Top Critic Average
By combining elements from collectible card games and Plants vs. Zombies, Zachtronic Industries has created a game that feels weirdly familiar yet brand new. Ironclad Tactics mixes the American Civil War with robots, creating an addictive strategy game overflowing with charm.
While the awkwardness of the campaign mode's storyline is unfortunate, the game more than justifies its cost in terms of inventive mechanics, a refreshing setting and a well-thought-out realtime tactical system – all without the looming threat of microtransactions and booster-pack expenditures that so often are matched up with any card-based game.
Ironclad Tactics is a mean old coot beloved by Lady Luck. He fights fair but your hand of cards may disagree. Seemingly allergic to the very idea of tutorials, Ironclad Tactics has an incredibly hands-off approach to player guidance and a no-holds barred attitude when it comes to battles. It will smack you around. Hard.
Ironclad Tactics brings together a plethora of gameplay styles, and in the process, picks up some of their best and worst features, all the while throwing in a few of its own. Its card-based system is too random to call it a full out strategy game, but it would be degrading to say that tactical thinking plays no part here. As long as you don't try to label it, we think that you'll find a fun experience.
There's a lot to like in Ironclad Tactics, but many of its positive aspects are weighed down by some design issues. You have to prepare a deck carefully, but unfortunately it's a blind preparation the first time through any campaign mission. There's a large variety of cards, but without memorizing what each card does you'll barely have enough time to play them properly before the computer attacks. I truly believe this game could have benefited immensely by including an option for real-time battles. Suddenly, a frantic button-mashing battle would become more akin to a chess game, each piece carefully selected and positioned as the player plans their next four moves before actually executing on them. Unfortunately, with the game as it exists right now, only those who can commit to learning the quirks of the turn system and limited deck size will find the game rewarding.
If a few joints can be tightened, a few rough edges filed down, Ironclad Tactics could hum along nicely. For now, however, I wouldn't recommend you climb aboard this one. It's a rickety ride.
There's a place for these kinds of simplified tactics games, and there have been plenty over the years; be that tower defence games right through to the likes of Chain Chronicle. Unfortunately a lack of personality and gameplay that doesn't live up to its promises have left Ironclad Tactics dead in the water.