Hero Academy may have put asynchronous multiplayer games on the iOS map, but Outwitters, a turn-based strategy game by One Man Left, drenches the familiar formula in an absurd level of bubbly effervescence. The charming factions that duke it out in each match are disarmingly cute, making the cutthroat tactical battles they engage in all the more amusing.
Thankfully, the accessible gameplay in Outwitters doesn’t come at the expense of depth. Whether you’re playing 1v1 duels or bigger 2v2 encounters, turn-based battles are easy to dive into and maddeningly addictive once you get a feel for them. The objective in every match is to obliterate your opponent’s base while taking down as many of their units as possible. There’s a lot of flexibility in how you choose to go about the process.
Units are broken down into five main classes, including runners, soldiers, medics, snipers, and heavies—each with their tactical strengths and weaknesses that add a solid level of strategic variety to matches. Moving your minions, delivering attacks, and spawning additional troops costs “wit” points which are earned at a rate of five per round. The temperamental supply keeps your actions limited each turn, but strategically hoarding wit points lets you summon more powerful troops. Fog-of-war also throws an interesting twist into the mix, since you can only see where your opponents’ troops are if they’re within visual range.
Much of the fun hinges on the three core factions, which are so bursting with personality and style that it’s hard not to crack a smile at their on-screen antics. Only one of the factions, the nautical pirate-themed Scallywags, is available to use in the free version, but dropping $6 for the in-game Uber Pack to unlock all current and future combatants is well worth the expense. Doing so nabs you the saccharine sweet Adorables and the mechanical, flesh-hating Feedback. Each group’s units has their own cool visual style, and while some of the unit type functions are the same across the board, every faction has its own unique high-level super unit that can turn the tide of battle. The Feedback’s Scrambler, for example, converts an enemy unit into an ally, while the Adorables’ narwhal, Mobi, can teleport friendly units around the battlefield.
One of the challenges of asynchronous multiplayer is relying on other players to hold up their end of the match. It’s not uncommon to start a game, get a few turns in, then realize your opponent bailed to go grab lunch or take the dog for a walk. Playing sluggish battles can feel like waiting for an important e-mail to arrive, which is why Outwitters is a lot more fun when you’ve got a dozen different battles cooking at any given moment. Juggling lots of games with numerous opponents can get dizzying, though it’s better than having a match fizzle and being stuck twiddling your thumbs.
With a little patience and lots of opponents, Outwitters will rope you in with its delightful vibe and intense tactical grudge matches.