Board games and the iOS are a match made in heaven. All of the fun and none of the mess. The AI does all the calculations for you and you never lose a piece under the couch. What more can you ask for? Well, add in some creativity and you get unique games for the platform and lookie here – Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers is born! Trouble Brothers is affiliated with Fargoal, LLC. Developers of a game you might be familiar with – Sword of Fargoal? Hmm, yeah, I thought that might ring a bell! Wizard Hex is the first of three board games being released under the Trouble Brothers, LLC umbrella and let me tell you they have a winner for their first release. Jeff McCord states that Trouble Brothers has a “cool philosophy about creating multiplayer game experiences so that people can play games together on iPad like you might have with traditional board games in the past! Also, no spilled game parts.” And this is completely and utterly true.
I loaded up the game, started to play, and I am embarrassed to say how much time went by before I took a breath! And this was with an iPod Touch, and me against the AI! I can only imagine what a breath taking experience this is on the iPad. Not only that, with so many options to play even as a single player vs the AI, the possibilities are endless. Play with your allies at your side, play asymmetrically; truly you can set the game up any way you want, and because of this the strategy will be limitless.
At the risk of sounding cliche, Wizard Hex takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. The endless strategy and game play abounds and literally no two games will ever be alike. You think you have mastered a strategy when suddenly it fails and you must think quickly and move forward in that game another way. You will find yourself relying on your opponents / allies as much as yourself. The game rules are such that you can not attack a neighbor which leads you to progress with your neighboring element across the board, possibly attacking an ally to gain the upper hand and sneak into enemy territory, oh I am telling you, the possibilities are truly endless.
The gameplay is actually much simpler than it sounds. 1-6 players lay tiles on a hexagon board, each with elemental symbols on them. The goal? Occupy more of the board at the end of the round. There are some simple rules to follow as you begin your quest and whether you play one on one with the AI, or with 5 of your closest friends you will definitely use each other in your strategy. Build, attack, there will always be a strategic benefit to both; but it is up to you the player to determine when that time is. You may start each game at one of three levels: Apprentice, Journeyman, and the highest is Master. Do you have what it takes to challenge the Master?
As if this wasn’t enough, McCord promises more in an update:
Once people get used to the basic gameplay mechanics there will be “Spells” that we will add! Each time you master certain gameplay combinations (to be determined) you can unlock a new set of spells. We will start by introducing one into the spellbook. For example, for wind there may be a special spell for “blowing” a piece or pieces sideways. Or for Fire there might be a way to “burn” a piece or pieces next to you. Since spells will be powerful it might take the form of one enchantment or special token per game. AND it will always be evenly matched. If you unlock an Earth spell it will also unlock the other equivalent element spells. Some spells will be attack and others defense.
I finally was able to round up the troops and get some real life multiplayer action in and wow I can say that it exceeded any expectation that I had! It led to some interesting thought processes and insightful strategy. Not only that, everyone wanted to play a different element on a different round just to see how that would work out. Again, I have to remind you this was hovered around an iPod Touch. The experience around an iPad has GOT to be incredible and I can easily see this taking over Game Night at a future gathering.
Gameplay: As the developers themselves stated it is a mix of Go, Chess, Backgammon, Reversi, or any other strategy game you can think of in an entirely original presentation. There are so many variables with 1 to 6 players that you will never be playing the same game twice. Attack one of your allies to get to your opponent; use your ally to block your opponent; don’t forget to build the untouchable gold tower; there are so many ways to play! One thing remains constant though, control as much of the board as you can at the end to win. And remember, even if you have “allies” they do not count as you conquering the board – so remember to play your own element. Don’t get too caught up in the “team” bonding thought like I did. Just because in a single player game you might control three elements, only one is yours. Think of the others as a support staff if you will.
The bottom line though bears repeating – this game has simple rules but very deep strategy. To consistently be successful you will need to learn several forms of strategy. The AI is very intelligent and will have you guessing each and every time.
Controls: The touch screen is very intuitive. The pieces you can move light up to give you a little assistance. Drag and dropping your pieces on the board is seamless. There has not been a better interface.
Overall presentation: I am not sure I can say much more about this. Everything is very polished with great graphics, sound effects and music that add to the atmosphere. You name it, it has it. At the risk of gushing too much, all I can say it is spectacular.
Tutorial: As easy as the gameplay actually is, the game could use a little more instruction. But that too is promised in an update. There are some intricacies in the game that I discovered by accident or by conversation with the developer. Since the average consumer won’t have the opportunity that I did, a bit more on the instructions would be great.
So even with all that, I am happy to say – but wait there is more! McCord has a list of additions as well. These include: the special spells for each element mentioned earlier, GameCenter support, continually improved AI for solo play, zoom into book pages for iPhone version for better viewing on screen, and as I hoped for, more detailed instructions and tips & tricks.
A dedicated Troubled Brothers Forum is in the early stages for all three of their new board games. Start to play this game and I am sure you will want to find your way over to chat with other fans and compare strategy notes.
Wizard Hex by Trouble Brothers makes its way into the appstore and while it was optimized for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch owners will want a piece of this Universal action as well. With depth and originality, the first of three board games by Troubled Brothers will exceed anyone’s wildest expectations. Packed with strategy and thought, no two games will be the same. Learn new techniques the more you play in this truly easy to learn, take your lifetime to master gem. I have to say this is one of the best games I have played in some time. I have no problem recommending this to everyone, whatever device you own!