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iOS Review: War on Terror the Application

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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The Stats:
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod Touch. iPad at 2x
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: TerrorBull Games
Version: 1.0
Size: 36.0 MB
Multiplayer: None.
AI: Yes.
Itunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/war-on-terror/id421716803?mt=...



The Good:
- Appears to follow the board game very closely and will appeal to fans of the print version.
- Has a hint feature for the first turn that is very helpful when coupled with the rulebook.
The Bad:
- There are a few areas that could use polish and some limiting features that could be opened up.
- Seems like a hard fit on the small iPhone screen real-estate
- The theme and language used in the rulebook may not appeal to some people. This is not an app for children.
 
Gameplay:
War on Terror is a game more famous for its theme than mechanics. This is understandable as the game strives to be more of a satire than a strategic experience. It is a game that will tend to polarize and perhaps the polarization is the goal.

This is a game of area control. Players are using their funds, gained through oil, to wage war, “liberate” uncontrolled countries, and fund terrorists in enemy countries. Players start out with a randomly selected group of countries and will try to expand their territory to control entire continents. Controlling a continent rewards players with certain number of “liberation points” and once a player has a set number of “liberation points” they win. Players must defend themselves from other players from without and terrorists from within. To liberate a country players simply pay a preset cost. To set up a terrorist cell in a country players also must pay a cost. Once per round the terrorists will attack and can destabilize countries that have been liberated. Players can fight terrorists and get them out of their countries for a cost. Players can also wage war against other players. This is done by dice rolls and the attacking player must roll with in a certain range to have a successful attack depending on the strength of the defending player. Players take any or all of these actions in a turn and then pass to the next player. Play continues until one player has reached the set liberation point goal.
 
Implementation:
War on Terror the Application is my first experience with the game. I cannot accurately comment on the rule changes made but from researching online it appears that some elements have been removed such as the card deck and the ability for players to become solely terrorists. Experiencing this game in this way may not be the best experience. It appears from what I can gather that this game is best played with a rowdy group of friends that will laugh at the satire together. Sadly, I did not have this option.

War on Terror is a well designed app in most respects and I think it will appeal to fans of the game or gamers who have wanted to try the game but could not get their hands on it for one reason or another. Before I go into a more objective look at the app and its features I must be honest, this app does not appeal to me for several reasons. First, the whole theme has a too soon or too late feeling. The days of satirizing the war seem kind of past us now, it all feels very 2004 flash cartoon to me. The theme does not offend me, I just think its moment has passed. Second, a lot of the art as well as language in the rules is not done in good taste. I find a lot of elements in the game insulting to both the armed forces and the muslim people. I also find some of the words used in the rule book a little over the top. I know there are people that these things appeal to and I know that they make fun of everyone equally in the game, but it is just not my thing. The third reason, and perhaps the biggest, is that I do not find the game particularly interesting. To me it feels like a variant of Risk with the same problems (it is near impossible to stop a runaway leader) and mechanics that slow down the inevitable ending of the game (ie terrorist cells). It is for these reasons that War on Terror will probably not be an often used app in my iOS library.

The app in its current form is a solo experience. Players can play games with 3, 4, or 5 computer opponents. These opponents each have a color and an avatar but do not seem to be different in difficulty. Players also have the option to choose the color and avatar they wish to use in each game. The AI players do seem to make smart moves but I have yet to lose a game as a new player, so I am not sure how challenging the AI will be for experienced players. The game does offer a number of random variables that will keep the game challenging and interesting despite the skill of AI players.

The game does have quite several things to track at a given moment with terrorist cells, alliances, continent liberation points etc. and the game does a fine job of keeping all of these elements in check. The base view of the game hides a lot of the data but it is easy to access a breakdown of in game scores and other options by using some simple menus. The game is currently iPhone only which is an interesting choice considering the size of the board. The board is generally accessible and I had very few miss clicks but things do get tricky in some of the smaller areas (Antarctica I am looking at you). This game will be much easier to play in an eventual iPad version. The game also allows you to resume a game in progress which is very useful as games in War on Terror can take quite a bite of time.

War on Terror is not an extremely complex game and most players experienced with hobby games will be familiar with its mechanics. It does offer a brief rulebook that players can reference to get a grasp of the game. There is also a built in guidance system for players during the first round of a new game. With these aids I found myself pretty clear on the game rules after the first few turns of the first game. It does not feature a full blown tutorial but their are these helps that will teach new players the game. If players are not scared off by the theme, they should be able to tackle the game rules without too much of a challenge.

The app itself functions well but is lacking the social element that it seems to thrive on. It really is in many ways a stab your neighbor affair and it seems to lose a lot of that meta-game in a solo package. I am really surprised the game launched without any multiplayer options. Even pass and play would have been a welcome addition. However, according to Terror Bull Games an update featuring online multiplayer is on the way as well as other additions. It is currently a quality solo experience but it will have more longevity with increased features.

Conclusion:
War on Terror is a must buy for fans of the game or those who have always wanted to try it out. It is not a perfect app and could use some additions as well as a little more polish in some areas. While the game does not appeal to me for several reasons, there is a quality app in there if it is what you are looking for. It is currently a decent offering that I think will improve with future updates.

Rating: 2/4 Decent
 
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