Developer: Birnam Wood Games
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 2.6.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Pathogen is a turn-based strategy board game that is best suited for deep thinkers with iPads.

The way it works is that players lay down cells on a board with the goal to clinch victory by controlling a majority. These cells can be spread by laying equivalent cells on top of each other. A cells can be spread to make B cells, B cells spread to make C cells, and C cells spread to make wall cells that are impenetrable. Cells spread independent of color, but to place a cell on another color cell requires a cell of higher type, like placing a B cell on an opposite-color A cell.

Pathogen-5The equalizer is that while A cells are unlimited, B cells take 4 turns to recharge, and C cells take 8 turns. Also, there’s another cell called the virus that can wipe out all cells of the type it is placed on, but it takes 10 turns to charge.

The strategy of the game is akin to chess in that it’s about thinking not just about the next move, but 10 moves down the road. And it’s very possible to get into a position where the other player constantly feels like they’re a step ahead because the one move that would set up creation of a wall, for example, would allow them to exploit it for their own gain, either by making their own wall with an adjacent C cell of their own, or with the virus. Finding ways to get them to screw up is important.

Pathogen-6While there’s a singleplayer campaign, this is the kind of game that’s most fun with other people in the fray. There’s local multiplayer and an online multiplayer option, but as a cruel joke it’s not enabled yet, which is disappointing. However, I imagine that multiplayer would be a challenge – it would fit for turn-based play, but the best asynchronous multiplayer games tend to give the player either multiple things to do, or one momentous action to take. A single move in Pathogen can be innocuous, and there’s so many moves that it could make a turn-based game last way too long. So then it could be done in real-time, but finding other players for real-time gaming on mobile is difficult.

Pathogen‘s visual aesthetic is simple, which is fine – it doesn’t need to be an overly-busy game in terms of visuals. But the color scheme needs work as it’s too difficult to tell which cells are neutral and which are green. The game is functional on iPhone, but play it on an iPad if possible. Thankfully, the undo option helps with small screen issues, and encourages trying different strategies out.

Pathogen is a solid strategy game, but one that requires a amount of certain patience to play it. Definitely keep an eye out for when it adds online play – that could be a killer feature if implemented well.


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