|Multiplayer:||Yes, pass n' play and Game Center|
|AI:||Yes, 1 level, but the game is designed around multiplay|
|Purchase for iPhone:||None available. Buy an iPad now!|
|Purchase for iPad:||
GD Star RatingMusket Smoke,
Musket Smoke is, at the same time, both forward-thinking and anachronistic. The latter because it simulates skirmishes in the Napoleonic era, and because it harkens back to the classic hex-and-counter style of wargames past. The former because it updates the basic hex-and-counter formula in a way that feels right at home on the iPad, and offers a pricing model that is more fair and interesting than many of its contemporaries. Are you ready to charge?
MS, in its purest form, is scenario-based. You have 3 main choices for gameplay – solo training, multiplayer skirmishes, or the online campaign.
The “training” mode is the only solo experience. When you first enter this mode, the setup is randomized; once the random selection is made, you can customize the map and the size of either army by tapping where indicated. Exiting a game before it is completed simply saves it for later.
There are 4 basic unit types – Pikemen, Musketeers, Calvary, and Cannon. Each unit that has movement available this turn is outlined in green; each that has an attack this turn shows a red mark in the lower-right. Tapping anything brings up an overlay to indicate its movement and markers to indicate its targets (and an LOS template if appropriate). All terrain features block movement, and all but water block line-of-site.
Combat is purely deterministic – a given unit will always inflict the same damage on another given unit, but there are many variables such as flanking and morale. As has always been true for hex-and-counter games, the key to success is managing these variables to give yourself the most optimal attack. Each unit exerts a zone of control which can interfere with enemy movement, and Pikemen can also form defensive formations to protect against Calvary charges but make themselves vulnerable to cannon fire.
It is here that the game truly grows beyond its roots and embraces the modern age. Individual units have markers to clearly indicate positive or negative morale, both the relative and exact strength of the unit, whether or not muskets are loaded, and so on. Doing all of this would be incredibly fiddly in a physical game, but the app handles record keeping with ease, freeing you up to focus on your strategy (such as not hitting your own units with your cannonballs). Play continues until one side has wiped out their opponent.
Aside from taking full advantage of what the iPad can do to make hex-and-counter games leap off the table, MS does one other thing right in terms of it’s economic model.
MS, you see, is a free download. The free version includes unlimited pass-n-play and solo play against an AI opponent. You can also play “mini-matches” online against live opponents. This is handled via GameCenter, and while their are no achievements, online integration seems to be flawless.
All of this, however, is designed to simply get you ready for the online campaign, a $3 add-on that adds new unit types, intensifies the rules, and introduces an actual campaign of 7 scenarios. Completing each scenario unlocks additional units, and you can win by taking out the opponents’ commander as well as simply taking objectives. This serves both as a remarkably good free war game and a try-before-you-buy for an even deeper experience. All this and a remarkably good interactive tutorial too!
Let’s be clear about this: as a free download, if you have any love of this genre of game you’ve got no reason not to give it a try. With intuitive controls, a simplified ruleset that still allows for great strategic depth, and artwork and play style that both harken back to classics of hex-and-counter while still remaining relevant to the modern day, there’s a lot to love here. The purely optional IAP adds even more depth without shortchanging that which is available out of the box.
This review only scratches the surface of what all this game has under the hood. If you are a fan of the hex-and-counter genre, of Napoleonic combat, or are just curious to see the next evolution of digital board games, you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a try.