Pocket Takes: Ticket to Ride's Europa 1912 Tickets, All Glory to the Pixel King! 2nd Edition, and a Challenge

31 May 2016 3

Sean Clancy reviewed All Glory to the Pixel King! way back in 2013, and described it as an entertaining toy with such promise that he hoped for more. The second edition is apparently primarily an under-the-hood update, as the gameplay seems largely to be the same: you spend your gold on a castle and some units to defend your king, then fight against castles made by other players, but with the units controlled by an AI, so there's no waiting for someone else to take a turn. In many ways, it's quite a bit better at doing what tower defense games seem to mostly be aiming at than any of them (but, then, both Owen and I have declared vendettas against that benighted genre).

However, even with a maximum limit of only 30 units, moving each one individually gets pretty tedious, and most of the tactics are either very simple or unnecessary because the AI is unimaginative and the designs of others often ineffective. As a result, a large proportion of the time spent playing is mere formality, with the conclusion no longer in doubt. You can increase the challenge by turning on permadeath or playing against unmatched opponents, but these are sometimes quite ludicrously unmatched, so that ends up being so random that "crapshoot" undersells it. Whatever else has changed, Clancy's verdict stills fits: it is entertaining, and if you can get past the pixel presentation it's promising, but the lack of any sort of tutorial or an attempt to present a tactically interesting challenge during play leaves you hoping for more. Oddly enough, coarser control over the battles would probably improve this a lot, making them go quicker and keeping the focus on the interesting strategic decisions you make while building.

Europa 1912

It's like trying to park in New York City.

Ticket to Ride recently added a free expansion for users who already owned TtR: Europe, which added the extra ticket options from Europa 1912 (and which, in my view, really should have been titled "Europa 2010", both because it seems like a natural successor to the 1910 expansion, and because you'd have a pretty sweet Arthur C. Clarke reference). Like 1910, it shakes up the strategy and makes it much more difficult for experienced players to guess what tickets others are holding. Either I've had a statistically improbable string of blowout victories, or the AI doesn't cope with these new challenges that well, but they feature a pleasing array of alternatives with more encouragement to be ambitious. The warehouses from the tabletop version didn't make it to digital yet, but adding new tickets for free is a generous goodwill gesture.

IMG 2458

Spyro is Super Effective!

Skylanders Battlecasters is a free-to-play card battler which looks awfully familiar. Whether the Activision side of Activision Blizzard has figured out that the Blizzard side is pretty good at making games and is borrowing various ideas in a sort of gaming roast pig syndrome or whether there's actual cooperation between the sister development houses is unknown to me. Battlecasters marries the escalating resources and cards of Hearthstone with the minion structure of the Pokémon collectible card game. I played just enough of that with my kids to know I absolutely hated the evolution mechanic, which requires you to have a particular named card in play in order to be able to play the strongest cards. Thankfully, that's now gone--your skylanders can level up during the battle, but they do it by attacking and using abilities, which gives players much more control. Personally, I prefer the artistic elements of Hearthstone, but Battlecasters has a single-player campaign and some crossover appeal for children and adults, so parents might find this particularly interesting. Let us know if you'd be interested in a full review.

Finally, I had fun putting a bunch of game pieces in a photo and suggesting in the tooltip that people guess their identities, so I may drop similar identification puzzles into Pocket Tactics from time to time if people think they're fun (BGG's twitter account has been doing this with individual game pieces). So, here's a unit: what is it and in what game or games does it appear?


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