“I think my favorite card so far is the Hectic Scribe. I think I see myself when I look at him.”
On a couch in a cramped Boston apartment — one of those glorified cubicles for recent grads where you can just about reach the kitchen sink from your bed — Eric Sabee and Justin Gary are playing Tekken 4. (Justin prefers Panda, for the record.) It’s 2002. Sabee, who works in a picture framing shop, and Gary, a law student, live down the hall from one another and spend a lot of free time pushing thumbsticks in front of Sabee’s Playstation.
Gary made a living playing Magic: The Gathering, a whimsical-sounding trade that amazed Sabee. Gary had played in the professional Magic circuit for years, capping his career with a victory in the 2002 Pro Tour. Gary won’t last much longer in law school. In a little while, he’s going to drop out, move to California, and start his own game company with other folks from the Magic scene.
Sabee graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration, and like young artists since time immemorial, was struggling to catch a break. It would be a long time in coming. On the walls of that Boston apartment are oil paintings that Sabee has been making over the past few months.
“I was frustrated with trying to break into illustration and getting nowhere,” Sabee told me a couple of weeks ago. “Someone convinced me to start painting scenes of Boston. People liked them a lot. I wanted to emulate Van Gogh so there was a lot of big expressive marks, bright colors.”
One of the people that liked those paintings a lot was Justin Gary. “The first piece Justin ever bought from me was a scene of a restaurant on Brighton Avenue that was familiar to us both,” says Sabee. “He gave me his old big-screen TV for it.”
Gary took a few more paintings with him when he left for California. And a few years later, when he started designing the game that would become Ascension, he knew which artist he wanted working on it.
After rejecting the app at least three times, Apple’s mercurial gatekeepers have finally deigned to release the long-awaited Star Realms to the App Store, about a month and a half after debuting on the Android Market. If you’re just tuning in, Star Realms is a deck-building card game akin to Ascension that I loved when I previewed it in June. That resemblance to Ascension is no coincidence, as Star Realms designer Rob Dougherty also co-designed that most cherished of hobby card games.
I’ve kicked the space tires on the new iOS version and it’s an easy recommendation to make. The UI isn’t as fluid and responsive I was hoping it would be (moving cards around feels weirdly straitjacketed) but it’s well up for the job and the gameplay itself is very compelling.
If you’ve wanted to get into deck-building card games and never tried Ascension for some reason, this is a fine opportunity to give the genre a shot. Star Realms is free to download (there’s a single in-app purchase to unlock all the content) and it’s got a pretty decent tutorial — plus you can play async online matches against the hordes of PT regulars who are about to flood the online lobbies.
White Wizard Games haven’t provided any video for this one so I’ve got Drive Thru Reviews’ hands-on with the Star Realms PC beta after the jump — it’s nigh-indistinguishable from the mobile version.
UPDATE: Maybe the future’s not so bright after all? Folks on Facebook and righthere on the PT forums are reporting problems with registering Star Realms accounts and encounters with UI miscues. Looks like the long incubation period may not have been sufficient to shake out all the bugs. I’ll send a note over to White Wizard to see what their plan is.
It’s come to my attention that some of you are performing a dark cabalistic ritual to summon the mysteriously delayed mobile edition of Blood Bowl. STOP. You are performing the wrong dark cabalistic ritual. I know you meant well, but you appear to have summoned this Kim Kardashian game into existence instead. Also the Jonas Brothers have been crashing on my couch for the last three days. You’re not allowed to watch E! while invoking the occult anymore.
Instead of beseeching the dark powers for aid, I sent around inquiries to see what the holdup is on high-fantasy football game Blood Bowl (announced for “early July” a few weeks ago) and on the iOS version of sci-fi deck-building card game Star Realms (which was meant to be here around July 4th).
Details of what I uncovered after the jump. But fair warning: none of it is particularly good news.
Champagne is being uncorked high atop Mount Hexmap in the Pocket Tactics Prognostication Center and Quick-Pick Lotto Research Institute. The Rise of Vigil expansion for Ascension is going to be out any minute now for iOS, just we predicted last week. This is the first new expansion to everyone’s favourite digital card game in over a year, and marks the renewal of vows between app developers Playdek and game designers Stone Blade, who agreed to put aside their differences and make beautiful Ascension together again.
I asked Stone Blade designer Brian Kibler to tell me what we should be expecting from the new expansion. “Rise of Vigil is my favorite set we’ve released since the original game,” Kibler told me. “The new Energize mechanic leads to big exciting turns, and Treasure cards really make players evaluate cards differently as the game goes on. This combination makes the set great for Ascension beginners and veterans alike.”
Well. We’ll see for ourselves very soon. The Rise of Vigil rules are available as a PDF if you want to get familiar with what’s new while you wait for the App Store update to turn over. From what I’ve read, this expansion mixes things up tremendously: the treasure cards incent you to make non-optimal buys from the center row, and the new energy shards boost your ability to draw cards from your deck, which might make bigger decks more viable and tight decks even punchier.
Android adherents need not be too envious: if all goes to plan, Playdek’s iOS app will be making its way to Google-powered devices sometime later this summer, then PC in the autumn.
After the jump, two more cards from the Rise of Vigil expansion. Never played Ascension? Neither had I a couple of years ago. Read something I wrote about the first expansion back in 2012 to see why it’s so popular.
Rise of Vigil adds a couple of new mechanics to Ascension: energy shards (essentially a new resource) and treasure cards which grant additional rewards for defeating center row enemies. If you want to bone up on the rules from the new expansion before it hits the app, Stone Blade have made the rules available as a PDF on their site.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled over here and let you know as soon as Rise of Vigil drops.
Admiral Ozzel came out of lightspeed too close to the system.
We’ve grown accustomed to a certain amount of forewarning about the release of iOS titles, which parade neatly onto our iPhones and iPads at precisely 11pm Eastern time on Wednesdays. But it seems as though some game developers think that we’ve grown complacent — too comfortable with our nice predictable conveyor belt of entertainment.
White Wizard, the makers of hot-like-the-sun sci-fi deck-building card game Star Realms, are keeping us on our toes for the iOS release of their debut title. The game has been on the Android market for over a week now, but there’s still no sign of the game on the App Store.
When a developer submits a game to Apple, they can elect to either A) hold the game to release on a particular date or B) just let it ride and launch the moment Apple approves it. White Wizard have unusually gone with the latter route, and as a result nobody knows when the game is due. It’s already been in submission longer than the current 7-day average wait, so who knows what’s up? Maybe Star Realms will be out tonight. Maybe it’ll be out next week. Maybe I’m a guest on the new Flying Lotus record. It is a mystery.
If you’re desperate for some Star Realms, you can stare longingly at the images in my hands-on preview from last month. For the rest of us, let’s peruse a few new releases — that we know for sure are coming.
Core Worlds was one of the many deckbuilders that sprang to life after Dominion invented the deckbuilding mechanism a few years ago. The difference between Core Worlds and a lot of other bandwagon jumpers is that Core Worlds is actually a really good game. It takes the basic deckbuilding experience and adds a rich theme of building fleets and conquering planets on your way to the central planets (some might even call them Core Worlds) to take your place as rightful ruler of the galaxy. Or something like that. It’s really just a lot of fun.
Earlier this week, Stronghold Games announced a new Kickstarter to bring Core Worlds to iOS and Android. The game will have a 3D interface and the early screenshots look pretty sweet. They’re looking for a paltry $20K, and already have about half of that. Unfortunately, if you want to get either of the expansions digitized (and I’ve heard the first expansion makes this game utterly fantastic) they’ll need to hit stretch goals of $75K and $100K before the timer runs out.
Go and check out the Kickstarter to see all the pretty pictures, or watch the Kickstarter trailer after the break.