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iOS Review: Army of Frogs

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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I had the opportunity of checking out Army of Frogs this week, a little before release. Army of Frogs is due to be in the app store on 7/22/11.

The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad (Universal) and iPhone/iTouch Version
Current Price: $4.99 and $1.99
Developer/Publisher: Bid Daddy’s Creations
Version: 1.0
Size: Not Available
Multiplayer: Pass and Play, Online multiplayer.
AI: Yes, 6 different opponents.
Info link:http://www.bigdaddyscreations.com/products/army-of-frogs/
 
 


The Good:
- Absolutely adorable graphics.
- Excellent for face to face play on one iPad.
- Promising async multiplayer system.
The Bad:
- Could use a few more multiplayer features.
- Is not, wholly, a gamers game. Will attract casual gamers, but may leave some wanting.
 
Gameplay:
Army of  Frogs is a hex tile laying game from the designer of Hive. The game is new to me and according to BGG, despite being well reviewed, the game has not achieved the popularity of its older brother. However, Army of Frogs is fun abstract that has a wide appeal, and dare I say the iOS version of this game may outshine the Hive app.
 
In Army of Frogs players each choose a color of frog from the four available. 10 frogs for each color playing are mixed and one is drawn at random and placed in the play area to start the island of frogs. Each player is also dealt a hand of two colored frogs (they may or may not be of their color). Each turn players must do 3 simple things. First, players must move one of their frogs if able. Frogs jump in a straight line over all frogs adjacent to them, and the single selected frog may jump multiple times in a turn. A frog cannot be moved if it would split the island in two (a la Hive, there may only be one island) or if it would create line of 3 frogs only singly connected end to end. The second step is for players to place a frog from their hand into play. If they are placing a frog of their own color it may not be placed adjacent to any of their other frogs. Third, players draw another frog tile to replace the one they played. Players continue playing, moving frogs attempting to connect all the frogs of their color when they have 7 or more frogs in play. The first player to do this is the winner.
 
Army of Frogs is a fairly simple abstract game. I have heard it said: Army of Frogs is to Checkers as Hive is to Chess. This sounds like a fair comparison, though do not think it features the monotonous play of Checkers. It is simple yet strategic game that can appeal to a wide range of ages and players.
 
Implementation:
Army  of Frogs is not, in my opinion, a gamers game. It will not spawn an addiction or competitive online play leagues. In fact, many of you will be excited for Army of Frogs solely because it means online multiplayer Neuroshima Hex will be coming soon. That may be a little sad because the truth is that Army of Frogs is an amazing looking app that plays quickly and well. It is packed with features we as iOS gamers want (see this poll) such as: beautiful graphic design, a great interface, great face to face play, 6 AI players, async online play and more. I hope that while you wait for NSHEX online and Caylus that you will give this amazing app the love it deserves. Let’s take a look.
 
The first thing to notice about Army of Frogs is the excellent graphic design. As the app launches cartoon frogs (even a ninja frog) look at you from behind the title. The art is all original for the app and is quite well done. Speaking to the BDC guys in a previous interview they explained the sought out a graphic designer to help them with the app this time around, and it looks like it paid off. Not having the rich already existing art of something like Neuroshima Hex, the developers were able to make something all their own. The gameplay graphics are clear and easy to use. The frogs are, in my wife’s words, “adorable” and meld perfectly into the pond backdrop. Aside from the basics of game play there are many nice touches such as background flowers that denote player color, and fish and dragonflies that react to your touch. Even clicking Options on the main menu takes you to a new screen featuring a background of birds in a tree, and all I can think of is Jurassic Park’s Hammond saying, “We spared no expense.” All in all it is a great graphical package.

The interface design of Army of Frogs is also very well done. The buttons are well defined and easy to navigate. There are a few buttons that are occasionally hard to locate, such as the "Resume Game" button, but these are few and have been covered by other in app functions (for example when you attempt to start a new game it automatically prompts you to resume your previous game). There is both a tutorial and rules list which are both easy to understand, and I appreciate the slideshow type approach of the tutorial that allows me to move through at my own speed. The game set up menus for both online an local games are laid out similar to other iOS games and function fine. Playing Army of Frogs is a breeze, simply drag and drop frogs to place them. The frogs you are able to move are highlighted with your color and when you select a frog a lily pad appears at any spot you are able to move to. The information about how many frogs you have in play and how many are linked is placed nicely next to you name and photo. The app also works in both portrait and landscape mode which is a neat feature rarely seen in iOS board games. All in all the interface functions nicely in the background, just as a it should.

Army of Frogs has a full compliment of play options ranging from single player to online, and each seems to have its own merits. In single player mode players players have the option of choosing from 6 AI opponents, each with different play styles. As a thematic touch the AI opponents have funny names and images like Phlegmatic. The AI seems to function very quickly and single player games move fast. The AI seems challenging, of course I am a novice player. The game also includes several Game Center run achievements to go after, so single play is presented with goals to aspire to.

I am always in search of games that can be played well on the iPad between two or more player face to face. In some cases these games can create an experience comparable to the physical games. Games such as Hey That’s My Fish and Par Out Golf fit the bill, and I think Army of Frogs can stand with them. Due to the simple rules and components and the lack of hidden information Army of Frogs is easy to play on a single device. I have played several games face to face and the experience is enjoyable. For me, this is one of the best features of Army of Frogs, as the game is light and easy to introduce to children or casual gamers.

And now ladies and gentleman...online play! Yes, it has been implemented and it works well. Obviously, due to testing period for this review, there is not a large player base to interact with (as the game has yet to be released), however I have been able to play several online games. The async play is clear and players can go from real-time to async easily as the game informs the player of the other player's online status. You can play multiple games at once and everything seems fairly stable. The system is independent of Game Center so you can use any login you desire. The play works well but it is missing (in my opinion) notifications and in the online game menu I cannot seem to find an indication of which games it is my turn in. If you are an avid player this may not concern you, but it does make managing multiple games at once a little challenging. Other than that, the foundation of online play is there and the actual in game system works well.

Army of Frogs does not have the clout behind it as is seen with other big name games. However, this does not stop the app from being top notch. In all of the categories discussed above there is an abundance of nice touches added into the game. It is shocking to me that in such an abstract game, theme and graphic design is one of the most impressive elements. It turns an abstract into something that is both fun and entertaining. While the Hive app and other abstract titles tend to try to replicate the analog experience, Army of Frogs has gone full digital but manages to keep things streamlined.
 
Conclusion:
Army of Frogs will not appeal to every gamer but it is great to see BDC branch out into new territory and apply their characteristic quality to a new genre. The game is great for abstract and casual game fans. The app is amazing and may even be more beautiful than the physical game. It is a great app with many features and excellent support by the developers, as we have witnessed with Neuroshima Hex. I recommend checking this out even it may be outside your usual game preferences, I do not think you will be disappointed.
 
Rating: 4/4 One of the Best


Also check out this video. It shows the great design in ways I can't describe in words alone:

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