Nanofights Squads follows a formula that will be familiar to all fans of trading card games (TCGs) . You take turns laying down your cards (or "stones") on a 3x3 grid, which then “fight” any adjoining cards belonging to your online or computer-controlled opponent. It may not offer much that is new over similar titles, but it does provide some distracting strategic entertainment.
It's all in the numbers
Battles play out using numbers that sit on the edge of each square stone. It’s a straightforward system; if your newly played stone has a higher number than any of the connecting opponent’s stones it defeats them, turning them to your color. When the grid is full, the round ends and the winner is the person who controls the majority of the nine squares.
Despite Nanofights Squads' apparent simplicity, there are a number of systems that add depth. The ability to see your opponent's stones means that you must consider and plan all your moves well in advance. You would be surprised how tense things can get when you realize that - while you may have the upper hand now - your opponent’s next move could take four of your squares in a single move.
Layer onto this a number of power ups and skills linked to different stones, and you quickly find yourself thinking about what new powers you will need to add to your deck in order to secure future victories. But when playing online opponents, don't expect much challenge from the AI.
Fitting a square stone into a square hole
Bar a few issues trying to navigate Nanofights Squads’ tutorial (which seems to be broken), the majority of the game is easy to grasp. Moving stones from your deck to your hand is a simple drag-and-drop process, with a similar system applied to the battles.
Purchasing new booster stones is similarly straightforward. Tapping on the desired pack will buy it with earned currency or through - wallets at the ready - in-app purchases. Doing the same thing on your newly acquired set of cards will then open them, sending them to your deck where you can edit your five-card hand.
The basic grid gameplay, combined with its cyberpunk style, makes Nanofights Squads feel like a futuristic game of tic-tac-toe. Unfortunately, the art does little to back this, with generic characters and grimey presentation. It is rare that playing a game that pits massive walking tanks against huge scorpions manages to completely underwhelm, but somehow Nanofights does.
Fortunately, while there are certainly a few with standout elements, for the most part you will be focused on the all-important numbers that dictate a fight's outcome, rather than the design.
Offering nothing in the way of innovation or style, Nanofights Squads feels flat. But, while it may not inspire, its strategic gameplay is a fun distraction.