So when Skulls Of the Shogun, developed by 17-BIT and published by Microsoft Studios, landed in my inbox it took all my gaming skills to motivate myself to play it.
That was until I played the multi-player version first with my son - after that I was hooked.
Skulls of the Shogun reminds me of classic games like Advance Wars and it is very simple in its look with nice clean graphics, and an almost hypnotic Japanese techno background music (which you can turn off).
The campaign is straightforward enough. The story revolves around General Akamoto, Japan’s greatest ever general and tactical genius.
On the eve of his greatest battle where he is about to become Shogun, he is stabbed in the back by a shadowy figure and given a one way ticket to the samurai afterlife.
Akamoto`s day is about to get worse as he arrives at the shores of the dead, only to find no one has heard of him.
Being a mighty warrior, Akamoto is not having this and quickly assembles a ragtag army of dead warriors and sets forth to invade the shores of the dead, battle through the seasons of the afterlife and claim his title as Shogun of the Dead.
This is where you come in, as this is a turn based game you have five turns to move your men either to attack or eat enemy skulls or just defend your General.
You can capture rice fields and haunt them thus producing rice which is redeemable when you want to create more troops (that is if you have haunted a shrine as well).
There are various potions to drink as well that add upgrades.
The cast of characters is limited with the main two being Akamoto and his now arch enemy Kurokawa.
Each unit is made up of an archer, infantry and cavalry, all of which have different strengths and abilities, and if you haunt a monk’s shrine you are able to recruit them on your team.
Gameplay itself is easy, almost point and click really.
With each go you can position your units then order them to attack with weapons or spells. Alternatively you can go for eating a dead enemy’s skull. This increases your life and gives you upgrades.
There is, of course, the defensive way of playing as well if you’re the cautious type, with the ability to create spirit walls around grouped units for more protection.
All that aside, the hard part of Skulls of the Shogun is actually outwitting your enemy, especially when you are playing multi-player.
This is a brilliant tactical game with endless possibilities for outcomes, the multiplayer stands out as the best element of Skulls of the Shogun with up to four players battling out for domination, which is lots of fun.
I did try to play the multi-player online, unfortunately with no participants that never happened.
The Windows phone version actually played better with the touch screen and the graphics are just as clear.
The interesting thing about Skulls of the Shogun is a mode called Skulls Anywhere. It is an asynchronous multi-player mode enabling players on different launch platforms to play against each other and this is a first for Microsoft.
With Cloud Save support you can actually save your game and access via other windows devices. If you own the game on multiple platforms, it’s a great idea and I can see many more games going down this road.
Skulls of the Shogun has more to it than meets the eye. Although it isn`t the best graphically it still is a good multi-player game and with the cross-platform Skulls Anywhere an innovative one to boot.
The campaign works well as does the multi-player even though no one was actually playing online when we looked.
Skulls of the Shogun is a great tactical fun game with some clever subtle new ideas thrown in. It is realistically a multi-player game with an adequate campaign which is useful for practicing before you take your mates on.
The Skulls Anywhere idea sets this game apart and it does look good on a mobile device. I personally preferred the Windows mobile version as it was simpler to play and good fun when on a long journey.
Skulls of the Shogun
Developer: 17 BIT
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Genre: Turn based strategy
Release Date: 30th January 2013