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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Interview: iOS Board Games Talks with Johannes Päivinen of Puffin Software about Viking Lords for iPad

Gabe Alvaro
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This is the first of hopefully many interviews we'll do on iOS Board Games. As my first interview for the blog, I was really hoping to get to talk to an iOS developer for a game I really liked and focus on that game, its features, and the developer's experience in creating it.

As for my choice of game I really liked, I chose Puffin Software's Viking Lords. When I first discovered it in December of 2010, I could hardly believe my eyes. Here was a Commands & Colors system game for the iPad inspired by Richard Borg's BattleLore! The game is an old favorite of mine. Because of this, I bought the app on first sight and played through the entire campaign on both easy and hard settings.

As excellent as I think Viking Lords is, it is not however a choice without some controversy. The app has been criticized by a vocal minority here on BGG for taking more than just inspiration from a print board game to turn it into a mobile app. So I wanted to ask the developers about that too. I finally caught up with Johannes Päivinen of Puffin Software last week.





iOS Board Games: Hi Johannes. So, who is Puffin Software and what inspired you to develop Viking Lords?


Johannes Päivinen: Well, Puffin Software is three guys from Finland - me and my fellow programmers Mika Vehkala and Petteri Kamppuri. We all play board games, and one of the games we liked to play was BattleLore.
But it was a bit difficult to find time to get together and play it. We also disliked the amount of time it took to set up the scenarios.

So we started thinking, this type of game would work well on a computer. We wrote a Mac prototype. It was an interesting project to hack with, so over time we just kept on adding to it. Network play, cross-platform, fancier graphics, etc.

We even pitched our prototype to Fantasy Flight Games. They were mildly interested, but were slow to respond and didn't seem to be too much into it. So eventually we decided to take our game to a different direction.

Then the iPad came along and we realized this platform was such a perfect fit for the game that we should finalize it and publish it on iPad.

Puffin Software is just something we set up to release this game and other future projects. We all have day jobs elsewhere, in games and software industry.


iOS BG: When you say "take it in another direction," what was that other direction?


JP: Vikings! We introduced a new theme and created a single-player campaign. We started to take liberties with the gameplay, tweaking and streamlining things that we felt didn't work.

At the same time we made sure that we were not violating any copyrights, so the game could be released.


iOS BG: Ah, of course, vikings was obviously not it's first theme. You had to change it. Ok. Let's come back to that later.

It certainly is a great fit for the iPad. Can you say why you chose to develop ONLY the iPad, instead of going Universal and/or enabling play on the iPhone too?


JP: The game was made for a large screen. It's non trivial to do a good iPhone version - just doing a direct conversion would result in bad usability.

We're still considering doing a proper iPhone version, if we can find the time for it.



iOS BG: So by non-trivial, do you mean its not just as simple as adding an ability to zoom in and out like in Carcassonne?


JP: Zooming in on the board is one thing, but there's also other things to consider. Most of the screen layouts would need to be re-organized, and we would also like to support older iPhones which have lower resolution and less RAM.


iOS BG: Once you realized the iPad would be a perfect fit. How long did take to go from that point to the released app? Can you describe the process for those in our audience who might not understand much about app development or the app approval process?


JP: It was far from complete when we decided to go iPad. It took about 10 months to finish.

We worked on programming, art and audio, based on one big "to do" list of features that we wanted to include in the final game. There was a lot of discussion about the features. We wanted to only include things that were well thought out.

We especially focused on user experience. The rules can be quite overwhelming to a new player. So how could we make the game easy to learn, and how could we make it clear to the player what is happening, while still keeping it fluid?

Graphics were challenging because we didn't have a real 2D artist in the team. For the units we used 3D models, but for the rest we combined stock photos, textures, all kinds of stuff.

The approval process itself was painless for us. Developers submit the game to Apple, who checks it for technical problems and accepts or rejects it. Our game was fairly bug-free at that point, so we didn't have any problems.


iOS BG: 10 months? Wow! Speaking of the rules, I recall that BattleLore has an excellent rule book with many tutorial-like examples. And in regard to the tutorial, your app's voice-overs with animated fade-in text are extremely thematic. Where did you get this idea? Who did the voice-over and was it hard to work in to the game? And as far as the graphics go, I think they are very evocative of a another era. So are you basically saying that the overall graphic effect in Viking Lords was basically achieved through a collage-like process?


JP: The tutorial came after some unsuccessful attempts of using tooltips only. Players were having a hard time concentrating on the information, so we decided some force-feeding of the basics was needed.

I had toyed with the idea of a book metaphor, that there would be a "book of battles" - so that starting the game would be equal to opening a book, and the book could be read through by playing through the game.

We tried to stick to "natural" materials - wood, leather, paper - and old fonts to get the right feel. And yes, it was one big collage, various elements composited together.

Our audio guy Stakula did amazing work on music in short time, and also had contacts to voice over companies. Voice work was directed by AudioGodz and acted by Sam Mowry. We had limited chances to direct the voice-overs, but they got it right from the start, so that was a smooth process.


iOS BG: As a developer, what part of the Viking Lords app are you most proud of?



JP: I'm most proud of how the vision for the campaign was realized. All along we had the idea of an easily approachable single player experience, which would be thematic and kind of lure the player in into the game. I think that worked out well. The campaign came very nicely together, with illustrations, music and voice, but much of that happened in the very end.


iOS BG: I mentioned the voiceovers for the prologue, briefings, and tutorial because it's usually the first thing a new player sees, but I take it that the lion's share of the work went into the game play mechanics, which are pretty extensively implemented.






As an experienced BattleLore player, I noticed with delight that all of the basic mechanics were there. From the cards to the different units, to their color strengths, to bold and battleback, to terrain and structures. Can you talk about the process and decision-making for bringing this all together in the app? Did you add anything that BattleLore did not have? Were there things that you later discovered that you missed?


JP: As a BattleLore player you know that to some extent it's also a game of luck.

We did numerous changes to reduce the luck factor. For example, we adjust the card deck based on map, removing cards that are not useful in that map. We also added the "Any 2" card that is always available. Hit points and damage were tweaked so that units last longer, and the randomness of damage evens out.

We added elements we felt would make the campaign more interesting, like mountains and commanders. We removed dice rolls entirely and changed some of the concepts to make the rules more understandable.

We didn't want to cater to seasoned board gamers only, we also wanted to reach new players. In hindsight, we could have streamlined the rules much more than we did.


iOS BG: It's also clear that you purposely excluded some things, Lore being the most notable. Can you talk about that and why it was excluded?



JP: Lore was just a matter of game complexity. I understand some might miss the added depth, but we felt there were enough elements in the game already.


iOS BG: Will Lore be added at a later date? And more generally what are your plans for future updates? Are their important bugs we should know about? I seem to recall some players complaining about the lack of an "undo" feature at points where it clearly would not conflict with an outcome. Any plans for that?

One more thing I observed that you included that doesn't come with the base set of BattleLore is a wider variety of units, mounted archers come to mind. Any plans for more units in future updates? Any plans for in-app purchases?


JP: We'll continue supporting the game and fixing any bugs that might pop up. As for updates, I think we will look into the iPhone version first before adding any major features.

Releasing something like a new campaign as an in-app purchase could be interesting. No plans yet, though.


iOS BG: I think a sizable portion of our audience will be thrilled to hear about Viking Lords for iPhone. As a fan of the game, I am excited to hear it simply for the opportunity to have more potential opponents and opportunities to use the online mode. I don' think I am alone in observing that the online mode seems very difficult to simply find an opponent right now. Until this morning I had never been able to connect to another player.

Can you talk about the game's online capability, it's weaknesses, and what Puffin Software is doing to improve it? As you may know, Days of Wonder (BattleLore's old publisher) is doing an online realtime Web-based version of Memoir '44 (another C&C game, similar to BattleLore). Is there anything that you can learn and apply from how they are doing it?



JP: With the multiplayer, our aim was to create a community where people could compete and opponents would be readily available. That has been less successful. It turns out that most people who download the game are not that interested in playing online. That, together with the overall small player base, means that it's hard to find an opponent.

Sorry to hear that you had connection problems. IPad is a a wireless device, and weak signal can sometimes cause difficulty. We are fairly well prepared for multiplayer, with one server in Germany and another in the US.

It's great to see Memoir '44 online. Days of Wonder seems to understand the potential. Technically, it's a bit different from what we are doing. If you want to do pure multiplayer, a web version is definitely the way to go.


iOS BG: I'm glad to hear that you are well prepared for multiplayer. I still hold out hope that a community can form and I wonder if you would be open to suggestions from the player base about how it could be improved? Have you considered more and better informational feedback mechanisms such as:

- a lobby, to show who is/has logged in
- a chat/bulletin board feature
- a saved game feature


JP: Those are good suggestions, and we have been considering some of those. I still think new platforms are a priority. Save game will be necessary on iPhone (you might receive a call mid game), so if we go that way, it will get implemented.


iOS BG: What do you think of asynchronous multiplayer for Viking Lords? It seems there is much waiting while the other player takes his turn, with the only exception being the need to sometime fight back. From a player perspective, I think it could work quite well. What do you think from the developer perspective?


JP: Playing Viking Lords asynchronously sounds quite bizarre to me. Of course there's many ways to play it, but personally I like a faster pace. Asynchronous playing sounds much better suited to games like Diplomacy.


iOS BG: It has been done well in games with shorter turns that Viking Lords. Anyway, I was just glad to see such a polished app that had online multiplayer right from the beginning when it launched in December 2010. With its release you reached gamers like yourselves, like me, who were interested in this game system, which was your goal. I don't know how well you guys did in sales, but it's reception on places like TouchArcade.com seemed pretty warm and on BoardGameGeek.com somewhat less so because of it's similarities to BattleLore. Where you happy with how the game was received commercially? What about critically?


JP: Well, it was not as popular as we expected. I think this is mainly because it's the combination of two niches, turn-based strategy on iPad. So it would be interesting to see how things would work out on iPhone.

However, those who bought the game really seemed to like it. In App Store the game got an average rating of 4.5 / 5 and lots of good reviews. We're very happy about that .


iOS BG: What about how the game was received critically by its detractors?


JP: Well, the reaction from hardcore game fans was a bit unexpected. But I can understand it, and it shows that these people care a lot about board games and game designers. We never intended to offend anyone, but merely adapt a game that we liked to play, and make that available to others


iOS BG: Speaking of those reactions, I'd like to go back and talk more about your meeting(s) with Fantasy Flight Games and how that contributed to your decision to go into a different direction?


JP: We did not have meetings, but some exchange of email with FFG. They seemed very busy with other stuff and it always took a long time to get a response. After some months of back-and-forth we got the feeling that co-operating with them would not work out. My impression was that they didn't really want to get involved in computer games.



iOS BG: And now that your game has been released for four months, has there been a reaction from FFG, Richard Borg, or anybody officially connected to BattleLore? Does anybody connected to BattleLore have any problem with Viking Lords?


JP: We got one complaint about trademark infringement, which we proved false.

Viking Lords is completely legal and not violating any intellectual property rights whatsoever. So I don't see why anybody would have a problem.


iOS BG: I pretty much agree. Do you have anything to say to those who DO have a problem with your game and other print games that have been ported over to iOS without the consent of the print publisher or original game designer?


JP: Just get over it. In digital games, mechanics are not as sacred as they might be in the world of board games. Mechanics get copied, adapted and evolved. I think it's for the better, especially when the print publisher couldn't care less about the digital medium.

Copycats are so commonplace in the App Store that I wouldn't be surprised if a Viking Lords clone appeared some day.


iOS BG: Speaking of the App Store, as a board gamer yourself are you following this trend to port board games into iOS versions? What are your favorites? Are they any you deem particularly excellent and would seek to emulate in some way?


JP: I haven't been following too much what others are doing. There certainly seems to be a lot of games appearing. It's been interesting to see Reiner Knizia's designs appear from various developers.

Another interesting thing is the "everybody on the same iPad" type of multiplayer. I think that has a lot of potential. Whenever you have access to an iPad you can set up a game of, say, Catan or Carcassonne, which, by the way, is a well-polished implementation. Nicely done.


iOS BG: So on that note, can we look forward to more different games from Puffin Software in the future or will you be focusing on Viking Lords? Also, what's up next for Viking Lords that we can expect soon?


JP: We have some ideas...it's likely that we'll start a new project. Can't say much more about that yet. Regarding Viking Lords, porting and maintenance are top priority right now.


iOS BG: Great! Well, thanks for the interview.


JP: My pleasure.

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Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:00 pm
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News Bits: Knizia Mobile, Keg Bearer Update, Disc Drivin' Update, ClusterMaster, GMT Flooded, MTV Geek, Knizia Lawsuit, Wizards War, Tikal Soon, Codito Adjusts Dates

Gabe Alvaro
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• Knizia Mobile Now Live
• Keg Bearer update v1.1
• Disc Drivin' Update
• Reiner Knizia's ClusterMaster Released
• GMT Games Flooded by iPad Developers
• MTV Geek Gets It
• Knizia Sues Michael Powers
• Wizards War Released
• Tikal Near Release
• Codito Adjusts Release Dates




• Knizia Mobile Now Live - Apr 4
Reiner Knizia has gone mobile in a big way. With 21 apps and counting, the doctor is pretty much the undisputed king of iOS board games. If one word could describe his approach to this new gaming space, it would be "aggressive". The Knizia folks are really going all out to work with developers to release iOS versions of their board games.

When I emailed the Knizia folks last September, I was amazed at their encouragement to work with any reasonable publisher and seeming ready willingness to license their games. That proactive and progressive spirit seems to be paying off, if 21 apps and growing is any indication. So to make known this fact the Knizia web site has a new page on their site dedicated to Reiner's presence in the mobile world. Have a look for yourself:

http://www.convivium.org.uk/kgmobile.htm





• Keg Bearer updated to v1.1, Keg Bearer Lite Released - Apr 5, Apr 7
The hex and counter barbarian beer brawl for iPad has been updated. Additionally, Snowpunch has released a free version. I finally gave it a try. The four unit types seem to vaguely reflect the now common tank, healer, striker, controller paradigm, but in this game its on hexes rather than on a grid.

Here's what's in the update:

Snowpunch wrote:
What's new

V1.1 update - Movement and unit adjustments.

- added dramatized injury indicator (red smear when dragging)
- fixed unit movement area calculations. (needed for upcoming AI)
- added animated move area indicator.
- added slight pause between rounds (allows animations to finish)
- help files updated
- minor bug fixes

keg bearer unit change
- keg bearer unit now heals first (instead of attacking)
- need to explicitly drag onto opponent to attack and bypass heal.

beserker unit changes
- see updated help (basically 2 axes will berserk, 1 axe will not)
- can move 3 when injured.
- attack damage reduced when injured.



• Disc Drivin Update - Apr 6
Pixelocity Software LLC finally updated their hit PitchCar-inspired app, Disc Drivin'. The update includes 3 new tracks! Also there's an update to the iPhone version's user interface, a FAQ, and other small things. Here's some pics of the new tracks. Obviously a lot more attention has been paid to how the turbo pads connect to each other.

Zoom Zoom Hopper Canyon Jump




• Reiner Knizia's ClusterMaster Released - Apr 6
Tribeflame has released Reiner Knizia's ClusterMaster. It's not multiplayer and it's not really a board game. It's a puzzle. The main reason I mention it is because it's Reiner Knizia. And it seems it was kind of a big week for him. See below.









• GMT Games Flooded with iPad Developer Offers - Apr 6
A couple of weeks ago, we were thrilled to hear that GMT was seeking developers to port their excellent games into iOS apps. Sometimes when it rains it pours. GMT reported Wednesday that they were virtually flooded with interest by iOS developers wanting to code their apps.

GMT Games wrote:
iPad and Computer Products

Just a quick update here, and an appeal for patience. Our call for iPad developers last time resulted in over 100 contacts from various companies and individual developers. To date, due to just a ton of work and only one of me, I have corresponded with around a dozen of those contacts. And several of those are already working out nicely, with a few new games already slated for iPad development and one new computer project, and a few other interesting possibilities.

To the rest of you who have written, please don't give up on us. I will get back to you as quickly as possible and hopefully we can agree on a game for iPad development that will work for both you and GMT. Thanks for all your interest in working with us!


I wish I could help GMT go through all of the proposals. After a short delay, I really hope they settle in and work with some great developers. Great games deserve it!



• MTV Geek Covers Board Games Gone Mobile - Apr 6
Matt Morgan, who covers hobby gaming at MTV Geek, has posted an article titled "Board Games Gone Mobile" on Wednesday about a topic near and dear to our hearts.

http://geek-news.mtv.com/2011/04/06/board-games-gone-mobile/








• Knizia Sues Michael Powers Over 3-Card Brigade - Apr 7
Have you had your fill of Reiner Knizia news yet? Well, save room for this sour dessert. Though his name is practically synonymous with fun and games, he is very serious about the business end of his output and evidently wants everybody to know it. It took just under a month and 10 tweets for Reiner to show his serious side on Twitter, mentioning that he will be filing a lawsuit against the developer of an iOS app, 3-Card Brigade Poker, which is inspired Reiner's game, Schotten Totten. Here's Reiner's Tweet:

Knizia on Twitter wrote:
"ReinerKnizia
Law suit against MPowers (Michael Powers) is going to the courts today."


The German version of the app has already been removed from the German app store. According to my sources, and contrary to popular belief, the German app was taken down some time ago voluntarily by the developer in an attempt to try and resolve the situation amicably. Apparently that did not assuage concern.

Apple had not lifted a finger to date regarding the issue, that is until this past weekend. It seems there was an interesting and mysterious "review" posted for 3-Card Brigade in the UK App Store by someone claiming to be Reiner Knizia. The review was taken down after a short period of time, but not after screen shots were captured, marking the first time Apple has actually done anything directly in regard to 3-Card Brigade.

It is not yet clear in which courts Knizia has filed suit, as searches in legal databases have turned up nothing so far. Expect to hear more when confirmation of the suit has been made.



• Wizard's War Released - Apr 7
Wizards war is another "born digital" board game app for iOS. It handles from 1-4 players. The developer is listed as Malvicio.com, which redirects you to the game's web site, which features a blog and some pretty cool game art. The game's site indicates that the app is designed by one Pedro "Piter" L. Morales. Anyway, here's more on the game:

The devloper wrote:
Each player get the control of a powerful wizard and his objective is defeat all others wizards in game. For this, you have magic spells that you can cast in the game, to summon soldiers to fight with you or to cast magic effect to win the game.




http://itunes.apple.com/app/wizards-war/id406781719?uo=4&mt=...




• Tikal Nearing Release Date - Apr 8
Codito reports on BGG that Tikal will undergo some final play testing this weekend and hopes to submit to the App Store by early next week (of 4/11). The approval process will likely take approximately a week or so. With any luck you should be able to download their new Tikal app as a reward for having stayed up all night to finish your US income taxes!









• Codito Announces New Releases Dates on Anticipated Apps - Apr 8
The darlings of omnivorous iOS board game fans, Codito Development, have updated and announced new release dates for some highly anticipated upcoming apps. Behold:

• Puerto Rico is now scheduled to release on May 19, 2011

• Le Havre is now scheduled to release in June 2011

• Tigris & Euphrates is now scheduled to release in June 2011

• Though the Ages is now scheduled to release in August 2011


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Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:59 am
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iOS Board Game Community: Player Matching Idea.

Brad Cummings
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The Idea:

Through the establishment of the iOS Board Game Blog we have started to bring together a community of iOS Gamers. We are grateful for all of you and all that you contribute to this blog.

In order to more effectively and wholly use the online multiplayer tools provided us, we at iOS Board Games would like to use the community we have formed to create a system where fellow geeks can find players who are using the games they are using, add them as friends, and play online. The hope is to create a greater social experience around iOS board gaming, because of course board games are about social interaction. An online community of iOS board gamers would also allow for online tournaments and prize giveaways (yes, we may have prizes coming down the line).

The Problem as I See It:

Many of our favorite board game apps have excellent online multiplayer systems. Some use Open Feint, like Ra or Through the Desert, or Game Center, like Neuroshima Hex. Others have developed their own systems that work great, mainly Carcassonne and Samurai. All of these systems allow you to play with strangers or with friends. However, in many cases games you play with friends have more options. For example (correct me if I am wrong), in Carcassonne you can only play an asynchronous game with friends, all quick play games are 90 second turns. Also playing with friends allows you to track more stats in many games.

A greater online multiplayer base for these games will help the players and the developers. It will also encourage new developers to put an emphasis on online multiplayer in their apps. Currently there in most of these board game apps there is not system to find friends, there are no lobbies to meet in and in a sense there is a lack of community. In some cases, like Viking Lords, there are many stalwart fans of the game but the multiplayer lobby is almost empty. If I want to find friends to add to my online games where do I go? If I knew I could find friends online when I opened my app, it would encourage me to use the app more often.

StarCraft is a great example of a multiplayer system. In the latest version of Battle.net you can connect directly with Facebook to see which of your friends are playing the game and add them to your friend pool. You can chat with these people, party up, and play games together. Yes, I can and sometimes do play games with random people, but knowing I have friends I am familiar with online draws me to the game more often and I see it is a social gaming experience, rather than just a gaming experience.

To my knowledge there is no easy way to find BGG friends to add to your apps. There have been attempts to create forum posts for the particular games but there is no centralized location.

Many Ideas, No Solution:

We need your help. We have many ideas on how to do this but we have yet to stumble upon a great solution. I will share with you our current ideas and please give us any input you have in the comments below.

1. Individual Game Forums: We can make a post in each forum where fellow geeks can list their usernames. This gets the information out there, but does not centralize it or create a community feeling. This is not a good idea, but I just included it because this is more or less a brainstorm.

2. A Geeklist: Each item on the geeklist would be a separate game. Players would then comment on the items in the geeklists with their usernames. This would centralize all the information but could become hard to handle. Also geeklist owners do not have the options of deleting comments, therefore if someone posted something silly that wasn’t a username, it would be hard to clean up.

3. Separate Blog posts for each game: We could make a post for each game, then those interested could comment with their username. It then gives us the power to manage and delete comments if needed but does not make the data very centralized. It also may required some digging through blog posts to find the game you want.

4. A Guild: We could set up a BGG guild for iOS Board Games. There could be posts in the forum for each game, players would then list usernames on those posts. This could also be a great place to set up and run tournaments. Also because Guild runners must approve people who join, this provides a good gate keeping system.

5. A Spreadsheet (Google Doc or non-cloud excel based): This can be combined with one of these other methods, maybe the blog or guild. In my mind a google doc spread sheet is great way to organize the usernames for many people. You can list your name. BGG username and then there will be a column for each game. It would be nice if there were a way to tie this in with BGG.

6. iOS veiwable, maybe an app: Whatever the method it should be viewable and usable on iOS devices. Many of these methods would be through the safari browser. If there were an app that could be programmed it could be useful as well, though this would take more planning and development.


These are some of the ideas we chave come up with. There are many tools available to us on BGG and other sources. We want to hear your ideas. What would be the best way to implement a player matching tool into the community? What ideas have we overlooked?

Let us know in the comments below.
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Fri Apr 8, 2011 3:11 pm
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Review: Reiner Knizia's Ra

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Current Price: $3.99
Developer/Publisher: Codito/Sage Games
Version: 1.4
Size: 22.7 MB
Multiplayer: Online Multiplayer, Pass and Play.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reiner-knizias-ra/id400213892...


The Good:
A great translation of the board game. It is Ra on the go.
There are may options with AI to provide a high solo replay value.
The Bad:
The async multiplayer system does not work well. There are some errors in the interface.
Some of the text buttons are difficult to read.

Summary:
The bottom line is if you like Reiner Knizia and Ra you can stop reading right now and go buy this app. It is a small price to pay to have one of your favorite games in a portable form. If you are on the fence and/or are seeking a great online multiplayer experience that can be found with other apps, you may want to be cautious.

Gameplay:
Ra is a classic tile and auction game by Reiner Knizia. In some ways it seems to inspire abstract civ building games such Roll Through the Ages and 7 Wonders. It is a game that seems the be one of the staples of our hobby.

In Ra players take turns either drawing a tile from the bag and putting it on display or initiating an auction for the tiles that are on display. Also if a Ra tile is drawn an auction is initiated. In auction players bid using sun tiles that are numbered from 1 to 13. After 14 Ra tiles have been revealed that epoch (or round) is over. There are pharaoh, god, gold, monument, and development tiles. Different combinations of these tiles will score players varying amounts of points. There are also disaster tiles that will force players to discard tiles.

The Ra app offers a solid single player game with up to five players. There are several AI opponents to choose from of varying difficulties. You can play pass and play on one device as well. Through open feint (which is fairly easy to set up) you can play online with either friends or random players either in real time or asynchronous(how well this actually works will be discussed later). There are many ways to enjoy Ra.

Implementation:
Codito is a great developer and I for one am grateful for the great board game apps to the iOS. I don’t say this to pander, I just want to point out that despite some weaknesses in this app, overall Codito is meeting the challenges of delivering complex euro games to the iOS audience. They try to deliver the full board game experience in a thematic package.

Ra is no exception. It delivers a solid single player version of the game that moves quickly and is easy to play. The varied play styles and skill levels of the different AI characters add a lot to the overall longevity of the game. I have yet to win on a regular basis, though I have heard some users on BGG complain about the AI difficulty. As opposed to Medici, Ra has many random elements that make the game feel much less calculated and, in my opinion, more interesting.

The graphic design of Ra is consistent and thematic. Much like Codito’s other apps it feels like a complete package. The character avatars are all egyptian gods, and there are deserty animations that happen each time an auction is called. All the tiles are clickable and will tell you how many are left of that tile and how it is scored. I found this very helpful. I did find that some of the text was hard to read on certain screens. Oft times the text will blend in with the images behind it. This is a minor nuisance but could use some polish.

Ra has been strongly advertised for its multiplayer. If you have read my previous reviews you will see that I feel that almost every iOS game should offer multiplayer. Ra offers many multiplayer modes that will offer you lots of options to enjoy the game with real people.

When played on the iPad the pass and play version of the game works really well. The layout is nice and in many ways emulates the physical game. In a game like Ra where there is not secret information a pass and play system is awesome. The pass and play feature of this app is invaluable.

As for online multiplayer there are several options. You can play against strangers or friends that you add on Open Feint. You also can arrange times with friends and play the game realtime online rather than using the asynchronous features. This real time works great but the asynchronous multiplayer strangers is not as smooth. I am glad it has online asynchronous multiplayer, I only wish it worked a little better. There are a few issues with the system that I will try to address.

The first issue is that asynchronous multiplayer, in my opinion, is not a very good fit for Ra. The reason for this is that the decisions made in a turn of Ra are very minimal, meaning I either draw a tile or start an auction. Progress in a game played in this style is very slow and in almost every case my opponent has lost interest. Perhaps a realtime system like Carcassonne uses could alleviate this problem. There may be a way to build a sort of pause system that players can agree upon to delay the game for a few hours. I know gamers (me included) love asynchronous multiplayer, and it works great in games like Carcassonne and Scrabble, however I feel that Ra is not a great fit for it.

The second issue is, at least currently, a lack of a player base. I have tried to join and host several games and only a few go past the first turn. Finding an active game has really been a challenge. This is not a problem of the developer, but rather the sign of newer game. Hopefully as interest increases the player base will also increase. I do, however, wish the game did a better job of notifying you when it is your turn, currently it does it sometimes but will not at other times. This could be a problem with Open Feint.

The third and final issue is that I have still managed to encounter some bugs after the last update. Gabe and I are currently trying to play a game and it has been my turn for the last day. Last night I drew a tile and completed my turn, a few hours later it said it was my turn again. When I went to the game again the whole board was blank. I tried drawing a tile and nothing happened. I have reset the app and my phone, nothing has worked yet. I have had games that work, but it appears there are still some bugs floating around. These are just my experiences with the app and I would love to hear about your asynchronous multiplayer experiences in the comments below.

Conclusion:

Ra is a great reproduction of the board game. It runs smoothly as a single player experience and has a multitude of multiplayer options to expand the game. There are other apps that have done online asynchronous multiplayer well and stably but Ra is not one. If you are a fan of Ra or strategy games pick it up, it will not disappoint, but if you are seeking an online multiplayer experience, you may want to exercise caution.

Rating: 3/4 Good
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Wed Apr 6, 2011 2:00 pm
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News Bits: Great Little War Game, Tikal Screenshot, NS Hex on New and Noteworthy, Time's Up New Date, Viking Lords Lite and Price Drop, 7th Guest: Infection, Project Simonsen

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• Great Little War Game Released
• New Tikal Screenshot
• Neuroshima Hex Puzzle on App Store's New and Noteworthy
• New Puerto Rico Screenshot
• Time's Up Revised Released Date
• Viking Lords Lite Release and Price Drop
• 7th Guest Infection Coming
• Project Simonsen Launched




• Great Little War Game Released - Mar 26
Last week saw the release of yet another war game that is not exactly what a counter-clipping grognard might consider a wargame. Rubicon Development released their 3D turn based strategy game called Great Little War Game. I daresay the game is quite "cute" looking. It plays, however, on a similar strategic level as Uniwar, which is pretty basic. There are a number of units (grunt, engineer, bazooka, apc, and many more), each with different strengths and weaknesses in several categories. Combat is somewhat paper-rock-scissors, but there do seem to be a lot of units so it must be a little more varied than that.

Each time there is fight between two units there is an animation. The game zooms into the scene and you see one cute little unit blast the snot out of another cute little unit with the dying unit saying his last words and sinking into the ground or blowing to smithereens, as the case may be. Disturbing? Perhaps, but hey, it is war.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/great-little-war-game-hd/id42...





• New Tikal Screenshot Posted - Mar 26
Codito Development posted another screen shot for Tikal. See if you can spot what's different from the previous screenshot?




• NS Hex Puzzle makes the New and Noteworthy list on the App Store - Mar 30
I was skimming through the App Store last Wednesday when I noticed that Neuroshima Hex Puzzle was featured right there on the first page as one of the New and Noteworthy game apps. Right there, with Angry Birds and everything. That's huge! It's great to see one of these games of ours featured on the New and Noteworthy section of the App store. I hope it generates much interest and downloads for Big Daddy's Creations's excellent app. I snapped a quick screen shot for posterity and to share with you.





• New Puerto Rico ScreenShot - Apr 1
Codito posted their latest screenshot of Puerto Rico, much to the appreciation of Geeks who previously complained of eye damage when viewing the previously posted screen shots.





• Time's Up Gets New Release Date - Apr 3
I played the print version of this game over the weekend while holed up in a beach house in beautiful Cambria, CA. It was me and 4 noobs. We played 2 vs 3 and I was on the team with 2. We whupped the other team and a great time was had by all. This game will be a perfect fit for the iPhone. Anyway, Saberj reports that the upcoming Time's Up app will now release on May 1st. Doh! A whole 'nother month to wait. zombie





• Viking Lords Lite Released and Price Drop - Apr 4
On March 30th Puffin Software released a free lite version of their excellent iPad take on BattleLore from Richard Borg's Commands & Colors System. Also, the price has dropped for the first time ever on the full version paid app from $3.99 to $2.99. That's not much compared to the price fluctuations of other apps, but it's the first and lowest price drop for this app yet. Their site's forums seem to indicate that new skirmish maps are also on the way, so this activity may be in anticipation of a coming update.






• The 7th Guest: Infection Releasing Soon - Apr 4
Ok, help me out here computer video game players from the 90s. 7th Guest was a computer game from the early 90s. Then last year a version for iOS was released, but it excluded what's reported to be a super-complicated "microscope puzzle" sub-game board game for technical reasons. Apparently this game, 7th Guest: Infection is that board game part that was excluded from last year's 7th Guest app release. Whew. Did you get all that? If not, you can check it out at TouchArcade.





• Project Simonsen Launched - Apr 4
I received a Geekmail from Jeff Dougherty letting me know that he, Eric Lee Smith, and James Terry have started a company whose purpose will be to bring much loved board games to tablets (first iOS then Android). The company is called Project Simonsen in honor of the late great Redmond Simonsen. If you don't know who that is, then I highly recommend you educate yourself by reading about this great game designer on Project Simonsen's highly informative web site.

The team at Project Simonsen are taking a passionate approach (in this industry what other approach should there be?) with an ambitious line up which they have shared on their Web site. It's great to see that they will be starting off with real wargames. Did you hear that? I said REAL WARGAMES!!! There will be plans for Euros and Abstracts as well. Here's a list of the games, with designers noted, that you can look out for in the future:

Across Five Aprils II by Eric Lee Smith
• Battle of the Bulge by John Butterfield
Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations by Dan Verssen
RAF by John Butterfield
Soviet Dawn by Darin Leviloff
• War Patrol by Jeff Dougherty
Washington's War by Mark Herman
• Waterloo by Joe Miranda

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Review: Taiji

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad(2x), iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Current Price: Free (two $.99 expansions)
Developer/Publisher: Dmitry Shulga and Andrey Matveev/Nestor Games/Clever Mojo Games
Version: 1.01
Size: 5.2 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and play (with expansion)
AI: Yes.
Itunes link:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/taiji-by-nestor-romeral-andre...




The Good:
Quick abstract challenge.
Free-mium model allows you to try before you buy.
The Bad:
The graphic design and interface could use refinement.

Gameplay:
It seems that recently a lot of the games I have been reviewing are new to me in any form. In the case of Taiji, spoiler alert, the app has inspired me to seek out the physical version.

In Taiji two players compete to have the most of their colored pieces grouped together at game end. They take turns placing rectangular pieces that are half their color and half the opponents color on a 7x7 grid. Once no more tiles can be place, the player with the largest group of their color pieces wins. On the larger expansion boards you can score based on your 2 or 3 largest groups. It requires a great level of strategic foresight to place your pieces in places they will be beneficial for you and detrimental to the opponent. The expansions also offer different art on the tiles that include tigers, astronauts, aliens and many more. I personally prefer the initial dark and light colored wood looking pieces, but the ability to customize is there.

Taiji is a great little abstract game. It reminds me of one of my favorites, Othello, where each move you make has repercussions for both players.

Implementation:
Much like Tricky Chicken, which I have previously reviewed, Taiji does not wow with visuals, but delivers a concise game that is perfect for portable play.

Games move smoothly and swiftly in Taiji. A small board game against the AI can be played in a less than three minutes. This makes Taiji an ideal game for play while waiting for a bus or subway. Taiji does not pull me in with its story or visuals but it still hangs around on my iphone because it is a perfect filler. The AI is not extremely challenging and it does feel like a player could “solve” the game, but with the larger boards you can add an extra challenge.

The interface itself is pretty clear once you get into the game. You tap a tile to change its facing and then you drag and place it on the grid. Once it is properly place you hit the confirm button. There is a text tutorial that explains this included with the game, but something visual would have been even clearer (Neuroshima Hex Puzzle did this well). Other parts of the interface are not as clear. When starting the game there are several screens of options to go through (what kind of tile art to use, what size board, and other game settings). Each of these screens has two identical yellow arrows at the bottom. At first this was confusing, it would be clearer if they were marked “next/previous” or perhaps the back arrow could be read and the forward arrow green. There are a myriad of game options provided from a timer to deciding the start player, however, there is not a random start player option.

The gameplay is what takes focus in this app. The app itself has a very do-it-yourself design to it. It lacks the finesse and consistency of something like Carcassonne. In the very least the matte background could be changed to something less Windows 95 desktop. But overall the graphical quaintness does not hinder the excellent gameplay.

Conclusion:
Taiji is a great little abstract game, and it reminds me of my love for classics like Othello. It is perfect for short bursts of play and takes very little real estate on your phone. It will not stun you visually. And, yes, it has inspired me to purchase the physical game.

Rating: 3/4 Good
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Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:48 pm
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News Bits: Shadow Era Update, Ghost Stories for iPad, Ra Update, Outsmart Free, Viking Lords Reviewed, Multiplayer iPad Games Added, Tactical Soldier-Undead Rising Released

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• Shadow Era Updated
• Ghost Stories for iPad!
• Reiner Knizia's Ra Updated
• Outsmart Now Free
• Viking Lords Reviewed
• New Games Added to iPad Multiplayer List
• Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising Released




• Shadow Era updated 1.24 - Mar 24
We didn't make a big deal out of this collectible trading card game that uses a freemium business model, but it certainly was a big deal in iOS gaming circles. Personally, I don't really like TCGs, for a number of reasons. The biggest is the entry barrier to casual play and enjoyment. Unlike a board game, you don't just flip open the box, teach your friends and start playing.

That barrier, however, is usually not a problem for those who like TCGs because such games seem to just come with communities built around playing them. Well, it's no different for Shadow Era. It's quite a well done concept and game, despite the fact that it launched on Feb 23 without a full complement of cards that all worked together. Still, it was pretty and some sets of cards DID work. Now, it has received its highly anticipated update. Here's what's included:

Wulven Game Studios wrote:
The first full-scale TCG for iOS gets even better with this massive update! Here's what's new:
- 23 new cards, introducing Hero Armor and Weapons
- offline play mode
- added support for iPhone 3g and iPod Touch 2g devices
- built-in help system
- multiplayer changes to penalize quitters
- plus many many more changes, improvements, and bugfixes! See shadowera.com for full details






• Ghost Stories for iPad - Mar 24
Yes, that overexposed hairy hand is pointing to what appears to be Ghost Stories for the iPad. The app is being published by Repos Production, will be in French and will be available in two to three weeks (which would be middle of April from the article date). Here is a fun taste of a clip from a Google Translation of the original article posted in German:

Google Translation of de.trictrac.net wrote:
As we can clearly see the Ghost Stories can play on the iPad either solitary or with up to four real people. The players panels can be moved so that all may well sit around the plate and have their color in front of you. Also, they can turn to for the various special forces. Even the village can be rebuilt as you like with a finger rub - all very nicely animated. For example, moving the character of the active player.




• Reiner Knizia's Ra Updated
Codito Development has updated it's troubled app, Reiner Knizia's Ra to version 1.4. Don't get me wrong. I think it is a very good app. There has just been a rocky user reception to the online multiplayer feature that utilizes OpenFeint. This update claims to address some of those issues:

Codito wrote:
What's new

Improvements:
- restored support for iOS 3.1.3
- fixed problem with unlocking "Games Won" and "Games Played" achievements
- fixed problem of main menu not responding after viewing "Options"
- various crash fixes

Online multiplayer improvements:
- fixed games getting out of synch
- fixed "Next Game" not detecting a waiting game properly
- "Resign" properly signals other player that game has ended
- improved game status display
- improved app icon "badge" display of number of games waiting
- allowed games to be viewed even if it's not your turn




• Outsmart Price Dropped to Free - Mar 28
Outsmart is a slick looking little Universal app that plays kind of like Tic Tac Toe with 16 squares instead of 9. Only your Xs and Os are numbered from 1 to 8 and you can score their sum if you can lay them down in lines of 3. Are you confused? Well don't be, just download it because it was made free on Monday.








• Viking Lords Reviewed on TUAW - Mar 29
Fellow BGGer and prolific reviewer, Sebastian Blanco, has reviewed Viking Lords over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog. This is one of my favorite iPad games. Sebastian seems to like it well enough, but in the end he recommends not buying it because the developers seem to have blatantly ripped the C&C game mechanics straight from BattleLore.

We've covered this area before. Unless a designer or publisher patents a mechanic, they don't own it. A developer cannot rip what is not owned. And just to drive the nail in the coffin on this one, the developer posted the final word on this in a TouchArcade post:

Johannes / Puffin Software wrote:
we have been in contact with Fantasy Flight Games and Apple about this a while back and we consider the issue settled. There is no infringement of FFG:s intellectual property rights here.



• Sixx, Dungeons & Dice added to iPad Multiplayer List - Mar 29
Yes, I am plugging my own GeekList, but that's because I put a lot of work into it and want you to be aware of multiplayer games on the iPad that are available now.

Sixx, a Qwirkle clone Dungeons & Dice, a Talisman clone







• And This Just In...Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising Released! - Mar 29
Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising was released on Tuesday night. It is a quality effort by self described "indie" developer Full Control ApS. I include it here because I have been tracking it ever since the developer dropped in on BGG last year to tell people about it. It's born digital, but being a turn-based strategy game with an action point mechanism, it definitely has board game appeal. I am wondering if people agree that it's relevant to board games and would like to see a review? (Full disclosure: I was given a free promo code.)

It's pretty straightforward. Your character moves, fights, shoots, and takes various actions on a grid of squares that is different for each goal-oriented scenario. He even joins up with other characters and becomes, and then moves, as a squad to shoot and kill hordes of zombies. So far I am superficially reminded of board games like Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Space Hulk, and even the basic combat aspects of Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition). It is not multiplayer, but I'm having still having a lot of fun with it.
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Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:06 pm
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New Releases: Bang! Italia 150, World Conqueror 1945, Geek List and more...

Brad Cummings
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- Bang! Italia 150 released
This is a free version of the Bang! app to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Unification of Italy. It includes a basic game with 5 players. All of the characters are figures from Italian history, though none have special abilities. It is a great way to get a taste of the game before buying it. Also of note, one of the characters in the game is a Pope. This may offend some and entertain others.
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bang-italia-150/id425995340?m...



- World Conqueror 1945 released
Claiming to be a Risk flavored game, it appears to be somewhere between Risk and Axis and Allies. This is the first offering to be set in the WWII era, but they have released several other titles within the same system: Eurpoean War, Muskets and Artillery. If you are interested in this type of wargame, it may be worth checking out.
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/world-conqueror-1945/id426603...



- iOS Board Game Review Geeklist
We are in the process of setting up a geeklist for our reviews. This will allow you to find them all in one place and they will be listed in alphabetical order. As I have yet to post many of them to the forums, I am trying to figure out the best way to do it. Look for it shortly.

- 3 RPGs you should buy...now
I know we cover iOS board games, but if you are a fan of RPGs these 3 are on sale. If you have $8 lying around I would spend it on these to add to your iOS game collection.
- Chaos Rings: A great a RPG from Square Enix. ($5.99)
A review I wrote of it: http://videogamegeek.com/thread/583735/iphone-game-review-ch...
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/chaos-rings/id365678365?mt=8
- Eternal Legacy: A Gameloft Final Fantasy XIII clone, yet to play it but I have heard at least ok things. ($.99)
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eternal-legacy/id402027104?mt...
- Sacred Odyssey: Zelda clone by Gameloft. It is pretty fun from what I have tried. ($.99)
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sacred-odyssey-rise-of-ayden/...
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News Bits: Stock Market Board Game, Keg Bearer, GMT iPad Games, Tactical Soldier, Neuroshima Hex Puzzle Price Drop

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• Stock Market Board Game Recreates Board Game from the 1960s
• Chit-based Hex War Game Keg Bearer Released
• GMT to Make iPad Games
Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising Releases on March 30th
• Neuroshima Hex Puzzle Price Drop



• Stock Market Board Game - Mar 11


There's Indie and then there's Indie. Seems I missed this one from a couple of weeks back, but I don't miss things for long. Gerry Beggs*, a friend of a BGGer has made an iPad version of an old board game from 1963 referred to on BGG simply as Stock Market Game and dubbed by its original publisher as the "Aristocrat of Money Games". The app is called Stock Market Board Game. Catchy!

Quality of implementation aside, I'm a little suspicious of the underlying game since its BGG board game reviews seem divided between people who think it makes Monopoly look like a shining pillar of strategy and other people who wax nostalgic and say they play it addictively for hours on end. Anyway, in the interest of news and an attempt at completeness, I notify you here about its fledgling existence.

* Gerry Beggs also has an iOS game called AHole II (a clone of climbing card games such as Scum, President, Corporation, Asshole, Great Dalmuti, etc.) to his developer credit.











• Snowpunch Releases Keg Bearer, 1st Hex and Counter War Game for iPad - Mar 21
Holy chit Batman! Can it really be a hex and counter war game for the iPad? Maybe it's not what you are expecting. It has no print version. But it's got hexes. And it's got counters. It's called Keg Bearer and it would appear to be thematically representing a brawl of beer swigging barbarians. I cannot resist posting some screenshots.




It's got an innovative Multiple Turn Style Mode feature.
Snowpunch wrote:
MULTIPLE TURN STYLE MODES
- HEX WAR, each player takes a turn moving all of his units.
- BOARD GAME, players take turns moving just one unit.
- PARTY BLITZ, all players move all units at the same time!

You have never played anything like this.

I've certainly never seen any feature like this on an iOS hex and counter app, nor have I really seen a hex and counter app for iOS until now either! The PARTY BLITZ mode does sound a little to me like the realtime mechanics of Tom Jolly's Camelot

It's developer, Snowpunch, seems to be a new up and comer with a straightforward approach
Snowpunch wrote:
snowpunch - is a ios game development company located in Vancouver BC Canada.

Our current focus is simulating classic chit based hex war games. We believe that making them easy and fun to play will help growth in the hex war-gaming genre.

Keg Bearer was designed to absolutely maximize the multi player board game experience. It was created exclusively for the iPad and smokes on the iPad 2.

Oh Canada. Go Canada!







• GMT to Make iPad Games - Mar 22
Yesterday, the great GMT Games posted some exciting announcements on their site. Among them was this gem that describes their efforts thus far to find and work with iOS developers, announces the iOS games that they have in the pipeline, and finally solicits more advances from prospective developers that they would yet like to work with.

GMT Games wrote:
Electronic Products

Last Fall, I let you guys know about our Twilight Struggle computer game project. That's still ongoing, but I wanted to use a bit of space here to update you on several additional projects we have begun recently, as well as to let you know the direction we're heading with Computer and I-Pad games.

First off, on the computer game front, we have one additional project that we have agreed to. This one is a computer version of Barbarossa: Army Group South, and hopefully eventually all of the Barbarossa series.

We've also begun our first two I-Pad game projects - one for Manoeuvre and one for Dominant Species.

I guess the biggest piece of news that I want to relate here, though, is that we've decided to expand our computer and especially our I-Pad offerings and are actively interested in working with our customers to get more of our games available as I-Pad titles. Note that I said "our customers." We spent a while talking off and on with medium and large size development houses and at the end of the day just didn't find a "fit" that we were comfortable with.

So basically, we decided to start looking a bit more closely at the offers to create or port our games that we've been getting by the dozens over the past several years. In the past, we usually said "no" or "not now" to these inquiries, but we've decided that ultimately, since we have nowhere near the time needed to create these products, that we would WAY rather partner with talented, creative, experienced programmers who already like our games and share revenues with them that work with a large development house that we don't know and for whom we would typically be a small and not-very-important project.

We're not absolutely closing the door to working with bigger companies in the future, if we happen to find the right fit, but for now we're going to explore some of the proposals our customers have made and get more aggressive with saying "yes" to more projects so that we can get more of our line available electronically, especially on the I-Pad side of things, where a dedicated and skilled programmer really can create a quality app without having to work with a large team.

So here is the open invitation. If you are an experienced programmer, especially if you have created previous I-Pad apps, or if you work with a small programming team with such expertise, and you'd like to create I-Pad apps for some of our games, please contact me at gmtgames@aol.com and we'll be happy to discuss what you have in mind. I look forward to starting some new projects and forging more mutually profitable relationships as we move forward with our electronic game line.


This is great to read about and just the kind of thing we have talked about in this blog, urging (begging, pleading) game publishers to not ignore iOS and other digital tablet platforms. Way to go GMT!




• Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising Releasing on March 30 - Mar 22
Here is another app without a print version. This one, however, appears to play like a board game. On the 30th of March, WIT Entertainment will release Tactical Soldier, Undead Rising, described by it's developer as a tactical squad level turn-based strategy game. I am not going to compare it directly to Space Hulk, Doom, Frag, or Descent and the like, but it would at least appear to share some similar mechanics including action point allowances, taking turns moving and shooting on a grid, use of scenarios, line of sight, etc. Yeah, that kind of game. Perhaps if we can get our hands on it we can give it a proper review in the future to tell you more about it and if its ultimately going to be worth your while.

For now, here's a description from the developer's site:
The Tactical Soldier Web Site wrote:
Tactical Soldier is a tactical squad level turn based game where you control a group of soldiers trying to uncover the dark secrets of an army research base, invaded by zombies.

The game features a story driven campaign with hand-drawn comic book cutscenes. 8 unique levels packed to the brim with a variety of flesh-craving zombies and an equally nice selection of weapons to halt their rampage! Everything takes place in a wonderful 3D world, with a freely moving camera allowing you to explore the bowels of the base. Our innovative action-camera system makes sure you see the blood spraying on the walls as the zombies eat their way into your squad!

You are put in control of a squad of several soldiers, using Action Point based game mechanics - You have to make tactical decisions to be able to survive the mindless horde. Do you clear the room with grenades, and then snipe the big boss from a distance? Or is it better to heal up first, and then pepper the corridor with a machine gun that has area of effect?
Or maybe just rush in with a chainsaw...


At some point I'd like to do a Roundup of this and other "born digital" iOS board game apps that have no print version or equivalent clone. When I do, this game may be among them.


• Neuroshima Hex Puzzle Price Drop - Mar 23
Well, that was quick! Just four days after it's release at $2.99, Big Daddy's Creations has dropped the price on Neuroshima Hex Puzzle to a new low of $1.99.
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Review: Neuroshima Hex Puzzle

Brad Cummings
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Current Price: $2.99
Developer/Publisher: Big Daddy Creations/Portal
Version: 1.0
Size: 57.6 MB
Multiplayer: No.
AI: N/A
Itunes link:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/neuroshima-hex-puzzle/id42284...


The Good:
100 Challenging levels.
A puzzle game that can go toe to toe with Trainyard and other popular apps.
The Bad:
Lack of scoring system to motivate playing through puzzles again to find new solutions etc.

Summary:
The original Neuroshima Hex app by Big Daddy Creations is one of my favorite games to play on iOS. Neuroshima Hex Puzzle uses the same great engine from the full game to create a puzzle game that is both challenging and a great entry point for the non-hobby crowd.

Gameplay:
Neuroshima Hex Puzzle uses the rules and tiles from the board game to create a series of one turn logic puzzles to challenge the player. They are split into chapters of ten and get progressively harder as the game goes on.

In each puzzle there is text that tells a story and usually offers clues on how to solve that puzzle. The player is given a hand of 3 tiles and must discard one of those three. Using the other two and any other tiles that maybe on the board the player must protect their HQ and usually destroy the opponent’s. Each puzzle is played in just one round of gameplay and each is ended by a battle.

The game does a good job of introducing concepts slowly through the complexity of the levels and the included flavor text. Their is also a built in information mode that will tell you the function of each tile. This makes Neuroshima Hex Puzzle, besides a unique standalone title, a great introduction to the full game and a great teaching tool.

Implementation:
Neuroshiima Hex Puzzle is a beautiful game. Using the same engine as its predecessor the interface is clear and easy to use. Upon playing the first puzzle the game gives a quick 30 second tutorial on how to use every function of the game. The screen does feel cramped on an iPhone but the iPad version is very well set up. But in both cases the buttons are easy to define and use.

The graphic design is superb. The art is fantastic on everything from the app icon to the gameplay itself. The art creates a cohesive feeling, even a level of narrative that ties the whole app together (this is something all great apps do). Even the flavor text for each level, though sometimes fluffy, adds something to the game.

The biggest achievement of Neuroshima Hex Puzzle is that it takes a board game property and makes something new out of it. They have used the elements of a popular game to create a puzzle app that not only adds longevity to the license but also opens up the game to new players. Puzzle game apps like Neuroshima Hex Puzzle are very popular in the app store with titles like: Trainyard, Unblock, etc. If advertised correctly this game can compete with those types of apps and bring this board game license into the light. I am also impressed by the publishers of Neuroshima Hex allowing Big Daddy Creations to take the game in a new direction, instead of just a direct port.

My one suggestion or gripe with Neuroshima Hex Puzzle is that it lacks a scoring system. Many of these types of puzzle games offer scores depending on how you do in a certain puzzle. Many times the puzzles have different possible solutions or they time you on how long you take to solve it. These types of measurements are nice because they give the player a reason to play the puzzle again, also they allow a leader board on Gamecenter where players can show off their high scores.

Conclusion:

Neuroshima Hex Puzzle has the same expert design as the full board game app, and manages to create something new using logic based riddles. It is a great example of tweaking the base of board game to appeal to a more mainstream and mobile audience. If only for that, Neuroshima Hex Puzzle is a success. I hope Big Daddy Creations recognizes what they have created and that other developers follow suit.

Rating: 4/4 One of the Best
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Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:00 pm
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