Alright, I put a few hours into the newly released 1.0 beta version of Empire! After reading the help screens I went ahead and played through a whole game on my iPod Touch 4 and then another one on my iPad 3 (which I initially used to take notes during my iPod playthrough). So, here are a bunch of hopefully helpful impressions. At first some "meta"-comments: Performance: The game ran pretty decently on my iPod 4 (the frame counter on the top showed between 15 and 25, sometimes there were some menu lags, especially in the deck viewer as the deck got bigger), although the battery drain was quite heavy. I basically drained an almost full battery completely in around 2 hours while playing, which is e.g. much more battery than Auro takes. This has probably to do with Unity. Anyways, on my iPad 3 the game worked perfectly fine and loading times were surprisingly fast. Bugs: Besides some wrongly implemented cards and little quirks here and there, I was surprised how stable the game already is. One reproducable "show stopper" I found was that all units freeze after you resurrect a unit. You have to force the game to quit and reload which causes your turn to get lost or something (but you can continue to play then). The other major issue was an iPod-only one that the units, after the movement phase, "shake" in place for a while before they stand still and you can continue the combat. This sometimes almost took 20 seconds and is obviously very annoying. Graphics: The game already looks pretty awesome, I think. The existing card artwork is great, the map looks really neat and at the same time pretty informative, although some things could be clearer (I'll get to that). Also, the 3D in combat doesn't hurt at all. In fact, the models and animations look pretty cool and there is basically no time wasted just for "flashy stuff". Sound: Is there sound yet? I had to play on mute, so I can't comment on that yet. And now some rather random feedback extracted from my notes: Some things take more taps than they probably should. E.g. in combat when selecting a unit to move, you have to tap the unit, then okay, then the tile to move, then okay again. It's okay and on the iPod it actually felt reasonable to avoid mistapping on the small screen. But maybe give users the possibility of a shortcut? Like double-tapping to avoid having to go to "okay" each time? The HP numbers are pretty low, maybe consider showing them as numbers instead of bars. That would be clearer, I think. And by the way, the unit types - while they might not be balanced yet - seem very simple and focused and clear and intuitive to me. Nice! I really like the combat system. The positioning and getting into formation etc. reminds me of Rune Raiders a bit, which had a neat concept, but a whole lot of crap in the game. Probably you should be able to see where units attack, HP and damage values when tapping a unit in combat. Currently you'd have to go to the help screen every time to get the information if you haven't memorized everything. The city upgrade bars could also be clearer, especially on my iPod I was never sure if it's this turn or next turn that a city will get an upgrade. Maybe also show a turn countdown as a number? MINOR: The "center on city" buttons don't show the city names, so you sometimes have to tap through them until you find what you wanted. That's not a biggy though, because you have three at max anyways and most of the time you probably will decide what to visit when looking at the food production values. I love how your deck gets necessarily bigger the greater your empire holds up. So you actually get stronger, but also way more inefficient. Thematically this also makes a whole lot of sense (think of it as decadence arising). That's a great mechanic tied closely to the whole deck building aspect. The grid is sometimes shown very "light", almost not visible. Especially in combat I wished it was shown clearer sometimes. Maybe make it an option? When you're shown recommended building places, you should probably see the food/material produced at a glance and not have to tap "settle" every time to see the values and then "settle" again to compare and so on. While your own units are totally clear (cavalry, archer, warrior), the monsters are somewhat hard to recognize. I assume that artwork is not final, though. You should be able to see your army when in "upgrading mode" (to be able to make your decision on what unit type to build). There should probably be a button to go through all the existing monster nests. The "remaining actions" counter in combat is pretty small. Especially on my iPod I sometimes didn't look at it when I should have. The whole "world map" and deck-building part seems freaking interesting to me! There's a lot to decide and manage. I e.g. think I should've probably gone a lot more for trashes (I acquired some in the second game and things seemed to go much better). Then there are the feasts, which can give you some good points, but then you won't be able to build up your empire/army. It's all really neatly tied together and everything has its pros and cons. Also, the "drain, explore, move on" cycle already works pretty well. And obviously the world gets more dangerous the more you (have to) move around. That's awesome dynamic gameplay. Concerning balancing: In my first game I had to fight a LOT of very easy fights against just two monsters where I basically lost nothing for more than an hour or something. That made the game drag quite a bit early on. In my second game I immediately had to face four monsters in my first fight and didn't really know why (I immediately went to attack the nest). After that the balance seemed much better than in the first game. Huge combats can get a bit puzzle-ish (you have to figure out where everything will move and stand in a few turns considering every monster in every case etc.). That's not necessarily a problem (it's basically just planning ahead after all, and you still have the randomness of the card draws). What I found odd though is that you get the same amount of points for winning such an epic battle as for winning against two monsters in just a minute. Some of the easy combats (mostly againts two monsters) are actually little time wasters. I had multiple fights where I basically knew from the first turn that I had to do nothing but press "pass" and I would win. Other times I shifted one unit around and then just passed for the remaining fight. One lost big battle (or even worse, one lost town) was a trigger for a "death spiral" in both my games, that I couldn't escape from. I know, it's all about dying in this game (which is great!) and the "impending doom" thing feels really good already. It's just that when I lost one city in my two playthroughs, I basically got swarmed and couldn't get into the game again at all. I had to wait too long for one single unit to get produced while the monsters were attacking all the time. The rest was just not fun, I wasn't able to get a single point anymore and it was all just about "getting beat up". Well, likely it's just my skill-incompetence at this point. But probably it's also an issue of the game going from "everything's fine" to "okay, now you go down and down and down" in a snap, while it should probably be a bit more dynamic? Materials are a total NON-ISSUE. In my first game I actually explored pretty much every turn and still had TONS of material resources left. After the first few turns, I didn't care about it at all. While we're talking about exploring: I'm not sure about how it exactly works. Is it always good to explore (if you have the resources)? The question is: Do monster nests spawn in unexplored areas or only in explored ones? In the latter case, it would be wise to not explore too fast and only if you want to move your empire (i.e. abandon a city and build a new one and you're looking for a new great place to build). My results: First game: Day 97, 11 points. More than two hours. Second game: Day 91, 16 points (and even a feast, yeah!). Around an hour. Yeah, that's it for now. It's a fun game already that has A TON of potential and with some more work put into it it'll really shine, I think.