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iPad  header logo

Star Admiral

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Star admirable

Product: Star Admiral | Publisher: Hardscore Games | Developer: Hardscore Games | Format: iPad | Genre: Card/ board game, RPG, Strategy | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Star Admiral iPad, thumbnail 1
Launching a new digital CCG is like launching a cola brand against Coke and Pepsi.

It either takes guts or foolishness to target a genre thoroughly dominated by two major franchises, in this case Hearthstone and Magic The Gathering.

And at first glance Star Admiral does itself few favours. But while its presentation and premise are thoroughly unremarkable, its consistently satisfying strategic gameplay ensures that this diamond in the rough is worthy of closer inspection.

Star Admiral's brisk tutorial pulls off the rare feat of being enjoyable, accessible, and fully understandable to a CCG-noob like me.

You assume the role of a white square-jawed space marine whose fleet immediately lays waste to factions that appear to be comprised entirely of also-white women or green scaly foreigners - sorry, aliens.

Misguided gender and race representations aside, Star Admiral manages to straddle a fine line between its mostly-intuitive interface and the strategic depth on offer beneath.

Star power

While your aim is simple - reduce your enemy's hit points to zero by blasting their face before they can do the same to you - your means are anything but.

You're locked in a turn-based one-on-one battle, with spacecraft forming your offence, and traps your defence. Artfully balancing the inherent risk-and-reward nature of the different units you draw from your limited hand is a genuine thrill.

Snatching a victory by landing the killing blow just after your opponent has brought out their meanest ships, and learning to lure your foe into unknowingly sacrificing their most powerful weapons feel great.

The random nature of the cards you draw can lead to some supremely satisfying victories, as well as some teeth-grinding moments as you realise your own mistake seconds too late.

Victory earns you points, losses take points away, and hitting ever-increasing points thresholds increases your in-game rank.

IAPs explained
Star Admiral's free to play model sees you rewarded through normal play with Matter, the in-game currency required to assemble (buy) the best cards.

You get more after completing additional background missions during battles, such as playing three cards of a kind within a turn.

Impatient players who want to increase their chances of victory can also stump up for Dark Matter in denominations that start from £2.99 / $4.99.

This is used exclusively to buy sealed booster packs and, in turn, improve your chances of accumulating that all-important Matter.

Since Dark Matter is rationed out without too much grinding, purchases are rendered optional for all but the most competitive of players.
Your best bet to level-up is to play ranked matches against other human opponents. Playing against friends or in singleplayer is possible, but not encouraged, and given the flimsy narrative the PvP focus is almost certainly for the best.

Matter of fact

Despite its single-minded suite of game modes Star Admiral is solid fun.

On top of that the game offers the kind of balanced strategic play that, even if you lose a match, sees you constantly learning new techniques and approaches to try against your next rival.
Cross-device play thanks to Game Center integration is also a welcome touch.

Star Admiral may not be a looker, but it's got enough going on where it counts that it's definitely worth a try.
Star Admiral
Reviewer photo
Giles Armstrong | 22 July 2014
CCG fans are unlikely to be lured from their heavyweights of choice, but those looking to supplement their gaming diet could do far worse than giving Star Admiral a go
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