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Subject: Dominion Goko vs Stoneage Ipad rss

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Dave Daley
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I recently had the pleasure of purchasing Stoneage for the Ipad, and have had some serious play on it over the past week or so. It's brilliantly adapted from one of my favourite games, and I couldn't be happier.

Which led me to wonder why I am unable to enjoy or even bother with Goko's Dominion implementation. I do really try every few weeks, but I am almost never compelled to play more than 1 or 2 rounds, then I bail out. And Dominion is (by quite a margin) my favourite game in real life, one I play several rounds of almost every week. For the last 4 years.

So, having the day off, I thought I would get my thoughts down here in the digital world, and see what you all think. So here goes.

Cost
Stoneage $6.99, although it regularly goes on sale for 2.99
Gk Dominion $45 for everything.

- This is a tough comparison, because Dominion does include several expansions. That being said, $45 is a lot for online games. PERIOD. This is Magic the Gathering pricing. I'm not going to pay $45 unless a game is absolutely stellar, so the question is : Is GK Dominion good enough to warrant this price tag?

Graphics and Animations
Stoneage - 9/10
Gk Dominion - 5/10

Whether it's the HTML5, or their poor coding skills, the Interface for Dominion is hurky-jerky, and timing is VERY poor on animations. They both do similar things - moving items purchased across the screen into a pile, then displaying a "Notification". In dominion your opponent buys a card, it "POPS UP", then moves over to his pile. The speeds are controllable, but on Normal, it moves like molasses. On Fast it moves so fast that you will miss it much of the time. In StoneAge, the animations are fluid, they are smooth, and they are consistent. If your opponent gains 3 wood, a big +3 pops up in his colour beside wood, and the same for all resources / cards. But of course, sometimes you still miss what happens! A single click on your opponents will show you *ALL* the public information in the game. More on this in the next section

Screen Use / Design
Stoneage 10/10
Gk Dominion 8/10
Both games take up my whole kitchen table, so what tricks do they use to shrink this into a single screen, and how well do they do it? The short answer is that both games do it surprisingly well.

- Stone-Age wins because of their willingness to ENTIRELY RE-THINK THE LAYOUT OF THINGS. The designers of the online version of Stoneage boiled it down to its core components, and re-did everything, with very little thought to keeping the layout of the board game - this was a bold choice. It is honestly, a bit off-putting at first that the game is not much like the boardgame, but it only takes a game or two at most, to realize that they have kept the essence of the game entirely, while shrinking it down to a single screen!

- GK Dominion on the other hand, chose a very much more "by the book" design, and Dominion looks very much like it does when I sit down to play at the table. It's absolutely fine, but the Stoneage interface is better, and makes me wonder what could have been done if they had re-thought the layout entirely.


Interface
Stoneage 9/10
Gk Dominion 3/10

- Stoneage has a number of glitches in it, but these are largely visual glitches, like requiring two clicks on things sometimes, or the unusual "crooked paths" in placing men on resources. Other than that, they have provided clear and concise directions, and have "Additional Information" popups at all the right times. When placing a man on a boat, for example, it pops up details of what I am actually getting, since the boat on the main screen is quite small, and easily missed.

- GK Dominion is a hodge-podge of bad design. I can accidentally click "end turn" or "end actions" before doing *ANYTHING*, and it happily ends my turn/actions! Surely it could check that I have neither played my action cards, or spent my money - but it doesn't. This is just the most glaring in many bad design decisions. I do award GK DOminion 3 points for their clever implementation of the cards, with the little "+" in the corner of all purchaseable cards. Click on the "+", and you buy the card. Click anywhere else, and you read the card. This is cleverly done, and only makes me wish they had spent time on other things, or even listened to criticism of their design.

Game State
Stoneage 9/10
Gk Dominion 3/10
One of the most important things in these kinds of games is to get a "quick overview" of where the game stands. This is inherently easier to do with Stoneage, since it has a board, and much more public information. Dominion's information is based largely on what you see your opponents buying, then subsequently what you see them playing.

- Stoneage is absolutely brilliant in this regard. I can see the whole state of my game with a single button (and 90% of it I can see without pressing that button). I can see *ALL* public information about my opponents with another button press.

- Dominion is not so good here. One major problem is the Speed issue discussed earlier. If I miss one of my opponents buying a witch, it matters. I can certainly see that the piles are going down in number (this is tracked on the main board), but if a few witches are gone, and I have the speed on "fast", I may have no idea if one player has 3 witches, or if all 3 of my opponents have 1 witch each. And that matters. A LOT sometimes. There is a text log, but it is absolutely polluted because every single move it logged, and the more important ones (buys, trashes etc) are not highlighted.

Play Modes
Stoneage Offline - Pass'n'Play - Online Gamecenter - 9/10
Gk Dominion SaaS (Software as a Service) only - 1/10

- Stoneage lets you play via Apple's Gamecenter, with known opponents (friends), or just with random strangers. But they also let you play against the computer (several differing skill levels), or Pass-n-play

- Dominion's biggest shortcoming is the lack of an AI opponent, or any other gameplay modes than online. While they do offer a sort of "Adventure Mode", which offers you different challenges, this mode is quite different than Dominion (allowing "Zaps", and trying to make you purchase things in-game), and it has absolutely nothing to do with the core game of Dominion.


Conclusion

I'm not sure what more can be said (sorry, I've already talked long enough here!), but clearly Stoneage is a very polished and complete implementation of its boardgame predecessor, while Dominion is not. While Stoneage is a bit expensive at 6.99, it's a definite "must-buy". Dominion wouldn't even be a must buy at that cost, unfortunately.

It's really hard for a Dominion lover like me to watch my beloved game in this state. Oh well, at least I have Stoneage on the iPad to keep me happy for now.
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