Correction: This article originally stated that the game seemed to have no music or sound outside of the notification sound. A conversation with the developer via e-mail and further inspection revealed that the author had fallen victim to a bug. The article has been corrected to reflect this.
I attended Playcrafting's 2016 Winter Expo and was delighted to see many familiar faces. I did an awful lot of interviews with developers at the 2015 Fall Expo, all of whom were working on video games and tabletop games in various states of completion. Of course, I also set out to meet new people and see projects that I may have missed or were wholly new to me.
Enter Tribe Domination by Alexandre Delbarre. A polite man, surrounded by talkative expo-goers, quietly sat at his table. I sat down and chatted with him about his game. The art style caught my attention and the concept of the game interested me. I asked Alexandre to follow up with me via email and here we are.
Tribe Domination is a game for two to three players that is similar to Risk. You choose between Hipsters, Hippies, or Geeks and battle for control of the various districts of San Francisco. The game ends when a player controls all of the districts or when all of your opponents concede.
There's more to the factions than cosmetic differences. Each faction has a power which is representative of its own unique aesthetic. For instance, the Geeks can use their Furtive Hack power to conceal the size of all of their armies for one turn. Everyone is not on a level playing field in this respect, and playing to your faction's strengths is important for success.
Players take turns reinforcing their armies and attacking territories throughout the map. You can link your Facebook account to the game, but this solely exists as a matchmaking service. Tribe Domination doesn't post to your timeline or anything like that. Facebook is simply used to find friends of yours who also play the game. Aside from the dev's own word on this matter, you can see this reflected in the very short list of permissions requested when you link your account. It's nice to see that a mobile digital board game doesn't wish to request access to my pictures, music, all of my installed apps, and my mother's maiden name.
Once your turn is up, a notification is sent to your opponent. You can have multiple games going at one time, similar to most other turn-based games such as Words With Friends, and it's probably advisable to do so if you enjoy it. You can even have multiple games running with the same person. Indeed, both of the first two games I was playing concurrently were against the developer.
Players are allocated gold and reinforcement units at the beginning of every turn. Gold can be used to either buy additional reinforcement units or use one of the unique powers of the three factions. Gold is not persistent between games so there's no possibility of saving it up in order to get an easy win in a later game.
Furthermore, you're not going to find any "pay to win" elements in Tribe Domination. In fact, as of release you don't have to pay to anything. Tribe Domination is being put up on the App Store and Google Play completely for free and with no ads whatsoever.
I asked Alex about his monetization plans. The short conversation we had revealed a developer that seemed more motivated to make a fun game than to try to make a fortune with wait timers and in-app purchases. The game's future development will include new maps (beginning with New York City) that you can unlock by leveling up or paying a small fee to get right away. That's about as fair as it can get in the modern mobile ecosystem and it's something very refreshing to see.
This simple yet fun game has the aesthetics to match. Graphically, the game has a nice art style and simple effects. You don't need to get too fancy for what amounts to a digital board game, and Tribe Domination avoids unnecessary complexity in this regard. The board itself is simple, but the overall aesthetic and art is simple deliberately so.
As for the sound, well - I encountered a bug in the preview build where I had no sound aside from the notification outside of the game. A reinstall fixed it, and I'll chalk this problem up to a fluke. The sound effects are serviceable enough, and the music does its job of providing background ambiance without stealing attention away from the game. This didn't bother me particularly much as I tend to play games on my phone with the sound muted anyway. If you're looking for the next orchestral game soundtrack masterpiece you're not going to find it here, but that's okay. Simplicity is not a sin so long as it isn't done out of laziness or carelessness, and I don't feel that's the case here.
I like Tribe Domination. I have a few games under my belt, and I feel comfortable enough in saying that I think you ought to give it a spin. I had one minor bug during the beta that resulted in a lost turn, but other than that it was smooth sailing for over a dozen games. If you're remotely interested in this kind of game you'd be crazy not to give it a whirl.
Tribe Domination releases for free on iOS and Android on February 11, 2016. I'd like to thank fellow TechRaptor staffers Evan Hitchings and Nick Maillet for helping me test by playing a few games with me.
TechRaptor was given an Android beta code to Tribe Domination for the purposes of preview.
What do you think of the aesthetic of Tribe Domination? Do you think the mild asymmetry between the factions makes the game better or worse? Let us know in the comments below!