Da Vinci’s Art of War preview

An almost perfect small strategy game is coming on iPad. The game mechanics come from a board game produced by Fantasy Flight Games in early 2011. Castles to build in Europe in the 16th century, war machines to develop — from notebooks of Leonardo — territories to conquer, those are parts of a light user-friendly gameplay based on management and combat, presented in an opulent decor.

Da Vinci's Art of War: Settling down
I decide to settle down in Utrecht, a region bordering the sea.
It provides 30 florins and 1 infantry unit per turn. Not bad…

Detour through the Renaissance

The artwork pleases from the very first moment. The Italian Renaissance style is applied to all game components, including animation during players actions and fighting.

What exactly has to be done in this richly adorned game? The player first chooses a region to establish his starting base, then he quickly colonizes adjacent territories by land or sea. Each region produces a certain amount of florins — the currency of the game — and infantry units each turn.

The more money and infantry is obtained, the more you can expand your empire and attack your neighbors. But poorly equipped infantry make a bad army. This is where the Da Vinci war machines come into play. At the beginning of each turn, the player is offered projects through auctions. If he wins the auction, he becomes the Magnifico, gaining 2 victory points, getting the most interesting project, playing first and enjoying a discount of 10 florins on his buildings during the tour.

Other ways to earn victory points each round are having more territories, more castles, more projects and more strengthened castles (called « perfect cities » in the game). The game is over when a player reaches 30, 40 or 50 victory points, depending on the choice made at the beginning.

Da Vinci's Art of War: Auction
The crucial and delicate stage of the auction. Nothing is more annoying than 
letting an opponent win the auction with a low bid. Here I became the Magnifico,
so I was the first to choose one of these two projects.
Revitalized technologies

If we look at the available materials, the engineers of the First World War did not invent anything. Most modern technologies were on the drawing board at the end of the 16th century: flying machines with gyroscopes and parachutes, threatened by anti-aircraft weapons, alongside tanks launched against infantry equipped with multiple rifles (machine gun ancestor), bombards and anti-tank canons. We also find submarines and ironclads, and even automatons, who do not yet occupy the contemporary battlefields, although this should not take long...

These devices have a cost and are not particularly reliable. It is up to the player to maintain a balance between defensive and offensive measures, between consolidation and expansion, and to build on the right combination of land, air and sea weapons. Since the parameters of the game are still in adjustment phase, one can hardly predict whether a strategy based on a network of impregnable castles would hold out against a full combat-oriented opponent. The length of games also affects the style of play, with short games (30 turns) lowering strategy into a race to victory points.

Da Vinci’s flying machine
Da Vinci’s original sketch of the flying machine.

Combative opponents

Something that should contribute to the success of the game is the developers' efforts to deploy a robust and diverse AI. The player can therefore choose between a dozen virtual opponents of various skills.

The multiplayer is announced on Slitherine and Matrix web sites, but designers acknowledge that it will not be installed in the launch version. A short time should elapse before seeing this vital mode for the long-term success of the title. Seven languages are part of the game: English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Chinese. Very good news for the world's cultures!

Da Vinci's Art of War: Different attack types
Top: In this attack, two of my infantry units were eliminated, one missed 
the target and only the last one reached the enemy.
Center: I didn’t have much better results with my tank: after its second 
gear broke, the tank exploded! 
Bottom: A flock of flying machines reduces enemy infantry despite 
strengthened defences. The gyroscope gives an extra hit.

By Michel Ouimet

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