Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The King-Daddy of Card Games

What's that you say? You've never heard of Tichu? For shame! For years now it has been the highest-rated card game on BoardGameGeek, and that is saying a lot. So either you already know the game and love it, or you soon will. Those are the only two alternatives.

Tichu is a trick-taking game played by two teams of two players each. It is considered a climbing game rather than a traditional trick-taking game because you don't just have to play a single card per trick (though that is an option), but rather you can play on a trick as many times as you have valid plays. You can also pass even if you have a valid play if you feel that the card(s) would be of better use later. Why the (s) on card just then? Well, a trick starter doesn't have to be a single card and can, in fact, be a pair, a triple, a straight, or even consecutive pairs. The other players must match the type of trick, as well as beat it in value, if they want to play on that trick. Then their are super-combos of cards called bombs that will automatically win a trick, despite its type, unless it is bested by an even higher bomb. Add into this that the normal deck of 52 cards is supplanted by 4 special cards that each have a different function as well as the option to bet on your ability to become void of cards first, and you begin to see the strategic depth afforded by the game.

But basing an app on a great game doesn't guarantee a great app
. Luckily for us, the conversion was handled by Steve Blanding of House Full of Games, whose previous app experience includes the that other great trick-taking card game, . Mr. Blanding has once again delivered a portable gaming experience that is not to be missed by card game fans. It includes a thorough tutorial and the opportunity to receive hints at will about what card(s) to play and why. I heartily recommend abusing this particular feature until you feel comfortable with the rules and strategy of Tichu. Although you can play alone with AI's taking the place of your opponents and teammate, you can also play with up to 3 other players on their iDevices via Bluetooth.

Why settle for boring old solitaire or yet another hearts app when you can experience the strategy and delight of playing the gaming community's favorite card game?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reiner Knizia's High Society

Highly Recommended

Although this beautiful strategy card game has the same game designer (Reiner Knizia), same developer (Skotos Tech), and uses the same game engine as Money, High Society is an enjoyable game experience unto itself. Using an open, progressive auction format, players bid on a series of paintings that are worth a varying amount of victory points. All players start on equal footing with the same complement of cash cards in different amounts, so the trick is knowing when and how much to bid. But it isn't enough that a person amasses the most victory points for, if doing so renders that player the poorest at game's end, he/she automatically comes in last place. Throw in some point-multiplier cards to bid for and some detrimental cards to bid against, and you have a game full of interesting choices to make.

It should be noted that the game features no way to play against other humans, and the in-game manual doesn't give you all the information that it should. But the different levels of AI mitigate the former complaint, and a play-through or two will render the latter complaint moot. Neither is a reason to neglect this gem and I can happily recommend to all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Universal Orlando Guide

Exceptionally useful

An exceptionally useful and detailed guide to the attractions at Universal Studios Orlando. Everything you need to plan your trip to the park and help you to get from ride A to show B. Need to find the closest restroom? You got it! Want to find the ride with the shortest line? It'll tell you! Want to know if little Timmy will be able to ride the coaster this year? Look it up! If you are visiting this park, this app is absolutely essential.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sword of Fargoal

A roguelike for us all

Sword of Fargoal has you hacking and slashing your way through many dungeon levels, finding key items, fighting monsters, and improving your stats, all on your journey to find a legendary sword and escape alive with it. Much easier said than done, though, in a roguelike. Fans of roguelikes know what they are getting into when they try a game like this, and they relish the challenge. For others, while they can appreciate the randomness that creates different dungeons every time and gives the game longevity, the insane difficulty that comes with having only one life and no fall-back game saves is severely off-putting. Fargoal combats this by including a "Squire" difficulty level that allows the player to continue after death. Sure, one loses the items in his/her inventory and all gold, but stats and experience points stick around to aid in the player's progression. This simple inclusion renders the game accessible to those who would be inclined to pass over this app as a rule of thumb.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thrill Seeker

Awesomely useful, for some

A fantastically detailed and useful app for those visiting theme parks, with a couple of caveats. First, and most importantly, Thrill Seeker currently only has information for 20 parks, limited to the United Kingdom and Florida, USA. This means, for instance, that it includes a wealth of information for those visiting Walt Disney World, but none at all for Disneyland. Thankfully, the developer was wise enough to enumerate which parks the app covers in its AppStore listing, so no one can complain of buying it needlessly. The second caveat is that the app will be much more useful to iPhone users than iPod Touch users because of the location-based service it provides. This is somewhat mitigated by the ability to manually tell the app where you are so that it can give you directions or tell you what is around you.

The bottom line is that if you are unfamiliar with the park you are intending to visit, and it is one of those included, this app is definitely worth its purchase price. Others can wait until their favorite park is included in a future update before they commit.

Wacky Circus Pinball

Not wacky enough

There are several pinball games worth your money on iTunes, but this is not one of them. With a simple layout, simple graphics, no visible response from playfield objects, and a small trigger area for the flippers, this app is lacking in every important way for pinball fans. Skip it and look for your wackiness elsewhere.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Button Men

Dice with Strategy

Been meaning to write this one up for a while. This is a fun dice battling game based on a real world counterpart. Oddly enough for a dice-based game, this one requires some strategy. That's because the dice you used for your last attack are re-rolled, which could make them stronger or leave them vulnerable. Always with the decisions, is this game. Though you can only play it alone vs. AI or with another player via Bluetooth, an update to take the game online is promised. With 24 characters to choose from (each with a unique configuration of dice) and more on the way, you won't hurt for variety. The professional sheen applied to the dice animation and sounds is a bonus.