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Subject: Ancient Trader HD for iOS rss

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Scrumpy Jack
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After an indie release of this on the xbox, there is not an iOS version of it in itunes of this digital original.

The blurb is quite bold:
"Ancient trader is a quick, pick-up-and play arcade family-entertainment strategy game in the style of digital distribution titles like Carcassonne and Catan for open target groups on iPad."

http://itunes.apple.com/app/ancient-trader-hd/id463173971?uo...



Bought it and will try it tonight
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Stew Woods
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Looks very pretty - look forward to your impressions...
 
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Zé Mário
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"Subscribed" for reading your feedback.
 
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Clyde W
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Cool, why not? Bought. (Might get around to play it sometime too.)
 
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Scrumpy Jack
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Under no pressure then did I give this game a shot this afternoon. Three games, first with the tutorial on, then a small predefined map, then a random large map, all on lowest difficulty.

Premis:
You control a ship around a map of varying size and rapidly discover small islands with one or two cities on them. Dock on these cities and you can buy or sell one of three goods, fruit, tea or spices to increase your gold stash. You can also grab a quest, for which the reward is also gold (so far as i could tell), or you can spend your gold to upgrade your ship parts, either the cargo space to trade more, your three weapons (separately) to kill bigger things, or your rigging to increase the distance you can travel each turn. Upgrade everything on your ship, and find three artifact items scattered in three cities across the map (you purchase the artifact as you would a ship upgrade) and you will be told to fight a big critter. The end boss, as it were.
As you finger navigate your ship on the map, you can pick up messages in a bottle which grant you visibility of an undiscovered city, floating creates, which give you a random good for your cargo hold, or floating chests, which give you random gold. At the end of each turn, which is triggered manually when you run out of movement points, the AI will kick in and move AI controlled opponent ships, sea monsters and scatter floating bits for you to pick up. There is a good chance that the AI will send a sea creature your way. When this happens, it triggers a battle screen. To resolve a battle, you and your opponent have three cards, red, green and blue, with face values equal to the weapon upgrades you have bought for your ship so far. The values for the critter depend on the critter type. You must destroy all his cards with yours to kill the critter, with the following mechanic thrown in. Green card gets +2 when played against Blue, which gets +2 when played against Red, which in turn gets +2 against Green. Are you still with me? It sounds like a head scratch but it's very simple. There is a little scale on each battle screen to remind you of the overpower order. Beat the end critter boss thing to win the game.


My humble opinion
Let's be clear, this game does not live up to the blurb, "in the style of Carcassonne and Catan". This is definitely not a digital-born original board game in the same way as Cargo Runners or Wizard Hex might be, with a heavy feel that they both could be ports of published physicals. No, this feels much more like Civ Rev, but with everything removed except movement.
Certainly, there is trading and upgrades and the odd battle but the choices are so thin and the depth, well, so shallow, that my third game, ignoring the feeble excuses for quests, was just spent going between two cities not more than 6 spaces away, with cargo holds fully upgraded, trading the same goods back and forth in order to get the gold in order to get the upgrades. Then I had to navigate the map "discovering" cities to find the three hidden artifacts. Ah, a city, click Upgrades, not there, move to next city, until finally you have the three items. At this point you get told that you may kill the boss and a few cards fights later, it's over.
The card mechanics seem at first to throw in a glimpse of originality until you quickly realize that, with similar card values, there is no telling what the opponent will play. No strategy beyond waiting for your luck to turn so that your card gets the +2 and wins. Winning battles nets you gold, but the penalty for losing battles are far too light and render battles an annoyance rather than some part of the game one would fear, and give some meat around this fleshless bone. Nothing of the sort. Lose a battle and the worst I've lost is three fruit. I can't see how this is going to tempt any sort of multiplayer action, when there is no real way of having any influence on your opponent's course of action, as damaging his ship to slow him down, or destroy some of his cargo holds would.

We could mention some nice touches, like the pathfinding which is perfect and goes around enemies and critters, which is a good thing. The wind system and whirlpools which you don't want to understand, desperately clutching at the last mysteries that could make this game get played one more time. The art, which is gorgeous or the music which just pulls the whole theme nicely together. Or the price, a bargain at £1.99 in real money. But is so little going to be enough for you to want to buy it and try it?

Please do and tell me I was wrong.
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