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Avignon: A Clash of Popes» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Avignon iOS App: Not Fully Baked, But Still Fun rss

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Lee Valentine
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My reviews are typically more polished, but given that this information is timely, I decided to release it. I apologize for the rough edges. I have focused primarily on the app's features and not on a review of the underlying game.

Avignon: Clash of Popes is a very good filler-weight game. It involves attempting to push or pull characters on a grid, effectively trying to get three characters, which all have special powers, to march all the way to your side of the board. The game is largely abstract, with some minor thematic elements integrated into the game. An additional inexpensive, in-app purchase unlocks three of the four additional expansion characters that were released for the physical game (excluding the Heretic).

This app is a good way to carry around Avignon for two-players, but unfortunately, it is a weak solitaire experience. I think the AI has lost to me 100% of the time where I was actually playing it instead of trying to check for rules enforcement or conduct feature tests, regardless of how aggressive I set the AI to play. The AI is often oblivious to the way the noble changes the win/loss conditions of the game, gleefully marching a game-losing piece toward its own side. The AI once refused to move entirely, effectively freezing the game. Another time, it violated a game rule, repeatedly reversing the exact moves that I had just made on my turn.

Like the solitaire mode, the two-player mode does not prevent players from undoing each other's turns, but this will not be a problem for players who know the rules and can enforce that rule outside of the app. All two-player play is local, and there is no match-making via game center.

The app is missing at least one common iOS feature: if you zoom in on a card, in most iOS apps, tapping anywhere else would dismiss the zoomed card. Here, you have to retap the zoomed card to dismiss it.

The app does deliver, however, on a feature lacking in many inexpensive gaming apps: the background music is wonderful. I did not notice it at first, because I tend to turn off all the sound on apps when I play them. The sound effects, however, are pretty invasive and distracting; I will continue to mute them.

There is also no way to save a game that is in progress. If you go to the main menu to look at the rules, you have just ended your game. Thankfully, games are short, reducing the pain of this error. A very abbreviated form of the rules is currently available under the settings menu, which is a growing practice for some iOS apps, but most of the game can be learned by playing against the AI. A good tutorial on using the interface would likely be appreciated by new players, along with a more detailed set of rules, filled with examples.

Even in spite of the lackluster AI, the current sale makes the app a great way to learn the basics of the game versus the AI, to help you decide if the physical game is for you. Since the look of the app is nice, and the underlying mechanics are somewhat addictive, I can still recommend the game, as I hope it will improve in future iterations. If not, it will still be a good way to have a two-player game always on hand to play before a meal.

Lee Valentine

P.S. As an obscure postscript to my review, I will point out an error in the app that's likely only of interest to the designer, the programmer, and Avignon-obsessed fans: this app also violates the designer's simultaneous win tie breaker set forth in a thread on Boardgamegeek: "If two players were to win at the same time because of two conflicting alternate win conditions (usually because Player A has a Knight, Player B has a Peasant, and Player B adds a Noble to their Congregation), the player who took the action that caused the Noble to enter Player B's Congregation wins." Specifically, the app does not vary the outcome depending on who triggered the condition as the designer intended: the player with noble + peasant always beats the player with the knight in the app.

Edits: some stylistic edits, plus I added some notes about sounds and the rules presented in the game.
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John duBois
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hudarklord wrote:
My reviews are typically more polished, but given that this information is timely, I decided to release it. I apologize for the rough edges. I have focused primarily on the app's features and not on a review of the underlying game.

Avignon: Clash of Popes is a very good filler-weight game. It involves attempting to push or pull characters on a grid, effectively trying to get three characters, which all have special powers, to march all the way to your side of the board. The game is largely abstract, with some minor thematic elements integrated into the game. An additional inexpensive, in-app purchase unlocks three of the four additional expansion characters that were released for the physical game (excluding the Heretic).

This app is a good way to carry around Avignon for two-players, but unfortunately, it is a weak solitaire experience. I think the AI has lost to me 100% of the time, regardless of how aggressive I set the AI to play. The AI is often oblivious to the way the noble changes the win/loss conditions of the game, gleefully marching a game-losing piece toward its own side. The AI once refused to move entirely, effectively freezing the game. Another time, it violated a game rule, repeatedly reversing the exact moves that I had just made on my turn.

Like the solitaire mode, the two-player mode does not prevent players from undoing each other's turns, but this will not be a problem for players who know the rules and can enforce that rule outside of the app.

The app is missing at least one common iOS feature: if you zoom in on a card, in most iOS apps, tapping anywhere else would dismiss the zoomed card. Here, you have to retap the zoomed card to dismiss it.

All play is local, and there is no match-making via game center.

There is also no way to save a game that is in progress. If you go to the main menu to look at the rules, you have just ended your game. Thankfully, games are short, reducing the pain of this error.

Even in spite of the awful AI, the current sale makes the app a great way to learn the basics of the game versus the AI, to help you decide if the physical game is for you. Since the look of the app is nice, and the underlying mechanics are somewhat addictive, I can still recommend the game, as I hope it will improve in future iterations. If not, it will be a good way to have a two-player game always on hand to play before a meal.

Lee Valentine

P.S. As an obscure postscript to my review, I will point out an error in the app that's likely only of interest to the designer, the programmer, and Avignon-obsessed fans: this app also violates the designer's simultaneous win tie breaker set forth in a thread on Boardgamegeek: "If two players were to win at the same time because of two conflicting alternate win conditions (usually because Player A has a Knight, Player B has a Peasant, and Player B adds a Noble to their Congregation), the player who took the action that caused the Noble to enter Player B's Congregation wins." Specifically, the app does not vary the outcome depending on who triggered the condition as the designer intended: the player with noble + peasant always beats the player with the knight in the app.

I can confirm that the app doesn't currently enforce the Samaritan Rule. We're working on it for an update, but it won't be in the first update.

The first update should have a way to check the rules while playing so your game doesn't end when you go back to the menu. I think this will be using the "Pause" function.

The tiebreakers should be fixed in the app's first update (and they're in the physical game's rules as well - I'm uploading the PDF of the published rulebook shortly).

Thanks for your review! Your input (here and elsewhere) has been very valuable in helping us pay attention to problem areas in the app!
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Lee Valentine
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John, I would strongly suggest adding a "rules" or "?" button on the home screen of the app. I know a limited version can be found under the settings icon, but making it more visible would be useful for new players. More extensive rules would be helpful to novices.

I updated my review with some thoughts that I have had since the review went into moderation limbo.

If I have time, I will post my thoughts on the new version of the app when it comes out. I have high hopes that this app will eventually get to where it needs to be.

Thanks for all your work on the game and the app. I am backing the current Kickstarter as well for Avignon: Pilgrimage.

Lee Valentine

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John duBois
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I'll suggest it.

We're also working on a tutorial that walks new players through the first couple turns of a game as well.
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Lee Valentine
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The update is more buggy than the first version. The bugs are extreme. The AI shifted a noble back and forth super rapidly using one action, and then I think it moved a bishop on my turn just following it before freezing.

In the next game, I tried to score a knight, but the program turned it into a bishop, refused to move it into my congregation, and added another bishop at Genoa in the same column, creating a six-character board. I then petitioned the bishop (knight?) to score him. The computer let me have him, erased the extra bishop, and put a peasant in that column in Genoa. The app then immediately froze.


The other version was buggy, but playable. This time, the computer has had a critical bug in two games out of five. The app behaves like it wasn't tested at all.

Lee
 
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