Art of Conquest

Right after noticing that every conquer-the-world game is so, so similar, I see Art of Conquest. It adds a bunch of great ideas, but then manages to ruin the entire point of the game.

The best idea, and the worst, is playable battles. Your forces line up across from the enemy; then infantry charges, archers fire, cannons blast, horsemen attempt to flank, heroes carefully target spells and more. The battles are great fun, especially when you recall the old ones are a single text-based report. We even get unique, beautiful troops for the handful of races.

It’s so fun that I hate to point out how it ruins the group part of the game, which is the entire point. In the original version we can group-attack against that overpowered big spender. Guild-mates have hours to see the big arrow and possibly help before an attack on you gets here. Art of Conquest’s much more fun battles also insure every fight is both instant and one-on-one. As terrible as the old way was, it more-or-less equalizes 20 people who spent $100 each against 4 guys at $750 each. In Art of Conquest all those $100 players can do is line up to get demolished.

Game of Browser of Clans

Remember the old Super Bowl Ad with Kate Upton ordering her generals from a hot-tub? Then there was Arnold Schwarzenegger walking through a realistic battleground giving orders. Another showed an epic live-action tale of a tank being killed by a guy with a bazooka, who was killed by a sniper, who was killed by a bomb. One Ad had two young men playing the game at a coffee shop with a realistic holograph on their table, destroyed by a missile launched by two flirtatious girls across the room. The most recent is a young woman in a glued-on chiton watching a massive fantasy battle, complete with dragon, while she holds her cell-phone at the ready. So many network television Ads for cell-phone games.

It turns out they’re all pretty much the same game — conquer the world. And despite the Ads’ epic graphics, they’re text-based slow-play. You declare an attack, an arrow with “4 hours to go” appears on the map, maybe someone sends reinforcements, and you all finally get a text report of how many troops on each side died. I’m sure it’s exciting to read about how you crushed them, but not fully-3D dragon exciting.

The TV Ads are because these games are huge money-makers. Matches last several months and allow unlimited spending. Experienced players start off paying to get a fast start and spend more and more as the game tightens up. Near the end, after a big loss, players are so invested they rage-spend even more.

The best part is probably how reviewers never play them long enough to figure out what they are. New players start deep the game world’s boondocks where the only thing to do is upgrade your castle using easily obtainable wood. Oh, it’s a relaxing building game, they say. They don’t know everyone else spent $5 to skip that part, teleported (your castle can teleport) to the advanced and more violent area, quit after having their army pummelled into oblivion 2 months later, and resolved to do even more early spending next time.

[Game]Star Squad

“Pixel Starships” from about 2016 is a slug-a-thon between fully customizable space ships. You’ll mostly be designing your ship with however many lasers and missiles and such. It has a small clash-like component — builders, generating gold and energy, stealing, upgradable vaults — but the game is old-style 1-on-1 spaceship battles.

Star Squad seems to be inspired by that, but is more clashy. You get a limited amount of rooms, unlocking in clash-like Town Hall style, with plenty of space to arrange them on your spaceship. You have an even more limited number of crew, and only they can fire weapons. Suppose you have 2 lasers rooms and 1 crew. One laser can fire. But when it’s destroyed, the crew member walks to the other. That’s more interesting than it sounds since missiles have an area effect. Fighting another player is still just a 1-on-1 spaceship battle, but it’s more active.

It borrowed the map idea from Boom Beach, as so many other games did. You upgrade a radar, which allows you to see more spaces around you, which have more and stronger enemies and special stuff. They did a nice job copying the computer bases. These are allowed to completely break the rules, since it’s fun. One of my favorites computer ships has only weak lasers and 2 crew to fire them, but there are 12 laser rooms. Every time you blow up a laser, you get a break as she walks to the next. If you can arrange it, a very long walk.

May I watch an Ad?

In WarHammer 40K: Drop Assault, I look forward to watching the Ads.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, in the last year it became possible to put 30-second watchable video Ads on a mobile game. By possible I mean it’s now simple for a game-maker to get paid for them. Several services do all the work of contacting advertisers, handling the money and giving you a few simple commands to play Ads in your game. They even check whether the entire thing plays. It’s a real Ad, too – takes over your screen and can even show a “Download now” App Store button.

These days, a completely free game doesn’t need to sell you anything. It can play an Ad every 30 seconds or make you watch one before every round. Even higher quality freemium games often have you watch an Ad to get the daily bonus, or use “you’re out of energy – watch an Ad for more?” It’s all pretty clumsy.

Clash-like WH40K:DA does Ads brilliantly. It has: limited Ads, two clever ways to use them, lets you decide whether it’s worth it, and puts them in a place they make sense.

Ad method one is to reduce a build time. This is great since it’s rare and can’t be abused. You can watch 1 Ad/building and the reduction is a percent of the total build time. For a 15-minute build time you can watch 1 Ad to reduce it by 2 minutes. For a 16-hour build it’s 2 hours. The genius is how usually there’s no point, so it doesn’t feel mandatory. But rarely you open the game, see your long build is close to done and spending 30 seconds to finish it off seems like a good deal.

The other way to watch an Ad is to get 50% more stuff after winning a battle. This is extra-genius. You’re in a good mood after a win plus you could use a 30-second break. You feel like you earned the Ad. It doesn’t feel like a task because there’s a limit. You want to save the Ads for the bases with really big pay-offs. Even if you make only 1 attack you can look at how much you got and decide if 50% more is worth it (the game is still a clash-like – many bases have no loot and you just wanted to clear it off your map).

There is one more thing to use Ads for – the thing everyone does. On the world map you can watch an Ad once/day to get gems. That’s boring, but limited Ads still makes it a little interesting. Maybe you have 3 big attacks you want to increase, but you also want the gems – oh, the dilemma.

Star Squad Heroes uses the same Ad-after-a-battle trick, but it’s for a bonus chest, which isn’t the same at all. You just need to quickly win any three battles to get them all. The fun part, which is gone, is deciding how to spend your Ads.


A funny thing is that we had Ads in free games, back on the internet. Then they want away with mobile games — we didn’t know how to add them. And now they’re here again. Way back in 2000 free browser game ArchAge had a stat called “Luck”, which you gained by clicking on Ad links. They were just banners to read; I think the page got a few pennies per click, but it felt very much the same.