Ironclad Tactics is a card based tactical game developed by Zachtronics. The battlefield that every game takes place in usually has four lanes for units to traverse to the other side. When a unit makes it to the other side, the victory points that they are currently worth will be added to your total, and you will win when you earn a total of 8 points. Units of the same type will stop when in front of each other, but an ironclad will always walk over and crush an infantry unit. There are sometimes special areas out in the field, such as flags that will cause you to gain more AP over time and mortars that will earn you victory points over time.
Knowing how battles work is one of the most important things to help with victory. The game is played out in real time with all actions of the same type happening at the same time, such as a card playing phase, movement phase, and battle phase. You will be drawing cards into your hand the whole time as well, with only being able to hold 5 cards at a time and older cards being discarded. Action points are needed in order to play your cards, which are gained automatically over time depending on the level and whether or not you own special zones on the field.
Building your deck is the most important part of Ironclad Tactics, since finding the right combination of cards for yourself will win you battles. You can only place a total of 20 cards into your deck, a max of two different factions, and 4 of the same type of card. Multiple decks can be saved, so you can create decks for different kinds of situations.
Four types of cards exist, which are infantry, ironclads, parts, and tactics. Infantry cards are any types of cards that deploy a human with certain traits, usually fast movers with no weapons or slower gun wielding ones. Ironclads are large metallic automatons that have a lot more health than any infantry, and can equip different types of parts such as weapons and head pieces that improve their traits. Part cards are the card that you can attach to ironclads, which are many types of weapons like guns and swords, as well as head pieces that add bonus stats like armor and faster movement speed. Tactic cards are basically abilities that you can use on units out on the field, such as a repair card which will heal your ironclads and the maneuver card which lets you move any unit up or down a lane.
Each level mostly differs in the types of units that the opposing team is using and the location of special zones, such as flags and mortars. You can always expect to go up against more and more advanced enemy units and ironclads, especially ones that you don’t have access to yet.
There are generally two challenges present on each level, and completing them will reward you with bonus cards to add to your collection. You must complete the challenge, and then beat the level as well in order for them to count. Challenges can range from simply only using one faction of cards to win the battle, to only relying on mortars to win the battle.
Every once in a while a level will have the option to do a puzzle version of it. These puzzle levels will give you a set amount of cards and you must earn victory points with them before the other side does.
When you beat the main campaign, it is possible to play through the whole game again with higher difficulty. The levels won’t just simply be harder, they will also be slightly designed differently as well. There will be new cards for you to unlock by playing this mode, and cards that weren’t normally possible to earn while playing on the normal difficulty will now be able to be earned.
It is possible to play every level in Ironclad Tactics either in co-op or a skirmish. Co-op lets you play story levels with another player while battling the computer. Skirmishes take place on a story map, but both sides can have two players each using their own cards. Special skirmishes exist on maps such as one player using boss units and the other having to defeat them, while another gives both teams a large amount of AP at the start. If you’re interested in doing a 1V1 on a random map, you can choose the random 1V1 option in the main menu which will put you with a random player to battle.
Since the graphics are simple and everything is operated with the mouse, there aren’t many options but the missing ones aren’t even needed. You have the basic volume sliders and whether or not you want the game full screen. Although the graphics are simple, they’re still colorful and the animations that the characters have are great. Everything has unique sounds and the music is top quality, and it may even remind you of the music from SpaceChem.
There may be a large variety of cards available in the game, but as you collect more a lot of the earlier cards become obsolete. By time you reach the end of the game, maybe half of the cards you’ve collected aren’t worth using anymore. There could have easily been more puzzle levels, and the ones that do exist are very short and don’t take too long to figure out.
If you’re not too worried about completing the challenges that exist on each level, the game isn’t too difficult. You will always lose at times due to not getting the cards you want, but after a few tries every level is possible. Each level of Ironclad tactics can be finished in a few minutes, so anyone that doesn’t have a lot of time to play games will be able to enjoy this one.
The base levels may be a little too simple when you find your perfect deck of cards to use, but there are generally 2 challenges on each level that you can aim for which add a lot of difficulty. Skirmishes against other players may also be something the hardcore player would look forward to, since you never know what you will face. Other than just completing all of the levels, challenges and cards all exist for you to go out and collect. There are even cards to earn from just playing skirmish levels. Depending on how well you do, and whether you’re trying to collect all the cards and complete challenges, you can expect to get 5-10 hours out of Ironclad Tactics. If you are planning on playing through the game again with new game plus, you can expect to pretty much double the amount of play time you will get with the game. This doesn’t include the skirmish modes, which can add countless hours to the length of the game.
The basic version of Ironclad Tactics costs 15 dollars, while there is a 2-pack for 22.5 dollars and a deluxe edition for 40 dollars. The 2-pack simply comes with two versions of the game, while the deluxe edition will come with the first two add-on campaigns when they get released, as well as some digital goodies such as the music and copies of SpaceChem. It is well worth purchasing Ironclad Tactics if the type of gameplay interests you, as you will get a fairly lengthy campaign for the amount of money you paid, and the skirmish modes are perfect if you like playing against other people.