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Review Detail

 
Masters of Influence
 
Masters of Influence 2012-01-03 03:49:09 DigitalQuarters
Overall Fun Level 
 
8.0
DigitalQuarters Reviewed by DigitalQuarters    January 02, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Location, Location, Location.

As someone who does a lot of his gaming with cardboard and meeples, I'm a bit saddened with the lack of innovative card and board games on XBLIG. Not only is it a great avenue for putting your own ideas out there for a larger audience and with less risk, it also keeps me from having to clean up 429 game pieces after every match. Some may call that last bit selfish, but I call it "win-win."

Recently released Masters of Influence makes a good attempt at filling some of that board game void on the XBLIG Marketplace. Feeling a bit like a combination of Risk and Settlers of Catan, Masters sets two-to-four players on a bid to either claim 60% of the board or max out their resources, obtaining victory over the other players by meeting either condition. Doing either of these involves building towers, building towers, and then building more of them. Or upgrading them so it's easier to build more. You can also attack other towers that are close enough to your own, which keeps people from doing the same to you. And makes them feel foolish for wasting all their resources on something you just blew up right in front of them. (Again. Win-win. See how that works?) There's a nice instruction screen to look at from the main menu that explains everything and, when you go into a game, you'll see little messages that tell you that you can't do what you just tried to do. More importantly, they tell you why, which is quite helpful in learning how to properly play. Simple, effective, good.

Also somewhat simple is the presentation. You'll be staring at a hexagonal board the entire course of the game. For the most part, everything's pretty easy to see. Symbols by the map tiles tell you what resource that tile gives you each turn if it belongs to you and each tile has its own terrain type. Water, farm and desert are easy enough to see. Unfortunately, it gets a little bit more difficult with forest (a tile you can build an upgradable tower on freely) and defensive zone (a spot you can only build a specific one-level fort on). The tiles are small so you'll either be zooming in quite close or you'll be squinting more than your grandparents at a poorly-lit library. The sound leaves a little bit to be desired as well. One music track plays the entire time, the sound effects are louder than the music, and there's no option to tweak the volume of either.

The controls, though simple as well, have a couple minor issues. No confirmation message for anything you do, though possibly speeding things up a bit, also leads to a mistakes you wish you could take back. Especially since games can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a good hour or more, much like any self-respecting cutthroat board game of tile-claiming and resource-hoarding. The left stick acts as a mouse pointer, which has its advantages but also feels a bit slow. Once you get the hang of everything, though, you'll be pumping through turns in no time.

All these gripes are little things. The only large one I have is that games feel somewhat one-track. Choose a good starting area (if you can't, you're in trouble), get a tower to level 3 on your first turn (if you can't, you're going to be in trouble), and hoard enough so that you can build just within firing range of an opponent to take out their tower and hope they don't have enough to retaliate next turn (if they can, well...it'll be a long game). You'll be in a long power struggle over little bits of space, much like trench warfare, and it'll remind you of Risk.

All that said, that last bit is really what the game boils down to. If drawn-out board games aren't your thing, or you don't enjoy spending roughly an hour on one game, then this isn't the title for you. However, if you want a more resource-oriented Risk without the continent bonuses and everyone fighting over who gets to keep Australia, this is actually a pretty simple yet fun and strategic board game without all the messy setup and tear-down of your normally piece-heavy board games. I personally don't even like Risk and I had fun with the game for a few hours against the computer. And if you have friends who want to spend some time on the couch with ya, up to 4 can play locally, guaranteeing some heavy value for your 80 MS Points.

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