Minesweeper Genius Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch (reviewed), Android, iOS, PlayStation, XBOX, Windows
Publisher Blowfish Games (Website)
Developer Mother Gaia Studio (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Deductive Logic

Far from a new game, but it’s new to Switch, so I nabbed it. It’s not the Minesweeper I remember, but it’s not a bad evolution either.

As an older computer geek, I have had a soft spot for Minesweeper for decades. It used to come bundled with Windows, all the way back from Windows 3.1. It’s only Windows 10 that stopped that little tradition, but you can still get it from the Microsoft Store.

It’s far from the greatest game in the world. But it is a satisfyingly frustrating logic puzzle, and if you just want a little bit of a distraction, it fit the bill fine. Not a game for everyone, but it was free and it scratched an itch.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through the Switch eShop, and I saw Minesweeper Genius for something like AUD$1.20. So I thought what the hell and gave it a try.

Minesweeper Classic
I almost grew up with the screen. Such a simple concept should not be so hard!

Since when does Minesweeper have a story?

One of the first differences you see from ‘classic’ Minesweeper is that you control a character called Aristotle. You have been captured by aliens or something, and you need to solve their tests.

Honestly, the story isn’t essential or even necessary to understand. I have yet to hit a cutscene or anything along those lines, so you just jump in and play.

So the only ‘story’ you have to deal with is that you need to complete a variety of different puzzles and then get to the end.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Levels
The early levels are very simple - at least, for someone that has already played a lot of Minesweeper

Puzzles? It’s Minesweeper, isn’t it?

Yes, but with a small difference. When you play Minesweeper, you need to clear all the non-mined squares. In Minesweeper Genius, you need to guide Aristotle through the level. It’s a small functional difference, but it is a difference.

What makes me put Minesweeper Genius more into the puzzle category than deductive logic is the fact he can’t backtrack. You do need to find the one path to the level exit.

The initial levels are very simple and let you get a feel for how to play the game. If you judge Minesweeper Genius from the first few areas, you would think it was a ridiculously simple game with little challenge.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
Each area is split into 10 levels of the same difficulty level

There are a few unique tiles that allow you to jump a square, or move rows/columns in a direction. As you get into larger areas, more indicators are placed within the level itself, not just the number of mines in a row or column. These take a while to get to though. So there is a bit of ‘stick with it’ for Minesweeper veterans.

Once you get through an area, you unlock the advanced puzzles. Early on, these ramp up the difficulty significantly. So if you are looking for more from the game, this is a good way to keep you interested as you get through the lower difficulty levels. If you are learning, you can come back when you have a better grasp of the game.

Minesweeper Genius - Early Advanced Level
The advanced levels ramp up the complexity nicely

So I just look up solutions online. What’s the fun in that?

So when you play, if you get through a level without dying, you get a 3-star rating. So if you complete every level with 3 stars, I am guessing that’s your completion goal?

I made a few mistakes at an early level, but Aristotle’s body was a grim reminder a mine was there. So I thought I would retry the level now I knew the layout, and keep my scoring streak going.

Reloading the level, it had changed entirely. So no walkthroughs are available – you have to complete the randomly generated puzzle!

This actually made me excited. Once I find an area I can just jump into and play with the difficulty I am looking for, I can play an endless amount of levels. So this isn’t a ‘one and done’ run through, which I appreciate.

So should I buy Minesweeper Genius?

If you are interested enough to look for this review, probably. Especially if you pick it up for sale like I did for only a couple of dollars.

Looking around, it has been released on almost everything. You could get it on your phone, PC, PlayStation and Xbox. Personally, I think mobile and Switch make the most sense, maybe on PC.

Minesweeper Genius is a game you pick up for a few minutes at a time and forget about until you next want a quick diversion. I couldn’t see myself firing up my PlayStation or Xbox for a few games. I have been firing up my Switch while something is playing on the TV though, and it’s been fun.

Minesweeper Genius - Progress so far
The best praise I can give is that I actually want to finish all the levels

Overall Thoughts

Minesweeper Genius is an evolution of the classic Minesweeper game. Straightforward and challenging, it’s a great way to pass a few minutes while keeping your brain engaged.

The music is repetitive, and the visual style could use some variation. Still, Minesweeper Genius is a solid game and a great new take on a classic game.

If you are a Minesweeper veteran though, you will need to spend at least 15 minutes clearing the ‘easy’ levels before getting to a real challenge though.

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  • Clean (if bland) visual style
  • Very accessible and easy to pick up
  • Good challenge difficulty curve for beginners
  • Random puzzle generation leads to infinite playability

Cons

  • The soundtrack can be annoying
  • More suited to mobile gaming than dedicated play sessions

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 1st, 2020

Animal Crossing Shooting Star

One full week back at work, and I am back to being overly tired. I didn’t play any PS4 or Xbox this week. But I did get in some digital board gaming – let the gaming challenge counts finally rise!

OK, so it wasn’t a huge dent, but a dent is a dent. Kicking back and playing the AI isn’t as good as playing with my friends, but it was still good to do some board gaming.

Turn-based, take your time, board gaming. I needed it last week, and probably will again this week.

But enough of all that – on to what actually got played!

Istanbul – Steam

I quite enjoy Istanbul, but it can be a brain breaker. This is why I generally prefer Istanbul: The Dice Game. It’s one of those rare times where the dice game captured the feel of the ‘original’ game perfectly.

Early last week, I nabbed the Steam digital version and gave it a go. The tutorial is as good as I can ask for. One of the downsides to Istanbul is there are a few different things to keep track of, and it takes at least a couple of games for everything to click.

Going to see if I can get a game or two in on games night, and see what everyone else thinks of playing it digitally.

Istanbul Board
It's the board game, with everything laid out logically.
Istanbul Caravansary
It is a lot easier to read what the locations do though!

Small World – Android

Well, discounts got me last week. Google Play gave me a $1 credit, and I started having a look to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. Turned out there were two titles.

The first one was an old favourite that I hadn’t played for quite some time – Small World.

I had a couple of games, and I enjoyed it. That said, I can’t recommend people that haven’t already got it run out and buy it. First and foremost, I got the ‘this was written for an older version of Android’ warning as soon as I started it up. That doesn’t bode well for staying on your phone much longer.

Playing it on mobile is a little frustrating when your finger misses a token. Everything is just so small, and my gorilla fingers had trouble moving my tokens.

It did remind me that I do have Small World on Steam though. On a bigger screen, the gameplay will be a lot smoother. And just as fun as the board game, without the micromanagement.

I will have to see if I can use Remote Play Together on it for a games night…

Small World No Support Die
Three sides of this die are blank. You will swear it has 7 blank sides.
Small World You Have How Many Land
It was at this point, I thought this may have been a mistake
Small World Victory
And this is why you never give up trying

Dragon Castle – Steam

I reviewed Dragon Castle last week, so I won’t be talking much about this one. But how could I do a review and not grab at least one screenshot of the game? Oh no, I had to play a game. Such a hard life :p

Today I will talk about how disappointed I was that Dragon Castle doesn’t work with Remote Play Together. Like Tokaido, Dragon Castle is a great game to be playing during a conversation, and I think it would work really well in the remote play format.

I think if people could jump in for a round or two on someone else’s copy, more copies would be sold. Yes, it was on sale for a very low entry point cost, but you had to want to already play to be willing to pay it.

But that’s just my rant. 🙂

Dragon Castle Poor Decisions
I was getting worried. The compute started targeting my dragon tiles.
Dragon Castle Tie Loss
Lost on tie breaker though. Can't be unhappy with that comeback!

When I got an email saying that Imperial Settlers was coming to mobile, I was very excited. I have had my eye on the roll and write version for a while, and a portable solo version could bump Onirim for plays.

I bought it, loaded it up, and played the tutorial. And I have no idea what is going on.

Teaching board games is hard. Anyone that has tried can tell you that. Learning board games is harder, and some manuals do not help with this.

That is where Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write fell down for me. There is a manual you have to read that will hopefully explain enough to understand the tutorial. The tutorial itself was basically ‘pick this, move it’ with little explanation as to what you were trying to achieve.

So now I am going to sit with a few video tutorials and the rule book. This is the only way I believe I can get the full experience. I will come back to this one in a few weeks with a full review.

Imperial Settlers Tutorial
Why do you want crowns? Read the manual to find out!

Blood Rage – Steam

As I wrote last Wednesday, I was looking forward to this. I enjoy Blood Rage, but it’s a hard one to get to the table. Not that it’s a bad game – just one that takes a lot of coordination getting certain types of player together.

I was hoping that the digital version would help me get some plays in, and I believe it will. I have played two games against AI opponents so far, and the ‘easy’ difficulty still gives a challenge.

The biggest challenge was actually my screen. Playing in ultrawide in my first game, I realised that I couldn’t see my army strength. The number was blocked by my cards. This wasn’t a problem in the tutorial, as I didn’t have enough of a hand for it to happen.

Changing the resolution to a standard size 1920×1080, this wasn’t an issue, and I handily won my second game. Both rounds were fun, but this was a bit strange. I will look more into it during the week.

Initial thought though – this could be a lot of fun on the go. Maybe a Switch version?

Blood Rage Cards Blocking
Below my card is supposed to be my army strength
Blod Rage Bad Card To Play
If you don't have cards, it's not a problem. Except I shouldn't have entered this fight!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

It was another week on Sleep Cove. Did some fishing, bought some stuff, started toying with my island setup. Still trying to get it right in my head.

Yesterday I messed up though. I completely forgot that Daisy Mae only sells turnips Sunday MORNING. When did I remember this? When Isabelle proudly informed me it was 12:01.

It’s far from the biggest issue in the world, but it was indicative of most of my week hahaha.

I need about another 100,000 bells to pay off my upstairs room. I think I will spend a night roughly planning out the changes I want to make to my island, and having fun fishing. Now that winter has officially hit my island, hopefully I will find some new fish and bugs to collect as well!

Animal Crossing Shooting Star
I also finally got to see a shooting star! Star fragments acquired, finally crafter a wand 🙂

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – Switch

RPG’s are my game of choice for when I want to settle down and immerse myself in a world. I don’t have much time for that lately, but it is what I enjoy.

When Xenoblade Chronicles was announced, I was excited. I have a version for my DS, but that hasn’t been pulled out since last PAX. The Switch has basically replaced all of my handheld gaming, except for quick mobile diversions.

One reasonably universal downside to RPG’s is starting them. Fans are nodding, some people are probably confused.

Vast RPG worlds are great when you are in them, but it’s hard to invest in a game that drops you into it completely blind. So you get to do the introduction to the world. This is part story building, and part tutorial.

I am 40 minutes in, and I haven’t gotten to the first town to ‘start’ the game. This is what I mean by ‘starting them’ is a problem.

It looks gorgeous on the Switch, even playing in handheld mode. It might take a week, but I will make it to the village and get my first taste of the game soon.

Figure 3-4 more weeks, and I can start playing it properly!

Xenoblade Chronicles Titans Clash
The bodies of these two huge creatures is the world you will explore
Xenoblade Chronicles Bad Day
No spoilers, but when I watched this happen all I could think was "Justice"

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

One Deck Dungeon Review

One Deck Dungeon Box Art
One Deck Dungeon Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Chris Cieslik
Publisher Asmadi Games (Website)
Players 1 – 2 (4 with special rules and 2 copies)
Playing Time Physical: 30-60 minutes
Digital: 20-30 minutes
Category Fantasy
Dungeon Crawl
Light RPG
Worker (Dice) Placement
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Who could have guessed playing an RPG with one deck of cards was so fun!

I love playing RPGs. Playing in a new world, enjoying the camaraderie both in-game and around the table, it’s a great time. The downside is RPGs need a group of friends. Not the people themselves, but trying to get everyone together at the same time is a massive undertaking.

There are plenty of board games that recreate a lot of the fun of RPGs. Dungeon Crawlers are especially good at this. Exploring an area, fighting monsters, and collecting loot. Some even have a basic levelling system. Almost all of them have one fundamental flaw – setup and teardown.

Mansions of Madness 1st Edition was a great example of this. It would take me 40-50 minutes to set up a game. And I had to try and do it before anyone showed up. There are plenty of other games that I can set up and play in that amount of time.

True, those games don’t have the same feel as an RPG, but it’s quicker to get into. But what if it didn’t have to be?

I have had One Deck Dungeon, and it’s stand-alone expansion Forest of Shadows, for a while now. I have even taken it interstate and overseas on work trips. Somehow, things just never seemed to align themselves for me to sit and learn how to play it.

Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago, and boy have I been playing it!

One Deck Dungeon Boxes
Both game boxes. Standard gel pen for scale. These are small!

One Deck Dungeon – What is it?

The best way I can describe One Deck Dungeon is a solo or co-op light RPG dungeon crawler. I know this is a very jargon-heavy description, but it’s really the best way to describe it.

You play as an adventurer making their way through a dungeon. During your dungeon run, you fight various monsters until you take on the boss. The monsters can give you new weapons, skills or experience to level up. Hence, light RPG dungeon crawler!

You get five different bosses in the box and five adventurers. Each boss has different conditions for their dungeon, and combined with the five adventurers means there is plenty of variety. More on that later.

One Deck Dungeon Components
A Deck of cards, some tokens and character boards, and a lot of dice. What more do you need?

So how does it work?

This is where the solo and co-operative part of One Deck Dungeon comes into it. You can play solo with one or two adventurers (the way I have come to prefer to play), or play with someone else using one adventurer each.

Each adventurer has three different stats – strength, agility and magic. Fairly standard fantasy RPG stuff. These stats are represented by different coloured dice. Unlike most RPGs, instead of rolling a dice and adding stat modifiers, you use a certain amount of dice depending on your stat.

So for example, if you have 3 agility, this means you roll three agility dice. Nice and simple! There is also the fourth colour of dice in the box – black hero dice. Hero dice can be earned with experience levels or skills, and are used as any coloured die (wilds).

One Deck Dungeon Adventurers
Each adventurer has pros and cons. Playing one adventurer or two is shown with 1p and 2p on each side.

Shuffle the 56 cards, and put it on the table. This deck of cards is where One Deck Dungeon gets its name. Each card is a different room with a monster or trap, but it’s also almost every other thing used in the game. They are also equipment, skills, experience markers and the game timer. It doesn’t sound obvious, but it works really well!

Each player turn, you burn (discard) 2 cards. This represents time in the game. The very first turn, you spend the first turn exploring. All this means is you draw cards and place them in front of you until you have 4 rooms to explore.

From now on, each turn you can choose to explore or enter a room. Entering a room means picking a card and turning it over to see what’s in it. This is where the card layout hopefully becomes a little clearer.

The card will either be a trap or combat, shown by the icon next to the card title. Below the title is a picture of the room’s contents. To the right of that shows what is needed to clear the room.

One Deck Dungeon Game Start
This is setup. Pick a coupel of characters, shuffle deck, set things out. Done.

You will also notice other parts to the card. On the left shows the extra skill dice you will roll if you choose to take an item from the room. On the bottom shows a skill you can possibly learn, and top right is the amount of experience (XP) you can earn.

If you decide to try and clear the room, you roll all of your dice. To beat the challenge, you need to place your dice onto the various squares on the right of the image. If it’s a square, you need to put a die of the same colour with the value equal to or higher than the number on the card. If it’s a rectangle, you can put any number of dice on that area, as long as the total at least equals the value shown.

One Deck Dungeon Sample Encounters and Rewards
It just looks like four cards, but each card serves 5 functions.

If you cover all the squares, you win! If you can’t cover all of the squares, you still win! You lose some time (discard more cards) and/or health, but you succeed. This helps you build your character even at the start of the game.

And that is basically it! There are some additional rules like mandatory extra requirements depending on which level of the dungeon you are on, hero dice and some other things. But what I have outlined is all you need to know about playing the game. 

That sounds rather simple. Why wouldn’t I play Yahtzee instead?

Simple isn’t always dull. Not that I am saying Yahtzee is dull, but for me, Yahtzee is at it’s best when playing in a group. 

The amount of depth and immersion in One Deck Dungeon cannot be understated, especially if you are a fan of RPGs or Dungeon Crawlers.

Yes, the mechanics are streamlined, but for a game designed to play solo and quickly do you want a lot of bookkeeping?

There is also the sheer variety of the dungeons. Initially, I believed I would get bored of One Deck Dungeon once I saw all of the enemies. Straight up – I was wrong. I have almost 20 games under my belt now, and I don’t think I have seen all of the cards yet.

One Deck Dungeon Dungeon Bosses
The bosses aren't just different battles, the rules for their dungeons change as well

Forcing you to burn cards during the game pretty much guarantees you will always get new choices each game. Do you take the powerful skill, or use that XP to go up a level and be able to carry more items and get a hero die each round?

That is the challenge and immersion of One Deck Dungeon. Each game is different. Dominate last game mashing a particular skill? You might not see it again for 10 games. Your character can be a relatively weak hitter, but take damage like a champ. Or you could be a glass cannon, dealing damage left and right but only take one hit to go down.

One Deck Dungeon Upgrade Decisions
When setting up a shot, I realised I had not seen the skill on the mage OR the room card before.

But each game, don’t you start again at level 1?

This isn’t as cut and dry. Yes, you start each game at level 1, but this isn’t always the case. For starters, you can choose difficulty level in One Deck Dungeon. Playing on Novice starts you on Level 2 each run.

On top of this, there is also a progression system. While you don’t keep your levels from game to game, you can start with skills, carry more items, heal between levels, all sorts of things.

Like any RPG game, you will need a few games to build up your adventurer. But you will get more powerful, and that old game grind becomes a different experience. You can also level up different groups of benefits and change at the start of each dungeon to tailor your run.

One Deck Dungeon Progression SHeet
You earn different symbols by playing harder dungeons

OK, so what’s the catch?

So the game is ultra-portable and a blast to play. But using cards for everything as well as tiny dice makes for a fiddly experience. For someone like me with large hands, I find myself spending as much time cleaning up my play area as I do playing the game.

I found a perfect fix for this, though. 

I’m Listening

Some of you may be wondering why this review appears in both Board Game and Video Game Reviews. That’s right – there is a digital version! And it’s a perfect translation from the physical copy. In fact, because it’s digital, it takes advantage of being able to move the level challenges to the room you are facing. This means you only have to look at one area to see all of the dice and values you need to clear a room.

There is also the added bonus of getting a sixth adventurer for free! Mist from Aeon’s End is a promotional card that you need to hunt down or buy for the physical version. Mist comes for free on the digital version, or at least on Steam.

You aren’t restricted to Steam either – you can also get One Deck Dungeon on your mobile. I am not buying it, as I am honestly worried about how much time I would spend playing it when I should be working 🙂

One Deck Dungeon Digital Character Selection
No knocking dice, no covering cards accidentally - let the game manage the fiddly bits
One Deck Dungeon Digital Progression
Everything works the same as the physical version
One Deck Dungeon Digital Boss Fight
Rolling a bunch of physical dice is so satisfying, but the app manages everything so well

Overall Thougths

One Deck Dungeon got a lot of love when it came out a few years ago, and today I can say it deserved it. While not the perfect game, it scratches that Dungeon Crawl/RPG itch for me in a solo experience.

The portability of the game is excellent for throwing my bag on trips. The digital version means a small install on almost any PC as it has meagre graphics requirements. Basically, if you can run Windows 10, you can play One Deck Dungeon. Don’t take a PC with you? Grab it on mobile!

While the dry explanation of gameplay can make it sound like another dice game, actually playing One Deck Dungeon throws that idea out the window. I can highly recommend One Deck Dungeon to everyone that enjoys an adventure.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  • Simple to set up and learn
  • Incredibly customisable experience
  • Replicates the feel of Dungeon Crawling/RPG very well
  • Can play solo very quickly
  • Portable both physically and digitally

Cons

  • Using cards can be awkward mid-game
  • High random nature of exploration may put off some players
  • Hard to describe how fun it is unless people can play it

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Warriors of Waterdeep Review

Released 2018
Platform iOS, Android (reviewed)
Publisher Ludia, Inc (Website)
Developer Ludia, Inc (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 with online play
Category Dungeon Crawl
Set Collection
Leveling Up
Different player powers

Mobile game reviews? Really?

Mobile gaming keeps slipping past all of my ‘What did I play this week?’ checks. It’s not intentional. I don’t think I have a bias against mobile games. My stance is ‘Do you enjoy playing X? Then you are a gamer.’ I don’t believe a Twilight Imperium player is any less a gamer than a Call of Duty regular or a Candy Crush fan. As long as you are enjoying your game, you will keep playing games. That’s a gamer.

So in planning a run of reviews to write coming up to and during PAX Aus, I realised something. I have spent the most time on the last couple of weeks playing on my phone. And I haven’t even mentioned that in Last Week’s Gaming.

I spent about 12-15 hours playing two mobile games just last week alone. And I have plans to sit and get into another the week before PAX on the drive down.

So to make up for some of this oversight, let me tell you about Warriors of Waterdeep on iOS and Android, my biggest phone game at the moment.

Lords of Waterdeep got a sequel!

Well, no. But I can see where you might think that. It’s also not what a lot of people would call a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Warriors of Waterdeep has nothing in common with Lords of Waterdeep except for the thematic setting and D&D license. Your warriors getting a mission load screen set in the pub made me smile. Well, the first few times I saw it. Now I want it to hurry up and load.

It’s a mobile dungeon crawler. There are a few variants of this type of game out there, and all share similar traits. Take a party of adventurers that grow as you level up/buy more, beat the monsters, and repeat.

What Warriors of Waterdeep does well is making this such a simple to play experience. The reason I have sat on the couch and played it for two hours straight wasn’t that it was the best game ever. It was the end of the day, and I was tired after work. The couch called to me, and I answered.

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go...

I knew I couldn’t give the truckload of other games on my playlist the attention they deserve. The reflexes needed for Astral Chain were dulled. The logic required for puzzle-solving for Catherine: Full Body was out to lunch.

Do you know what I could do, though? Play a game that only asked of me “Tap the bad guy you want to hit”.

But it’s Dungeons and Dragons – isn’t that deep role-playing stuff?

Ordinarily, it can be. But Warriors of Waterdeep has nods to its D&D roots; it doesn’t try to recreate it.

Your warriors gain experience points (XP) to level up after clearing a room, but the improvements you get are preset. If you want to enable new abilities, you need to arrange your inventory.

Better pants allow for better healing. You are more likely to get a bonus attack with axes instead of a bow. It’s all straightforward – you want that skill? Equip that item. There isn’t layer upon layer of hidden stats and interconnected benefits. “I do this!” is what every item screams, and if you choose to equip the thing you can too.

The primary way of getting more powerful is by powering up your inventory, which you do by collecting cards, but I will talk more about that later. For now, just now that setting up your party isn’t a huge deal. You can get straight into clearing bad guys and not look at the party screen for ages, and enjoy Warriors for the simple diversion it is.

No real choices to weigh up - you upgrade items, your stats increase

The most complicated nod is most items have a chance of activating a bonus ability. There is a dice roll that happens in the background, and if you succeed, you get to do the particular thing. There is also the magical critical hit which plays a unique animation of your attack. But this is again where Warriors makes a nod to D&D, without pushing it all onto the player.

So that’s all you do? Tap on bad guys and level up?

Pretty much. Warriors of Waterdeep isn’t mobile Skyrim, nor is it trying to be. At its heart, you enter a dungeon, clear some rooms, and get rewarded. That said, there are some variants to what you play.

As you explore Waterdeep, you clear out different areas. These areas end up becoming Boss Room gauntlet runs that you can run over and over again. There are some unique backdrops, but there are only so many ways you can layout a 4×4 square room.

The different bosses do have unique attack patterns and abilities, so learning how to get through can be a challenge. You are just replaying rooms of monsters followed by a boss, so the rewards are what makes this worthwhile.

The other thing you can do is Battle, which puts a random group of your heroes against another human team. These fights seem to try and matchmake even teams, based on a score rather than your team. I have been in unwinnable or unlosable battles as a rule. Lose a few fights to lower your standing, and could face off against players 2-3 levels lower than you.

Enter room, hit all the things, move on

That’s a big power difference – and it cuts both ways. You can be working your way up and see a team that is 2-3 levels higher than you. Suck it up and take a breath buddy, it will be over soon 🙂

I can also see this being the ‘pay to win’ section of the game. I have lost to teams with access to rare/epic/legendary equipment I haven’t got and lost 3/4 of my team in a single hit. Because Warriors is so quick to play, it’s easy enough to shrug off and jump back in. I wish this could be improved, though. Just losing a close battle is infinitely more fun to me than creaming opponents in one hit.

And finally, there are the quests. New ones are added every day. Kill X many enemies, do Y amount of damage, that kind of thing. Your reward is either a bunch of gold or a random card drop. It gives a sense of purpose to aim at something, but it’s just a reward for doing the same old over and over again.

Like Fortnite and the like, daily grind quests give you something to work towards to justify the grind

So overall, it sounds fun! What’s the catch?

Core play mechanics, not much. It’s a light dungeon crawler with RPG ties, which can be just what people are looking to play. Having the ability to run boss gauntlets to level up your characters is a grind, sure. But what RPG doesn’t ask you to do the same thing over and over to level up?

If you don’t have the time or energy to play a ‘big’ game, having something on your phone like Warriors of Waterdeep can be just the ticket.

The issue is the cost of the free game – and not just microtransactions. The cheapest and best way to keep going with bonus chests and prizes is the VIP club. AUD$17 a month gives you access to exclusive chest rewards, mainly in the form of gold. You need gold to pay for levelling up everything in the game. You also need gold to redo those Boss rooms.

You can trade gems for gold, and you buy gems for cash. A fairly standard model, I agree. I am in a position now, where I feel the need to pay for stuff from the shop. Over and above the $17 I paid for the subscription, see where this can get expensive?

And the second problem is what you buy. You don’t buy the mythical axe of opponent stomping, that would be too easy. You get to buy a pack of trading cards like Magic: The Gathering, where the more expensive decks have a higher chance of the rarer cards.

3,000 gems is close to $40. Ouch.

So the theory is that you need the extra cards to level up your characters’ equipment, which in turn levels them up. Sounds reasonable. Except what if you need 50 arrows to level up your ranger, and in 10 booster packs you don’t get a single arrow card?

Long term, Warriors of Waterdeep is a great example of loot crates as gambling. Which in today’s world is not what you want to be known for.

So you are saying stay away?

Not at all. I have had a lot of fun playing Warriors of Waterdeep. Just be aware that it is asking a lot of you in terms of the old wallet.

I have the VIP subscription, and I will probably let it renew for another month. Unless something drastic happens to let me get further into the game though, next month will probably be my last month playing Warriors.

But until then, the relaxation and enjoyment I have gotten out of chilling on the couch and tapping the bad guys have been worth it. But you know what else I can relax with for $17 a month? Netflix. And have change. Microsoft Game Pass, and have lots of games to choose from – with change. Here is where I make the comparison and call Warriors expensive.

Download it, try it out, and see for yourself. If you have made it this far, you are probably interested enough to try it for out. Just before you hand over the old credit card info, weigh up the subscription against what you already have is my advice.

It's still a fun game to play, try it out 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pandemic is coming to XBox One and Switch August 1st!

Pandemic can now be installed almost anywhere

I really enjoy Pandemic. Anyone that has played with me or seen my collection knows this to be true. If you would like my thoughts on the game, you can see me review here. Short version though – I consider Pandemic a classic, and a game everyone should play.

A few years ago, I grabbed Pandemic for iOS. It was fun to be able to pick up my phone and play a game or two with no setup times, just the core game experience. Like most digital board games, it was a quick solo distraction that was fun, and back in those days it was also a rare treat – it was a good digital version.

It was a lot of little things that made the digital version so much fun. Hitting new game for the first time on iOS bought up a choice for how much help teaching you Pandemic you needed. It even has the rulebooks (albeit in a simple point form) of the board games to let you see what it’s doing in the background!

I got a few of my friends into it as well. It was surprising how much the tension built with the music in the background. Even the simple animations built excitement and terror as you watched outbreaks spread out of control!

The iPad version, the first time you hit new game.

When I went from iOS to Android, I didn’t pick up Pandemic on my new phone, but I did grab it on Steam on sale and have a game or two on my iPad when I need to take it somewhere.

It wasn’t because I don’t enjoy playing Pandemic, it was because a lot of board game adaptions had been getting better and better so I had more to choose from. Plus, I prefer playing Pandemic with people – the cooperative nature is half the fun!

That said, that busy outfit Asmodee Media announced today that Pandemic is coming to XBox One and the Switch August 1st!

It looks like it will be just the base game initally, with the On the Brink Expansion coming in September.

Nothing against the XBox, but I think this will be a great fit for the Switch. Being able to play party type games already on the go, being able to play Pandemic in a hot seat mode with the Switch seems to be a great fit.

Who will you choose to help you save the world?

There is also the easier nature of the touch screen with the Switch. Playing on mobile and PC, I definitely prefer the tocuh method to using a mouse, so using a controller I don’t think will be as good.

That is of course assuming that you have to move a pointer around the screen with the left stick or similar. Until I see how the control method on XBox works, just keep it in mind as something I am wary of rather than a blanket statement of bad controls.

If you already know Pandemic, you already know exactly what information is being shown

Pandemic for XBox One and Switch will be priced at USD$19.99 – a little more expensive than the iOS, Android and Steam versions but if that includes the On The Brink expansion then it is a bit of a better deal.

Asmodee Digital also released an announcement trailer this morning, as they have been doing with Catan and similar releases in the past. I have linked the Pandemic video below, but be warned – it’s a nice attempt to try and make Pandemic look and sound cool, but it makes me miss 80’s TV!

I don’t think I will be rushing to get Pandemic on the Switch. I already have 2 digital versions, plus every physical version of the game, so I think I am pretty sorted.

But if you would like to play the original Pandemic and digital is a good choice becuase of price/storage/players/whatever, I highly recommend the digital version to play.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Zombicide is now available for iOS and Android

Zombicide Feature

Now I won’t be making chainsaw sounds with my mouth 😀

Dungeon crawling action has been a tabletop staple for years.  A few years ago, CMON created a Kickstarter craze with a little known game called Zombicide.

I backed the original, and it was fun enough.  I even painted most of the minis.  To be honest, I ended up giving away seasons 1 to 3 though.

The core ideas are sound, but mechanically Zombicide missed a few beats for me.  The extra seasons and the new types of Zombies only added to a bit of a mess.  It was largely the huge amount of downtime between turns and contradicting rules that turned me off.

Now, I have Zombicide Black Plague which fixes a few of those issues, but it’s still a slog to get to the table.  Coupled with getting at least 2-3 others to play a game that is a bit ‘meh’ for a couple of hours, and it just doesn’t get played.

That may change over the next few days.  Asmodee Digital has released Zombicide for iOS and Android, and by all accounts, it should be available later today!

Zombicide Tablet Gameplay
AI to take over all the bookeeping - sounds good to me!

Bit of single player pick up and put down zombie killing sounds pretty good to me, and the base game has 40 missions to play through.

For the table, Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce and the like will hopefully take this spot.  But on digital, to pick up and play through an essentially turn-based video game?  That sounds great!

Check out the trailer below:

The timing couldn’t be better for this release.  With most of my gaming all packed up ready to move, a new mobile diversion sounds great 🙂

**UPDATE: Found it!  If you search for Zombicide: Tactics & Shotguns it appears in the respective stores.  Google play link is here.

I will be picking this up as soon as I can to try it out.  By rights, it should be available now, but I couldn’t find it on the Google Play store yet, so hopefully, that is fixed by tomorrow.

Long term though, I hope this is another game that makes it to the Switch – I think that would be better for a game like this.  Time will tell!

Once I have played a couple of games, I will let you know how it all went!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Sandiego Inc. Review

Sandiego Inc Title Screen
Sandiego Inc Title Screen
Released 2017
Platform Android, iOS
Publisher Think Tesla Studios (Website)
Developer Think Tesla Studios (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1(ish – can play in teams)
Category Deduction
General Knowledge

How did I not know about this until now?

Many, many years ago when I was still in primary school (gasp!), when we did especially well we would be awarded time on the computer.  Now that didn’t mean time to sit and watch YouTube or catch up on Facebook – this was 1986, these things weren’t invented then!

What we could do was ‘play a game’.  Most of us know educational games tend to be bad at both being education and being a game, but one rose quickly among the ranks.

That game?  Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Chasing down a suspect that had stolen some national treasure, you had to piece together a description of the suspect and follow general knowledge clues to find them.

All controls were via a button press – click to search the library for example, and a little animation would appear.  If you were correct, a little trenchcoat-wearing figure may look around suspiciously.  But if you were wrong, precious time was wasted and you had to backtrack quickly!

Today, it was simplistic and the graphics were awful.  But back then all of the graphics were awful – you had to make a fun game to compensate, not the other way around like today!

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego - 1985
This was cutting edge graphics in 85! Image from gamesdatabase.org

And of course, the series only started here.  Where on Earth, the USA, in Europe, and my personal favourite Where in Time were also additions to the series.

After watching the new Netflix series, nostalgia set in for the old games and I thought I would see what was around.

And I can play the old style game on my phone 😀

Enter Sandiego Inc

I tried what any person driven to find answers would do on the spur of the moment – I typed Googled Carmen Sandiego Game on my phone.

And there it was – on the Play Store, Sandiego Inc.  The tone of the letter from The Boss was right from my memories, but didn’t you get missions from The Chief?

The last line solved that little mystery – a tribute to the Classic Carmen Sandiego.  It’s important to make that distinction because Think Tesla has not made a Carmen Sandiego game.  But what a fun tribute they did make!

The old school Carmen is in full force here, with missions received via old school terminal PC and fax print out.  The case structure is identical, but the locations images are replaced with slightly easier to recognise hi res versions.

Sandiego Inc A Welcome Sight
Oh yeah. People my age know this screen well - and it is welcomed 😀

The simple layout of tapping one of a limited number of choices means that the system holds up well on a mobile screen.  Animations and particularly sounds have been updated a bit, but still have that retro charm very much intact.

The controls are very intuitive, and the tutorial does a great job of walking you through what needs to be done.

All of the original core mechanics are in play in Sandiego Inc.  Get the gender of the suspect from the briefing.  Start investigating for clues as to the next destination and about the suspect.  Get a warrant when you can, and catch the crook.

If you catch up to the suspect without a warrant, they go free.  Solve certain numbers of cases to get a promotion, which makes investigations more difficult as you progress.

What you really want to see is the suspect in cuffs.  Here I remember scuffles slapstick style between the trenchcoat wearer and English Bobbies.  In Sandiego Inc, you are rewarded with a pair of hands in cuffs.  Satisfying that you solved the case – but not as fun to watch.

I do find it a little confusing because the classic trenchcoat suspect and footprints are here – maybe it was easier and less infringement worthy?  Still, as this is the biggest gripe I have, it’s at least a small one!

Sandiego Inc Success
This is what you see when you do the case correctly. Of course, the animations would have been better...

Uh Oh, it’s free with ‘Ad Support’

Yes, there are full-page ads that pay for the game.  So far I have solved three cases, and I have only seen 2 ads.  Both were for about 5 seconds?

There have been plenty of free quick diversion games I thought I would like (and generally did), but any ‘screen change’ meant another ad to sit through.  This was a concern with Sandiego Inc, but I am happy to report on my Android phone at least ads have been minimal and unobtrusive.

The bigger concern if you are looking for a challenge is that Carmen Sandiego has always been aimed at kids.

Geography is a massive gap in my knowledge, but even my minimal knowledge of locations and flags has served me well so far.  I remember having to look up things like different currencies to find what country a suspect had travelled to, but I haven’t had any questions like that yet.

While I am treating Sandiego Inc. as a fun diversion with nostalgia leanings, if you want a more difficult deduction challenge this is not the game for you.

Apart from 2 ads popping up, the biggest intrusion I have found is when requesting a warrant.  If you need more clues, you can watch a video.  Now on my last case, I got the same clue every time, but that would happen in the old game as well.  At least I get to start the ad if this has been rigged, rather than have it forced on me.

Sandiego Inc Get a Warrant
Watch a video, get a clue - and I haven't felt like I have had to yet

Sandiego Inc can be found on the Google Play Store and iTunes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Sandiego Inc.

Final Thoughts

It may not be officially Carmen Sandiego, but Think Tesla Studios has definitely caught the elements of the original and shined them for mobile play.

It’s a quick bit of fun that I would have gladly paid $5 or so for, and I will look for more of Think Tesla Studios games in the future.

If you were never a fan, Sandiego Inc. won’t change your mind.  But if you think back on those games with a smile, do yourself a favour and grab it – you can’t beat the price!

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  •  Same classic gameplay
  •  Clues have been updated
  •  It’s free with minimal ad interruptions

Cons

  •  It is a game aimed at 10-13 year olds, so difficulty isn’t always there.

Love Letter has gone digital

Love Letter Digital

If it’s digital, does that make it Love Email?

Yeah, if you stop reading after that terrible pun, I understand.  But I don’t apologise for it :p

A while ago I did a review on a whole bunch of different Love Letter games.  To date, my favourite non-extended/premium version is still Batman Love Letter, but as I said in the review you can add the guard rule pretty easily to any version.

Going through a few bits and pieces of news info from when I was away, I found this little trailer quietly sitting in my notifications on YouTube:

It looks pretty, and the pricing doesn’t seem to bad at USD$7 for the Steam version which is the most expensive.

My initial thought on a digital version was “That’s cute.  I don’t think I really want it though”.  Then I thought about it a little more.

I play things like Onirim and The Game on my phone fairly regularly – so regularly I don’t even think of them as games anymore, just something I do.  And Love Letter is even quicker than both of these games.

There is a solo mode against AI opponents and online play which would also widen the potential player pool and help get more games played.

Technically there is also a pass and play mode, but except for trying the ‘cheap’ digital version to see if you like a game I can’t see why you would do this.  It’s just a personal choice – if there are people I want to play a game with, I would rather sit around a table than a phone.

The art of the video definitely captures the feel of the original art, but as shown in my review there are also a lot of popular variants as well.  Maybe these will come as expansions in the future?

Love Letter Digital Scores
I am guessing the numberical scores are a kind of ranking system? It does have me intrigued, but not yet hooked

If you are interested in having a look for yourself, links and prices are shown below:

Google Play – AUD$4.59
iTunes – AUD$5.99
Steam – USD$7

It’s cheap enough on the phone, but I might see if there is a sale on the Steam version before buying – unless I really want another game on my phone.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Android Mainframe Review – 2 years later!

Android Mainframe Box Art
Android Mainframe Box Art
Released 2016
Designer Jordi Gené, Gregorio Morales
Publisher Fantasy Flight Games (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (3-4 players best)
Playing Time 20-30 minutes
Category Area Control/Management
Hand Management
Player Powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

So it’s always worth checking old servers after all

So looking through a few bits and pieces over on Board Game Geek, I noticed I had left a review score for Android: Mainframe.  That was one of my first reviews and one that I had started doing video for even!

But in the trapping of a dying desktop and url/hosting issues, I lost the review.  I figured it would be one I would write back up, and let things sit.

Then I found something while trying to get the YouTube page in some form of order.  I found my first ever released video review.  It is as bad as I remember :p

Don’t believe me?

And I have to say, overall my thoughts have not changed.

There have been a lot of new games come out over the last couple of years, and with restricted playtime, I haven’t been playing Android: Mainframe as much as I would like.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to, it’s just that there has been something else to play.  As for some time my playtime was solo or two player, Android: Mainframe just didn’t really suit.

Android Mainframe Components
There isn't much to it component wise, and that helps make Android: Mainframe fairly easy to reach for
Android Mainframe Gameplay
One interesting tactic is to close an opponents square for them, restricting their scoring ability

Even with this in mind, when I moved all of my board games in the spare bedroom, even unsorted I left Android: Mainframe in a position where I can easily reach it.  True, all of the Android games are together, but that is only because of Mainframe and wanting to play New Angeles one day soon.

Funnily enough, the closest competition to Android: Mainframe that I have seen of late is Dragon Castle – and they are not remotely similar in gameplay.  It’s the way that after the game my brain keeps a hold of what happened that makes it feel so satisfying to play, and it takes very little time to get a game happening.

With Fantasy Flight announcing the end of Android: Netrunner on October 22nd, I was thinking of a big run of Android games to see the series off – then I remembered that’s near PAX time, and I wasn’t going to take them all on the road.

Might make an exception for Android: Mainframe though.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

So you have seen the reviews for Onitama, how about a free game?

Onitama Feature

Isn’t it great when you can learn and try a game for free

So this week I have reviewed Onitama and it’s first expansion, Sensei’s Path.

Short version – I really like Onitama, and I think it has a wide appeal factor.  But me briefly talking about a simple game can still make it hard to visualise how to play or what’s involved.

So Asmodee Digital have decided to he guesswork out of if you should buy the game or not, and made the digital version of Onitama free!

Up front yes there is in-app purchases, and at the moment these are the Sensei’s Path moves and a reskin for the board and pieces.

The original base game is complete and free to play either vs the CPU or pass and play with a friend.  Even online if you are into that!

The tutorial is great and easy to follow, and you will be playing on your own in no time.  I haven’t put any money into the other skin or the Sensei’s Path tiles yet, as really this is just a game for me to pass some time with against the CPU, but it’s still a great game.

Onitama App Tutorial
The tutorial is quick and to the point, and very easy to follow.

Onitama has quickly risen to my ‘main screen’ app choices for a quick move or three while I wait for something else.

Just like the board game, it can be very relaxing to sit and play a couple of rounds, but I still prefer the board game version.

The app does a great job of translating the game – the flow and moves are all there perfectly.  Moving the pieces and feeling them in your hand while seeing the board from different angles though just adds to the atmosphere of the game.

While I don’t see people carrying the app around as an alternative to playing the game, I love it when companies do apps like this.  On one hand, you have a free tutorial and trial of a great game.  If you decide you enjoy it, buying the physical version is a safe buy – you know you like the game already.

If you are a solo gamer or don’t play with others regularly but still love the game, buy the in-app purchases for the expansion moves and you are set as well.

Onitama App About to Win
About to move my master into their school temple. Victory is mine!

If you thought that the reviews for Onitama sounded interesting at all, give the app a try.  It’s available for iOS and Android, and even if you only get 10 minutes play out of it I think it will be worth your time.

If you are still on the fence, the trailer is below to show you what’s in the game without committing to a download 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD