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The Weekender: Fully Armed and Operational Edition

Your regular weekly update is back, and we’ve got plenty to catch up on – it’s been a pretty good couple of weeks all things considered, with some interesting new releases and game updates, as well as a healthy amount of sale action to see you into the weekend. For some of you in the UK it’ll be school holidays next week, so you may want to read this week’s update with interest.

Highlights from this week include catch-up reviews on The Escapists 2 (which is pretty good) and Invaders from Dimension X! (which is a bit rough around the edges, but a neat war game that we’re glad to see exist).

Meanwhile, in mobile games…

Out Now

Evolution (iOS Universal & Android) (Review)

There’s not much more to say about this game beyond what we stated in our review, so go give that a read. Suffice to say, if you like board games, there’s a high chance you’ll like this game. Better yet, you can try it out for yourself for free!

Knights of the Card Table (iOS Universal & Android) – Full Review Coming Soon!

The art style on this one reminds me of our 2018 GOTY, Meteorfall and makes me wonder if the same artist was involved. This is a premium card game/dungeon crawler where players can re-arrange the dungeon cards themselves. Plenty of collectables and plenty of replayability by the sounds of things, and we’ll get you a full review as soon as we can.

Rebel Inc. (iOS Universal, Android) (Review)

One of our favourite strategy titles is now on Android! Woot! The pricing model is slightly different to what is on iOS, but it’s basically the same as Plague Inc. – you can try it out for free, and then there’s an IAP to unlock the ‘Premium’ version. There are additional IAPs beyond that, but these are exactly the same as what iOS users have.

From last week there was also text-based strategy game A Few Minutes of Glory (iOS), which we’ll have a full review for next week, as well as Throne Quest (iOS & Android), an action RPG that’s also on our list to take a deeper look at.

Finally, Victory Point Games released one of their solitaire board games in digital format called Gem Rush (iOS, Android). It’s an unfortunate title for the mobile app store, but we’ll get you a full review as soon as we can.

Updates & Pre-Orders

Star Traders: Frontiers (iOS & Android) (Review)
Templar Battleforce (iOS & Android) (Review)

The Trese Brothers have updated two of their catalogue recently – Templar Battleforce continues to get refined with improved iPad Pro support, and recently released Star Traders: Frontiers get a new content drop in the form of a new high-difficulty role and play-style. The link may be from steam, but it’s worth paying attention to the PC page because that’s where they talk about their plans and updates for the game (across all platforms).

Stardew Valley (iOS & Android) (Review)

The iconic farming simulator/RPG is finally making its way to Android. Pre-registration is open right now, so if you click on the above link you can sign up to notified when the game is released. The generally consensus is that it’ll be premium and cost the same as the iOS version, and also have all of the same functionality bar multiplayer. No news yet as to the ‘when’, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

Sales

There’s actually quite a lot of games on sale this week, so this section is going to have to be a bit brief:

  • Hero Generations (Review) (iOS & Android): $0.99
  • Transistor (iOS): $0.99 – cheapest price to date
  • Age of Rivals (Review) (iOS & Android): $1.99
  • Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space!? (Review) (iOS): $2.99 – only the second time it’s been on sale
  • Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop!? (Review) (iOS & Android): $1.99 – only the second time it’s been on sale
  • Potion Explosion (Review) (iOS & Android): $2.99 – not the cheapest price

Also available at a discount are Asmodee’s digital ports of Love Letter and Patchwork.

That’s everything in this week’s update – enjoy your weekends and we’ll see you next week. If you’ve seen anything else you think deserves as mention, let us know in the comments!

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Review: The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout

There is something incredibly synergetic about prison and videogames. While in real life incarceration is a punishment most wish to avoid, its inherent nature and location in places meant to be inescapable goes in direct contrast to players’ instincts to solve a puzzle — you put a player in a prison facility in a game, and you can expect them to try to break free almost immediately. The genius of The Escapists is recognising that urge and building a whole game about it, providing players with all the tools, opportunities, and mechanics to crack the hardest joints.

From lax holding facilities to maximum security prisons, The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout includes five different levels, including the tutorial, two easy prisons, a medium and a hard. Each has a different layout and number of characters, providing a variety of situations to keep gameplay fresh, further compounded by the completely randomised rosters (that can also be customised by the player before the start of each scenario).

Escapists 2 1

As a game, The Escapists 2 rotates around following a stringent set of rules to cover up the continuous rule-breaking. A daily routine consisting of roll calls, meal times, gym and shower breaks, and even work must be adhered to, lest the guards get suspicious and start keeping an eye on you more often. You don’t really need to do the things they expect you to do — being on the mess hall networking will fool them even if you don’t properly eat — but the balance between legal and illegal activities makes up the biggest part of the game’s loop.

The other facet of the game comes in the planning and execution of the actual breaking out of prison, which requires you to decide by yourself — with very little assistance — the who, the what, the why, the when, and the where. Digging under the wall, cutting fences, hiding in a shipping crate, and even disguising yourself as part of a video crew can be used to attain freedom, and you will need to not only mentally keep track of all the moving pieces, but also get them in place.

Besides straight up snatching the items from their relevant locations, the best way of gathering materials for your escape is from other prisoners. By doing favours to other inmates, players can get money with which to buy supplies from other fellows dabbling in contraband, presenting a wide array of items to create anything from makeshift tools to a dummy prisoner to fool the guards who look at your cell bed.

Escapists 2 2

Performing those actions can be a bit of a chore at times, thanks to the game somewhat finicky system when it comes to targeting people and items for use. The context buttons sometimes feel arbitrary in their placement and prompting, leading to some puzzling moments of thrashing about something or someone to get it to do what you want to get done. That is further compounded by a save system that only saves when you are at bed or at the end of specific routines, meaning that The Escapists 2 can be slightly inconvenient at times, especially for a mobile game.

In terms of comparison to The Escapists 1, the sequel takes everything that worked on the first instalment and expands it. The game is virtually the same as the original but bigger, which coupled with the 8-bit graphics and great music and sound design should provide plenty of fun to fans of the franchise — and provide a great starting point to newcomers.

Escapists 2 3

The most important thing for this edition, arguably, is how well The Escapist 2 performs on mobile. The game has been out on Steam since mid-2017, but Team 17 went all out on this port. Aside from graphics and audio quality equal to the PC version, Pocket Breakout enjoys wonderfully touch-responsive rolling menus and three different control systems: an on-screen dynamic or fixed joystick, a click and hold movement system, or a click-only method similar to RPGs of old like Diablo. All work equally well and have their strengths and weakness, meaning the only factor that dictates their use is a user’s personal preference.

Just because a game is premium doesn’t automatically make it good – there are plenty of titles out there that fall short in one way or another. The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout is not one of those games; featuring an interesting premise, a fun and versatile gameplay loop, and a number of mobile features that put several lesser ports to shame. Given its replayability and execution, The Escapists 2 is an easy recommendation if you feel at all attracted to its core premise.

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Review: Evolution: The Video Game

Charles Darwin claimed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Now you have the opportunity to put this theory to test in this adaptation of the popular board game, Evolution.

In Evolution, players adapt their species to compete against their opponents in a world where food is scarce and predators are on the hunt for a tasty snack. The board game has been featured in Nature magazines and used as a learning aid within universities. Don’t be too intimidated because you don’t need a PhD to understand the rules, and the tutorial does an excellent job of teaching you the game as you play. This is also a very excellent digital adaptation of a game.

Evolution Warning

Each player begins the game with a single species and a hand of cards. The cards have multiple uses and deciding how and when to use them is a key element to success. At the beginning of each round, all players will secretly place a card in the watering hole. Cards have different values and the total of all the cards played will determine how much plant-based food will be available. You are then free to use the rest of your cards as you wish. Cards can be discarded to increase the population or the physical size of an established species. You can also use a card to start developing a new creature. These will initially be weak but if it manages to survive then your diversity will increase, which means that in future turns you will be able to draw extra cards.

The real fun starts when you use cards to add traits to a species. Each species has the potential to evolve three of these and you can even replace traits with new ones. One of the key traits is carnivorous, which will turn a peace-loving herbivore into a slavering ball of fangs and teeth. To combat this there are traits that will help prevent your animals from becoming fast food. An animal with the altruistic warning call trait will protect those to its left and right unless the predator has the ambush trait. Adding a hard shell to an animal adds a bonus of four to its body size. This is a great form of protection since carnivores can only attack creatures with a smaller body size than their own. Other traits will enhance an animal’s ability to gather food; a species with the cooperation trait will share its food with a neighbour, foraging enables an animal to take extra food, whilst having a long neck allows them to grab food before any other species gets a chance. In total, there are seventeen different traits, which means that players can create over 25,000 different species. The interplay between the traits is balanced, thought-provoking and makes perfect thematic sense.

Evolution Observation

Once all of the players have finished using their cards then it’s time to ring the dinner gong. The food cards placed in the watering hole at the beginning of the turn are revealed; their total represents the amount of plant-based food available. Each animal’s food requirement depends upon its population size. Obviously, carnivores aren’t interested in waiting in line at the salad bar. Instead, they can attack any other unprotected species that are of a smaller size. Doing so will reduce the population size of the unwitting meal and may even completely decimate the species. Be careful though; if you have a hungry carnivore that is short of meat it is possible that it will chow down on your own animals.

The game ends when the deck of cards runs out. Points are scored for the amount of food gathered throughout the game. Extra points are awarded for the population size and remaining traits of each of your surviving species. The watercolour style graphics are nicely done. The card illustrations are distinctive and colourful and even the cartoon characters are likable. I love the way that the environment blooms into life whenever feeding time arrives. The primal backing music, complete with additional ambient sounds makes a fine accompaniment. My only real niggle is that there appears to be a lot of dead space on the screen. The watering hole takes up a large chunk of space, maybe at the expense of larger, easier to read cards.

Evolution Gameplay2

The best feature of the digital version is the introduction of a terrific campaign mode. This pits you against a range of challenges like surviving in a harsh desert environment. This mode introduces new traits at a gradual rate and is the perfect place to refine your skills. With twenty-four challenges and two levels of difficulty, it should keep you entertained for quite some time. You can also set up a local game against AI opponents, but sadly there is no pass-and-play option at the moment. The asynchronous online mode is also still being worked on, but the simultaneous online mode works well, and with games only taking ten minutes it will not tie up too much of your time.

Evolution is all about the constant battle for food and competing for survival against the opposition. You need to not only focus on your own cards but also keep a constant eye on what your opponents are up to. It is no use developing a huge and fearsome killing machine if your perspective dinner has the ability to escape by climbing trees. Since some cards are played in secret whilst others are public knowledge, which results in the mind games growing in complexity. The current start player gets to visit the watering hole first so may not have to donate a high value food card. However, a player pursuing a carnivore strategy may not be interested in visiting the watering hole at all. They may even play a negative value food card, further increasing the food scarcity.

Evolution Result

It may sound deceptively simple, but start playing and you will soon realise just how clever the design is. The multiuse cards lead to many tantalising decisions. Do I sacrifice a valuable trait to the watering hole in order to ensure a good supply of food? Shall I be greedy and rapidly increase the population size of a species in order to gobble-up more valuable food points? Or, should I play it safe and introduce traits that will enhance a creature’s chance of survival?

Evolution is a game in a state of constant flux. Some years there will be food aplenty, enabling your animals to develop and prosper. At other times, food will be in short supply and all but the best-adapted creatures will dwindle and die, becoming just another footnote in the fossil timeline. Fortunately, the game never feels too harsh. Players are never eliminated, when a player loses a species, they get to draw extra cards and if they have no species left then they will get a new one for free. Whatever the situation, Evolution invariably reaches a satisfying climax as the players add more species and the deck begins to thin at an alarming rate.

Let us finish with a final observation from Mr Darwin: “An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.”

A note on pricing: The game is free to download on both app stores, and after the tutorial players are free to play up to one multiplayer game a day, and then up to level 7 of the campaign. The full game is unlocked via an IAP that costs $10/£10 (currently running a launch discount). At the time of writing, there were some slight issues with the paywall that might be causing some confusion.

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Rebel Inc. is now available on Android

By Joe Robinson 12 Feb 2019

I think it’s fair to say we really enjoyed Rebel Inc. when it launched in December last year. While it didn’t quite win over the readers in our GOTY awards, it still got a lot of votes and over all was a fantastic new game from the creators of Plague Inc.

The only bad thing about it, depending on who you were, was that it was only on iOS… UNTIL TODDAYYYY. Well, yesterday.

Rebel Inc. is one of our favourite RTS games on mobile, but there are plenty more.

Ndemic sent out the word around 5pm UK time that their counter-insurgency sim was finally available on Android. Much like its predecessor on Android, it’s free to download, and you can buy the ‘Premium’ version for £1.99. This removes any ads, allows you to use governors, and also allows you to fast-forward.

Rebel Inc Head

There are apparently additional IAPs – the Google Play store lists extra purchases ranging from £0.59 to £11.99 per item. Unlike the Apple App Store though, it doesn’t list them out separate items, but I can’t imagine they’ll be much different from the iOS list, which you can see on the store page here. I’ve downloaded the app myself and tried rooting around but couldn’t see anything other than the premium unlock.

If you’re coming to the game for the first time, don’t forget to you can check out our Tips & Tricks guide to get you started, otherwise let us know how you’re getting on!

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Review: Invaders from Dimension X!

What if a wargame transformed completely but kept the same outer shell? If it were still about squad management, line-of-sight fire, and hand-crafted scenarios but with an added dash of chaos? Hemmann Luttmann’s Invaders from Dimension X is this very game. Zany, helter-skelter, yet still relatively strategic within its own wide, permissive ruleset, I stumbled upon the game as a lark and am quite glad I did. It’s lovingly made and great fun, but the bare-bones interface and rare bugs make it difficult to recommend. Still a nice game, a bizarre yet successful twist on wargame conventions.

Marines (from the Unified Space Alliance Defense Force) square off against a strange and sudden incursion of the Kay’otz (Obligatory get it, chaos much? interjection) and seek to eliminate the hostiles and preserve their dimension. The enemies are strong but erratic, with unusual weapons, tactics and objectives. In-game this means some delightful asymmetry. Humans use plasma weapons which kill the Kay’otz but are restricted by line-of-sight and friendly fire. (You can’t fire through your own units, mountains or lava). The Kay’otz, by way of contrast, use lasers and can fire through anything and everything but will only incapacitate, never kill, their prey. (Obligatory ‘set to stun’ interjection).

Invaders 2

The bigger chunk of variability comes from the Activation Cards, which have big bursts of activity on the enemy turn, but with a lot of conditions and uncertainty attached. Oh, and the pool of enemy Activation Cards are always the same, but the order won’t be. Especially fearsome are the AOE stun card, which randomly deploys anywhere on the map and paralyzes any nearby troops, and the frenzy card, which has the Kay’otz attack over and over until the dice roll fizzles. The chaos is iterated and compounded: events could happen anytime and once triggered can range from harmless or inconvenient, to serious and routing. While the scenarios have well-defined victory conditions for the humans, the Kay’otz instead have a grab-bag of objectives, with one triggering at the end of the game to see whether they win.

Somewhat confusingly, there are many different qualities and kinds of victories. The humans can win instantly by fulfilling the specific scenario conditions at any point, or, more commonly, the clock will run out and the game ends once the last of the Activation Cards is used. If the Kay’otz win condition is met, they win at the point; otherwise, the human  evaluate whether they’ve scored an overwhelming, modest, or paltry victory based on criteria peculiar to the scenario at hand.

Invaders 3

Everything in combat is decided by dice rolls, which in of itself is not unusual. Units have three stats, one each for movement, power and armor. The power determines the number of dice rolled, and the armor stat of the opponent qualifies which rolls count as hits. Killing the Kay’otz is rather difficult, as it should be.  If the enemy scores hits, human units are either stunned or paralyzed. They don’t recover from this stasis automatically, however, and must instead use a ‘Rally’ action to regain full function. The ‘Rally’ action is itself a die roll, meaning that a laughably bad streak can leave someone effectively perma-stunned, which would be hilarious if it weren’t such a setback.

Invaders from Dimensions X is full of long-odds edge cases like this, which is more than half the fun. Everything about the Kay’otz, and by extension the game state itself, is both strong and fundamentally unpredictable. The challenge is always to ride the wave, to manoeuvre through the tumult as best you can with the weaker, yet comparably more dependable tools the humans have at their disposal. For example, rallying might whiff, but this nastiness can be mitigated by smart positioning next to HQ or Logistics units, boosting the roll. Even the enemy turns can be micromanaged with a little luck, for the Scout units have a Recon ability which gives a 50-50 chance to select one of two possible Activation Cards.

Invaders 4

So it’s messy and potentially ‘unfair’ but never unwinnable. The unit types are just specialized enough to make for cohesive squads and a solid pay-out for good strategy and positioning. I’m probably the furthest thing from the intended audience and enjoyed it thoroughly. Caveat emptor, though. There are a few visual glitches, one of which appears to hide the win condition tab which is more-or-less essential when playing a scenario for the first time. Another fires shots from the wrong spot. These are irksome but not deal-breakers. The game’s reference materials are pretty good for in-game refreshers, but the app itself lacks a tutorial or in-game rulebook, even, choosing to skirt around this failing by redirecting inquiring minds through a hyperlink to the full rulebook. Standard answers for how to make a maximally functional game on a shoestring budget. The result is serviceable and even spirited at times but also kinda ugly.

The scenarios aren’t too long or taxing, presenting a stiff challenge in a reasonable timeframe; the player units and combat ruleset are standard, but the enemy is truly a leap into the great unknown. Dimension X is an unusual and rather fun novelty which mashes-up unlikely inspirations into something worthwhile The limited play modes, drily functional interface and various bugs mitigate this praise, so in the end give it a chance if you’re seriously curious or habituated to this type of experience.

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Review: Silent Abyss: Fate of Heroes

Mobile card games are a dime a dozen. When the genre is plagued with so many different versions of what equates to the same game, it becomes difficult to tell why you’d want to pick up one of the newcomers that seem to spring up every day on the App Store and Google Play Store.

The same can be said of Silent Abyss: Fate of Heroes. Why would anyone want to spend a buck or so on yet another action-oriented card game with zero discernible story to speak of? That’s easy: Despite its shortcomings, it’s actually an extremely fun and gripping game that puts up an addictive challenge. It may be rough around the edges, but it certainly scratches that itch that games like Slay the Spire inspire.

It’s easy to assume that, when starting up Silent Abyss, you’ve wasted your cash on a game that didn’t even bother correcting its numerous English spelling mistakes or offer meaningful tutorial levels, just throwing you in and tossing you to the wolves. And while you’d be right on one level, as its production values are quite low in this regard, you’d be ill-advised to simply write it off. Silent Abyss has a lot to offer, but you’ve got to be willing to work for it.

Silent Abyss 1

We mean that – there is no hand-holding beyond brief explanations in the heat of battle. You’d better make full use of the tutorial screens, because they disappear shortly after, leaving you to try and work out what’s going on and accidentally winning a round by playing similarly to other card games you know and play.

Starting a new game will find you tasked with choosing two heroes from pre-set options at the beginning of the game: a Mage, Knight, or Warrior, each with their own decks of cards and unique stats, including HP. You choose two, as you’ll play with two different hands per turn. This can be jarring at first, but you get used to it quickly since it means double the moves and getting bored far less often. Each turn consists of dragging a card from your decks to the enemies or your heroes, buffing and debuffing with spells and abilities as necessary, setting traps for the next turn, or dealing devastating damage so you can emerge victorious. That’s the goal, after all.

Silent Abyss 2

One interesting aspect of this particular title, however, is that instead of being relegated to being able to play only one offensive or defensive card, you can continue playing additional attack cards, abilities, and defense cards until you run out of mana. That means if you want to play five or six cards among your two characters, that’s sometimes entirely possible. It does make matches go by quickly but can also be quite confusing if you’re used to more rigid and traditional rules of play.

As you continue on throughout the game, there are additional heroes to unlock, including the Warlock, Assassin, and Archer. Each come packing their own unique skillsets, but they’re all mostly the same until you start earning additional cards and better ways to customize them. You’ll begin to learn which cards work for you and which don’t make as much sense in your deck as you become acquainted with your playstyle.

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Each new game is split into a series of short levels. As you make your way through each level, you’ll branch off into different paths. Some include treasure in the form of new cards, runes, or gold. You can imbue certain cards with runes, which can add additional effects such as the Burning status effect, or even something that siphons health with a successful attack. You’ll also nab the reward at the end of the path. You can opt to go the easier route for an easier chance at spoils, but you’ll have to deal with tougher enemies, and you may be looking at starting over again because of it, because you’ll have died. Again and again, sometimes, until you really get the hang of things.

Dying isn’t a problem, though. When you die and have to start over, you earn all that experience that levels up you team. This will unlock additional starting cards and accessories beyond pre-sets so you can truly customize each character’s role beyond their starting point. It’s all quite simplistic, and there isn’t a lot to explore here that you probably haven’t seen before already in other, bigger games with more ambition, It’s addictive to keep playing and see how you end up doing, but there’s no real pull toward the end beyond the simple desire to just play.

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In fact, that’s Silent Abyss‘s biggest problem: there’s no real reason to keep playing beyond personal satisfaction. It’s mostly bereft of story and relies on the player’s desire to become stronger to reinforce the gameplay loop. This may work for some people, but we found it a bit lacklustre and indicative of the game’s lower quality than other titles in the genre. It could use some overall polish, resolving broken English here and there, adding more flavor text, and even more cards to liven things up.

As it stands, Silent Abyss is a fun, simple card battler with roguelike elements for a buck. Sure, it’s cheap, a little rough, and devoid of some of the niceties of other games in the genre. But if you’re looking for something nice and easy to keep you occupied when you’ve got a few minutes at a time, Silent Abyss is a choice it’s not difficult to recommend. Should it receive a healthy dose of TLC from its developer in the future, it could become a great contender for the heavy-hitters in card battlers on mobile devices.

At the time of writing, despite being a premium game Silent Abyss comes with two IAPs:

  • Unlock Hero – Warlock ($0.99)
  • Unlock Hero – Archer ($0.99)

These are shortcuts to two of the unlock-able classes.

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Lunar New Year 2019 Mobile Sales

Plenty of cultures are celebrating the Lunar New Year at the moment, and since we’re having a break between content drops why not mark the occasion ourselves with some excellent mobile sales! Happy New Year! (Again!)

Kingdom Rush: Vengeance (Review): $2.99

Ironhide’s latest addition to their iconic Tower-Defence RTS series is on sale for the second time since it launched late last year. It’s dropped to the same price as last time, and the discount is on both iTunes and Google Play.

Acram Digital

The digital boardgames publisher is having a sale across their entire catalogue at the moment… the fact that catalogue is only three games is made up by the fact that they’re three pretty excellent games. This sale is live on both iTunes and Google Play

  • Eight Minute Empire (Review): $2.99 **
  • Steam: Rails to Riches (Review): $2.99 **
  • Istanbul Digital Edition (Review): $4.99

** = These games have been cheaper in the past.

Handelabra

Similar to Acram, Handelabra is also having a style on their key games on both iOS and Android.

  • Bottom of the 9th (Review): $0.99 (cheapest price yet!)
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse (Review): $0.99
  • One Deck Dungeon (Review): $6.99

Let us know if you spot any other sales that crop up!

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Review: Legends of Andor

The board game version of Legends of Andor has been around for a number of years. It was designed by Michael Menzel, who is better known for his wonderful and prolific work as a board game illustrator, rather than as a game designer. Andor is a cooperative fantasy game in which a band of heroes work together to complete quests and defend the realm.

The thirteen scenarios follow a linked narrative. Cleverly, as you progress through the quests new features are introduced, which means that you can start playing the initial quest with hardly any rules to worry about. A large part of Andor’s charm is the way that the story develops allowing you to constantly discover new stuff. With this in mind, I will do my best to ensure that no spoilers pass my lips, although this may mean glossing over some of the game’s more advanced elements.

Legends of Andor 1

The cooperative nature of Andor means that you can enjoy a pass-and-play game with each person controlling their own character, or you can play solo, taking control of multiple adventurers. There are four characters and they fall into the usual fantasy stereotypes. There’s a frenzied dwarf, a fighter, a sneaky archer and a mage; pleasingly, you can also choose the sex of each adventurer. Your heroes only have two characteristics; willpower is a measure of health and also helps determine the number of combat dice rolled (as you get weaker you roll less dice) and combat strength increases the power of your attacks. Each character has their own unique special ability; the wizard can flip combat dice whilst the dwarf can sacrifice willpower to enhance attacks. Characters can also improve their abilities by purchasing extra equipment from a merchant.

Although the landscapes are often littered with monsters, the biggest threat to your party’s success turns out to be the tight time constraints. Each day, your party members will each have only have seven hours in which to perform their actions. Moving to a neighbouring area of the map costs an hour, as does a round of combat (I guess our heroes must fight in super slo-mo). When needs must you can squeeze out a few more actions, but this will cause a drop in willpower and should be avoided whenever possible. Progress in the game is measured by an event track; this marks the deadlines for completing sub-quests and the overall objective. Once all of your characters have completed their actions for the day or you defeat a monster, a marker will progress along the track, giving you less and less time to complete your mission.

Legends of Andor 2

Combat is straightforward; each hero rolls their six-sided combat dice, chooses the best result and then adds their combat strength. The party’s total combat value is then compared to their opponent’s and the difference in values is the amount of damage applied. A bow will allow a hero to attack a monster in an adjacent territory, whilst a helmet increases the combat strength of dice rolls that show doubles. It is a fast and simple system that is easy to understand but can be quite ruthless. It might not be the stuff of legends but most of the monsters are tough and the best strategy is usually to go into combat mob-handed.

If you are used to playing games where the aim is to rush in and defeat as many monsters as quickly as possible, then you really will need to realign your thinking. Fighting burns up an entire day so often discretion is the better part of valour. Sometimes your objective means that you will have to fight and at other times you will need to battle in order to stop your home city from being sacked. The added perk of defeating a monster is that you will earn extra gold or willpower.

Legends of Andor 3

The graphics, being the work of Michael Menzel, are excellent and for me, the app worked smoothly, perfectly capturing the feel of the board game. This is especially true when you zoom in from the overhead view and switch the angle, revealing all of the 2D standee models in their full glory. The major issue is that at the time of writing Andor does not work on all devices. I have had no problems whatsoever playing on my iPad Pro and I know that the developers are hard at work fixing the issues.

However, it’s hardly a satisfactory situation and must be very frustrating for many customers. Other issues are relatively minor. The tutorial feels a little long-winded and once you have reached the story’s end there isn’t really that much incentive to play through again. Also, the way that the game works means that the heroes do not develop as the story progresses. Each new quest will see all statistics and equipment resetting, which may leave some players feeling hard done by.

Legends of Andor 4

Initially, Andor appears to be all about rolling dice and beating up monsters, but you will soon realise that the game is actually much more puzzle-based than that. You are forced to manage your precious time and coordinate the actions of your individual heroes, which often climaxes in a tense showdown. One massive advantage of the digital version is that you can start playing straight away. Setting up the board game is time-consuming and involves scanning the map for specific locations and then placing the relevant monsters and other objects.

Legends of Andor may be an older game but its appearance on touchscreen makes perfect sense. There is a generous amount of content (the original game only had five quests) and it plays brilliantly solo. The slow drip-feed of new ideas shows a designer at the top of his game.

Please refer to the comments section for the latest information regarding the technical state of the game.

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The Weekender: Frontiers Edition

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty good week. We finally got that list of the best wargames on mobile up and running (been wanting to do this for ages), so that’s another niche well served. I also got to review the excellent Star Traders: Frontiers (more on that below), and as well as overhauling our RPG list, we had a nice trip back in time to 2012.

Coming up next week should be quite a few more reviews, along with the usual round of updates, including some more war games, and any interesting new releases we haven’t caught up with yet.

Meanwhile in mobile gaming…

Out Now

Star Traders: Frontiers (iOS Universal & Android) (Review)

No need to really say much more on this one: The Trese Brother’s excellent sci-fi sandbox RPG is now made the hyperjump form PC to mobile devices. This can be considered the spiritual successor to their original Star Traders RPG and is a million times better. The post release support this game has enjoyed on PC (and will no enjoy on mobile) makes this a must-have for anyone who feel this ticks their boxes. Just mind out for the initially intimidating learning curve.

The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (iOS Universal  & Android) – Full review coming soon!

We quite liked the first Escapists game when it launched onto mobile in 2017. This curious prison sim/RPG game is a more narrative counter-point to the likes of Prison Architect, which is more of a management sim. We’re working on getting you a review as soon as possible, but in the meantime,  here are the official features:

  • Five, handpicked sandbox prisons to escape from! Break out from minimum security penitentiaries like Centre Perks or for the more hardened criminals Rattlesnake Springs!
  • Local multiplayer for up to 4 players
  • New ways to escape
  • Customise your con with new customisations to create your perfect prisoner
  • Buy, barter and beat your way to acquiring the much-needed items to create dozens of crafting combinations to aid your escape!
  • Put the craft in crafty! Scheme, sneak and traverse through prison life. Forge friendships, pull the wool over guards’ eyes as you use your skills and wits to plot your escape!
  • Blend in to bust out, prison life is filled with routine, make sure you attend roll call, clock in for your job and remain under the radar! If you have the time, learn a hobby or even join a band…

Something we also forgot to mention, Yobowargames last year released iOS versions of Battle for Korsun and Invaders from Dimension X, which we’ve got full reviews in the works for.

Pre-Order

A Few Minutes of Glory (iOS Universal)

The description of this is what sold it to us – take the founding principles of the RTS genre as pioneered by the likes of Age of Empires 2… And turn into a text-based strategy game. This is a game where you make strategic decisions such as resource collection, what units to build and so on, and then the tactical battles are handled by the game itself. We highly suggest you check out the store page at least – it seems fascinating, and in many ways isn’t so far removed from something like Six Ages.

Updates

Rome: Total War (iOS Universal & Android) (Review)

Everyone’s favourite grand-strategy game has just been updated to version 1.10, which adds an additional 8 factions (bringing the total to 19), the ability for units to march together at the same pace (total phwoarr-ED), as well as a new range marker feature, showing the firing distance of your units. This patch is only being advertised for the iOS version, but looking at the Google Play store page it looks like Android already had the most up-to-date build.

There’s also a trailer just for the patch, because why not:

Sales

There’s nothing in the sales department we feel is worth highlighting this week, although do let us know if you spot something yourself, we can always do a quick update!

Seen anything else you liked? Played any of the above? Let us know in the comments!

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The Best iOS Strategy Games of Yesteryear: 2012 Edition

By Owen Faraday 31 Jan 2019

Unfortunately, the article that was supposed to go up today has gotten lost in transit. Rather than find a token news story to write up, or a recent list to republish, I thought I’d do something completely different: republish a really OLD list.

I happened to be going through the deep dark of PT’s CMS, mainly to see if there was anything Owen (the founder of Pocket Tactics) covered back then that could help inform content ideas for today. How fitting then to find one of Owen’s earliest takes on the state of strategy games on iOS from 2012, given the work we’ve been doing recently.

Pocket Tactics has had a content migration since this article originally went live so I’ve had to clean it up a bit (and the images are terrible), but I’ve otherwise left his words as-is, with some added notes to reflect what’s changed since then. I hope you enjoy it-ED

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It is a great time to be a strategy gamer. So many outstanding games have come out for mobile platforms or are just around the corner. If you’ve just bought an iPhone or an iPad, you might be wondering what games to pick up – and even if you’ve had an iOS device for ages, you’d be forgiven for having fallen behind.

The Situation Report is a perennially updated list of Pocket Tactics’s favorite games in each strategy sub-genre – we’ll have a similar feature up for Android soon. So without further delay, the (very subjective) Pocket Tactics iOS Situation Report.

The Best iOS 4X Game: Civilization Revolution

Civ Rev

Civ Rev is a stripped-down (cynics will say “console-ized”) version of the venerable Sid Meier’s Civilization series for PC and Mac. It’s also starting to show its age a bit, as it’s now almost 3 years old. But for all that, Civ Rev is still the best expand, explore, exploit, and exterminate game for iOS – it just barely edges out the superb Ascendancy. Civ has the advantage of being based on the time-tested Civilization formula and despite the tablet streamlining, it delivers. The more recent sci-fi 4X Starbase Orion has given Civ and Ascendancy some welcome competition, but compared to those two the newcomer is a bit sterile and bland. Starbase Orion‘s devs have been steadily improving that game with regular updates though, so watch this space.

Note: Probably due to the iOS 11 App-ocalypse, Civ Rev was withdrawn from sale by 2K last year. It’s sequel, Civilization Revolution 2, is still available however.

The Best iOS City-builder: Rebuild

Rebuild 1

Rebuild isn’t exactly SimCity (though if you’re desperate, EA has a pretty disappointing iOS SimCity on the App Store), but the liberties it takes with the traditional city-building formula make it one of the most exciting experiences in strategy gaming. Rebuild puts you in a world overrun by zombies, where you are in charge of retaking a city from the undead. You have to recruit survivors to your cause and assign them to critical tasks while you decide how to put your metropolis back together. It’s hard to overstate how much fun it is and how replayable it is. It’s not a straight city-builder, but there really aren’t any on iOS worth talking about, anyway.

The Best iOS Casual Wargame: Battle Academy

Battle Academy

For the time being, there is simply nothing like Battle Academy on iOS. It’s a full-featured PC game that invalidates the idea that games need to be stripped down to work on tablets. Battle Academy is easy to pick up and learn but has a diabolical tactical AI at its heart, so experienced grognards will get a challenge out of it, too. It would be a great wargame on any platform, but it’s the best on iPad.

Honorable mention goes to Legion of the Damned, which doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the iPad-only Battle Academy, but is an outstanding casual wargame in its own right. The multiplayer-focused Uniwar still has a dedicated community of players years after release.

Note: Quite a few of Slitherine’s games were hit by the Appocalypse, so Battle Academy and its sequel, BA2, no longer work on modern devices. If you want some iOS friendly wargames to try out, we recommend reading our recent mobile war games list.

The Best iOS Hardcore Wargame: Position vacant

Given that the iPad was born to play good old tabletop wargames, it’s hard to believe that there still aren’t any proper hex-and-counter wargames to be found in the App Store. That’s not going to be the case for long, what with Panzer Corps and possibly Battle of the Bulge on the way, but for now I can’t award this belt to anybody.

The Best iOS Squad Tactical Game: Tactical Soldier: Undead Rising

Tactical Soldier

Let’s not mince words: this is the X-Com category. For a whole generation of gamers, X-Com is a perfect Madonna figure that has never been matched, much less exceeded. There is, as yet, no squad tactical game on iPhone or iPad that holds a candle to X-Com – but Tactical Soldier is the closest thing we’ve got. Despite a name that looks like it came out of a random game cliche generator, Tactical Soldier has a wickedly entertaining (if goofy) single-player campaign built on top of a solid 3D engine. Worth mentioning in this category is Hunters 2 by Rodeo Games. Hunters has more interface polish and refined art direction, but it doesn’t have the tactical depth or variety of Tactical Soldier and gets tedious after a while. Those who prefer their squad tactics in a fantasy setting should try the charming Dungeon Crawlers.

Note: Sadly, it seems TSUR is no longer available to purchase. However, since this article was written XCOM actually came out on mobile, and there are some other great XCOM-like games available as well.

The Best iOS Boardgame: Elder Sign: Omens

658 elder sign museum

It’s not possible to overstate how polished, how replayable, and how perfectly suited to mobile devices Elder Sign: Omens is. Set in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Elder Sign gives you a handful of uniqely gifted investigators and sets you to stopping the arrival of an Elder God into our dimension. It’s a stubbornly difficult game at times but that difficulty arises from thoughtful design – there is a great deal of luck in every encounter but your strategic decisions give you sufficient influence over the outcomes that you won’t feel cheated. There are a raft of boardgame conversions coming to iPad this year but they will have to be very good indeed to outdo this game.

Note: This is still available to purchase, but there have been plenty of other excellent iOS board games released since 2012.

The Best iOS Tower Defense Game: Anomaly: Warzone Earth

anomaly warzone1

This is possibly the most crowded category of them all, but most of it is crap. In an App Store full of nearly identical tower defenders, Anomaly stands out by making you the attacker running the gauntlet of towers. The revised formula keeps you very busy and the generous checkpointing system means that the game’s considerable difficulty never infuriates. Also worth a look are the visually and aurally stunning Radiant Defense, the now-ancient but still tactically brilliant Geodefense Swarm, and Kingdom Rush – whose cartoony graphics mask a deep gameplay experience.

Note: Our list of the best RTS games has some more recent TD gems, including the latest release in the Kingdom Rush series.