Spare me your criticisms. I hate FarmVille and its kin for the same reasons you do. Games like that are manipulative, reliant on spamming and barely constitute being called games at all.
And yet...what would happen if one came along dressed like Advance Wars? And actually had some gameplay to go with all the farming? That's the conundrum I now find myself in, because Battle Nations on the iPad does just that, and I cannot get enough of it.
There is "tending" to be done in this game. Just like in FarmVille, you have to build things, even literally farm things, and they sometimes take hours between clicks. Other things generate small amounts of money, and if you want more stuff, or stuff to come faster, then there's the option to pay real money for it.
So far so FarmVille, until you get to the key distinction: in FarmVille, this tedium is all there is. In Battle Nations, it's simply the support stage to some actual gameplay.
Being based around armies, and not animals, the goal of Battle Nations is to construct a base which can supply and fund your troops. Grow/build more stuff and you can recruit/build more units, which are sent into battle in a tactical system that anyone who's played a game like Final Fantasy Tactics will be right at home with.
What a difference it makes. The boring stuff suddenly has a purpose other than...just doing it, and while relatively simple, the unit variety both of your own forces and those of the bad guys (either AI or human) make most battles fresh and interesting.
Helping things is the fact the game has a great look to it, going the Advance Wars route of "military cute", and that surprisingly its roster of characters are well-written and even sometimes genuinely funny.
While I'm pretty sure I should still be slightly ashamed at playing this, given that under the window dressing and real battles it's still FarmVille, but I don't care. Battle Nations shows tht with a little extra thought, and work, that basic template can be turned into something genuinely enjoyable, not just painfully addictive.