Switch • With a daughter turning nine in March, I had an excuse to pre-order a Switch and the new Zelda. The one-sentence review I would give of it is this: it’ll make you feel like a kid again, until you watch kids play. If I could add another sentence, I’d note that I’m only writing about it because I promised my kids I wouldn’t do the thing I just started doing in the game until they could watch me, and they’re in school. As I have now been gifted with an unsought opportunity to reflect, I’m going to make the most of it to try and excuse playing Zelda to the exclusion of writing for you wonderful people for weeks. It was “research” for this piece.
Much of our hope for this site was that it would attract readers smarter than us to generate superb discussions in our forums. From these, we would harvest ideas for articles. I kind of shot myself in the foot by misconfiguring our emails for a few months (though we think that’s fixed, so if you tried to sign up for a forum account and didn’t get an email, try again!), but today we have such an article.
iOS, Android • Link Twin is a simple, pleasantly-presented puzzler. Though modest in scope and number, its puzzles pass my idiosyncratic test: they sometimes stumped me until I stopped playing, and were immediately solvable when I returned. That tells me that there are various ways to approach them which are valuable enough to attract one’s thinking but easily accessible enough that breaking one’s chain of thought makes it possible to take a new tack. This would leave me perfectly satisfied, but for the fact that the minimal narrative hints at something more.
2016 rather inured me to the tragedy of celebrity deaths, and when a man dies at age 97 after a life as a mathematician, logician, philosopher of eastern religion, stage magician, pianist, author, husband, and stepfather, it seems more an opportunity to celebrate his life than sink into despondency. Raymond Smullyan is best-known as the author of numerous books of puzzles, often puzzles which make advanced logical concepts accessible to an innocent audience (which is, perhaps, to be expected from a logician who extended Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems). I recommend these; they exude a playful light-heartedness rare in any discipline, without compromising their depth and quality. Indeed, much of my taste for puzzles was shaped by Smullyan’s work, and several other Stately Play authors joined me in marking his passing. Should you wish to learn more about Taoism, or serious logic, his writing on those subjects is also first-rate.
iOS Universal, Android, PC/Mac • I worry about Scandinavians. They’ve been exporting bleakness long enough that it may actually have overtaken mythology as their principal cultural product. The Frostrune mixes peanut butter* with a bar of that bitter chocolate: it’s a point-and-click adventure in which you play the lone survivor of shipwreck, a thirteen-year-old girl. After washing ashore, you discover that everyone you encounter is dead, murdered by a legendary being with the power to create magical ice in summertime. I’ll spoil the happy ending for you: you use necromancy to stop it, but everybody’s still dead and you’re still alone.
iOS Universal, Android • The retreat from Game Center has opened a hole in the iOS board game development world. With Apple’s commitment to asynchronous multiplayer looking uncertain and the value of a unified multiplayer solution high, publishers of popular board games are likely to seek partnerships with developers who have proven multiplayer systems. That’s going to be very interesting to observe over the next few years. Potion Explosion is a Horrible Games/Cool Mini Or Not product in the tabletop world, but Asmodee Digital and Studio Clangore have brought it to mobile devices, which means you can use an existing account for any Days of Wonder or Asmodee title. That’s a pretty impressive catalog–just in my own iTunes library, I have Ticket To Ride, Small World (2, he added, rolling his eyes), the recently improved Colt Express, Pandemic, and Splendor.
iPad, Android • Titan HD was the first game I ever decided to review for Pocket Tactics more than year after its initial release. Its tabletop version was famously deep, challenging, and counter-intuitive, and is still played at conventions more than thirty years after its introduction into a hobby famously obsessed with the Cult of the New. More importantly, it’s also surging in popularity among users of our own forum, drawn not only to its classic gameplay but to an app which has been lovingly supported by developer Kristopher Giesing for almost as long as there have been tablets capable of holding it. I managed to track down Kristopher and grill him about one of my favorite iPad apps.
In a shocking turn of events, Chris Cocks, President of Wizards of the Coast, recently announced that they’re doing something. The meat is here:
Pocket Tactics is running a contest for free copies of Demon’s Rise, a tactical RPG for iOS which has a recent sequel of which Nick Vigdahl thought very highly indeed. Should you like to check out Demon’s Rise (the first of his name), PT Editor-in-Chief Joe Robinson has extended the hand of friendship, and wanted specifically to make this offer to Stately Play readers because he’s pretty good at Venn diagrams, and a mensch. So you can safely visit their contest without feeling like he’s going to ask you kids to get off his lawn. I can’t personally vouch for Demon’s Rise, but I’ll say this: I went to the game’s official site looking for some screenshots, and the background of the page appears to be an armed, armor-clad polar bear with a bit of an algal fringe standing over a couple corpses. My current hypothesis is that it starts from the premise that it was a bad idea to teach polar bears about warm weather. If you want to enter, head on over to Pocket Tactics and tell ’em Kelsey sent’cha. Actually, don’t do that. It’s a bit too kitsch.
The Cold War is singular in world history for the level of political complexity combined with the possibility for diplomatic failures to bring about a conflict which could engulf the known world in a horrifying level of destruction. But the period of the Avignon Papacy offers similarly high-stakes drama and intricate machinations, and is relatively unfamiliar to most modern audiences. As such, it’s an ideal setting for a heavy-weight successor to Twilight Struggle, or perhaps a highly thematic, negotiation-heavy behemoth (a role which, admittedly, is likely adequately occupied by Here I Stand). Avignon: A Clash of Popes isn’t one of those. It’s a small game which is actually less portable on an iPad than in physical form. It aims to offer a light, quick, but tense two-player contest between Rome and Avignon, in which each tries to recruit the support of influential people. You also occasionally recruit peasants, which probably won’t help much, but you never know.