Review: The Westport Independent

What's black and white and re(a)d all over? The President's d... The newspaper!

What’s black and white and red all over?

When I first heard about The Westport Independent, I thought “Great! Lucas Pope’s fleshed out that newspaper-editing jam game.” It took me a moment to wrap my head around the fact that this wasn’t an expanded version of The Republia Times, and a great many other reviewers have compared The Westport Independent to Pope’s smash hit, Papers Please.

Double Zero One Zero seem proud of that influence: they credit Pope as an inspiration, and the game’s art is cold-war retro-pixelated in a way that invites comparisons, though the extremely restrained palate of The Westport Independent is one of the first hints that this game will go in a completely different direction from the frenetic desperation of Pope’s political games.

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New gameplay changes are headed Hearthstone’s way

Yes, that says 18 deck slots.

Yes, that says 18 deck slots.

One of the biggest complaints about Hearthstone (other than the increasing levels of RNG) is the lack of space for new decks. The game shipped with 9 slots for customized decks, and hasn’t increased in nearly two years. That’s changing. In fact, today Blizzard announced that a lot is changing in the world of Hearthstone and, unlike new deck slots, it’s not all cosmetic.

Blizzard is adding “Formats” to Hearthstone, both Standard format and Wild format. The Wild format is exactly how Hearthstone plays today: make your decks out of every card that’s ever been released. The Standard format narrows things down a bit, limiting your deck building options to only cards released in the current and last calendar year. You’ll also have a handful of Basic/Classic cards that will always be available in Standard mode as well.

The purpose behind the change is to balance the metagame, but also make designing new expansions a bit easier for the crew at Team 5. This way, they’ll have fewer cards to balance any new cards against.

There will be separate Ranked and Casual play for both Wild and Standard, so if you prefer to use every card you purchased, there’s still a ladder for you to climb. When Standard format arrives this spring, you’ll be able to play in Standard mode using cards from Basic, Classic, Blackrock Mountain, Grand Tournament, League of Explorers and the new expansion coming this spring as well. Note the lack of Naxxramas and Goblins vs. Gnomes cards.

Personally, I think this is great as one of the reasons I’ve stopped playing Hearthstone is the bloat. There are just too many damn cards that, unless you stayed on top of everything all the time, it’s nearly impossible to craft a decent deck. Then again, that might just be because I’m notoriously shitty at CCGs.

After the break watch Ben Brode tell us why this is a good idea, and if you havne’t played Hearthstone yet, pick it up now for iOS Universal or Android.

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Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest gets its first major update

The joke's on you, I have none!

The joke’s on you, I have none!

One of last year’s surprises was a new Puzzle Quest game with a coating of Magic: The Gathering laid over the top. The most surprising thing was that the Magic coating wasn’t just for looks, it actually worked and made Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest one of the best Puzzle Quest games on the App Store.

Today MtG-PQ received its first major update, bringing the app to version 1.3. The update addresses some card balance issues as well as rebalancing the Planeswalkers themselves, but the big additions are the new Quick Battle system and new Heroic Encounters. The Quick Battle system will allow you to play against an AI using decks created by other players. You lose nothing if you’re defeated, but gain points to gather rewards at the end of each event. Events reset on a two-week cycle with different rewards available each day. Everyone who wins at least one match will get some reward, with the best rewards going to whoever is at the top of the leaderboard.

There are 25 new Heroic Encounters added, unlocked when you complete Gideon’s Heroic encounter. Each Planeswalker has five encounters, and each one features a specifically crafted deck. Much like Hearthstone‘s Tavern Brawls or Adventures, these encounters do not follow the standard rules, so figuring out how to defeat each of them becomes more like a puzzle…quest!

Apart from that, the inventory and Daily Reward systems have been updated and improved with Daily Rewards now offering everyone who logs in a couple times a month extra rewards.

Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest is available for both iOS Universal and Android and is free to download. Original release trailer after the break.

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The Lordz Games Studio aims for the sky

Highway to the Danger Zone.

Highway to the Danger Zone

The Lordz Games Studio is the dev team responsible for some of the best heavy wargames on iPad: Panzer Corps and Warhammer 40K: Armageddon. Yesterday they announced that they’ll soon be tackling a different form of warfare: aerial combat. Lordz has signed a deal to bring the popular aerial combat game, Check Your 6!, to digital platforms.

Not being familiar with CY6 myself, I did a little searching and it appears to be Wings of Glory for the grognard set. Where the WoG games used cards and cardboard templates to indicate maneuvers and ranges, CY6 uses something that can only be described as an Excel spreadsheet on steroids and a hex grid. Players write down their maneuvers privately, and then play out their plane’s actions in order from the least experienced pilots to the most experienced pilots. Crew will have abilities based on their experience, allowing them to alter their orders in the middle of the turn and so forth. The game is scenario based, and covers not just one product, but an entire system that can handle aircraft from 1925 to 1947. Lordz Games Studio is planning to eventually bring the entire system to digital.

We don’t have a lot of information yet, other than it’s definitely coming to both PC and tablets. As we get more info we’ll make sure to pass it along.

If you want to get a feel for what Check Your 6! is all about, watch the instructional video after the break. Just be warned, it appears to have been filmed in 1987 on Betamax.

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Tinytouchtales ready to steal our hearts again in 2016

Something just moved to the top of my most anticipated list...

Something just moved to the top of my most anticipated list…

It’s no secret that we love Card Crawl here at Pocket Tactics. Not only did it win Board/Card Game of the Year in 2015, it also earned a place at the top with the Editors’ Choice Game of the Year as well. I didn’t even mention the fact that it was your choice, also picking up the coveted Readers’ Choice Award. We’ve known that Tinytouchtales have been hard at work on the follow-up, a new solitaire card game completely unrelated to Card Crawl, for some time. What we didn’t have were details. That ended today.

The new game is titled Card Thief and plays completely different than its award-winning forebear. Card Thief puts you in the shoes of the titular rogue who needs to find the treasure chest and then escape a dungeon. The dungeon consists of a 3×3 grid, and your thief moves between cards, grabbing loot and avoiding guards. Like Card Crawl, you will have an inventory to help you get through each challenge. The goal is to gather as much gold as possible and when you hit a target amount, the chest card will appear. From there, you need to remove all the other cards from the dungeon, which will reveal the Exit card. The security level of the dungeon will increase after each successful run, making each subsequent run a bit more difficult. This security level will also translate into the score for that game.

There’s a lot to see over at Tinytouchtales’ blog, so I recommend heading that way if you want to learn more. No clue, yet, on when we can expect Card Thief in the wild.

World of Yo-Ho blends cardboard and digital, but not like we’ve ever seen

I am the walrus

I am the walrus

One of the best things about ordering board games via Kickstarter is that you’ll occasionally have packages delivered to your door with no memory of what it was you ordered. One such incident happened last Friday, the contents of which happened to be a game I don’t even remember ordering, World of Yo-Ho. I first saw World of Yo-Ho at Gen Con 2014 and didn’t hear much about it after that. Oddly, it was nowhere to be found at Gen Con 2015, leading me to think that it had been shelved. Considering that it was unlike anything we’d seen before, the thought of it being shelved wasn’t a huge surprise. I now own a copy, so it not only didn’t get shelved, but they managed to make a pretty good game out of the whole thing.

World of Yo-Ho is another cardboard game that uses an app. Unlike other games that have gone this route, XCOM and Alchemists come to mind, the app isn’t something that you have next to the game board and use as a sort of companion to the actual game. No, in World of Yo-Ho, your phone actually becomes your playing piece. The game consists of a huge 2-piece board depicting a fictional archipelago and it’s broken up into 60 phone-sized rectangles. Your phone sits in one of these rectangles and brings the game board to life. It’s a pirate-themed game, so your phone shows your ship, but it also shows the game board beneath your phone. Waves move, clouds float by, and gulls flap overhead. Putting your phone down for the first time is a definite “wow” moment that’s only surpassed when you interact with someone else’s ship. Battles will cause cannonballs and shot to soar between different phones, and close combat will cause your ship to leave your phone and sail over to your opponent’s where the battle is completed.

The game can be played for points or in a campaign-mode. If the former, you can select how many points you want to play to: 400, 700, or 2000. We’ve played a handful of 400 point games which range anywhere from 20-40 minutes once you get the hang of everything. We have yet to try the campaign mode.

Points are earned by completing missions which you can pick up in ports around the board. The missions are pretty basic fetch-type quests which will have you looking for objects around the map or taking passengers to specific ports. You can also get bounty quests to take out your opponents in battle, usually before they complete a mission. There are also timed quests which seem to pay out the most loot and points, but are hard to pull off due to random events that can happen such as storms and monster attacks. Yep, you can get ambushed by the Kraken and, if you choose, actually take it on in combat.

I’ve only had a few plays so far, but my kids absolutely love the game and, to be honest, I think that’s who this game is made for. The pirates are all animals and your ships ride on the backs of giant sea creatures, which gives everything a less-than-realistic vibe. That said, there’s some meat here. Ports are filled with different items to load in your holds and I seem to find new things each game. Also, combat is a card-based affair in which you play cards in secret and then let the battle commence.

It’s not perfect, port visits can be a bit long while one player stares at his phone and rifles through the merchant’s wares and we’ve had one disconnection right in the middle of combat. That said, I’m having a really good time so far with the game and it’s great to have a game on the table that the kids are actually excited to play. The game’s app is for both iOS and Android and is free to download, but there’s not much you can do with it without the box.

Want to see it in motion? Check out the trailer after the break. It’s an old trailer and some of the graphics have changed, but you’ll get a good idea of what the hell I’m talking about.

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Legion stomps on over to Android

Rome sweet Rome

Rome sweet Rome

One of the first games ported by Slitherine to the iPad was the empire builder, Legion. Not a pure wargame, Legion concerns itself with that other pillar of strategy gaming, 4X. That’s not to say it doesn’t let you get your hands dirty on the field of battle–the game is full of tactical combat–but a lot of your time will revolve around building and expanding your province.

As I mentioned, Legion has been out for iPad for a long time now–since 2013–but it just arrived on Android tablets a few weeks ago. This is the full game, exactly what you’d get on PC or iPad, only now it’s on Google Play.

While Legion doesn’t carry the hefty price tag of Slitherine’s “big” games like Panzer Corps or Battle Academy, don’t let that fool you. By no means is Legion a gateway strategy game that anyone can jump in and figure out. The game is fairly hardcore and, as Owen says several times in his review, you need to read the manual. Twice. Not what you want to hear if you’re looking for a quick, easy game, but if you’re looking for a deep, strategic game that will give you a 4X fix on your tablet, Legion fits the bill.

Pick up Legion now for iPad or Android. It’s $10 on iPad, but only $5 on Google Play right now. Not sure if that’s a temporary or permanent release price, but if you’re interested in Legion I wouldn’t wait to find out.

Release trailer after the break.

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Review: TIS-100P

For spoiler avoidance purposes, the code in these screenshots does not solve the problems.

For spoiler avoidance purposes, the code in these screenshots does not solve the problems.

TIS-100P, from developer Zachtronics of SpaceChem fame, offers similarly neuron-stretching puzzles without the overly friendly graphical interface. This game simulates finding an old computer and becoming obsessed with teaching yourself to program in its assembly-like language with strict memory limits, right down to recommending you print out a physical copy of its manual. There’s a sort of video-gamey plot revealed through reading bugged sectors, involving a portal to another dimension or a cold-war era AI or something, but it’s about as important as the story in Destiny at launch, so don’t worry about it. What matters here are the puzzles, which deliver the joy of solving low-level coding problems without the annoyance of deadlines, grades, or co-workers.

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