A very Pocket Tactics Christmas

The tinsel doubles as anti-radar chaff.

The tinsel doubles as anti-radar chaff.

Well, my friends, that’s another year in the can. 2014 was a great year for PT: 1.2 million folks came to read our burblings and they viewed about 8 million pages whilst doing so — that’s about twice as much traffic as we had in 2013. People came from 226 countries, including one reader each from Niger, Monserrat, Sao Tome, Tonga, and North Korea. To that last guy: keep your head down, chum.

Now that we’ve doled out all of the Best of 2014 Awards and I’ve sent the rest of the writing staff down the Mount Hexmap funicular, it’s time for me to hit the lights and call it a year. But feel free to keep coming back — we’ve got a bunch of content set to spring up every weekday from today until the 5th of January, when things go back to normal. Or as normal as it ever is around here.

A very happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Festivus, Saturnalia, Shabe Yalda, and Dongzhi Festival to us all. See you next year.

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Editors’ Choice Game of Year 2014: 80 Days

Come fly with me.

Come fly with me.

In a London tea shop earlier this year, two-thirds of the Inkle crew that built 80 Days told me something remarkable.

“It was only meant to be a small project, something to break up the back-to-back Sorcery! projects,” Inkle co-founder Jon Ingold told me.

“The ideas just kept coming,” said 80 Days lead writer Meg Jayanth. “The project took on a life of its own, really.”

How big did it get? When it shipped in July, Inkle claimed that 80 Days was a tale with over half a million words in it — the equivalent of a 1100-page book. That’s more than a life of its own: that’s a parallel universe.

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Editors’ Choice Game of the Year 2014 Runner-up: Hearthstone

Your high school cafeteria lunch table Magic game was never this attractive.

Your high school cafeteria lunch table Magic game was never this attractive.

When Blizzard first announced Hearthstone back in March of 2013 my heart sank. I didn’t want another collectible card game—aka: money pit—released for iPad? Why weren’t they bringing games like Diablo or World of Warcraft to the mobile space? Then they released Hearthstone and it wasn’t just a great card game, it also became a sensation boasting 20 million users and so many gamers streaming it on Twitch that it is now the 2nd most-watched game only losing out to League of Legends.

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Ask the Askaras: Here’s Justin Gary’s favorite set to play Ascension: Realms Unraveled with

So many cards it's like Justin Bieber's in the hospital.

So many cards it’s like Justin Bieber’s in the hospital.

Now that Realms Unraveled is out for Ascension, there’s different seven core sets you can choose to play with, plus a mess of promo packs. I did the math, and there’s now three digital Ascension cards for every man, woman, and dog on the planet. If we actually printed all of these cards out, the Earth would collapse under its weight and become a black hole, which would be pretty cool for Interstellar cosplay, I guess.

Clearly, playing with every single set is only good for the occasional lark or if you want to drive an OCD friend to insanity, but which sets should you be playing with? I decided to take this question straight to the source: Ascension designer Justin Gary.

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Creator of the Year 2014 Runner-up: Czech Games Edition

Make something great out of all these random parts.

Make something great out of all these random parts.

Making a good board game port is hard — just ask the developers of Manhattan Project, Quarriors, or Mr. Ludo. It might seem as though translating a board game to digital saves you a lot of work. After all, the game design portion of the job is done, and in many cases you’ve got your art sorted as well.

But board gamers are a picky clique, and the increased expectations that come with developing a popular existing property might just wipe out the cost savings. When Czech Games Edition told us that they were developing Galaxy Trucker as a digital app in-house, with no institutional experience of video game development to aid them, we gave them our most sincere smile of encouragement and then started cracking jokes as soon as they were out of earshot.

First-time dev? Famously intricate game with tricky real-time elements? It was never gonna work. And then it did.

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Strategy Game of the Year 2014

Your nearest emergency exit may be behind you.

Your nearest emergency exit may be behind you.

If you find yourself disillusioned with Kickstarter, blame FTL. Many of us hit the jackpot on our very first pull of that one-armed bandit, and have been pulling and pulling since with only a sore arm and tragic updates to show for it. In 2012, the PC version of the game made “roguelike” a household world (also “rougelike”, spelling being the challenge that it is), but it didn’t just reintroduce a once-ubiquitous game type. Instead, it executed that with a spacefaring setting, a utilitarian, understated style, and clever writing. Also, it’s charmingly open about kicking players in the crotch.

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A very merry, lonely, oxygen-starved Christmas: Out There giveaway!

Do they know it's Christmas on this hellish lava world? No, I suppose not.

Do they know it’s Christmas on this hellish lava world? No, I suppose not.

Good news, citizens! Father Christmas always comes to Mount Hexmap a few days early (he’s a big fan of the site — absolute bastard to play Ascension against) and this year he’s left something for you under our tree: ten copies of Mi-clos Studio’s stupendous sci-fi adventure Out There, five iOS and five Android for you to play or give as a gift. Or to use in your sinister science experiments. I’m not judging.

If you want to win one of these copies of our Adventure/IF Game of the Year Runner-up, just a comment right here on this post with a holiday greeting for the PT community. Tell us about something you were grateful for this year. Or maybe recall a comment you saw here on the forums that really made you laugh. Be sure to also note if you want an iOS or Android copy.

Sunday morning I’ll go through and randomly choose our winners. If you don’t have a PT account, make sure you read this before you sign up. I’ll go through and approve new accounts later tonight.