Anurag loves playing video games. His guides and listicles revolve around popular iOS, Android, PC, and console games.
You will find plenty of puzzle, arcade, sports and action games on your iOS device. However, few turn-based strategy (TBS) titles are available on the iPhone or iPad. The good thing is that most iOS TBS games are as impressive as PC games. Some offer tactical gameplay, while others are a mixed bag.
I know all you PC gamers would frown upon the idea of playing a tactical game on a small screen space when you have a bigger LCD monitor available for a perfect view. Playing a TBS game on a 3.5-inch touch screen isn’t disappointing at all. It adjusts very well within the small screen estate; plus, your device's touchscreen makes it very easy for you to maneuver units, fire at enemies and get your strategy right.
Top TBS Games for iOS Devices
Here's a rundown of the some of the best games that make the most of your device's touchscreen to provide a satisfying gameplay experience.
- Skulls of the Shogun
- Crimson: Steam Pirates
- Hitman Go
- Civilization Revolution
- Battle Nations
- Rogue Planet
- Rad Soldiers
- Mecho Wars
- Battle for Wesnoth
1. Skulls of the Shogun
Skulls of the Shogun is a stunning TBS game set in the underground, where ghoulish samurais fight their hearts out to gain supremacy in the field of war. The game is fast-paced, has excellent graphics and great presentation. However, Skulls of the Shogun isn’t an easy game to win. The AI is smart and will make the right moves to ensure your troop gets vanquished in no time. There’s a tutorial mode, but the real fight starts right after the basics are explained. Trust me it’s one hell of a hard game to finish.
Battles are standard turn-based affair, with limited number of actions for each unit. You can recruit new units throughout the game in order to have a stronger defense and a good counter attack strategy. You will need to make the most of archers, monks and cavalry to send a strong message to your enemies. One unique aspect of gameplay is the ability to “devour” the skulls of the dead enemy to restore health. This adds more depth to the overall gameplay.
Skulls of the Shogun is one game you should not miss playing on your iOS device. It challenges players to rethink their strategy (the game has lots of replay value). The stylish visuals, presentation and challenging gameplay clearly makes it one of the top turn-based strategy games for iPhone and iPad.
2. Crimson: Steam Pirates
One of my dream themes for a TBS game was naval combat/pirate battles. Developers Bungie Aerospace has made my dreams come true. Crimson: Steam Pirates teleports players to the world of pirate ships.
This visually-enticing game looks like a slick graphic novel, but ends up as an engaging TBS title. Players can explore islands, embark on a treasure-hunting journey and battle rival pirate ships and zeppelins. The game's gripping story slowly unfolds as the virtual "torn" pages of a journal explain the story bit by bit.
Crimson: Steam Pirates’ strategy is not limited to turn-based combat. It relies on several factors, such as speed, the number of crew members on a pirate ship and additional units, such as air balloons, which give additional assault support to defeat enemy pirate ships.
The full-scale pirate battle looks great from a birds-eye view, giving you full control of your fleet. You can easily distinguish your ships from the enemy ships and use their abilities to win battles. If you like to add some steam to your game collection, play Crimson, because it is it is by far the best naval strategy game for the mobile platform.
3. Hitman Go
I am a big fan of all Hitman games, but was a bit baffled when I heard that developers Square Enix Montreal decided to launch a mobile strategy title. However, the gamble to infuse chess-like gameplay style into the traditional sneak-and-kill mechanics has paid off surprisingly well. Hitman Go’s board game style, the visuals and unique gameplay mechanics is brilliant to say the least.
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In every mission, you will be moving Agent 47 from one point to another without being spotted. There will be guard pieces patrolling an area, which can be taken care of by sneaking up on them and eliminating them from behind (or from the sides) or by distracting them by throwing rocks or tennis balls.
All missions are little puzzles in themselves, and they require players to reach a target or finish a game in 10-15 turns or less. You will also have a chance to snag a disguise of two, which will help Agent 47 blend with the guards. Occasional use of sniper rifles and silverballers to kill enemies add more fun to the board game. Fans of Hitman will find this pocket strategy title interesting, but not as immersive as PC titles.
4. Civilization Revolution
Civilization Revolution is not for the impatient. It’s a slow-paced TBS mobile title best suitable for single-play, because the multiplayer mode would require two even-tempered players to slowly evolve their civilization from Stone Age to the Atomic Age, which may take days, even months to finish.
Revolution should be played on your iPad, because everything, from maps to units looks great on the big screen. The artwork of each unit, soldier and leader is quite detailed, but the animated battles could be impressive if they were shown on a larger screen.
While Civilization Revolution is a slow-paced game, it mainly lets players focus on his/her civilization’s culture, military, technology or economy. Some elements have been omitted, and thankfully so, otherwise gameplay would have been excruciatingly boring. All in all, it’s a good game and will suit those who are looking for a nice little pocket historical strategy game for their iOS device.
5. Battle Nations
Part turn-based strategy, part resource management, Battle Nations (BN) follows the traditional TBS game mechanics. It lets you place soldiers and assault units on a small grid and strategically position them to get a tactical advantage over enemy units.
BN follows the rock/paper/scissor mechanic. You will need to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of each unit before choosing them for battle. When in combat, each turn lasts only for 20 seconds. You will have to be extra careful in positioning key units and have to be quick enough to place units/attack opposing forces before the timer runs out.
Battle Nations' premise is very much like any war game sim. The colorful graphics and animations are spectacular. The attention to detail of each army unit and the terrain is amazing. The visuals look more like the polished version of Advance Wars. So get ready with your flame throwers, tanks and snipers and battle AI/friends via the multiplayer mode in this epic TBS game.
One of the first TBS titles to hit the mobile platform, Uniwar combines the galactic battles of StarCraft with gameplay mechanics borrowed from Advance Wars and has a lengthy 21-mission campaign.
A short tutorial explains key gameplay aspects and immediately takes players to the first campaign map. The controls are very simple, making it easy for even non-TBS fans to get used to it.
Along with the campaign mode, there are plenty of individual maps to explore. Local multiplayer mode allows players to play with 20 online friends. The player will receive notifications via email for any moves made by his friends. That doesn't mean the The AI isn't impressive. It throws a good challenge, but playing with random opponents online can be fun. If you like hex-based strategy games and are into futuristic settings, you will love playing Uniwar.
7. Rogue Planet
Rogue Planet offers pure, unadulterated strategy fun. Most TBS games released for the iPhone are a mixed bag (i.e. combine RPG with TBS elements). But this game sticks to traditional TBS.
The game has a gripping storyline, spectacular map design and smooth controls. The animated 3D artwork is too good. The animated combat will remind you of games like Advance Wars. Besides top-notch graphics, Rogue Planet offers some good strategic gameplay. Gameplay surprises like Kamikaze makes things more interesting. It allows units to self-destruct. Doing so destroys any nearby units. As you progress, the enemy AI becomes more difficult and challenging.
The current version has a multiplayer mode, which is great news for online players. The detailed visuals in the iPhone 4S versions look even more stunning than the 3GS version. Trust me, guys, Rogue Planet is a steal!
8. Rad Soldiers
Rad Soldiers visuals remind me of Team Fortress. The gameplay mechanics is similar to X-Com: Enemy Unknown. It’s a simple turn-based strategy shooter that leaves plenty of room for team tactics. Every unit type has its own abilities which add more depth in tactical combat. However, each unit has a fixed energy count. You need to juggle between positions and firing options keeping in mind the energy currency. Good energy management, position and firing options will decide the mission outcome.
The game’s top-down visuals are simply brilliant. You can pinch-zoom to see each unit in action. The units respond with grunts and other taunts for each command you give. Its excellent touch screen controls allow players to rotate the screen and view the positions of soldiers behind cover.
Rad Soldiers is a marvelous game because it gives enough space for strategy. While the objectives are a bit repetitive in nature, the graphics and gameplay is brilliant.
9. Mecho Wars
Another iPhone turn-based strategy game with a sci-fi theme, Mecho Wars is inspired by Advance Wars. The game has a pretty vague story, but the strategy is flawless. Moreover, the inclusion of time and environmental elements forces players to change their strategy every time, which makes gameplay quite challenging. Watery areas freeze during morning, which allows land units to pass over them. But as time passes, the ice melts. This strategy element will force you to make an early move and inch in closer to your opponents. During combat, the split screen will show splendid animated battle between the two forces.
Mecho Wars has a host of strange alien species to encounter. Most have bizarre insect-like features. The alien artwork variety is excellent, so is the colorful background. If you are a fan of sci-fi strategy, this game is worth a gander.
10. Battle for Wesnoth
This fantasy strategy title offers a nice combination of role-playing and TBS gameplay. While the visuals aren’t that epic, the gameplay has plenty of tactical moments to keep gamers glued to their seats for hours. It will take more than 100 hours to complete 200 challenging campaign scenarios.
Wesnoth’s campaign scenarios are for serious strategy gamers. Battles are designed for shrewd gamers who would love to use their very best units to defeat enemies. The one gripe I have is the game’s slow frame-rate. This makes scrolling a bit frustrating. It takes time, especially when I click on a unit, scroll down and click on the area to move it. Thankfully, the game has an option that lets me speed up unit movements. Despite some hiccups, Battle for Wesnoth gets my thumbs up because of its depth and variety.
Mike on March 29, 2016:
No Final Fantasy Tactics?
Anurag Ghosh (author) on September 14, 2014:
Samuel Franklin on September 13, 2014:
Really good list of strategy games for iPhone, I've been hunting for something for a while and think Battle of Wesnoth or Crimson might be for me.
Falcon on April 13, 2013:
Where is great little war game and its big brother, great big war game? Two awesome games, can't count how many hours I have played these.