Caravan War could easily have been the name of a segment on "Top Gear" in which the presenters destroyed a caravan every week in increasingly ostentatious ways. For better or worse, Caravan War is not a game about destroying caravans. Well, it is. But not that kind of caravan.
Viewing the action from an isometric top-down perspective, you have to fill your little world with buildings - a Headquarters, for conducting trades, a Mill, for producing stuff to trade, an Academy, for training guardians to protect your cargo, a Garage, for storing vehicles, and so on.
Then you have to create more buildings and upgrade the ones you have. To keep the wheels turning you have to trade, which means creating a caravan that can survive a journey through the fantasy badlands, and send out convoys whenever you've got enough cargo to sell.
It also means ambushing the caravans of other players, to steal their gold and cargo. But to pull off an ambush, you need a good number of well-trained bandits and a selection of souped-up towers to place in your enemies' way, in classic tower defense fashion.
And the only way to get an army of well-trained bandits is to upgrade your Tavern and your Bandit Camp and keep earning achievements so that you can get hero cards (and gems.)
Oh, and you should probably complete a few campaign missions to unlock that new tower so that you can nab some extra cargo and make enough money to buy a new weapon for your caravan.
And so on and so on.
Caravan War is an interesting take on the casual strategy genre that's richer and more involved than many of its stablemates.
Caravan War is a rich and detailed tower defense management game mashup where you're always balancing different priorities to keep your little fantasy empire thriving.
Whereas a lot of free to play strategy games hold your hand to a ridiculous degree, slapping a red sticker on every upgrade or unlock that becomes available so that you never have to use your judgement, Caravan War largely leaves you to do the rounds of your little kingdom alone.
And there's a lot to check. Not only can you upgrade your buildings but you can give promotions to your Guardians and Bandits, and tweak the formation of your caravan, among other things.
Your progress never stalls due to the free to play nature of the game. Even after you've completed the campaign missions, you can avoid an unmanageable confrontation by skipping to the next target caravan every time you send out a scout (for a small fee in gold).
While there's nothing particularly wrong with the visuals, the 2D isometric graphics can look a bit dated on a device that's capable of gleaming polygons. The design of the world is generic, and the text is sometimes illegibly small unless you zoom in to read it - even on a large smartphone.
This all takes the shine off an otherwise exciting mashup of tower defense and management, imprisoning a novel concept in the staid uniform of a much more ordinary game.
If you can look past the game's ordinary appearance, you'll find a rich and rewarding free-to-play strategy game underneath - but you shouldn't have to look.
Caravan War is an interesting take on the casual strategy genre that's richer and more involved than many of its stablemates. The gameplay contains enough different threads that you always have something to do, and the difficulty is only ever as challenging as you want it to be.
Unfortunately, a slightly drab appearance detracts from the overall package, and there are more exciting alternatives in the App Store. But if you don't mind putting up with generic visuals, there's plenty to like in Caravan War.