Not just a battle
I seldom find a game so appealing, so cute, so smooth that instead of savoring it slowly, I binge play it for hours on end, only to force myself to take a break and do something else. The Battle of Polytopia is close to being that.
In Polytopia you will be taking control of a tribe that starts with one small town and a warrior. The game looks strangely similar to the classic Civilization. Everything is on squares and cities have a limited range to gather from and build onto. Unlike Civ however, Polytopia runs on very simple concepts.
You can play Polytopia in two modes. Perfection is a fixed 30 turns game in which the highest score wins. Domination on the other hand is played continuously until only one tribe remains. Almost everything you do in Polytopia gives you points. From exploration and constructing utilitarian buildings such as farms and sawmills to getting technology and conquering enemies. There are also temples and monuments which score big but have otherwise little impact on gameplay.
Your enemies begin the same as you, and although the tribes are virtually identical, each one starts with an already researched technology that influences their style of play. Tribes further differentiate themselves by the technological path they chose to undertake. Developing technology is a tricky business. Although the tech tree is completely accessible progressively, it encourages you to specialize most of the time. Here's why:
Your cities provide a constant influx of resources. The more cities you have, the greater the income. However, expanding your empire also raises the cost of technology, making first tier techs slightly more expensive while making third tier techs rather prohibitive. So there's a constant timing issue between waiting to purchase a tech and pushing for conquest. If you don't develop a branch soon, then there will be more to pay later.
New cities only come from conquests. There's no settling Polytopia. At first you will search and capture undefended settlements. They produce one resource per turn. But, just as with your capital, developing their surrounding area will make them more productive. Increasing a city's production is a good way of boosting your income while keeping techs at a reasonable price. However, growth gets slower as a city becomes larger. You will ultimately need to plan which natural source to tap and which combination of developments to construct. it will soon become very tempting to capture a settlement next to developing your huge level 5 city (they can get bigger).
Combat in Polytopia is deterministic. Units have an attack value from which you subtract the target's defense. Of course, depending on the unit's location, they can get defensive boosts from having researched specific techs or from simply being in a city. Units always attack back after being hit. So it is possible for one Giant unit to wipe out multiple small attackers while out of turn. Different units make for different tactics. Cavalry can travel faster and can retreat after attacking. Archers can fire at a distance and catapults are wonderful as artillery but they can either move or attack in a turn. Units can also travel and fight over water after developing Navigation.
Moving units on land is made easier with roads. Roads can also unlock a challenge for bonus points as well as contribute to growing connected cities. There are several techs which unlock goals. Besides building a road network, you might want to abstain from attacking for 5 turns, complete the tech tree or to super upgrade a single city. This is quite welcome since Polytopia generally feels like a sandbox experience.
Polytopia only supports pass & play as a multiplayer mode, but that's just great for spending time on the road.
Once in a while you stumble upon a good looking game with clean mechanics and no strings attached, even though it's free. Polytopia is a wonderful design that's perfect for casual play without being to shallow. If you like this game, then there's no excuse for playing with just the first four tribes, even though it's perfectly playable as it is.