This review is going to get a little wordy. Not only am I telling you all about Great Little War Game, a fantastic turn-based strategy game from Rubicon, I also get to tell you all about the upcoming 1.4 update. So if you're short on time and you want the summary, let me just say that this is a game you need to own if you like turn-based strategy, and the update is going to make it better than ever.

I'll call Great Little War Game "great" without hesitation, but I'd hardly call it "little" - not with 20 campaign levels, a 10 level IAP expansion, and tons of maps for pass-and-play multiplayer and AI skirmishes. This isn't a game that's over quickly - the levels take time and multiplayer matches can turn into all-out war.

The campaign gives you a thorough introduction to the game's many units, from the humble Engineer to mighty tanks, warships and aircraft. Early on, you learn the simple controls - tap to select and move, hold to see range and movement - and then then you'll learn to capture the enemy's resources and base. You'll also need to pick up vital strategies like holding high terrain, defending your resources and picking the right spot to lay an ambush.

You're set against enemy forces controlled by an AI that poses a challenge without becoming frustrating. In each level, you're facing ongoing assaults by the enemy while you try to achieve a goal. Sometimes you need to capture the enemy base. Other times you're left to hold out against a superior foe or to struggle to build up your resources before being overwhelmed. Your performance is ranked on how quickly you succeed.

Great Little War Game isn't just an impressive strategy game; it's also pretty darn funny. The cut scenes between levels feature your army's Generalissimo and his terribly courageous approach to warmongering. I've never seen someone lead so bravely from the (distant) rear. Unit voices, animations and descriptions also offer up some laughs.

I've had a chance to go hands-on with the upcoming 1.4 update. It's going to be submitted Friday, so hopefully we'll see it soon. The biggest change is the addition of difficulty modes. You'll start on Basic difficulty, and there are three higher modes to unlock by beating the campaign with each. Damage increases for both sides as you play on higher difficulties, so you'll need to be very careful about keeping your army safely out of range while picking off the enemy.  The AI also gets more cash to spend, and it's a little smarter in all modes, so skilled players are going to be challenged.

Great Little War Game is also getting a cosmetic bump, with improvements to lighting and water, multisampling and bump maps. It looks very nice - still cartoony, but much more polished. Despite the nice new look, 1.4  feels snappier than ever on my 3GS. As for the one thing some of you have been holding out for - the game's 16 achievements now sync to Game Center. Three new skirmish maps have been added (including a sweet little nod to this site). On top of all that, there's a new 15 level campaign, Holiday from Hell, available for in-app purchase.

Rubicon's always been very responsive to their fans, adding fixes and updates based on feedback. They've adopted a lot of ideas from users on our forums, so if you've got any suggestions, make sure to stop in.

One technical note: the game only supports third-generation devices and newer. Also, be sure to grab the right version. With an HD version, a standard version, and a lite version for each, things can get a little confusing. The HD is Universal with Retina graphics, while the standard version has neither feature. I do like the recent trend of releasing a second version that's a Universal HD, but restricting Retina graphics to that version is less awesome.

Great Little War Game is the kind of game you can really sink your teeth into, which is rare enough. So I'm delighted to discover that it's also rich in features, good looking and full of humor. With the 1.4 update, it's going to be even more of a must-buy. I've got my fingers crossed for asynchronous multiplayer, a feature Rubicon hopes to include some time in the future, but in the meantime there's quite the bounty to enjoy.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Paul

    Wow, excellent write up, thanks. Definitely worth the wait and I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

  • Anonymous

    I love this game, and I play it all the time. I just wish they'd fix the AI so it could be competitive without cheating so blatantly! Once you have the AI on the ropes, and have limited his resource gathering, he very obviously produces more units than he could possibly afford. The endgame often becomes very drawn out, which becomes annoyingly frustrating.

    • Paul

      It really doesn't cheat (and not many games can claim that of their AI.) The enemy gets a constant 50 extra cash each turn in skirmish mode only, because we found in playtesting that this gave the most challenging play with default settings. If you want a level playing field, give yourself 50 too. Think of it as being set to "medium" difficulty setting. (because it is)

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the info, Paul. And keep in mind, I do love the game; it is quickly becoming one of my favorite apps. But the last skirmish I played, I had the AI down to 2 oil derricks, and he was still producing an engineer, a grenadier, and either a grunt or a bazooka each round. It was annoying, because the engineer kept taking back one takeover on the hq, thus just prolonging the endgame while I transported in extra engineers. Once I won, I had a kill count of 86 vs. the AI's 17.
        The biggest thing I would focus on on future updates would be improving the AI so it doesn't need extra resources to be competitive. It takes away from the strategic feel of crippling their economy, knowing they are getting extra free money. Also, it would be nice if there was a way to speed up the enemies turn. When the enemy has a lot of units, it takes a long time to watch him shuffle everyone around.
        But, as I said, I love the game and have recommended it to a couple people. I got the iPhone version when it was free, and almost immediately bought the iPad version. I love your business model of offering a great game at a great price and then allowing the user to extend their playtime with IAP. More developers should follow your lead!

      • Paul

        Thanks for your support. :) The button in the top/right razzes through the remainder of an enemy turn.  The AI still doesn't cheat - are you sure you haven't given them some extra cash via the game setup sliders?

  • Anonymous

    Awesome, finally a review up for GLWG!
    @TimRetzl: They did improve on the AI since the previous versions, if you're talking about skirmish, yeah, it was mentioned that they have 50 more resources than the player. It isn't really cheating since the AI isn't all-powerful to begin with, but you could give yourself additional resources too if you wanted.

  • Rogue 35

    LOVE this game!!!!  If you ever played and enjoyed Advanced Wars I beg you to download this now.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

    Wow took along time to get to reviewing this one.

    • Anonymous

      Better late than never!  A front page article should get this awesome gem some more recognition!
      Go Rubicon!

  • JC

    Great game. I have to fight the iPad with my son as he keep playing GLWG.
    Congrats.

  • Anonymous

    Came up $0.99 in the App Store, but wouldn't let me purchase as it was being "modified". Now $2.99.

    • Anonymous

      Ah drat. Thanks for the catch, we've updated the post.

    • Paul

      It's been on sale for exactly a fortnight, which was already a week longer than originally planned.  The main idea with the sale is to reach people who might want to buy it so clearly it didn't work, sorry.  :s

  • Adams Immersive

    Async multiplayer would be awesome if they can make that happen! I’m glad, though, that it’s a good single-player game too.

  • phattestfatty

    Finally a review!! I've loved this game for such a long time. Congrats on the excellent review Rubicon. :)

  • http://twitter.com/thesignified Ed Firmage

    Ughhhh. Wish I would've read this before I bought the non-HD version. Devs, that's incredibly annoying. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

      What have we done now?

      • Deadclown

        I think he means that he has an iPhone 4 and expected retina support in the non-HD version. Which, honestly, is kind of understandable. It's rare on the app store to have to pay more for retina graphics over "normal" graphics for iPhone 4 users.

        I was about to buy this game just now, but figured I'd wait to see if this is addressed. I mean, it definitely seems fair to charge more for iPhone version. But charging more for a small graphics boost to the phone version is, as I said, uncommon.

      • deaclown

        I meant "charge more for iPad version"...whoops

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

        The SD runs on anything with scaling also. I honestly don't know how 960x480 retina is considered "low def" whilst 1024*768 is high def. We differentiate based on the actual def part of definition - the big screen devices use high def imagery, whereas the small screen devices have lower def imagery.

      • Deadclown

        I'm confused. Does one version look better on the iPhone 4 than the other...?

      • http://twitter.com/thesignified Ed Firmage

        Most developers seem to go with HD meaning iPad, not pixel count or actual definition. 

        My frustration was not with that however, merely the fact that I didn't see the other version when I bought it, and don't want to double pay at this point. It might be more trouble than it's worth, but an upgrade as an in app purchase to the HD version would be much appreciated. 

        Fun game though!!

  • http://www.nymobil.se James

    Thanks for the info. I will download this strategy game. Good looking and full of humour.

  • Nospam

    When is the 1.4 release going live?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

      It went into Apple a few hours ago, so hopefully next Friday.

  • alex

    one of my faves. get it

  • JJP

    I was thinking about buying it, not that into RTSs though. The fact that the iPhone only version doesn't have retina support while the HD version does is more than a little annoying. If I didn't come here and read the forums I probably wouldve gotten the SD version without knowing. I say just have a universal and lite version and get rid of The SD version. Also reading these replies and forum messages the devs seem overly defensive and whiny so that's a turn off as well. Still, game looks good and polished so I may still pick it up.

    • Frumius

      Paul the dev seems totally reasonable and responsive, to me.  It's a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cristiano-Fernandez/100001794208078 Cristiano Fernandez

    game looks off da hook!
    Love the strategy games and better if they are on the iphone.

  • http://www.nymobil.se James

    Thanks for the great review.This game has difficulty modes and the damages increases as you play on higher  difficulties. Very nice game.

  • http://www.jshamblin.com J.Shamblin

    I just finished the campaign and I love this game. I remember playing Final Fantasy Tactics when it first came out and thinking how cool it would be with a military theme and this is close!  It might actually be closer to Allied General (1995).

    I do wish it had some RPG elements though. Wouldn't it be even better if you could take your most experienced soldiers with you from battle to battle in campaign mode? And maybe have their stats increase as they get promoted (extra range, new weapons)? That will certain add some depth to player's tactics because they will realize that not everyone in the game is expendable. Right now tactics are fairly simple, a sniper here for stragglers and 2 bazooka guys here for that tank. Some customization would be nice too, changing names, uniform color, etc.

    Those are only suggestions. I'm not complaining. I really like this game. Rubicon has done an excellent job.

  • Rich

    Absolutely bloody brilliant Game and Im 45! Cant stop playing it, done all the levels up HARD PLACE 12/15. This is seriously hard to take out the artillery and the Cruiser wont sail round the otherside to get them. Could do with a couple of MIGs!

  • Collegeboo

    This post has to do with getting some advice on a particular level. I have been playing games since a kid with Avalon Hill Bookcase games and have always loved the turn based format. This game and its MODs have kept me occupied which says all you need to know of how good it is.....anyway right when I was thinking I was so good at demolishing these levels up comes "Super Safe Harbour"  It is ridiculous how hard this is to beat....and it is on basic..there just is not enough I can throw at the AI by the last couple of waves...What am I missing   signed   Help!!!

  • Firefighter0193

    Im really thinking about buying this game for my iPhone but I'm carious are all the maps small or do they have any huge maps that can give you time to build up units? I think they should have at least a huge map for the pass n play games maybe like a world map so I can run my own United states while my friend runs China or something that would be cool

  • Anonymous

    I can no longer capture enemy resources in GLWG HD. You capture them and a spanner appears above them and they behave exactly as before. Any thoughts

Great Little War Game HD Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 5