The tag for “Mad Rocket: Fog of War” is that enemy bases are covered in fog, needing to be slowly revealed. That’s true, but undersells how original this game is. The mechanics are borrowed, but they fit together so well.
Firstly, the ground beneath bases is made from a dozen large tiles which you can arrange. Nothing exists outside of it. If they’re in an H shape then attacking troops need to walk down one leg and back up — they can’t cut across. Invaders are air-dropped inside this area, preferably directly on top of a cannon you want dead. Of course, you won’t know where that is until you clear the fog.
The little pieces of fog clear at the least provocation. Troops remove it as they move. Any spell clears the area underneath — the area-effect missile spell is great for this. If an unlucky drop puts your troops between 3 guns it’s not a waste — the guns are unfogged when they shoot you to death. That might seem too easy, but there’s lots of fog and you’re on the clock. It’s always a choice between clearing fog and guessing. You can even play without fog by using the Scout spell to clear it (which uses up a valuable spell slot, so is fair).
Now we get to the good part. Attacks are completely a race against the clock. You get 4 spells which can be cast over and over. Two are troop squads — regular soldiers and another squad of tough guys. Live or die, you get to place more every 45 seconds. You can cast a big missile swarm every 10 seconds, and a single-target rocket every 2 seconds. That’s just your starting line-up. Besides cool-downs, spells use energy. It regenerates quickly, but if you really need to fire 3 rockets in 6 seconds, some other spell will need to wait a few extra seconds while energy builds back up.
Clearly, keeping your troops alive for as long as possible, which is not very long, is the way to win. Your spells can destroy land-mines and guns, and uncover safe spots for the next group, while the troops shoot up the regular buildings.
Now we come to the really fun part. Every spell, including the airplane dropping your troops, can be shot down by air defenses. The basic air defense has a medium radius and fires like a machine gun. An air defense can easily defend itself against rockets, but it turns out that the tough-guy airplane is also pretty tough and can be used as a distraction. For the second or two it’s in flight it can distract an air defense, allowing another spell to fly in safely. Later you get an attack spell which does about the same thing (shoots up short line doing so-so damage but using a very tough airplane). Much later, you’ll get a unit who’s only job is to hover and distract air defenses. But by then the defenders have more types of air defense.
To give the defender some hope, all spells fly up from the bottom of the screen, which means bases tend to be attacked from the bottom up. A few sneaky people make a long, thin base with the air-defenses all in front, but after practice that just means you can distract and then kill them all-at-once. The best defenses have the attacker always needing to worry about spells being shot down.
The timing is frantic. You get 1 minute, 30 seconds for an attack, but destroying a building gives you a few more seconds. Destroying the HQ removes all fog, which is pretty nice, and gives you a larger boost to time. That system of adding seconds make battles more unpredictable. You can spend the entire last 30 seconds of a battle only seconds away from losing.
You might think the theme is modern military, but it’s science fiction. You’re on an alien planet, mining pretty green Eternium crystals for “The Scientists”. The bad guys are trying to get it before you do. For no reason, your reports are from young women wearing Sexy Scientist Halloween costumes. The troop models are a copy of Boom Beach: white male soldier, black tough-guy soldier, female sniper (actually called Laser Girl in this game. Yuck, especially when “laser ladies” is right there).