Totems: Game of Conquest is a strategy heavy board game for iOS. Players will take turns placing totems on a board to control territory for points. The larger the territory, the greater the points awarded. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.
Totems: Game of Conquest is a board game, thus lacks a story.
Strategic board games have a long and proud history. Legendary strategy based board games with extensive history like go, shogi, and chess have been joined by contemporary titles like Ticket to Ride and The Settlers of Catan. Totems: A Game of Conquest seeks to join this storied list with its gameplay based on the “4-Color Map Theorem.” According to the theorem, no map needs more than four colours to colour each section without having any two adjacent sections sharing the same colour.
Totems: Game of Conquest is a board game for two to four players. Depending on the map, three or more types of totems are randomly dealt to players. Each player will have a hand of six totems. Players will take turns laying one totem onto the board to take control of a territory. If a totem is placed on a territory adjacent to a territory controlled by a totem of the same animal, the player will take control of the entire coloured territory and gain points. As more adjacent territories are controlled by a single animal type, the points awarded will be multiplied. Players take turn laying down totems until the entire map is controlled by players.
The game shares a similarity to the classic game of Go as it is extremely simple to learn, but is difficult to master. The rules of the game can be easily learned from the short tutorial, but the strategies available to the player are endless. The game’s difficulty rises sharply as more players and more types of totems are introduced to the game. There are a eight maps available for play, some support only two players while others support two to four players.
The game supports single player and multiplayer play. Single player will pit players against the surprisingly competent AI. Multiplayer can be played through Pass and Play mode, local WiFi, local Bluetooth, or through Game Center. Online multiplayer is played like chess by mail. Players can have several games running at the same time and the game will be played turn by turn. When it is the player’s turn, an iOS notification will pop up. Players can challenge their friends or find random gamers to play against. Pass and Play mode was a little more difficult to find initially as local players need to be added in the local “Play” mode. I would have appreciated some sort of indication that adding players to the list of local players would trigger the Pass and Play mode.
Totems: Game of Conquest is presented like a classic board game. The graphics look great on Retina displays. Board games iPads are matches made in heaven, but the smaller iPhone screens tend to pose a bit of a challenge. However, Totem’s gameplay elements are very easy to identify, even on the small iPhone screen. Stylistically, the game draws a lot of inspiration from Mesoamerican culture.
Since the game is mentally intensive, the sound effects and the music in Totems: Game of Conquest seek to be a subtle part of the experience. There are small sound effects for placing down totems and drawing new ones from the pile. The music is very restrained and will not distract from deep thought. The subtlety is an excellent design decision that benefits the game experience immensely.
Totems: Game of Conquest has all the requirements to become a classic board game. It is simple to learn and requires an impressive amount of strategy. The game takes the simplicity of Go, mixes it with elements of Risk, and then presents it in a beautiful package.
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