Ironclad Tactics is a real-time, pseudo-turn-based game where two forces compete to get units across the field into their opponent's side of the screen. Each player has an army which is constructed of 20 "cards". Cards come in 4 types - infantry, the basic human units which can control special areas of the field; ironclads, lumbering metal hulks which can crush infantry by stepping on them and grant victory points if they enter the enemy's side of the field; parts, which give ironclads offensive weaponry or other modifications; and tactics, which give one-time effects like moving units to different lanes or an extra attack for that round. All cards have an associated action point (AP) cost based on its effects and stats like health, damage, range, and speed.
Each round consists of a few seconds where you can spend AP to play cards, followed by a resolution phase where each player gets an additional card (if you already have five cards in "hand", then the oldest one is lost), attacks are resolved, units at 0 health are eliminated, and each unit moves toward the enemy side (unless you specifically tell it to stay in place). AP accumulates at a fixed rate (usually 1 or 1.5 per turn) and can be modified by controlling particular spots on the map with infantry. The game ends when one side accumulates 8 victory points or, in the case of story missions, achieves some other objective.
The game is set in a steampunk alternate universe Civil War, where infantry fight alongside Ironclads. The cards are broken into four factions (as well as some neutral cards): Army, Protoype, Mercenary, and Native. Each faction has unique cards, and a deck can contain up to two different factions.