Trade Nations offers a level of depth not seen before in mobile social games.

Take the standard Facebook gaming formula, add in a dash of fantasy setting, and shrink it down to the iPhone. Sounds like the recipe for We Rule, doesn’t it? But while it may share a similar premise to its popular competition, Trade Nations knows how to impress on its own. In fact, this may just be the best social game we’ve seen on the iPhone yet.

Building a kingdom from scratch isn’t easy, but then again, what is? Trade Nations, like many of the social games that have come before it, puts players in charge of managing and servicing a growing community. In this case, that community is a medieval village. Players will build homes, businesses, and farms in an effort to level up and expand their dominion. All of this no doubt sounds familiar, but it’s also here that Trade Nations starts to set itself apart from the competition because these buildings need both people and resources.

Trade Nations

While Trade Nations firmly has one foot planted in the typical trappings of social games, its other foot is planted in gameplay elements wholly unique to the genre like resource management and employment. Each home you build will produce a citizen, and that citizen will need to be assigned a job if the village is ever going to succeed. Lucky for them there’s plenty of work to be had.

Work will be found in the world of resource gathering. Drawing inspiration from games like Age of Empires, players will need to gather resources in order to build new things. This means setting up quarries to mine rock, logging camps to collect wood, farms to harvest wheat, and sheep to sheer wool. Each of these will require a person to work them, and you can add a second person if you want to automate things and assign someone the task of lugging these gathered resources to your stockpile (if not, you’ll need to return to the game frequently to collect gathered resources manually, not unlike collecting cash in Tap Resort).

You’re only given a limited number of people, though, so you’ll need to make toughdecisions. Should you automate your wood collection, or would that last unemployed citizen be better assigned to a new quarry? The choice is up to you.

As the game advances new buildings open up that offer a factory element not unlike City Story. Players will be able to bake delicious treats in the bakery, for example, or make some classy furniture in the carpenter shop. Here too, resources come into play. That cake might earn you a hefty boost in gold and XP, but you’ll need to trade in 600 wheat to get it made.

Trade Nations

Once you get to higher levels the resource system becomes even more elaborate, as you’ll need to convert old resources into new resources for use in different projects. An early example of this is the Lumber Yard, which takes the wood from the logging camp and turns it into finished planks of lumber.

While it may sound simple, it does a tremendous job of showing the interdependency of industry. If you want to build a toy train, it starts life as a piece of wood at the logging camp, gets carried to the lumber yard, is fashioned into lumber, gets carried to the stockpile, and is then used by the carpenter. While the gameplay remains alarmingly simple throughout (as most games of this nature do), keeping all of these elements in play helps Trade Nations to easily rise above the competition.

As fun as social games on the iPhone might be, there’s simply too little to do in the majority of them. Trade Nations may offer the one tap simplicity of the competition, but there’s so much going on that it doesn’t feel like just another cookie cutter social experience. If you’re looking for a city-builder with a bit more depth and bite, Trade Nations is an outstanding choice.