Board games have a major defect; the need that 2-4 player to sit around a table at the same time. There is no personality issue, just a logistical one. Getting four adults in the same room at the same time while juggling other commitments is a challenge. Computers helped, but it was not very portable. No, the solution involves porting board games to portable devices like smart phones or pads. Today I want to review “Reiner Knizia’s Tigris and Euphrates” on the iOS.
Tigris is an old game, released circa 1997 and is quite famous as board games go. I will forgo the usual explanation of game mechanics save for a basic overview. Tigris involves placing leaders to accumulate points based on the placement/acquisition of similarly colored tiles. When two leaders come into conflict the leader with the most matching-colored tiles on the board and/or in their hand wins. There are four colors in the game and the goal is earning points in all the colors. Here is the interesting mechanic that sets Tigris apart; the lowest of the four colors is your score. So if you have 4,5,6,2 as the counts for each color, then your final score is 2! An elegant way to keep one person from specializing and winning the game. So far as I can tell, there is no difference between the tabletop and the iOS rules. One nice add-on not available on the tabletop is the “power” of each king indicated on their respective tokens. This makes calculating the battles much easier.
The graphics match the original game and the scoring/mechanics work very well. I played games against the AI and found them challenging. An “adjustment” system allows you to decide the strength of the AI players. I set them all high and found them challenging, but not impossible to beat. Unless you are a total rookie, max them out. Speaking of rookies, the tutorial game is very well done and should get any new players up and running in a few minutes. It runs a pre-programmed game and helpfully tells you each move and what it does.
Tigris also leverages the “Game Center” API provided in the last iOS update. This means that online play is smooth. I take a turn, hit the complete button and then the next player receives notification it is his turn and so on. The notification appears through the built-in iOS notification system and I had no issues at all with playing against a remote player, both over 3g and Wi-Fi.
Game options include the usual messages on/off, AI speed, animation speed and the like, but also has a “my music” option to turn off the vaguely Middle-Eastern theme music and replace it with your own tunes. The built-in music is fine, but it gets old fast. The game hung a couple of times when I tried to set the playlist. Not sure of the cause, but killing the app and restarting it got it working again.
The game looks and runs great and completely replicates the tabletop experience, but I did find a couple of issues. Playing on an iPhone works, but even with the zoom function I found it a bit difficult to place tiles. Making the droppable squares a bit “grabbier” might help. Though this item is less of a bug than a feature request, I enjoy the in-game chat feature of the excellent “Carcassonne” iOS game and really miss it. How am I to gloat and taunt my victims? I have to exit and send an email/text. Not a major issue, but it is something I would want to see in a future release.
Overall this is one of the best Euro-game implementations in the iOS yet and I highly recommend you check it out.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer