Here's a confession for ya: I love minimalist strategy games. Even though I take every opportunity to write about Total War and the dumb time-consuming exploits that are slowly eating away my life, it's nice to have a lil strategy game on the backburner that I can dip into for twenty minutes or so. In a time-bloated genre, it's hard not to love games like The Battle of Polytopia, Kingdom Two Crowns, and Bad North, especially if you're a mobile strategy gamer, too, and want a regular fix that won't spiral into a weeks-worth of campaign and conquest.
Thronefall looks pretty promising in this regard; a minimalist tower defense that takes a hefty dose of inspiration from the games above, while also trying to simplify the formula in a few smart ways. You play as your typical aspiring monarch, riding around your miniature realm on a horse. By day, you spend your tithe to expand the kingdom—Kingdom-style— by slotting in coins to construct houses, walls, farms, and recruit soldiers. By night, enemy armies raid the realm looking to pillage and burn all you've built.
That's the typical formula, but where Thronefall ups the ante is in letting you ride your trusty steed into battle alongside your soldiers. You start out with a bow and arrow, which the king automatically fires when you're close to enemies, but you can acquire other weapons like a spear, each of which come with a special attack. Being able to fight and bait enemies is a nice bit of player agency in a genre where you often sit behind barricades or watch how things play out—though this does mean keeping an eye on your king's health.
After repulsing the first few nights of invasion, I confidently rode out only to get stuck full of arrows. Just like Bad North's islands, each kingdom is its own cutesy little scenario you have to survive by weathering ever-larger hordes of enemies. Though not quite as satisfying as Bad North's unit tactics on-the-fly as Viking-filled longships slide through the fog, Thronefall does let you command and position troops to fend off advancing enemies.
Your realm expands day-by-day, until your humble little hamlet has transformed into a town and a fortress. Where Kingdom Two Crowns has you ride the length and breadth of the map just to collect coins and maintain what you've built, Thronefall simplifies the process. Each morning your soldiers are replenished, your buildings repaired, and you receive a tithe of coin based on how many houses and farms you have. Once you're ready, you can trigger the next night's invasion.
Thronefall feels like it's more about expansion and escalation than simply holding onto what you have. Your realm grows and so, too, do the threats. I definitely think it could adopt some more of Kingdom Two Crown's elements; I'm desperate to explore these gorgeous little maps during the day cycle, for example, but maybe that would compromise its simplicity. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Thronefall, and I'll keep my fingers crossed for a mobile release so I can save my realm on the train, too.
You can try Thronefall for yourself on Steam during NextFest.