Tag Archives: Summoner Wars

Episode 69 – Essen Day One!

The doors fly open and tens of thousands of gamers swarm upon the Messe Essen for Spiel 2013! Meanwhile, at the other end of the halls, Michael settles in for another round of interviews direct from the show floor. This time around, we’re delighted to welcome folks from companies big and small, from first time visitors to well-established names. Oh, and there’s some REALLY interesting talk about the upcoming 7 Wonders expansion that’s due for release next year… Babel! Download the show directly by clicking this here link, or hunt it down through your iTunes.

This episode’s guests:

Thomas Provoost from Repos Production – http://www.rprod.com/

Henning Poehl, designer of The Rats in the Walls – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/147581/the-rats-in-the-walls

Colby Dauch, lord ruler of Plaid Hat Games – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/

Asynchron Games’ own Olivier Chandry – http://www.asyncron.fr/

Eric Hanuise from Flatlined Games – http://www.flatlinedgames.com/

Dave Cousins from North and South – http://www.northandsouthgames.co.uk/

Jamoma Games’ Jacob talks Suburban Dispute – http://jamoma.com/

dv Giochi’s Barbara Rol and Bang! The Dice Game co-designer Michael Palm – http://www.dvgiochi.com/

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Digital Delights: Lost Cities and Summoner Wars iOS

It feels like almost every game out there is getting translated into an iOS version these days. Many are perfectly fine versions of their tabletop brethren, some are bloody awful, and a shining few are actually pretty great. For a portable version to truly work, it’s got to have a couple of elements in there as a base to build off.

First of all, a player’s turn has to be quick and self contained – performing an action that requires input from another player before you’re able to continue your turn is just annoying, hence the fact they slightly tweaked the gameplay in Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. Second, you MUST have asynchronous play; any game that requires all players to be online at the same time is just a massive pain in the backside when you want to organise a game. You may as well just sit round the table, which is totally against what iOS gaming is about. We’re after quick bursts, not an hour or more of staring at a small screen.

I’ve written in the past about some of the better releases out there and now I’d like to add a couple more to the list of essentials: Lost Cities and Summoner Wars.

Based on the Reiner Knizia classic, Lost Cities is a game that’s made for portable play. Strictly for two players, it’s a simple card game that has one minor downside when playing in the real world – scoring. There are five colours (made up of twelve cards numbered 2 to 10 and three multipliers) that represent expeditions to the fabled Lost Cities of the title. Each turn sees a player laying a card down from their hand of eight, adding it to one of their expeditions or discarding it which could allow your opponent to grab it. Beginning a new colour immediately puts you at a disadvantage, setting you back at least -20 points (and perhaps even more if you’ve chosen to play multipliers first).

Any cards you play have to increase in number, all of which add to your score, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what you opponent is putting out on their side of the board. With only a small amount of cards available per colour it’s difficult to even reach a positive number a lot of the time and it’s often a case of focusing on maximising one expedition while cutting your losses on all the others. It’s one of those games where it doesn’t matter if you’re doing badly; as long as you’re just performing better than the other person, it’s grand.

This is going surprisingly well! My middle expedition is countering the other, more inept ones.

The iOS version has been created by The Coding Monkeys, the guys who are also responsible for the remarkably good Carcassonne (which I’m still playing every day). Rather than grab the rights to as many licences as possible and put out shoddy products (hello Goko!), they focus on creating easy to use adaptations that play well and look good. The AI characters offer a decent challenge (as well as a great tutorial) and turns take mere moments; it’s also very easy to switch between your games once you’ve finished what you need to do. The fact that it keeps track of your scoring after every single card has been played means that I’d much sooner play this version than the regular one.

Playdek is another company who have made quite the reputation in the field of iOS board game conversions. Developers of the previously mentioned digital crack that is Ascension, they’ve now also partnered with Plaid Hat Games to bring Summoner Wars to your iPhone and my oh my… they’ve done very well. First up, it’s a free download which is great; you get access to the full game engine and a deck to play with for nothing. If you want to access the other races you can augment your game through in-app purchases, and this also allows you to indulge in building your own decks if you’re that way inclined.

Games either take place against the rock-hard AI or real life opposition and turns are made up of a series of different actions. Cards representing your warriors are summoned to the board (assuming you have the required magic to do so). This is followed by you triggering events and building walls. Next it’s on to movement, then combat and finally sacrificing cards to your magic pile. As you can probably tell, Summoner Wars is way more involved than Lost Cities, but it never feels overwhelming. Having a bit of experience with the real game will probably give you a bit of a heads-up, but even a novice will get to grips with how the game works quickly. Actually winning a battle is a different matter, however…

This one is going less well. But I am pretty bad at it, so that’s to be expected.

Both games offer very different experiences but are great examples of how to decently translate something to an iOS device. I look forward to seeing what both Coding Monkeys and Playdek come up with in future – especially what Playdek are going to do with Agricola – and heartily recommend Lost Cities and Summoner Wars for anyone who fancies some quality gaming on the go. If you fancy a match up, add me on GameCenter: my username is idlemichael. Go easy on me though, yeah?

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Episode 36 – A Few Good (Mad) Men

So here it is, the first Little Metal Dog Show of 2012, and my oh my, it’s a doozy.

I’m joined by three upstanding gentlemen to discuss the gaming year that was 2011, talking about our favourite games that we’ve played as well as a few of the terrible ones. Steve, Ben, Campfire and myself also look to the future (well, this year) and reveal some of the titles that we’re looking forward to getting to try out in the coming months. Oh, and I’m also joined by a certain Rich Sommer. “Who he?” I hear you ask, “His name sounds familiar!” Well it bloody should, for he plays Harry Crane in the rather splendid TV show Mad Men as well as acting as gaming evangelist-in-residence on US network G4. Enjoy!

This episode’s links are here – hoorah!

Direct download: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/3gafhh/LMD_Episode36.mp3

Summoner Wars from Plaid Hat Games: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/sum_home.html

Caveman Curling from Eagle Games – Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/167427101/caveman-curling-a-game-of-stones?ref=live

Rich Sommer’s rather splendid games blog: http://games.richsommer.com/

Rich on G4TV: http://www.g4tv.com/videos/55658/game-night-with-rich-sommer/

Rich’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/richsommer

Campfire’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/campfireburning

Steve’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/moosegrinder

Ben’s Twitter: http://twitter.com/JoyrexJ9

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Meanwhile at the Front: Summoner Wars on iOS – Preview

Well, there was no chance of me getting to GenCon this year – it’s too far to travel and my bus pass just isn’t enough to get me over the Atlantic. A few weeks back I received a message from Plaid Hat Games‘ founder Colby Dauch with some exciting news – his fantastic creation Summoner Wars was coming to a handheld near you (assuming you’re part of the Apple fanboy team). How gutted was I to not be able to see it? Very. But I knew a man who could help – Patrick Nickell from Crash Games. Here’s what he saw.

We’ve all been there before, we hear that our favorite board game is being developed for the iOS and we chomp at the bit for any tiny peek or piece of news that is out there. Weeks and months go by and finally the game is in the App Store ready for purchase and we scream with glee as we watch the download meter progress. At last, the game is ours! How did we ever live without it?! Oh no, wait a minute – this can’t be right. The excitement quickly fades and the initial disappointment sets in as we realize that the iOS version looks nothing like the game we know and love – even worse, it doesn’t even play anything like the game we want. Thankfully, fans of Summoner Wars will not have to experience the above mentioned scenario… In fact they will have quite the opposite experience.

Recently (at GenCon 2011) I had the privilege of sitting down with Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games, designer and creator of Summoner Wars, as well as the team from Incinerator Studios to take a very special sneak peek at the Summoner Wars App that will soon be released for iOS systems. Since the physical game was out on a demo table for GenCon attendees to learn it was quite easy to look over at the physical game to compare while being given a guided tour of the game on the iPad. The transition of the look and feel of the physical game compared to the App was nearly seamless upon my first initial view and things only got better as the demonstration progressed. Fans of the beautiful art that makes the cards stand out in the physical Summoner Wars game will not be disappointed as that same imagery is found in the digital game. To sweeten the pot just a little bit, the developers at Incinerator Studios have added scrolling background artwork to some of the cards and there are plans to add in more movement based art to indicate damage and health in the final version.

The phases for the game were clearly listed so that players will know exactly where they stand currently in the game. Double tapping a card brought the card to the center of the screen and enlarged it so that players can take a detailed look at any of them if they need to jog their memory. It really feels like you are playing the actual board game with each and every move yet the cumbersome task of set-up, break down and shuffling is simply bypassed in a digital game. Many of the features that board game conversions lack when initially launched on iOS (such as online functionality and pass-and-play) can certainly add to an immense amount of fan frustration ; that will not be the case for Summoner Wars.

The development team at Incinerator Studios has taken great care to ensure that right from the get go players will have a strong list of features that include: Quick Play that allows players to jump right into a game, “Hotseat mode” which allows pass-and-play for 2 to 4 players, a tutorial mode teaching new players the basics, an adjustable difficulty level, a rule book, glossary and – most surprisingly – the ability to save multiple games. Players can expect to be able to have asynchronous online play, integration with Apple’s Game Center as well as player profiles with achievement tracking. Time is being taken by the development team at Incinerator Studios to ensure that the quality of Summoner Wars is second to none. The game will be released as a Universal App for the iOS which means both the iPhone and the iPad will support the application.

After having the opportunity to sit down and play Summoner Wars on the iPad I am truly impressed at the level of quality and gameplay. While there were some aspects that weren’t quite fully developed they were unimportant, minute aspects of the game and after seeing the level of quality and the commitment of everyone involved I am sure the game will be extremely sharp by the time it is ready to be released. When I pressed for a more exact release date I struck out and was told that Fall 2011 is the aim but after seeing how much is already done I cannot help but think that it will be sooner rather than later. Summoner Wars on the iOS is a must buy for not only fans of the game but for anyone that appreciates polished, very playable games in the App Store.

Don’t forget, the analogue version of Summoner Wars was reviewed here (and the new version of the game, the Summoner Wars Master Set, is due for release by the end of 2011). Thanks to Patrick for checking out the game! You can find him contributing to the excellent Dice Hate Me podcast as well as on Twitter: @Crash_Games)

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Fight Test – Summoner Wars review

A long time ago, way back in the mists of time on episode two of the Little Metal Dog Show, I had the pleasure of speaking with designer Colby Dauch. If you’ve not listened to the interview yet, I heartily recommend giving it a go – he’s an interesting guy who had such a belief in his idea that he went and set up his own company in order to publish his first game. While this is a risky thing to do, Colby had something very useful in his back pocket – the game he had developed was actually bloody good. The industry picked up on it, hype grew and grew, and his company – Plaid Hat Games – had an actual hit on it’s hands. That game is Summoner Wars.

As with many games that I really enjoy, it has a basic premise that is easily understandable. Just because it’s simple to pick up doesn’t mean that it’s easy to win though – Summoner Wars actually requires a fair bit of strategy in order for you to beat your opponent. Ostensibly a two-player game (though you can expand it to three and four players with extra decks), you play a Summoner (half magician, half warrior) with one mission – be the last one standing.

There are two starter sets available at the moment, but both come with the same set-up. Two decks of cards (one for each player), a bunch of dice, a playmat, wound tokens and the rather concise rules. Playing is easy – after your initial set up of some units, you draw a hand of cards (up to your limit of five) and see what you have. Move around a bit, perform some attacks – ranged or hand to hand, checking attack values and rolling a few dice – discard any cards you think you can get rid of and… well, that’s it really. Discards actually are useful in this game though – they help form your magic pile (as does killing an enemy unit, so be aggressive!), which you’ll need on your next turn in order to summon new units, so the question is this: do you sacrifice some cards that could prove useful later on in the game in order to bring on less powerful attackers, or hold on to them hoping your current forces can hold out? Striking the balance between what you’ve got and what you could have is the key to victory in Summoner Wars, and will have you constantly wondering if you’ve made the right decision…

There’s also something else to consider – walls. These are cards with, curiously enough, walls on them. They’re IMPORTANT. If you don’t have a wall on your board, you can’t summon anything to fight on your behalf and will lose the game in a spectacularly quick fashion. As with everything in Summoner Wars, they are vulnerable to attack, and even though taking one down is hard there’s an immense satisfaction when you manage to destroy one – victory for your forces will surely be at hand! There’s also event cards to consider which you can play for free that will help you even more – stealing magic from your opponent’s pile, for example.

Each faction has different abilities, strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll invariably find a side that fits your playing style. As I mentioned, there are two starter sets available at the moment – Guild Dwarves vs Cave Goblins and Phoenix Elves vs Tundra Orcs. Some factions are your smashy smashy powerhouses, leaving trails of destruction in their wake, while others rely more on tactics and ranged combat, trying to stay out of trouble while picking off enemies from afar. I must admit that my favourite set to play with is the Vanguards deck, one of the two recently released expansions (along with the undead style Fallen Kingdom) – they have healing abilities alongside their abilities to dish out a fair amount of pain.

There’s only one gripe I have with Summoner Wars, and it’s very petty – the board itself is a bit meh. It doesn’t detract from the game, and I understand why Colby went for a printed paper affair – it keeps costs down and means the game is nice and portable. Cards can sometimes slide around a bit, but after a few plays you’ll get used to it. Plaid Hat announced a while back that they’re making a ‘premium board’ available, and it looks utterly lovely – sure, you’ll have to pack the thing separately, but it’ll solve the (admittedly very minor) issue.

All in all, I’d deem Summoner Wars an essential purchase. I’m normally happy to play pretty much anything, but if someone suggests getting a game of SW going, I’m there. You’ll learn how to play it in next to no time, develop your own strategies within a few plays and find yourself wanting to experiment with the expansions as soon as you can find them. Even better, it’s a truly independent release, and Colby should be applauded for believing in his ideas. I look forward to whatever he and Plaid Hat Games have coming up next!

Summoner Wars is published by Plaid Hat Games and was designed by Colby Dauch. It’s primarily for two-players, but can be expanded to three or four with the addition of a second starter set. Games take about 20-30 minutes, and you should be able to find it in all good gaming stores for around £15-20.

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