The Best War Games for Android & iOS13 Feb 2020 7
If you have ever looked for wargames on your iPad/android device you will know what I mean when I say it’s akin to walking into a swamp to find your wallet. Hundreds upon hundreds of tower defense, sniper and risk clones drown out the truly decent experiences. Like the 'strategy' genre at large, free-to-play 'gacha' games have invaded our app stores and are proving nigh impossible to resist.
Still, equipped with the latest in swamp draining technology, we've been able to bring together a crack squad of some of the best android and iOS war games currently available.
What are the best iOS & Android War Games?
- Company of Heroes
- Pacific Fire
- Heroes of Normandie
- Wars Across the Worlds
- Vietnam '65
- Panzer Corps
- Carrier Battles 4 Guadalcanal
- Drive on Moscow
- John Tiller's Modern Campaign Series
- John Tiller's Civil War Battles Series
- Joni Nuutinen's Conflict Series
- Command & Colours: The Great War
- Ancient Battle: Hannibal
- Napoleonics: Waterloo
Company of Heroes
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Platforms: iPad Only
While it may not fit the traditional definition of 'war game', Company of Heroes is none-the-less one of the finest WW2 real-time tactical experiences of the past twenty years, and it's finally on iPad. Feral Interactive have done a great job porting over this classic to mobile, with a remade interface to deal with touch controls and reduced screen size. It's still a bit fiddly in places with the more complex operations, but as our review notes, it still plays very well.
At the time of writing, Feral have only ported the single-player campaign, plus the ability to play in Skirmish matches vs. an AI. We anticipate multiplayer coming at some-point down the line, as well as possibly Company of Heroes' two expansions. An Android and phone port wouldn't go amiss either.
Genuinely new entries into this category are rare, but thankfully 2019 gave us a real indie gem to add to this list. Wirraway's Pacific Fire is a cheap, but surprisingly deep, combined arms war game that throws you into the Pacific Theatres of WW2. There's plenty of scenarios on offer that portray both sides of of the conflict, and it's your job to make the best use of the ground, sea and air assets you have available in order to capture and secure your objectives.
This is a solitaire experience, but the developers have stated several times they're fully committed to adding content to this game, as well as working on new titles that follow the same format. What's especially compelling about this is that it uses a 'WEGO' turn-based format, where all turn orders are resolved simultaneously. This is a great war game available at at great price, and you should read our Pacific Fire review for more.
Heroes of Normandie
Platform: iOS Universal
Price: $14.99 (with additional IAP DLC)
Not only is this an adaptation of a pretty decent physical war game of the same name, it's a pretty decent war game on its own merits as well. Taking inspiration from classic hex-and-counter style games, Heroes of Normandie instead used a square grid and more 'to scale' counter pieces that depict squads of troops, vehicles and individual commanders. Really it's a squad level-tactical game that involves die-rolls, action cards, but also careful use of your units' abilities and the surrounding terrain.
Slitherine actually did an excellent job adapting this game to digital, retaining the 'larger-than'life' art style of the board and playing pieces, and offering a way to play the game without having to try and read the rule-book (which was kinda terribly laid out) and dealing with all those pieces. Slitherine were parhaps a little ahead of the curve when they launched this in 2016, as it hasn't really been getting the post-release support we'd expect despite the digital board game port genre in general growing in popularity. At $14.99 it's definitely one of the more expensive games out there, but we'd dare say if you want something meaty, but portable, this is worth the expense. Slitherine have always been Android averse, so we doubt it'll ever appear there, but there was a patch as recent as March 2019, demonstrating that they haven't totally abandoned the game.
Wars Across the Worlds
Publisher: Plug-In Digital
Platform: iOS Universal
Price: $1.99 (With IAPs)
Wars across the World's premise is to present a universal war game system so that it can applied to a range of scenarios and settings from across history. You could be fighting in the forests of Tannenberg one minute, storming the beaches the Normandy the next, before finally taking on the Syrians in the Six Days War.
We were very impressed with how well the mechanics translates from era to era, giving a consistently fun and challenging experience. Bespoke flavour is introduced via the card system, which can offer meaningful tactical and strategic choices. The base game only comes with the tutorial and one additional scenario (hence the cheap price), but so far none of the $1-a-pop scenario offerings have disappointed. The Berlin 1945 scenario (priced $2.99) is currently our favourite.
The core mechanics simulate the nature of counter insurgency operational warfare in a plausible and realistic manner. The constant pressure to keep a presence out in the field makes it difficult to scrape together the forces you need for the big sweeps to destroy the core enemy bases without comprising somewhere. The result is a demanding just one more turn experience, and you should read out Vietnam '65 review for more.
The developer made a follow-up game, Afghanistan '11, which is also really good and covers the events following the 2001 War in Afghanistan. You're put in charge of American forces as you try and build up the 'hearts & minds' of the local populace, whilst also tackling Taliban-sponsored insurgents. Sadly, Apple arbitrarily removed the game from the App store and it has yet to return. You can still pick it up on PC though, if you want.
Panzer Corps has been hailed as the 'the spiritual successor' to the Panzer General series. If you don’t know Panzer General it was a wildly successful 1990’s war game. Panzer Corps is light-weight operational level WW2 game play that allows you to play a series of linked scenarios in which your forces will upgrade over time though around 800-unit types. The challenge is taking a specific objective within a time limit whilst retaining your force. Probably not for anyone who is interested in an actual simulation or specific order of battles.
Carrier Battles 4 Guadalcanal
Publisher: Avalon Digital
Platform: iOS Universal
This is an outstanding pacific carrier battles game played out at the operational level. The excellent AI, easy interface and accessibility combined with realism and plausibility makes this game a must if you have a vague interest in naval operations. But most of all I love how this game gets you so quickly to the interesting decision points and the thick of the fighting. Read our review for more.
At the time of writing, a successful Kickstarter means that this game will be coming to Android (and Desktop PC) in the near future. Huzzah!
Drive on Moscow
This is an operational level, area activation game allowing you to defend or drive or Moscow with realistic units. Battling against time you face a series of agonising decisions in this game, constantly trying to figure out when is a good time to push ahead or fall back to a new line. The outcome is determined by your skill in judging those correct moments. Realistic, tense and accessible, this a most excellent game indeed. Read our Drive on Moscow review for more.
John Tiller Software
Modern Campaigns Series
This is a series of four operational level games covering the Arab-Israeli wars, a hypothetical cold war gone hot in Germany in the 80s and Quang Tri offensive in 1972. These games provide detailed order of battle, some good fog of war and a realistic tactical combat element. However, the core system is somewhat dated, the AI isn’t great and the experience doesn’t provide a particularly plausible command simulation if that matters to you. If you don’t like endless drop-down menus then these games aren’t for you, accessibility is not a key strength here.
- Modern Campaigns: Quang Tri '72
- Modern Campaigns: Mideast '67
- Modern Campaigns: North German Plain '85
- Modern Campaigns: Fulda Gap '85
John Tiller's Civil War Battles
There are a ton of civil war battle games on the various stores and most of them are a complete waste of time from a wargame perspective. However, the JTS Civil War Battles series does provide a tactically solid game with a strong order of battle backed up with good combat mechanics.
However, like Modern Campaigns the core system is dated and the overall simulation of the command experience doesn’t feel right. You will be hard pushed to find a better hard core tactical wargame of the ACW out there and with 11 games in the series you will be kept busy. Note, unlike the Modern Campaign games, not every game in this series has been released onto Android:
- Civil War Battles
- The Battle of Antietam
- The Battle of Shiloh
- The Battle of Chancellorsville
- The Battles of the Peninsula
- The Battle of Chickamauga
- Battles in the Ozark
- The Battle of Corinth
- The Petersburg Campaign
- The Battle of Atlanta
- The Battle of Franklin
Also Consider: There are more JTS games on iOS than Android, but in addition to the above JTS has put out some of their Panzer Campaigns and an air warfare and naval warfare game. All are worth checking out, and some are even free!
Alternatively if you want something lighter then look to Hexwar and their series of Civil War: 186X games or their slightly more complex game American Civil War Battles based on the wildly popular Terrible Swift Sword board game Great Battles of the American Civil War.
Developer: Joni Nuutinen
Price: Free to $5.99
The conflict series covers an absolutely huge number of WW2 operational level games that have been put out by this Finnish designer. The main thing about this series is that they are very accessible, time to combat is very quick and its probably the main reason for their success. This is combined with reasonable pricing and a design that makes you want to take just one more turn. On the downside the games don’t look great, they are all pretty similar and the AI can be very poor which without 2 players makes the game long term viability pretty limited.
Nuutinen's gamelist is a bit too numerous to list here (and it doesn't appear that he's on iOS?), so check out this link for the full list of games he's created.
Command & Colours: The Great War
While we weren't that impressed during our review, the team at HexWar have been putting a lot of work into their digital adaptation since its release. It has some new well themed mechanics that well represent the tactical challenges of the era and to be fair, there's not a lot of digital WW1 games on mobile around. Since we've just come out of the 100th anniversary at the end of the war, this one might be worth reconsidering if it comes up on sale again.
Read our Command & Colours: The Great War review for more details and impressions.
Ancient Battle: Hannibal
Publisher: Hex War
Platform: iOS Universal
It’s hard not to like the Punic Wars with its diverse number of units, colourful characters and wide ranging geography. This game offers different battle scenarios in a traditional hex, you go, I go format linked together by a wider campaign. Whilst their games are pretty standard one thing that HexWar really surpasses in is in its ability to make their games look great and accessible.
This is not only immersive but it allows the player to quickly get to the hard decisions and the crucial turning points that one can agonise over and reflect upon later. The base engine used by HexWar has been used across a number of their games including the early and late medieval and Napoleonic wars. So there are plenty of different era’s here to pick and choose from if you are looking for some serious plate metal on your horse.
Publisher: DK Simulations (David Kershaw)
David Kershaw has a traditional mix of mobile wargames that are none too dissimilar to the conflict series but Napoleonics: Waterloo stands out as it takes the mechanics of the Napoleon’s Triumph and Bonaparte at Marango board games and ports them to Android (I couldn't locate them on the app store -ED). If you are bored of traditional hex war games and want something that better reflects the challenges of a real command and battle using a different kind of mechanic then look no further.
Other iOS & Android War Game Recommendations
What are your favourite android or iOS war games? Let us know in the comments!