With Qin, Reiner Kinzia got there first. That is, it’s the first iOS board game to be released simultaneously with the version that will be found on shelves of toy stores everywhere, made of cardboard and plastic bits that will inevitably get lost down the back of the sofa.
So there’s an obvious plan for world domination here. Qin is a board-based strategy game with a splash of the orient. The board is made up of squares of villages, grassland and waters representing the Chinese hinterland of 200 years ago. Funny, I always thought China was a bigger country, but what do I know? Players take turns placing different coloured tiles on the board with the aim of matching up those colours of two or more squares. Once that happens, you’ve created a province (which is exactly how it happens in real life, didn’t you know), and one of your pagodas – of which you have 24 – gets placed on it. The aim is to get rid of all your pagodas by creating as many provinces as possible.
Along the way, if you manage to link up areas in which yours and your opponent’s provinces occupy, whoever has the most squares in the area takes control of the whole lot. Aggressive expansion.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll wade straight in and start flinging tiles down indiscriminately. This, as you might expect, won’t get you very far. Strategy is the key. A frequent scenario, and one which pretty much illustrates what the game is all about is this: you’ve got a chance to create a major province (five or more matched tiles), but laying your two tiles down gives your opponent an opportunity to link to one of the static village tiles for big points. After a while, you’ll learn to be extremely judicious with your moves, planning them two or three turns in advance and agonizing over each of them as one falsely laid tile can open up the board for your opponent. Remind anyone of Scrabble? That’s no faint praise, that.
Qin doesn’t really need to, but it looks nice. The overall design is clever in that everything mimics playing the physical boardgame on a table. The title screen itself is made up of the contents of the game box, with board and instruction card lying about as if someone were getting ready to play. There’s also a soothing oriental soundtrack which plays in the background – think of the type of strumming melody you’d hear while receiving a massage in a seedy backstreet Chinese parlour. Not that I’ve ever done that, you understand.
Now this may be me being incredibly picky (I’ve just checked. It definitely is), but although everything looks hunky dory, I would’ve liked to see a bit more life on the board. Building provinces, placing pagodas down and capturing your opponents areas could’ve been accompanied with some sort of mini animation. As it stands, the board sits there and you place your tiles on it. On second thought, no one plays Monoply wishing for the top hat to suddenly start smoking a cigar. Perhaps my suggestion is a bit gimmicky. Ignore my rambling. My Wife does.
If you’re looking for ways to play, you can either take on the AI (of which the toughest level is harder than a 5000 year old slab of granite), challenge some faceless bloke through Game Centre, or, and here’s where your biggest decision comes in, play with up to four dudes or dudettes in that thing they call ‘real life’.
The question is, if you’re popular enough to have actual friends outside your computer screen (what a ridiculous proposition), do you buy the cardboard and plastic board game, or sign into iTunes and download the virtual version instead? Choices, choices. Either way, I’m pretty sure one Mr Reiner Kinzia wouldn’t mind if you went ahead and did both.
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