Flash of Steel header image 2

Three Moves Ahead Episode 159 – Bruce and Julian’s iPad Adventure

March 9th, 2012 by Rob Zacny · 33 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Hold onto your black t-shirts and skim lattes! It’s all iPad, all the time on 3MA, as Bruce declares the iPad the greatest platform for strategy games, and Julian explains why the real story of the iPad announcement is the iPad 2 price drop. Then, this being Bruce and Julian, they fall to arguing minutiae about specific games, like Titan. Rob wants to know whether the iPad will ultimately move in the same complex direction as a lot of PC strategy games did, but Bruce and Julian think the iPad interface limits complexity. Then Bruce admits he wants to see more than board game conversions on iPad.

Listen here.

Victory Point’s Barbarossa
Titan for iPad

RSS here.
Subscribe on iTunes.


33 Comments so far ↓

  • brog

    Good podcast. Connects to what I’ve been thinking about recently, the device has a lot of potential, a lot more appealing than telephones. I’m most interested in what it can do that strict board games can’t – real-time stuff, more hidden information, etc. Just trying to explore what feels good with the interface.

  • Tenebrous

    I have been waiting for this type of show from you all for a while. I am a big fan of board games on the iPad and, like Julian, play them with my wife at restraints when we go out together.

    One thing though, and I feel bad just saying it, but Bruce, seem more interested in arguing with Julian than providing useful information to a guy like me. It is not that he disagreed, but that when he disagreed he turned it up a few notches too much. That combined with his . . . high pitched voice put multiple flies into my ointment while listening. Perhaps if you got James Earl Jones to dub over his lines . . .

  • Bruce

    Julian always manages to push my buttons. And I love him. That’s good feedback, though, so keep making it. I promise my feelings won’t be hurt.

  • Bruce

    High-pitched, though? I would have gone with “grating”.

  • Hell-Mikey

    I will subscribe to the All-Titan podcast when Dr. Geryk and Mr. Murdoch launch it. I will then complain when they go off on ASL tangents during that pod.

    I appreciate the collegial arguments between panelists. They are hallmarks of their passion for the subject, and only occasionally mad and delusional.

    The runaway success of the IPad form-factor leaves me a touch concerned that there won’t be a larger-form touch interface, similar to the Microsoft surface. The price was certainly unreasonable for those early models, but the possibility of Moore’s law dragging the cost down until it was merely expensive leave me wondering what might have been from a game design standpoint. It would be wonderful to see what a group-oriented touch and placement interface would bring to strategy gaming.

  • Jon

    Hey Rob,

    You don’t want an iPad 2 when the iPad 3 is only 100 dollars more. The screen alone is worth it — I can’t wait to see my games in HD. Even things like Ascension will have a huge benefit when you’re zoomed out. Consider the faster guts future proofing.

    Already I’m running into problems with my iPad 1 with some games you’d think wouldn’t need that much horsepower, like pinball sims.

  • Bred

    Bruce, you are wrong. El Grande is a fantastic game.

  • Bruce

    Bred – hmmm. All I remember is buying it and playing it a bunch of times when we had one of our summer boardgame weekends when I was in medical school. And I distinctly remember all of us thinking the game just wasn’t as good as advertised.

  • C Miller

    Julian I gotta say Ascention does a better job than you give it credit for of catching you up. I’m typically in around 8-10 games at a time, but rarely have difficulty figuring out the lay of the land, so to speak. The log feature, as well as being able to click on my deck and discard piles is enough to tell me what I’m doing.

    That said your overall point was good. Being able to quickly discern what’s going on in a game is key. Asynchronous play is awesome for many games, but not when there’s too much to track.

  • Quasar

    Nice episode. I have pretty mixed feelings about ipad board games. On one I love them and its pretty much the only game type I can stomach on a tablet. On the other, it really is a weak experience compared to actual board gaming (the tactileness, the socialness).

    Really happy to see the Titan talk. it pretty much was my favourite board game growing up. Played it tons and tons with friends. I never even realised it had the reputation Julian described. It was just one on the shortlist that we always played (alongside things like heroquest, talisman, and risk).

  • Quasar

    Also I disagree about the ipad not 3. I think the hires screen will make a real improvement on games that are heavily text based.

  • David Brake

    I wanted something with a larger screen than an iPhone and wanted to see how the ‘other half lives’ so am about to get an Android phone (the Galaxy Nexus). Clearly there isn’t as much around as there is on iOS but I have been able to find quite a bit nonetheless: Pirates and Traders, Condado (San Juan), Mille Bornes, Catan, Carcassone. Worth mentioning that if you don’t go Apple you don’t have to give up on the idea of tablet gaming…

  • Chris Nonis

    I was waiting for a podcast like this. Particularly because I’m an indie dev doing exactly what was being discussed at the end – building a strategy game from the ground-up for a touch interface.

    The game’s Autumn Dynasty, an RTS for the ipad. I think Flash of Steel covered us a while before, but a lot has changed since then.

    Not sure how an RTS would work with touch controls? Check out a gameplay vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFzRfISOi_s

    I too hope more people develop for the touch medium. There’s nothing inherent about the ipad (or iphone) that is bad for a core game experience. Biggest problem right now is perception.

  • Gunner

    Great episode as always. Not that you would, but never change Bruce. The episodes where you can really dig into a subject are consistently my favorite.

  • Joe G.

    I would have liked some kind of round up at the end of the show, maybe a Top 3 or Top 5 recommendations from Bruce and Julian. For all the detailed discussion, I couldn’t always tell whether they thought a particular game was worth buying or not, and the most unambiguous recommendations were given for games only mentioned in passing.

  • Jonathon H

    And here I am, alone, with my Android device and nothing to play on it.

  • Ed

    Damn you, Julian.

    I’d never been so close to buying an iPad as when you talked about all the games and fun you had with it on GWJ. You may very well have pushed me past speculation and window shopping with the list of titles you gave at the end of the podcast.

    I’m much more likely to play the digital versions of Dominant Species, Cities & Knights and Race for the Galaxy, and my rationalization is that since I’ll save $40+ per game (plus shelf space) when I buy the iPad version of board games, it’ll pay for itself quickly.

  • Bruce

    @Gunner I’ll never change mostly because I can’t but I always like to hear how things are perceived. FWIW I went back and listened to this whole episode after Michael Hermes tipped us that he had a sort of Easter egg for us in the intro (that was all him and it was a great touch) and I actually thought this was one of my more subdued shows. We recorded later than usual, I was very tired, and remember thinking that I might not be able to offer much since I felt so wiped out.

    @Joe G. You’re right, we should have wrapped that up with some recommendations. I’ll post mine shortly in a comment.

  • Bruce

    Instead of posting a “Top 5” I’ll just post some things I think are worth checking out. Ascension is a no-brainer. I assume everyone with an iPad has it already.

    1. Puerto Rico. There is no asynchronous play available, but otherwise this is a boardgame port done right. I love that you can dra a magnifying glass over any game element while playing to get an explanation. AI is very good, too.

    2. Tigris & Euphrates. Available for both iPhone and iPad, it’s just a touch too fiddly on the phone. On the iPad it’s currently my favorite async game

    3. Tikal. A mediocre Euro that clearly shows its age as a boardgame gets new life as an iPad app. Once again too fiddly for the phone (even more so than T&E) but good as an async game despite the lack of a replay feature.

    4. Starbase Orion. We mentioned this briefly. Pretty much the default space explore-and-fight game on the iPad. Good multiplayer.

    5. Ghost Stories. This is a port of a cooperative boardgame about a village being haunted by ghosts, which you fight with heroes of Buddhism. You can obviously play multiple players solo (because I think he solo game is unwinnable) but it also accommodates multiple players at the same iPad. If you’re into playing at restaurants before the food arrives, this would be a good one.

    6. Keltis Oracle. Julian actually turned me on to this on as well as Ghost Stories. It’s another Knizia port. Multiple ways to score points as you head down a spiral to the bottom of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or some such. You move your pieces based on a Lost Cities kind of number progression. Fruity clor scheme is oddly appropriate for the setting. Alas, no multiplayer.

  • Funbrain


    Wow – a very content packed blog.Nice blog with some very useful info.

  • http://www.stroll-air.com/


    nice blog i really impressed to see this blog good one keep it up

  • Michael

    Have you tried Ravenmark?

  • Joe G.

    Thanks, Bruce! I’ll have to check some of these out.

  • Bruce

    Michael, I had seen Ravenmark but didn’t investigate because I thought it was an RPG. I see from some reviews that it is actually a turn-based strategy game with an RPG-like campaign. I’ll have to check it out.

    Also, the boardgame favorite Pandemic has been released as “Operation Eradicate.” There is an iPhone version but it apparently requires the iPad screen real estate for decent gameplay.

    Lastly, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Neuroshima Hex. That actually plays pretty well on the iPhone but the iPad let’s it shine. The lack of multiplayer (other than same-iPad hot seat) is mystifying, though.

  • Procyon Lotor

    Another great episode.

    I’m painting rooms in my house, soooo . . . could you get another episode up before the weekend?

  • Michael

    Ravenmark isn’t so bad as a strategy game, but it could definitely be a lot better. In particular I think its UI lets it down. Encouraging otherwise awkward-to-manoeuvre formations by giving them “buffs” is a nice touch.

  • Sam

    Just saw this – The Matrix game Battle Academy is coming to the iPad.


  • awmyhr

    There’s an old iOS title “Uniwar HD” which is turn-based strategy. Reminds me a lot of an old Amiga favorite “Full Metal Planet”.

  • Chris Nonis

    Oh wow, there’s a Total War game being made for mobile.


    Depending on how it does/how it’s built, it could be what convinces people at large to take mobile platforms seriously for strategy gaming.

    (I realize we already sorta do, but I feel we are in the midst of a transition. A respectable franchise pulling it off well will probably we what’s needed to push it over the top)

  • Chris Nonis

    Actually, maybe ‘respectable’ by itself isn’t the right word. ‘Respectable and widely known’ might be better.

  • masta de gumo

    What is the best website to get info and reviews on upcoming iOS strategy games? Toucharcade? Something else? THe only reason I know about these games is because I listen to this podcast. Apple’s App store does a terrible job at finding the good strategy games for me, and most websites that cover the iOS beat give a broader perspective of the scene, rather than zero-ing in on specific genres like this. A little help here?

  • Troy Goodfellow

    It’s really hard to find good general iOS coverage, even though the games are very popular. TouchArcade, Pocketgamer, SlidetoPlay – these are the best places for general coverage.

    Specific strategy games? Email Bruce or Julian once a week! (kidding. don’t do that.)

  • Bred


    You may be right about EL Grande not being as good as advertised, but I must admit I’ve never seen an advertisement for it. ;) If you were expecting a grand strategy game (perhaps you were?) though I can see why you may have been disappointed.

    Also you seem to like Tigris & Euphrates which is even more fantastic so I’ll cut you some slack on El Grande.