Subterfuge – Review

Grab your scuba gear and prep your submarine as we drive right into what may well be the best Android and iOS game the year.

Subterfuge is a long form real time strategy game and by this, I mean that instead of sending units to a position and watching them scurry over in a matter of moments, Subterfuge’s troop movements take hours, even days. Set on the bottom of the ocean up to 8 players are competing to produce 200 of a resource called Neptunium. In order to do these players are going to command 3 types of outpost: factories, generators and mines. Each operates differently and striking a balance between all 3 is extremely important. Players can also win by defeating each other player’s Queen and I will come back to what her majesty does in a moment.

That covers the conditions needed to win, but how does a player go from a small nation containing a few outposts to the winner of the game and lord of the ocean? Players increase their chances of victory by capturing territory and using it to their advantage. As I said before, each outpost does something different:

  • Factories produce drillers. These are your units, your troops. Players are going to be throwing them at each other in attempts to capture opposing outposts.
  • Generators increase the maximum number of drillers players can produce. If a player doesn’t own have enough generators, then they are not going to be able to make enough drillers to secure their borders and leave can leave themselves wide open to attack.
  • Mines produce Neptunium. Mines are a bit different from the other two outposts in that players need to create them. They take the place of one of your factories or generators and cost 50 drillers for the first mine, 100 for the second and 200 for the third.

As you can see drilling Mines quickly becomes very expensive, so what better way to produce more Neptunium than the capture somebody else’s Mine? Be careful, however, as your opponents are not going to want to relinquish such a precious outpost. When a player loses control of a Mine they also lose 20% of the Neptunium they have gathered so far. This makes retaining control of a Mine once it has been captured of the utmost importance.

Now back to the Queen. Each player has one Queen and she produces specialists. Each specialist changes the game in some way. Take the Infiltrator for example. Each outpost has a shield on that charges over time and immediately kills drillers attacking that base, however, the Infiltrator has the ability to drain 20 shields from an outpost. This makes outposts easier to capture. Or take the Helmsman, he can travel at 2x speed meaning players can move drillers about quicker. Then perhaps there is the Hypnotist. If a player manages to beat an opponent and capture some of their specialists, then with the Hypnotist on your side they can convert those captures specialist to their own team. Using all of the specialist’s abilities in creative, unexpected and clever ways turns the tide of battle in Subterfuge.

Okay, I’ve explained all the basic gameplay aspects of the game, but I haven’t talked about the chat function. This is where Subterfuge’s real game is played. At any point, you can tap on another play to chat with them. Perhaps you want to form an alliance,  a specialist release or call a ceasefire. Well, you can, but who are they speaking to? Do they really want an alliance? What happens if they are agreeing to let your specialist get captured by another player? What if they don’t honour the ceasefire?

In Subterfuge players are going to spend about ¼ of their time actually queueing up sub launches with the rest of the time used to talk with opponents and allies. Maybe you want to gather a strong enough force to stop that player from winning, but say it backfires and it turns out everybody else was talking about doing the same thing to you? Every game in Subterfuge is full of false alliances, unstable truces and a betrayal waiting to happen. You never know if that friend you made right at the start of the game is really your friend at all or if they are just waiting for a good moment to strike against you.

Subterfuge is that perfect phone game I always been waiting for. The learning curve can be tough, but the game has a robust tutorial system in form of puzzles, videos explaining the intricacies of the game and a manual explaining all the rules and all the specialist abilities. Subterfuge is simple, yet complex with each match lasting about a week, but every game will have a story.


This article was originally published on but unfortunately, that site no longer exists, so I’ve republished it here.

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