Asynchronous gaming is a clunky phrase to roll around the tongue, but the time-shifting technique is perfect for the hectic social calendar of the modern player. Hero Academy is a great example; a turn-based tactical game where you make your moves and forget about them for a while until the other player responds. It's like playing chess by post, but snail mail is replaced with the magical ether of the electronic interwebs.
How does it play?
Once you've setup your match (either with a random opponent or an actual, real, honest-to-goodness friend), all the action takes place on a grid of squares that represents the battle-board. The objective is to destroy your opponent's crystals, or to wipe out the entirety of their forces. This is best approached strategically, of course, judiciously using one of your five action points to position yourself around the board.
There's five different types of fighter - a grunt, a wizard, a healer, an archer and a ninja. They all have their inherent strengths and weaknesses, which can be augmented further using special items to enhance their attack or defence capabilities. These items are presented at random along the bottom of the screen, though you can sacrifice an action point to swap it with something else.
There're also modifier squares scattered around the board, and taking control of these squares is strategically important. Positioning yourself over a shield or sword will boost your defence or attack powers, respectively. And the special crystal modifier makes your opponents crystals more susceptible to attack. Without controlling these strategic points, the game descends into a grinding war of attrition.
Why do we like it?
It's bold and canny to release a game which is strictly two player only. And the training and tutorials are merely perfunctory, so you won't immediately grasp the intricacies of the game before dying at the hands of a more experienced player. That said, it's refreshing to be able to check-in on the game once in a while, make a move, and put it aside until a push notification calls for your attention.
Hero Academy is free to download, which is fantastically generous of developer Robot Entertainment. Unfortunately, it's splattered with adverts which are repetitive and annoying, so at a bare minimum you should make an in-app purchase to deactivate them. But to their credit, these same in-app purchases unlock new teams of fighters to enhance the game even further. It's your move, chief.
Hero Academy is available now on the App Store for iPhone (free)