Review: Pickomino

Get used to seeing this.

Get used to seeing this.

I give Reiner Knizia a hard time because his games tend to be abstracts with a thin veneer of theme painted over the top and I, for the most part, don’t enjoy abstract games. There are exceptions, of course. I enjoy Lost Cities and Ra! quite a bit, and I’ve been known to lose games of Tigris and Euphrates with great gusto. Pickomino is another Knizia game that I’ve owned and enjoyed for years which has just made the jump to digital and, like those other games, the theme is thinner than my resumé.

The “theme” puts you in the shoes of a hungry chicken at a worm barbecue. Your job, collect more worms from the grill than your opponents. Seriously. In reality, it’s a simple dice game with clever mechanics and enough “take-that” to make it a very fun family game.

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City of (no) lights: The Paris Dossier arrives on mobile

One of the brighter scenes from the game.

One of the brighter scenes from the game.

It’s a beautifully sunny, yet chilly, day here at Mt. Hexmap so I’ve taken the electronics onto the veranda to escape the aroma of cigar and scotch that emanates from the transom over Owen’s office door. Unfortunately, this means that most of the screenshots and trailer for The Paris Dossier are completely indistinguishable from a black rectangle. The game’s dark, is what I’m trying to say.

The gloomy game in question, The Paris Dossier, looks to be an adventure game set in occupied France during World War 2. You play a British operative who’s tracking another British spy who happens to be doubling up with the Nazis. In other words, it’s perfect. When it’s dark enough to see the game images, it has a great film noir look to it and I’m thinking I may have to take the plunge and download this one.

That shouldn’t be hard to do, as the game is free to download with a $2 IAP to unlock the entire game. So, check out the trailer after the break and see what you think. Just do it in a dark room.

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RPG Redo: Preview of upcoming Knights of Pen and Paper 2

I actually wear a hat like that when I role-play. The pointy one, not the one with horns. That would be too nerdy.

I actually wear a hat like that when I role-play. The pointy one, not the one with horns. That would be too nerdy.

Knights of Pen & Paper was a unique take on the standard role playing game, putting you in the roles of not only the players of a tabletop game, but also the game master. It had its tongue firmly in cheek, and presented everything in a fun, 8-bit style. It was a clever enough title that it attracted Paradox Entertainment who has now taken over the reigns and is publishing the upcoming, and creatively titled, Knights of Pen & Paper 2.

KOPP2 isn’t expected to hit the App Store until May, but I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release copy this week. It’s not the full game–only about 20% of the game is present–but I’ve had a chance to check out the tutorial and early missions. Immediately you’ll notice that the graphics are a huge upgrade. The game uses 16-bit graphics that brought back strong feelings of messing around with my old Sega Genesis. Gameplay-wise, things feel very much the same, which isn’t the worst thing considering that the first game was so well done. If it isn’t broken, right? The game involves the players collecting quests and the GM deciding how hard to make each fight by adding or subtracting monsters. The players then fight away, using powers gained through leveling.

The game definitely still has the same sense of humor–the tutorial pits you against the Tarrasque–which is probably the biggest draw of the game. Yes, there’s a good RPG in here, but it’s the humor that sets it apart. Looking forward to getting my hands on the full game when it releases in the next month.

Check out the new gameplay trailer after the break.

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Review: Kingsport Festival

Phase 3: Concession

This Excel theme is called “Spreadsheet of DOOM!”

iNigma’s Kingsport Festival advertises itself with the tagline, “Why choose the lesser evil?”, which nicely reflects the game. You play as an eschatological cult leader in a Lovecraftian universe, attempting to summon an Elder One to rule the planet with a distinct lack of benevolence. So yes, pretty darn evil. It’s also an appropriation of an old joke which doesn’t work all that well in this context. The game translates a board game of the same name which itself borrowed very heavily from Kingsburg, a well-regarded Euro. Like the joke, there’s very little about the result which is original, and the new expectations created by the digital format create requirements it fails to satisfy.

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Cuck-coup: Coup bluffs its way onto App Store

The Contessa & The Captain, this fall on NBC

The Contessa & The Captain, this fall on NBC

Coup is one of those games that, when it was announced, we had no idea how it would work in a digital format. The entire game is based on lying and bluffing your way to victory, so not being able to see or talk with your opponents just seemed like a subpar way to play the game. Well, we don’t need to speculate on whether it will be a success or failure any more because it’s been released for iOS Universal and can be nabbed right now as a free download.

Coup is a game in which each player is dealt two characters, each of which has a special power. You know which characters you have, but nobody else does. On your turn, you then take an action based on which character the other players think you have. You don’t need to have that character to take the action, but if you’re lying and someone calls you on it, you lose one of your cards. If you lose both cards, you’re out of the round. It’s a very fun, fast bluffing game when sitting around a table and enjoying your beverage of choice.

Will it work on your iPhone? Give it a go and let us know in the comments. No trailer for this one, but you can see it being played by the crew of Game Night! from BGG after the break.

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The struggle continues: GMT Games updates status of Twilight Struggle

Seen it

Seen it

If we’re just talking levels of anticipation, Twilight Struggle is the digital board game equivalent of the new Star Wars movie. Unfortunately, J.J. Abrams has released two trailers for Star Wars while us board game fans are still staring at a static screenshot from an alpha version. The closest thing we get to an actual trailer are the monthly updates posted by GMT Games, speaking of which, one just landed yesterday.

We don’t have anything major to announce (such as a release date), but Playdek has finished the engine architecture stuff we talked about last time and are back at tweaking the actual game at this point. The HUD has been updated with graphics for player avatars, hand details, DEFCON and space tracks, and more. Card rules are being ironed out, and the map has been updated to wrap around when scrolling. The in-game UI has been updated to work on a number of different resolutions, so it’s sounding like they’re getting closer and closer to actually getting this thing in our hands.

In another update, GMT stated that the current release window for Twilight Struggle is this summer, so we’re looking at 2-4 months from now, which cannot come soon enough.

Review: Sorcery! 3

Ready to change the world

Ready to change the world

It’s been nearly 18 months since we last traveled with the sorcerer from Analand on their quest for the stolen Crown of Kings. Back then, inkle Studios seemed to be content simply creating incredible digital gamebooks. Since then, however, they released 80 Days and what we would consider a “gamebook” became something entirely different. Gone were the linear paths, the feeling that you’re locked into a story that has a definite beginning, middle, and end. Instead, here was interactive fiction that opened up an entire world and asked you where you wanted to go.

Sorcery 3 is like that.

In fact, Sorcery 3 takes everything we thought we knew about gamebooks—including the original text that it’s based on—and turns it on its head. It’s a staggering work of interactive fiction and, combined with the original Sorcery! and Sorcery! 2, becomes an epic tale unlike anything I’ve ever played.

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Out Tonight: Sorcery 3, Does Not Commute, and Key

This new view doesn't just look cool, it changes everything.

This new view doesn’t just look cool, it changes everything.

The big release of tonight (and maybe of 2015 thus far) is Sorcery 3 from inkle Studios. The folks at inkle redefined what a digital gamebook could be with the first installment of Sorcery, and perfected it (or so we thought) with Sorcery 2. Tonight, we get to see if they’ve managed to improve upon what was already the flagship of the genre (spoiler: they have).

Sorcery 3 continues the story of your search for the Crown of Kings through the wastelands of the Baklands. If you’ve played the first 2 chapters, you might think you know what to expect, but you’d be wrong. This version has the same look and feel–no one is going to mistake it for anything other than a Sorcery title–but the gameplay has so many new twists and turns that it doesn’t even resemble its source material after a bit.

You can start this chapter with a new character but the real joy comes from continuing with a character that’s gone through the Shamutanti Hills and Khare and has all the boons and banes that they’ve collected along the way. In this leg of the journey, you’re hunting–or being hunted by–seven serpents who are heading to Mampang to report your progress to the evil Archmage who will then be ready for you in the final chapter. Searching for, and defending yourself against, these serpents is way cooler than it has any right to be.

If you’ve played the first two installments of the Sorcery series, this is a no-brainer. If you’re new to the series, pick up all three of the games and play through them in order. You won’t be disappointed. I should have a review up for Sorcery 3 tomorrow morning, but if the preceding few paragraphs didn’t tip you off, I’ll give you a little tidbit of what to expect when the review lands: I love it.

Pick it up for iOS Universal for $5. You can also snag it for Android devices.

More of tonight’s games after the break.

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