Ipad Review: Da Vinci’s Art of War

Publisher: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.
SRP: $4.99
Released: Mar 07, 2014
Size: 131 MB
Language: English (from Italian rules*)
PBEM: not in game (play versus 3 AIs)
Itunes Link

Magnifico is a Risk-like area control board game design from Dust Games where the ultimate goal is to dominate 16th century Europe.   The game is set in an alternate universe where the more fantastic ideas from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbooks area a common part of warfare.   I’m not sure how Magnifico was received when it first came out, but it’s rated middling well and Tom Vasel certainly likes it.  Magnifico totally flew under my radar, and it has the kind of theme I enjoy, too!

So that was 2008.  In 2014, the good folks at Slitherine must be shopping around for easy to absorb area control dice-fest light wargame designs, since they have been releasing a lot of them lately.   Magnifico was faithfully recreated in IPad format as Leonardo’s Art of War.  Based on Vasel’s review, I’m reasonably sure it plays close to the board game design.

Games are played either in short or long fashion (50 turns) and each turn is played Igo-Hugo roughly in this order:

  1. Income and Recruitment (add infantry, collect money)
  2. Auction for Inventions (cards) & determining the Magnifico
  3. Action Round (moving, fighting, building..)
  4. Scoring, Next turn

Main Gaming Screen showing human (me) playing two AIs.  I must be activating a discovery from Leonardo’s notebooks (they are on the cards on the bottom).

The goal of the game is to control massive areas of  Europe by invading and attacking regions.  Each region is rated for recruiting potential and income.  Strategy tip: when you are initially setting up, put your first area controlled down on a territory that supports recruiting 2 infantry per turn, not 1.  And NEVER start on a region rated for 0 recruiting!

Attacking an enemy camp, 2 tanks and 6 infantry versus 7 infantry. In general, it’s a good idea to have a numerical advantage, just like in real life armies.

Each turn you have an option to move into a neutral territory (Invasion) or an enemy territory (Attacking).  You can Attack or Move over water, but if an enemy has built Submarines (more on inventions later), the invading force will lose one infantry per every submarine attack.

Once they engage in combat, bonuses apply. As you can see, there’s more to this infantry and those tanks that meet the eye.

If you saw Tom Vasel’s video you pretty much know the mechanics already.  Combat is dice heavy in this game.  Infantry are a dice each plus any additional inventions or discoveries that will moderated combat, which add dice.  The dice are specialized, with hits and misses and losses part of the mix.  I don’t think the IPad dice map to the board game version exactly, or at least graphically.  I’m not sure.  I’ve never played the original game.

When tanks enter into combat, they check for breakdown (represented by the gears turning, and if it breaks down, it shakes and shatters, taking the the tank out of the combat. It happens a lot.

So, we’ve been talking about moving and attacking in the Action Phase, let’s talk about the other stuff you can do in your conquered land.   IF you have the money (Florins), you can construct the Da Vinci tank, or the Da Vinci glider, or build a castle.  If you already have a castle, you can increase the fortifications by “building shields”.  There are only 16 castles in this game, and once the 16th is built, the only way to get another is to take it away from someone else.

Castles are great for adding a defensive bonus to a region when attacked; they are even more formidable with extra shields.  Seeing as Infantry attacking are limited to six, if the castle has even a comparable number of infantry and some shields, it will probably force a retreat.

Well, it happens to the best of us.

Now, I’ve been talking a little out of order here.. I’ve mentioned bonuses and inventions, what’s the story with them?

Right after recruitment and income, the game moves into Auction rounds.  Each player, Human and AI, will bid on two invention cards that will add bonuses to your army– submarines, ironclad warships, gears for your tanks, repeating cannons, bombards, etc.  All of these do some pretty interesting, game altering bits.

El Walto bids for either the Gear (which will help keep a tank from breaking down) or the Gyroscope (which adds a combat bonus to gliders). The Gyroscope by the by, was scanned from the card art and not translated from the original Italian, which caused some confusion for us poor non-Italians.  * Note: One of the cards was still in Italian, according to BGG, and it apparently caused confusion.  I figured it out easily enough, it’s a non-issue.

And it’s not all about combat, but it mostly is.  You can also score points bonus by collecting art.

It’s not a cannon, but it sure is a point scorer

In addition, if you are the high bidder for the turn, you are “the Magnifico” for the turn, which gives you bonus victory points and discounts on building stuff.

So there’s a lot of elements in play, here.. an auction, upgrades to your combat units.. attacking other regions, defending your own.  How does it come together?  Remarkably well, for starters.  Art of War is a game of attack.. attack, attack, attack.. you will not benefit from a build and defend strategy.  If you’re not aggressive, you will not win.  Always be invading or attacking, every turn.  Seek out regions with high recruiting numbers (2 versus 1) and try to keep your regions next to each other.  This helps out a lot when you are moving troops around  to stage for an attack.   Build tanks early and often– they get the most invention bonuses and their bonuses can accumulate, so they become quite lethal in later turns.  Personally, there’s not much use in playing the shorter game– it ends far too quickly.  The AI are not particularly clever or aggressive but they WILL attack eventually after all neutral regions are gone.   They will not be as aggressive as you, which makes it a not overly difficult game to win.

woo HOO

Victory is mine!

Why get excited about YET ANOTHER light conquer Europe Area movement game?  Well, for me, I love the theme and the art (which is a direct lift from the Dust Tactics boardgame).  Slitherine has invested some money into interface (it seems) and their Ipad games are definitely benefiting from it.   The inventions and upgrades add MANY decisions to this game and yes, there IS a strategy to it all.  You will have to play aggressively and look ahead a little.  It’s not as challenging as some wargames or even light wargames, but it is very entertaining and worth the piddling price Slitherine is asking for this game.  Well done again, Slitherine!


One response to “Ipad Review: Da Vinci’s Art of War

  1. Sole Gage (@Soleg_Gage)

    I find this quite interesting to check out for it comprise a lot of elements to explore and appreciate in the course of playing it.

    Sole Gage