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

Donut County Review

Donut County Title
Donut County Title
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PS4, XBox One, iOS, Steam, PC, Mac
Publisher Annapurna Games (Website)
Developer Ben Esposito (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Puzzle
Physics-Based
Diversion

Who would of thought playing as a hole could be so much fun?

If someone says a game is a puzzle game, you usually have a good idea of what to expect.  There could be deduction puzzles such as Access Denied (reviewed here).  There could be more 3D type puzzles, such as the Portal games.  You can even have adventure games with convoluted solutions to getting past a goat (Broken Sword!).

But a puzzle game where you are a hole?  It took me a while to warm up to the idea.  Even the trailer doesn’t really explain the game in such a way that you ‘have’ to try it.  Check it out:

But I bought it on Switch and it has been sitting there until I had time to sit and play it.  And with most of my gaming all packed up and a tired brain, it seemed like a good time to try it.

And I am really happy that I did 🙂

Don’t let the ‘puzzle’ aspect of Donut County put you off – this is a fun little experience.  The goal is to almost always just to drop everything on the map down the hole.

You start each level as a small hole, and as things are dropped down the hole it gets bigger.  And bigger.  Eventually, you will be consuming entire buildings!

While you need to work out how to get to some parts, at no point does the game put you in a state where you will lose.  Just keep at it, and you will get through the level.

Donut County Gameplay
How do you reach those high up chickens?

Because Donut County is so simple, there really isn’t much more that can be said about the gameplay itself.  It’s a game you knock over in an afternoon, with a semi-traditional ‘boss battle’ at the end of the game.

Eating everything on the screen and seeing how the hole interacts with things though is calming.  It’s got a similar zen state as Tetris in this way, and there are two levels in particular I can see myself replaying just for this feeling.

Even though you can drag the hole around the screen with the touchscreen, I used the Switch Joy-cons and it behaved pretty well.  For really fine movement the analog sticks moved a little too much. The end result was normally a fun flick of something across the screen, so it wasn’t frustrating at all.

The real fun of Donut County is hidden in the humor and story of the game.  Everything you have eaten ends up at the bottom of the hole, and between levels, the story slowly unfolds as to how everything has come to be.

It’s far from an epic tale of intrigue and suspense, but almost every story put a smile on my face and made me want to see what happened next.  There is even a little redemption arc for BK 🙂

Donut County Story
Between each level, you find out a bit more of what's been happening

Another fun little part is the Trashpedia.  Between levels, all the trash you have collected in the hole gets an entry added to this tome.

Reading the descriptions of the items from a Racoon’s point of view is really fun, and worth the minute or so to flick through the new entries 🙂

Even some of the level design has elements of humor to them – but I will let you discover those ones for yourself 🙂

Donut County Trashpedia
Bet you never thought of a snake like this!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Donut County

Final Thoughts

Donut County is a fun little diversion that I can see appealing to a lot of different people.  The new elements are introduced in a logical manner, and I never felt frustrated with the game at all.

I enjoyed this on the Switch, and it felt like the best platform for it.  I can see it working well on mobile, but the required touch screen controls I think would work against it overall.

On PS4 I just looked up it has a Platinum trophy as well.  I don’t think I will rebuy it just for that, but if that is something that would sway you think about it 🙂

Basically, playing Donut County for an afternoon where I was physically tired was a fun experience, and totally worth it.  It’s one of those games that I will most likely play again just because of how good it feels to gobble everything up with a hole!

Overall
7.5/10
7.5/10

Pros

  •  A fun light little diversion
  •  Cute art style
  •  Good difficulty curve

Cons

  •  Short
  •  On a phone, you would block what you need to see with your finge

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

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

GameFor – an interesting app to help find other gamers!

GameFor Logo

Looking to make a new game group or extra player?  GameFor has you covered

Yesterday, I saw a mention of an app called GameFor.  Something about connecting gamers?  It was free, so I had a look.

Jumping in, I was instantly greeted by a new board game group in Brisbane I knew nothing about – The Blind Pig Games Club.

You may be thinking “So?  Isn’t that what the app is for?”

Well yes, it is.  But GameFor is written as a free app from US-based We’re Milk Can Dev & Design Studio, and Australia usually gets ‘outside of area’ type issues for these type of apps.

Finding a group and event within 5 seconds of registering is actually pretty cool!

And not just groups – yes the first page is a gaming event, but GameFor has a virtual bulletin board for gamers looking for players groups as well that already looks pretty healthy in my area.

GameFor Upcoming Events
Upon registering (a very quick and painless process) first screen is an event near me! Usually I am greeted with US events
GameFor Looking for Group
Looking for players is also just as advertised. A fair number of people are already on and around in QLD, which is awesome!

I won’t be jumping straight into new groups this weekend, I already have a fair bit on.  However, if you are looking for somewhere to play/someone to play with, give GameFor a look!

You can get the app for free on Android and sort of for iOS.  I say sort of because I can’t find the app on my Australian iPad App Store, but the homepage has a link so maybe there is a way?  Android users no issues loading though, and what I have on my phone.

The only niggles I have with Gamefor so far are pretty simple fixes.

  1. Get it on the Australian iTunes Store
  2. Allow distance to be changed to km’s.  The US is virtually the last holdout for imperial distances!

Registration is email and an emailed verification code and is quick and easy.  After PAX (Maybe even during?) Don’t be surprised to see a JohnHQLD group appearing in the future!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Istanbul the Board Game now available on iOS and Android

Istanbul Board Game Digital The Game Begins

I’m still not making the Constantinople joke

Playing a game means many things to many people.  This tends to create groups of people, and gaming is no exception.  Video Games –  Yuck (well, if you ask Alpal).  Board Games – Where are the buttons? RPGs – what do you mean it’s all in your head?

There are some games that blur the lines, such as XCom (which was a great experiment) and Mansions of Madness 2nd edition (finally letting me play an investigator!).

Then there is the growing trend of digital board games.  Historically, these have been pretty hit and miss, and tabletop players tended to avoid them.  Lately, some implementations have been good though.  Really good, with some becoming my solo play method of choice.

Onirim for example while fun is great on my phone.  I can get in a game really quickly, and I don’t have to shuffle the deck 20 times a game.  Lords of Waterdeep is a game I can pick up and put down with the AI players and play over a week if I want to.

So hoping to find another game I enjoy but don’t get to play much, I picked up Istanbul on my phone the other day and gave it a whirl.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Menu Screen
The Adventure is about to begin. Well, by Adventure I mean Tuturiol mode

The first thing you will see is the art is beautiful and very faithful to the board game version.  Even the loading screen looks fantastic.

The second thing I noticed is the text size.  I am ok with smallish text, but I also have a lot of people in the office look at my screen and squint a lot.  While you don’t need the text once you know the game, if you need to up the text size a lot maybe play this on a tablet or when it hits Steam.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Tutorial
The first screen of the tutorial. It explains the game pretty well, but if you have trouble with small text you may be in trouble.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

To help with this, each location has the information on what it does as a part of each location.  The controls for how to do this are also fairly intuitive – ‘pick’ the location card just like if you were playing the board game, and while focusing on the location you can just read the text.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Post Office
Why would I want to go to the Post Office? Oh that's right

The biggest thing with Istanbul though is that it is not a light and casual game.  It’s not the most intricate of games or anything like that, but I know a lot of people that have gotten confused by their first game or two and been put off playing it ever again.

I don’t think the digital version will help with this.  You really need to know the rules of the game to get the most out of it, beautiful presentation or not.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Movement
They even animated the stacks of your assistants and family member. It's a small touch, but appreciated.

There have also been a couple of interactions that are illegal in the board game (such as family member interacting with the Governor and the Smuggler).  This has been corrected with an update, so the commitment to following the official rules is clear, but it was a little confusing initially.

So what do I think of the digital Istanbul?  In a lot of ways, it’s still too early to tell, but I have a few conclusions already.

  1. If you want to buy the digital version to try and learn Istanbul, that’s not a bad idea but I would probably grab the board game rules and/or watch a couple of YouTube how to play videos rather than rely solely on the tutorial.
  2. Like almost all of my digital board games, I can’t see myself playing this with anything but the computer.  Playing remotely waiting for turns is great when you want to play with someone far away, but I would still prefer to play the physical copy multiplayer.
  3. I was hoping the game would be more pick up and put down like in Lords of Waterdeep, and it really isn’t.  This isn’t the games fault, I was just hoping for more than it could be.  Istanbul is a game of longer-term plays and situational decisions, and putting the phone down for a day makes this kind of play difficult.

Bottom line though, if you don’t already know about Istanbul and want to at least try it, I wouldn’t recommend it as a casual purchase.  If they ever do a digital copy of Istanbul the Dice game maybe, but not Istanbul the Board Game.

Right now, Istanbul the Board Game is available on iOS and Android, with Steam to come in the near future.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pokemon Let’s Go is real, Pokemon Quest is out now, and more in 2019!

Pokemon Lets Go Feature

So Nintendo just did more than a mic drop

So the other day Nintendo dropped a ton of information on the official Pokemon Twitter account.  Five Pokemon games (or three depending on how you count), one out immediately, two in November, and two more next year.

Considering how excited Nintendo and Pokemon fans were for these games, the timing is strange.  Dropping this information so far before the E3 Nintendo Direct has me both terrified and excited at what is being announced!

Pokemon Quest

So what a lot of people are excited about and honestly what I should probably be focusing on is the available right now Pokemon Quest.

I will try and give it a go on the weekend, but honestly, I think I will wait until the phone version comes out next month.

It just looks like one of that ‘wait to play’ type freemium phone games, so it’s not really on my radar.

It is a free to play, so if you have a Switch grab it and let me know what you think!

Pokemon Quest
Not a 'main' game, but could be a fun diversion. It's free, so I am guessing micro transaction heavy?

The new ‘core’ RPG coming in 2019

Not much information here.  Basically, Nintendo said “Hey, you know that RPG game you were waiting for?  Well, Let’s Go isn’t it.  But it is coming.”

That’s what they basically said.  What they actually said is:

Pokemon Let’s Go

So here is the game I am excited about that is coming out this year – Pokemon Let’s Go.  Obviously, there have been massive graphical overhauls from the DS games, but this is more than a pretty version of an old classic.

Pokemon Let’s Go seems to be ‘Pokemon Lite’.  Don’t let the kiddie veneer of Pokemon fool you, there is a heap of mechanics for new players to try and assimilate all at once.  Think of trying to learn Magic: The Gathering level of information.  This is a daunting proposition under any circumstance.

And a lot – and I mean a lot – of new players picked up and enjoyed Pokemon Go.  How do you convince those new players to try the ‘core’ Pokemon games?

By bringing out a halfway between Go and the core RPG’s – Pokemon Let’s Go!

Like the main core Pokemon games, Let’s Go comes in two versions: Pikachu and Eevee editions.  Gameplay is the same for both games, but your starting Pokemon is determined by the edition.

So Pokemon Let’s Go is in a weird position, especially for a company like Nintendo.  Let’s Go is essentially a remaster of Pokemon Yellow, which came out on the GameBoy 20 years ago.

But it’s far from a straight remaster – while the game and story may be based heavily on a known property, Nintendo has taken this opportunity to really branch out and create a unique experience.

New game mechanics, controls, integration with Pokemon Go, and integration with the Pokeball Plus – this is going to be a very interesting experience.

Pokemon Lets Go
Rabbit is getting Pikachu, so I will be getting Eevee

If you haven’t seen the reveal trailer already, you can catch up below.

No more Random Battles

All RPG players, especially JRPG players, know ‘The Grind’.  Random battles to help you level up your character, one experience point at a time.

The Grind has always been a part of Pokemon, but there has also been another layer.  The motto of Pokemon is ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All!’, and players have always explored the world around them in an attempt to do this.

But because you battle with a random (to an extent) Pokemon, you can wait a long time to catch the Pokemon you are trying to catch!  In Let’s Go, you can now see the Pokemon around you, letting you know which ones you want to try and catch, and which ones you can just skip by.

Pokemon Lets Go Explore Encounters
Like Final Fantasy now, you can 'see' who is around to fight rather than hoping to find the Pokemon you are looking for

It’s not clear if you still battle wild Pokemon to level up your Pokemon and make it easier to catch them.  Opinions seem divided on this from the trailer, but if you think of Let’s Go as a gateway to the core RPG games, it kind of makes sense.

Wild encounters seem to launch straight into a Pokemon Go style capture screen, but it is possible this screen can be directly after a battle.  The screens do show Pokemon with level values, so there must be a way to gain experience.

Time will tell for sure of course, but I am already looking forward to seeing what is around me.

Pokemon Lets Go Psyduck Encounter
From the trailer, you can see attempts at capturing Pokemon is almost identical to Pokemon Go

Cooperative Play

So in Pokemon Go, you can ‘team up’ with friends and do raids and the like.  You can walk around and play with your friends, but I never got the real feeling of ‘playing’ with my friends.

Pokemon Let’s Go is on the Switch, so technically you can walk around and play with your friends in handheld mode, but that seems to be against what Nintendo is pushing with the ‘one joy con’ push.

But you know what it does let you do on the console?  Use the second Joy Con to play with your friend!  Two players on the screen exploring, battling, and even catching Pokemon!

No idea how you ‘share’ a cooperatively captured Pokemon, but hey it will be fun waiting to find out.

Pokemon Lets Go Cooperative.jpg
Let's Do This!

New ways to capture Pokemon – sort of?

In Pokemon Go, instead of selecting the ‘Throw’ command, you flick the ball at your target on your phone.  Sure, the Switch has a touch screen, but how does that work on the couch?

You know what else the Switch has?  Motion sensing Joy Cons.  Make the throwing action with the Joy Con, and watch the ball travel towards your intended catch!

Just remember the Wii, OK?

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pokemon
If the Wii taught us anything, it's use the wrist straps. Do not throw the Joy Con at the screen!

Pokeball Plus

OK, so technically not Let’s Go, the new controller works with both Pokemon Let’s Go and Pokemon Go.  But it’s also more than that.

Remember the Pokemon Go Plus?  I regretted not buying one in the end.  While I don’t know how much I would have tried to catch Pokemon with it, not having the Pokemon Go app open for steps and notification when you are near a Poke Stop or there are Pokemon around would be very useful.

Well, the Pokeball Plus does this as well!  So you can carry around your Pokeball Plus controller and get benefits for Pokemon Go even with the app off, as long as the ball is paired with your phone.

And during Let’s Go?  Why ‘throw’ a Joy Con at the screen, when you can throw a Pokeball?

The diagram shows one button, but the video seems to show people ‘pressing’ the controller, so I am guessing it’s a two button controller.  You couldn’t use it as a universal Joy Con replacement, but for Pokemon games it does help with the immersion!

Pokeball Plus
Pokeball Plus - it's like the Pokemon Go Plus crossed with a Joy Con

Take your Pokemon with you in the Pokeball Plus

The last feature of the Pokeball Plus seems to be essentially granting every Poke Trainers dream true.  You can actually carry your Pokemon around with you!

Like the old school Tamagotchis, your Pokemon can be transferred to your Pokeball and carried around with you.

This apparently ‘strengthens your bond’, but the exact mechanics are a little up in the air at this time.

While this seems fun, for me I don’t really have time at work to pull out a ‘neglected and/or bored’ Pokemon and look after it, but the idea certainly appeals.  For a certain type of audience, I can see this feature being the only reason some people would play Pokemon Let’s Go at all!

Pokemon Lets Go Pokestroll.jpg
I don't know if I have time for a virtual pet, but the idea is a winner for Pokemon fans

Switch Pokemon between Go and Let’s Go

So this one seems to be causing a little bit of a stir amongst certain players, but being able to transfer Pokemon you caught between games seems like a great idea to me!

The video shows that Pokemon transferred to the Switch go to Go Park, so maybe it’s a sandbox area where you can play with your Pokemon in ways you can’t on your phone.

Pokemon Lets Go Switch Pokemon
Switch (puns!) your Pokemon between Go and Let's Go

You can dress your Pokemon

So I am not one of the people that thinks you should dress up your pets for fun.  There are a lot of people in this world that disagree with me though.

During the game, your Pokemon sits on your hand or rides on your back, showing the closeness of your relationship.  But Pikachu looks like everyone else’s Pikachu, until now.

In Pokemon Let’s Go, you can customise your Pokemon and really show the world your specific Pokemon!

Pokemon Lets Go Dressups
Yes, Eevee looks cute here. I just can't see myself dressing mine up.

And all the rest?

I am really hoping that trading and battling your friends takes front stage in Pokemon Let’s Go.  While not critical, if you watch the anime at all you know how battling especially is such an important part of the world.

I am sure there will be new features announced and clarifications made over the next six months until the release of Let’s Go.

Until then, I will just keep an ear out on what is happening.  One thing is for sure, November 16th will answer all questions!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Oh, one more thing…

Pokemon Lets Go Special Surprise.jpg
What will the special treat Pokemon be?

Even though Let’s Go is not a ‘core’ Pokemon game, there will be one new Pokemon included.  There will be a lot of speculation on this Pokemon will be over the next few months, so this could be interesting to watch.