The 10 Best Android Indie Strategy Games
Android Indie Strategy? Is this a joke? you ask. Android is the absolute armpit of the gaming industry—a platform so riddled with freemium flotsam that one demurs to even call it a gaming platform at all. What’s worse, some high-end mobile titles never even make it on to Android. So why, you ask, don’t we just suck it up and play our dumb strategy games on a PC or even an iPhone?
Mainly because many of us prefer a mobile device open to alternative apps, and one that is not user-friendly to the point of infantilization. In short, we dress ourselves in the morning and like the results. But that open to alternative apps thing—that’s worth a second look. Because while Android is undoubtedly a breeding ground for nickel and dime game design, it’s also a platform that is particularly welcoming to small indie developers. And if you look really long and hard—I mean, you really have to squint—you will find a trove of well-designed basement indies. Gems that are designed by one and two-man teams. We love finding these. We love to see how game developers with a small economy of resources elegantly design bona fide digital experiences.
Now, not everything on this list is a basement indie, but every title is both well worth your time and deprived of the love it deserves. I know. It makes me sad too. And ultimately this is all about your time because we spent a good deal of ours sifting through the mobile gaming trash heap to create this list of the best Android strategy games you never heard of. Yes, you may have heard of some of them. Just read it.
Ported to Android in 2012, Slay is the definition of an elegant strategy game. Played out on hexagonal maps, you try to obliterate you opponent by winning over every hex. The more hexes you have, the more units you can support. Said hexes are taken by simply moving your little man onto a spot. If an opponent’s forces are present it’s a simple matter of whose unit is more powerful. Upgrading troops is equally simple. Slap two peasants together and you have a spearman, two spearmen make a knight, and two knights a baron. And that’s it. For a turn-based game it moves at a brisk pace, and surprisingly Slay’s simple recipe is not only addicting but allows for some rather nuanced and challenging battles.
9. Rising Empires 2
Like Slay, Peter Norberg’s Rising Empires 2 is a shining example of elegant game design. With its rudimentary visuals and simple interface, you could be forgiven for assuming at first glance that the game is a dumbed-down mobile strategy title. Once you begin to dig into this superb 4X, however, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate its balance and depth. Each of the game’s fantasy-themed races come replete with an elaborate yet proportioned technology tree. The title also features a diplomacy system and rich unit customization options, and, of course, combat. And although the latter plays out over strings of text, it’s a minor drawback in what is otherwise a deep and engaging strategy title.
Described as a meditative strategy game set in space, Grafrukt Games’ rymdkapsel is yet another simple interface belying a complex strategy title. Easy to learn, with layers to engage and master, the title provides a rich base-building experience presented via pleasing colorful shapes and cool and creepy ambient music. Like most base builders, your goal is to build the biggest and baddest base conceivable, in this case before aliens invade. As you learn the function of the various facets of your base, you begin to appreciate both rymdkapsel’s minimalist approach and its surprising depth. It is the kind of made-for-mobile title that will keep strategy enthusiasts tapping for a long time.
7. Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord
If you were ever a fan of Koei’s superlative Romance of the Three Kingdom games, ChengDu LongYou Tech’s Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord is your game. In nearly every respect, Three Kingdoms resembles the classic Koei games: from an unfolding emergent narrative steeped in the three kingdoms era of Chinese history, to a series of engaging and well-balanced strategic systems. As in the classic Koei titles, you can opt to micromanage your kingdom or set policies from your capital and focus more on battle and conquest. It also features excellent line-drawn graphics clearly reminiscent of the classic Koei titles. If all of this makes make you think Three Kingdoms: The Last Warlord is just a clone of Koei’s seminal strategy games, you are right. It is. And it is a wholly good thing.
6. Star Chindy
Though MASTgames refers to Star Chindy as a roguelike, it features neither asterisk characters nor procedurally-generated dungeons. Instead, you’ll command a spaceship with a ragtag crew vaulting across the cosmos to find and destroy the vile Mechrons, the robot race that nearly destroyed humanity and then mysteriously disappeared. Star Chindy combines FTL-style space exploration with both ship-to-ship and tactical combat. Aside from a tepid ship combat system, Star Chindy’s various elements work well together. There’s a trove of loot and leveling for both ground units and ships that are well integrated into play. The game’s tactical combat is nuanced and challenging, and it sports a fun story line to boot. The overall package is a genuine achievement for a small indie developer and is well worth both your time and its spot on this list.
5. Sentinel 4: Dark Star
Origin8’s Sentinel 4: Dark Star is hands down one of the finest tower defense games Android has to offer. Admittedly, it only provides a handful of changes and improvements from Sentinel 3 (both still available on Google Play), but somehow this last iteration of the superb Sentinel series did not get the love it deserved. Featuring 26 missions and four difficulty levels, a host of new aliens and commander and tower perks, Sentinel 4 offers up a genuinely challenging, balanced and detailed tower defense game.
4. Epic Little War Game
For some inexplicable reason, Rubicon Development’s Epic Little War Game, the latest sequel in the Little War Game series, sits at about 10K downloads. For turn-based strategy fans à la Advance Wars, it does not get much better than Epic Little War Game. Epic offers up local co-op and online multiplayer options plus—dare I say—an epic campaign. The storyline and art are consistently amusing. The game’s variety of units and terrain types are used to great effect, especially in the game’s generous single player campaign. And while the strategy delves only about as deep as its inspiration, it’s deep enough for some really enjoyable gameplay.
3. War of the Zombie
Van der Veer Games’ superb War of the Zombie has often been likened to XCOM. As with the iconic tactics game, one layer has you strategically wrestling with a global threat, while the other half is played out in a series of tactical missions. Earth has been struck by a zombie pandemic. And you find yourself in control of G.O.D., a military corporation tasked with eradicating said plague. The global strategic layer plays out a bit like Plague Inc, with players engaging in a multitude of tasks to eliminate the zombie threat, like setting up bases, scavenging for tech, going on bombing runs and engaging with world leaders. On the tactical level, you send out a four-man “safe team” to rescue VIPs, destroy rebels and secure rogue nukes. While not without its flaws, War of the Zombie is overall a smartly-detailed and thoroughly engaging strategy title.
2. Conquest of Elysium 3
Known for exceptionally deep strategy games, Illwinter Game Design created a true made for moble title with Conquest of Elysium 3. A seamless port from the PC, Elysium sees you heading up a military faction in a fantasy-themed world. In said role you will capitalize on locations and resources in an effort to grow your army and conquer the map du jour. While the game appears at first glance to be a simple strategy game, the title contains multitudes by way of arrays of races, units, factions, skills, abilities and hero units.
What’s more, your units not only have abilities and skills, but battle line preferences. Different factions have specific goals and rely on different types of resources. Once you enter battle, there’s a complex yet fathomable system running under the hood. While the graphics are from a bygone era, it really doesn’t matter as it is hands down one of the most enjoyable strategy games you can play on mobile.
1. Rebel Cops
A spinoff of HandyGames’ This Is the Police, Rebel Cops sees you running a team of renegade police. And by that I do mean rebel cops. Fed up with a corrupt police department, you set out trying to infiltrate the organized crime elements that have corrupted your colleagues. The title is a departure for the sim series. The meat of Rebel Cops is in its superb turn-based tactical combat.
Somewhat in the vein of XCOM, Rebel Cops’ tactical combat features an array of elements, including a decent stealth system and smartly-designed missions. Between missions you wrangle your local reputation and manage your outfit’s funds. All in an effort to keep the locals on your side and properly gear up the officers under your command. We were happy to place this superb tactical title at the top of this list. We are also a little bewildered that its only garnered 10K downloads since its release earlier this year. If you have read this far, buy it, download it, play it.