Out Now: Tremendously Huge Edition11 Nov 2016 4
The United States has always felt a sense of rivalry with the UK, from the early days in which Lin-Manuel Miranda engaged in rap battles with agents of the crown to the current contest to see who can leave the international community slack-jawed in poleaxed disbelief longest. I know people are exhausted and ready for a break regardless of their politics. Not to worry, I’m committed to bringing you my opinions about the best mobile strategy games of the week while failing to keep my own thoughts and opinions out of it.
Rome: Total War
Rome: Total War is a modern classic. Even as the Total War series has moved on to blending turn-based strategy with real-time engagements in the world of Warhammer, the most acclaimed game in the series brings the legions and empire of ancient Rome to iPad. The fame of the 2004 PC release is uncontested: abandoned by Creative Assembly, Rome: Total War and its twin sibling Gaul: Total War were raised by Space Wolves, and then Rome ate Gaul. Whether Feral Interactive (a Space Wolves legacy chapter) can make this legend play well on a touchscreen is the real question, and it’s a question Nick will be answering for us soon.
Rome: Total War is available on iOS.
In a world where the Earth has exploded, steampunk robots try to eke out an existence among the debris, and humble moisture-farming cowbots are caught between the depredations of criminal gangs and the tyranny of a diesel-supremacist empire. Piper Faraday is no hero: she’s just a cowbot turned smuggler, and only occasionally a pirate. But like her obvious inspirations Han Solo and Mal Reynolds, she’ll and her crew will do the right-enough thing and mostly try to survive until they save the galaxy, I bet. Seriously, I’m in love with this highly original side-scrolling turn-based strategy game, from it’s “X-com meets spaghetti western” cover-shooting mechanics to the character of Piper herself, a determined female robot who, miraculously, isn’t a fembot or any other gender stereotype. I’m with her all the way as she rides this bucking space-train of an adventure.
You can thank Sweden for this one as you rustle up SteamWorld Heist on iOS.
Demon’s Rise 2
In Demon’s Rise, you lead the typical last alliance of dwarves, humans, elves &c against a demonic invasion. In the sequel, you now command a daemonic host of armored bears, orcs, actual demons, dark-skinned humans, and the undead. …you ever notice that people of color in fantasy are always working for the bad guy? No? Well, okay then. Demon’s Rise 2 is just as chockablock with different character classes, abilities and equipment as the original, and just as visually impressive. This one is going to be competing with Steamworld Heist for my free time well into the foreseeable future.
Sing, Muse of chaos and eternal night… on iOS.
Football Manager Touch 2017
Right then. Yanks, here’s how it’s going to be: henceforth, football shall be known as football, not soccer, and the thing you call football shall be known as “American rugby.” Baseball is now “simplifed cricket,” and, just to keep the Harry Potter crowd sweet, sweaters are now jumpers. Okay, okay, I’m not British, I just have an unhealthy obsession with Devonshire cream and BBC radio dramas. I also know next to nothing about football, or American football, or the whole phenomenon of “team sports.” Being uniquely unqualified to say anything about sports, I exercised what little humility I possess and passed on passing judgment on the latest entry in this well-regarded sports management series.
Party Hard Go
Party Hard Go is killer. No, really, if you haven't heard about this one, it’s a darkly comic stealth game about infiltrating a noisy party and murdering the guests. The original Party Hard was ported to Android, but was too much for Apple, so Party Hard Go tones it down from American Psycho to… uhh, A Stranger Calls, maybe? In particular they toned the sexual content down to awkward hugs and characters kneeling in front of each other... to propose wholesome marriage, I assume. This release guarantees tinybuild a seat at the table the next time Congress holds an inquiry into videogame violence, and it’s an alright game too. Touch controls are good enough, and the game’s confusing at first, but you start to figure it out after a few failed massacres, by which point you should know if you can appreciate the the joke or if you need to go back to enslaving Pokémon and making them fight to the death for your amusement.
The next time you wake up feeling homicidal, don't reach for the meat cleaver, pick up Party Hard Go on iOS or Android.
Twelve Absent Men
You know how sometimes thing don’t go the way you expected? Last week, I was preparing for Twelve Absent Men to be one of the big releases this week, after Rome: Total War and Demon’s Rise 2. Now, this clever but not fully polished courtroom farce is the isolated adventure/story game in a sea of strategy. If you love or hate the Phoenix Wright series, this may be your thing: same kind of decision-point mechanics, but instead of goofy puns and semi-serious plotlines, 12 Absent Men’s more in the vein of Archer or Parks and Recreation. We’re all fools, and the greatest fool is the one who believes they’re not. Caveat carpe copehagen: on my device, the game crashed if I let the intro play through. Expect a patch or an injunction soon.
In a week full of surprises, Nyheim may be the biggest one. It’s a beautifully baroque board game about surviving in an isolated Finnish coastal town, after a nouveau Black Death has devastate humankind and left behind crazed zombies rats. The closest thing I’ve played on mobile is the port of Fantasy Flight’s Elder Sign, and while there are also some similarities to Sarah Northway’s Rebuild series, the hazard-spawn mechanics really do feel more like rats coming out of the walls than growing hordes of the living dead. Nyheim has good art, appealing design, and is narrated by Nyheim: card text is written from the perspective of the town itself, concerned for the fate of its ailing "children." There are a few places where the visual affordances could have been stronger, and a minor bug that causes some non-essential text to spill off the side of the screen, but otherwise this could have been the work of an experienced and well-funded dev team, not a scrappy group of newcomers. Nyheim hasn’t gotten much attention yet, but it deserves it.
You can play Nyheim in English or Finnish on iOS and Android. Colorblind mode included.
Where Shadows Slumber Demo
This is, as the name says, just a demo, but like the last demo I covered, The Arcana, it’s gorgeous and clever. Where Shadows Slumber is a puzzle game broadly in the same vein as Monument Valley, but this one feels like the uncanny horror, the "Color Out of Space" kind. Your lamp divides the world into bright color and midnight shadow, and when a shadow moves across a lighted space… that part of the world changes.
My Chess Puzzles
After Really Bad Chess and Moveless Chess, we have a return to tradition with My Chess Puzzles. This is a huge collection of chess puzzles divided up into categories by how many moves are needed to solve them. My first impression is that I suck at chess puzzles. If you’re any better, or what to test your mettle, give this one a try: it’s ad-supported with an IAP for extra hints.
Amid all the big releases, MontaSayer is bite-size. It’s a battles-only pocket RPG that’s a bit like rock-paper-scissors-Spock. You prepare three actions, then reveal them one at a time: you want to be blocking when your opponent is attacking, restoring mana when they’re blocking, and attacking when they’re restoring. Specials mix it up a little, and there’s some strategy here along with a lot of luck.
Reiner Knizia’s The Confrontation: Variant Mode
When The Confrontation was released on iOS, Kelsey longed for the tabletop game’s variants and Lord of the Rings theme. It’s honestly a shame that the Variant Mode expansion was released the same week as so many big titles, because it really shows the strength of the basic game mechanics. This expansion offers an entirely new set of asymmetric fantasy units, and, unshackled from the Mount Doom hypothesis, their abilities are much more interesting than in the original. There are fewer bonuses against specific units and fewer absolute trumps, replaced by abilities that counter each other in more conditional ways. From the King whose crown passes to his Crown Champion if he falls to the feeble Wandering Soul who retreats instead of dying, and from the Dwarven Siege Crew that gives an attack bonus to adjacent units to the fearsome Ancient Worm that loses the ability to move when it is revealed, Variant Mode offers a whole new set of strategies to the game.
The Confrontation doesn’t end, it just changes form on iOS.
Calculords: Cosmic Shadows
Seanbaby and Ninja Crime failed to hit their ambitious goal of 40k to make Calculords 2, but they clearly haven’t given up. Cosmic Shadows says “hey, I’m alive” by promising to mercilessly pound players into a fine slurry. This expansion will bring new players to the game because it gets Calculords into articles like this one, but the content is for true believers: the Shadow Nerd is a new opponent who is even harder than HATE BIT. There are new cards too, and I assume you can get them if, by some strange magic, you can beat the Shadow Nerd at his own game.