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Simon
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Another German card game was recently released as an iPhone (or iTouch) application: Reiner Knizia’s Knights of Charlemagne. This is an updated version of the game known as Tabula Rasa. It was originally released in Spielbox magazine back in 1995. It was re-released in English by Playroom Entertainment in 2006 as Knights of Charlemagne. Now it has found its way to the iTunes store, where I purchased it for $1.99.

The game:

Knights of Charlemagne is a quick and light strategy game that has some similarities to Lost Cities and Battle Line. The components of the game consist of estate tiles and cards.

The estate tiles lay on the center of the table. There are tiles valued 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, followed by blue, purple, green, red and orange. The players play to each side of the tiles, just how players play to the expeditions in Lost Cities. The goal of the game is to acquire these tiles. The numbered tiles are worth their value in points, and the colored tiles are worth 5 points each.

You will acquire the tiles by playing your cards. The cards are valued from 1 to 5, and there are two of each number per color for a total of 50 cards. Each game, two cards are randomly removed from the deck. Then the remaining 48 are evenly distributed between the players. Each player will have a hand of 8 cards, with the rest making up their draw deck.

On your turn, you play a card to one of the estates. A card can either be played as a color or number. For example, the red 2 can be played to either the "2" estate tile or the red manor tile. After you have played your card, you draw a new one. Your opponent then takes his turn, you take a turn, etc. until all cards have been played.

Once all cards have been played, whoever has more cards played to an estate wins it. That tile counts towards your score (either face value or 5 points for a colored tile) If you lose, as long as you had played at least one card to the estate you will receive a treasure tile worth one point. If the players tie, both will receive a treasure tile.

There is one more trick with scoring; the first player to win two manor tiles receives the crown, which is worth 5 bonus points. This can make trying for the lower value tiles worthwhile.

After all victories have been awarded, the points are added up and the winner is determined! A tie is determined by whoever claimed the "1" estate tile.

The app:

The iPhone version of this game (I'm reviewing release 1.0) was created by Conlan Rios. Conlan is affiliated with a company called Battle Phase Games, but that company name does not appear anywhere within the app. I have not played any of their games.

The game is pretty easy to use. There is a decent rule section, and a great tutorial that lets you play a game on the easiest difficulty while being taught by a minstrel that pops onto the screen from time to time. Once you learn the game you can remove his presence through a check box on the rules screen.

The graphics are simple but pleasant. Some people have complained that the numbers shown are slightly too small, but I do not have a problem with this. I like that when you click on a card to play, the application shows you the legal placements. It's a simple touch that goes a long way to increase usability.

There are three difficult levels: Squire, Knight and Charlemagne. I have only played the Squire and Knight levels, and have been pleased with the competency of the AI. It took a few games before I could beat the Squire, and am now enjoying playing against the Knight.

The game is a two player game, either against the AI or by passing the phone back and forth between human players. However, the physical card game plays with two, three or four, and is supposed to be exceptionally good with three! So why aren't these options available here? Hopefully this is something that can be expanded in the future.

Another disappointment I have is the inability to listen to your own mp3s while playing the game. When you load the app, your music fades out to pause, even if you have the game music disabled. The developer has posted on BGG saying that he will fix this with the next release, so no harm done.

Simon says:

Well, this is another simple, quick and enjoyable iPhone game. I had never heard of the game before it was released for the iPhone, so it was nice to explore a new (to me) Knizia title on my own time. I appreciate the strategic aspects of the game and the Lost Cities-esque agony of debating when to play a card to a certain estate.

Much like the Poison app, this game is great for a quick diversion. I can have some fun but walk away the moment something more pressing arises. For now I'll be playing this a few times a day, at least until I can beat the game at the highest difficulty level. Expanding the number of players could bring some additional life as well.

Given the low price of $1.99, I feel like I have already gotten my money's worth from the app. This is another game I'm quite happy to own in an electronic form, rather than the cardboard.

If you like Lost Cities or Battle Line and want a cheap bit of entertainment, go ahead and buy Knights of Charlemagne. I think you'll enjoy it.

Note: this review was also published at my blog. If you want to check it out, please visit http://simondice.net and subscribe to my RSS feed!
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Todd
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Good review thanks. I have to say I'm not impressed with this game. The good news is the app is fine (other than its limitation to just 1-2 players) --I don't like the underlying game that much. Nice when you're stuck in line at the post office though.

I enjoyed the other Knizia Iphone game much more --"Poison." Great app and very fun to play. But it is for one player only (vs. 3,4, or 5 other opponents).
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Simon
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Thanks for the comments!

FezAZ wrote:
Nice when you're stuck in line at the post office though.


This is exactly what I'm looking for in an iPhone game. I wouldn't want to play this game at the table, but it's perfect for a few minutes while waiting for the bus, in the grocery line, etc.

FezAZ wrote:
I enjoyed the other Knizia Iphone game much more --"Poison." Great app and very fun to play. But it is for one player only (vs. 3,4, or 5 other opponents).


I think I enjoy Poison more as well. I am especially excited for Zooloretto, even though it'll be a much more involved game that either KoC or Poison. I really like the game though, so I'll make an exception!
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Jose Augusto Moreira
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excelent review..but i dont like see computer games in BGG.
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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jaugusto72 wrote:
excelent review..but i dont like see computer games in BGG.

I'm an iPhone user. I appreciate that board games (and good ones) are getting iPhone versions. I think also that I might sympathize with this opinion that perhaps iPhone app reviews should not be listed here under the entry for the game. It seems like a minor transgression that could open up wider interpretations to other kinds of computer games (PC versions, console, Web site versions). I mean where does one draw the line. Or does there even need to be a line?

But alas, if only there was a site that was similarly structured and as good as the 'Geek dedicated to iPhone apps...iphonegeek.com anybody?
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Simon
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blindspot wrote:
I'm an iPhone user. I appreciate that board games (and good ones) are getting iPhone versions. I think also that I might sympathize with this opinion that perhaps iPhone app reviews should not be listed here under the entry for the game. It seems like a minor transgression that could open up wider interpretations to other kinds of computer games (PC versions, console, Web site versions). I mean where does one draw the line. Or does there even need to be a line?


In all honesty, it never crossed my mind that a review of an app version might not be appropriate. I guess the line does not exist for me!

That being said, if a moderator let me know that reviews of board game apps are not allowed I would definitely heed their advice and stop writing these.
 
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Asa Swain
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I love hearing about iPhone versions of board games, and I enjoy reading reviews. Yours was well written. If there's an issue about whether it counts as an actual "Review", then you could also post it as a General thread instead.

I just hope that Reiner Knizia is able to get more of his boardgames made into iPhone apps.
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Miguel
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I have both this and Poison. I like this game better, but I find the AI a little easy. I beat it consistently at the hardest level. Poison is the opposite... I never win. Never. It feels like the AI pits all three other players against ME. Oh well. Both are good.
 
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W M Shubert
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Sounds nice. I'm just puzzled, as a lot of other seem to be, by the "two player only" business. I've played KoC against humans both 2p and 3p; 2p it's kind of a drag, but 3p it's fun! The reason I think is that with 3p, there's an added level of strategy, where you look for where opponents are spending a lot of cards fighting each other, and you leave that alone and spend your cards in relatively uncontested areas. In 2p, you just drop cards and keep hoping the ones you need to make bigger wins come up.

I see that Conlan Rios has a new account on BGG - maybe he'll come to this forum and say whether he plans on adding 3p ability?

Edit: Note I'm not saying 2p vs. computer is a drag. I wouldn't know, I don't have an iPod. But I'd be really surprised if 3p wasn't clearly better than 2p on any medium.
 
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conlan rios
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Hey guys,

@simon -- Thanks for the review!! Really appreciate the feedback.

@everyone -- Update 1.1 is planned to be submitted sometime next week hopefully. The update should include the ability to listen to your own mp3s, minor text fixes in the tutorial and rules, and an optional mode where bigger numbers are displayed in place of knight characters.

We're also working on an improved AI for Charlemagne, but no guarantees on that yet!

3-Player ability is currently not planned at the moment

Let me know if you guys have any other questions or comments about the game. I'll also be posting updates at my new twitter account: http://twitter.com/conlan

Thanks!!!
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