Sentinels of the Multiverse is a comic book that tells stories of super-villains, each with their own dastardly plot, and the small group of heroes who ensure they don’t succeed. The difference between Sentinels and other comics is that Sentinels isn’t a comic book, but a game played entirely with cards. Even so, what you take away from a good game of Sentinels isn’t the mechanisms of the game, but the stories that it creates. For example, there was that time Omnitron killed off The Wraith and Legacy but Ra managed to defeat him on the last turn, just before succumbing to death himself. Or the time that Haka and Bunker were about to kill Baron Blade, but the evil Baron managed to build another Mobile Defense Platform just in time to save himself and, in turn, knock the heroes out of the fight.
Every game of Sentinels has stories like these buried in it, if you’re willing to look past the individual cards and see the narrative that the card combinations can create.
We’ve known about the digital port of Sentinels from Handelabra Games for over a year now, but until Gen Con we hadn’t actually seen any real gameplay. Sure, there were glimpses of the interface and some environment graphics thrown at us, but nothing really meaty. That all ended last week, when Handelabra revealed a trailer showing the game in action. I had the pleasure of playing the game while at Gen Con and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I cannot wait to play some solo games while running 3-4 heroes. I play that way quite a bit at home but, even with Handelabra’s Sentinels Sidekick app, keeping control of all those heroes and the villain by yourself can be a bit overwhelming. On a tablet? Dreamy.
After the break, take a look at some gameplay for yourselves. Sentinels of the Multiverse is expected this Fall for both iPad and Android tablets.
You might think you love Panzer General, but I promise that you don’t love Panzer General as much as Nicu Pavel does, who has been working on his free open source remake of SSI’s PC strategy classic for over two years now. In some cultures, Pavel is now legally married to Panzer General.
Back in January, Pavel brought the web-based Open Panzer to iOS, but this week has arrived for Android devices. “It’s also available on Google Chrome and FireFox OS,” Pavel told me, “but I don’t think it matters for many.” Nope, I don’t think it does either. What about Chumby, though?
Given its HTML 5 roots, Open Panzer doesn’t feel quite like a native app, but Pavel has stuffed it with content like a Zimmerit-covered Thanksgiving turkey. There’s a ton of campaigns in this turn-based operational level wargame, including the just-added “Great Patriotic War 1942-1945″ (Soviet side, 20 scenarios) and “Das Reich (1939-1945)” (Germans, 32 scenarios). It’s not as nice to look at or touch as Slitherine’s Panzer Corps for iPad, but you can’t beat the price.
Pavel’s planning his next update already: Open Panzer 3.0 will be ticking with a new AI and a new weather modelling system.
Gallic indie gaming hero Michael Peiffert sends across the above screenshot of the forthcoming Omega Edition of his extraordinary space exploration adventure Out There, and gosh that is pretty. The Omega Edition was announced back in July and will deliver an entirely new engine and expanded content to the game sometime later this year.
That screenshot “shows perfectly the direction I’m taking for the graphics improvement,” Peiffert told me. “Light use of 3D and lighting effects with hand-painted and much more detailed textures.” This will surely be 2014′s most-guilded lily, as Out There was already one of the most visually impressive games in memory. No word if the new engine will enhance the game’s suffocating sense of loneliness or induce a deeper sense of wonder, but the French have that technology, you know.
Read my review of the game from February to learn more if Out There passed you by earlier this year. Still no hard-set release date for the update (which will be free to existing owners of the game on iOS and Android) but it smells close.
You have never played an empire-building game that takes its genre quite as literally as SettleForge does. This game is Carcassonne as played by the Olympian gods: it’s a solitaire digital board game where you create a kingdom one tile at a time, trying to place tiles that synergize to win the trust of your people.
Developer Andreas Mank told me last week that this is his first original design, but he’s worked in the games industry for some time; his portfolio includes work on Jowood’s PC fantasy RPG Spellforce 2. I played a preview build over the weekend and the game is still pretty rough and full of placeholders (plus the in-game text is a mix of English and German and my Deutsch is nicht so gut) but it already sports what is quite possibly the most beautiful art I’ve seen this year.
At the start of each game, you’re given three missions from your populace (pretty presumptuous of them to drop a to-do list on the guy who’s busy creating the bloody universe) which you fulfill by placing tiles in the right places — hunters need forests to stalk around in, miners need mountains, and so on. Not all tiles can live happily together and some more advanced tiles require prerequisite links to be present — you can’t have a jeweller without working diamond mines and metal smiths. Most of all, you have to be strategic about your placements so as to not paint yourself into a celestial corner.
SettleForge has been in development for three years and will ship this winter for iPad, the devs hope, and it’s going to be a proper game. “We hate in app purchases and we decided to create a game that we love to play ourselves,” Mank told me. Righteous.
I was trying to make a statement about the duality of man, sir.
I’m no Nate Silver, but I do know that two data points isn’t sufficient to declare a trend. But I sure hope that the twin occurrences of Heroes of the Revolution and the forthcoming Vietnam ’65 are the harbingers of a wave of in mobile wargames in non-traditional settings. I love WWII, man (I’m writing this while wearing my Carl Spaatz spats and the room is lit with my Operation Torch torch) but I’m dying for for some non-European hexes to stomp.
The devs behind Vietnam ’65 kindly wrote in to tell us that their turn-based iPad game has been submitted to Apple and is due out in the next couple of weeks — you might remember it from when Neumann wrote about it here in April.
It’s not just the setting that has me interested in Vietnam ’65 — it’s also the unique-sounding gameplay. Playing as the US Army’s 1st Air Cav, your job isn’t just to militarily defeat the North Vietnamese Army, but to ensure that the local villages don’t turn against you. If you don’t keep the NVA away from civilians, you’ll start to lose the hearts and minds of the people in your area of operations, which will give the Viet Cong guerrillas a foothold on the map. It sounds like it could be a counterpart of 1950s Cuba wargame Heroes of the Revolution (which I reviewed a couple of weeks back) where you played the guerillas.
I’ll let you know when this one launches, but until then there’s gameplay video and screenshots below.
A couple of weeks ago we saw the trailer for Stratolith for the first time. What grabbed me right away about Winning Blimp’s forthcoming iOS & desktop game was how much effort had obviously gone into the game’s presentation. A third of the screen is taken up by a big skeuomorphic control panel that would feel right at home in the worn-in blue collar sci-fi universe of Alien. You can’t ask for nicer window dressing for a game.
“Actually,” developer Bear Trickey told me, “everything you see there is functional. Every control you see in the screenshots and in the trailer has meaning and utility.” Oh. Oh, wow.
Finally, a game developer that understands why we play mobile games: to insulate ourselves from the fiery love of our families and to block out the excruciating beauty of the natural world. Nightmare Cooperative’s trailer invites us to do exactly that on August 28th, when the PC game makes the jump to iOS as a universal app, just as we foretold back in July. Android is in the works for some future date.
Nightmare Cooperative is a puzzle roguelike where a small village has started a commonwealth scheme to rid itself of a troublesome nearby dungeon. The unique twist here is that when you move one character in your party, you move them all. Lucky Frame’s music toy/tower defense game Bad Hotel has been delighting players and confounding TripAdvisor search results since 2012, and this is the Scottish studio’s first game since — I expect greatness.
Vindolanda, photo taken by the author. Blurriness on account of the pub lunch, not the fault of the camera.
Pa Faraday was over on business from the motherland, so we took the weekend to go to Hadrian’s Wall, a British landmark that I’d never seen in all the years I’ve lived here. Moving to a new place comes with a regrettable impulse to adopt the jaded ways of a local as rapidly as possible, sacrificing the opportunity to gawp about as a tourist. I was glad for the excuse.
There’s no shortage of towns in England’s north that advertise muric attractions — fifteen-hundred years after resisting imperial rule like a toddler fights bedtime, the English are decidedly pro-Roman now. We chose more or less at random to visit Vindolanda, which involved a train to Bardon Mill, a friendly little town where the eponymous mill still stands, the pub serves a respectable lunch (try the curry), and the locals are keen to have new ears to bend about how hapless Newcastle United FC are.
Vindolanda is about a mile’s walk from the town (don’t bother getting a cab — working for the local taxi services appears to be some sort of penal duty, judging from their enthusiasm for picking up customers) and it’s one of the most remarkable ancient Roman sites I’ve ever seen. The stone walls of the 3rd-century Roman fort are partially preserved, as are the footings of the surrounding village — it’s more impressive than the nearby remains of Hadrian’s Wall, which you could stumble over without noticing. You can walk through these remarkable ruins and then visit a modern on-site museum where a carefully curated collection of artefacts from the site are on display: pilum spears, funerary stones, a huge assortment of leather shoes that look strong enough to walk in today.
Most important among the artefacts are the Vindolanda tablets, hundreds of tiny scraps of wood inscribed with (to the Romans) unimportant everyday messages that give us a crucial window into everyday life in classical Britain: troop head-counts, thank-you notes for gifts (and passive-aggressive letters wondering about the absence of a thank-you note), informal business proposals. If you look at poorly spelled and lazily punctuated internet comments and worry about the state of civilization, have a gander at the ropey cursive writing and casual approach to grammar in the Vindolanda tablets and be assured that people have been like that for at least a couple of thousand years.
If you find yourself in the north of England with an afternoon to kill, go to Vindolanda. You can even volunteer to join the ongoing excavations there, which I might do myself next summer. If you can’t make it to England, you can look at the Vindolanda tablets online — read them on a rainy day and have a friend tell you that he misses Joey Barton for a fuller Hadrian’s Wall visit experience.
It’s the summer bank holiday today, so there will be just one more post today. Almanac links after the jump.