Perhaps unfortunately, French indie duo Space Bears' first project isn't about a roaming sleuth of star-faring ursids. Instead, the Paris-based combo are making Kingdoms, a two-player strategy game about capturing tiles, fortifying positions, and wresting territory away from your enemies.
To do that, you and your opponent will take turns placing tiles. You can take over any enemy square adjacent to yours, and the first player to capture the other's king wins; however, "fortified" tiles cannot be captured by an enemy. Here are the rules that make Kingdoms interesting, though: conquering enemy tiles gives you extra moves next turn, and separating a group from its king captures them all. This .gif, from the game's announcement thread in our forums, shows how quickly the tables can turn if you can isolate big swathes of enemy pieces.
What I like about Kingdoms—at least based on the game's trailer and website—is how a few straightforward rules can encourage a wide array of offensive and defensive tactics. With an emphasis on smart territory management and quick, decisive moves, there's no way Kingdoms wasn't at least slightly influenced by Go. The tidiness of the design is matched by its soft, round-cornered visuals.
Later in that thread, designer Paul Vauvrey explains that he and his development partner, Maxime Bokobza, iterated on everything from the size of the board to turn advantage to keep Kingdoms balanced and fair.
"The game is much more about being the first to get bonus moves by cutting tiles off their king than it is to rush into your opponent's territory," he writes. "By tweaking the size of the board, the starting positions and the number of moves per turn, we reached a state where both players can start the game with either an offensive or a defensive strategy, and adapt in the following turns."
Thankfully, abstraction and minimalism are well within Vauvrey's wheelhouse: he's also working on another project, a stripped-down tactical squad-based multiplayer game called Surround. It's coming out for PC and Mac eventually, but the first prototype was a real-time multiplayer game for iPad, made in 24 hours flat.
When Kingdoms comes, it'll cost $0.99 the first week and a hefty $1.99 after that, offering Game Center support, local multiplayer, and asynchronous online play. There will be no ads (which would "ruin the minimal abstract experience we're trying to create") and no in-app purchases ("we don't have any features suited for this anyway").
Vauvrey and Bokobza don't have a firm date yet, but they're hoping to release Kingdoms in late August or early September.
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