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.
Silent Depth is a long-gestating WWII submarine sim, placing you in an American sub in the Pacific Theater in 1942. Success means slowing the flow of vital supplies to Japan, sinking troopships, and buying the U.S. industrial effort time to rebuild the surface fleet after the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor. And, in a cruel metaphor involving sinking ships, it represents the first Stately Play use of the tag “Windows_Phone. [and possibly the last. -ed.]
I saw the recent announcement of the release of Kathy Rain, and found myself reflecting on how, despite my satisfaction with mystery novels and movies, mystery games have long disappointed me. Largely, it’s because such games rarely give you any incentive to develop hypotheses–sometimes there’s an element of memory or exhaustive search, but mostly, it’s stuff like “Detective Mode” from the Arkham games–you can’t do anything until you see the highlighted clue and press x on it, then the next clue is unlocked. I started thinking about how to do that better, and it occurred to me that I write for a gaming website, so I have a forum to express my terrible ideas to an audience! Here are two. Some day I’ll learn to use my powers for good, but it is not this day.
Colt Express has two things I adore: an Old West theme of bandits robbing a train, and programmed movement with character decks. Westerns are in sort of a tough place right now. The themes common to westerns are largely in tension with some now-common values, so it’s difficult to make them without effectively taking a controversial political stand (either to support those themes, or explicitly reject them). As a result, family-friendly western content is rare these days. Admittedly, I have never seen Sheriff Callie’s Wild West, but Wikipedia tells me it occurs in the town of “Nice and Friendly Corners”. I am now imagining Fred Rogers in a poncho, chomping a cigarillo, and my attempt to deride the western credentials of the Disney Junior show has gone totally off the rails as I embroider that fabulous image.* Anyway, a western family game stands out.
Red7, a simple but scalable card game now come to iOS, offers a surprisingly strong metaphor for American capitalism and its discontents. Try to think of this claim, not as total BS, but as a helpful mnemonic for the various details the game adds as you activate the three independent optional rule sets. My brain apparently abhors a purely abstract game.