iPad Game Review: Tigris And Euphrates (Universal) Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Tigris and Euphrates is an adaptation of one of the most critically acclaimed board games of all time. It is a game of civilization building, warfare, sneak attacks, and dominance. However, the gameplay is so abstractly implemented through tiles and tokens that you are likely to enjoy it even if you don't have a hankering to rule the cradle of civilization. That is, of course, if you can manage to wrap your brain around the gameplay mechanics and objectives.
First, when discussing a game like Tigris and Euphrates, it is important to be certain that we all have the same definition of boardgame. Tigris and Euphrates is what is often referred to as a "Euro" style game. It features a very complex set of rules and a multitude of game pieces, markers, tiles, and chits. Although I have often been interested in learning to play these types of games, I have never had the time to do so, nor do I know anybody else who plays them. This is where your iOS device comes in. As I have previously asserted, the iPad absolutely excels at bringing boardgamers together online, and at making these games affordable, accessible, and relatively confusion-free. Tigris and Euphrates could easily be the poster child for iOS board gaming with its online asynchronous multiplayer, in-depth tutorial, strong AI (for solo play), and faithfully reproduced graphics.
The gameplay consists of placing a combination of development tiles, leader tiles, catastrophe tiles, and wonder tiles on the game board. The leader tiles come in four different colors representing the four different categories of points that can be awarded (civic, religion, trade, and agriculture). Points are earned by successfully utilizing your four leaders to capitalize on their corresponding tiles. It is important to develop all four categories because your final score is represented by your lowest score among them. These tiles are also used to reinforce your leaders at times of conflict. Yes, there is conflict. This is not a game of 4 independent civilizations trying to outdo each other. Instead, every resource tile played is usable by any player through strategic tile and leader placement. Whenever contiguous tiles connect two leaders of the same type, conflict results in the loser removing his leader from the board (although it can be reintroduced into play later) while the victor claims the spoils. This allows for massive and almost instantaneous changes of fortune as the dominant player can suddenly find him/herself sidelined by a clever opponent.
The concepts are not difficult to understand, nor are the objectives. However, the strategies for successful gameplay are so varied and deep that you could play this game for a month straight and still learn something new from a worthy opponent. As previously stated, the game supports pass and play, asynchronous multiplayer via Game Center, and also has a very capable AI for solo play.
The graphics of Tigris and Euphrates, while being faithful representations of the boardgame, left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. I understand that they are going for a hand-drawn papyrus look here, but I can't help but wish that they had crisped things up a bit. Upon closer inspection, one can see that the game pieces, menus, and icons are all crisp and clean. The hand-drawn look of the game art, however, left me wishing they had taken the time to redraw it, or at least punch up the color a bit.
The sound effects in Tigris and Euphrates is suitably subtle. It's a boardgame, after all, and if they were more obtrusive I would have probably turned them off. The music fits the game perfectly. However, if you prefer, you are given the option to play your own music in the Options menu; a very welcome if underutilized feature in the iPad ecosystem.
If you're a boardgamer, you absolutely shouldn't miss Tigris and Euphrates. Asynchronous online multiplayer, pass and play, and solo play; all for a fraction of the price of the actual boardgame. If you're new to boardgames, or just new to this one, you will find the interactive tutorial a welcome feature, and the AI to be merciful (at least on the lowest setting).
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 3 - Faithful reproductions of the physical board game, but the art could benefit from a facelift to take advantage of the iPad and iPhone 4's gorgeous screens. Sound: - 4 - Appropriately subtle sound effects, and a pleasant soundtrack are rounded out nicely by the ability to play your own music. Controls: - 5 - A clean, intuitive interface. Gameplay: - 5 - As boardgames go, they don't get much better than this. A faithful digital implementation of a classic.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't limit yourself by thinking of developed areas as "mine" and "not mine." The entire map is available for play, and taking a protectionist, solo stance will only result in spectacular loss. Try to keep your leaders next to temples with treasures in them so they cannot be subject to player catastrophes. Look for single tile bridges between heavily developed areas. Destroying these tiles can split regions in half, making them easier to go after. Conversely, connecting developed regions is likely to result in unexpected conflict, some of which may not even involve you!