Android Reviews

Review: The Witcher Adventure Game

Dandelion visits the Tretogor blue token market.

Dandelion visits the Tretogor blue token market.

The Witcher Adventure Game is a strange mix of really bad and the really average. None of its positives will blow you away, but its negatives? Woof.

The Witcher Adventure Game is based on a board game that was released simultaneously with the digital version and, as a board game, it’s okay. It’s from designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, who’s done some brilliant designs like Imperial Settlers and Robinson Crusoe and is known for making strongly thematic, story-driven games. That’s not the case here, but the game itself isn’t terrible. It’s just a tad dull.

The app that brings the board game to us in digital format, however, is a problem. Actually, it’s littered with problems ranging from bugs, poor AI, and some inexplicable choices regarding game saves.
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Review: Frontline The Longest Day

Chester’s Minelab Excalibur II blipped a corker charm bracelet.

Chester’s Minelab Excalibur II blipped a corker charm bracelet.

A slog. Hard-fought, with not a single soul pencilling ‘enjoyable’ in their Moleskines. Fingers raw and clawed, eyes red and patience tested. This is one digital D-Day veteran’s account of Frontline: The Longest Day, fresh fare served up from the Slitherine kitchen. 88MM Games’ Normandy-focused turn-based strategy wargame is not a rough or broken piece of work, but given the competition in bringing World War II to the fireside for a spot of evening tabletry, does it have the juice to take Caen?

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Review: BattleLore Command

Fighting under the stars

Fighting under the stars

I’m starting to feel a bit spoiled. Seriously, what was the last major board game release that ended up a dud? It sure as hell isn’t BattleLore: Command, the latest release from Fantasy Flight Games, which, despite a major omission, is still a strong contender for digital board game of the year.

If you’re a fan of board games or just strategy games in general, BattleLore: Command is going to trip all your triggers.

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Review: Caverns of the Snow Witch

You're as cold as ice, willing to sacrifice... full stop.

You’re as cold as ice, willing to sacrifice… full stop.

Many gamebooks and interactive fictions encourage guesswork. In the best of the former, that guesswork feels more like sleuthing, with the narrative jumping in like a good improv partner to back up whatever arbitrary choices you make—a shrug and a click on your part might become “you recall that bane of ivy-wort has restorative properties, you clever so-and-so.” In the best of the latter a guess—even a wrong guess—has rewards outside the dubious pleasures of winning the fiction, especially if the story’s been designed to weather mistakes on the player’s part and has “game over” scenes written with the same care as the rest of the work.

Caverns of the Snow Witch is tricky, then. This latest digital adaptation from Tin Man Games is a game of chance primarily, like most of the Fighting Fantasy line, and yet it’s also a story of chance, one where coincidence and the time-tested tactic of “grab everything that’s not nailed down” take center stage.

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Review: Battle Worlds: Kronos

Gary Grigsby’s Battle of Endor

Gary Grigsby’s Battle of Endor

Given that the original PC edition of Battle Isle successor, Battle Worlds: Kronos, hit shelves almost exactly a year ago, there’s all sorts of wry witticisms to make about the notion of time. Instead of plucking the singular overripe fruit, let us celebrate another decent strategy game hitting tablets, albeit one that throws a tread here and there.

I’m a sucker for the Battle Isle series. Blue Byte’s brand of clean and clear warmongering always sat well on the palate, proffering succinct strategy that erred more towards an Intelligent Systems date than a fiery SSI tryst. KING Art Games heeded the call in a post-Andosian War clime by successfully kickstarting Battle Worlds: Kronos in early 2013 and releasing it the following November to decent critical reception. Battle Isle isn’t a strategy franchise that sets the planet ablaze, but Nectaris children were pleased to have a tidy little sci-fi hex-based reboot to muck about in. And now, the love has spread.

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Review: Nexionode

Sometimes, the lack of haptic feedback is a blessing.

It’s like playing Cat’s Cradle with electricity.

Some apocalypses leave the surface of the earth in desperate straits, with humanity struggling to survive. Mad Max, Fallout, A Canticle for Liebowitz–there are lots of post-apocalyptic settings in which interesting things can still happen on Earth. Heck, Marvel apparently already has post-Ragnarok plans. Nexionode is set at the end of the other kind of apocalypse; the kind that puts one in mind of the classic exploration of how to utterly destroy the earth. When something’s coming which won’t even leave the cradle of humanity a plausible place to recolonize, the tragically unforgiving allure of space becomes irresistible. Unfortunately, you’ve departed on your extrasolar Oregon Trail in quite the hurry, without the equivalent of a spare wheel or axle. Your job now is to Macguyver your way around the complications of flying humanity’s last hope before it’s entirely finished being built.

Darkly humorous setting aside, what we’re really talking about here is a simple puzzle game; in some of the loosest theming this side of the Tetris movie, there’s nothing an interstellar handyman can face which isn’t fixed by drawing lines between dots. These are the titular acid reflux-suffering nodes, each of which sports a number of hashes equal to the number of links it must have. Fortunately, simple concepts can work well for puzzle games, and Nexionode gradually adds obstacles, severe time limits, and motion, all of which add difficulty without additional rules overhead.

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Review: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Tempest having a good day

Tempest having a good day

Prior to 2011 there were almost no games in the hobby market with a superhero theme. The only two I can remember were 2007’s Heroscape Marvel and 2006’s Marvel Heroes. While successful at the time, Hasbro eventually killed Heroscape and Marvel Heroes was never reprinted. After 2011, however, superheroes are nearly as ubiquitous in board games as they are on TV or at the cinema. Games like Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game (that’s an actual title), the DC Comics Deck-Building Game (seriously, guys?), and the fashionable latecomer, Marvel Dice Masters (it has dice!). So, what happened in 2011 to ignite this boom? Sentinels of the Multiverse happened.

The problem with trying to create a superhero-themed board game starts with superheroes doing the impossible. The impossible is a hard fit for a board game’s strict ruleset. It works in superhero RPGs because a game master can adjudicate and find ways to keep the story moving forward regardless of what a PC hero (or villain) can dish out. A board game is tighter and lacks that flexibility. Sentinels overcomes this by putting the hero powers on cards and giving each hero and villain their own deck, thus making everybody play by their own set of rules. You can now have heroes with super speed or flight both work in the same game universe. Super strength or a tech-based hero? Yep, both work. It didn’t hurt that they made the game cooperative, too, so when the draws aren’t going your way and you feel a bit nerfed, at least everyone wins or loses together in the end.

Sentinels of the Multiverse was the first superhero game to become a phenomenon, spawning (to date) 4 full expansions and too many promo and alternate cards to count. Now, Sentinels has made its way to our tablets and has turned a good tabletop game into a great digital one.

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Review: Russian Front

"If you're the owner of a grey Kubelwagen parked in Lot B -- you left your lights on."

“If you’re the owner of a grey Kubelwagen parked in Lot B — you left your lights on.”

From the distant vista of the casual fan, WWII wargames might all look more or less the same: you push around some tanks, you compel some infantrymen to butt helmeted heads; somebody wins and writes the history books, someone loses and then reloads a save.

And to be sure, there’s some truth to that. Much like basketball and baseball might look fundamentally similar to uncontacted Amazonian tribesmen made to watch SportsCenter, a lot of the differences between super high-level operational wargames like Drive on Moscow and intimate tactical affairs like Battle Academy can be cosmetic and presentational. But as Michael Jordan reminded us in 1994, you can be pretty damn good at one kind of ballgame and rubbish at another. Those little differences might be important.

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