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App Review: Might And Card - Golden Edition

Might and Card: Golden Edition [US$4.99, iPad only] is not Carcassonne. This much an unnamed member of the UWinGame Dev Team wanted to make clear when he or she provided TUAW with a reviewer code for the game:
I also would like to take this opportunity to express some more info about this game. Some said our game looks much like Carcassonne. Here I want to claim it totally wrong. This version we have released was just a base, and we will add many more features and packages to make it even more beautiful and interesting.
Whatever. The app is a Carc clone, no matter what anyone says. For anyone who is familiar with that brilliant game, here's the scoop: this is a dumbed down, even more luck-driven version of the game. Might And Card: Golden Edition is missing the farmer scoring, it throws in a few unique bonus tiles, and there are animated little soldiers instead of Meeples. For anyone who doesn't understand what that sentence means, read on for the full picture.





The Game

In Carcassonne, players take turns placing landscape tiles onto an ever-growing map and then, in some cases, placing little pawns (called Meeples) onto the tile in order to score points. The Meeples can stand on roads, in towns, in cloisters, or in farms, and each location creates different scoring opportunities that trigger when those features (except farms) are completed. The game goes until the tiles run out, with lots of interesting decisions required along the way. It sounds simple, but there's a lot to it. The game was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and was named the Spiel des Jahres in 2001. It's great.

Might And Card is uncannily similar. There are tiles, and there are Meeples pawns. You build features and score them when completed. But it's a little different, too. For example, all of the Carc scoring options exist except for the farmers, which really, really simplifies the strategy of the game. Instead of being forced to choose when to commit your farmer for the long term, you can use the Might and Golden pawns without much thought. Starting a city? Place a pawn. Extending a road? Place a pawn. Draw a cloister tile? Place a pawn. Sure, you're limited to six pawns, but they cycle through so quickly without farms that it's not really a brain-burner to decide if you should place one or not.


The App

First, the good news. Might And Card looks how one would want a board game on the iPad to look, for the most part. The tiles blend together nicely once placed on the board, and the animations on the special tiles and the flags that mark a completed score (a very nice touch) are well done. Also, after some really bad UI in the first edition, the current version (1.1) responds quickly to touch inputs, and it's fairly intuitive to place tiles where you want them. There's still no reason for each player to "choose" a tile at the start of her turn, given that you're just drawing from a stack of face-down squares, but maybe the developers are looking ahead to where a player would have a hand of tiles to pick from. That would be good.

Now, the bad news: everything else. There are typos (this isn't actually the Golden Edition, but the Golden Eidtion). The map does not zoom, so you have to scroll around, which is a huge hassle. While the in-game music can be nice, it's fortunate that you can turn it off. What's unfortunate is that this doesn't allow you to listen to your own iTunes music while playing the game. Absurd. In fact, each time you start the app, the music volume and whether it was on or off the last time you played resets. Double absurd. Sadly, it gets worse. It's not just the music that resets when you switch out of the app, it's everything. This means that games are not saved, and you have to begin from step one every single time. Online play? An AI opponent? Forget it.

Developer UWinGame says that the app is not Carcassonne, and scoring is one way where the differences are evident. Sadly, it's different in a way that reduces the skill level of the game. For example, features you can compete over (roads and cities) are not scored like the board game. If more than one player has pawns on a feature, all players will score. How much? That's kind of confusing. In one game, an 8-tile city with one pennant, which would have scored 18 points to the winner of that city in a game of Carcassonne, was completed with two red pawns and one blue pawn inside. Blue ended up scoring 19 points while red got 25. Make sense? Not to me, but there you have it. If more than one player is tied for the most pawns, they all score the full points, so that's still the same.

The bonus tiles, too, make the elegant Carc system more random and give a benefit to whichever player happens upon them. The bonus tiles are the Assassin's Association, which allows you to kill an opponent's pawn on the board, the Volcano Altar, which allows you to destroy any four already placed tiles, and the Mysterious Ruin, which gives you 11 points. As you build out from the start tile, you happen upon these special areas and get the benefit. No skill, just luck.

This is the game today. UWinGame, though, is promising big things down the road, including the ability to save a game, some AI competition, and more maps, "like Outer Space; Modern city etc in the Future." Also, "a DRAGON!" (btw, Carcassonne has a dragon, too, in one of its many expansions).

Finally, we have the very good news: an official Carcassonne app is on the way, supposedly still in May. Reading about that game on the developer's blog shows that there is, indeed, a right way to bring this great board game to our iDevices, and Might And Card: Golden Edition is not that way. Let's hope the changes and updates UWinGame is promising are good enough to set this clone/variant app apart and make it worth your money. Until then, we say stay away.

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