The Best Turn Based Strategy Games on Android & iOS14 Oct 2019 33
This particular codex will train and challenge even the most avowed strategy enthusiasts with a maddening variety of scenarios and systems to learn and master from the world of turn-based strategy. Tactics, 4X, Puzzles... across all platforms and many different playstyles, there's a range of turn-based strategy games to celebrate in 2019.
We've reviewed a few titles recently that have moved to our list of the best war games, you should check them out!
Enjoy, and take your time digesting our top picks of the best turn-based games for Android, iPhone and iPad:
Community Suggestions & Recent Releases
We can't always review every game, and out of the ones we do, not all of them manage to claim a top spot in the list. Plus we're always getting input form our readers on what some of their favourite turn-based strategy games are. It'd be remiss of us if we didn't give them a small shout-out as well:
Ticket to Earth (Review)
In hindsight, our original score of 5/5 was perhaps a bit ambitious. While an excellent turn-based strategy game, much of Ticket to Earth's appeal and potential rested on the assumption that Robot Circus would finish the final three chapters of the game. They certainly took their time, but nearly three years later Episode 4 was finally released as a free update in October 2019.
With a unique take on turn-based tactics, a genuinely engaging story and plenty of challenge to boot, now that Ticket it Earth is finally complete it definitely deserves your attention, and can be considered one of 2017's silent stunners. Now that it's complete, it might even be one of 2019's stunners as well!
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Platforms: iPad Only
While Tharsis takes a lot of inspiration from board games with dice-based allocation/drafting mechanics, it's very much a turn-based strategy experience through and through. As the player, you're in charge of a group of astronauts on their way to Mars, except everything's going wrong on the last hurdle and you need to manage your surviving team-members, dwinlding resources and a failing ship to the best of your abilities so that someone, at least, makes it all the way to the end. If that means you need eat someone along the way, then so be it.
The game is wonderfully brought to life with an excellent 3D engine, and the app plays smoothly on iPads (which might explain why it's only available for iPads!). Some might find the reliance on dice-rolls to get anything done frustrating at times, but it does feed into the sense of theatre created by the tension and dread as you pray that nothing else goes wrong on the ship as it is hastily patched back together. Imagine Apollo 13 except Tom Hanks ends up eating Bill Paxton - great stuff.
In many ways Chess is the quintessential turn-based strategy game, and a classic that many people try and iterate on over the years. Some we've been fans of, others not so much, but Feud has impressed us the most so far. This free-to-play gem, instead of trying to be too clever or add in extra rules, instead trys to condense the Chess experience into a tied, closed-quarters tactical brawl.
A 4x4 board, with sixteen pieces (eight each side), leaves no room for manoeuvre, so planning your attacks, moves and exploitations is paramount. Matt was very impressed by this bite-sized take on the classic formula, and there's even cross-platform multiplayer (async) as well as pass-and-play. The only thing it's really missing is a ranked mode and some QoL touches - make sure you check it out!
Egypt: Old Kingdom (Review)
Clarus Victoria are back with a second entry in their turn-based strategy series based on different historical periods of Egypt. The first game focused on the prehistoric history of the area, while their new game focuses on the 'Old Kingdom' period, which last around 400 years ending around 2100 BC. Back then, the capital of the nation was Mephis and it is here that the player must work to try and build great periods and develop their civilisation.
Resource management is key, and then you must also try and assimilate the other Egyptian tribes through either diplomacy or warfare. It's a niche-style strategy game on a very niche topic, but a breath of fresh air and an excellent pick for those looking for something a little bit different.
Given that there are so many ways you can design a turn-based tactics game, for something to come along with a genuinely interesting and clever twist is rare, and speaks to the highest levesl of creativity. Farabel's trick, such as it is, is to start you at the end. You being the story at the height of your power, having just emerged victorious from a long and bloody struggle with the Orcs. But to learn the tale, you have to go backwards in time.
With each level you complete, your forces actually get weaker as you make your way back to the beginning of the war. Within individual turn-based battles there's also some timey-wimey shenanigans your hero character can exploit, making for some devilishly flexible tactical solutions. There are thirteen scenarios in all as part of the main story, and beyond that you can participate in daily challenges, or build an army from scratch to take part in special modes, like survival. All round, it's excellent value for money, even being at the steeper end of the scale.
Euclidean Skies (Review)
Publisher: Miro Straka
Platforms: iOS Universal
This game would also fit right in on our Puzzles guide, but there's a healthy enough dose of turn-based tactical thinking that earns it a place on this list (that, and the five-star review it got). It's a significantly different game to its predecessor, and while it doesn't always work the raw ambition this game shows makes it all the more compelling. Even the art style is different - more vibrant and aggressive, it brings the world to life in a way that's unexpected, but also fantastic.
This is a must buy for fans of puzzle tactics games, and while some of the charm is lost in the shift away form Euclidean Land's simplicity, there's plenty of character in this boisterous new chapter.
Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind (Review)
Publisher: A Sharp LLC
Platforms: iOS Universal
Some strategy gamers will find Six Ages' blend of (sort of) forced immersion awful, where others will lap it up. Fans of King of Dragon Pass - which this serves as a spiritual sequel to - will already be familiar with it. They'll discover a smoother interface and a new setting in a new culture. Forgoing the traditional control and power fantasies of strategic empire-building is a hard habit to give up. But for those that can make the sacrifice, Six Ages holds a wealth of wonders few other games can match. It wants to tell you a tale of gods and humans, of mysteries and the mundane while still taxing your tactics. It's a bold goal and, while it doesn't always work, the narratives that it weaves are unlike anything else in gaming.
Darkest Dungeon (Review)
Publisher: Red Hook Studios Inc.
With each passing year since its conception and release, Darkest Dungeon recedes into annals of history, into the collective memory of unspeakable legends. In other words: a horrid, demanding and sublimely satisfying little game is fast becoming an all-time classic. Some have balked at the fine-tuning numbers behind its challenges (e.g. pre-Radiant days, the initial Crimson Court balancing), but in general the game’s ‘give-no-quarter’ philosophy has won a die-hard following that keeps coming back for more punishment. With the next expansion The Color of Madness slated to arrive later this year, this is a game whose vicious, compelling cycle will continue for a long time.
XCOM: Enemy Within (Review)
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is still the golden standard for turn-based tactical gameplay, so let’s take a moment to revisit why. Squad-based, knife’s edge combat constantly challenges commander’s ability to scrape victory from defeat. Players make overworld and between-scenario decisions for which soldiers to train and tech to pursue, every bit as decisive as the individual commands given to the squad members in the heat of battle. The game has its hallmark AAA production lustre and mankind-on-the-brink storyline, and these conventions work in its favour. Keep your squad intact, do the mission, save the world, piece by piece. The Enemy Within expansion content makes this turn-based strategy game even better.
The Battle for Polytopia (Review)
Polytopia takes the crown for best Civ-lite. If this sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s quite the opposite. Because civilization-building builds its challenges and satisfactions with a grand scope and timeframe in mind, trying to miniaturize this genre experience can go pear-shaped in several ways. In Polytopia, the tribes are separated by a single tech (with some glaring exceptions), and the map has been foreshortened to a grid of 256 squares. Units and tech are the same for everyone, but the simplicity of this means a shorter list of decisive, vexing choices. There is no diplomacy system, but victory is determined by points and not necessarily conquest. The game’s blocky, loose artstyle and easy interface make it an easy game to learn and hard to put down. Only just recently did the support for online multiplayer finally make its debut, and it is this latest change that elevates this title to a must-try.
Invisible Inc. (Review)
Publisher: Klei Entertainment
The future came and went, (Invisibly) and it has been cruel to all but a select few supranational, extraterritorial megacorps. Your ragtag bunch of spies and specialists will scour the globe for intel and supplies so they can make one final run, wipe their identities from the omni-vigilant database and live off the grid in peace. Each run escalates if the agents are detected by the guards, cameras or drones, yet the stealth aspect of the game is only one kind of risk calculation among many. The game’s AP and power systems mean that even successful runs can be tight, and sometimes making a clean escape is a failure if the team did not steal enough resources. The game’s generous learning curve belies an experience in which knowledge can lead to perfect play and challenge runs for pacifist or no-item wins at even the most fiendish difficulty.
Publisher: Michael Brough
Imbroglio sounds like a mess; it is in the name. But of all Michael Brough’s excellent, sparse designs, this one has the most player-driven customization and controlled random inputs. Here is ample proof that roguelikes can offer as much strategic challenge as the best of classics. Each character has their own ability and weakness, and the 4x4 grid on which the game unfolds is filled with tiles doubling as weapons. Swiping towards an enemy will activate that tile and fire its ability, with every slain enemy adding experience to the weapon responsible.
The goal of the game is to collect treasure, which upon collection heals the character and causes the walls of the grid to change configuration. Enemies spawn quicker and quicker as the turn count increases, so the whole affair is a race against time to level-up the sixteen tiles while staying healthy and collecting treasure at a steady pace. It is accessible but with a glut of weapons and characters to unlock and the final challenge to beat, it will reward sustained interest and focused strategic approaches.
Hall of Fame
We like to keep these lists lean, so we can't feature all games at all time. Still, whether it's a classic we initially forgot about, or something that's been rotated out of the main list to give way for a newcomer, we want to make sure these past genre heroes are not forgotten.
- Heroes of Flatlandia
- The Banner Saga
- Chaos Reborn: Adventures
- Templar Battleforce Elite
- Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
- Civilization 6
What would your list of the best turn-based strategy games on mobile look like? Let us know in the comments!