Can you protect the city of Constantinople from invading armies?
Android & iOS
# of Players
Constantinople is a card-driven, die-rolling, solo, castle defense/war game which tasks players with preventing the destruction of their city, you guessed it, Constantinople. Players must keep their precious resources in tact to help fight off invading armies on their way to siege the city. The game is driven by a thirty card event deck, if the city is still standing after all thirty have been played, you win the game. Games can usually be played in around five minutes.
To start the game, you are given a set number of walls and four other resources: armies, dynasty, economy, and religion. The number you start with depends on the difficulty level you are playing on. Players also have a monument resource, but that always starts at level 0. Below your resources are five armies, all of which begin four spaces away from your city. Each turn begins with an event card being drawn from the deck of 30. The card dictates which armies will advance, if any administration is to be applied, the number of actions you get, and a special event. Army advancement simply moves the army(ies) up one spot as dictated by the event card, sometimes this is a specific army, other times it can armies which fit certain conditions such as all of the farthest away armies. Administration isn’t included on every event card, it usually leads to a loss of resource for the player. Player actions in Constantinople are either attempting to move back advancing armies or gain more resources, both of these are successes or failures based on a die roll. The event on the card varies, it can range from allowing you to pay a resource to retreat an army to paying to remove an army altogether or making it a little easier to gain resources. Once the items on the event card are complete, the next one is drawn. The game continues until you make it through all 30 event cards for a victory or your city has been sieged or you’ve run out of any resource and you lose, the latter of which is much more common.
Constantinople is a classic risk mitigation game. You have these armies marching towards your city to attempt a siege, which you want to prevent at all costs. You attempt to keep the armies at a distance by using actions. This triggers a die roll, where a roll greater than the army’s strength is successful. You can also deplete your own army resource by one to lower the required die roll by one, and it a roll fails you can spend a religion resource to retry the roll without using an additional action. When armies do reach your city, a siege takes place which start by depleting a resource right off the bat. After that you get a roll to see if you can fight back the army. If this fails, you lose a wall and try again. A successfully blocked siege attempt places the sieging army in a spot one step away from your walls, so another siege on the next turn is entirely possible. If you fail to block a siege and your walls get depleted, you lose. As you can tell, armies and religion resources are important to have. You gain more (up to six) by using an action and roll a die to beat a target number, just like fighting armies. You can also increase your chances for success here by spending an economy resource.
It’s important to reiterate that If you ever find yourself with zero of any resource (excluding monuments), you immediately lose the game. There are event cards which drop a specific resource by one, so it becomes very important to keep at least two of each resource at all times, if only it were that easy. Monuments play no role in the active game but are used only for bonus scoring points at the end of games.
The game is one of those where you will inevitably find yourself in a bad spot and be forced to make tough decisions. Do you try to roll a big number to push a 4 strength army away from your walls? Or do you hope they won’t advance next turn and instead spend the actions to increase your resources or push back a weaker army? It is a series of small decisions like these that make up the game. If the die roll goes your way all game, you could conceivably cruise to victory, but that won’t happen. The use of resources to improve the chances of success is a key mechanic here, the push and pull of giving up precious resources to try to push back a strong army make the game.
Constantinople pulls off the risk management/risk reward thing quite well in a quick playing game. It’s a fun game that certainly has a lot of luck involved, but also gives you interesting ways to try to mitigate that luck. The huge reliance on die rolls might turn off some people, but I personally enjoy some good digital die chucking, especially considering how quickly the game plays, I don’t mind taking some brutal losses after the programming turns against me.
Barrier to Entry
Constantinople contains a full rulebook and a brief play summary. The play summary pops up when you play a game for the first time and briefly walks you through the basics. The rulebook covers everything in detail and is nice to have as a reference. Constantinople isn’t a terribly complex game, so the lack of a true tutorial really doesn’t hurt. Things may be a little unclear after you read through the play summary, but after a game or two the rules should make more sense and you can fly through your games.
Look and Feel
This app looks and controls very well. The artwork, taken from the print-and-play version, is simple yet effective and the port to the digital world looks great. Controls are intuitive and won’t take long to get the hang of. You click on the enemy or resource you want to effect, and a simple popup shows up allowing you to add any relevant modifiers and then take the action. It couldn’t be more simple, the app does a great job of letting you know at all times what options you have.
Constantinople is a solo game, there are no multiplayer modes. The only opportunity we can think of here would be online leaderboards to compare high scores, but that’s firmly in the “nice to have” category and the app isn’t lacking without that feature.
You can play Constantinople on four different difficulty levels: Easy, Medium, Hard, Historical. The difference between the modes are how many walls and resources you start the game with. On easy you get four walls and six of the other resources (you get zero starting monuments on any level). On hard difficulty you get two walls and four resources. Historical is identical to hard except that the event cards are played in historical order rather than randomly.
As with any true solo or co-op game, the great thing about Constantinople is that the difficulty is baked into the game itself, so there is no need for strong AI to keep the game fun. This is a very tough game, another common thread in the solo/co-op gaming world, which means it will probably take you a while to win even on easy. Of course, being dice-based, a lot of it will come down to luck of the roll, but rest assured you need to play well, not just get lucky rolls, in order to win a game of Constantinople.
Win or lose, you are assigned a score upon the completion of a game. A victory earns 30 points plus various bonuses based on resources and opposing armies. The game tracks your best victory and defeat scores on each of the four difficulty levels, as well as your overall games played and won numbers on each level.
Not much to mention here, so a bit about the developer. Boardnaut Studios is a one-man shop who specializes in porting print-and-play games to mobile. They were kind enough to answer a few questions for an interview with us a little while back, you can check that out here.
The Wrap Up
Constantinople is a great implementation of this print-and-play title. The app looks great and runs smoothly. The game is a fun, short battle in which you will spend most of your time feeling like a city is crumbling around you. The constant pressure to try to gain resources while keeping armies away and deciding when to sacrifice resources to try to help those die rolls makes for a tense game that can be played in about five minutes. The game’s strength is in its simplicity and ability to provide tense decision making in such a small package. It won’t be for everybody with the heavy reliance on die rolls, but those that can get past that and want a fun game they can play in just a few minutes will find a lot to like in Constantinople.
Constantinople packs a lot of tension and risk/reward decision making into a five minute game.
What we like
- Fun, tense game that can be played in a few minutes
- Great looking, controlling, and performing app
What we don't like
- Heavy reliance on die rolls might not be for everybody