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Subject: Phantom Leader – iOS – A Gamer’s Solitaire Game rss

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Ben Stanley
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I love iOS games, and believe solo and cooperative games are an ideal fit for the format. I play a lot of Ghost Stories, Yggdrasil, Delve, Forbidden Island, and many, many others. Solitaire games, in particular, tend to have a lot of score keeping, shuffling, set up, and accounting elements that can be tedious in the physical form but automated in a good digital translation, and there is no need for other players or artificial intelligence: the game itself provides the intricate challenge.

I am also a huge fan of Euro board games on iOS, including Le Havre, Caylus, Dominant Species, Carcassonne, and many more, play a lot of iOS card games like Tichu, Battleline, Ascension, Nightfall, Lost Cities, and such, and deeply enjoy a variety of dice rolling, thematic masterpieces on the system like Summoner Wars, Alien Frontiers, and others. I tend to collect almost every release on the iOS, so Phantom Leader was certainly on my radar.

So, what do I think?

First, I should note that I had not played the board game of Phantom Leader, and had a limited sense of what the game entailed, other than generally positive reviews. I was anxious to try it out, but must confess I hesitated at the price tag ($14.99 in the US iTunes Market), not sure how much substance the game offered.

Let me put those fears to rest: this is a substantive, detailed, immersive and impressive aerial combat simulator during the Vietnam War. You can play Navy or Air Force, you can run three different years of strategic assaults at varying lengths, offering a tremendous amount of variety. And the iOS does the unpleasant work for you of setting up the correct event deck, giving you the right options to select, and so forth.

You select a squadron of fighters, appropriate to your chosen branch of the military, you plan assaults, watch as your pilots gain experience and improve their skills and also incur stress and suffer as a result. You load munitions into those fighter jets, carefully planning to address the needs of the current mission, and truly feel invested in the successes and challenges of your team, as you make all the movement and combat decisions to lead your squadron to victory.

As you watch the political and other ramifications of your choices, you gain benefits and accept penalties, but again, the system handles the accounting and tracking of information seamlessly. It’s an engaging and deeply enjoyable experience, once you learn all the details and get the hang of everything.

Any conerns?

Well, yes and no. There is some “clunkiness” to the interface and a few minor bug reports I have seen, but I am hesitant to even mention those, as I am highly impressed by both the developer and original publisher’s levels of involvement in the community and confident that updates will address such issues in effective ways. There are times when you need to click once too many times on some screens as results or other information interrupt the experience slightly, and some of the tutorial boxes as you learn the game cover the very cards and tokens you would like to carefully examine and seek to understand. But such quibbles are minor and will likely be addressed. There may have been a handful of times something happened that I did not expect, which may have been bugs or may have been me still learning all the game’s rules, but again, I have every confidence updates will be generous.

The other general issue I note is that the use of the Unity engine tends to make the file size large and may contribute to the current crashes on the first generation iPad. The game certainly looks good, but the only reason for such a powerful engine is for the simulated dice rolls, and I’m not convinced the trade off is worth it (though there are many who praise the dice in the game).

What do I recommend?

If you are a serious gamer, if you like war games, simulation games, solitaire games where all the work is taken care of for you and you can just enjoy the gameplay, or if you like a nice blend of strategic planning, tactical decisions, and rolls of the dice, don’t hesitate. Pick it up.

If, on the other hand, you are turned off by a learning curve and are not familiar with the physical game, you may want to wait until you get a chance to play someone’s copy first or the developer of the iOS version releases a “lite” or “demo” edition. But I suspect even then, you will ultimately decide this game is a good value and worth picking up on the iPad.
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Scott Bedell
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Blue Steel wrote:
I love iOS games, and believe solo and cooperative games are an ideal fit for the format. I play a lot of Ghost Stories, Yggdrasil, Delve, Forbidden Island, and many, many others. Solitaire games, in particular, tend to have a lot of score keeping, shuffling, set up, and accounting elements that can be tedious in the physical form but automated in a good digital translation.

I am also a huge fan of Euro board games on iOS, including Le Havre, Caylus, Dominant Species, Carcassonne, and many more, play a lot of iOS card games like Tichu, Battleline, Ascension, Nightfall, Lost Cities, and such, and deeply enjoy a variety of dice rolling, thematic masterpieces on the system like Summoner Wars, Alien Frontiers, and others. I tend to collect almost every release on the iOS, so Phantom Leader was certainly on my radar.

So, what do I think?


Excellent Review. The quoted part above is most helpful (context that I wish more reviewers would offer).
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No No No Sheep
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Blue Steel wrote:

If, on the other hand, you are turned off by a learning curve and are not familiar with the physical game, you may want to wait until you get a chance to play someone’s copy first or the developer of the iOS version releases a “lite” or “demo” edition. But I suspect even then, you will ultimately decide this game is a good value and worth picking up on the iPad.


fairly balanced review, ultimately i agree with the conclusion here, learning curve is small for those familiar with the leader game but can be harsh for those new to air leader series and even maybe too unfamiliar to non boardgamer in iOS world.

The price of this app put it in the niche's niche of iOS apps, mirroring the physical counterpart in the boardgaming world.

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Captain Spaulding
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Great review. For me the file size trade off to have rolling dice is worth it. The tension in this game really comes down to the dice rolling, and it's the one thing I'm thinking the cardboard version has over digital. Setting up your strategy and then grabbing some dice and letting 'em role to see how it all plays out. After all, that's basically the gist of most solo games, isn't it? So, just having random numbers pop up instantly seems to me like it would suck the fun right out. Totally worth finding some other crap app taking up space on my iPad to delete if need be.
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Dan Verssen
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Awesome review Ben! Thank you!
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ben saylor
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Thanks for the review. I think I will hold off until the price drops to ~10 dollars. I feel that fifteen is just a bit steep since Ticket and many of the other boardgame conversions I have were only 5 dollars. I can afford 5 but 15 is pushing it.
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Ben Stanley
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Thanks for all the comments. I'm glad the review is helpful for people.
happyloaf wrote:
I think I will hold off until the price drops to ~10 dollars.

If you are looking to buy it for ~10, I recommend picking up an iTunes gift card from Best Buy this week. They are 20% off, so you could get the game in that neighborhood, show just as much support for the publisher and developer, and only Apple gets a smaller cut (which they don't really need anyway, right?)
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Big Pom
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Bought this for my ipad last night.

Already have the board version. I found the game to be as hard to win as the board version but actually more fun to play.
It works realy well and yhou do become immersed very quickly and due to ease of setup loosing and relaying is not a chore.

I hope they bring out Hornet or especially Corsair Leader as well.

Well worth my $14.99 ausie dollars

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Ben Stanley
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Yeah, it's a great game with a magical (and highly educational) theme that provides a really great simulation and tons of interesting situations where you really get to plan and strategize and feel like a Phantom Leader.

So, I do have a quick question for the experts (or the publisher) and an interface suggestion for the developer.

Question: Robin seems to become a worse pilot as he goes from Skilled to Veteran. His only improvement (that I see) is that he is fast even when shaken, but his stress tracks are shortened considerably, so he is unfit almost as soon as he would be stressed without the promotion, and he starts getting big attack penalties quickly. He's one pilot I would prefer NOT to see get promoted. Is that right? Is there an error with his promoted card? Is it just thematic (some people are worse in significant ways with the added pressure of a promotion) and balanced (strong early, but if you rely too heavily on him he'll get promoted and actually become worse and more easily stressed)?

Interface Suggestion: I think there should be a toggle (like the tutorial off toggle) to disable a lot of the transition screens. Once you know the phase order and rules well enough, you don't want to see the screen that shows the phases and "supporting documents" anymore. It just interrupts the flow, when you already see the name of the current phase at the top of the main screen and know the phase order. Give an option to remove that particular screen to deepen the immersion once players know the game.

At any rate, it is an awesome game that really grows on you the more you play it.
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Martin Swift
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This has quickly become my number 1 iPad game.. I hope this is successful enough to encourage the release of other titles in the Leader series
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No No No Sheep
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Punk Reaper wrote:
This has quickly become my number 1 iPad game.. I hope this is successful enough to encourage the release of other titles in the Leader series


i thought number one ipad game is Plant and Zombieeee
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Martin Swift
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dprijadi wrote:
Punk Reaper wrote:
This has quickly become my number 1 iPad game.. I hope this is successful enough to encourage the release of other titles in the Leader series


i thought number one ipad game is Plant and Zombieeee


MY number 1 iPad game, emphasis on MY.....
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Kevin
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Hi Ben,

Thanks for the suggestion. This has been mentioned a few times and it will be included in a future update.

Thank you for your support of Phantom Leader,

Kevin
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Greg Langmead
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This is on sale for $5 right now. Now someone point me to a 3 hour video tutorial please!
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John Brown
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glangmead wrote:
This is on sale for $5 right now. Now someone point me to a 3 hour video tutorial please!


The closest thing I've seen to a tutorial are the actual play videos done by the Lonesome Gamer. He does a good job explaining things along the way. He does make a few mistakes along the way (but don't we all); he gets most of it right and he's really good about showing those mistakes that have been caught. A link to the 1st part of the video on BGG can be found below.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/18767/phantom-leader/a-lo...
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