Pocket Tactics Presents: Gift Card Guide 2016

By Nick Vigdahl 26 Dec 2016 0

Happy Holidays, dear readers, tis the season for gaming! Ok, sure…family, food, yada yada—but definitely gaming. More to the point, tis the season for App Store and Google Play gift cards  - the most noble of gifts, although on the effort scale it takes its place just above real money.

But how best to use those gift cards? Well, that's why I'm here with a handy guide. Much more handy than those "guides" to putting together your new whatchamajigit from IKEA, anyway.

Frostguide

Before I get to details lets lay down some basic assumptions:

  • First, I use games and prices from Apple's App Store, mainly because I am an iOS user. Many of these games don't exist on Android yet, which is a real bummer, but here we are. I did my best to include some extra Android-compatible games in the honorable mention section below.
  • Second, these are 2016 games only. There are a ton of great older games to be sure, but I only have so much time in my day and the scope had to be limited somewhere.
  • Third, I'm working in US dollars with a 7.1% tax because that's what I pay. If you're in the US it'll probably be close, but I'm not sure about other nations of the world. Prices are correct at time of writing, but things may have changed slightly between then and publication.
  • As a follow-on point - the prices listed below are before tax, so just bear that in mind.
  • Finally, I endeavoured to use every part of the gift-card buffalo. The guiding principle was to get as many great games as possible.

With that out of the way, on to the guide!

$15 Gift Card

Grandma thinks $15 is a lot of digital scratch? That's alright, you can still get some great games with that:

Concrete Jungle ($4.99) [Androidis a unique deck-building, city-simulating puzzler and quite possibly my favorite game of 2016. It anchors this gift-buying guide as a result. You play as a freshly hired city planner in Caribou City where you must build up parts of the city as efficiently as possible despite the best efforts of others to hinder you. Get this one first on either iOS or Android.

Lost Portal ($1.99) is card-collecting, deck-building, RPG that will be quite familiar to fans of Magic: The Gathering. It scratches the same itch and does it well. There is a ton of content in this game, with more to come in 2017, so it's a gift to yourself that will keep on giving. I'm a big fan and if not for Concrete Jungle, this would be my favorite card game of the year. Sadly, it is only available on iOS.

I Keep Having This Dream ($1.99) is perhaps the most underrated game of 2016. It is a tile-placement game that takes place inside of a nightmare. Your nightmare. You're being chased by your vaguely identified "nemesis" and must lay tiles to reach the exit of successive levels of the dream. Tof gave it four stars and I whole-heartedly agree, I Keepf Having This Dream is clever and fun and available on iOS.

Warbits ($3.99) is a turn-based tactical-combat game where you smash your robotic army into that of an enemy—AI or fellow human—and to the victor go the…bragging rights, I guess. Warbits is brilliant from story mode to multiplayer. A twenty-mission single-player challenge mode is coming in early 2017 as well. Warbits is easily one of the best strategy and tactics game available on the App Store.

Check out the Pocket Tactics five-star review for more. 

Stencilsmith ($.99) is a tile-sliding game reminiscent of Threes, but with swords…and dragons. You combine tiles to create tools and harvest raw materials. You also forge weapons and look to slide them into the monsters that come marauding onto the game board. If those same monsters run into one of your tools, you lose a life. Lose three lives and it's over. The game is all about gaining as much XP as possible through crafting and battle before that happens. Stencilsmith feels a lot like a crazy Rubik's cube and is available on iOS.

Concrete Jungle

$25 Gift Card

A $25 gift card? Now we're talking! Here are a couple more games to add to the fifteen-dollar haul.

Guild of Dungeoneering ($4.99) [Android] is quite simply a fantastic tile/card/puzzle/role-playing game. You've opened a new guild and are hiring adventurers to go forth to dangerous locales and come back with loot. You play both dungeon master—building the dungeon with randomly drawn tiles, and trying to lure players to the ultimate goal—and the player character who fights monsters using a deck of cards full of abilities, and gathering what loot they can. Adventurers will die—the graveyard is one of the earliest sections of the guild hall after all—but they are just the fodder, more will come. The game is exceedingly clever and tons of fun and you should grab it now.

Solitairica ($3.99) [Android] is part Solitaire, part RPG, and all fun. You pick one of six decks based on the traditional fantasy classes—Wizard, Warrior, Paladin, Bard, Rogue, and Monk—and go to battle in a game of competitive solitaire with a series of strange and unfriendly monsters. This is all part of the quest to reach a distant tower and defeat the dastardly Emperor Stuck. Solitairica is a lot of fun and has fantastic replay value thanks to the different decks, each with its own play style, and the powers and magic items you can add to your arsenal along the way. It's four bucks on iOS and free-to-play on Android, though I recommend you go ahead and pay the developers to unlock the premium game there.

Guild of Dungeoneering

$40 Gift Cards

You got a couple of cards totaling forty bucks? Perfect. Here’s what you can snag by on top of the the previous tiers:

Crashlands ($4.99) [Android] by the awesomely named Butterscotch Shenanigans, defies general gaming classification. It's a mix of a whole lot of things gamers will find readily familiar, but which are rarely blended together. It is an action-adventure game with fast-paced, real-time combat. It is a role-playing game with a storyline full of quests to complete, pets to meet, and gear to collect. It is a crafting game with an ever-evolving technology tree. Crashlands is part Minecraft, part Don't Starve, part tactical-RPG, part Diablo, and all awesome. You can play this one on iOS or Android.

Imbroglio ($3.99) is a turn-based strategy game that has you seeking gems in a constantly changing dungeon while being chased by an assortment of dangerous monsters. You attack monsters with the weapon depicted by the tile on which you stand. You have the option of changing the board itself, and deciding what tiles go where, to give yourself an edge. There's a lot of replay value with a bunch of different characters—each with a different special power—as well as various monsters. The goal is to grab as many gems as you can. This one is also iOS only, and well worth grabbing.

Invisible, Inc. ($2.99) puts you in command of a super stealthy crew of special operatives who are on the run from the corporate oligarchy of 2074 who are bent on their elimination. It doesn't pay to know all the secrets, I guess. This is a turn-based gem full of tough, nail-biting decisions. It's also one of the best games of 2016 and definitely worth picking up on iOS. Invisible Inc. is $1 off for the holidays (normally $3.99), which makes room for another game…

Mini Metro ($.99) [Android] is a beautiful and intuitive game that lets you build the metro system for various real-world cities. It is out on iOS and Android and an easy choice to add at the bargain holiday price of $.99. If you’re reading this late and the sale is over this serves as a good swap-in game at its normal price of $4.99.  

Crashlands

$50 Gift Card

Fifty bucks? Somebody’s making it rain. Enjoy your newly acquired patronage and add these great titles to your list:

Twilight Struggle ($4.99) [Androidis, for my money, the best digital boardgame of 2016 and high on my all-time list as well. The Cold War flavor is spot on and the game is a veritable history lesson. The gameplay is fun, challenging, and really rewards smart, tactical play. Oh, and the multiplayer is asynchronous and actually works and works well. Kelsey gave this one five-stars and I must agree. Twilight Struggle just hit Android, has a new expansion coming, and is currently on sale (normally $10) so act fast!

Dungelot Shattered Lands ($1.99) [Android] is a very fun tactical role-playing game filled with monsters, traps, magic items, and other loot. Oh, and an undead cow. There's plenty of fun and content in this one and you'll definitely find yourself sucked into one more level. Check out my four-star review for more info and you can get this one on either iOS or Android. It is currently $2 off, which makes room for…

Dungeon Warfare ($1.99) [Android] is another great game on sale for the holidays (normally $3.99). It is a super fun tower defense game where you, a dungeon lord, must protect your mass of treasure from thieving adventurers. If you like the genre, Dungeon Warfare is a must—set traps now on iOS or Android.

Tiny Armies ($.99) is a game of conquest writ small. Very small. You command Team Blue, five blue squares that you take to battle against the hated Team Red. Your goal is to hit them before they hit you, as the attacker always wins. Your problem is navigating forests, mountains, lakes, and other obstacles to get to the vile reds. Tiny Armies has a bunch of levels and is very deep for such a small price. There's also an accompanying Apple Watch app that plays just as well. This one's worth buying on your iOS device.

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Honorable Mentions

One size doesn't fit all, here are some honorable mentions to swap in at various price points. Depending on your local app-store set-up you may have some money left over as well, which can also be used on any of the below:

The Battle of Polytopia ($.99 and up) [Androidis a free game, for starters, so go get it. It's also a great tactical war game. You get to play the full game with three tribes for nothing. In-app-purchases will get you more tribes (most are $.99), and there's a bunch of them, so you can audible to this in any amount to expand your options.

Frost ($3.99) [Androidis a deck-building game of survival in which every element—sound, visuals, gameplay—supports the frigid narrative. I really enjoyed it and certainly recommend it to both iOS and Android gamers.

Arena Quest RPG ($1.99) [Androidis a combat-centric role-playing game distilled down to the key elements to support combat encounters—a map and inventory and character management screens. There are no NPCs, no quests, and not much of a story to speak of. What Arena Quest delivers is seriously challenging combat. It's worth noting that there are free/lite versions of the game on both platforms.

To The Throne ($.99) is a puzzle game with a minimal design, clear old-school Game Boy aesthetic, and matching retro soundtrack. In it you must help King Kingsley and royal adviser Bitsworth navigate the Tower of Trials to claim the scattered pieces of the Royal Emblem. There are a ton of levels, each a cleverly constructed puzzle of escalating difficulty. This one is available on iOS only.

Starting tomorrow, Pocket Tactics' Game of the Year content will start. We'll be announcing the winners of all the categories between now and New Year. Awards articles may run-over into January 2017 depending on schedule. Enjoy your holiday break!

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