Play The Field – Lesson 1: Surrounding

I previously had a post talking about some strategy hints for Play The Field, but I thought I would make some videos to show some of the basics.

This first one illustrates one of the most basic principles of tactics – surrounding. The enemy has three units and you have enough money to purchase only three of your own. If you don’t place your units in a proper formation you have the risk of loosing the stage.

The simple solution is to create your three units so they can focus fire on one of the end enemy units, to take it out before it’s allies can help out. By the time they reach the battle it’s too late.

You can get the game on iTunes:

Play The Field 1.1 released with iPhone/iTouch support

Version 1.1 of Play The Field, the minimalist RTS game for mobile, has just been released on the iTunes store!

While this is technically an update, containing some minor balance tweaks, bug fixes, and menu refinements, it is effect also a release of a new game since iPhone and iTouch support has been added.

Originally it wasn’t my plan to make a iPhone version so quickly, but when thinking of how to get my game out to a wider audience I did some research and discovered it wasn’t so hard after all. I did face some challenges which I’ll discuss in detail in a future post.

Because of the smaller screen sizes on iPhone/iTouch devices, the difficulty of the levels can vary from the iPad version, sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing. Because of that, In a few places I modified the level to make it a bit easier on the iPhone/iTouch version. Nevertheless, I think the best experience will be on the iPhone 6 or 6 plus, though all device types are supported.

I also have added a short (~20s) app preview for the iPad version as well as some of the device types for iPhone. Here is the game on iTunes for those interested:

Play The Field: advanced controls

In a previous post, I talked about the basic rules of the game and the fundamentals of the interface. This time I’ll go over some of the advanced controls that can help you further optimize your tactics.

First is the usage of swipes, by which I mean touching a point with your finger, moving that finger to another location, and then raising it. A swipe can be used to quickly place a series of units in a certain formation, for example to encircle a small number of enemy units. The swipe doesn’t have to be in any pre-defined shape (line, circle, etc.), as any arbitrary shape will work. I think you’ll find it tedious and time consuming to tap several times quickly when trying to overcome the opponent, and using swipes makes it so much faster and easier.

Another thing you can use swipes for is to select units. Begin the swipe by clicking one of your units and then move your finger across any other units you want to select. As your finger crosses each friendly unit it will become selected. That way you can then issue commands (like attack a specific unit or move to a specific location) with a group of units. If you want to select all of your units on the screen, you can do that quickly with a button on the top right of the screen. It has three green units, shown in a triangle formation.

There are two other commands which you can issue to one or more units and aren’t immediately obvious. The first of these is to quickly tap on one or more units that are already selected. This will cancel any actions they have been given (for example if they were told to attack a specific enemy unit), and they will revert to the default behavior of heading towards, and attacking the nearest enemy. This will also unselect those unit(s).

The other command is to cause one or more units to hold still (called ‘hold position’ in some RTS games). This is done simply by touching a unit that is already selected and holding for roughly a half of second or more. A red box will be drawn around units holding still, and they will not automatically head towards the nearest enemy. However they will still attack any enemies in range. This technique can be used at some of the later stages in order to avoid units going off by themselves and getting captured needlessly.

Tactics in Play The Field

For those of you haven’t played Play The Field or found it challenging, it might be unclear what I mean by ‘tactics’, so in this post I’ll talk a little about that term.

You probably have some vague idea what tactics means, but lets review by looking at the dictionary (according to, edited slightly below):

  1. The art or science of disposing military or naval forces for battle and maneuvering them in battle.
  2. The maneuvers themselves.
  3. Any mode of procedure for gaining advantage or success.

Although PTF is essentially non-violent (if you can exclude the extremely cartoony explosions and laser beams), the first definition above is a perfect match to what the game is about – disposing (placing) forces and maneuvering (moving, controlling) them to achieve a goal. The other definitions (#2 and #3) are also strongly related.

For those of you unfamiliar with the RTS genre or similar games, you may try a few levels and get frustrated with the difficulty. To be sure, the game’s difficulty quickly ramps up and is not too forgiving (I may add a difficulty setting option if requested), but there are some tricks that will help you overcome these middle stages. As for the last few – those will definitely take some tactics, some time, and a lot of luck (:

  • Think of what angle you attack an enemy formation and how it effects the battle. For example, if the enemy units are lined up horizontally, if you attack from above (with a similar line formation), you will be fighting on even ground, with maybe 50-50 odds. But if you attack from the side, you can focus several of your units on one of theirs, before they have time to regroup
  • Remember you get money each time you capture an enemy unit, and therefore add units to an in-progress battle as soon as you get enough money. Think about the best place to add these units: right in the middle or battle or a bit outside it?
  • Think about the characteristics of each unit: speed, hit points, damage, size, etc. Which units are they weak against and which strong?
  • If you save up enough money, you can buy one strong unit, or several weak ones. Think about the tradeoffs between these two choices and when you would favor one option over the other.

This is just a starting point. When you start to take in consideration things like ‘maker’ units (essentially stationary buildings that periodically create new units), things get much more complicated.

[PTF on iTunes:]

(Play The Field iTunes link:

Play The Field: What kind of game is it?

In my last post I showed a brief demonstration of the gameplay for my iPad game Play The Field. However from that alone it may be hard to tell what is going on, except that there is some sort of action happening. So in this post I’ll talk in detail about what the game is about.

For each stage in Play The Field, there are only two objectives: never go down to zero units, and try to reduce the enemy to zero units by capturing theirs. At any time during the game if you have zero units on screen (except the start of each stage) you immediately loose that stage, and if the enemy goes to zero you pass that level. It’s as simple as that.

In order to achieve said goals, you have two actions to take: placing new units and managing ones already on the screen.

Placing a unit is as simple as clicking on an empty space on the map. If you have enough money to create the unit it will automatically join the game at that location. Money comes from two places, an initial amount given at the start of the game, and an amount received from capturing each enemy unit.

Except for the first few stages, there is usually a choice of several different types of units, and the ones available are shown on the top of the screen. The currently selected type is highlighted, and to change that simply tap on another type.

Units on screen are managed by issuing commands. This is done by first selecting a unit by tapping on it, and then clicking on either an enemy unit or a location on the map. There are a few more advanced commands, but I’ll leave those for a future post.

Units will typically attack enemy units in range, unless they were commanded to attack a different unit. A unit without any commands will also move towards the nearest enemy unit. When a unit takes damage, it’s HP (hit points) will decrease a certain amount, and if any units HPs reach zero (or below), they will disappear and be considered as captured by the opponent’s team.

The gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre, with it’s well known classics like Starcraft and Age of Empires, and without a doubt these game were a major influence. However the gameplay is vastly simplified (as well as the graphics – more on that later) so it’s much easier to pick up as a casual game. In fact, the short stages, some of which have a “trick” to solve them quickly, have some similarities to the puzzle genre.

Play The Field – quick demo video

Due to a problem with the app preview video for 1.0 there is only static screen shots viewable at present, show in this post I’ve included the video which was supposed to be included in iTunes.

When you see a line of units being spawned quickly, that is done by simply moving your finger across the screen to create any sort of formation.

Play The Field 1.0 released on Apple app store!

I’m very pleased to announce Play The Field, the minimalist real time tactics game, has been approved by Apple and is now available on the app store, free of charge. The game is currently only available for iPad, but with enough interest I may create a iPhone version as well.

Here is the link to see it in iTunes:

For anyone who is curious, it took roughly 9 days (including the weekend) in the queue before Apple began reviewing it. The review itself was pretty quick, lasting around three and a half hours.

In the near future I’m planning on making some posts on what inspired the game, it’s gameplay, and how it was developed, so check back sometime soon.