For The Win is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players, developed with the aid of a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Each player has 10 tiles, 2 of each type of Monkey, Zombie, Pirate, Alien, and Ninja. Players take it in turns to perform up to 2 actions each, with the goal being to lay and connect 5 of tiles on the board – at least one of each type.
Action are varied:
- Lay a tile on the grid (these cannot be placed next to any of your own existing tiles, but must be next to a tile of another player)
- Move a tile
- Shove a column or row of tiles (use one of your pieces to push those next to it in any direction)
- Activate a used tile
- Use a special ability
The game is played in rounds where each player has a total of 5 action points; players can choose to use up to 2 of these each turn. This is an interesting mechanic in that you can either pace yourself or spend all your actions on early moves.
Each tile also has a special ability that can be used; however, tiles must be re-activated once they’ve been used, and inactive tile do not count towards a win. The zombie can infect any tile next to it into becoming another zombie (assuming you have a zombie tile left, otherwise it jusst disables the tile). The monkey flips all the cards around it to either inactive or active state. The ninja can move anywhere. The pirate can use his cannon to push an adjacent tile outward; while the alien does the opposite, with a tractor beam to pull any card to a spot adjacent to them.
Though the lack of a universal (iPad) app is disappointing, in practice the simplified graphics run fine even pixellated at 2X compatible mode, and the tutorial mode is superb.
The interface is simple, easy to use, and the addition of shortcuts for actions makes it easy to transition from slow initial learning games to faster play as you pick up the rules. There’s a satisfying yet not too intense background track; suitable sound effects accompany the tile placement and special moves.
The board zooms out smoothly as more pieces are added, and helpful location icons are used to indicate possible moves or targets for your actions. Technically speaking, the implementation is about as good as they get. It’s a well polished game.
Also slated for a future update depending on success is the addition of online multiplayer; as it stands, it is local only, pass and play style.
Is For The Win A Winner For You?
For The Win reminds me heavily of chess. It requires the same kind of deep thought and immense forward planning to succeed; only there’s a lot more variety of moves to be made, and a good many more factors that need to be considered, so forward planning is actually quite impossible. Like chess on crack, then. Now personally, I can’t stand chess, so I find For The Win to be overtly complicated; an incredibly mentally taxing puzzle game, which isn’t really how I like to spend my time. That isn’t to say it’s a bad game though, far from it. I suspect it will be critically acclaimed by many, and that some of you will absolutely love it.
More generally though, it just feels a little too designed. The lack of overriding thematic elements troubles me; aliens, moneys, pirates – these are certainly good themes – but that doesn’t mean they should be throw in together in the hopes that the result will also be cool. The actions mechanic feels like an uneccessary complication. If it were just the core tile mechanics at work, I suspect it would be a great kids game; as it stands, no kid would be able to grasp all the rules. Perhaps a simple mode would make this game more accessible.
That said, it’s hard to fault this game on anything other than personal preference. An iPad version would be nice, but in practice it doesn’t matter; the game is well programmed and bug-free. Fans of abstract games; those of you who have played the phsyical version and enjoyed it – you will not be disappointed. 7/10. I’ve knocked a point off for no iPad version, and no online multiplayer.