Slay for iPad is worth your time.
I do mean to be bold, because to look at in iTunes, you might skip it by. This deceptively simple looking game is highly addictive, very easy to get into and most enjoyable. I will be very surprised if you’re not genuinely impressed by the gameplay. If you’re not convinced yet, read the detailed review to get a taste of the game.
With today’s graphically impressive games on the iPad, I wonder if there’s a sense in which we’ve lost that essential gameplay that characterised so many early creations. Slay is deceptively simple to look at, but belies deep strategic thought and cunningly clever AI that makes the game simply addictive.
When you start the game, you’re presented with a map of hexagons. Each differently coloured hexagon represents another team and there are six teams in total — you always start with light green (using the Classic colour scheme). The aim of the game is, like so many strategy games, total domination. Helpful pop-up tips appear for your first run through, prompting you to select a territory, buy and place a peasant in this area, and so on. You can also walk through a quick tutorial first, if you prefer.
On-screen controls are limited to a few essential options: if you make a mistake, press the undo arrow or if you want to begin the turn again, tap the undo all double arrow icon. If you wish to surrender, tap the white flag or if you simply wish to adjust settings, press on the cog to go to the Settings menu. The green question mark symbol takes you into that quick tutorial I mentioned. If you fancy a change of view, there are four different colour schemes you can choose from at the bottom of the Settings menu.
Tap on a peasant, and you’ll notice the adjoining hexagons are highlighted with a red dotted line — this is true for all of the colour schemes. These are all the places where this peasant can be placed. You simply have to expand your territory by capturing unguarded hexagons, or weaker team forces. Placing one peasant over another increases that unit’s strength, but it also increases the amount of resource needed to support that unit. Stronger peasants brandish a sword and shield, add another peasant again to get a knight in armour, and a final peasant addition equips this knight as well. I’ve arranged the units in ascending order of strength in the main green area, below. The caption details the resources you need to support the units.
Each subsequent character can defeat the character(s) below it in this order, and an unarmed Knight is of equal strength to a castle. It takes a Spearman to defeat a flag waving hut.
Ideally, it’s good to link to adjoining spaces of the same colour to quickly extend your borders. Bigger contiguous territories earn more resources, which allows for more peasants and/or castles. Double tapping on an empty hexagon will automatically buy a peasant for you. Double tap for a second peasant, or tap the peasant top right to place either on an unowned highlighted area, or onto another peasant to increase his strength.
The old motto of “divide and conquer” rules here, and splitting up the enemies territories is a key strategy to winning the game. A divided area cannot sustain its inhabitants, and so they die. Be careful, though! Dead men become trees, and trees spread through your land, making it an unusable resource until re-captured by a unit. Palm trees grow by the coast, and pine trees inland.
The aim of the game is to try and capture the whole island with your team’s colour, and when you play for a little while, you may also try and re-do some islands to win in as few turns as possible. You can pinch to zoom closer, look at your land or tap in the top left zoomed square to navigate quickly over larger areas. If your units are spead over a wide area, tap and hold to summon them to you — an excellent touch! You can sacrifice some of your resources to install castles to protect the surrounding hexagons from enemy attack from spearman and peasants. Knights can storm right through these though, so be wary.
An Update From the Author:
So the gameplay is very straightforward, but it is fun to devise and work out strategies to defeat the cleverly programmed artificial intelligence. I say clever, but there have been some players that have noticed discrepancies in the AI, with resource rules not quite following for the computer as they do for the human player. There are also some reports of quite silly moves being taken by the AI to leave huge areas undefended.
All is not lost however, as I have news from the author:
I’m planning a big re-write of iOS Slay starting next week which will have a new AI, graphics and networking too.
I re-wrote Windows Slay from scratch (see http://tinyurl.com/windowsgames-slay-beta-6-0 if you’d like to download it) and I’ll be basing the new iOS version on that.
This will hopefully incorporate some kind of network or lobby system to play others around the world, or perhaps locally over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and hopefully iron out these glitches in the AI system. Watch this space for more details.
If you’ve had a dabble in the free version, upgrading to the full version of Slay for iPad gives you not just 16 levels to play through, but nearly 500! That’s enough to keep even an avid gamer busy for a good while. Whole-heartedly recommended!