Review: Strategy Rome in Flames

Rome, Rome on the Range.

Rome, Rome on the Range.

Rexopax Software might not win any awards for flashiness with this awkwardly-titled turn-based barbarian simulator, but like a similarly subtle Legion of the Damned, Strategy Rome In Flames has it where it counts. Marching straight past the easy option of making it a game of Roman conquest, players can choose to lead either the Visigoths or the Anglo-saxons in their own discrete campaigns. Sacking villas, routing and slaying the retracting fringes of an expiring giant, Strategy Rome in Flames has a proud and unashamed cologne of beer and pretzels, never placing undue complication over quick, snappy combat.

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New Release Appendix: Banner Saga comes to iOS (and Card Dungeon, too)

I thought fighting was what you were *supposed* to do in the mead hall.

I thought fighting was what you were *supposed* to do in the mead hall.

After a summer of teasing that the game was close to release, narrative-driven tactical RPG Banner Saga finally arrived for iOS overnight. Even if you didn’t play the PC version of the game, the name might be sounding a horn for you — it was one of the first wave of huge Kickstarter successes back in 2012.

The Banner Saga is an gigantic achievement of game — it’s all hand-animated and looks like a Viking XCOM produced by Don Bluth. It got mostly positive reviews earlier this year on PC, including a generally agreeable nod from our man Phil. I think it’s a remarkable artefact of the strategy games renaissance that we’re in. Not only are strategy games mainstream again, but they’re objects of extraordinary artistic effort — which isn’t really something you could have said about most of the tactical titles from the first golden age of the 1990s.

Banner Saga is a Universal app for iOS and it’s $10 on the App Store.

In other late releases, we’ve got Card Dungeon. We weren’t entirely sure this was going to show up last night but it’s redeemed itself with an early-morning arrival on the App Store where it’s listed at $2. Read my quick write-up from last night for more details about it, and stay tuned for a review soon.

Trailers for both await your indulgence below.

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Out Tonight: Card Dungeon, Naal Forsa, I am a Brave Knight, and more

These characters are so two-dimensional.

These characters are so two-dimensional.

Such an interesting batch of releases tonight — most of them wild cards that I haven’t played yet. The big release this week has been and gone (Galaxy Trucker, which Dave reviewed on Monday), and there’s some other notable stuff already available right this second like Tin Man’s Fire*Wolf and Gulf War veteran’s tale Pry.

But if your electronic boots aren’t already filled with App Store loot, there’s more games coming later this evening. I’ll tell you about the one that I’ve played and we can look at all the other stuff together. Pour yourself a drink and meet me after the jump.

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From Heck : Mr. Jack Pocket gets an update

It doesn't matter which action I take, I always lose

It doesn’t matter which action I take, I always lose

Mr. Jack Pocket is still one of my favorite 2-player games on my iPad. It’s a perfect, puzzly diversion for a few minutes at a time, and it never fails to give me a mild headache. It was just given the mandatory iOS 8 update, but developer Meeple Touch managed to sneak in a couple new characters as well and it makes a great game even better. That is, it makes the game even harder for the detective player.

The 2 new characters are Lizzie Williams and Walter Sickert who have, in real life, been added to the embarrassingly long list of improbable Ripper suspects. In Mr. Jack Pocket, the detective isn’t sure which of the 9 characters on the board is Jack, and is trying to place his characters around the edge of the board to see down the gaslit streets of Whitechapel. In the base game, all the characters are on a tile with 3 exits. Lizzie Williams’ tile only has a straight alley on it, with 2 exits, and Walter Sickert is even worse being on a dead end with only 1 exit. Trying to isolate these two characters feels nigh impossible to a dullard like myself, but I can’t imagine it doesn’t ramp up the difficulty for even the most seasoned Mr. Jack vets.

Mr. Jack Pocket is available for both Android and iOS devices (although it doesn’t appear these new characters are in the Android version, yet). Trailer after the break.

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Oh, I must, I must : New interactive fiction Pry out for iPad

It's like Dom Cobb wrote a book

It’s like Dom Cobb wrote a book

I’ll admit that I’m getting a little burned out on interactive fiction on iPad. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the genre, it’s just that there’s so much new stuff coming out all the time you can’t keep up with it all. Every time I begin to feel this way, however, the IF gods pull me back in with something I haven’t seen before. The last time it was 80 Days from inkle Studios, which shouldn’t be a surprise because they’ve basically redefined the genre and been the impetus for a whole lot of people falling in love with interactive fiction again. This time it’s a newcomer to the IF genre, Tender Claws, and their entrant is Pry.

Pry follows James, a first Gulf War demolitions expert 6 years after his return from the war, and consists of text mixed with over 30 minutes of video and other interactive elements. You interact with the novel by “opening” James’ eyes to see what he sees, or to pry open parts of his subconscious. Part 1 of Pry was released today, with Part 2 following shortly. Part 2 will be a free update for those who have already purchased part 1.

Confused? Luckily, there’s a trailer for you after the break to give you an idea of how it all works.

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Tin Man Games equip an asterisk for The Sagas of Fire*Wolf

"Now you will learn Lambada: the forbidden dance."

“Now you will learn Lambada: the forbidden dance.”

Interactive fiction manufactory Tin Man Games have another gamebook for us: The Complete Sagas of Fire*Wolf collects all of the stories originally published in the 1980s about Herbie Brennan’s titular fantasy character. I’ve flipped through some screenshots and it appears that Fire*Wolf’s name always appears with that medial asterisk, like that girl Lori who sat next to you in 7th grade algebra and dotted the ‘i’ in her name with a heart.

The Complete Sagas app is $10 on the App Store and the same price on Google Play, but for that price you’re getting four gamebooks in one. In the stories, Fire<3Wolf is exiled from his village and grows into a powerful sorcerer and saves the world of Harn from the Demonspawn, learning a lot about life and personal responsibility in the process, no doubt.

Tin Man have especially prolific this year: besides the regular additions to their long-running Fighting Fantasy series and the mould-breaking interactive graphic novel Appointment with F.E.A.R., they’re currently working on a new Judge Dredd gamebook due out later this year.

More Fire*Wolf screenshots after the jump.

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Pocket Tactics’ Games of the Month: September 2014

FNG Alex picks a game we hadn't even covered before. That kid's got moxie.

FNG Alex picks a game we hadn’t even covered before. That kid’s got moxie.

The summer — horrible, horrible summer — is finally over. The fickle sun now favours that mysterious other hemisphere and won’t throw its awful unblinking glare onto your iPad screens any longer. Put away your parasols and desert canteens. The outdoors are safe for gaming again.

What games did the PT druid circle choose as their favourites of the summer’s twilight? After the jump, Jacob, Clancy, Kelsey, Owen, and FNG Alex tell you all about their picks.

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Are we the baddies? Herocraft’s Strategy & Tactics WWII Sandbox lets you play WWII as any country you want

I'm fighting as the People's Front of Judea.

I’m fighting as the People’s Front of Judea.

It’s no big exaggeration to say that Herocraft’s Strategy & Tactics WWII was one of my least favourite games of 2013. In Bizarro World my assertion that it was “a complete failure of a game” is a box quote. But it’s entirely possible that I’m crazy: Herocraft have been reinvesting in that light wargame with numerous expansions over the past year, and today they’ve come out with a brand new edition of it, so maybe I’m alone in hating it?

Strategy & Tactics WWII Sandbox tears down the walls of last year’s title, which was built around a string of scenarios, and opens up all of Europe. You can take control of any country in the conflict and essentially do as you please. Make a separate peace with Germany as the US and invade Russia. Stultify future historians by crushing the Western world as Greece. There’s 16 playable countries, with 10 more en route, the devs say.

Given my antipathy for the original game, I’m not exactly holding my breath about this one. But maybe a bigger, more epic sweep and interesting non-battlefield activities are what S&T needs to redeem the mushy, undifferentiated combat engine. And hey, maybe the combat itself has improved from when I last saw it. Even better: there don’t appear to be any in-app purchases either, which were another thing dragging the first game down.

It sounds like this grand strategy incarnation of S&T is a lot closer to what it was originally intended to be: the mobile version of Hearts of Iron, before Paradox pulled the rug out.

Strategy & Tactics WWII Sandbox is on iOS for $10, and it’s on Android too. I’ll give it a spin and report back my findings.

In other Herocraft news, I’ve been mucking about with a press preview build of their Warhammer 40K Space Wolf tactical game — and that one doesn’t seem too bad so far, actually. Space Wolf is due out in October.

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