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Ascension: Immortal Heroes iOS Released

ascension immortal heroes

I still play Ascension every night. I am constantly in a game (getting my butt kicked) with momongi, inthenetsc, buckeyefitzy and rainynight65. When I say always, I mean always. I look at the results screen, shed a tear of disappointment over losing and hit the rematch button. When you consider that I have played this game every day since I purchased it for my iPad back when it came out, that’s one hell of a nod to the folks at Playdek and Gary Games.

I just found out that the latest expansion, Immortal Heroes, has been released for iOS and now I wish I were home to download it. It looks like you’ll now need a Playdek account to play online once you download the expansion, and you are downloading the expansion, right? Playdek is suggesting that you download the the free update to Ascension, start Ascension and log in with the same GameCenter id as usual, create your Playdek account if you haven’t already for Agricola, check to see that all your player stats carry over and then do the in-app purchase for Immortal Heroes. The expansion will run you $2.99 which is a small price to pay to beat me at Ascension well into next year.

Playdek on sale this weekend

Playdek interview part one playdek logo

You’ve probably noticed that we here at NoHighScores are big fans of PlayDek’s card and board game to iOS conversions. Well, if you’ve yet to purchase some of their smooth, usable and generally excellent games or are short of a few in-app purchases keep an eye on the app store this weekend when everything PlayDek will be priced at 69p ($0.99 in barbarous foreign currencies). Summoner Wars is particularly good if you’ve yet to take it for a spin, with deck-builders Ascension and Penny Arcade following close behind.

More Nightfall on the Way, Original to go on Sale

Playdek isn’t done with Nightfall, which seems to be a love it or hate it type of game. Personally I think it fits the iPad better than it does the table — after you learn how to play the thing.

Anyway PR ahead:

Playdek today announced its new expansion pack, Nightfall: Martial Law, will be available as an in-app purchase in mid-August, in time for Gen Con Indy 2012. To celebrate the arrival of the Nightfall: Martial Law, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) and Playdek will offer the original Nightfall at $.99 for a limited time, starting July 13th.

Nightfall: Martial Law introduces many new characters and actions, as well as new color combinations for creating chains and achieving kickers. Martial Law will also introduce the new “Feed” mechanic which will allow players to get even more uses out of their orders. The game also brings to the table a new “Wound” effect that is sure to surprise opponents.

Nightfall has done very well and we’re pleased to have an expansion already available,” said Joel Goodman, CEO, Playdek. “By lowering the price of the original game, we are hoping it will inspire new players to download and dive into playing.”

For more information on Nightfall: Martial Law, please check out Playdek’s web site.

Cracked LCD- Summoner Wars IOS in Review: The Promised Land

Summoner Wars iOS intro screen from Playdek

Effectively, this is the third time I’ve reviewed Colby Dauch’s Summoner Wars. The first time was back in 2009, when the original release of four factions split into two boxes was edged out of the Game of the Year prize by Chaos in the Old World. The second time was when the Master Set, which included six all new factions, came out last year. In between those releases were tons of great add-on decks that I didn’t formally review, but all come with my highest recommendation. The third review is for the new IOS app from Ascension-meisters Playdek, which was finally released after what seemed like an endless wait yesterday.

So before you wonder “should I try Summoner Wars on the iPhone or iPad”, you should know that I absolutely adore this game in its physical form and I think it is one of the best board games in the past decade. It’s a dead simple game but the various factions and unit types, coupled with variable setup and optional deck construction options, make this a near-perfect mix of easy rules and compelling depth. And it’s a design unafraid of the all-or-nothing die roll or of favoring momentum over turn-to-turn balance.

TL;DR version. Each player has a deck of cards. These cards are units and events. You play units by discarding cards out of your accrued magic pile (kills and willful discards), and these go next to wall cards on a grid. Each turn, you move three units and attack with three units- melee or ranged. Roll dice. Three through six is a hit. Some units roll more than others. The goal? Kill the other player’s Summoner, a high-powered boss unit. Do you smell something like a little Magic: The Gathering, Chess, a Japanese SRPG, and a tactical miniatures game stewed in a pot? I sure do. And it smells good.

Mr. Dauch’s design is brilliant, modular, and succinct. His experience working with Heroscape at Hasbro shows, and the result is a highly playable, no-fat/no-filler design full of action and compelling decisions.With Playdek doing the honors, I’m pleased to report that Summoner Wars is more than just a great IOS port of a board game. It’s the new standard by which all future IOS board games should be judged. By bringing forward the lessons learned from Ascension (not to mention Food Fight and Nightfall), Playdek has delivered the best IOS board game to date, and as a fan of the game I’m very happy to see that it’s going out to potentially millions of people with its best face forward, despite a couple of release hiccups in some areas and some minorly glitchy code that will certainly be patched away.

The interface is dead on perfect, but those minor glitches seem to include a little sluggishness in clicking and dragging cards. Regardless, it’s easy to play and parse, and even on the iPhone screen it’s easy to keep track of what’s going on and what you can or can’t do. New players will have no trouble at all easing into the game through the tutorial and veterans will appreciate the card gallery and full rulebook.

The asynchrous, Game Center-based multiplayer that Playdek more or less perfected the first time out is back, but they’ve actually improved it, particularly in terms of stat tracking. You can now see your wins and losses against specific opponents, which is a feature I especially like. You can go forth with a default deck or customize it right before you accept a match. And it’s easy to keep several games going at once, ensuring that this game will likely enjoy the same kind of online life that Ascension still has.

It’s a free download, but only if you want to play the Phoenix Elves against the AI. It’s not a terrible opponent and it does put up a fight to mid-level players such as myself, but really this game is meant for the async multiplayer. I noticed that matches are listed as 1vs1, which has me wondering if the intent is to eventually include the multiplayer variants. In order to play online at all, you do have to buy at least one deck from one of the other factions for 99 cents. Or, you can do the smart thing and buy everything currently available for $7.99. I’m really surprised that some of the expanded races are available day one, like the Jungle Elves and the Cloaks. There’s even a full brace of optional Mercenary units, including some that were promo-only cards. Buy the full package and you’ll not want for variety, that’s for sure.

I’m really kind of blown away by how well Summoner Wars turned out. It’s the perfect kind of game for a touchscreen interface, it’s at the right complexity level, and it’s extremely polished and professionally made floor ceiling. No sloppy Arial fonts or crude visuals of any kind. This is top notch stuff, and if you have any interest in using your iPad or iPhone as a gaming device then it’s a must-download title if ever there were one, unless you just don’t do the board games thing at all. But even then, this game has the potential for broad appeal because it’s accessible, immediate, and totally addictive.

I’ve been playing it almost non-stop since NHS’ very own Brandon Cackowski-Schnell sent out a message to us that it was available. I was at Ikea with my family, and I downloaded it right there and snuck off to the bathroom to check it out. When we got home last night after fireworks, that’s all I did until about 4am. Game requests were coming in fast and furious, and I played several AI matches with all the different decks. And here I am today, getting those pop-up alerts that it’s my turn in five or six games at a time. As with Ascension, I have a feeling that I’m going to be playing this game around the clock for quite some time. I am willing to bet after only a day with it that it will be my most played game- of any type- of 2012.

So, No High Scores High Score Award? You bet your sweet ass.

E3 Summoner Wars Report

I had the pleasure of finally meeting George Rothrock, Playdek Director of Product and Business Development, at E3, and he brought along an iPad running a build of Summoner Wars. Truth be told, the opportunity to meet George face to face would have been enough for me to take time out of my schedule, but an opportunity to see Summoner Wars ahead of its late June release? Come on. I couldn’t pass that up.

Having already conducted a lengthy phone interview with George, I had an idea what to expect and in person George is just as excited about board games and the work that Playdek is doing to help bring this medium to iOS as he was in our previous conversation. When you see someone who is not just proud of their work but genuinely excited, you can’t help but share in that enthusiasm.

From what I could see of Summoner Wars, the game looks to be shaping up quite nicely. Playdek is going with a free to play model with the free version of the game packaged with one playable race. Additional races, including mercenaries and reinforcements, will all be available for purchase from within the game. We didn’t speak pricing, but George was comfortable with their pricing, telling me that there will be bundles available and that the pricing will be low enough to make buying all of the available races and and units a pretty easy decision. The fact that you need to purchase additional races to go online certainly will help speed that along, but at least those that are new to the game and unsure about paying for it outright have the means to try before they buy.

The game comes with pre-created decks for each race as well as the ability to create custom decks and save them for future use. Unfortunately there’s no way to save your decks when playing on someone else’s iPad, save for logging them out of GameCenter and logging yourself in, but the deck creation process is fairly straightforward so if you have a deck you absolutely have to play with while on someone else’s device, it won’t take long before you’re sufficiently decked out. Get it? Decked out? Sorry, a little board game humor there.

The cards are all beautifully rendered with nice animation touches within each one. Important card details are visible when the cards are all laid out on the game board and when viewing the cards close up, the card text has been cleaned up to account for the fact that the game handles a lot of the rules for the player. That task has been undertaken by Colby Dauch, designer of Summoner Wars. In addition to this, Colby is writing the game’s tutorial, which will hopefully address the flaws of Nightfall’s tutorial.

Unfortunately, Bill wasn’t able to attend the meeting in depth, so I can’t speak to how well the UI handles the card interactions, but it was pretty easy to tell what moves were available at any given time. Obviously, things will make a lot more sense when paired with a greater explanation of the game’s mechanics, but George’s explanation of the rules lined up with what the UI was showing at any given time.

George didn’t have a lot of time to spend with me, but from what I saw, Summoner Wars is shaping up quite nicely. I can understand if people are somewhat hesitant at the free to play pricing model, but as long as the pricing isn’t prohibitive, I always come down on the side of allowing players to try games out before buying them. I know that there are plenty of board games I’ve seen for the iPad that looked a bit too complicated to buy without a chance to try them ahead of time. Also, Summoner Wars is a much different type of game than Playdek’s other releases, so new players who are interested because they played Ascension, Nightfall or Food Fight may balk at paying full price for a game that plays differently than what they’re used to. Obviously, this is all predicated on reasonable pricing of the other races and units, but given Playdek’s current pricing on expansions for their other games, rampant Summoner Wars price gouging would surprise me.

George wasn’t able to give me an exact release date, but you can look forward to Bill’s write up about destroying me in Summoner Wars in late June.