More iPod/iPhone Reviews

It’s been a while since my last iPod app review, and I’ve acquired and played quite a few more since then.  So, here we go with my impressions of 15 new iPhone/iPod apps…

Actual Boardgames

Neuroshima Hex – I had been somewhat interestred in Neuroshima Hex (the boardgame) for a while, but had always held off because I thought it was only for 2-players (even though I just learned it is for 2-4) and is not something that I think Gwen would necessarily go for.  When it hit the app store, however, I picked it up almost immediately just to see what it was like.  Well, after a couple of months playing it almost every chance I get, I now give it the highest rating that I’ve ever given an iPod app (three thumbs up!), and it’s jumped to the top of my boardgame wishlist.  The game itself is incredibly fun, and having four different armies that each play differently but are still balanced adds both replayability and depth.  The app looks great and is easy to learn and play (even though there’s still a learning curve in how to actually use each army),  and I like the level of support and enhancement that it’s gotten so far.  All that I’m waiting for to make it virtually perfect is online play (which they plan to do in the future).

– Pros: 4 armies that are very unique, looks great, very addictive.  My favorite app right now!
– Cons: There’s a decent amount of luck in the tile draw, which can be a little frustrating at times.  It is a wargame (although very abstracted), so the theme may not be for everyone. 

Samurai – Samurai isn’t necessarily one of my absolute favorite boardgames, but I’ve played it both in person and online before, and thought that it would make a really excellent transition to the iPod.  To be brief, I was right.  Samurai is a fantastic app that brings absolutely all of the fun of the boardgame and adds to it a number of small little features (like always being able to see who is winning a piece) that make it even better.  It probably has the best tutorial I’ve ever seen on the iPod, and supports online play (which Gwen and I use to play against each other as we hold children or do other things around the house).   It’s actually very similar to Neuroshima Hex in a lot of ways (playing from a hand of tiles that you use to set up a situation that will resolve at some point in the future), and the only thing that pushed NH a little highter for me is the variety of the four different factions.  But for any Samurai fan or really just anyone that likes playing boardgames on a mobile device, this is a must buy!  

– Pros: Great implementation that makes an already good game even better.  Online play and awesome tutorial.
– Cons: Again, there’s some luck in the tile draw, but this is mitigated because you can choose your opening hand (as you can in the real game). 

Carcassonne – As some of you may know, I don’t really like Carcassonne.  I usually find it pretty boring when I play it in real life, but I enjoy it quite a bit on my iPod.  The app itself is very slick and beautiful, and in addition to a solid, multilevel AI and several multiplayer modes (including online, which Gwen and I also play quite a bit), they even invented an interesting little solo puzzle game.  There’s nothing at all wrong with the app, and most people love it to death. 

– Pros: The app takes a game that I don’t like much and makes it more fun. 
– Cons: It is, however, still Carcassonne.

Keltis Oracle – The Keltis line of games is only available in Europe, so I’ve never bothered to pick up a copy of any of them before.  But I’d heard that Keltis Oracle was the most “gamery” of the series, so decided to give it a try on the iPod.  Basically, you’re playing cards or stones or what4ever to move your three pawns along a track, collecting points and performing actions based on the spaces you land on.  There are a lot of different ways to score points and a few different strategies you can try out, and overall it’s a really solid game.  My overall impression of the app is that it’s good, but a little slow.  But I don’t think it’s the app that’s really slow as much as the game itself.  So anyway, I’m glad I have it, but don’t necessarily play it all that often.

– Pros: Relatively complex, with several ways to score points and some nice decisions to make.
– Cons: Medicore graphics, feels a little too long for what it is, and is a little confusing in how to navigate the menus.

Zombie In My Pocket – It hasn’t been long since I first played the print-and-play version of this game, and I was glad to spend the money to get the iPod version as well.  It’s a simple little exploration game where you have to fight off zombies, find the evil totem, and bury it before you run out of time.  It uses the same artwork from the PnP version, and really looks nice and works well overall.  The main problem I have is that it almost always seems to crash/reset just as I’m about to win.  It’s gone on so long, though, that I’m not sure if it’s a real problem with the software, or it’s just because I’m running it on my 1st generation iPod.
– Pros: Quick, simple little zombie game.
– Cons: Doesn’t really work on my (1st gen) iPod.

Kingsburg – I’m not crazy about Kingsburg the boardgame, but I’ve had a lot of fun with the java applet that’s been around for a while, so I thought an iPod version might be good as well.  Unfortunately, some of the choices they made in the interface just don’t work for me.  I find it very difficult to see all the options I have to use my dice, and it’s hard to navigate between the different phases of the game and to see your resources and the buildings. 

– Pros:  It looks good, though, if that matters…
– Cons: Fair game with a hard-to-navigate implementation.  I’d pass on it unless you really like Kingsburg. 

Kingdoms – I’ve only played this a handful of times, mainly because it’s not compatible with my 1st gen iPod (so I’ve only played it on Gwen’s iPod).  From what I’ve seen so far, though, it’s a nice implementation of the game (which I like quite a bit).   

– Pros:  It’s Kingdoms, if you like that sort of thing…
– Cons: In order to show the whole board, the font is tiny, and my big, sausage-like fingers sometimes drags stuff into the wrong place (it needs an “undo” button!). 

High Society – This is a neat little auction game where you try to get the most points, but the person with the least money at the end is eliminated.  The interface is nice and works well, and the AI seems perfectly competent, but there’s just something that is missing.  Auctions are such an organic, social thing, and I just don’t know that they translate well into this format.

– Pros: Looks fine, plays fine… it’s, you know, just fine.
– Cons: Nothing really exciting or addictive, though…

Ra – I love Ra, and this implementation is a very good version of it.  If you like Ra, you’ll like this app, but as I just said with High Society, you just seem to lose something when you’re having an auction against an AI. 

– Pros: Easy to navigate, looks great, plays quickly.
– Cons: The AI has no soul.

Wabash Cannonball – This app is also pretty solid, but seems to be lacking something as well.  The graphics are clean but a little bit austere for my tastes.  It took a few plays to completely figure out how to access all the extra little menus and stuff, but once I got my head around them, they’re pretty intuitive.  The main problem I have with it is the AI, which follows a very rigid strategy based on a few articles that I’ve actually read.  It feels very much like playing against a computer, though, which turns me off sometimes, and it doesn’t help that I’ve always sucked at Wabash Cannonball/Chicago Express.

– Pros: Nice implementation with easy-to-use menus.
– Cons: Graphics are a little too simple, and the AI is very rigid.

Zombie Dice –  I like the real game of this well enough (for a simple, push-your-luck dice game), but the app just isn’t good.  It looks nice, and the zombie talking sounds are cool, but it’s just painful to play.  The game is so simple, but it’s overproduced to the extreme and takes longer to play than it does in “real life”.  Save this money and buy the hardcopy at your FLGS instead.

– Pros: Looks good, sounds good (life-like zombie sounds!)
– Cons: Uggghhhhhhhhh! (Oops, sorry!  Had to include some zombie sounds of my own!)

iPod/iPhone Only Games

Strategery –  I almost feel bad about giving this two thumbs up, but it’s hard to argue with a game I’ve played 362 times.  At it’s core, this is a Risk variant, but it’s way simplified and streamlined so that you can play a game in 5 minutes or so.  There’s a huge runaway leader problem, so much so that the game is basically over by the third or fourth round most of the time.  But the coolest thing is that the maps and starting regions are randomly created, so at this point, a good portion of the game for me is actually cycling through potential starting maps and deciding which one I want to try.  And since the “brutal” AI is incredibly hard, so I don’t feel bad waiting for a map that I think I can win.  But even then, there’s usually at least 2 or 3 really crucial decisions that you have to make each game in order to win, which keeps me coming back for more. 

– Pros: It’s Risk, but in 5 minutes… which is pretty freaking awesome.  It looks great and is ultra-simple to navigate and understand. 
– Cons: I’m 98% sure that the “brutal” AI cheats, which makes me mad sometimes.

Doodle God – I was pretty hot about this ultra-popular game for a while, but then I got pretty bored with how arbitrary the combinations seemed to be.  If you don’t know about it, you start with just the four “elements” of earth, water, air, and fire, and then start to combine them to make other items and elements.  Eventually you get sand, werewolves, computers, humans, sex, and all kinds of other stuff.  I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth up to this point, but I don’t know that I’ll ever bother with it much again.

– Pros:  Really cool concept, and it’s very exciting and intuitive at first.
– Cons: Later on, you’ve got so many items that you can’t remember them, let alone figure out how they go together, without using the hint feature. 

Children’s Games for the iPod/iPhone 

Toddler Teasers – Since Samantha always seemed to be fascinated with our iPods, I looked into apps for toddlers and small children and found this little game.  It’s actually more of a series of quizzes, where the child has to identify shapes, colors, letters, numbers, and maybe some other stuff.  It doesn’t actually work well on my 1st gen iPod, though, because it doesn’t have an external speaker, but it’s pretty great on newer ones.  The coolest thing is that after a certain number of correct answers, the child gets to pick a “sticker” that they get to place onto a little scene, which works really well to motivate my little one. 

– Pros: Simple, cute, and it has the “stickers” to motivate the children.   Plus, it says “Whoopsies” sometimes when you get something wrong, which Samantha just loves! 
– Cons: Doesn’t play well with 1st gen iPods.

Drawing Den – This is a simple drawing app that works pretty well.  The only real drawback is that there aren’t a whole lot of different pictures to color, and they haven’t done a lot of the support that they promised to enhance this.
– Pros: Simple drawing app for kids.
– Cons: Limited number of pictures to draw on and color.



  1. Thanks for very interesting post. I have a high regard for the valuable information you offer in your articles. I really believe you will do much better in the future!

  2. Andre

    Hey Chris,

    Roll Through the Ages is a really good game for both platforms too. Did you have the chance to try it? Is one of my favorite ones on the iphone.


  3. Check out his first article (linked at the top, but here it is again for convenience):

    And Chris, you should clarify that, while some of these apps are universal, you’re not reviewing the iPad versions of anything.

    I can speak to those, though. The games were obviously designed with the iPad in mind, as that issue of small text isn’t at all a problem. It’s quite comfortable on the iPad, and heck, Kingdoms is practically actual size. (Though I’m apparently much better at Money! and High Society, because the AI schools me most of the time in Kingdoms.)

    As for the AI in Ra, I would contend that there are human players who have no soul when it comes to games as well.

  4. Chris Norwood

    Yes, as Graham said, I have only played these apps on an iPod Touch.  I can’t really comment on how well they translate to the iPad.

    The other apps that I reviewed in the first article were:

    Roll Through the Ages
    Croke (Crokinole)
    Robot Master
    DUngeon Solitaire
    Plants vs. Zombies

    At the time, I rated Roll Through the Ages a 2 thumbs up, but I’d probably drop it down to 1 thumb now.  After playing it a lot, it got to feeling very routine and lucky, where how I did was almost always based on how many workers I rolled in the first few rounds (to build more cities).  It’s still a great implementation that has completely eclipsed actually playing the “real” game solitaire, but I’m pretty bored with and burned out on it at this point. 

  5. I was very pleased to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! This is a very informative post, it helps me more.

  6. This blog is getting more traffic thanks to sites like Myspace and other social sites. Thanks again for the awesome post I’ll be back for updates.

  7. Hi, I agree with every statement that you have made in the post and I really appreciate your effort in gathering up the information. Thanks for it.

Comments are closed.