Ironclad Tactics Looks Rather Splendid

By Jim Rossignol on August 28th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.


Handsome alternate history steampunk Civil War card game from the makers of SpaceChem, Ironclad Tactics, is set to appear on Steam on September 18th. But that far off date hasn’t stopped them from taking pre-orders that give you rather more than you’d get purchasing on release day. What’s this pre-order business all about? Developers Zachtronics explain that the bundle: “contains Ironclad Tactics, the first two add-on campaigns for Ironclad Tactics when they’re released, a copy of SpaceChem with the 63 Corvi DLC, and a bunch of other fantastic extras.” They do look okay, too.

Oh, and there’s a video for you watch in the Confederate South of this post. Take a look.

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43 Comments »

  1. atticus says:

    2013: It’s the year of the cards, ladies and gentlemen!

    • LionsPhil says:

      But cards are just an abstraction used by boardgames to represent resources in nice, manageable, discrete lumps. Why abstract an abstraction by making virtual cards on a computer?

      • gunny1993 says:

        For the same reason we don’t just turn all games into excel spreadsheets, to give them flavor.

        • Frank says:

          I guess you’re joking…? For me, cards are only a step below spreadsheets in dullness.

          • dE says:

            I don’t know about gunny, but I like well made cards very much. They generally have some nice art, interesting small story bits and flavour quotes plus the bonus of providing all the necessary informations at a glance.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Go spend 7 straight hours on SPSS typing in data, then tell me that card games are more boring.

            If you still think card games are more boring then I suggest a career in accountancy.

          • Tei says:

            Well presented cards can be pretty and full of flavour.
            But is more to trigger the “collector” feeling.
            Also something that looks like a physical thing include a baggage of expectations of what can do. So are a self imposed limited,that is shared with with user.

            Perhaps not everybody that make a cards game understand why, so for these people is just a fad, and want to be part of it.

      • Mr. Mister says:

        You triggered my trapface!

      • Gap Gen says:

        I’m not going to disagree with you (although, frankly Civ is just a big boardgame and that works fine, and I liked Shogun 1′s boardgame campaign map as an abstraction of you being a warlord planning your conquests), but I am going to offer a counterpoint – that videogames often succumb to throwing in crap for its own sake, which boardgames have to trim to avoid bogging players down with stuff that they have to do by hand. There are a lot of strategy games with needless busywork and overly complex systems, and I think videogames could learn something by paring down a concept to get to the heart of why you’re playing the thing. This is part of the thing that bogs down 4X late games, for example – when you only have three cities, deciding to build granaries or warriors in your little township is fine, but when you’re deciding where to put the bins in a tiny village somewhere inside your sprawling empire, it stops being fun or interesting. Of course, board games can also do this, but it more quickly becomes apparent when you’re hacking through a fifty page manual and have more stuff to sort out than an obsessive-compulsive accountant near the tax return deadline.

        • pbrand says:

          To be fair, a lot of 4X (like Civilization 4) offer automation. If you grow your empire too wide, you can simply set the city to automate. Same thing with workers and explorers.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yes, I guess the more recent ones do it. And sure, making a game scale like that is hard work. I remember playing Rise of Nations, where you could place the outline of a village and come back a few minutes later to find it a bustling and productive town, and then being infuriated by how dumb the unit AI was in Age of Empires III.

          • mike2R says:

            A rather different genre, but the Capitalism series got this very right.

            You start out microing individual businesses, picking suppliers, tweaking prices etc. etc. As you expand this gets more and more tedious (especially since competitors react to your prices, meaning you have to adjust again, which makes them adjust etc.)

            But once you have a decent income you can hire an assistant manager who takes care of these parts of it. Leaving you to look at the high level, using the graphs to finding gaps in your supply chain and over-capcity and setting up/closing down whole swaves of plants, and making broad decisions about strategy and direction. It really worked very well.

            Man I haven’t played that game in ages.

        • LionsPhil says:

          That’s a different angle though—that you’re abstracting things into lumps itself which, yes, Civ does. That’s just game design, to keep things in few enough pieces that the player can reason about them (although for boardgames it is also constrained by how many tokens players can be expected to fit on the table and keep track of, whereas computers are expert high-speed rules lawyers).

          But Civ doesn’t show you your five shields that a city makes as five shield cards that you can pick up and faff with. Why would it? It can go straight to “here are five shields, I will show them in the most appropriately useful/pretty way, e.g. in this little bar chart, and icons on the tiles because I can precisely move tiny markers around on the board all day”.

          (There’s a spot of Devil’s Advocate to this. I did enjoy Dangerous Gods, which is all about simulating the tactility of a board game in a computer, but that’s mostly because it let me play one with friends spread a few thousand miles apart. But the gimmick had largely worn into frustration by the time we were done with one session of it.)

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yes, I suppose I can see the difference between the board pieces in Shogun “Hey, it’s like I’m a Japanese warlord planning an invasion in my throne room!” versus this “Hey, it’s like I’m playing a card game of a steampunk Civil War in my living room!”. I suppose the question then comes down to how much people like that abstraction for its own sake. Given how people actually spend real money on Steam trading cards, I’d say it’s not unlikely that there’s an audience out there for it.

            Another idea is that the card conceit is a useful way of visually demarcating “here’s some stuff of whatever form that makes your thing more powerful”, much like paper money is a good way of recording and transferring value in a more immediate way than just sending numbers between computers. Granted, this is all the game is doing, but as an abstraction for beings that relate well to experiencing things in a visual/tactile way, it sort of works, in the same way that a file tree is nicely visualised as a series of folders in a filing cabinet.

            EDIT: Or indeed what Nocturnal said more succinctly.

      • _Nocturnal says:

        It’s the next step after the randomly-generated-world craze. Not so much about the cards themselves, but about having to pick from a randomly determined set of options. Cards are just an easily understood way of representing that.

      • Snids says:

        Agreed! and while we’re at it “turns” are just an abstraction used by boardgames to represent time!

        • Gap Gen says:

          Hell, even real-time games are turn-based, it’s just that the turns are fractions of a second long.

      • Jack Mack says:

        It’s a useful way of thinking about game mechanics, and a good visual metaphor. Same as how dice are a good visual metaphor for an RNG.

    • DianaBest says:

      my classmate’s sister-in-law makes $73/hr on the computer. She has been fired for eight months but last month her paycheck was $16544 just working on the computer for a few hours. have a peek at this website… http://www.day37.com

  2. Potajito says:

    Looks like cards are the new zombies.

  3. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Im really looking forward to this, based on the strength of SpaceChem alone. The best puzzle game made, hands down.

    • MD says:

      Same here, sort of. SpaceChem is my favourite puzzle game and one of my favourite games, so I almost feel like I owe Zachtronics a sale here out of gratitude, if nothing else. And of course I have a fair bit of hope that they will make lightning strike twice. But the little I’ve seen of this game leaves me fairly cold – it’s the kind of thing I’d normally ignore entirely.

      This SpaceChem post-mortem is a good read, but also left me mildly concerned due to some of the ‘negatives’ identified: apparently SpaceChem was too long, too hard, and had too much explanatory text. (Note: the actual article is more nuanced than that, so I’m not being entirely fair.)

  4. Siimon says:

    Co-op campaign? ’nuff said, SOLD!

  5. Gap Gen says:

    I tried to watch the trailer but there’s a Union blockade around the More tag.

  6. Shar_ds says:

    The Tactical space is a 3 or 4 high grid… this does not strike me as likely to have a lot of tactical possibility…

  7. Awesumo says:

    I presume that this is the civil war between government and parliamentarians yes? Good, because I’ve had enough Americana for this lifetime

    • Jahnz says:

      No, this is a game about the Spanish Civil War. You play Ernest Hemingway in his pursuit of an exclusive interview with an out of control robotic George Orwell.

  8. suibhne says:

    I’m getting really tired of indie games advertising “Pre-order on Steam”, only to find the game nowhere in Steam’s catalog. Boo.

  9. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Aw I was hoping for Ironclad ships.

    • arccos says:

      I was also expecting a card battle game about civil war navies. It’s a pretty interesting time period for ship combat.

  10. KDR_11k says:

    Odd to see Zachtronics follow instead of lead.

  11. frodohasabigpackage says:

    How about actually playing the game before critiquing it, just a thought. Idiots.

  12. JFS says:

    Doesn’t look very interesting, art-direction-wise.

  13. visionsofamber says:

    I need this, oh, how am I going to justify this purchase.

  14. grechzoo says:

    As the biggest fan of Spacechem no this planet of earth, (no one dare oppose me on this,)

    I, like others, am truly confused about this game. I’m sure there is design genius within the nuts and bolts of this game, but i dont see it, nor do i have a clue what this is about. and the lack of media explaining this game and demoing it…really doesnt bode well for initial sales.

    Spacechem, is for those that have the dna to enjoy it…one of the most ingenius games ever created.

    This is a card game…..??

    • Siz says:

      of course i have the brazenness to to challenge you, dilettante!

      i have a suspicion that zach has some insight into the notion of “people don’t know what they want until you give it them” as such, considering the state of gaming industry is now little more than visceral pandering, there really is no point in him trying to get past the walls of audience complacency, bearing only the message of how “deep” and “complex” and “challenging” the game is, but rather that he BELIEVES IN ILLUSIONS, and so will present a very simple, quirky art and the “oh card games are easy right?” to garner a moistened dollar off the proles.

  15. cptgone says:

    the mere mention of the words “cards” and “robots” had me firing up The Trouble With Robots again. and now i feel like playing some Spacechem :)

  16. racccoon says:

    Flicks is a good game! :)

  17. The Random One says:

    Wow, 63 Corgi DLC? I can’t wait to cuddle all those – wait, I misread.