The Best Turn Based Strategy Games on Android, iPhone & iPad
13 Dec 2018
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 TBS games to celebrate in 2018.
Not a strategy fan? We’ve got some great puzzle games you should check 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 lay on the assumption that Robot Circus would finish the final three chapters of the game. One could argue they’re taking their time, but 20 months on and players have finally gotten Episode 3, and the promise TtE made to players is almost complete.
With a unique take on turn-based tactics, a genuinely engaging story and plenty of challenge to boot, now that Ticket it Earth is 75% complete it definitely deserves your attention, and can be considered one of 2017’s silent stunners. It shot itself in the foot, for sure, but time has proved early adopters right in the end.
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.
Civilization VI (Review)
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Platforms: iOS Universal
Price: Free Limited Trial, $29.99 IAP for full game
Civilization VI is a premium game at a premium, no-fuss price, albeit one that’s made many a mobile gamer flinch. Friendships have been shattered and lesser men driven mad by the game’s epic arcs starting with the cradle of civilisation and culminating in space travel and the digital age. Production, culture, warfare, science and diplomacy are all concerns when cultivating your civilisation. The original thrill of growing from a single city in misty, distant obscurity to a global force shaping the course of (simulated) human history really doesn’t boil down to a punchy recommendation. For those living under a rock, this is a game which actually merits those common adjectives bandied about to praise games: epic and awesome. For strategy gamers, Civilization 6 will consume all of the free hours of your life.
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 4×4 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.
What would your list of the best turn-based strategy games on mobile look like? Let us know in the comments!