Feud Review11 Jun 2019 0
Released 21 May 2019
Feud has one of the most irreverent app store descriptions that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Not only does it make for a refreshing change from the usual shameless hyperbole but it also provides some potentially life-saving health and safety advice concerning the perils of open manholes. The game itself is a two-player strategy game in which each player takes it in turns to move their pieces around a chequered board with the aim of capturing their opponent’s king. As you may have already guessed, Feud shares many of its sensibilities with the granddaddy of all abstract board games. It follows in the quirky footsteps of the slurred-sounding Chesh and the really rather good Really Bad Chess, by messing with the established rules of Chess to create a fresh new challenge.
A few quick calculations reveal that the board in Feud has only sixteen spaces and that there are a total of sixteen pieces. As a result, the pieces are packed tighter than Tokyoites on a commuter train. This means that the only way to move around the board is to swap places with orthogonally adjacent pieces. The crammed board is viewed from overhead in either a portrait or landscape orientation. Before the game commences, each player will place their king on one of the four spaces in the back row. This will determine the starting positions of all of their other pieces. Each turn a player must first switch the positions of one of their pieces with an adjacent one and they then have the option to carry out a single action. You do not have to take an action but if you fail to take an action for three consecutive turns then you automatically lose the game. The space constraints may mean that there are fewer movement possibilities than in Chess, but these special actions go some way to making up for this.
The King is the most important piece; he doesn’t have a special action and if he dies you lose the game. Wizards can teleport, which allows them to swap places with any other friendly piece, not just adjacent ones. Archers can make a ranged attack in a straight line, either horizontally or vertically. Shields cannot be moved by the opposing player and their positioning will block an archer’s line of sight. Knights get an extra attack and medics can heal up to four adjacent friendly pieces for one health point each. Kings and shields begin the game with four health points, whilst all other pieces have three points. When a piece attacks an enemy it will inflict a single point of damage. Reduce an opposing piece to zero health points and it will be removed from the board.
The combatants are a rather insecure bunch, feeling the need to be adjacent to other friendly pieces in order to function. An isolated piece is therefore useless, and if at any time all of your remaining pieces are isolated, you will lose the game. It may sound simple enough - until you start playing that is. The chain of repercussions that accompany each and every move will soon have you turning mental somersaults. Things get even more fraught as players begin to lose pieces and the board opens up. Now, the problem of leaving your pieces isolated becomes ever more pressing. In a face-to-face match, Feud can really put you in a state of analysis paralysis, which will often leave your opponent twiddling their thumbs and wishing that the developers had included a timer in order to speed things up.
Let us take a look at the aesthetics, and I should make it clear that I am not talking about the apparent dashing good looks of Feud’s developers. I love how the cute buttoned-eyed characters stop blinking when they become isolated. The top-down view means that the pieces are easy to distinguish and the interface is both clean and smooth. However, not being particularly good at thinking ahead, I do miss the opportunity to take back a mistaken or disastrous move. Although games do not take long, I would still have appreciated the option to save a game that is in progress. As it is, returning to the main menu will cancel your current game.
Feud definitely falls into the easy to learn, difficult to master category. The tutorial is nicely presented and will have you ready to play in no time at all. There is a hint system that will recommend a move when you are hopelessly stuck but it would have been nice to have an advanced tutorial to take you through an actual game and explain the thinking behind some of the moves. As it stands, I found myself initially feeling a bit clueless as to what approach to take and how to formulate a strategy. I did quickly discover though that the starting player usually snatches the impetus, giving them a distinct advantage.
There is a hot seat mode, which allows you to take part in a face-to-face battle, or you can challenge an AI opponent. The AI has two difficulty levels and three different play styles. An aggressive opponent will throw everything into recklessly pursuing your king, a defensive AI focuses on protecting their own king, whilst a sneaky challenger will try their best to isolate all of your pieces. The easy AI isn’t up to much, but the hard one gave me a decent challenge. I have always been a bit rubbish at these types of games and so a more capable player may have a different story to tell.
There is always the option to find an online opponent and you can play cross-platform against iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux users. Currently, online games are limited to asynchronous games with a 24-hour turn deadline. This does mean that games can drag on and the option for a quicker turnaround would be much appreciated. There isn’t a ranking system either, which can lead to some one-sided games that are not much fun for either player. Aside from a few negatives, Feud is a clever and compelling abstract game and better still it is entirely free to play. So you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.