Flicky Game Review – Desktopia

desktopiaI don’t know why, but I adore flicky games. I think it’s the way they help with the escapism of gaming by having an attack move your warrior across the table, or a burst of acceleration translate to your car flying over a jump. It’s like you’re actually seeing the action. The best of these games combine flicking with some brainpower – suck at either one, and you might have a shot, but suck at both of them and that’s your ass.

Desktopia is a totally bad-ass flicky game from Russia. There are four different armies in the box, each with a very different set of bloodletters, and they do battle when you flick them with your finger and send them careening into enemy discs (or, in my case, flying right off the edge of the table, showing you up for being old and clumsy). You can play on a totally empty playing field, but the game gets awesomer when you add in crap you find laying around your house. For one game, we launched our ambushes from the backs of our phones. In another game, we hid sacred artifacts behind the Purel bottle and battled in circles around the candy dish.

The strategy in Desktopia is great. The Order of Dust has some seriously disturbing attacks, like the guy who throws ticks that drain the life from his foes, or the whip that you throw on a dude so that he does extra damage – and gets hurt every time he uses it. The Order of Grass has dryads that just run around healing their buddies, and they have lots of archers who can attack without having to get right into the middle of the fray. The Order or Fire, predictably, sets people on fire – and then uses that fire to light other people on fire. The Order of Metal is fine with losing its weakest warriors, because every time they die, the player gets extra turns, which he can use to send his electromancer onto the field with chain lightning. The basic theory is the same across the board – hit your disc into the other guy’s discs to kill them – but each faction has different abilities, and it’s monumentally important to use them well.

Of course, part of using your abilities well includes shooting them accurately, and this element of the game is why I can’t seem to win Desktopia. I would send my powerhouse hitter right into the middle of the table when I just meant to get him close to the outside. I would shoot my killer vampires into my own guys and knock them off their artifacts. And more than once, I just launched people off the table. That happened a lot.

But I still had a blast. The rules for Desktopia are not difficult at all, and would suggest a game of last-man-standing. However, on top of the rules, you also get a book full of scenarios you can play out, and these are great. You can play through every one and never have the same battle twice. There are options for four players, cool king-of-the-hill games for three, and entire two-player campaigns. There’s a lot of game here, especially considering the game is basically a bunch of discs that you shoot with your fingers.

One thing I’ve seen missing from a lot of flicky games is the art. Look at Catacombs or Pitchcar – these games are hilarious fun, but they’re not exactly dead sexy. Desktopia doesn’t skimp on this part, though. The art is seriously top-notch, and the faces on the discs look mad with power, strong and honorable, or evil as a cheap taco in a biker bar. Unfortunately, you kind of lose some of that when your ultimate font of power is an upside-down plastic cup. Honestly, if I decide to really get into this game, I’m going to have to sculpt some terrain, and maybe a play mat that looks all bad-ass. It’s a shame to have a game this gorgeous and then spend the whole game looking at 9-volt batteries and a trashy paperback.

But you know, I really might decide to get pretty far into Desktopia. It’s damned fun. I hope Hobby World (the Russian publisher) makes a bunch of expansions, because this game could really use them. New soldiers for the existing armies are an obvious add-on, and a couple new factions would shake things up and let you diversify a little. Army-building rules would be cool, too, though I think one of the best things about Desktopia is how uncomplicated it is given the depth and excitement you find in the box.

I don’t have the foggiest idea where you can score a copy of Desktopia, but it’s supposed to be on Kickstarter pretty soon. I guess if you’re in a hurry, you could see if you can find one in Russia, but be sure to budget a few extra thousand dollars for the trip. Or just wait – it ought to be on Kickstarter, sooner or later.

2 Responses to “Flicky Game Review – Desktopia”

  1. Tim says:

    You should check out Disc Duelers. I enjoy that one a lot. If like to hear your compare and contrast of the two.

  2. Matt Drake says:

    Thanks for the tip. I will look into it, see if I can’t score a copy.