Wargroove uses a little-known Steam feature to great effect

I don't play many turn-based multiplayer games on Steam, which is why it took until Wargroove for me to discover the fantastic feature Steam calls Turn Notifications. Turn notifications are exactly what they sound like: Little pop-ups that tell you when you can make a move in a turn-based game. The pop-ups look just like the ones Steam uses to tell you a friend has just launched a game, or it's finished downloading something. This feature has existed since 2014! I had no idea, but it's supported by board games like Carcassonne and strategy games like Frozen Synapse. In Wargroove, it's implemented in a wonderful way that reminds me of how I played Advance Wars with my friends in the early 2000s.

I played a lot of Advance Wars solo, in both Game Boy Advance games and both Nintendo DS games. But I also played hours of multiplayer with friends by passing a single GBA around. I'd take a turn and hand it off, chat with whoever wasn't up next. Maybe we'd be watching TV or listening to music. 10 minutes later the GBA would come back around to me, and I'd survey the map to see what happened after I made my last moves. We'd play this way until the batteries gave out, and probably never actually finish a game. It was still fun.

I saw "asynchronous play" listed as a bullet point for Wargroove, but didn't think it could replicate that same experience online. It does, thanks to two ingredients: Server-hosted multiplayer games, and Steam's turn notifications. I can host a game and invite friends, but it's not actually being hosted on my PC. That means I can take a turn, close Wargroove, and go about my business. When other players complete their turns and it's back to me, Steam pops up a notification and I can hop back in.

Launch the game right from the notification!

I could even have a few different multiplayer sessions going and get notifications for each of them. Thankfully, Steam compiles these on a profile page and even includes a button to launch the game right there (though its hooks aren't advanced enough to take you straight into the match itself). It's like playing a mobile game like Words With Friends, except it's, y'know, War With Friends.

Of course, there's nothing quite like playing a game in a room together with friends, and the true approximation of that childhood experience would be playing Wargroove on a Nintendo Switch (or laptop), passing the system around the room. But the friends I once played Advance Wars with all live hours and timezones away. We work different hours and days. Having notifications that can keep a game alive is pretty much the next best thing, and makes me way more likely to play Wargroove's multiplayer.

If you've ever struggled to keep a turn-based strategy game going with friends, check out Steam's list of all the games that support turn notifications. There are quite a few!