By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Lately I have been living in a different world, one where a civil war is causing chaos to the beautiful lands of the United States and its citizens. In this steampunk world you will take control of different steam powered robots and infantry to defeat and destroy any harm that was brought upon these lands. With your deck of military robots and military forces you will have to overcome difficult challenges and obstacles that will confront you, all the while unlocking more cards by just playing the game. There are no micro transactions or any similar gimmicks in Ironclad Tactics, and that appeals a lot to me.
Ironclad Tactics follows the story of two friends who have built ironclad robots. Although the robots are quite basic models and yet to be tested, with the impending civil war, who knows when they might come in handy. When you begin the story mode you will be introduced with the very basics of the game. And as a long time CCG gamer, I must say that the basic gameplay elements are quite easy to pick up, but that’s not to say the gameplay itself is a walk in the park.
On the first few stages, your starter ironclad won’t be doing much. It can walk around the map but not much else. You will slowly learn how to maneuver these robots and then eventually the card element comes into play, allowing you to equip your bot with additional weapons and utility skills. When you follow the story mode, you will unlock all sorts of robots and infantry men that all have their own uses. Since robots are sturdy machines known to for taking a beating, you’ll find it key to unlock proper defensive boosting cards so they can clear the way for your infantry to survive long enough to complete objectives.
Winning a game is purely decided by the objectives. If you manage to bring a robot to the other side of the board, you will gain two points. Every round begins with action points filling your action pool; these action points can be used to put more cards on the map and obviously each type of card has a different action point value depending on its usefulness. The usual CCG strategizing takes place of choosing instant gratification and quantity now, or playing possum until the big guns are ready to roll. Besides the various summon and upgrade cards, you will also find a lot of bunker type of objectives scattered on the map itself. These bunkers, recognizable by the numerous sandbags surrounding them, serve as something more than just a defensive structure. Some contain bonus action points inside, while others offer a large cannon that can score a victory point, though only infantry cards can capture them. Eight victory points insures a win, so don’t give up bunkers without a fight. And when you get eight victory points, you will win the game.
While the card elements of Ironclad Tactics are pretty straight forward, some elements like bunkers aren’t as clear right off the bat. Unfortunately you will have to take a beating sometimes to learn the full potential of your deck in the school of hard knocks. Card unlocks come fast and furious in this game, and after completing a few challenges successfully, you’ll already have a plethora of options to decide between while prepping for your next match. It’s impossible to skimp on deck optimization as the story mode’s challenges amp up continuously, and there’s just no way to win with your starter deck. Finding the right balance of hardy infantry cards, route clearing ironclads, and upgrade cards is no simple task, and will take plenty of trial and error both in story mode as well as PvP.
Unfortunately the cards are mostly found when doing the story mode, and even though we have to walk before we can run, I am not a big fan of this type of system. When you face other players, you will be matched up with players from your own skill range. But if you haven’t unlocked all the cards yet you will eventually hit a wall, a steel wall, that will not let you advance further because people will have insurmountable advantages in their deck. And even though you can win special cards in these skirmishes, I still think it is fair when everyone has the same cards. But I suppose you will just have to complete all the chapters if you want to be on the same level as the better players. Luckily the chapters aren’t that long so you will just have to invest a few hours of your time before you are ready to test your skills against other players.
Ironclad Tactics takes a different approach and style than most card games we’ve reviewed. Even though the game is still built on a foundation of cards, it feels different. It’s much faster paced and the gameplay feels and looks more satisfying than its competitors. The addition of a story draws you in with further motivation to continue playing. There are no micro transactions to nickel and dime you into paying to stand on competitive ground with your rivals. You buy the game, you get the full game, and that’s it. There are however more and more chapters being added, and these cost a bit of money, akin to an expansion pack system. You do not have to buy them, but the extra content definitely makes it worth the small price. If you are a big fan of card games, I can definitely recommend you to check out Ironclad Tactics.