Strategy, diplomacy, and cunning. Subterfuge involves all of these traits and more. A weeklong game of alliances, takeover, and a large amount of planning, the mobile game Subterfuge won several mobile game awards. Creators, Noel Llopis and Ron Carmel, created the game in 2015 with an award for best multiplayer game received from Pocket Tactics the same year.
In Subterfuge, the player spotlights as the overseer of an underwater civilization whose main goal is to mine 200 kilograms of a rare element, Neptunium. However, there are other players in the surroundings trying to beat you to the 200 kilogram goal. The game features a chat room with the other players on the map for one purpose, to create alliances. Alliances make up one of the most fundamental roles in this game.
The player starts off with an outpost and 3 factories. The factories produce robot drillers that also serve as your troops when you enter the hostile takeover phase, and the outposts house generators that power your factories.
Each player on the map controls a queen that can periodically hire specialists that you can use to attack enemies, speed up subs, boost driller production, and manage your electrical output. If you play your cards correctly, a specialist could become the difference between a loss and a gain.
The definition of subterfuge according to Merriam Webster consists of “deception by ingenuity or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade”. This definition fits in well to the game, because throughout the weeklong battle of wits, deceiving your opponents becomes necessary to stay in the game. Moving your submarines from point A to point B can take anywhere from 9-24 hours, so players must smokescreen their plan as much as possible. This aspect of the game makes it the weeklong struggle it lives up to.
Since transport takes so long, players are only required to check on their standings once in a while. Even though it is not necessary, some players check every hour and stare at the map for longer periods of time to develop an elaborate plan of attack. At the bottom of the game screen, in the hotbar, there sits a time wheel.
The time wheel allows the player to turn time forward to see where their subs as well as the enemy’s subs will be, as long as the events are already executed and in the players’ sonar range.
The following tweet contains an article from Pocket Gamer that highlights Subterfuge’s rank as one of the best strategy games for Android devices.
— Pocket Gamer (@PocketGamer) October 26, 2015
My experience with Subterfuge found the game to be a exciting passtime. My first attempt ended in my resigning out of the game because I made several key failures earlier on in the the game. These failures kept me from having a full experience of the game. I took a break to practice my strategy skills with the offline Tactical Puzzles that the game provides. These puzzles taught me the key concepts I was missing and I entered another match to obtain another, better experience.
Learning from my earlier experience, I knew not to disperse my drillers over wide areas as I did so previously. Instead, I concentrated larger amounts of drillers to certain areas to take factories and outposts from people who dispersed their troops too much. I also created alliances early on and called on their help to prevent the other players from gaining any important areas.
In the midst of creating alliances, the player must remember that verbal agreements keep alliances together. This means that the game contains no punishment for broken promises. The Subterfuge rulebook states that it recommends players keep to their words, so others will do the same.
Through the first few days of the game, I focused on secretly amassing my drillers to defend against attack by the surrounding players. Toward mid-game, I made some aggressive plays that eliminated the queens of 2 players and got them eliminated from the game.
The rest of the game mainly consisted of me and the other 2 players in my alliance racing to drill mines and obtain Neptunium as fast as possible. I took an early lead to drill my mines and that eventually led to me winning the game.
I thought this game was clever and creative. It involved strategy and wits, and did not take long to learn. The creators mentioned how they bring strategy from random selection in an article on gamesfromwithin.com. Noel Llopis quoted in the article that he added this touch of random selection in the hiring of specialists.
There are multiple specialists that players are able to hire in Subterfuge via the queen. However, only three specialists are available for hire at one time. This forces the player to look at their position and determine which specialist would serve them best in the future. Players also reserve the option of promoting a previously hired specialist.
This game attracts people who either want to test their skills, or just play with friends. I recommend the game to people who discover it difficult to spend long amounts of time on hobbies. Subterfuge creates a virtual board game that students and their friends can play without spending the long amounts of time normally spent on board games.
Subterfuge reflects an interesting part of human nature, the desire of deceiving your enemies. As I mentioned earlier, the literal meaning of the word ‘subterfuge’ means ‘deception by ingenuity’. Most people find some satisfaction in wining a game or competition. It consists of a completely different aspect of winning however, when the opponent loses without knowing how they lost.
Just like Subterfuge, chess involves many things happening at once; many pieces creating a path to victory. Subterfuge uses these possibilities of trickery to create a game where winning satisfies parts of players’ minds that they never knew existed.
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