Strategy is a beautiful thing. It can win you wars, Sun Tzu-style, or it can help you pass time with your iPhone without going brain dead. While some of the simpler games are brilliant for passing a few minutes, there’s nothing like being actively engaged in something to whittle away the hours. If you’re far from home and missing your board games and your console games, check out our list of top strategy games.
There are a handful of great space-themed games on the iPhone, but Galcon sets itself apart. It’s a re-spawn of the classic Galactic Conquest, but optimized for the touch screen and multiplayer. In Galcon, you start with a home planet (or planets), and then attempt to conquer those around you. If you control a planet, it creates ships for you. You can send out the fleet all at once, or stockpile part of them to wait in defense. Sending out 70 percent of your ships could be the difference between keeping and losing your home planets, but you may not be able to conquer enemy-controlled planets without more.
Despite the seemingly complex gameplay, the mechanics are simple. Touch a planet to travel to it or to attack, and then indicate what percentage of your ships you’re sending. Consider yourself warned, though — the game is highly addicting. People tend to run down their cell phone batteries quickly trying to conquer the galaxy.
Tower defense games have become almost cliché since Plants vs. Zombies blew up the genre. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great games out there that have the same addictive powers minus the Miracle Grow.
FieldRunners is more of a classic take on tower defense that gives you nine different types of actual towers to protect your base with. You’ll have some success with just placing as many towers as you can around the base, but if you set up the towers to guide enemies into a maze of destruction that you control, you’ll really start seeing results. Some of the towers are designed for slowing enemies, whether by ice or by goo, while others like the lightning and mortar towers are built for raw force. They also all have different attack ranges, and some can do area damage while others are focused. The combination of several maps with different towers keeps the game interesting long after you’ve gotten your $2.99 worth of entertainment out of it.
Tabletop gamers rejoice! The ever-popular board game Catan is on the iPhone. For those unfamiliar with the game, it centers around building up a medieval civilization by claiming spots on the interchangeable map that have access to brick, wool, grain, lumber, gold and ore. Build up your settlements into cities, and then protect them by fortifying them and adding a knight.
The principle seems easy enough, but when you’re racing for victory points against friends or the built-in AI, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact it’s just a game. You’ll likely find yourself looking up guides and reading about the different strategies. Between natural disasters, robbers, and competitions to see who can get the longest road, Catan is the most fun you’ll have for $3.99. Once you get the hang of it, you can also download the Seafarer expansion for even more fun with ports and shipping lanes.