a weird, virtual Chess-type game? Hero Academy is perhaps the closest we'll ever come to experiencing such a distraction firsthand.
The premise is simple: you must guard your two crystals while destroying those belonging to your opponent. You have a set number of action points in each turn; movement, equipping armor or weapons, attacking, casting magic, drinking a potion or even deploying a unit costs a point. You're always playing against a live opponent through asynchronous multiplayer.
It all plays out on a grid, with additional squares hiding buffs to attack and defense, and one special square that lowers enemy crystal defense when stood upon. Each player draws from a randomized set of game pieces to start the game. Spells, armor, troops and health potions are randomly drawn and fill the player's item queue at the end of each turn.
But it simply isn't about spamming as many units as you can each turn -- there's a deep layer of strategy at the heart of Hero Academy. You'll constantly doubt yourself, as I have. Do I have enough troops on the grid? Should I space them out more, in case my opponent drops a fire spell that lays waste to a given area? Should I try to clear the board or just rush the crystals? No two games play the same.
This isn't Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where your tutors will help you grow and eventually become some of your closest friends. No, instead you will be taught in the harshest manner possible, your curriculum a series of punishing losses and near-victories that will eventually mold you into a teacher yourself. Hero Academy has a fairly steep learning curve, but once you're familiar with your units and develop a core strategy to build on, there's no limit to the pain you deal out.
Plus, you don't have to worry about any Wookiees ripping your arms out of their sockets.
Hero Academy is available for free for iPhone/iPod Touch on the iTunes App Store, on sale for $0.99. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.