviewed On: iPad Air, iPad 2
Current Price: $4.99
Version: 3.1.0
App Size: 320 MB
Developer/Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Multiplayer: Yes
AI: Yes
Itunes link: Blood Bowl



In early 2000, I was a boy obsessed. I saved my entire Hawaiian vacation travel money to spend on a Warhammer starter set when we returned to the mainland. My father was a bit annoyed (understandably) and debated the validity of hoarding these funds in such a way, but eventually relented. What followed was a year or two of building, painting, and oh so little actual playing. Amidst all this I remember watching several Blood Bowl matches with fascination. While I am about as far away from a football fan as you can get, I have always admired Blood Bowl for it’s innate silliness. I share all this to explain why I was so excited for Blood Bowl on iPad. I could now play single-player with no painting required way.

Blood Bowl on iPad is a port of the existing PC version which is in turn a port of the tabletop rules. The game is closer to rugby than anything with control of the ball passing fluidly from team to team (through interceptions and fumbles). It is a turn-based games and a team can maintain control until they have either moved all of their players or force a turnover by being knocked down. The goal of the game is to score touchdowns, each worth a point. The player with the most points at the end of the time limit is the winner.



Unlike traditional sporting events, you can wound, maul, and even kill opposing players. It brings a bit of wargaming into the mix by making over extending yourself a real issue. The game also encourages cheating: you can use funds to bribe the refs, hire a wizard to launch a fireball and more. There are teams from several well known Warhammer races such humans, dwarves, wood elves (bonus points!), orcs, and chaos. Each team has its own flair and special units. On top of this there are mercenary players you can hire to mix things up. There is a ton of room for customization here.

As I mentioned, Blood Bowl is certainly a PC port. Overall it is done pretty well. The menus are clear and straightforward (while the text is a bit small in areas) and the touch controls work pretty well during gameplay. However, the UI leaves a lot to be desired. Button layout often seems random and there challenges with important things like path defining. The lack of undo is another stumbling point as it is easy to accidentally commit a wrong move.



The rules of a Blood Bowl are fairly complex and while the game manages a lot of it, I do think a better on-boarding process is needed. The brief tutorial does touch on the basics of moving and tackling but doesn’t get to explain the dice or the large panel of special powers on the bottom of the screen. For those experienced with the game, you will be ready to jump right in, but new players may find it a bit challenging. That being said, I did jump right in after the tutorial and managed to muddle my way through a game.

Graphically the game looks great (if dated). The animations are fun and the silly blood animations add to the overall theme. The camera is pretty easy to control and they have added some buttons for that. One annoyance is that it doesn’t really pan or zoom to action, so it is sometimes hard to follow what the AI is doing on their turn.

There is a lot to do in this game with a full featured AI (3 difficulty levels), hotseat multiplayer, and online multiplayer. The AI has provided a fair challenge for me as a new player, but did seem susceptible to certain strategies at the easy level. In the single player realms there is also a full campaign mode. Online multiplayer is pretty basic but will definitely get you playing with real players pretty quickly.



Blood Bowl is a game I want to love. It is up there with some of the most technically sophisticated apps our genre has to offer, and yet it is just kinda sloppy. That’s really the best word to describe it. It feels like they got about 80% there and stopped. It falls short of other Games Workshop licenses such as Warhammer Quest and Talisman.

That being said, if you can look past the rough edges, there is a fun game here with a lot of content. Blood Bowl is in many ways a cult classic, so having it wildly available on iPad is great for those of use who might have missed it. It just needs a little push to get it over the top.


A fun games that falls short of the line.

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Thu Aug 7, 2014 3:00 pm
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Why you should play World of Tanks Blitz - a Review

Brad Cummings
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World of Tanks Blitz is the sort of game that many would feel should not grace this corner of the internet. On paper it appears to be as far away from the BGG crowd as one could get. Let’s see what’s stacked against it:
1. It’s Free-to-Play.
2. It’s an FPS.
3. It’s made by a company that throws launch parties featuring dancers in skimpy camp outfits (trust me, I have been to one).

In spite of all of this, I find myself totally engaged with World of Tanks Blitz and find it competing for time with the likes of Hearthstone and Magic 2015. This is a bizarre occurrence, even for me, and so I have begun to analyze about why I am so enamored with this game and why I think you should try it. Here are a few reasons I have come up with:



1. WOTB has respect for history
These guys know what they are talking about. Every tank, every model is based on historical vehicles. The special achievements you can earn highlight amazing historical events (like one Russian tank driver making a stand against a much larger force). In true wargame fashion, you can play as the USA, Russia, or Germany and each is fairly represented, there is no real bias here (Note: The tutorial does have you drive an American tank, but I do believe that is more about marketing than cultural bias). During my tenure at Shenandoah Studio, I grew to love and appreciate WW2 history, and World of Tanks honors that love. Sure, combined arms was a thing in WW2 and these sorts of engagements really didn’t happen that often, but that aside, there is a very respectful simulation game here.



2. This is an FPS for old people
A few months ago I was speaking to Owen Faraday about World of Tanks on the Xbox. He told me that I should definitely check it out as it is an FPS for old men. I don’t really consider myself old, but I guess in the world of twitch-based shooters, I am about a thousand years old. Laying my mild offense aside, I booted it up and discovered what he meant.

World of Tanks is all about positioning and there are no one-shot kills. The battlefields feature a varied mix of city type terrain (tight corners, hard to navigate, but good cover) and open areas (great visibility and maneuverability, but little cover). Your goal in the game is to move from position to position hoping to spot enemy tanks for your teammates while staying in cover and out of sight. If you are hit from the front, you can generally escape and make it to cover, to fight another day. However, if someone gets the drop on you from behind, you will not be so lucky. This is a game that relies on flanking, just like real tank warfare and rewards careful planning and surprise rather than being the one to pull the trigger first.

Seriously, give it a try.



3. This is free-to-play done right
F2P can be done right, I firmly believe that. Heartstone, Summoner Wars, and others have really grasped what this monetization style can do for our crowd. F2P working does not mean that you can play forever for free and never have any reason to spend money. The goal of a F2P game is to provide a quality play experience and then offer paid features in just the right spots.

World of Tanks does this well. I have put in many hours (probably 25, which is a lot for me) and have yet to spend any money. I have gotten to the point where unlocking new tanks is slow. I can feel that they are pushing me to a paid feature, but I am totally ok with this. I have already had many enjoyable hours and I am free to continue to play with the tanks I have unlocked. While the heavy, famous tanks are further down the line (Tigers and Shermans), the game is not pay to win. Heavy tanks sure hit hard but winning the game is about positioning not size, so light tanks can be used to get around these slow moving behemoths.

The payment spots seem to make sense. Do you want to level up faster (get more tanks?)? Then spend a little for elite membership. What a cool new tank without leveling? You can choose from a handful of premium tanks. Otherwise, there are a few expendable items, but I have not seen them get much play in games I have been in.



4. It is just plain fun
World of Tanks Blitz features short focused matches that make for a fun experience on mobile. Teams of 7 go head-to-head in King of the Hill type matches. Each match has a time limit, so nothing ever runs very long and generally games will end long before that. A lot of your success will depend on choosing the right front for that match. Perhaps you have a favorite flanking path and then one match the whole teams happens to go that direction, whoops. So sure, it can be swingy but that is part of the fun. This is a game of stories. For example, in one match I was the last player on my team, going up against three opponents. I managed to successfully eliminate the rest of the opposing team and win. It was a great moment and one I still look back on fondly.

Because the matches are so tight and focused, it has that “just one more game” feeling. When you lose your tank in battle, you can leave the game and start a new one in another tank. The transition is seamless.

But wait you say, what about the douche factor? Well, I am sure that is still there and will show up at future parties. I can only pray that I get another invite so I can show up and act all self-righteous, for nothing brings me more joy than being self-righteous. Joking aside, the online experience does not feature direct chat and games are pretty straightforward so you lose a lot of what you would have to deal with in a normal FPS. You can also join our World of Tanks league to play with other BGG fans.

I hope you will give this excellent game a try. There is a lot of fun in this “free” package, and it is something I don’t think any historical gaming fan should miss.

Get World of Tanks Blitz on the App Store today.
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51 Comments
Tue Aug 5, 2014 6:00 pm
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