Heroes of the Realm falls short in many ways for me, but it's planning and management is some of the most fun I've ever had. Today's typical building-lite side of the game is typical and, although I like managing and growing buildings, it's always too lite for my tastes. But HotR does have a lot of nifty planning ideas that I really love. I find them to be really fun and directly affect how my units fight.
HotR combines card-collecting with a bit of a strategy game, and it does some of this very well. You don't do any deck-building, but rather collect cards that represent units. There are some basic slots to outfit each unit, or card, with armor and weapons. These items can also be enhanced with bonus slots. The character's can gain experience and levels, allowing you to assign skill-points toward a selection of base-attributes at each level-up. It's not terribly in-depth character progression, but ultimately, you're dealing with many units, who each can grow and be outfitted, so it's really a nice amount in the context of the game.
As you grow past some maximum unit gates, you'll be able to control up to 10 units at once. This number can change based on how many points each unit takes up. Rare units take more points, which would reduce the maximum amount of rare units you can have in the same formation.
You can also play around on a 5x5 formation grid. Place casters in the back, throw archers in front of them, and fortify the front rows with melee and mounted units.
There are five major class-types, each with advantages and disadvantages. You can prioritize 3 gauges corresponding to effectiveness, range and HP level. You get 100% percent to spread out between the 3, for each class. Defenders are good against Ranged and Chargers, so the Effective slider affects the chances of your defenders targeting them with high-priority. Or you can lower the priority so that Defenders will target enemy units nearest to them, regardless of class-type.
Battles are automatic. You don't actually control them during battle. It's all about gearing your units, prioritizing how they behave and setting your formations. Mixed with the ability to get a wide range of cards, each with rarity ratings, upgradable armor and weapon slots, attributes that can be customized and improved and a number of other smaller variables ranging from chance-based to unit merging, you get a really fun game of planning, prioritizing, managing and formation.
There are also other combinations that can yield bonuses in the form of buffs and stat-boosts. Certain unit types in the same formation can strengthen each other. There are card-sets that provide boosts as well.
In the end, I really love the game for it's balance of fun in building many different aspects of units. And the payoff is watching a fun little scene of your units actually fighting, with the ability to dissect the battle turn-by-turn, in faster modes or skipping to the resolution all-together. During battles, you can mouse-over any units to see basic information on them. I find it gratifying to see all the planning I've done play-out in front of me, and watching a battle can serve to better planning and formations the next time you are building and placing units.
As a Free-to-play, Browser-based game, I think HotR falls short, quickly, but if it were translated into a single-player game, given a larger and longer-lasting campaign mode and the city-lite aspects transformed into robust city-management, I think it could be in the running for an award-winning game.