Shoulder Your Musket and Port Your Pike

By Nik Gaukroger 06 Feb 2015 0

It is no great secret that my favourite tactical game of 2014 was Slitherine’s Pike and Shot. OK, as I stated in my preview of the game back in September last year (read it here) I may be a little biased in this as I have an indirect involvement, however, I was not alone and it also received fulsome praise when Bill Gray gave it the full review treatment (read that here). In fact his conclusion bears repeating, although I would recommend looking at everything he wrote as he covered the game in depth:

Judgment Most Grande

It matters not. This game looks as grand as the era of warfare it portrays. It is easy to learn and play, but difficult to master. And it has history pretty well down flat. This is a game for everyone, novice and Grognard alike. In particular, for those miniature enthusiasts who wanted to try the pike and shot era but simply didn’t have the time or resources to spare, come on down. For those counter and electron gamers who wanted to see what a miniatures wargame was like, consider this an invitation. The folks at Slitherine have prepared for you a sumptuous wargaming buffet you cannot help but enjoy. It is a game that his taken nearly every aspect of wargaming and achieved the Holy Grail of balance between them. Over the past several days I have played more games of Pike & Shot than I have all my other PC games together over the course of a year. It really is that good.

Now Slitherine have released an iPad version of the game, so doughty pikemen, musketeers and cuirassiers (plus a whole host of assorted sidekicks) can play the game almost anywhere. I’m not going to give a full in depth review of the game as it is a straight port to the tablet platform and Bill Gray has covered the game in full; what I’ll do it look at how well the game performs on the iPad. For reference I’ve used an iPad 4 for this review.

Full Game

As mentioned this is not a cut down version of the game, it is the full game with all the features of the desk top version including the all important multi-player – which is cross platform so you don’t need to worry about whether a game was started on PC or iPad to continue playing. User created downloadable content is also available on the iPad version as well as the PC – although I suspect that creating new scenarios is much easier on a desktop than a tablet.

Look and Feel

At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious the main difference here is that the iPad’s screen is physically smaller than most desktop screens, so everything is smaller. Nice and clear on a retina display for sure, but much small. The practical upshot of this is that you are going to spend a lot more time moving around the typical battlefield, rotating the battlefield and pinching in and out to get the view you need. All of these worked really smoothly on my tablet, with no jerky zoom or rotation. After a short while it become second nature to be manipulating the view to see just what I needed to and wholly unobtrusive.

Interface

With no mouse to drive the interface this is always going to be a significant difference between most PC games and their iPad versions, and Pike and Shot is no exception to that – especially if you, like me, have been using both mouse buttons to play. However, like moving around the battlefield this does start to become second nature fairly quickly, but for me at least a bit more time was needed on this difference. Selecting a unit to make an action with is a double tap. This then brings up the unit’s movement options shown as highlighted squares (no difference in that), and tapping on a square brings up the option and you tap again to confirm. Shooting targets are shown in the same way as the PC version and tapping on a target brings up the shooting icon and shooting happens when you tap on this to confirm.

In games where you can position your forces – so any multi-player skirmish – you double tap a unit to select and then tap to where you wish to position it instead of dragging as you do in the PC version. Different; but logical for the tablet.

Possibly the biggest issue I had with the interface until I got the hang of it was finding which zoom level worked best for me. Zoomed out shows your options better in relation to the battle, but makes it harder to tap the right unit, zoomed in and you can’t see the tactical context. Somewhere in between works for me, you’ll find you own level.

Multi-player

As nearly all the Pike and Shot I play these days is multi-player this was make or break for me. If it wasn’t seamless between devices it would consign the iPad version to the rubbish bin (trash can for our American readers <g>. Happily it has worked flawlessly and I have been happily moving between devices with no issues at all.

Conclusion

I can do no better than point you back at Bill Gray’s Judgment Most Grande above, and, egotistically, at my conclusion from preview the PC game:

I’m sure you’ll have worked out by now that I really like Pike and Shot. Not only does it appeal to me on the basis of the historical period, but it is also a damned good game. The scenarios are nicely crafted and the AI is a good challenge. All in all I reckon this should be a winner. If you’re into the period it’s a must, and if not I’d recommend giving it a go.

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