iOS Board Games

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iOS Review: Battle Academy

Brad Cummings
United States
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad only.
Current Price: $19.99
Developer/Publisher: Slitherine
Version: 1.9
Size: 191 MB
Multiplayer: Asynchronous
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: Battle Academy

The Good:
- Hands down this is the most impressive war game yet on the platform.
- Cross-platform multiplayer on both PC and Mac offer a vibrant online community.
- Additional campaigns can be purchased or free user created content can be downloaded.
The Bad:
- The complexity level is higher than most turn-based strategy games on the platform, so this may not be for the casual gamer.
- The price point requires you to look before you leap.

Very rarely does deep gameplay make it to iOS. The majority of successful board game apps thus far feature simple rules (though there may be complex strategies underneath). We have seen some examples of heavier games succeeding on iOS, but many games of this type seem to avoid the platform because of the perceived $.99 price point and the casual audience of the platform. Now we have Battle Academy that has burst on to the scene at a heavy price point of $19.99 and a high level of complexity. The question that Slitherine will be asking (as well as other publishers) is: is there an audience for this type of app on iOS?

Battle Academy is a deep turn-based war-game set in the World War II era. The various rules and mechanics of the game are explained over a few tutorial levels in the app and to try and rehash them here would probably end up long-winded and convoluted. The basics of the system have players moving all of their units on a turn. Each unit has a set number of action points that they can use to move, fire, and carry out other actions. On your turn any enemy units within range will fire at you, as will your units on the enemy turns. In order to succeed in these scenarios you will need to use real world tactics. For example, tanks can lay down suppressing fire on certain pieces of cover where you think enemy troops may be so that you can move your infantry in to position. It is all about knowing when to push and when to hold. The game features a lot of depth and a lot to master. At the start of each battle you will be able to choose which units you want to bring with you to battle as well as view the goals for that mission. These goals influence how you complete the level among other things. Before I ramble further, I will summarize by saying that Battle Academy has everything that you can expect from a heavy war game.

The price of Battle Academy is its largest (or smallest) gate of entry. With the level of production value and the amount of gameplay offered in the app, if the app were say $4.99 I would recommend it to every fan of iOS board gaming experiences. If you are a “grognard,” buy this...now! Otherwise, I would read above and below to see if this is the app for you, because it very well could be. At the very least it is a testament to what the iPad is capable of.

The battles in the game are presented using a 3D engine. The engine is clear and there can be quite a high level of stylized detail. This engine transfers well to iOS because it does have an artistic look rather than trying to look “real.” Each unit is easy to tell apart (they are also labeled if there is any question) and the different types of cover are fairly intuitive. If for some reason you have trouble viewing the action on the screen or you want a more tabletop experience the view can be switched to a straight top down option. The controls of this native PC game have been optimized for iPad and everything is done through a touch interface. By tapping on a unit it will show the available actions for that unit as well as where they can move and units that they can fire upon will also be marked. These controls are not exactly perfect and I found that it can sometimes be challenging to switch units. However, when viewed in light of the many options in the game, the interface does function well overall.

As you can see above, it appears Slitherine has tried hard to fit this PC title on to the iOS platform, and done so successful. More than fitting, Battle Academy brings many features a long with it that are surprising to see on iOS and very interesting. The first of these is the Play By Email Multiplayer system. This type of asynchronous play is not new to iOS and actually works quite well on the platform, but the real gem of the multiplayer system is that it is cross-platform right out of the gate. Because the game is already released on PC and Mac there is a built in player base for early adopters. I have not completed many games in this mode yet, but it does seem promising. Another feature of Battle Academy that was a surprise for me was the player created content available to add in to the app. This content are additional campaigns. Having Downton Abbey on the brain, I went straight for the WWI campaigns available and have enjoyed them so far. Apart from the more than a dozen downloadable maps, there are also additional campaigns available from Slitherine as in app purchases. These features are not often seen on iOS and really set this app apart as something higher than the normal fare on iOS.

Battle Academy is a great example of the amount of depth and completeness that can be achieved on iOS. If you are a fan of strategy gaming and can step up to challenge of learning a little of the complexity of this app, then this iOS showpiece may be for you. If you are a die hard war-gamer and do not already own this on another platform, the touch controls of the iOS can give you a relaxing and portable way to play the game without losing any of the features of the other versions. If you do not fall in to either of these camps then this may not be the app for you, but it is a great example of the potential of this platform.

Rating: 3/4 War gamer? Get this.
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