One more week after this one, where did the summer go? Hi, guys, it’s me, Kyle. I’ll get to the games in a bit, but I wanted to remind everyone that I’ll be taking a breather after next week before posting new free video game reviews in the autumn. Jim and I will be ramping up our TV show coverage, and I may need a few weeks to get prepared. Here’s another Geekly Free Video Game Summer post; I wanted to merge tabletop games with video games, so this week’s post will be free video games based on tabletop games.
Pokemon: Trading Card Game (TCG) Online
Pokemon: TCG Online does a great job of transferring the game from the table to your mobile device. That can be a good and bad thing. There have been countless releases of Pokemon: TCG in the past two decades and Pokemon: TCG Online has samples from many of those releases, which leads to unbalanced power with the decks players construct, especially when you challenge opponents online. Of course you could play block format (only the sets released in the past year) but you’re still subject to opponents who have been collecting cards a lot long than you. When you’re first starting out, you will lose—a lot.
The game also includes legacy (last several years) and unlimited (any card from any Pokemon release) and you’re likelihood of winning a game diminishes with each group of cards you add to the card pool, but you could play with that awesome Wobbufett—if you have that awesome Wobbufett, that is. The gameplay is the classic Pokemon: TCG gameplay.
Players summon Pokemon with one as their main Pokemon and up to five on their bench, should the main Pokemon get defeated. Pokemon need energy cards attached to them to perform their abilities so energy cards are the second most common, and the rest of a deck consists of trainer or support cards that do various things to support the Pokemon on your team. At the beginning of each match, both players draw ten cards from their deck and place them face down, which make up their rewards, and the first player to earn all ten of their reward cards wins.
Okay. Most of you probably didn’t need the gameplay refresher, but it is addictive—as most Pokemon products tend to be. I didn’t mind the trip down memory lane with Pokemon TCG Online. It’s a solid TCG and if you have any interest in Pokemon, I recommend it; you also don’t have to keep binders of cards: space saving idea.
I covered the tabletop game Neuroshima Hex over a year ago (here’s a link) and not much is different with the app version, except that the app makes the game easier to play and more accessible, and that’s always a good thing. Players take command of a faction and the game is played 19 honeycomb grid. Instead of cards, players use hexagonal tiles to denote their forces. Each player starts the game with their headquarters tile with 20 hit points. Players win if they are the first player to lower their opponent’s HQ to zero hit points or if the tile draw pile is exhausted, whoever’s HQ has the most hit points wins.
Players take turns playing tiles. Most tiles are unit tiles. They’ll deal damage on whatever face (of the hexagon) they have a triangle. Short triangles are melee attacks and only work on adjacent units or if the HQ is adjacent. Long, skinny triangles are ranged attacks which hit the first enemy unit (or enemy HQ) in the direction the triangle is positioned. Every unit also has a number which denotes their initiative (how quickly they act); the higher the number, the faster the unit performs their attack. Once the board fills up with tiles or a player uses a combat tile (a burst symbol on the tile), the two armies fight. Units with the highest initiative perform their attacks first and play continues in initiative until every unit gets an action.
And it’s the computer’s calculations during combat that makes the Neuroshima Hex app more enjoyable than the original tabletop game. I almost always forget a unit or two, or an ability. Playing online negates human error, and my brain doesn’t have to crunch as many numbers. Neuroshima Hex packs a lot of game and strategy in a small amount of time (10-15 minutes). If you want a new-age Chess with a faint war theme, Neuroshima Hex might be right up your alley. I highly recommend it.
Oh, this is the game that put Plaid Hat Games (Dead of Winter, and Mice and Mystics) on the map. I enjoy Summoner Wars, and the free-to-play app does a great job of transitioning the game to mobile platforms.
Similar to Neuroshima Hex, players take control of a faction, each with strengths and weaknesses, only this time you’re playing in a fantasy world and you’re a summoner. Summoner Wars’ gameplay is miniatures without the miniatures. You manipulate cards, which represent your units, on a 6×8 grid. You have your customary attack, defense, health, and movement you’ll find in any miniatures game, and most units have special abilities you can exploit. The first player to lower their opponent’s summoner card’s health to zero wins.
Summoner Wars doesn’t try to reinvent miniatures battle. If you’re looking for a more in-depth miniatures game, you’d be better off looking elsewhere, but Summoner Wars is an accessible game for folks who are interested in miniatures as a game type, and it’s fun. If you want to play more than the fire elves, you’ll have to pay money to unlock other factions, but the free version of Summoner Wars offers a lot in terms of strategy and replayability. You may not be able to play as other factions, but you can play against them. This is another game I highly recommend.
There had to be one game I didn’t like in this group, and Zombie Dice is that game. I like the original tabletop version of Zombie Dice (I reviewed it a while ago; here’s a link), but the app version doesn’t measure up to the fun of rolling dice and pressing your luck. The pressing your luck aspect is still present but I tend to not like games that use a lot of dice rolling in a video game, especially when you can tell whether or not the games cheating.
Players take on the role of a zombie. You role dice, which denote humans, and the first zombie to eat 13 brains wins. Now, there are three results you can get on a zombie die: brains, shotgun blast, and footsteps. If you roll brains, you ate one brain. If you roll a shotgun blast, you got shot or hit by a human; you only get three shotgun blasts before you lose your turn. If you roll footsteps, your prey escaped. When it’s your turn you grab three dice and roll them. After any roll you can choose to keep your brain total and pass your turn or you can continue to roll, but if you roll three shotgun blasts, your turn ends, you lose any points you gained this turn (keeping your total for the game), and play goes to the zombie on your left.
Zombie Dice is a simple, press your luck game, but it’s a blast. The app isn’t as much fun. Since there are only three results, it’s easy to tell when you roll far too many shotgun blasts, while your computer opponent tends to roll far too many brains. Hmm. Feel free to pick up the physical copy of Zombie Dice (you can find it at most supermarkets today), but don’t bother playing the mobile app.
Boss Monster is yet another tabletop game I’ve reviewed in the distant past (here’s a link), and this is another app that does a great job of capturing the essence of the original.
Players are the boss monster at the end of a video game. You build your dungeon, attract video game heroes to your dungeon, and collect souls. If your dungeon fails to defeat a hero, you receive a wound (or two if it’s an epic hero). If you receive five or more wounds, you lose. The first player to collect 10 hero souls or the last boss monster standing wins.
There isn’t much to add from the original review, except that the Boss Monster app runs slow. The original game can take a while to pay (about 20-30 minutes for a card game, which is a little on the long side), but the extra time it takes for heroes to travel through dungeons in the app makes a typical game run about the same time as the original, and there’s usually only one human character. That’s way too long for a solo-mobile game. I like Boss Monster but the game needs to speed up its processing power. I’ll still keep it in my permanent collection, but Boss Monster is one of those games I have to be in the mood to play. I’d prefer to play the original tabletop version.
That’s one more week down and only one more to go. I’ll try to get some free-to-play MMORPGs under my belt for next week. Let’s end the Free Video Game Summer with a bang. Until next we meet, thanks for reading.