‘You’ll see how they forget about these “Wolverines.”‘
You won’t find too many wargame monikers quite as dull as “Wars and Battles”. If French developers Kermorio ever tried their hand at baseball we’d get “Gloves and Caps” — or maybe an FPS called “Persons and Shooting”. I suspect that some children of Kermorio employees are named “Baby”.
Ignore the insipid name — Wars and Battles is an accessible wargame of moderate complexity with cagey scenarios and an intricately-modelled tabletop miniatures aesthetic. It’s lovely to behold and equally lovely to play. Even in a year where the wargame pond has been well stocked with fine beasts (Battle Academy 2, Desert Fox, Commander: The Great War), Wars and Battles is a singular specimen.
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.
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.
“…then they open the door and, BOOM, catapult.” “You’re fired Alonso.” “But I’m the ki-” “Fired.”
All Glory to the Pixel King! was as straightforward as they come, and a game which I couldn’t help but like despite its many faults. (Faults including: repetitive—if pleasant—music, repetitive combat, guileless AI opponents, lack of a tutorial, and a punctuated title.) The basic premise was simple: build a castle, populate it with a monarch and a host of troops ranging from archers to knights to catapult teams, and slug it out with some other king whose fortress would magically materialize next to yours. First team to brutally slaughter the other’s leader (and popularize the notion of constitutional monarchy) wins.
I mention all this because The Magnificent Pixel Dynasty, sequel to AgttPK!, is nearly the exact same game. There are changes, to be fair, but odd ones that exist largely outside of the core base-building schtick. Dynasty loses the exclamation point and replaces it with… child rearing? Hmm indeed, sir knight.
I alight the review railway car bright-eyed and fresh-faced, finding myself on the Eastern Front. With the FNG moniker lingering in the mind, being a Battle Academy newbie is my only disclaimer as I lock and load and see what the fuss is about. After all, Commissar Faradov held the original in high esteem, and given the way things have turned out here? It’s as solid as Lake Ladoga.
Those familiar with 2012’s tablet war game will know what to expect when cracking the frigid icon of Slitherine‘s sequel, but were I to describe it to subscriber’s of Reader’s Digest, it would run something along the lines of bearded Advance Wars. A simple, but by no means simplistic war game for the whole family – one with a decent layer of technical goodness atop a robust, easily-parsed set of basic mechanics.
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. Continue reading…
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.
“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.