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iOS Review: Tigris and Euphrates

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad and iPhone (Universal)
Current Price: $5.99
Developer/Publisher: Codito/Sage Board Games
Version: 1.0
Size: TBD
Multiplayer: Pass and play and Online Multiplayer
AI: Yes, Multiple difficulty levels.
Itunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/app/reiner-knizias-tigris-euphrates/...
 



The Good:
- The in-game design is very clear and accessible, some of the best from Codito.
- The use of the iOS 5 async online multiplayer works well and adds longevity to the game.
The Bad:
- There are a few bugs that are in need of repair. Fixes have been promised.
- Could use more online features such as random start player, and an indicator of whether or not another player is currently online.
 
Gameplay:
Tigris and Euphrates is one of the most well known board games of the hobby genre. It is currently ranked 14th on BoardGameGeek.com. It is a classic of the euro game genre and has many of the common elements of these types of games.

I will not provide a detailed rule breakdown of Tigris and Euphrates here, as it has many nuances and I am somewhat new to the game. There are many reviews here on BoardGameGeek that can give you a great understanding of the game. In its basic form Tigris and Euphrates is a tile laying game where players place tiles into adjacent spaces forming “kingdoms” and place leader tokens within these kingdoms in order to earn points for tiles placed. Their are four colors of leaders for each player corresponding to four colors of tiles. There can only be one leader of single color in each kingdom, so when two kingdoms are connected via tile placement, a war occurs. The leader who wins the war remains while the loser is removed from the board. Players can also place monuments on the board when a 2x2 square of the same color is put on the board. These monuments score points for players with leaders of the monument color in the kingdom each turn. Once all tiles have been drawn, the game ends and each player’s final score is their lowest score of the four colors of points.

Tigris and Euphrates is a euro game with a good deal of player interaction and strategy. It is a game that must be learned and an experienced player will have major advantages. While the app does not solve all these problems, it does offer a great way to learn this complex game.
 
Implementation:
Translating Tigris and Euphrates (T&E) into an app is a huge undertaking. Not only is it a fairly complex game with a varied scoring system, it also brings with it the prestige of being one of the highest rated board games for many years. T&E is not a perfect implementation but it does a great job of providing a platform for both learning and enjoying this well known game. It is also important to mention that it is the most polished and accessible Codito/Sage offering so far.

Tigris and Euphrates looks beautiful. The front menu is similar to the one from Puerto Rico but has been streamlined significantly and provides clear choices for the players. The menus are fairly basic but they do offer the player with plenty of options, such as managing animation speeds and turning on or off in game tips. The in-game graphics of T&E really excel. The art is new but it is very similar to various editions of the game. The tiles have both symbols and colors that make them easy to to distinguish, and the four player symbols are not only easy to tell apart but kind of cool to look at. Players can either tap where they want to place a tile or leader or drag and drop. As players place tiles they will see their score increased. As your score in each category is very important in T&E, it is great to have all of your scores displayed as well as your lowest score highlighted. The polished design of the game matches perfectly with polished interface. The game feels fluid and on the iPad no zooming is needed to see the whole scope of the board at once. The information management in T&E far surpasses Tikal and Puerto Rico. It is a simpler game information-wise when compared to those games, but that may be why it makes such a great fit on iOS. The information management allows me to quickly enter a game and assess the best moves, rather than wading through various menus. This excellent both visual and interface design combined with the async online multiplayer features of iOS 5 make T&E the most playable Codito game to date. It honestly is some of the best interface design of a euro game of this complexity to date.

As a new player to Tigris and Euprhates, I felt a little daunted. I had heard of the game and knew that it was one of the deeper and more popular euros. I started with the provided tutorial and was very impressed. Much like Puerto Rico, the tutorial is a playable game (rather than a video) and it not only teaches you the basics of the game but also tries to inject some beginner strategy tips. It also guides you to a crushing victory, which is encouraging for a new player. Once you have completed the tutorial you can still use an in game message system that will alert you to what is able to be done during each phase of a turn. You can also use a hint feature to see the computers thoughts on a best move for a given situation. This is a feature I really appreciate and it can help new players learn. A lot of focus will be given to T&E’s new online multiplayer features, but players should also be assured this it is also a great single player experience. You can play with up to three AI opponents, and rather than different personalities with different difficulties, there are four levels of AI difficulty to choose from for each of the opponents. As a new player I have played several games against the basic AI and have only won a few. Hopefully this is evidence that the AI will provide a challenge for experienced players. I really feel like T&E is very accessible for new players and a great tool for learning the game and perfecting strategies. It is really a success in this area.

Perhaps the most anticipated feature of Tigris and Euphrates is its async online multiplayer. Codito has in this app cut ties with Open Feint and embraced the async Game Center features of iOS 5. They have also informed me that in version 1.1 of this app a new multiplayer lobby area will replace the Game Center front end, while retaining the Game Center API. These new online play features allow you to invite friends or search for random strangers and then go do other things while you wait for them to respond. The online play can also support live play, though there is no indicator as to whether or not another player is online. Because T&E does require some player interaction through wars and invasions, you will sometimes be stopped mid turn waiting for an opponent to make a move. The async of T&E feels a lot like Carcassonne in the fact that though your turns may be short, they also feel as though each one is an important move or decision. When it is your turn there is aural cue that will inform you and also your player area will be surround by a blue highlight. I missed this visual cue for the first few rounds, and it may be nice if there were a stronger visual cue. There is currently one bug with online multiplayer, that is the undo function does not currently work. There is a work around, if you close the app and reopen it, you will go back to the start of your turn. Codito is aware of this bug and has promised to fix it. Hopefully this fix will come soon. They have also mentioned that future updates will feature the ability to send a message a long with your turn, allowing some sort of basic chat. So far the online feels right and I think this will be a staple app for fans of T&E.

Conclusion:
Tigris and Euphrates is exceptional in that it really is accessible to new audiences. For seasoned players it offers plenty of AI opponents as well as an improved online system that will allow players to play with real opponents. Currently Tigris and Euphrates is a good app and probably great for hard core fans of the game. For now it has some bugs to fix and a little more functionality to add before it will be one of the best, but it is certainly on its way.

Rating: 3/4 Good
 
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