Bolt Thrower: Through the Ages, XCOM, Tsuro, Clash Royale

Bolt Thrower: Through the Ages, XCOM, Tsuro, Clash Royale Hot

MattDP     
 
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Through the Ages is one of my top ten favourite games of all time. Yet I've never had the opportunity to review it. The recent New Story of Civilization edition gave me the perfect excuse, and the lovely folk at the Rollin' Dice Show asked me to do it for them. Here's the result.

 

The triumph of the game is in how it uses a card row mechanism and interplay between card effects to make bureaucracy fun. There's still military in there and it's essential to your strategies but it takes a back seat in terms of game time. That's the key to how the game manages to feel epic, yet still play in an evening.

New Story has a bunch of tweaks to the rules and card effects which are universally positive. There's now almost nothing in the deck that isn't potentially useful in some situation or other. The big changes though, are to the military system, and are slightly more mixed. Essentially they've nixed the occasional game where one player's army stomps over everyone else at the cost of there being slightly less aggression overall. That's an even trade-off I'd say. But all the other improvements make it an easy recommendation over the older game.

I haven't been playing a whole lot of other tabletop games lately, except for Armada and X-Wing.  On those, I've been trialling a more stripped down approach, focused more on characters than upgrade combos. More on that next week. Star Wars is flavour of the month and I've also been experimenting with Imperial Assault. So far, Campaign play gets the thumbs down but Skirmish gets the thumbs up.

The reason for the shortfall also starts with an X, and it's XCOM2. I played it from release through most of February and was absolutely hooked. So much so that I ended up writing a preview, a review and a strategy guide.

It's a highly ambitious game that tries to uses a combination of variety and sheer difficulty to stop you falling back on tried and tested tactics. For the most part, it works, keeping you constantly assessing, probing and re-thinking in your quest to overcome the alien menace. Eventually it does begin to feel a little repetitive, especially if you spent a long time with the original. But it's still the best digital strategy game I've played in some years.

Oh, and Tsuro on iOS was fun but it didn't last, thanks for matchmaking only on Facebook rather than Gamecenter. So no quick matches against random strangers which leaves this lovely package with just a competent but tiresome AI. Whoever made that decision ought to be quietly retired.  

Speaking of Facebook, it's also used in new mini-MOBA Clash Royale. Since it has obvious links with odious money-pit Clash of Clans, I was predisposed to hate it. But an editor made me try it out and, you know what, it's actually really fun. Matches last a maximum of four minutes, the learning curve is near zero and yet there's a surprising amount of tactics in both building your little army and deploying them on the field. There is quite a nasty soft paywall: it's built so it's impossible to advance fast or maximise your resources unless you pay. But, best as I can tell you don't need to keep feeding coins to keep playing. 

Certainly worth a try, because it's free. And if you find you like it ... who's up for a F:AT clan? 

Bolt Thrower: Through the Ages, XCOM, Tsuro, Clash Royale There Will Be Games
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Posted: 06 Mar 2016 13:08 by Michael Barnes #223864
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Clash Royale I would rank among the very best mobile games I've ever played. It's mechanically and conceptually brilliant, it's innovative, perfect for its medium/format, deep yet accessible, and FUN. I was put off at first. It I tried it. Been playing for a few months, I've spent about $15 mostly just to get some epic cards I didn't randomly get. If you are playing to dominate leaderboards it probably is pay to win but I think 99% of players will be satisfied not spending a dime.
Posted: 07 Mar 2016 07:58 by Gary Sax #223913
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I wonder if the modifications to Through the Ages military bring it a little closer to the Nations level military emphasis. Have you tried Nations, Matt?
Posted: 07 Mar 2016 08:26 by MattDP #223916
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Michael Barnes wrote:
If you are playing to dominate leaderboards it probably is pay to win but I think 99% of players will be satisfied not spending a dime.

I'm really enjoying it, but I think a lot of players are going to struggle in the gap between running out of initial gems and joining a clan. It's tough running without investing at least a little.

What's really sad about the money model is that there's zero reason it couldn't have just offered quests and card packs just like Hearthstone. That would remove all accusations of a paywall and it's not like Hearthstone is a profit failure. But Supercell felt they had to be just that bit more greedy.
Posted: 07 Mar 2016 08:28 by MattDP #223917
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Gary Sax wrote:
I wonder if the modifications to Through the Ages military bring it a little closer to the Nations level military emphasis. Have you tried Nations, Matt?

Sorry to disappoint but ... no :(
Posted: 07 Mar 2016 14:49 by Michael Barnes #223960
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Yeah, I mean, I wish that it had a more on the level monetization model...because man, you can feel that psychology kick in when you want to play but your chest slots are full...or you want to buy an Epic card on offer that you are never going to grind enough gems/gold to get. And it drip-feeds you a little gold/gems pretty much every time you turn it on so it FEELS like you are getting somewhere...even when you really aren't. It is so precisely engineered up front to be a F2P game, whereas something like Hearthstone sort of "politely" embeds its psychology in the deeper metagame.

I didn't have trouble with that gap, but I also crossed it like a month and a half ago so the game could have been "rebalanced" since then. I am sort of running up against stiffer opposition in Arena 3 than I've seen yet, I'm actually having to sweat a little in more matches than usual and I got busted down to Arena 2. Which didn't send me to the shop to buy anything, but rather to my deck for some fine-tuning. I'm in a clan "Starwars", and I've gotten/given several donations so that works pretty well it seems. I believe I am a clan elder. I have never joined an online clan in my life, BTW.

The Prince seems to be the card everyone complains about because he is in fact a royal bastard. But he's also very easy to shut down with common cards. I use him, but I find that the Goblin Barrel is more often the game-winner- it does area damage when it lands, spawns three Goblins, and you can send a Skeleton Bomber or a Balloon up there to run the tower down quicker. I like to actually use the Prince as a diversionary tactic, because people tend to blow their hand to stop him. So I'll put him in the left lane, give it a few seconds, and then drop the Goblin Barrel and some support on the right.

It's really a great game, regardless of how they sell it. It'll be interesting to see if other games take anything from it and move it forward.