|AI:||Yes, 1 level|
|Purchase for iPhone:||None available. Buy an iPad now!|
|Purchase for iPad:||
H.P. Lovecraft's - Kingsport Festival: Rituals of Mysteries
GD Star RatingKingsport Festival,
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, there are a lot, and we mean a LOT of games about Cthulhu out there – so many that most spell checkers even recognize the name. Kingsport Festival, a new one named for a Lovecraft short story, is the first game we’ve seen to let the players take charge of the cultists and walk the dark and spooky side of the street for a change. The app dropped a couple of days ago almost entirely without recognition. Do you worship Cthulhu?
KF has been compared to Kingsburg, though whether the comparison is favorable depends a lot on who you ask. As with Kingsburg, KF is essentially a worker placement and resource management game.
Each turn is divided into 6 phases. In the first Phase, each player rolls 3 dice, both to determine turn order and to determine their options for the turn – the lowest roll will have the fewest options, and so gets to go first (and reclaim some Sanity of they so choose). In the second Phase, you’ll match these dice to the various elder gods, who will grant favors based on your devotion. Turn order matters because once a given god is taken, no other player can invoke it (and reap its rewards) that turn.
Phase 3 then confers the rewards based on what gods you have invoked – again, order is important here, because your Sanity can go up and down with each reward. Rewards consist of the game’s three resources, the thematically named (but never clearly defined) Evil, Death, and Destruction. Additionally, you can earn Magic points (essentially a fourth resource) and Spells (which require adequate Magic points to utilize). Some rewards will cost you Sanity points; if these ever follow below 0, you will start losing victory points instead, so ensuring these don’t run out is an important balancing act.
Once rewards have been distributed, Phase 4 is all about expanding into the various buildings of Kingsport, utilizing the resources earnt in Phase 3 – exactly why you need three Evils and two Destructions to take over a Library and what that means you’re actually doing is never clearly explained, but just go with it. Each building is worth victory points and most will confer some sort of bonus for controlling them. Note that there are 16 buildings and only 12 turns in the game, so you will never be able to control the entire town. More than one player can control a given building without issue, and it is possible to lose control of a building, which will cause you to lose whatever points and bonuses were contained therein.
The fifth Phase only happens on certain turns, and represents the intrepid Investigators that show up in attempt to thwart the cultists. After a random Event occurs, a random Investigator shows up. Each player must attempt to defeat him in turn by using abilities derived from your Buildings and Spells to increase your Strength stat. Exceed the Investigator’s Strength and you gain a reward; meet it and nothing happens; fail to do either and you suffer the agony (and resource loss) of defeat.
Finally Phase 6 – advancing the turn counter. There are a couple effects that might trigger in this phase, but otherwise this phase exists mostly to do record keeping in the physical version of the game; it’s utility in the digital version is merely for parity and will usually consist of little more than a gamma fade.
It’s game over at the end of the 12th turn. Sometimes you’ll be playing a Scenario, most of which have a random Festival card that can offer some last minute changes in the scoring; the base game lacks this surprise feature. Whoever dies with the most points wins – let’s face it, when the elder gods show up, we’re all gonna die, right?
Know this: the first time you play this game you are going to lose. This is less a statement about the caliber of the AI (which we would rate as “above average,” to the game’s credit) and more a statement to the fact that the interface of the app is fiddly, inconsistent, and not really explained.
The rules of the game are reasonably well presented. From the main menu you can tap the Rules button and peruse a hyperlinked rules booklet. This outlines all of the basic rules necessary for play, but only at the minimum level. The section on Spells, for instance, notes that Spells are divided into 3 types, but not that the Death type aids you specifically in fighting the Investigators, while the Evil allows you to manipulate die rolls. Similarly, while the rules make mention of bonuses conferred by the buildings or favors granted by the elder gods, there are no example to go along with this, which means your first learning opportunity will be your first game.
That won’t be the only thing you learn in your first game, either. The interface isn’t exactly obtuse, but it’s quirky and never once explained. So you have to figure out on your own, for example, that when you score a Dominion (wild) resource, you’ll need to first tap an icon matching the resource on one side of the status window, then tap a + or – icon on the other side to indicate what action to take with that resource, and finally an OK button between them. Lay it out like that and it makes perfect sense; with zero explanation it isn’t entirely obvious. Less obvious is the fact that you have to tap dice icons to select which god(s) to invoke and then tap another OK button in a totally unrelated part of the screen to actually invoke them; it’s all too easy to not invoke anything at all your first time or two out, a misstep from which you won’t be able to recover.
The town map is also a bit on the squished side. The physical board game lays it out in a pentagram pattern; if you tilt your head just so and squint you can KINDA see it here, but only just. It also isn’t necessarily clear that the buildings you control change to a blue shade (regardless what color you actually select to represent you) while a colored bead indicates which opponent controls what.
It’s also worth noting that the text strings in this game aren’t finished. More than once we were informed we “cannot hold more than $var Spells at a time.” Elsewhere the text strings were in Italian, even though we’d selected English as the language. Oh, and remember that “above average” AI we mentioned? It’s a good thing that it’s above average, because it’s your only opponent option – multiplay does not exist either in online or pass n play form, an omission which could have been ignored back in 2008 but simply isn’t optional here in 2015. To add insult to injury, the only gameplay option initially unlocked is the 3 player standard game; you’ll need victories to unlock 4 and 5 players, and you’ll need to win them all before the optional Scenarios see play (we assume).
There are two distinct things going on here. The first is the game itself. While this somewhat random style of worker placement won’t be to everyone’s taste, Kingsburg certainly has its fans, and given that this represents basically the same game with more resources and options, there’s a lot for that crowd to love with the game. If only it were put in an app that could be given points for presentation. If half as much care had been put into a tutorial or multiplay options – of if you even HAD more options out of the box than simply the 3-player basic game – we wouldn’t have any reservations about recommending this one to folks who enjoy being bad or enjoy rolling their workers before placing them. As it stands, this app needs a good deal of work just to get up the baseline standards we’ve come to expect in a 5 star title.