“Reconnaissance-in-force” is a method of deliberately probing an enemy’s presumed location with armed forces, all in the hopes of making the enemy reveal his own position when he responds defensively. Turns out that this was actually a rather apt description of the turn-based tactical game play found within RiemenRade Studio’s recently released ReconInForce (out now, free). In this game — featuring asynchronous multiplayer, as well as AI opponents — players take turns deploying and moving units around the map, dealing with the fog of war, and rushing to be the first to eradicate their opponent’s headquarters.
The game is controlled easily enough, with a player — when it’s actively their turn — being able to move any of their units by first clicking on them and then tapping where they want them to move towards. The places that your currently selected unit can viably move to are highlighted blue in order to help with tactical decisions, which is useful since how far a unit may move is based on the terrain present (with roads being the fastest path). Moving causes a unit to expend one action point in the process, with different units having differing amounts of points available to them each turn (and while armored units will chug along just fine afterwards, infantry permanently loses potential when injured).
People will have to judiciously choose how often they move their units — however — for these action points are also needed in order to launch attacks, meaning you can’t necessarily both run up to someone and unload all your guns at them in the same round. Further complicating combat in ReconInForce is that the visibility and attack ranges of your units are not always equal, with the heaviest units often possessing firing ranges far beyond their ability to see targets. Thankfully this is easily mitigated by the fact that your units don’t need to personally confirm a target’s location in order to destroy them, all you need is for one of your other your men — like a recon jeep — to visually confirm the target.
Although it may be possible — using a disposable light unit with strong sight powers — to shoot an enemy with a heavy unit that is far out of their visual range, it is here where ReconInForce truly makes real upon its namesake strategy. Although you might not know the locations of enemies that are either far away — or perhaps hiding behind special buildings — you’ll always know which way their fire came from, hinting at their position. A clever player can use this knowledge to gauge where the enemy’s big guns are — afterwards silencing the opposition’s spotters — and then move in a speedy recon jeep of their own, afterwards paying their opponent back with their own heavy artillery.
Of course — as fun as poking around to discover your opponent’s location is — that’s only half the battle when attempting to win at ReconInForce, the rest involves securing build points and deployment zones. Scattered across the field are flags with numbers written on them, and running one of your units up to a flag — assuming a unit belonging to the flag’s current owner isn’t stationed next to it — will claim the flag for your side. All flags held by your HQ at the beginning of your next turn will determine just how many build points you’ll have to spend that round, which radically impacts how many units you may ship.
Further complicating things is that — although you always own the drop zone behind your HQ — there additionally exist claimable deploy-zones all over the battlefield, which are captured according to the same rules as the aforementioned build point flags. Even if your war machine is marching down on your foe’s armored base, nothing will ruin your day quicker than if a lone jeep should run up and snag a deployment zone near your HQ. These deployment zones come in two varieties: the superior ones that permit the building of both infantry and tanks units; and the helipads, which only permit non-mechanized infantry units to be dropped in.
Eventually — when you’re either happy where you are, don’t have any more units with action points remaining, or ran out of build points with which to deploy more units — you’ll finally select to end your turn by tapping the button on the screen’s lower right. When dealing with the PC you’ll immediately be shown the results of your AI opponent’s reactions to your stratagem, yet those playing against an online opponent will have to politely wait until their enemy finishes with his move. Realistically it would be advised that hopeful commanders spend a healthy deal of time against the AI — so as to get a feel for the various units, and how they’re best utilized — before diving into online matches.
Interestingly, ReconInForce is being offered by RiemenRade Studio — should your interest have been piqued so far — for the generous upfront price tag of absolutely free. Now before your assume the worst of this affair, ReconInForce doesn’t contain any special win units — cool down clocks to evade — or other dirty tricks for paying users to avail themselves of. Instead — in a move similar to Hero Academy — there are five different factions that players may choose to play as via a one-time unlock fee, all of whom focus on radically combat specialties (none of which are inherently superior to the base team).
While ReconInForce is a perfectly decent package — especially for one with a free entrance fee, and no pay-to-win mechanics — it just didn’t hold a candle to the mechanics of either Great Big War Game (our review) or Finest Hour (our review). I guess that’s fair since those strategy games both come with upfront price tags to play them at all, whereas its perfectly free for someone to promptly hop into ReconInForce sans money. So while ReconInForce might not be stellar enough for me to order you to immediately march out and snap it up this very instant, it’s still worth looking into — all the same — as you’ll have plenty of time in order to decide whether or not it’s worth dropping cash on.
iFanzine Verdict: ReconInForce is a competent, as well as free, mobile strategy game — with both AI and Asynchronous Online opponents to play against — that certainly manages to live up to its military namesake. Although the game does contain IAPs, the alternate teams available — of which there are five options — only provide the player with different strategy methods to use (rather than featuring superior Pay-to-Win power). As a result, it’s easy to recommend that any seeking a free-to-sample experience should check out ReconInForce; yet — for those seeking something meatier, and are also willing to pay up front — Great Big War Game and Finest Hour are admittedly better.