I spend a lot of time playing strategy games, but sometimes it feels like I spend more time learning how to play strategy games. It says something about the complexity of the games and a frightening amount about the lack of complexity of my brain that by the point I've figured out how to balance my economy and marshall my troops, I'm often ready to move onto the next thing. Therefore, I can be pleasantly surprised by a strategic offering that only takes minutes to learn and Blue Libra is just such a game. The line-drawing controls and simplicity betray its app store roots, but nonetheless I found something oddly compelling about its single screen systems and brief scenarios. There's a demo here and more thoughts below.
There's an overarching plot in Blue Libra, about a race on the brink of destruction attempting to claim back their home world but it's not particularly important and could be replaced by a plot about a violent empire expanding into unknown territory. Heck, you could probably replace the planets with various fruits and the ships with fruit flies and make it about some sort of insect war. It all comes down to entering new systems, each of which contains a small collection of planets and/or space stations and/or ripened fruits, then seizing control of everything.
Production is automatic, with every node churning out units until a command point limit is reached, so as ships are destroyed replacements are automatically constructed. Owning more nodes increases command points, thereby allowing for larger fleets, so every level becomes a race to conquer as quickly as possible. Fall behind and more often than not its curtains. Space curtains.
The only things the budding fleet commander need worry about are the types of unit under construction and the deployment of those units. For example, the Blue Libra itself, which is the command ship that must be protected at all costs, could be set to produce fighters and bombers, but with 80% of effort put towards fighters. So, four fighters for every one bomber.
As the campaign progresses, larger ships become available and, unfortunately, that's where the game stumbles. Hordes of small ships seem just as useful as fleets made up of a mix of classes and there's no real sense of specific units countering other types. The situation isn't helped by the tiny representations of those ships, which mean it's easier to rely on simply watching fleet sizes drop to work out how a battle is playing out.
Despite that, I still think I'm going to play this through to completion. On a Monday, it's a good thing that I don't have to worry if my ships have fuel or the correct star drives. I'm happy that interplanetary warfare involves nothing more than drawing lines between planets to attack or defend. The demo will be enough to let you know if you want to spend £2.99 for more. I just wish there was a skirmish mode to go with the rather small campaign. I suppose you could call it a coffee break game and I do drink a lot of coffee.