Our favorite free iPhone RTS and turn-based strategy games, board games, and card games.
Super Auto Pets
Super Auto Pets (opens in new tab) is an auto-battler featuring a menagerie of cute critters. During each round, you use your meager reserves to buy new animals or power-ups, the aim being to then take on another real-world player’s team.
The ultimate goal is to win ten medals – and that is far from easy. In fact, Super Auto Pets at first might baffle. You’ll watch aghast as your opponent’s team obliterates yours through hurling pre-bout damage your way, spawning new players on death, and performing all manner of sneaky maneuvers.
Suitably chastised, you should then dig deeper into each unit’s stats. Learn how animals can work together and you can build a team of champions – or at least last a few extra rounds in this initially tricky but ultimately masterful and captivating bite-sized strategy game.
Cards of Terra
Cards of Terra (opens in new tab) exists halfway between solitaire and a collectable card game with deeper mechanics. It features an alien princess stranded on a hostile world. Fortunately, she pits the locals against each other by way of magic, and games involve you dragging cards atop each other to deplete their scores and remove them from the board.
The basics are compelling as you try to figure out how to make best use of limited moves. But as new cards are unlocked, the game gradually reveals its complexity, with cards that amble about of their own accord, call allies, or start shooting up the place.
What would be easy to dismiss as yet another solitaire game, then, is instead a brilliantly conceived and hugely replayable card-based adventure. It’s packed full of levels, charm and smarts, making it one of the best free games on iPhone.
Gnomitaire (opens in new tab) is a new spin on solitaire, by the creator of Card Crawl (opens in new tab), Card Thief (opens in new tab), Miracle Merchant (opens in new tab) and Maze Machina (opens in new tab). This freebie lacks the depth and complexity of those premium titles, but nonetheless deserves a place on your device due to its trademark humor, immediate nature and smart design.
The game finds you sorting 16 randomly dealt cards into four column-based stacks. Each card has symbols that show what can be placed beneath it, and suits cannot be repeated in any single column.
In the expert mode, the difficulty is upped by banning repeated suits across rows as well. A daily challenge lets you pit your wits against all-comers, having you try and complete the draw in a minimum number of moves.
Cast (opens in new tab) is a survival strategy test on a four-by-four grid. You pick where to start and swipe to move position, aiming to collect tiles of the same color. Hit the wrong ones and your score drops. Strategy comes from manipulating the board to group tiles, and using color-switch tiles at the optimum moments.
There’s a whiff of familiarity about the game, which draws from mobile classics like Threes! (opens in new tab) and Look, Your Loot! (opens in new tab) But Cast’s visual clarity, tight controls, and carefully considered ruleset make for something sufficiently original and compelling.
If there’s a downside, it’s that you can sometimes be undone through randomness, and that can feel unfair. But the relative brevity of each game makes it ideal to fill spare moments; and there’s easily enough depth to keep you refining your technique for months.
Void Tyrant (opens in new tab) is a semi-randomized card-based adventure, where you scoot about the galaxy, giving bad guys on various planets a jolly good kicking. At first, it seems quite basic, more or less being based on blackjack – only here you go bust when you hit 13. Quickly, though, you’re hurled down a bonus-deck rabbit-hole.
It’s these additional cards where most of the strategy lies. Each requires energy to play, and has a unique effect. You need to time your plays right to ensure you defeat your enemy. And because a string of victories is required for you to successfully get back to your ship, Void Tyrant becomes a constant balancing act of risk versus reward.
There’s no risk in trying the game, though, because this free iPhone game is very rewarding – one of the best card battlers around.
Bounty Hunter Space Lizard
Bounty Hunter Space Lizard (opens in new tab) is a bite-sized turn-based strategy game, with a smattering of RPG. It features the titular reptile, previously down on its luck, but now having a go at being a bounty hunter as a way to “feel alive”.
Naturally, feeling alive (and staying alive) means killing everyone else – and that requires brainpower. You must with your limited number of moves figure out how to off your foes, and position yourself so you’ll take no damage when they get to move.
The visuals are crude, but there’s a lot going on here, with cleverly designed rules, and plenty of variety in the challenges you face. The mission is also finite, meaning that when you’ve put in the hours to crack level 20, you’ll discover whether this previously despondent – and now rather murdery – lizard gets a happy ending.
Chessplode (opens in new tab) is of the opinion that what chess really needs is a whole lot of explosions. But this isn’t some kind of Battlechess with dynamite. The big bangs in this game aren’t just aesthetic – they shake up everything you knew about chess.
Capturing a piece is what leads to the explosions – friends and enemies alike in the taken piece’s row and column are obliterated. The exception is when a king is in the same row or column as a captured piece, at which point you get the standard chess capture.
To rewire your brain, Chessplode offers basic levels to get you started, and then a bunch of puzzle-like set pieces. A level editor lets you upload your own creations – once you win – and multiplayer bouts are in the mix, too. This isn’t the first mobile alternative take on chess, but it might well be the best.
Pocket Cowboys (opens in new tab) is a strategy game in a Wild West that exists in a permanent state of high noon. You pit your trio of gunslingers against those controlled by other humans, the aim being to be the first to rack up three kills.
Where Pocket Cowboys excels is in its mix of immediacy and depth. Each turn gives you the option to move, shoot, or reload – and everyone takes their turn at the same time. The mix of strategy and guesswork proves a lot of fun, in what ultimately amounts to four-player rock/paper/scissors.
The game of course also comes lumbered with the usual in-game currencies and upgrades. But it always seems to place you in fair fights, rather than giving you no chance to avoid pushing up the daisies.
King Crusher (opens in new tab) comes across like someone compressed an epic fantasy RPG and turn-based strategy into a shoebox and squirted the result into your iPhone. It has all the trappings of its more expansive cousins, but is perfectly streamlined for mobile play.
Your little band embarks on quests that mostly take the form of grid-based battles. As adversaries try to shoot, flatten or even eat the heroes, you must swipe them about, getting them into the best positions to mete out some punishment of their own.
With dozens of events and 12 character classes, there’s plenty to discover in King Crushe, but its bite-sized nature means it won’t rule over your day, instead filling odd moments with tiny procedurally-generated adventures fit for a king.
Sneak Ops (opens in new tab) is a stealth game that wants you to “get to the chopper”. The snag: between you and your airborne escape route are rooms packed with enemy soldiers, traps, and – occasionally – inconveniently unbreathable air. Also, you’re unarmed. Thanks, budget cutbacks!
You must therefore sneak about, avoid detection and unsportingly wallop enemies over the head whenever you get the chance. Along the way, you grab floppy disks, which for some reason are used to buy restart points. Perhaps evil dudes are all retro gamers at heart.
It’s tense, pacy stuff, with some fab visuals. Even better: there’s a new mission every day – and everyone gets the same one, thereby pitting you against many thousands of other wannabe strategic operators.
Look, Your Loot!
Look, Your Loot! (opens in new tab) takes the basics of free-roaming RPGs and shoves them into a grid-based interface not dissimilar from puzzlers like Threes!
The rodent protagonist – a heavily armed mouse – moves about the grid as you swipe, his energy being depleted during battles or replenished on grabbing elixirs and shields. Whenever you enter a new tile, something new appears from the opposite side of the grid.
The key to survival – and a high-score – is carefully planning your route, ensuring you don’t end up trapped between a number of powerful and angry adversaries. It’s the sort of RPG-lite that’s perfect to quickly fire up during a few minutes of downtime; but multiple level layouts and surprising depth in the mechanics also make Look, Your Loot! a rewarding game to master over the longer term.
Flipflop Solitaire (opens in new tab) reasons that a card game you play on an iPhone should be designed for its screen and mobile play rather than a table. To that end, it takes spider solitaire as a basic framework, then messes around with the formula.
You’re still working with stacks of cards, aiming to sort them back into suits. However, in this game you have only five columns to work with and the height of your iPhone’s display provides a vertical limit.
Flipflop Solitaire shakes things up more by letting you stack cards in increasing or decreasing value. This single change proves transformative, turning every deal into a solvable puzzle, and games with a single suit into frantic, entertaining speed-runs.
The Battle of Polytopia
The Battle of Polytopia (opens in new tab) is more or less a classic version of Civilization played in fast-forward. You start off with a single city, surrounded by the unknown. You then explore, research technologies, and give anyone who gets in your way a serious kicking.
Unlike the sprawling Civilization games, Polytopia is focused and sleek. The technology tree stops before guns arrive, the standard game mode limits you to 30 moves, and new cities cannot be founded – only conquered.
For the more bloodthirsty, there’s a domination mode, where you aim to be the last tribe standing. The maximum map size expands and online asynchronous multiplayer opens up if you pay for more tribes. However you play, this is a furiously addictive, brilliantly realized slice of mobile strategy.
Spaceteam (opens in new tab) is the best multi-device party game for iPhone. The backstory is that you’re attempting to outrun an exploding star, in a ship that’s seen better days. Unhelpfully, the control panel for your craft was seemingly designed by an engineer who considers user-friendliness an offensive abomination.
The system provides instructions, but they’re usually not related to controls on your display. Games therefore turn into people desperately screaming “will someone turn on the dangling shunter?”, while combing every inch of their own screen for an elusive ‘eigenthrottle’ switch.
With Spaceteam offering cross-device play, up to eight players can immerse themselves in this madness, as long as they’re on the same Wi-Fi network.