iOS, Android • Dave has given me the impression that HexWar are the Lucy van Pelt to our Charlie Brown, repeatedly advertising wonderful games and delivering troubled ones once we get our hopes up. I assume that, once the running gag had been established, the challenge for Charles Schultz was to find a way to create interest in a joke with a predictable ending. With Lightning: D-Day, HexWar did it by translating to app from a well-regarded, unusually simple WWII card game famous for its poorly-written rules. I had hoped that the combination of a lower degree of difficulty than their ambitious past games mixed with an easily addressed problem in the cardboard version made this a superb candidate for an unqualified HexWar success. Then again, we all know how this joke ends.
PC/Mac (mobile version coming soon) • When Antihero launched for PC/Mac last week I assumed that, like any board game, I would get 3-5 plays in and be ready to put quill to parchment and regale you with opinions so clear and well thought out that they’d bring a tear to your eye. While Antihero is definitely a board game, I found that 3-5 plays simply wasn’t enough to see everything it has to offer. I’ve worked my way up through the campaign and several skirmish games, and even an online game or two and I think that I finally have Antihero’s nuances all sorted out. I can’t promise that my florid prose will bring a tear to your eyes, but I can promise you that Antihero doesn’t disappoint and is a well designed and intriguing board game.
iOS, Android • I’ve heard people mention three web-based boardgaming sites often: Brettspielwelt, Yucata, and, um, Bootyjew (that’s what I’ve always heard it called, and I am proud of myself for finding a link despite that). BSW has always sounded the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for them–now they’re coming for our mobile devices, as well. Their first foray: Friedemann Friese’s Friday, a sterling choice. It’s a well-regarded solo game with complexity just a bit above Onirim‘s, so they avoided the twin bottomless pits of development effort: AI and multiplayer, like Pitfall Harry. I looked it up–that’s actually the name of the character from Pitfall! I’m not excited about it, it just seemed like a waste of punctuation to end a sentence with “Pitfall!.”
iOS • In upgrading from my iPad Air, with its long-inadequate 32GB of storage, I was mostly looking for more storage, Pencil support, and the ability to care less about the nature of the deposits left by my children’s fingers. I’m not terrifically picky about screen wonderflonium, the camera, or the speakers. I don’t even care about the ability to have a full-sized keyboard in the cover, because I’ve been surprisingly happy typing on the screen. So, as a hardware reviewer, I’m not exactly curmudgeonly, but I expect to be insensitive to a lot of what I’m seeing written about the new iPads. People who review lots of devices have more incentive to care deeply about what seem to me like rather minimal differences.
iOS Universal, Android, PC/Mac • Every now and then a game appears on the App Store and it just clicks. It takes hold immediately, as early as playing through the tutorial. There’s more than just a sense of “fun”, whatever that means, but an urge to really dig in and explore. It doesn’t happen often. I remember it happening when I first played Pathfinder Adventures last year, or the first time I loaded up Hearthstone, and it happened again last week with Age of Rivals. What a game.
iOS • Format plays much the same role in modern writing that fate played for the ancient Greeks. Monument Valley 2 is exactly what that title suggests, and the original was so popular that there’s little need for reviews. But I’m a game reviewer, and to resist describing it would invite the intervention of displeased gods. So: Monument Valley took the inspiration for its puzzles from M.C. Escher, its visual style from Helvetica and sunsets, and its lightly-presented narrative from maturing, regret, and making amends (and how distinct are those, really?). It was the sort of gem which made people feel like there was still something they could use to show off the potential of touchscreen devices to jaded onlookers. MV2 refines that success very gently.
iOS, Android • Jaipur on tabletop has long been highly regarded as a fairly light and quick, but still satisfying, economic game. The translation is everything we could hope for from an Asmodee digital title. Asmodee’s online service could improve in numerous ways (most notably by allowing asynchronous games), but they tend to choose games which support relatively large player bases so it is, at least, usually possible to find opponents. Solo play includes a generous campaign with a variety of tweaks to the formula, and, of the three AI opponents, only the easiest seems like a pushover.
PC, Consoles • The Surge is out, and by a piston’s hiss, is it grand. For good or ill, Deck13‘s futuristic brawler will be known as ‘that robot Dark Souls‘, and if it helps cut to the chase, then I’m all for it. FROM Software’s punitive dark fantasy has laid the groundwork for what has now been coined Soulslike, a tidy riff on the descendants and pretenders to Rogue. Soulslike it is. Industrial body horror Soulslike, even better.
Windows • Though my 2014 review of Cyanide‘s goblin stealther has disappeared beneath the waves aboard a now-defunct website, my opinion on the Styx franchise has only strengthened with this year’s Shards of Darkness. This brand of dark French fantasy might be left wanting in the narrative presentation stakes, but as an unfettered vertiginous romp worthy of grizzled Garrettians, the goblin is as good as it gets.
iOS Universal, Android • When 2017 started I had already been girding my loins in preparation for a certain card game that was originally released in cardboard form back in 2007. Yes, 2017 was to be the year that I finally left my family behind and started the cult of Vlaada, continuously playing the digital version of Through the Ages. Things have changed. While I’m still planning on abandoning my family for a 2007 card game, it looks like it might be Race for the Galaxy instead of the aforementioned civ builder. RftG is out and, yes, it’s that good.