Published on October 5th, 2013 | by Zach (beezn) Beason0
Ironclad Tactics – The Review
Summary: Ironclad Tactics took a great card game mechanic and merged it with an underused but very rich setting in the American Civil War. While being a very good and challenging game, its only real flaw is that sometimes the odds aren't in the players favor. Which is a good thing.
The Civil War has not been a terribly popular point in time to set a game. You could count on one hand the number of times a major game title was set in 1860′s America. The common reason most war games were not set before WWII is there just wasn’t much action, well action that developers think that players would appreciate. But, if the game presented it in the right way, you might just love it. Ironclad Tactics took a story set in an alternate reality version of Civil War America, and presented it in the form of a collectible card based tactics game with steampunk styled robots! If the anachronistic scene of a robot fight that took place on the front lawn of the White House sounded like a good time to you, then this is the game for you!
The cards that you were dealt in Ironclad Tactics were aquired by winning battles. The game’s developer, Zachtronics, intended for all cards to be won this way with no intention to have card packs sold via microtransaction. The cards had various powers and abilities, and some were your units and the weapons that they used. When going into a battle, you had to pick a deck. You could build a deck of 20 cards out of all the cards that you had in your possession. The limit of 20 made each battle a struggle. It felt so confining, but made winning feel that much sweeter.
Be they a flesh and bone infantryman, or the eponymous ironclads, yours and your opponents units both made a great effort to cross the battlefield. Crossing the field granted each side victory points that decide who won or lost the battle. The ironclads are all much more robust and could take a lot of punishment, they could also cross the battlefield stomping your enemy soldiers to death as they crossed your path, which was really effective. The human soldiers, though, tended to be quicker across the battlefield when they weren’t stuck to the underside of a large lumbering automaton.
The battlefield layout was a familiar one that could easily have reminded you of Plants vs Zombies, however the grid involved both sides of the battle fighting their way to cross the scene. You were able to use your units to block, advance, and have infantry and ironclads alike hold fortifications in the field. You could change positions between the three rows of advancement on the field for better coverage. Ironclad Tactics presented its campaign’s story through a 70 page graphic novel. You were given a few pages at a time after every battle. The comic art style melded well to the tactical battle layout that most of the game centered around. In both cases, the art style was well crafted and suited to the theme of the game.
The gameplay was fast-paced were each turn lasted 5 seconds. The downside to such a fast turn time was that you could quickly make mistakes, ones that could make you lose, and lose badly. The only real problem with the gameplay has been a common one with most card based games, both digital and analog. If your opponent was equipped with a better sequence of cards in the beginning of their deck at the beginning of play, you would have been hammered to death without any hope for recovery. That is unless you lucked into a rare card drop, then there was a small hope.
Ironclad Tactics‘ audio was very well crafted. The sound effects and score combined to make an immersive experience that could make players feel a combination of patriotism and enthusiasm for the game. If you were to take the soundtrack and the art out of the game you would still have had a very good game mechanically. But with the sound design and the visuals that Zachtronics put together into Ironclad Tactics, you were given an exceptionally good game. You could fit a quick round in between chores or classes just as easily as you could sit and play for several hours at a time.
Ironclad Tactics is available for PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam for $14.99. Also available is the digital deluxe edition that includes a copy of SpaceChem and SpaceChem: 63 Chorvi for $39.99. Or for $56.99 you can go through the Ironclad Tactics website and get their EXTRA! EXTRA! Bundle that includes everything from the deluxe edition as well as two extra campaigns, a digital artbook, the original soundtrack to the game, a signed poster, a paper version of the game, a papercraft ironclad, and a SpaceChem periodic table.
Editor’s Note: The review copy of Ironclad Tactics was provided to The Geek Link by Zachtronics.