I believe everyone has their favorite niche of gaming on iOS devices and I’ve honed mine down to a couple of types this year.  Try as I might, I can not get in to the endless runners whether they be side scrolling or ones like Temple Run where you’re swiping back and forth and up and down. Some people love them – my 5 year old plays Subway Surfers almost daily, but I do not.

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So, you won’t find those here and you’ll probably never see me rate those too high on the 5 point scale because they just aren’t my thing.  That being said, while I prefer some thought (strategy) to go in to my gaming, I do like a mindless game now and then – you’ll find a couple of those below.

5 – Coming at 5th on the top 5 list is Family Guy: the Quest for Stuff.

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There’s really not much strategy to this one so, it’s difficult to justify my game play.  You tap stuff to get coins and other in game currency.  Mostly it’s coins and the premium currency – Clams.  You send the characters on various jobs/quests which earns you coins and experience points and maybe some object that you may need.  You buy or earn other buildings which can sometimes help partially unlock other characters and a series of additional quests will help unlock those characters fully.  Some quests take longer than others and some buildings and characters can only be unlocked with the premium in-game currency (those pesky clams).  When the game first starts, you’re confined to a relatively limited area but you can expand the available construction area by clearing debris (costs coins) – You may also expand to certain areas after the completion of various events on the master timeline.

Playing the game consists of scrolling around the game board and tapping boxes, checkmarks (competed quests) or coins in what look like speech dialogs. All pop open to reveal coins, experience, or various objects which you tap again to take in to your inventory.  There are also certain tappable characters that reveal objects or events.  Most characters will have some kind of sound bite when either you tap them or send them on a quest.  Mostly I have my phone muted so I often forget about this feature.  Using clams you can finish jobs or quests much faster so, there’s a pretty big incentive to buy them and use them.

Of course, you can spend real money to buy various packages of coins or clams though I read that at very high levels, the ‘free’ coins lose value and you tend to accumulate a lot of it.  YMMV.  Every now and then you’ll see a special or a sale on either the clams or the coins but I’ve not chosen to invest, yet.  Further, TinyCo recently added a feature wherein you may watch commercials in the game and you’ll earn a clam for each one.  It seems the max is six at a time and though I haven’t proven it out yet, I think it’s on a 24 hour clock.  Furthermore, I believe that if you’re not fast enough when going through from commercial to commercial, the game will limit the number of commercials you can watch in a sitting.  So, basically if I’m slow (e.g. I let the commercial play while I do something else), I may only earn 1 – 3 coins in a commercial binge sitting.  In a weird way, I appreciate that there’s a way to earn clams without having to shell out money.  As I read that back, I realize that I’ve clearly lowered my expectations around free games.  Another way to earn clams is to be social – you can link up with other players through Facebook which, I’m guessing may be annoying so I have not reached out to friends.

IMG_4297Depending on the season, TinyCo will release game updates where you can earn special characters and have special quests specific to some new, over arching theme.  There was a summer series where you could earn Avril Lavigne and Mecha-Rick Astley, there was an October-Fest-Like event and right now there is a winter/Christmas related theme where Peter, Santa and others are battling elves at the north pole for some reason.  Admittedly, I will often skip through the dialog and so I’ll miss the whole story line.

On the down side, this game tends to suck up a lot of battery power.  While I’ve not done disciplined tests, I can tell you that while I waited for a recent issue to be fixed (and could not play the game) my battery life was far better for that week.  Easily noticeable.

That leads me to another negative about the game.  Periodically there will be outages.  It’s not terrible and frankly it is a free game but it is no less frustrating when you are making progress on a quest to have that stripped away due to a technical issue.  Customer service is pretty responsive.  I’ve noticed they’ll usually will respond to email within a day, which again with a FREE app, is pretty good.  Still, losing progress is no fun.

Another feature: You have flexibility on the placement of buildings and roads and if you’re not satisfied can blow up the whole place and start from scratch (you keep all your stuff but it goes in to inventory for you to place). I have yet to do this but have done it in the next game in the list.

FinallyIMG_4298, like the show it’s based on, this really is not a kids game.  The themes, like the show, are more mature than I will allow for my youngsters and so I’d recommend you review it closely before you determine if it’s right for you.

 

4. The Simpsons™ – Tapped out

This game is similar to Family Guy in many ways.  There’s a free currency called money (wow!) and there’s a premium currency – DONUTS.  Who doesn’t love a donut?  The premise on this one is that Homer blew up Springfield and is now trying to get the whole town back.  Just like Family Guy, you send your folks on quests which earns you money, upgrades, characters etc.

Unlocking characters works a bit differently though – you do not have to earn objects to unlock them but generally you do have to earn money to unlock buildings which unlock characters.  The Simpsons™ also has themed events and some of those have objects to be unlocked which will in turn unlIMG_4302ock other things.  As an example, I sent several Springfielders on various quests (game driven) and ended up unlocking Maggie (pictured here).  Since you can have so many events and over arching quests going on at the same time, I’m not sure if she was part of the special winter quests or if she was part of another series.  I’m pretty sure it was the winter themed quests but am not entirely certain.

Like Family Guy, this game allows you to take almost any of the objects off the game board and place in to inventory … and you can do this all at once if desired.  Kaboom!  I will probably rebuild again soon as the town is starting to get a bit cluttered with the various themed buildings that have popped up as part of the winter event.  As the city expands, it makes sense to layout the buildings in a logical manner so it’s easier to scroll through and tap all of them in a sequence.

There are a couple buildings that I’ve earned recently that make the game play a bit faster and more efficient. The first is the IRS building and the second is the unemployment office.  The former allows you to tap one character in an area (this game uses ‘big’ bobbing dollar signs and thumbs as the main tappable icons) and the tap effect will spread out over part of the game board in a circle.  So, rather than having to tap all items in the area, a single tap will suffice.  This is a huge time saver.  The second building, the unemployment office, will allow you to send all your Springfielders off on jobs in a large batch.  The really cool feature is that it’ll send all characters who don’t have a specific special quest to work.  The effect is that you’ll send all available folks off on a job and the ones that are left can be cycled one at a time to reveal their special tasks that you can then initiate one at a time to progress the game.  Again, a huge time saver.  I recognize that NOT playing the game at all would be even more of a time save but that’s a different topic.

Leveling up get’s you 2 donuts for each level and completing some of the quests (like a collection of Characters) gets you bonus donuts.  Like Family Guy, some characters and buildings are ONLY available with donuts which entices the player to buy them.  Also, like Family Guy, you can use donuts to make characters finish jobs faster.  I tend to always be very low on donuts in this game and again, I’ve yet to purchase any.  It’s quite tempting though.

simpsonsPart of the reason I play this game is that my 10 year old son plays and he’s become quite a Simpson’s fan in general.  So, we are ‘friends’ in the game and help each other by visiting each other’s towns and completing tasks.  We also earn friend points which helps with other in game events, tasks.  The online/friending aspects of the game are managed by our Origin accounts (which obviously requires a separate login).  You can search for other origin user names and request friendships from other users which will give you even more towns to visit.  For a list of people who are up for being friends with random folks check this reddit group – https://www.reddit.com/r/tappedout/

There is normally a “Add me” entry at the top with users posting their Origin account user names which you can then add in the game.

Besides Springfield, this game allows the player to expand to Krustyland and Springfield Heights.  However, being still sort of newish at the game I have not fully explored and built out those areas but the game play is basically the same wherever you are tapping.  Krustyland uses tickets as it’s main in-game currency and the buildings are all theme park based but otherwise the game play seems the same.  Springfield Heights is attached to the same game board as Springfield it unlocks after you complete various quests.  If you have further questions about the game, this wiki has a lot of continually updated information.

3. Agricola (playdek)- Now we enter in to the games that require some strategy.  Agricola has been at the top of my list of games for several years now and I’ve continued the love in to 2015 (and beyond?!).  While this game has a single player mode that allows you to play against computer opponents, I rarely use this mode.  Instead, I play asynchronous (async) games with a group of friends spread across the country.  The iOS game is based off a board game (this one) which I’ve never actually played but would like to at some point.  You may choose to play against random other opponents out there in the cloud (Find Game) and you may set various game durations (30 minutes to 45 days) or you can stick with your close friends and invite them to specific games you create.

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The premise is that you’re a farmer (Agricola is latin for ‘Farmer’) trying to build a better farm than your opponents.  There’s no explosions or attacking your opponent although you may attempt to block others from acquiring necessary resources.  Through various actions, you may grow your home, your family, your livestock and you may plant fields.  There are 14 rounds of the game with 6 ‘harvest’ phases and at each phase you must have enough food to feed your family or you suffer a penalty.  The strategy, and I’m simplifying here, is in the resource choices you make.  With the very limited number of turns, what will maximize your points at the end of the game AND how can you leverage your choices to stop your opponent(s) from acquiring what they need to make an even better farm than yours.

This game, unlike the others above, is not free – it weighs in at $6.99 but it does go on sale (and usually I tweet it out when I see the sale). Plus there are 3 expansion packs that range from 1.99 to 3.99.  What’s great is – there’s no subscription, there’s no in-game advertising trying to get you to spend more of your hard earned money.  For the amount of entertainment I’ve received from the game, the cost is well worth it.

2. Lords of Waterdeep – (Also a Playdek game.  no I don’t work for Playdek, they just make great games)

IMG_4346Here’s another game where I generally use the async mode and play against a specific group of opponents.  Like the others you may play against random folks or you can specify friends you want to play against and this is what I do 99% of the time.  Like Agricola, you can set various game durations when you set up a game which should allow you to choose something that’ll allow you and your opponents to find the right balance of turn time and over-long delays.  If you exceed your allotted time you get bumped and so the other folks are not trapped, waiting for you.

IMG_4348The premise of this one is that you’re a ‘Lord’ sending your agents off to do your bidding.  The game play is facilitated by various decks of “cards” which vary based on the expansion packs you may purchase.  Based on your Lord’s actions, you collect gold, adventurers and points.  Adventurers and gold are used to complete quests (which get you points, coins or other adventurers).  Gold may be used to purchase buildings, and adventurers can be used to play intrigue cards which generally either help you or hurt your opponent.  There are 8 rounds with as many turns as you have Agents (can vary based on the round and some cards available in the quest deck).  You start with 5 Agents and move to 6 after round 6.  One card (the lieutenant) allows you one extra Agent for the duration of the game after the quest card is played.

Once again, this game costs $6.99 and there are a few expansion packs available.  Also, for the entertainment value, I find it to be more than worth it.  Plus the artwork, sound, and game play are great.  It feels natural, intuitive – they really did a great job.

#1 – Galaxy Trucker

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#1 game for 2015

 

OK, so the iPad game was out for a while and I RARELY played it.  1 reason; I don’t carry my iPad everywhere.  I use my phone almost exclusively.  There was nothing wrong with the iPad version and frankly its a bit easier to see the game board on the iPad but the iPhone implementation shot this one to the top.

The iPhone version came out at the end of last year but I did not catch on until about 3-4 months ago.  I grabbed all my typical async gaming buddies and we have been having some fun galaxy trucking adventures since.

This async game is also based off a board game (here) and for the most part the game play is the same as the face to face version. There are some key differences in async mode but what is really cool is that they came up with a way to make it playable in a non-face-to-face manner without taking away from the overall concept.

The premise is .. I’ll let them tell it:

“Corporation incorporated, the galactic leader in sewer system construction, is looking for can-do guys and gals to haul materials to remote regions of the galaxy. Must be willing to fend off meteors, smugglers and pirates. Experience working with aliens a plus. Earn copious cosmic credits with bonuses for speedy delivery. Become a galaxy trucker. It’s loads of fun. The game consists of three rounds. In each round, the players begin by rummaging through the Warehouse, trying to grab the best components and build the best space ship. Once the ships are under way, the players try to avoid snares and obstacles, while grasping financial opportunities, each hoping to be the first to finish with an undamaged ship. It’s possible that you will end up with an insurmountable debt and finish your days panhandling on the streets of Deneb III, but if lady luck should smile upon you, you just might find yourself among the 10 billion richest people in the galaxy.” – 

from the Amazon page linked above.

You can play multiplayer or single player –

IMG_4396The 2 major game modes for multiplayer are – building a ship and then flying the ship.  Building the ship consists of filling in the blank spots of a ship template with parts.  These parts are on cards that are face down in a pile that you pull from on your turn.  In the multiplayer mode you get a certain amount of points to use for your ship building actions – flipping a card takes one, storing a part for later use takes one and adding a part to your ship takes 2 points.  You start with a single crew member pod in the center of your ship.  It has 4 universal connectors and you build from there.  Parts have from 1 to 4 connectors and they can be 3 diff types (universal, single, double). Engines have to be placed at the rear of the ship facing in a single direction and guns have to be pointed out away from the ship.  If you lock in a part and end up cutting off a usable space, you have to live with that choice until your next adventure.  If you choose not to select a piece, it becomes available for the other players when their turn comes around.  You have 2 temporary storage spots but once you move a piece there you’ll have to apply it to the ship or it’ll stay in the temp storage (you can’t throw it back in the pile, you’re committed).  Once a player decides that their ship is complete, they select a numbered card from the upper left and force the remaining players to finish quickly (which can lead to some ‘open’ connectors).  There are various types of ship parts but I’m not going to enumerate them here but the idea is that you attempt to build a ship with enough crew, guns, shields and rockets to deal with the adventures you’ll face along the way.  You can use some of your points to peek at the upcoming adventure cards and that action would give you a clue as to the best type of ship and the most important types of parts to grab.

Flying the ship – Players “fly” their ship on a single path starting in the order they completed their ship.  Game play progresses by drawing cards and following the actions depicted on the cards.  These can vary but consist mainly of dealing with meteors, aliens, landing on planets to collect goods, and flying in open space.  The goal is to collect cosmic credits and as usual the player with the most credits at the end of the rounds wins the game.

The single player campaign is also fun but I’ve only played a few rounds.  The ship building sequence is more like the actual board game since all computer opponents are ‘right there’ with you.  You have to flip cards, and determine quickly if you want them on your ship.  The computer opponents are fast and unlike the async mode – you can’t take your sweet time reviewing part placement.  The flying phase is similar to the multiplayer but again, you don’t have to wait very long for your opponents to complete their activities.

The online lobby and notifications from the game work quite well and all are quite intuitive.  I would definitely recommend the game to our readers.

Thanks for checking in to our top 5 games for 2015 – Let me know your favorites and message me if you’d like to play one of these some time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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