Sunday, 16 April 2017

Race for the Galaxy on mobile platform (Beta)

Race for the Galaxy used to be my most played game, in particular the advanced 2-player version, which was a staple for my wife and I. The mobile version is in development now, I recently found out. It is at the Beta testing stage, and it is available for both iOS and Android platforms. I'm not sure how much longer the Beta will last. If you are interested, go sign up for Beta testing asap. Link here. The official launch date is early May.

I seldom play Race for the Galaxy nowadays. Now that I have my hands on the Beta version, I find myself playing it heavily. The AI used is the same one developed by Keldon. Keldon is a fan of the game, and developed a very good AI for it quite some time ago, in a PC implementation. I have played that. He has done such a good job that the official developer of the mobile version decided to work with him and use his AI.

Main menu. You can play against the AI or against other players. So far I have only played against the AI. I tried the multiplayer feature once, but was not able to get matched with any opponent. It might be because there aren't many Beta testers, or they are mostly in timezones different from mine.

It is a little difficult to play on a phone. Race is a game with many details, and in order to show that much information, it has to be shown in small sizes. It can be tiring to the eyes, even shortsightedness-inducing. Or perhaps the problem is with me - I'm getting too old for this size, or my phone - screen not big enough. When I tried it on the iPad, it was much better.

To view the details of a card, you can double tap or tap and hold. Details will be displayed like in the screenshot above. I tend to be too impatient to do this. I'd rather squint at the screen and get on with the game. Once you are familiar with the game, by looking at the picture and the rough positions of the icons on the card, you can generally guess correctly the functions of the card. Veterans will have no problems. Newbies may find this challenging. Race is not a mainstream game. Hobby games is not yet a mainstream hobby. So Race is a niche within a niche. That said, it is one of the better selling games. I hope the mobile version finds a large enough and profitable enough market, and introduces the game to many more players. It is a great game.

Normally you only see a summary of the AI's tableau of cards. You only see an icon for each card. The icon is similar to that on the physical card. It tells you whether the card is a world or a development, what goods it produces, whether it is a production or a windfall world, whether it is a civilian or military world, and the cost. The icon also tells you whether there are currently goods on the card. To see details of the AI's cards, you need to tap the AI area. The details will be displayed as in the screenshot above.

If you use the objectives module, the objectives will be displayed on the right side of the screen as icons. When you double tap to see details, this is what you see.

A summary of the AI's cards is at the top left. The cards in the centre are my tableau. My hand cards are at the bottom. I like how the user interface is designed. It is functional and easy to use. I did go through the tutorial. I already knew the game, so the main purpose for me was to learn the interface. Race is not an easy game to teach. The tutorial contains 3 lessons, and the rules are introduced bit by bit. The first two lessons use incomplete versions of the game. Only the third lesson uses a complete game. I think this should make things easier for newbies.

I defeated the AI. Usually I lose to it, and I am not enthusiastic about sharing those screenshots... I play with AI set to hard. It really is quite good and sometimes I learn some tactics from it.

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