Province

province gameplay 3
Players:
2
Multiplayer:Pass n play only
AI:Yes, one (not very challenging) level
Universal App:No
Purchase for iPhone:None available. Buy an iPad now!
Purchase for iPad:
Province
Price: $4.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
loading...
Province, 6.1 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

Hot off a successful Kickstarter comes Province, an American-designed micro Eurogame. Described as the offspring of Le Havre and Agricola, Province casts you and your opponent as the rival noble families of a new colony, vying to be the most influential in its origin. Can you lay the foundation?

Gameplay

Province’s set-up is simple enough: all the action relates around a roundel that starts with 3 neutral workers.

province setup

Each turn you may move each worker one space on the roundel, producing either labor or money. Both resources are necessary to build one of the 8 buildings in the game, and several of the buildings must be built before the more advanced version can be built. 2 units of labor can also be converted into one unit of currency. This is important as only currency can carry over from turn to turn.

province gameplay 1

Each building confers some advantage to its owner, and the first player to construct a given building earns one or two victory points. Some buildings will also grant you additional workers – the Camp and Village each create a new worker that either player can utilize if they own the corresponding building, and the Harbor can allow you to purchase Pirates only you control.

province goal

There are also five goals, randomly selected from a collection of ten. The first player to complete a given goal will also receive a victory point for it. The game’s strategy thus lies in maximizing the placement of the various workers – sometimes it’s worth holding back on a building for a turn to ensure that your opponent is limited in their ability to claim a resource type they seem to need.

province win

The game ends when all goals have been claimed; or all 8 buildings have been built; or one player has built 7 buildings. At that time, whoever has the most victory points wins.

Implementation

It’s worth noting that Province is designed to be played in 10 minutes or less, so it was never meant to have the epic scope of, say, Eclipse. With that said, the app does have a couple strikes against it.

province tutorial

The game’s rules are conveyed only through an interactive tutorial – the rules are not accessible from the app, nor is a link provided to download a PDF. The tutorial does a good job with teaching the basics, but there’s no reference available during play. The upside is that a game only lasts a few rounds, so if you make a mistake because you forgot a rule, you won’t have to suffer long to try again.

province title

The bigger problem lies in finding opponents. Province has no online connectivity of any kind – your only options are to play a local two-player game, or to play against a single level of AI that isn’t very challenging – barring the first couple of learning games, we’re able to defeat the AI pretty decisively basically every time. This is a game that begs for online connectivity – with the quick playtime, you might not even need an asynchronous mode – and it just doesn’t have it. To add insult to injury, we’ve had to abort at least half a dozen games because the AI becomes locked in some sort of decision loop and never ends its turn. Even worse, the game features an ad screen hawking the physical version that intrudes from time to time – expected in a free adware game, but somewhat eyebrow-raising in a $5 premium app.

Verdict

Province is a decent enough microgame, and we can see where it’s high portability and quick playtime would lend itself well to a physical implementation. Once the bugs are ironed out and online play is added, the same is true of the digital implementation. Until then it doesn’t really have a niche – fans of the game will quickly, easily, and repeatedly crush the AI, but without an online option, existing fans are likely the only ones who would shell out five bucks to not have to carry the physical version around with them. Since there’s no iPhone version, the portability factor might actually go down unless you always have your iPad handy. Since the physical version costs only twice what this polished but unfinished app runs, we have to think that’s the better deal until better AI, online play, or both make an appearance in an app that’s free of bugs. The look and feel is fine – time to get the tech in line.