Subterfuge: The Verdict
I’ve played a lot of Neptune’s Pride; the real-time strategy space-conquering game. It was an intriguing mix of alliances, tactics and downright betrayal played out over a tactical map where you controlled fleets, took-over worlds, and performed research into new techs and weapons. You were pitted against other human players and had to form truces or trade and technological alliances in a bid to come out on top. This often meant backstabbing and as this game was ‘real time’ (a fleet requiring 2 days to get somewhere actually took 2 days to get there…) it was not unheard of to get up at 3am to issue some orders for the perfect attack or betrayal. Yes I’ve done that and no i don’t regret it..
It was a browser based game, so mostly limited to PC, and as such the ‘damage’ the game could do to your friendships and sleep-cycle was limited. As superb as the game was, a round could be a truly grueling affair, so the need for a PC meant you had to take breaks. this was a good thing.
Enter Subterfuge. Subterfuge is a smartphone-based strategy game by Ron Carmel and Noel Llopis. It is very very similar to Neptune’s Pride. In fact, it was the developers of Neptune’s Pride (Iron Helmet games; who I’ve conversed with on a few occasions) who put me onto the game, and I’ve been playing it since late-Beta.
Subterfuge is on the face of it, very similar to Neptune’s Pride. The game is played out on a strategic map. You move units (or subs about) to control territory and bases, and your ultimate goal is to win. Here though is where the game starts to diverge. For a start, there are two ways to win. The first involves annihilating your opponents. But the second, and far more likely option is through mining. You see, you can turn an outpost into a mine, which then produces Neptunium (natch) at a rate determined by the number of factories you possess.
This is an interesting twist; not least because it provides focal points and removes ‘the waiting game’ option that was apparent in some Neptune’s Pride games. The minute someone has a Mine, they’re starting to win. So you either need to take their Mine, wipe them out, or build your own and try to overtake them.
What you get is a curious arms race that doesn’t involve conflict… at least initially; combat usually breaks out at some point.
The other main difference are the ‘Specialists’ that you can hire. You start with one: your Queen, who gives a boost to shields at the base she currently sits at. The Queen though is the seat of your faction- if she dies, you lose (which is a great feature as it means you can perform surgical strikes). From then on you get the chance to hire a new specialist every couple of hours. Each has a unique ability, such as a boost to sub (think ship) production, or an output in power (used to power your factories and affects your max number of subs). Others have more direct effects such as the incredible Martyr who explodes on combat- wiping out subs or bases in her radius of effect. This adds a nice layer of strategy and tactics to the game. Even more when any one sub can carry up to 3 Specialists, allowing for some interesting combinations.
As with Neptune’s Pride though, you won’t get anywhere without allies, and again, as with Neptune’s Pride, this is the actual crux of the game. The same duplicitous and Machiavellian scheming can be applied to often, unintended results. It’s glorious. More so that you get notifications direct to your pocket.
One thing i’m not sure on, though perhaps this is down to my masochistic side, is the ability to queue orders, i.e. instead of having to get up at 3am, you can move the in-game clock and issue your orders safe in the knowledge that they will be carried out. Many will rejoice at that. I’m still on the fence.
That said, it’s a brilliant little game and to my mind at least, nicely follows on from Neptune’s Pride and makes it even more accessible by making it available in your pocket.
The main game is free, but you can buy a premium version (though i don’t think you actually need it) and I thoroughly recommend you all go buy it.