Three cheers for strategy games. They let us build civilizations and wage wars without forcing us to deal with the real-world consequences that are usually coupled with these activities (e.g. dead bodies, broken families, smashed cultures).
Touch screens make it very easy to orchestrate intense tasks, meaning the App Store has a very robust selection of strategy games. Here are a few that should sate the armchair general barking inside of you.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth ($1.99)
Anomaly: Warzone Earth mixes tower defense and real-time strategy, making for a pretty unique game experience that's often cited as one of the best games on iOS.
When weird alien craft land on Earth, they throw up dome-like structures, causing the titular anomaly. In order to investigate the site of the incident, you need to dispose of the defensive towers guarding the perimeter. Doing so requires you to direct a military convoy while laying down power-ups (decoys, for instance) that help keep your soldiers alive in this very hostile environment.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is stuffed with excellent content and is offers up a hefty challenge that's satisfying to untangle. Still, if you manage to gobble down everything on its menu, you might want to move on to Anomaly 2 ($4.99).
Plague Inc ($0.99)
Plague Inc has become synonymous with mobile-based real-time strategy games. It's also one of the most unsettling strategy games out there, period. It revolves around creating a virus vicious enough to wipe out all human life on earth. Humans, being stubborn critters, work to combat the sickness via quarantines and vaccines. You must respond by mutating your virus so that it busts through all those annoying antibodies like a tiny Hulk.
If your worm wipes out the human race, you, er, win. It's a dark goal, and it's weirdly fun to pursue. Anyway, once the people are all gone, maybe the tigers and pandas of the world can peer out of the jungle depths, wipe their brows, and get on with reclaiming their rightful home.
The Banner Saga ($9.99)
The Banner Saga is one of the most striking titles on the App Store thanks to its visuals. This turn-based strategy title features hand-animated scenes meant to resemble an '80s Don Bluth film, which is a very effective way of illustrating the game's snowy, war-blasted world.
Inspired by classic turn-based strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force, The Banner Saga also incorporates story points that are affected by the choices you make and the characters you cozy up to. You're responsible for the safety of your caravan as you go up against the war-loving Dredge race, and as a consequence your decisions aren't always as easy as "right" and "wrong."
Sid Meier's Pirates! ($2.99)
It's impossible to talk about strategy games without invoking the name of the genre's own genius, Sid Meier. Plenty of his PC classics have been ported to iOS, and one of the very best is the iOS port of Pirates!.
Pirates! mixes action, adventure, and strategy. It also demonstrates that pirates' lives weren't exclusively about grog-swilling and parrot-training. As a sea dog, you have a lot of resources to manage, a lot of treasure to find, and a lot of rivals to silence with a well-placed flick of your sword.
Bio Inc ($1.99)
Bio Inc is an offshoot of Plague Inc, and it manages to be even creepier than its inspiration. Whereas Plague Inc challenges you to eliminate the world -- a pretty faceless enemy, all told -- Bio Inc revolves around killing a single person by shutting down their bodily functions one by one.
Of course, your subject struggles to stay alive. In some cases, they have special ways of guarding against the Angel of Death. A hypochondriac, for instance, is going to run to the doctor the first time they feel a twinge in their toe.
Spending even a few minutes with Bio Inc makes it obvious that giving an aneurism to a person with a name -- even a pretend name -- is kind of intense. It's not a game you'll forget playing any time soon.
First Strike 1.2 ($3.99)
The only way to win a thermonuclear war game is not to play, but it's hard to ignore a well-crafted Armageddon game like First Strike 1.2. Your goal is to make ashes of your enemies, of course, but despite what post-apocalyptic novels and movies tell us, that might require more than one day of nuclear exchange.
Utterly conquering the world requires you to manage space (you can't just store an endless supply of missiles under your bed) and conduct research to squeeze as much "boom" as possible out of your weapons. When the smoke clears, you'll be able to plant a flag on the pile of radioactive slag that was once the world. Congratulations, Emperor.
Civilization Revolution ($2.99)
As was stated earlier, "Sid Meier" is a name that means a lot to fans of strategy games. And that name is usually paired with a single word that also carries a lot of weight in the genre: Civilization.
Civilization Revolution for iOS is a decent entry point for newcomers to the series. It's accessible, affordable, and lets you experience much of what makes the Civilization series legendary. You can conquer the world with force if that's what you want, but you can take a more peaceful path through culture and economics. Civilization is as complex as the world itself, and there's no one "right" way to do things.
The Walking Dead: Assault ($2.99)
The Walking Dead is already an excellent adventure game, but Skybound went ahead and made a good top-down strategy game out of the franchise. After all, it's nice when zombie games and literature try new things.
As you progress through the game, more and more characters from the series sign up for your zombie liquidation plan. Each fighter brings their own weapons, bonuses, and fighting styles. Unsurprisingly, there are hostile humans to deal with, too. It wouldn't be a crisis unless we all found ways to divide ourselves into violent little groups.
The Walking Dead: Assault is a solid strategy game that's easy enough to enjoy -- as long as your heart is still warm and pumping instead of slowly decomposing in your sunken chest.
XCOM: Enemy Within ($9.99)
XCOM: Enemy Within is built off 2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The former is packed with features that make it one of the most popular strategy games on the App Store, including cool soldier classes equipped with cybernetic suits, multiplayer challenges, and a robust single-player campaign that revolves around saving the earth from an alien invasion.
The combat is turn-based and teeming with challenge, but combat is only half the story in Enemy Within. As is the case with any war, orchestrating the events that go on behind the front lines is as important as directing your troops. Scientists have to study and invent, engineers have to build, and you have to make sure it all happens smoothly.
XCOM: Enemy Within brings new ideas to Enemy Unknown while retaining respect for its source material. It's a mandatory pick-up for fans of sci-fi fights.
Great Little War Game ($4.99)
The title "Great Little War Game" makes the horrific act of war seem like a fun way to pass an afternoon. Nevertheless, this little war game from Rubicon is great. It's a turn-based strategy title that lets you wage war across land, sea, and air. Your success depends on your ability to capture and make use of high terrain and ideal ambush spots. It's highly satisfying to play, and it has a sharp sense of humor.
Great Little War Game is good stuff for experienced Generals, but newcomers won't have a problem learning the ropes, either.