Jungle Heat

Jungle Heat (Nord Studios) came out way back in 2013, just one year after Clash of Clans. Amazingly, it has all the new features, mostly. It’s ignored the new stuff that makes it more playable, and has even managed to screw-up things that were working.

But first, what does a “Jungle Heat” theme look like? Not much. The heroes seem like characters from Vietnam war movies — green face paint, headbands, a guy named “machete fighter”, plus ever-popular Robot Santa Clause, and “Agent” (clearly Will Smith from Men in Black). One of the air units is a Black Hawk helicopter, which is a nice try (they weren’t in use until 1979, 4 years after the war ended). The fade-out/in effect is very leafy — it’s the most jungley thing in the whole game.

With that resolved, lets see what this ancient game kept up on. It’s got those defense buildings which pop out riflemen. It has the protect-my-neighbors building, and also the enhance-my-neighbors-power one. It’s got the super-cheesy customizable defense building, upgradable only with piles of gems (I hate these, but it’s a new invention which they took the time to copy). As noted, besides normal heroes there are bonus unlockable ones from the start. There’s a building which lets you spend Dark Matter for various 8-hour buffs. A new type of barracks has troops which cost gold&manna — that’s new. There’s a first-winning-attack-of-the-day loot bonus. It has Boom-Beach-style Idols. It’s even got a Builder Base — the separate small base where you have 1-on-1 duels seeing who can smash the other guy’s base more.

In short, it’s kept up with just about everything, and even tried some new stuff. And now the bad:

The map edges are frustratingly thin. What I mean is, in a normal clash-like, attacking troops can be deployed past edge of the map. Some people like to push their base against the sides, thinking those parts are safe, but they’re not. Well, in Jungle Heat hugging the edges is better. The part of the edge attackers can go in is so thin that it’s tricky to tap there. Now that I think about it, tapping anywhere except a completely open area is wonky in this game. Maybe to help with that, they added a toggle to let you place multiple troops at a time. It puts down all troops of that type. Why would anyone want to do that?

Bombs attack the nearest walls, making them less than useful. After putting holes in the outer layer, your next bombs will blow up every bit of it before going to the inner wall. And that’s if the defender hasn’t placed a single wall post in the middle of nowhere to distract them. The funny thing is there seems to be decent bomb AI — sometimes they avoid useless walls and head for the good ones, but rarely. To make up for the terrible AI, bombs only cost one space. I’ve taken to releasing bombs in waves.

Resting heroes are on your attack scroll bar. Let me explain: after heroes attack they need to rest, skippable if you spend gems. You can pay to wake them up from your Town Hall. Fair enough. But those same “pay gems to wake me up” heroes are wasting space on your freaking attack scroll bar. To get to your spells you’ve got to slide past the heroes you can’t use right now. All-in-all, I’m pretty happy when I get most of my troops about where I wanted them and didn’t spend too many gems by mistake.

The game has players! That’s not the bad thing. The bad thing is that in the course of being steam-rolled twice a day during events, I’ve noticed these TH12 monsters are getting a decent chunk of gold from me. Every other game adds a loot penalty to avoid that. Not Jungle Heat — go ahead and grief much lower level players.

Finally, there’s army training. It sucks. They didn’t add the rule where you can train up to double your army limit, which is merely disappointing. But they didn’t even add a button to retrain your old army. Even worse, they have one, but only to retrain instantly for gems, and it’s right in the middle of your barracks-training scroll, too. You have to go past that mocking “spend a pile of gems” menu every time you’re laboriously tapping your army back in.

It’s not a bad clash-like, except for being unplayable. I’m going to quit just as soon as I get to stage 45 of the NPC missions and rescue “Huntress”. You see, in the first two scripted scenes I had to build a cannon to defend against a bad guy, and then I was told he’s captured “Huntress” and I have to rescue her. That thrilling story has me hooked. I need to see how it ends.

Dragon Lords (3DS)

After FXGamesMedia finished making the innovative Clash-like “Galaxy Control 3D Strategy” they decided to make another. Exciting right? What will they come up with next? It turns out: nothing — they reskinned their first, calling it “Dragon Lords 3D Strategy”. And it’s a true reskin. In GC3D when you attack NPC island 3 stage 2 it says “oh, no, they’re attacking you” and goes to a base defense. In DL3D, exact same thing. But FXGMedia manage to add one nice thing and makes one odd change.

Decorations! Your fresh base starts with movable, rotatable(!) trees and roads. You can buy more right away. Even the buildings are rotatable. They went all-out on a decoration system to match the best. Despite this big push, the art-style is still poorly matched generic crud. I wonder if someone was once burned by scope creep and was all “decorations, that’s a deliverable! And I don’t want to see any time-wasting notes about fixing dinky little stuff from before”.

Game-play wise, remember how Galaxy Control added a small shove to the Wizard Tower attack, but it was slightly bugged? I guess they couldn’t fix it, since it’s gone in this game. But the real change is how your army is half the size. Like if you would have had an army of 30 archers and 20 soldiers in the Galaxy game, in Dragon Lords it’s 15 and 10. It’s better, I suppose — You’ve plenty of troops and never think “I wish I had twice as many that were 1/2 as tough”. But it seems like a lot of work rebalancing the numbers for this one change.

Every new Clash-like seems to have at least broken troop type. In this it’s Balloons (renamed mini-dragons). They’re mid-game troops that fly and go after defenses and in Clash they’re balanced by slowness and vulnerability to air defenses; but not in this game. I once didn’t look closely and put them all directly in the path of the blower-back air defense thingy. It looks cool in action and was pretty effective at delaying my guys. Still won easily. Mini-dragons are OP. But you know, I’m sure it gets better at town hall 8.

Galaxy Control

Clash-like “Galaxy Control 3D Strategy” may be the best new clash-like, with the worst name. It grabs most of the good ideas from post-clash clash-likes, adds some nice ones of it’s own, and doesn’t screw it up too much. But boy does it punt on the art: your base is the galaxy’s grayest asteroid; don’t ask me to tell a level 1 cannon from a level 3 one, from a tool shed. The overall theme seems to be “generic SciFi” and that’s being generous.

Besides the art, they screwed up other easy things. In the PC port, keys 1-9 select the troop type (during a battle), and that’s it for keys. We can’t even press Enter to select the “OK” button. Then there’s the camera. The game uses real 3D, not just sprites, and the camera spins around and zooms in/out. Cool. But for no reason the maximum zoom is much too close. And it resets to all the way zoomed in whenever you come back from another screen. I’m used to it now, but it’s not good.

Now onto the good parts, starting with what it borrows. Like most newer clash-likes, your Barracks and Army Camps are moved off to the side, since we already have enough damage sponge buildings. Our few hidden land-mines work the “good” way — a smaller detection radius and a delay — giving a decent chance to catch groups. We get Boom Beach-style idols (enchantments like +3% more Ore). We also get Boom Beach style “Resource bases” to conquer (more later). Spells use a point system (but old-style, spell points are bought in advance and come back slowly). Only winning attacks get loot. Premature HQ upgrades are prevented using the old overall level requirement. Finally, you’re allowed to double your haul from an attack twice a day (and without having to watch an Ad, like the 40K clash-like makes you do). I realize these aren’t explained well, but they’re the best new ideas — each new clash-like invented like one of these.

Now onto new stuff. Other clash-likes have experimented with buildings that buff their neighbors. GC:3DS gives that to the humble, otherwise pointless Builder Shack (in this case, it’s an aura of bonus health). The AoE “wizard tower” gets a cool new ability — push-back. It can now annoy giants, or hold off barbarians while gradually whittling them down. It’s bugged and sometimes pushes attackers sideways or just sucks them in, but is super-cool the 80% of the time it works right. As usual, resource bases are occasionally stolen from you, but in this game it’s only by a ghost copy of another player; recapture it once and you’re done until next week (compared to the grueling back&forth battle in Boom Beach).

Then there are some nice tries. Upgrading storages requires you to max out the corresponding harvesters. At first that seems like that cheesy trick “X needs Y, but Y needs Z and Z …” which amounts to having to fully upgrade everything in lockstep. But harvesters are where battle loot comes from (or doesn’t, since smart-alec’s never upgrade them). So sure, make everyone max out collectors so we can steal more. We also get new “landing pad” buildings which receives deliveries from your resource bases.

Each Barracks is matched to one Army Camp. Let me explain: in every other clash-like, leveling one Barracks to Dragons allows you to grow an entire army of dragons. But here, that single dragon-making barracks can only fill its Camp. To put Dragons in the other camps you’ll need to level their Barrackses. It’s fun in practice. You rarely want more than one Camp-full of most units, like giants or wall-breakers, but for that flying army it makes you work a little harder.

Victory in Clan wars (Mon, Wed, and Fri) is determined using the point values of destroyed bases. Since lower level bases are worth fewer points, it makes lower-level clan members less important. I like it. A newish player can contribute, but no big deal if they mess-up. And it also makes it worth trying more difficult bases (since 75% of a tougher base may be worth more points than 100% of a weaker one).

Finally, every reskin needs a cutsie cosmetic addition. While anything is upgrading, little robots deliver a stream of elixer or gold (sorry — minerals or uranium) to it. Wall sections even drop to let them pass (which I could do without, since it looks like you left holes in your wall). I’m not in love with those five fresh additions, but the designers are trying, and they’re not bad.

Now onto exciting advances in monetization, because we know it has those! After an attack you’re hoping to find an idol-making crystal under a random destroyed building. That’s great. But rarely you’ll find an impressive glowing green orb. The game tells you how special this is aaand … takes you to the special cash shop. Next, and not as thrilling, our daily gifts for the month include a few of the troop production speed-up item (the thing which makes the game playable at high levels). Adding teaser like that is an old trick, but rare in clash-likes. And that leads us to the best thing: it has a true battle pass. As usual, the small free daily gift is displayed as a top track, and for $5/month you can unlock the lower, much better VIP track.

So, how does it play? For a clash-like it’s fine. A huge plus is having other players. I get attacked once every other day, and a few people do stuff in each clan war. That’s a feat in itself. But some draw-backs: you can’t train a back-up army, which means there’s a wait after every attack. I mean, yeah, you keep troops that live, but the “must win to get loot” rule ensures many casualties. There’s also no level limit for troops in the clan castle. Sometimes an easy mark has a deadly unkillable monstrosity come out of their clan castle, donated by their maxed-out buddy. On the plus side, there’s a Retreat button.


I tried the clash-like “Hackers” (by Trickster Arts) because there’s no way a decent one can be made with a computer hacking theme. Boy was I wrong! The mechanics of this are original, feels very computery, and results in interesting choices and tense battles. This is a great game.

Before getting to how fights work, the theme: other players are rival hackers. That actually makes sense — they’re your natural enemies, and can be attacked around the globe. The two currencies are credits (money) and bitcoins. Clever — as we know, some businesses want one and won’t take the other. It’s also fun how they scaled bitcoins down by about 20x — you’ll have some things that cost 30K credits next to others costing 1.5K bitcoins. Both amounts are as difficult to get.

One more neat non-combat feature is having a limited number of total buildings. As usual you can buy 2 of one type, 3 of another, and so on. Maybe adds to 18 buildings, but you’re limited to 16 total. You’ve got to decide which you can live without. I like it. It makes every base just a little different. I skimp on buildings that make money — I prefer to steal.

A typical base showing connected buildings

Now on to combat. Your buildings are “nodes” in a network. You connect each to 3 or 4 others — not just to your neighbors — to anywhere. Nothing happens “outside” of the nodes or network: your troops (programs) are placed in buildings and only attack along the connections. Instead of destroying buildings, you conquer them. Programs (again: your attacking troops) can’t be moved, so you’ll need to place new programs in newly conquered nodes to attack out from those. At first, bases tend to be a straight line of nodes and attacks aren’t very exciting, but it gets interesting quickly.

Defenses are doing the same thing as you but in reverse — attempting to retake connected buildings. Special defensive buildings are better at it, but all nodes have some counter-attack. When you capture a new node it will eventually be retaken unless you capture everything connected to it. Midway through attacks is the most tense — you’ve got lots of exposed buildings being slowly retaken. You can either rush ahead and let them be recaptured, or conquer in more of a blob than a line. Dealing with recaptures is a big part of an attack plan.

The basic attack program goes after one connected building at a time, switching to the next when if captures a building. Your next program attacks all connected buildings at once, but with less power. You later get “shield” programs which make it more difficult to be recaptured. Each building only has so many program slots, so several attackers vs. using shields is a decision. And when a shield is destroyed the slot is freed up if you want to pop in a new shield program.

Later you get a program which can copy itself. At first it slowly copies into all slots of the building it’s in, then copies to every open slot in connected buildings. That seems incredible, but it only makes copies when there’s nothing left to attack. It’s still pretty good, but will need a lot of help from other programs.

Much later the powerful Kraken program can be placed in a start node and will attack all the way through to the HQ. But then it stops. It won’t attack anything past it, or off that one path. More fun, if 2 or 3 Kraken beams meet, they get extra power. This makes Kraken great for punching through those “all tough defenses in front” set-ups. But you’ll need other programs to help it.

Then they add “stealth” programs which can only be used at the start of an attack. One type can quickly “stealth conquer” a line of buildings. Another drains the cash from a stealth-conquered building. A 3rd will permanently neutralize one building which has been stealth-conquered to help with your real attack. Much, much later, you get an expensive program allowing you to start stealth mode from anywhere, not just an official entrance.

Defensive buildings aren’t that exciting, but don’t need to be. One attempts to reconquer adjacent buildings, 1-at-a-time, with a so-so attack. Another does the same, but with a slow but strong pulse. One is just very tough with an extra shield (one type of attack program is specially made to beat this building). One is extra good at detecting stealth (it speeds up the “stealth will end” countdown).

The most interesting defense is the anti-virus building. It starts with “anti-virus”, which slowly spreads to adjacent friendly buildings (which then spread it to others, eventually to every building). Any building with anti-virus active attempts to recapture all adjacent buildings. So I lied when I said all buildings counter-attack. They do, but only when the anti-virus building spreads it to them. This is neat since it encourages the attacker to blast through programs for a quick start, before anti-virus spreads much. Where to place that anti-virus building is also an interesting choice — further back is safer, but then it takes longer to spread it to the front areas.

Play-wise, you can get to early mid-game relatively quickly. The stealing and being stolen from isn’t too stressful but keeps you working. And the recapture tug-of-war is really something to experience.


Might&Glory:Kingdom War (Nord Studios, published by My.com) starts out as an uglier more boring Clash of Clans. It has some terrible monetizing ideas, a few neat new things, and amazingly, has people playing it. I have no idea why.

Right off it’s got a link to one of those old pages where you can get gems by signing up for a credit card or answering a survey. Who knew those still existed? After the first few levels of the clash-clone stuff, you get this new customizable weapon … which turns out to be a cash-only building. Upgrades to it cost gems. Lots and lots of gems, and lots and lots of upgrades to make it good. The game allow you to create customized “totems” with various bonuses — also cost a ton of gems to upgrade to where they’re useful.

Besides cash-only items, which is very unclashy, there’s the bad game-play. Air defenses are tuned way too high — nothing flying stands a chance. Wall breakers are very stupid, running to the nearest wall even if it’s right next to a hole they just made. After suffering with your pitiful army you finally unlock a must-use super-troop. The rest of the game is simply using this one troop (it looks like a goblin with a bazooka, but don’t upgrade your goblins hoping to get it. It’s actually a dark elixir troop).

On to the neat ideas: you get a defense building that pops out 4 archers (and then wizards). Those are much more effective than the usual warriors which run and and die quickly. Your 2-5 heroes march around the entire base instead of just standing there. A end-game weapon spawns tiny spiders who also roam the whole base. This eliminates the “plinking” part of attacks (where you drop archers in safe spots around the base to “trim” it) which I never cared for.

There are some nice new troops. One is a clever ghost; fast, hits hard, goes through walls and runs around the building while attacking. That looks so cool and helps it avoid traps and mortars. The next is even cooler — an invisible beetle which runs at and kills traps for 7 seconds (at which point it becomes visible and is instantly killed, which is also pretty cool). Finally you get an expensive but long-range barbarian who freezes his current target. He’s in the perfect useful-but-not-overpowering range. But again, use the goblins with bazookas if they still exist.

On a neutral point, you get a building which can make tiny 8-hour boosts for some defenses. You get it late and it’s very expensive to upgrade. I like the idea, but the way it’s done here seems pointless.

I cannot figure out why people play this game. At first you want to unlock the weirdly-named buildings just to see what they do. Then you can’t believe a base with terrible air-defense still killed your flying army. Then you want to see what those freaking powerful goblins with rockets are. But after that? Sometimes the game rains down fireballs on every troop I place. Same spot or different spot, all get blasted. I’m a little curious what it is, but not enough to bore myself to death trying to unlock it.

[Game]Battle of Galaxy

Besides a kick-butt name, “Battle for the Galaxy War Game” has got some great clashy inventions. And it mixes that with the most sneaky, inventive monetization tricks. I don’t mean bringing in old tricks from other games, I mean “whoa, I never even thought to charge for that!”. First the good stuff:

This is minor, but a keeper. Clash of Clans (and all copies) has one barracks for all regular troops, and later a Dark Barracks for troops made from dark elixir. GftGWG says “why not have different types of barracks, just because?”. So in this game you get a building for People, then Light Machines (robots, drones, small tanks), and then Heavy Machines (big tanks). It’s surprisingly fun. And besides unlocking new troop types they also perform upgrades, so you’ll actually use them.

Next are the daily and weekly Events. For the daily, you and 9 other people attack the same base with a pre-made army — often a strange mix of very powerful troops, trying for the best % destruction. The top 6 out of 9 win something so it’s worth trying. You can even retry every hour. Being able to test-out crazy high-level troops for prizes is pretty fun.

The weekend event is even more unique — a “speed-base”. You start a new game in a new area running at 20x speed. You get prizes for how far you can build it up and for completing little missions. It also randomly turns some troops into super-troops with mega-upgrades. The ultimate reward is a 1-of-a-kind Artifact (a permanent bonus) for your real base. There’s no possible way to get to the end without spending money, but you can carry over points. If you play it a dozen weekends in a row you might save up enough to get the grand prize. In practice you’ll get bored after the 3rd or 4th time (each weekend you restart from nothing), but this idea has a lot of potential.

This game has a clever solution to the clashy problem of not caring whether you “win” an attack, as long as you get lots of gold. BftGWG wins give a random equipment card (a permanent small bonus to some troop type or building). You’re never done (2 more equipment cards gets the next small bonus, then 4 more…) so it’s a constant small incentive to try to look for battles where you may not get quite as much gold, but can win.

BftGWG has a better way of handling back-up armies. A modern clash-like allows you to pre-train one extra army. BftGWG says “why not 2 extra?” “why not start with no extra armies and let the player buy up to 5, through buildings?”. That’s a very clash-like thing to do, and seems obvious in hindsight. They do it by having attacks come from a Starport building. Inside, only in the menu, are up to 4 upgradeable spaceships (your Army Camps). To train a back-up army, buy another Starport. You can have up to 5. BftGWF is then devilish: each Starport independently levels up its spaceships, which is a huge time-sink. But another game could easily change that.

Onto the monetization. You start with 4 builders instead of the usual 2. But after a week you’re down to one! It turns out 3 of them were temporary for new players. Yowch! Your extra Starports can only be bought with gems. The building that houses a hero character is also gems-only (but is 50% off the first week. Seriously). Independently none of this is too bad, but together it means you’re behind if you don’t buy gems. They keep up the pressure nicely. By the time you’ve won enough gems for those buildings the game unlocks a second hero pedestal that you can’t afford.

The third currency, anti-matter — what would be dark elixir in clash of clans, is diabolical. Immediately you’ll see options requiring it — your 4th cannon, 5th machinegun, and so on. Those bonus buildings glow bright pink in the bases of people you attack, mocking you. It turns out you can only get anti-matter from the special events (or the cash shop). Since those buildings are also upgraded with anti-matter, you will always need more than you can get. Worse, anti-matter can buy a unique infantry squad which joins you in every attack. That’s BftGWG’s way of giving paying players a leg up.

That equipment you get for winning is also a cash sink. Normal equipment gives very small gains, which a normal player will tend to get naturally. But as you may recall, the game teases just how good mega (“legendary”) equipment is. You can’t get that by playing (even though an evil tooltip suggests you can). It only comes from paid loot chests.

The net effect is that by midgame things are clearly dominated by paying players. You can see they’ve got plenty of anti-matter to keep up with the best buildings, likewise gem-costing buildings, and they’ve got a few gold-colored troops stronger than anything you can field (which you know since you’ve used those same gold troops in your weekend speed-bases). Beyond that, the units just plain need tuning. Defenses get too tough, too fast, the mortar is far too powerful, the giants can hardly soak any damage, and the healers’ AI is bad. But someone should definitely copy some of this game’s good ideas.

[Game]G.I. Joe:War on Cobra

The GI Joe clash-like (GI Joe: War on Cobra) actually has some nice ideas for base design. Ultimately the game isn’t great because troop upgrades come from random chests and paying players have vastly better troops. But that’s not the base designers’ fault.

The basic set-up: you start at the bottom of the enemy base, going up a long semi-wide area, with the lightly-armed HQ at the top. A strip of usable ocean runs up the right side, giving the option to try your few naval forces. The 2 resources, gems and oil, are at fixed spots along both edges. Defenders have a few short indestructible wall sections, but they can be fired over. Otherwise they place the usual array of guns and defending leaders.

Placing your attack troops costs energy, which you get more of for destroying buildings. You’re allowed only 1 of each squad, but can place it again when it’s destroyed (if you still have the energy). It’s easy enough to completely destroy a few defenses with spells, but that’s expected — they have lots of defenses. It’s the Boom Beach style: part of your plan is “I could zap those 2, or those, or a bunch of those for extra energy… .”

Making it so you can’t move around your gem and oil mines works well, It encourages more spread-out defenses to avoid giving the attacker free points for destroying them. Troops can be controlled pretty well. It’s clever, you drag the troop’s icon over to the new target. You don’t need to use this often since troops are fairly smart, and prefer killing defenses. This makes the game somewhat un-clashy.

I’m not sure this next thing really helps. All weapons need to be within a few spaces of a tough energy generator building. You get lots of those, but not one for each gun. It mostly prevents you from setting one lonely gun to guard your ocean-based oil wells.

This game uses the terrible feature where troops are always ready but need to be repaired when damaged, which is very expensive in this game. It really penalizes losing and encourages you to attack only weak bases. Luckily, the game does a bad job selecting opponents and you can often find suitable targets. In return, your base will only be steam-rollered by players far out-ranking you. Both of those get old, fast.

As a bonus, if you’re a big GI Joe fan the characters here vaguely resemble the real ones.

Army Camp math

Some of the fun in clash-likes is how the rules use the buildings as explanations, which then influence the rules. Army Camps are a particularly neat example. Your army is really just a number for how big it can be. Since it’s not used in defense, it doesn’t need to be displayed on the base at all. But it’s so fun to have open-air army camps with the troops wandering around them. Freshly made troops walk from the troop-making building over to the camps. Donated troops walk out of the camp and off the map. That all looks just terrific. It’s even fun to look at other peoples’ bases to see what kind of army they have.

At first things align just fine. But the rules of a clash-like say you don’t just make one army camp get bigger and bigger. Instead you should get more of them. So now our building logic is telling us the army size must suddenly double at some point. Our one army camp slowly grew from 20, to 25, to 30, to 35. But then adding a second jumps our total army size to 70. That’s a big jump, but it’s fine. We can work with that since we don’t want to break our Army Camp logic. But our visual depiction of the rules is now making the rules. Neat.

An army camp, currently holding sorcerers and treants, from Castle Clash

Here’s another fun one. Suppose we have three 35-space Army Camps, 105 spaces total, and dragons cost 25. How many dragons can we have? It’s 4 since 4*25 is less than 105. But it’s also 3 since only one can fit in each camp. Hmmm… . It turns out players hate doing complex math, so we get 4 dragons. How we’re stuffing in that 4th dragon might break suspension of disbelief, but the alternative is worse. The rules win over the visuals here.

Then we come to the back-up army. To be nice, the game allows you to train 1 extra army if you have time left from training the normal one. When you open the game after a long enough time you get to attack twice in a row, with no delay between since your back-up army trained overnight. That’s nice. But where is that entire extra army kept? Nowhere. But if we can keep troops nowhere, why is our army limited by how many fit into the Camps? Best not to think too much about it.

Final score: Abstract rules: 2, Army Camp logic: 1

[Game]Caravan Wars

Caravan Wars is a clash-like with a new way of making your defense. That’s rare. Plenty of games play around with building types, where you can attack from, and so on. But making a completely new type of thing to attack is a tough nut.

In Caravan Wars, as you might guess, you attack other players’ caravans. They slowly, automatically, crawl through a section of windy road as you attempt to slaughter everyone in them. You have an army, plus some towers alongside. You’ll need both since the caravans are massive. There’s no special thing you need to destroy — winning and loot are based on percent destruction, before the caravan escapes.

The roads are 6 spaces wide and each caravan section is 10 spaces long. You can fill yours with 60 small troops, or larger more powerful units. Wagons, if you use them, don’t fight, but can hold a heavy weapon. As you level up, more 6×10 caravan sections unlock, with a small gap between. I currently have 3, for 180 slots total.

2 sections of a caravan make their way past an attacker’s mortar towers

You’d think that the caravan simply turns into a giant melee to the death as soon as it hits your army, making it all pointless. But the defenders tend to want to walk their route. Wagons never even stop — the weapons fires at everything in range as it plods along. Caravan troops will stay and fight by like to run and catch up when done. Some battles are your army trying to catch up with the undestroyed part of the caravan. Further, caravans, though long and thin, have many more troops than you do. Attacking it head-on can be slow-motion suicide. One of the intro missions encourages you to wait for the first big group to pass, and ambush the second. 50% destruction counts as a win, so that’s a fine plan. Attackers also gain turret points as they go. You’ll be able to toss more towers up ahead and sometimes harass your way to a win.

Placing defensive units in the first caravan section

There also seems to be quite a bit of variety in caravans. Some like a horde of archers surrounded by tougher pikemen. Others put tough paladins only in the front and back. Some enjoy mostly weapon-carrying wagons, with lasers, mortars, or just powerful single-shot guns. There are even healers. On the other hand, troops level-up individually. You can simply use all of your best.

In order to have something to attack, other players need to send out caravans. The game does a nice job with that. You naturally get lots of the “cargo” resource. Sending out cargo caravans turn it into gold, and gives other players something to attack. You’ve got a menu with multiple options for sending out caravans of varying durations, with quest rewards for sending enough. The reports even look good — a progress line with a dot for when (or if) you were attacked.

Now for the not-so-good part. You collect re-usable troop cards from chests. A common system and fun for a while. Later you find Epic and Legendary cards. You can merge them for level 2+ cards. It quickly becomes obvious that gem-spending players have an army of Mega Legendaries, much better than anything low-spenders can grind for. Another issue, attack towers upgrade nicely at first, but then their mega-upgrades unlock. You buy those by sacrificing massive amounts of extra troop cards (massive as in: you splurged on chests to get mega-troops, and these are the surplus commons).

Spells are strictly limited. You can’t brew them. The only way to get spells is by buying 4-6 each day from the shop (with regular gold). That will last you 2 battles, tops. The game front loads you with 40 of each spell, but when you run out, ouch. I have to respect the cleverness. That $5 pack for 100 of each spell pack is looking pretty good right now.

The amount they make you wait before attacking again is funny. After an attack you’ll need to wait for dead troops to heal. But winning a battle may activate a 15-minute “troops instantly heal” spell. It affects the troops you just lost, but you can’t count on getting it. So the best plan is fighting weak opponents until the insta-heal turns on. Then you can attack for real, all you want for 1/4th hour. It’s quite strange. You may plan to attack only once, but get the buff and decide not to waste it. Or you may spend 1/2-hour fishing for it.

There’s a steampunk theme, sort of. One wagon is a mini-zeppelin, and the healer is a tech-based artificer. But there’s also a skeletal lich, a rockman, and a charging knight (that stuns). And Griffons and so on. The famous all-themes theme.

[Game]Sky Clan: Clashes of Lords 3D

From the word-salad name you know something is seriously wrong with this game. That thing is that the mechanics are an exact copy of Clash of Clans, down to every number, building and troop type. Well, build times are doubled. But the art and design team did such a great job it’s worth mentioning.

It’s got a semi-steampunk theme. The clan hall is a round-topped greenhouse with wrought-iron for all of the delicate windows. Like all clan halls, it starts off to the side, broken. Weeds grow up the sides and half the windows are shattered. Beautiful. I can’t believe I repaired it before getting a picture. The liquid resource is Steam. It’s kept in fabulous iron-bound glass balls, filling with fluffy clouds of the stuff. Even the decorative peasants walking about your base are more and better than average.

Each building is a floating island in the sky, growing together if they’re not too far apart. The whole base is fully 3D and viewable from any angle. Lovely mountains are in the distance. The rubble is much nicer than usual – an old rusty windmill (on its own floating patch of dirt) a vibrant pool with flowers, the shattered rocks of a destroyed island, and more. Tapping a building creates a dangerous looking sand spill from the bottom (which, as you recall, is floating in the sky). But Clash of Clans still has them beat on building tapping sounds.

The wall drawing team clearly didn’t understand the game. The walls extend equally above and below the ground, with ghastly spikes. It’s just terrific. Except when they’re not at the edge of your base all you see is the stubby top part. Not even the spikes. And guess where the best place to put walls is in a clash-like? Not the edges.

All of the troops have a flying aesthetic. By that I mean they can’t fly over walls, but they can somehow fly up here and fly through any sky between buildings. The wall-breakers are cloth-wing gliders that fly in, bomb a wall, then fly away. The archers are lying down in floating bumper-cars with one mounted gun (they don’t look great). Giants are, obviously, floating robots. The regular grunts have barrels strapped to their backs, with huge arms on the sides. They mimic the two small arm-levers in front – seeing them smash is the cutest thing. It’s the most steam-punky thing in the game.

The new-ish feature that surprised me was a big grid, on an entirely different screen, that you explore with a ship (the same as Plunder Pirates). That’s where you fight computer bases and see the plot. You need to sail around and uncover hide-outs of the evil steam-robot king. The art department did so well. The islands you uncover look just great.

There’s one change from Clash-of-Clans, which you can probably guess: you get a hero much faster. It also levels up as you use it. But it’s not that powerful. On defense it crushes troops that ignore it – goblins and giants – but otherwise dies quickly enough. But you can spend a big pile of gems to buy a better one, or two more labelled as premium heroes. I watched one attack me on a replay. Not as bad as I expected, but definitely violates the informal “you can’t spend cash for a blatant advantage” rule.