As promised (and this is so rare in the boardgame App world!), Race for the Galaxy came out for iOS and Android on May 3.
Released by Temple Gates Games, this app is probably a new benchmark in digital board game development. It’s pretty, it plays well, it has asynchronous multiplayer, three levels of AI (including the infamous Keldon AI for the highest difficulty, which will kick your butt and then give you a wedgie for good measure).
The layout is gorgeous.
One of the major barriers to playing this on the table is the almost Byzantine iconography in the game. What the heck does this mean?
But, in the app, all you need to do is a simple double-tap of the card, and you get clear English that actually tells you what’s going on.
The ability to double tap also makes this highly playable on the phone.
One of the strikes against the game in its initial implementation is the online play with your phone and your tablet. Online play with friends is done by way of a friends list. But instead of just adding somebody’s user name, you have a “friend code” that you give them and they can add you (or you can use their friend code to add you).
Right now, you have a different code on your phone than you do on your tablet, which is actually quite annoying. However, Temple Gates says that they will be changing this in the near future.
Which says something else about them. They’ve been very engaged from the get-go, with two bug fixes out already, including adding push notifications so you’re alerted when it’s your turn in an online game. Still no badges on iOS, so you don’t get the little red “1” (or “35” if you’re really into online games) on the game icon, but at least there is some notification. That may be beyond their control, as Apple’s notification system can be notoriously wonky.
The UI is extremely easy to use. I’ve already mentioned the double-tap, but it’s easy to drag-and-drop for discarding cards, choosing which goods you’re selling or consuming, or which planet/development you’re settling/developing. A big clear “OK” button to confirm your move is also prominent and hard to miss.
The single-player game against the AI is pretty good too. If you want to feel good about yourself, you can play against the Easy AI. If you’re experienced, then Keldon is certainly a great adversary.
All in all, this is a beautiful app, easy to use, easy to play, the game is fun and it already comes with two expansions. Yes, for $3.99 (US) each, you can buy the first two expansions, Gathering Storm and Rebel Vs Imperium. I haven’t played with them yet, but the first adds goals for you to meet to get even more victory points, and the second adds some player interaction (your mileage may vary on whether that’s a good thing or not).
This game is that good.