There are few who can match the string of incredible board game designs put together by Martin Wallace over the years. From his pick-up-and-deliver gem, Age of Steam, to wacky, off-the-wall games like A Study in Emerald, he’s managed to create some of the greatest games ever designed. In my eyes, however, one game stands above the others, 2007’s Brass.
A couple days ago I was hit up with a press release for a new site called Tabletopia, a website that acts as a portal for playing board games online. It’s not the first of its kind, in fact there are more board gaming sites out there than I even care to investigate. Tabletopia is only in alpha now, so I went over to check it out and was stuck by a dire message stating that my OS isn’t supported, which means that Tabletopia will be a PC/Mac-only site for gaming. Not a big deal, but the more I thought about this the more I began to wonder why we aren’t talking about some of those board game sites out there that do support the iPad, allowing you to play all sorts of board games without ever having to visit the App Store.
The game I want to cover today–and I’d love to cover more, if you guys think its a good idea–is Vlaada Chvátil’s masterpiece, Through the Ages, which is getting its own native app later this year from the big brains at Czech Games Edition. Don’t think you have to wait until late 2015 to build your civilization, however. If you don’t mind going against human opponents instead of an AI, you can play Through the Ages right in iOS Safari for the cost of $0.
When we think of HexWar, we don’t usually think of board games. Sure, they’ve ported some war games from their cardboard origins to the digital realm, but war games are in their wheelhouse. This June, they’re spreading their wings a bit and heading into unfamiliar waters, porting a traditional board game to the digital realm. The game in question is Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp from Victory Point Games.
Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp’s plot is similar to the excellent Pandemic: save humanity from a modern plague. Unlike Pandemic, which has you traversing the globe and fighting disease in the trenches, Infection puts you in the lab, fighting the disease on the molecular level. I’ve gotten my latex covered hand on a preview build of Infection and, from what I’ve seen thus far, we’re all in for a treat.
If you need a secret kept, you can absolutely trust Rodeo Games with it. Over a year ago we learned that the next game from the makers of Warhammer Quest would be another Games Workshop property, but aside from that we knew nothing at all. I prodded. I pleaded. Rodeo would divulge nothing. Pocket Tactics spies skulked off into the night to uncover what they could.
“It’s a game about 40K Inquisitors,” reported one. Other reports corroborated this. “It’s about Inquisitors, but it’s based on Cooking Mama,” said another. Eventually, I began to suspect that our spies had been turned. “It’s not a game — it’s an app that turns Siri into an Ork.”
Finally last week, after months of fruitless hypotheses and unworkable theories, Rodeo’s Ben Murch reached out to reveal what the Guildfordians had been working on. “Deathwatch: Tyranid Invasion is set in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, and focuses on the Deathwatch,” Murch tells us. “Our game is set in the Astolat Sector which is under threat of being consumed by Tyranids from Hive Fleet Leviathan. The Deathwatch are tasked with undertaking high risk missions to turn the tide of war and defeat the invaders.”
No Inquisitors. No Cooking Mama. But lots and lots of Space Marines and their most famous foes. “It’s a turn-based strategy game,” says Murch, “with the emphasis on strategy.” Now we’re talking.
The surest tell that you’re playing a good turn-based game is how readily it induces Inter-Turn Apnea. You know what I’m talking about.
You spend your turn carefully laying down foundations for the table-flipping coup-de-main that you’ll spring the next time you get the dice. So with all in readiness, you pass the dice on to the next player and wait for them to come back around to you. You x-ray everyone else’s moves while trying to maintain a Moai-like poker face. You unspool contingency plans in your head. And when the dice get to the player who might unmake everything you’ve worked so hard to set up, you involuntarily hold your breath. Inter-Turn Apnea.
The press preview of Sid Meier’s Starships that I’ve been playing is so good at generating ITA that it’s almost turned me purple.
It is an undebateable fact that Adam Saltsman is one of the most influential game developers still above ground. The creator of Canabalt single-handedly invented the infinite runner, a genre that (for better or worse) grew like kudzu over the App Store. I still get three or four pitches a week for new Canabalt clones, six years on from its release. And we don’t even cover infinite runners here — imagine how many the TouchArcade guys get. Saltsman’s big follow-up was producing the uniquely elegant Hundreds in 2013, which was probably the App Store’s most religiously-played puzzler until the reign of Threes began.
Saltsman’s been quiet for the past year or so, but not idle. He’s been lurking behind the scenes, collecting his various games under the single roof of his new games imprint Finji. The label’s first original production is planned to ship later this year; it’s called Overland, and it’s a turn-based tactical game that’s packing a lot of new ideas.
After the jump, my conversation with Adam Saltsman and the very first publicly released screenshots and concept images of Overland, which will be playable at GDC this spring.
When I catch wind of a new Sid Meier game coming, a sort of primal fight-or-flight response takes over. I have to find out everything I can about that new game, and anything else takes a back seat until I do. Turns out, more or less the same thing happens within Firaxis, Sid’s own studio.
“We have a studio shared drive that everybody can upload to.” I’m talking to Firaxis producers Pete Murray and Stuart Zissu — this is Murray. “Most people just use the shared drive to upload funny gifs and cat pictures — but Sid uploads prototype games. When there’s a new Sid prototype up, I know that I’m not going to get anything else done that day.”
Sid Meier’s name appears on every single edition of Civilization released since the original in 1991, but the legendary designer leaves that cash cow franchise in the hands of his proteges these days. “Sid’s a designer who can also code,” Zissu tells me, “so that gives him a lot of flexibility. Some people will come up with a game idea and try to explain it to you. Sid comes up with a game idea and builds a prototype to show you.”
Every once in a while, one of those prototypes really catches on at Firaxis and moves from Sid’s desk into full production. Sid Meier’s Starships, coming this spring to iOS and PC was one of those.
Maguire, to my chagrin, keeps his secrets locked up tighter than Fort Knox. This is the thing about working with Games Workshop: upon signing the license agreement, several of your closest relatives are moved to an undisclosed location within the Eye of Terror. Breach confidentiality, and your auntie gets fed to Khorne. Skulls for the skull throne, etc.
Last week, Maguire tried to distract me with a bit of misdirection. I can’t tell you about the Games Workshop thing, he says, but I can tell you about something I’ve been building on the side. A football management sim. A football management sim that’s going to save what Maguire sees as an ailing genre.
Misdirection successful. After the jump, all of the details about Title Challenge, coming very soon to iOS.