For too long the definition of “Game of the Year” has been unfairly narrow. How boring is it to see every website shower the same stale AAA games with praise at the end of each holiday season? So at Geek.com we’re doing what we can to put a stop to this in Game of the Year, a new column celebrating worthy alternative picks for the year’s greatest game regardless of genre, platform, year of release, or even quality. Here, any game can be Game of the Year!
Mobile gaming is, for the most part, a desolate wasteland of clones and cash grabs. The App Store overflows like a toilet with Clash of Clans and Crossy Road-alikes, churned out in days and stuffed with microtransactions to ensnare tweens into spending money. But then there’s developers like Michael Brough, who’s latest game Imbroglio costs a few bucks up front and will keep you busy for, in my case, years.
I first played Imbroglio two years ago when I was serving as a judge for the Independent Games Festival. I played nearly 100 different games during my month of judging. Some were great. Some were terrible. Imbroglio is the only one I kept on my phone. I played it nearly every day for the next year until it was officially released for iPhone, and then I bought it and have played it for another year since.
At its heart, the game is a roguelike. It puts you in a turn-based space with a group of monsters. You move, then they move. But the twist here is weapons. Instead of carrying them with you, each of the board’s 16 tiles is a weapon. You attack with whichever one you’re standing on, and you lay them out before the game begins. What ends up happening is a fusion between deck-building like Magic: The Gathering and tactical movement like Nethack.
There’s very little resource management in Imbroglio. You start with four red and four blue health points. Monsters subtract one on attack based on their color – reds take red, blues take blue. Run out of all of either kind, and you die. Weapons are also color-coded red or blue, with the same rules. There are four main types of enemy, with different amounts of each kind of health. Cubes have one blue and four red, so you’ll want to hit them with a blue weapon to take them out in one turn.
Pick up the purple star to regain one red and one blue health and re-arrange the walls, fight monsters until you die. Your score is how many times you got the star. Simple, right?
If that was all Imbroglio had going for it, it’d still be a fun game. But the layers of systems Brough has built on top of the framework make it insanely addictive.
First, let’s talk about weapon leveling. Kill an enemy with a weapon, and it’ll gain a point. Four points gains a level (up to a maximum of four). Weapons get different effects as they level up. One lets you regain red health. One teleports you to a random spot on the map. One lets you walk through adjacent walls at the cost of one blue health. Managing your kills to level up weapons means that every monster is a vital resource that can also kill you.
The game also gives you eight different heroes to play with, each with a special ability and a disadvantage. You get a rune when you level up, which you spend to trigger your ability. One hero can knock down walls in his way, but can’t have any duplicate cards on the board. Another has a longer default distance to move to the star but can warp from one edge of the board to another. Everyone requires different strategies and different weapons.
Oh, and did I mention there’s an expansion that adds, even more, characters and weapons? Imbroglio was my Game of the Year in 2015. It was my Game of the Year in 2016. It will probably be my Game of the Year in 2017, too.
Check back next week to read about the next Game of the Year!