Strongholds in Review – Build your house of cards and crush the enemy!

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I was an avid Magic the Gathering fan and gamer for a couple of years in my university days, and it surprises me why there next to no games that use CCG (Collectable Card Game) mechanics on the iPhone. The genre is perfect for the platform, combining turn-based gameplay, multiplayer, low system requirements and excellent use of in-app purchasing. Well, Digital Worlds has stepped in and laid a claim to the genre!

Strongholds is a turn-based strategy game, but rather than building armies and vast empires, your weapons are cards. The goal of the game is simple – to win, but in order to do so – you can either build up your stronghold to a certain level, or crush the stronghold of the opposition.

You have 6 cards at your disposal. Each turn you can play one of the cards (although some cards allow you play another directly after) to perform an action. This can range from building up your stronghold, defences, and resource base. You can also attack the enemy base, perform diversions, and even steal resources! Each time you use a card, a random new one will be drawn in its place.

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The cards themselves require resources to be played, which include Weapons, Mercs and Composites. Resources are generated at the beginning of each turn by the relevant facilities (Armory, Army Camp and Factory respectively) and are colour-coded and easy to distinguish. The number is defined by the level of the facility which can be changed by cards with the relevant effects.

The cards offer a variety of tactics for you to consider. You can focus on building up your resource base, crippling the enemy’s facilities, destroying him quickly, trying to reach the maximum level of the stronghold for an instant win, or any combination of the above. At the same time, the thing that would really radically boost the game’s potential would be the ability to customize your own deck for the battles. Unfortunately, this is yet to come.

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The graphics are wonderfully done with minute attention to detail. You can easily estimate the level of and damage to the stronghold with just a glance, and the attack animations are amazing. The thing I missed though, was the change of the appearance of the facilities relative to their level. Currently the only thing you can tell by looking is whether they are destroyed completely or not. The interface is very stylized and easy to use. All of the icons, representing various resources, effects, etc., are intuitive, though I would advise first-time players to check the help section. For the more hard-core players you can customise start, as well as victory conditions of the game, though I did miss the opportunity to set the enemy’s starting resources higher than mine for the really hardcore mode. And one annoying thing – the game has quite a long and non-skippable splash screen.

After you finish the battle, your score is counted up and you can submit it to online an leaderboard. Also, the game features multiplayer, unfortunately only via Bluetooth so I was unable to test it. But it is a great thing nonetheless. Strongholds promises to save state at the end of each round, allowing you to resume if you were interrupted by a phone call or simply have other things on your mind at the moment. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to the promise, crashing each time I tapped “Resume”.

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Strongholds does not bring the whole variety of CCG features to the genre, but it is a great start. The game has much potential and I hope the developers continue expanding it. The gameplay is excellent and a good workout for that grey matter most people call the “brain”. The ability to vary the tactics based on the situation and your personal preferences gives additional depth to the gameplay. At the same time, apart from the major additions I noted above, the developers could work on adding more cards to the game as well as remote multiplayer. But even at the current level of about 100 cards, the game has enough to keep both strategy and CCG fans content. And there is a FREE version for you to check out and decide if you want to get the game.

With this I declare Strongholds officially touched.

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App Summary
Title:Strongholds (v.1.7.1)Developer:Digital Worlds
Price:$1.99App Size:8.3 MB
  • An excellent blend of TBS and CCG mechanics
  • Very stylish and detailed graphics
  • Excellent replayability
  • Multiplayer over Bluetooth
  • Stability issues
  • No deck customization
  • No remote (internet) multiplayer
  • Non-skippable splash screen

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