Magic: the Gathering gets beaten to iOS by Shadow Era, a collectible card game that makes you feel like you're back at school, playing against your buddies during lunch.
What is it?
Shadow Era, Free, iPad and iPhone. It's essentially Magic: the Gathering for iOS. You start out with a single hero and a 30-card-deck that you use to challenge computer or human opponents online (but not on the same iPad). You can buy new cards using in-game gold or meatspace money, with using real money being a much faster way to advance and customise your experience. One dollar gets you 15 cards, which includes 1 hero, 1 rare/epic, 3 uncommon and 10 common.
The basics are the same as other collectable card games you've played: Drop creatures on the board, use them to attack and defeat the other person's hero and you win. Mix in spells and other talents and you've got a good deal of variety.
Who's it good for?
Anybody who's ever played Magic, or anyone who likes card games. It's especially good for people who aren't that good at action or twitch games, since you don't need a fast reaction (everything is turn-based).
Why's it better than alternatives?
As far as I know, there are no other CCG apps this polished for iOS. Magic could have been the first, using their huge library of already-made cards and art to dominate the category, but they've historically been very reticent in porting their real-life card experience to the online world.
How could it be even better?
Shadow Era is missing a huge feature in that you can't challenge your friends directly. Right now it's either playing against the computer, or starting up a random match and hoping your friend can find your game before some chump does. This needs to be fixed immediately.
Because the cards are based on different classes and alignments, you'll find yourself trying to build a deck but not having a whole lot of choices beyond what you already have in your starter pack. Eventual expansions will solve this, and make sure your opponents aren't pretty much using the same strategies as everyone else you've seen.
Upcoming features like being able to play asynchronously with your friends, and playing against an AI opponent using your friends' decks will be pretty amazing. It's already cool that you can play using a browser against people who are using iOS devices.
An interview with the creator shows what he's trying to do with the game, and he's trying to release "200 new cards every 6-8 months". It's a genius strategy to have in-app purchases to buy booster packs, translating the way you used to eagerly tear open that foil, gently, in order to not damage the potential rare cards hidden inside to a button press and a password entry.
Shadow Era [iTunes]
For more apps, check out our weekly app roundups for iPhone, iPad and Android.