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These Android strategy games will get you thinking

by Tim McLain

War never changes. It's always the perfect backdrop for strategy games on your smartphone! Whether you're into creating a civilization to conquer all others; carefully planning, placing, and executing perfect war maneuvers on Earth (or the moon!), or you're into tower defense games, the marketplace has apps that are sure to scratch your strategy itch.

UniWar ($4.99)

What do you get when you fuse the best strategy elements found in StarCraft, Advance Wars and Military Madness (see below), then tack on turn-based online play and real-time mobile smack-talk? Why UniWar, of course. Players are given a hexagonal playfield to populate with troops and bases derived from one of three unique races, squaring off against opponents with a myriad of unique units at their disposal. As each game plays out, the strengths and weaknesses of each race and unit come into play, which is where the serious strategy elements emerge. The terrain also plays its part in each move and attack, with each map adding its own surprises to the mix. If you're serious about strategy, and can dish out the smack talk with the best of them, then UniWar will quickly become the go-to app for your gaming fix. Did I mention you can have several online matches going simultaneously?

Pocket Empires Online (Free)

Free and fun? Pocket Empires Online certainly has that reputation, and you'll soon see why. Starting up the game presents you with an open field of green grass in which to plant your first castle to get your local economy off the ground. As time passes and your castle grows, you'll get new plots of land to build farms or dig resource mines. Soon it's time to think about forming a militia, and starting your technology tree. Once that's set in motion, it's time to decide whether you want to raid, destroy, or simply spy on the creatures that inhabit the land. The best part? The more you play, the more reputation you earn, which lets you create additional cities, and move up the leaderboards. Sweet.

Military Madness ($4.99)

Like UniWar (above), Military Madness gives you a field of hexagons upon which to place your units, all of which have specific strengths and weaknesses against the enemy forces arrayed before you. The wrinkle? You're on the moon! And to top it off, you might initially be afraid to make lowly infantry units, but you'll soon discover that these easy-to-kill foot soldiers are the only guys who can take over and run the factories that dot the surface. And with factories come fresh units, big tanks and more. You'll need to carefully place your units in the proper places, and pair friendly units with each other to increase their effective fighting ratings. There's a massive amount of strategy goodness to be had in this app, making it well worth its $5 price tag.

Tower Raiders GOLD ($4.99)

Tower Raiders GOLD is arguably the best tower defense app in the Android marketplace, leading players from easy levels to more difficult terrain and bad guys over time, and adding just the right number of new turrets to keep things interesting as play progresses. You start with an open playfield, with gray studded spaces to place turrets. A slate gray path is also laid out, which enemy units must travel in order to get to your stored crystals, then back out again. The aim of the game is to purchase and put turret-style gun emplacements in various locations in order to wipe out the enemy. As the levels progress, you'll quickly begin to understand which turrets do more damage to various enemy types and which turrets need to be upgraded over time. Game controls are available to speed up or slow down the pace of the action, and zooming and panning is also fairly straightforward to keep everything in view. Don't lose track of the enemy as they try to carry off your precious gems!