Monday, 3 June 2013

iOS boardgaming

Approx 24 Apr 2013. In this particular game of Ascension, both the strength-7 and strength-8 monsters were in the card row at the same time. This was the first time I witnessed this after more than a hundred plays, but then I did have many plays of the base game before I bought the expansions, and the strength-8 card is from an expansion. I managed to get a hand with strength 7 to defeat the strength-7 monster Avatar of the Fallen, whose power in turn allowed me to defeat the strength-8 monster Samael the Fallen. This was 12VP in one turn, 4VP and 8VP respectively for the two monsters. If I didn't get the right combination of cards, I would likely have lost. Eventually I won this game with a margin much smaller than 12.

30 Apr 2013. Eclipse is one of the hottest games in recent years, reaching the BGG top ten list quickly. However neither Allen, Han nor I were interested enough to buy a copy. Allen wasn't so keen on the space theme. I thought it sounded like just another multiplayer conflict game, albeit one with cleverly streamlined rules. However when the iPad version was released, all three of us jumped in.

This particular game was still my first practice game against two easy level AI's. I was green, the AI's were red and orange. Green planets produce materials that can be used for building spaceships and monoliths, the latter being worth VP's. Pink planets produce science, which can be spent to buy techs. Orange planets print money, which is needed to execute actions. Tile borders which have full target-like icons (which are wormholes) allow passage. Those with half a wormhole or none at all do not. The seven icons along the bottom are the possible actions you can take - pass, explore, exert / withdraw influence (i.e. marking / unmarking ownership of tiles), research (i.e. buy new tech), upgrade ship design (install / uninstall techs for spaceships), build ships, and move ships. This was the last round, and the orange AI had built quite a few monoliths. These are the black upright rectangles, that can be seen in the centre tile and also in the one to its lower right.

I had been doing poorly throughout the game, managing my space empire like the noob that I was. Both the AI's were more efficient than me. However, in the last round I exploited the undefended border of the orange AI and sent my long-range fighters into its territories to quickly capture a number of tiles, many of which had monoliths. Because of this, I jumped from last place to first. But I felt dirty. The green-owned tiles on the right half were mostly captured in the last round.

The top left panel holds all available techs. Every round some random techs become available. Because of this the techs and their quantities differ from game to game. The middle panel on the left is for the techs you own. There are three tech tracks, and once you know at least one tech from a track, you get discounts for other techs of the same track. The bottom left panel is for reputation tiles earned through combat (i.e. VP's). The right panel shows your ship designs. You can adjust the abilities of your ships by using the Upgrade action.

I only played against human factions, which are the vanilla factions. There are many alien factions with different special abilities and limitations.

I have only completed one game, and I am in the middle of two others, so I'm not ready to do a proper review yet. But I can share some initial thoughts. It does feel like other multiplayer conflict games that I have played before, despite the clever and clean bookkeeping mechanism. You can call the overall package a civ game. It does have exploration, settlement, development, tech and warfare. However I find that the peaceful or development part of the game to be quite limited. Most techs are military techs, and you really cannot neglect your military. Even if you do not intend to attack, you need defenses to deter your opponents. Among games of the same period, at least for now I prefer Clash of Cultures.

16 May 2013. In this particular game of Ascension against Han, I went for a Mechana construct-heavy strategy. I knew with such a strategy I would score fewer in-game points but would score more at game end when adding the point values of my cards. However when Han widened the in-game score gap to almost 30pts, I despaired. To my surprise, when the game ended, I outscored him by even more in card value. But it was a close one.

16 May 2013. I bought the iPad version of Puerto Rico quite some time ago, when it was on sale. I put off playing it because my friends said the interface sucks. When I finally got around to play it, I thought the interface was not too bad. You see almost everything at a glance. The only problem I have with it is when you are not yet familiar with the buildings, it is troublesome to look up what they are and what they do. One aspect I like is how the lighted doorways indicate people working in the buildings.

I played with the expert AI's, and won, but it was close. I was only 2VP ahead of the 2nd placed AI. Thankfully I had ended the game without giving them a chance to operate their large buildings. Else I probably would have lost.

17 May 2013. Cafe International is another game that has been giving me a good challenge. I play the hardest AI's, and they beat me most of the time. I do have some suspicions that the 3rd positioned AI tends to play poorly and sets up good moves for the 1st positioned AI. There is definitely a left-right-hand neighbour thing in this game, like in Puerto Rico. A poor player can inadvertently benefit the player after him.

The San Juan AI's beat me frequently too! I'm starting to have doubts about my intelligence. This scoring screen may look dull, but the San Juan interface is done very well. Very intuitive and clear.

18 May 2013. Beaten by an AI in this game of Puerto Rico. The winner scored 32VP from shipping! I can only blame myself for not paying attention. The game plays quickly because the iPad does all the calculations and game component logistics for you. I become lazy and often don't bother to watch closely what the AI's are doing or to guess their intentions. That's one drawback of playing boardgames electronically, and it is not the fault of the computer. It is the fault of human nature.

Another game of San Juan that I lost by tiebreaker. Aaarrgghh!

26 May 2013. Ascension with Han. By the start of Round 3, I already had three cards with the Banish ability - Personal Wormhole, Shadowcaster and Abolisher! Deck thinning and making your deck more efficient by keeping only powerful cards is an important tactic in deck-building games. This was a windfall for me.

By the time the game ended, I only had 12 cards in my deck (number on the green coloured deck at the bottom left). Two of them were constructs (number in circle at bottom left), which were played on the table, which means effectively I had ten cards in my draw deck - the same as when the game started! I think I had banished all the starting cards.

No comments: