The 10 Best Strategy Games on the iPhone
As Advance Wars: Dual Strike proved when it was first released for the Nintendo DS in 2005, turn-based strategy games are a genre made for touch screen controls. Savvy developers quickly realized the iPhone's potential for delivering games of that nature, and there have been tons of high-profile strategy releases for the platform since App Store's launch and many more since we last updated this list. The RTS is another subgenre of the overarching "strategy" label that has been traditionally reserved for PC gamers, but a bit of creative thinking and intuitive control scheme design has led to the creation of a number of quality RTS iPhone games as well, proving that if there's a will to make something work on the iPhone, there's probably a way.
10 | Avalon Wars
Although Avalon Wars is little rough around edges and heavy on the menus, but as a strategy game, it's incredibly deep. Taking the role of one of three space colonizing factions, you're tasked with maintaining units of soldiers while simultaneously upgrading and expanding your home base. Various missions give you the tools and equipment needed in increasing the effectiveness of your army, and in many cases, the battles come down to how well you prepare your individual units. Once you’re in battle, the game automatically calculates your victory, which means that your stat crunching is your best weapon. As a single-player game, the campaign is interesting enough to plow through, given the low price.
9 | Great Little War Game
Great Little War Game (GLWG) maps the Advance Wars turn-based strategy formula to the iPhone's touch screen. Capture bases, gain resources, and deploy units to destroy the enemy's armies or capture their headquarters. The touchscreen is a natural interface for a strategy game, so most of GLWG works elegantly. Sending units off to die is as simple as tapping them and their destination on the hexagonal grid. The unit deployments screen is big enough – and the number of units small enough – that you never accidentally make a transport truck instead of a tank. You can also zoom in and out of the battlefield at your leisure, allowing you to fluidly switch between macro- and micromanagement.
Between how well the strategy works and how simple GLWG is to play, it can be easy to get into the “just one more turn” habit that many of the best strategy games known for. Given a few caveats, Great Little War Game fills the void once filled by Advance Wars, and that's honestly one of the biggest compliments I could pay it.
8 | Everlands
While the game has a cute factor that might turn off a more adult audience, the strategies involved in this hexagonal, turn-based strategy game are surprisingly complex. You start with a select number of animal game pieces that can only attack certain directions and have a specified health and attack power. You need to strategically place each piece so that you can capture opposing pieces, ultimately capturing a majority of the game board. Sound easy? It's not. Your opponent can also attack your army's pieces, hoping to turn them to their side. Factor in some special abilities and you have a game that starts easy and then develops into a real headache for iPhone generals.
7 | Supremacy Wars
Much like Clickgamer’s Modern Conflict, Supremacy Wars is a real-time strategy game where players are asked to rapidly move troops around a map to capture buildings. Capturing enemy territory will generate more soldiers in your army, making it easier to crush your opponent. All structures on the maps have a number hovering over them that indicates how many soldiers that particular building houses, and if you send enough troops to overcome those soldiers, you'll be able to capture the structure for yourself. Games end when one player has successfully stolen all their opponents' structures. It’s a simple concept, but there’s a hidden depth for quick-witted players to discover.
Supremacy Wars certainly feels a lot like the aforementioned Modern Conflict at first, but it will quickly become obvious that this is a much deeper game with a massive pile of things for players to do. A rich leveling system, a host of spells and abilities that can be used to trip up your opponents, and unlockable game modes all serve to make this a game that's plush with strategic potential. The only thing this game is really missing is online multiplayer. If that isn’t a deal-breaker for you, by all means hand your money over to Chillingo ASAP.
6 | Rebirth of Fortune
With a name as nonsensical and nondescript as Rebirth of Fortune, you'd think that this would be a Square-Enix game. While that's not entirely accurate, it's also not far from the truth, as the game admits to "borrowing" heavily from Final Fantasy Tactics right in its App store description. There is literally no story in the game; you're simply supplied with a handful of soldiers, archers, and thieves to wreak destruction on people who have committed no crime other than being differently colored than you.
There isn't much variety in the game's stages since every map is styled after a giant chess board, which is disappointing given the high quality of the art style, and after being exposes to the dialogue it seems that the game was translated by someone with about 45 seconds of experience with the English language. Obviously, there are more polished games on the App Store, but there's definitely enough fun to be had here to make the game worth its discount price point.
5 | Starfront - Collision
If Starcraft II was available to download from the App Store it would very easily take the top spot on this list. It’s not (yet), but leave it to Gameloft to provide a cheap substitute where they see demand. Like many of their other games, StarFront is much lesser imitation of an almost universally adored game. In Gameloft’s defense though, StarFront is much better at aping Starcraft than, for example, 9mm is at aping Max Payne. This is mostly due to the fact that the touch screen lends itself much more to selecting and managing units than it does to twitch-based action. It’s a competent, portable version of the real thing, that, when combined with its high production value, a long singleplayer campaign and multiplayer mode, forms a package that’s well worth the price.
4 | Galcon
Galcon is probably the simplest game on this list, making it also the easiest one to pick up and play. The goal of the game is to conquer the interstellar map by sending your ships from planet to planet. Bigger plants produce more ships but are harder to conquer, and the opposite is true for smaller plants. The Strategy here lies in keeping momentum, knowing when, where and with what force to attack. There are several different game modes, each fun and worthy of your time, but the principle remains the same in throughout: stay on the offensive and keep your ship moving in the right direction. The speed with which you tap around the screen is almost as important as strategically thinking, so this choice might best suit those who like a little bit of twitch with their strategy games.
3 | Catan
When Klaus Teuber set out to create a simple, enjoyable game to play with his wife and kids, he never imagined that his idea would one day manifest itself as one of the first German board games to achieve notoriety outside of Europe. Die Siedler von Catan was first published in Germany in 1995 and has gone on to sell over 15 million copies across the 30 different languages into which it has been translated, eventually arriving in the United States as The Settlers of Catan.
Players cannot be eliminated and there is always a possibility of a comeback for those who find themselves doing poorly, making Catan a game that's fine-tuned for multiplayer. That being said, the iPhone version's lack of online multiplayer is disappointing, but local hot seat multiplayer and intelligent A.I. opponents in single player mode make Catan's App Store debut a worthwhile purchase.
2 | Army of Darkness Defense
If you’ve never experienced Sam Raimi’s horror comedy trilogy, Evil Dead, Netflix it at once. The third entry in the clinically-insane film series, Army of Darkness, serves as the backdrop for Backflip Studios’ (Paper Toss, Ragdoll Blaster) new iOS title, a castle-defense game where you assume the role of Ash Williams as he takes on waves of Deadites. Army of Darkness: Defense might not break much ground, but it’s one of the best games of its kind that keeps things interesting by constantly pumping out new enemies (Deadites, Evil Ash), attacks (boomstick, the Necronomicon), and unit types (Henry, Wiseman), all of which are references to Raimi’s cult-classic film. The game’s even loaded with Bruce Campbell’s cheesy one-liners like "Hail to the King, Baby," (which later appeared in the Duke Nukem series).
1 | Civilization Revolution
Sid Meier's Civilization series has long held a special place in the hearts of many gamers, almost all of them PC players. When 2K's console port of the legendary franchise, Civilization Revolution, drew nearly universally positive reactions from critics upon its release in 2008, it became apparent that Civ can be done well on platforms other than the PC. With a set of features comparable to the console version and controls superior to the DS version, Civilization Revolution's iPhone adaptation is arguably the best version of the game.
2K hasn't let the iPhone version of Civ Rev stagnate, regularly updating it to address player complaints. The considerable number of playable civilizations, scenarios, and strategic options for both attacking and defending make the ultra-portable release of the game a complete port that won't disappoint fans of the console edition. Zoom-pinch camera controls take advantage of the iPhone's superior touch screen and the game looks great in the high-resolution in which it's displayed. PC gamers with fond memories of the Civilization games should definitely check this one out, and tutorials should be enough to familiarize newcomers with the game's deeper concepts.