The best free strategy games for Android
Our favorite free Android RTS and turn-based games, board games and card games.
Void Tyrant tasks you – as a mighty hero – with cleaning up the galaxy. And you do so via the power of blackjack. Sort of.
Yep, this free Android game is another card battler. As you work your way through the universe, you face off in one-on-one battles with various violent foes, flipping over cards, and trying to better your opponent’s score without going bust.
But there’s more to winning than guesswork, because you also build a deck full of skills and weapons. Playing these additional cards (which eats into slowly replenishing energy) is the key to success, and adds strategy to what might otherwise have been a lightweight, throwaway card game.
Instead, it’s one of the best around, with tons of depth and replay value, and a very reasonable premium upgrade if you want to rid yourself of the ads.
Bounty Hunter Space Lizard
Free Android game Bounty Hunter Space Lizard is the tale of a despondent lizard living in a van, whose lover left, and whose spacesuit sprang a leak. Obviously, said reptile then had an epiphany: the only way to ‘feel alive’ is to be a bounty hunter!
It’s not a recommendation TechRadar would make (perhaps get a gym membership, or take up an instrument), but it does provide the backstory for a fun and surprisingly deep turn-based strategy title.
Across 20 levels you carefully move your lizard, mercilessly cutting down targets, and try to avoid getting horribly killed yourself. The game keeps shaking things up, shifting from clockwork stealth to a chess take on Bomberman. Reaching the ending is a rewarding experience – albeit one you likely won’t have for quite some time. It turns out being a bounty hunter is tough!
Chessplode is – as its name might suggest – chess with explosions. The big bangs (well, cartoonish pops) occur when you take a piece. At that moment, everything in the piece’s line or column is vaporized – unless a king happens to be lurking there. Then, you just get a boring old chess capture.
As you might imagine, this lobs every conventional chess strategy out of the window. There are oddball initial board layouts as well, meaning you must effectively relearn the game in order to win.
Of all of the free Android games that rethink chess, this is the most successful. You get a bunch of predefined challenges to try, real-time multiplayer battles, and a level editor for making your own boards – although you’re only allowed to share one when you can prove it’s possible to beat!
Pocket Cowboys: Wild West Standoff
Pocket Cowboys: Wild West Standoff invites you to endless high-noon standoffs, with four gunslingers ready to fill their enemies full of lead. But instead of being a free-for-all brawl, this game is more like rock/paper/scissors, with a smattering of chess.
During each round, you choose to move, shoot, or reload. Depending on which character you’re controlling, shooting may unleash leaden death on a wide area, or just on the space next to you. Success relies on correctly anticipating what your (online, human) opponents will do, and making the right move yourself.
This straightforward slice of strategy affords Pocket Cowboys great immediacy; but stick around for the long haul and you can upgrade your team, and partake in events, all while formulating strategies to avoid your gang too often being sent to Boot Hill.
King Crusher is a real-time strategy brawler in a shoebox. The backstory finds the king being annoyed that adversaries exist, and so he dispatches you to remove them. Your little band must therefore trudge through forests, deserts, and cemeteries, wiping out anyone in their path.
Although King Crusher immerses itself in a range of RPG tropes, such as building your team, upgrading powers, and taking on quests, it’s also perfectly suited to mobile. Each battle takes place on a tiny grid, where you must quickly react to danger, and unleash your team’s powers on whoever you happen to be duffing up.
It all works wonderfully. There’s enough depth to keep you scrapping over the long term, but the bite-sized action-packed battles are ideally suited to phone-based play.
Hearthstone is a head-to-head card game that immerses you in a world populated by hunters, mages, warriors, and other fantasy types. Players take it in turns to try and batter their opponent’s health down to zero, playing cards that represent minions, spells and other skills.
This genre is often baffling to the newcomer, but Hearthstone is an accessible and balanced game. Although IAPs lurk – cards can be bought with bling won in-game, but also by using actual cash – veterans have proved that you can blaze through the leaderboards without spending a penny.
However you choose to play, this is a game that rewards those in it for the long haul. Have patience and learn its mechanics, and you may eventually become a master of this fantastical world of character and chance.
The Battle of Polytopia
The Battle of Polytopia is a turn-based game akin to a stripped-back Civilization designed specifically for one-thumb mobile play. Each game has you start with a single city, the aim being to dominate a little isometric world. You either race to be the best within 30 turns, or emerge victorious when you’re the only tribe still standing.
Wisely, Polytopia focuses more on approachability than depth. The tech tree is abbreviated, stopping short of guns. The maps are small. Cities can be conquered, but you can’t found new ones with settlers.
Each of these decisions helps the game flow, but despite its compact nature, Polytopia affords plenty of opportunities to strategize. That’s especially true when venturing into online multiplayer with other people – a mode open to anyone who buys one or more extra tribes.
Train Conductor World
You might moan about trains when you're - again - waiting for a late arrival during your daily commute, but play this game and you'll thank your lucky stars that you're not in Train Conductor World. Here, trains rocket along, and mostly towards head-on collisions.
It's your job to drag out temporary bridges to avoid calamity while simultaneously sending each train to its proper destination - it's exhausting.
From the off, Train Conductor World is demanding, and before long a kind of 'blink and everything will be smashed to bits' mentality pervades. For a path-finding action-puzzler - Flight Control on tracks, if you will - it's an engaging and exciting experience.
There's always a whiff of unease on recommending a game from a developer nestled deep in the bosom of freemium gaming, but Clash Royale largely manages to be a lot of fun however much money you lob at it. The game is more or less a mash-up of card collecting and real-time strategy. Cards are used to drop units on to a single-screen playfield, and they march about and duff up enemy units, before taking on your opponent's towers.
The battles are short and suited to quick on-the-go play, and although Clash Royale is designed for online scraps, you can also hone your strategies against training units if you're regularly getting pulverised. There are the usual timers and gates for upgrades, but the game largely does a good job of matching you against players of fairly similar skill levels, meaning it's usually a blast and only rarely a drag.