Review – Strategy and Tactics Series (3 Games)(iOS, Android, Windows Phone)

(Note: This is a compendium of three previous reviews)

Strategy and Tactics WWII (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)

Strategy and Tactics WWII is a “board-like” video game about commanding troops in the Second World War in Europe at the Divisional to Theater Levels. The game’s story follows fictional generals from the invasion of Poland to the Fall of Berlin, with the majority of the battles being major events. Time is split between playing as the Germans, Soviets, and the United States, with two chapters for the formers and one for the latter. And while the story is generally true to life, since the characters are fictional there is one choice to be made at the very end of the game that has the war end slightly differently, but it’s more of just an interesting exercise.



The gameplay looks deeper than it really is. The map is divided into provinces which have numbers, targets, and factories on them. At the start of a turn, players get resources equal to the numbers on the provinces they control. They can use these resources to buy various types of divisions for their army. These divisions will appear in selected factory provinces (or random ones [and even random, no-factory provinces in this version] if the selected one is not available) at the start of the next turn. Divisions then, on their turn, can attack enemy-held provinces and divisions. While there are some complications with battle handled by the computer, the basics are easy to get: infantry can move one province, motorized infantry and tanks two (if moving through friendly territory), certain units do better against each other, for instance artillery does better attacking tanks than infantry, and planes can bomb or fly within a certain range, (which could be from 1 to about 5 provinces away depending on province size). Below each group of divisions is a bar that shows how strong it is (from green to orange to red), combined divisions have an average of each individual division’s strength. The lower the strength, the easier it is to defeat and push back the division or army. When the strength runs out the army is destroyed. Strength is lost during every attack, but less is lost by the victor. When a unit does not move it recovers strength, and when it moves but does not attack it doesn’t lose or gain. And, finally for my explanation, surrounded divisions who are defeated automatically die since they have no place to retreat to, and there is a limit of 12 divisions per province, so they could be surrounded with a full complement of friendly forces on each side.


All of that might sound interesting, but it doesn’t boil down to much. The main goal of each mission is to capture provinces marked with targets, and since there’s a turn limit it ends up being more of a mad dash. The actual strategic component of surrounding divisions rarely comes into play, but it is quite satisfying. The game may look like a smaller Hearts of Iron, but it has nowhere near the depth, or breadth. None of the missions are large, and one never gets to control or even fight a whole country, just small pieces. There isn’t much space to use strategy and tactics, and resources are scarce. While there is some variance in the units since they upgrade throughout the campaign, every battle ends up being very similar, to the point where the rare battles that are quite large seems like a breath of fresh air.


This claustrophobia is fixed in some part by the standalone battles that are separate from the campaigns; huge battles like Barbarossa, or “the Decline of the West”, which takes place over all of Europe, are really exciting. But in the main version, some of these have to be paid for, which brings me to a major complaint of many: The in-app purchases. It is possible to play the entire game without buying anything other than the game itself, but at times the resources seem so scarce that it becomes quite tempting to just buy them with real money (Or you could cheat the A.I.). I never found this temptation strong, and it is quite possible to beat the game (and not too difficult to do so) without buying a single thing. Still it is unsightly, and I do wish they were not there.


The expansions to the game, such as a WWIII campaign, and other stand-alone scenarios centered around fiction are fun, especially the massive scenario where you either have to beat down the US, Canada, and Mexico as the USSR, or keep the Soviets and the Chinese at bay and destroy their landing zones in California as the United States, which is suitably epic. I purchased a few of these before I realized it was more or less a rip-off for the amount I was getting and stopped playing the game because I had beaten almost everything. Fortunately, this has been fixed by having a separate app with all of the expansions pre-packaged for half of the total previous price. Still, I can’t justify spending any more money on this particular game. (And the scenario with the Germans in the arctic is impossible.) This in-app purchasing problem was fixed with the paid version of the WWII-based sequel (they charge so much for expanding the free version that buying the paid version where you won’t have to pay anything again is much cheaper).


While the larger battles in the US and Europe are more fun, and have more room for actual strategy and tactics, they are quite long, and by the end show how little depth there is at times. I do enjoy them, but with no government, naval, or economic forces at play I can see how they would bore people. And they highlight the problems with the A.I., which is pretty bad. When resources are scarce and units unbalanced, it can win on time usually, but in a large scenario with almost equal power between the sides, the computer will inevitably lose given enough time. It isn’t the greatest at attempting to win the game. And, in fact, exploiting this is absolutely necessary to winning the main game. The A.I. goes for material more than the strategic provinces, and will chase easy kills. Giving up a single division will keep entire armies occupied for long enough to allow one to rally their troops and make the game unwinnable for the computer. And, in some cases, abandoning completely the province one should be defending to run out and distract somewhere else is the only way to win, so instead of defending Leningrad to the last man, one ends up just fighting over random countryside. This leads to a balancing problem where the computer has too much power in many of the main missions, and if it were controlled by a human it couldn’t possibly lose. The computer also can’t recover from the destruction of an army, as it never really likes to buy units in a way that makes sense. Surrounding an army by exploiting how cheap and easy paratroopers are to buy and destroying a whole 12 divisions essentially wins a mission as the computer is incapable of recovering, and will split a lot of existing units instead of combining them to compensate.


In the end, it’s an “all right” game, but not worth all of the in-app purchases. If I had bought the complete version first, I would be happier. And, after I finished the campaigns and stand-alone missions, I haven’t really wanted to go back. It’s fun for a time, but unrealistic, and lacking depth. It just doesn’t have the hook to keep it interesting that its WWII-based sequel (WWII Sandbox, Strategy and Tactics) does, and that’s the one I keep going back to.


Medieval Wars Strategy and Tactics (iOS, Android)

Strategy and Tactics Medieval Wars (Or perhaps Medieval Wars Strategy and Tactics) is a sequel to the game Strategy and Tactics WWII based in medieval times. The setting is much more generic this time around, spanning many decades as opposed to 6 years, although the setting is still Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The game is on mobile platforms like its predecessor, and uses touch controls. The 3 campaigns are the Crusades, England, and France, (and Germany) with several standalone missions that can be played involving other locations.



The gameplay is basically the same with different artwork: mechanized infantry and tanks are replaced with cavalry and knights; artillery with archers; and infantry with older-looking infantry. The Pros and Cons of using each type of unit in a particular scenario remain relatively the same. There are a few changes, the first being the obvious lack of air power, which makes battles more dull in my opinion. The resources that provinces produce have been replaced by gold, which in reality just adds one order of magnitude to everything and makes the game needlessly complicated (I’ve always been one for simplification in games, 1 should either be the least I can get or spend in a turn, not 10). The graphics are also needlessly complicated. While I found the first game’s graphics to be easy to understand and visually appealing, I find these quite the opposite. I prefer to play the game zoomed out, and in such a state I can’t tell the difference between the units even with my glasses on, and zooming in only lessens the difficulty of the problem, but doesn’t fix it. The font used is also very thin and much less readable than in the previous game.



The interface is the same, responsive and usable. There is no additional polish added since the last game, but I don’t feel it was needed. The mechanics of surrounding enemy armies, capturing key provinces, and buying new units are still there, just with a different skin. The maps have changed.  They cover a smaller area, but thankfully have similar numbers of provinces (any smaller than the last game would not have been fun). This makes sense for the time period but I still have a hard time believing it (the amount they move and the battles that take place). I just can’t understand how these armies are operating, knowing what I know about wars of the time. And that is my main problem with the game. Medieval wars and the Second World War were fundamentally different wars in terms of both strategy and tactics, but the game is the same. In the Second World War it makes sense for large numbers of troops to hold miles and miles of territory to prevent a siege breaking out, but even scaled down in this game, the battles don’t stack up. The maps should be of cities and the surrounding countryside, not of entire parts of countries (at least in my opinion).



So I have to admit, I didn’t play the game past parts of the first campaign. The difficulty seems to have increased in comparison to S&T WWII, and that coupled with the art I couldn’t understand, and the historical element that just didn’t click with me, made the game almost unplayable. I played a couple of the standalone scenarios, part of the English Campaign, and then quit. I only came back for this review and didn’t get much farther.


This is also how the story is conveyed, no cutscenes in this one.

This is also how the story is conveyed, no cutscenes in this one.


That being said, it is the same game essentially as its predecessor, so if that game was enjoyable to you this one would be as well (just without aircraft). And if the medieval theme grabs you this one might be even more enjoyable. Still, neither of these first two games are ones that I’d really recommend: they are slow, and sometimes feel more like just sending units forward than actual strategy and tactics. The next game is the one I’d really recommend.

WWII: Sandbox. Strategy and Tactics (iOS, Android)

WWII: Sandbox. Strategy and Tactics is the third (and worst titled) game in the Strategy and Tactics series for mobile platforms. The gameplay is basically the same as its predecessors, with a few additions and tweaks. This entry returns to WWII but forgoes the campaign design of the last two games and allows one to play as any country in the Second World War for as long as it takes them to win or lose (players can even play past “winning” until there are no more opponents to fight).

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The touch controls are the same as the last game, and work just fine. I’ve had no problems with responsiveness. The basic unit vs. unit abilities have remained essentially the same as the first WWII game, with the upgrade tree a little more well explained and fleshed out (I personally find this to be not worthwhile as upgrades are really only noticeable in battles with few units). There are a few tweaks and additions, though: reinforcements now have to appear in factory provinces, the upgrades can now be purchased with resources since there are no development points, the cost of paratroopers has been significantly increased, making them much less useful (but still very important), planes have been made both more expensive and more powerful, and most game-changingly, ships have been added along with water provinces for them to move on. These water provinces provide no resources, but the ships in them can battle each other, bombard coastal provinces, and block over-sea routes of attack for land troops.

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(I should mention before going on that I have the paid version. In the free version I believe everything I mention is unlockable, but it would take so long for players to complete the almost impossible tasks needed to unlock new features that it should be considered much more restricted. The free version is really a “try before you buy” kind of thing, especially since purchasing only a few upgrades in it would cost more than the paid version)

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The main draw of the game, though, is the sandbox game-play. Players could choose from any European country that was in the war, and, after updates, can now choose from most Asian countries that participated as well. When choosing a country, the player will also choose an objective. Completing this can end the game, or the player can choose to continue until they decide to stop or all enemy forces have been destroyed. This flexibility makes the game much more fun than the previous iterations and allows much more room for actual strategy and tactics when playing. The alliance system, while primitive (with three sides {Axis, Allies, and Communists} that can attack either other side but not countries allied with their side, and neutrals that can attack anyone and be attacked by anyone) also adds a bit more depth, and with that and the random occurrences of uprisings in certain provinces; weather preventing planes from being usable; and sabotage preventing resources from being produced and vehicles from moving, the game becomes much more involved and interesting.


The huge maps (the Asian one being almost entirely new), many countries, and long list of objectives for each country contribute quite a lot to make this game more replayable than the others. The game can be a little long, especially if one decides to continue after completing the objective or plays with a tiny country, but the game lends itself to interesting narratives (How did Estonia conquer all of Europe?) and that keeps the player more involved through the entire process, though some of the alliance choices do take one out of the story (Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltics are Allies, Finland and Spain are Axis, Yugoslavia is Communist, and Austria is Neutral. Various other problems are in the Asian map). The events, such as coups where smaller states are annexed without being attacked, the uprisings where certain countries attack in random home provinces (or sometimes related ones, like New Ireland in the Asia map), the US Navy arriving in the Pacific, Countries changing alliances (Yugoslavia can declare neutrality, Ireland and Hungary can join the Communists, etc.), and the surrendering of countries (the Soviets being almost defeated in Asia will always lead to them being replaced by the Germans before being fully defeated) add more to the story than this takes away, though.


The story gets a lot more simple near the end of the game. The AI doesn’t scale based on how well you’re doing, so while playing as a small country like Portugal, Greece, or Estonia is challenging at first (Sometimes very challenging: I haven’t even figured out how to survive as the Netherlands!) by the time you start nearing the power level of some of the more powerful countries there is little that they can do to stop you. Especially since they like to put most of their resources into upgrading, which makes them more powerful in the count, but gives them many fewer units. The AI also plays overly cautiously. It’s afraid to commit large numbers of troops to a single breakthrough area, and will retreat when met with stubborn defense. This means most attacks when you start to get larger can be easily repulsed (It also means large battles like Germany or Japan vs. the Soviet Union can take quite some time to resolve without intervention) and if the player can form a wall of armies and manage the keep them relatively strong, they have created an unbreakable defense and unstoppable attacker. The large map allows for this fortified wall strategy a lot more in many places (less so in Asia, that is a more airplane- and ship-centric map), and when backed up with airplanes, the only thing that can beat it is rushing forward too fast, and even then with time the player can likely come back to their former position. The player also tends to be more objective based, targeting strategic provinces (which have targets) to destroy other countries, or targeting specific armies to surround and destroy, while the AI is more survival based, trying too keep as many armies alive as possible.

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The random events can be a problem at times too. When playing as Ireland my objective in a game was to take and hold London for a turn. But the oversea routes kept being blocked by storms, and by the time they weren’t, the British had become too powerful, and my landing operations in Spain and Scotland had failed. It took me until 1947 (the game starts in 1939) of mostly waiting to actually complete my objective (which also highlights how bad the AI is, since no human would have lost in that scenario).

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Despite some of these drawbacks, and the relatively simple gameplay, I quite like the epic quality of the game. It’s large (the map is larger than the large Europe map from the first game, extending into the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. And the Asia Map is almost as large and mostly new), dynamic and interesting to watch even where one is not currently playing. Happenings on other fronts and random events keep players more in the game while they are waiting for units to heal or buying more troops, and can mean the difference between success and failure. The lack of a timer, settings for alliances (but without as much control as I would like), and large amounts of missions make this game very close to true to the title, a WWII sandbox. I like the stories one can create, I like the gameplay (though I wish there was a bit more depth to both it an the Diplomacy system), and most of all I like feeling like I’m in charge of a massive army on a massive chaotic battleground. This game is the game I wanted when I bought the first game, and I’m glad I finally got to play it. It still isn’t very complex (not a mini Hearts of Iron), but I haven’t found much more complex on mobile devices.

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