If you're a strategy game fan, chances are you're playing Civilization 6. Even if you aren't, you know that it's been everywhere since its launch. Strategy gamers everywhere can't seem to get enough of it.
Civilization as a series is one of the staples of the strategy genre, but there happen to be many other good strategy games available on Steam right now (and cheaper too). So whether you aren't planning to play Civilization VI at all, or you just haven't gotten the chance to pick it up yet, there are other games out there for you.
Let's take a look at some of the best strategy games that aren't Civ.
The Disgaea series is pretty well established among lovers of strategy-RPGs. It has quirky humor, it's full of pop-culture references, and it's incredibly over-the-top -- having your characters statistics easily reach the millions and turning the late game into a "rocket tag".
The game is very fun and deserves mention despite being very old. The PC version is a satisfactory porting, making it a nice choice.
The series itself has some good and bad points -- its good being very good and its bad being mediocre at best. All Warhammer 40k games are real times strategy, though there's a big difference between Dawn of War 1 (plus its expansions) and Dawn of War 2.
The first game is in many ways reminiscent of a 4X game. You had to conquer points of interest on the map to gain more resources, so you could then build more troops and overwhelm your enemy's base -- all the while preventing your opponent from doing the same to you. Meanwhile, the second in the series is much more focused on small unit tactics and the ability to create troops or buildings is almost completely gone.
Almost any game in the series is good. But you can probably skip over Soulstorm (the standalone expansion of Dawn of War 1), which is the worst of the series due to bad voice acting and rushed programming that made it buggy.
This game is unique because it has a gameplay that can only be summed up as "RTS meets RPG meets TPS meets turn-based tactics".
You control, train, and equip a unit of soldiers fighting to liberate their small nation of Gallia from the invading forces of a much superior foe. Battles are played in turns that get determined by spending CP (short for command points, of which you get a limited amount per turn). You can control a soldier and move it on the field, but they will get fired on if spotted by an enemy, and can in turn fire on those enemies as well.
This makes for an intriguing mix that -- alongside a pretty nice plot -- makes for a very good and fun game. On top of it all, the Steam port is the best version of the game. So you should grab it.
This series has produced a lot of gems, but it has some sore spots too. These games are increbly historically accurate and pack some series depth into their gameplay. The series' main focus is on running a nation and dealing with diplomacy. But it's a bit weak in the combact aspect. Battles are for the most part simulated based on your and your opponents' troop numbers, quality, and location, with no human input.
EU:Rome in particular needs to be mentioned for being a very good strategy game. It focuses on the time between the first Punic War and Augustus' rule as Emperor.
Sadly the fourth game in the series, Europa Universalis IV, is both the best and the most overpriced. There are some pricey expansions for it, too -- so it's probably better to wait for a sale and buy this title then if you're so inclined.
A friend of mine calls this game the "Marx was right simulator", and he has a point. The game models 19th century capitalism and imperialism really well, and also models the ethnic makeup of any province in the world and accompanying nationalism accurately. Basically, it is almost a politics simulator.
Why does my friend call it what he does?
Because by late game, most markets will be flooded and there will be continuous crises of overproduction -- giving rise to a lot of communist agitation and frequent communist revolutions. But that's part of the game's fun too!
I've yet to play a strategy game as deep and complex as this one. Though as is true with other Paradox titles, combat is left up to chance. But that's more than made up for by the fact that you can conquer the world as sapient polar bears. How cool is that?).
I recommend Zero over the first game in the Agarest series -- mostly because it has less boring random battles, it is harder but more rewarding, and has a digest mode with the full storyline of the first game. So it is better all around.
The gimmick in these games is that you play successive generations of characters which you yourself can create by choosing a spouse. Different spouses will lead to different children who will be good at different things. In Zero specifically, you also create your main character at the start and can customize his every detail, making for a nice number of options.
All in all the Agarest series is nice, if a bit clichèd, set of strategy RPGs. And the Steam versions patched some bugs and put in a few nice touches that make end-game grinding much more bearable.
This game is a decent space-themed RTS set in the Warhammer 40k universe. The game is not as complicated as say, Victoria II, but its combat mechanics do require at least a few hours to fully grasp.
All in all, Battlefleet Gothic is fun and its combat is pretty engaging -- especially for fans of the setting. (Although it does need more orks, because GREEN IZ BEST!)
Compared to the other Paradox Games previously mentioned, Stellaris is unique in that it is a 4X rather than a grand strategy title. Regardless, it's a pretty fun game that's still as hard as any other Paradox title.
Stellaris also allows you to design your own ships and negotiate with alien lifeforms, who can be basically anything -- even cute kittens that want to purge your wretched form in nuclear fire.
What's not to love there?
Get Stellaris on Steam and start genociding your own adorable alien races.
You may have noticed by now that I am a bit of a Paradox fanboy. It's hard not to be when you love grand strategy games, and they happen to make some of the best around.
That said, I can summarize Crusader Kings 2 with a sentence:
"If god didn't want us to conquer the holy land, why did he populate it with infidels?"
As the title says, you will play a Crusader King, (or duke, or count, maybe emperor if you're lucky) in the base game. You must try to carve a dominion for your dynasty within the holy lands -- or anywhere else, really, but the Middle East is pretty rich. You will play as your ruler character until he dies, then continue your game as his heir. This goes on until your dynasty is either toppled and unladed, or fades into obscurity and goes extinct.
The base game itself is good, but the DLCs make it a hundred times better -- allowing you to experience a plethora of fun events and easter eggs, and also giving you a chance to become a filthy pagan, an incestuous zoroastrian, or a Muslim Jew or Buddhist. These expansions even flesh out character interactions, bring the start date backwards in time, and add more realistic illnesses.
The only sore point here is the price. Both the game and most of the DLCs are overpriced at the moment and (in my opinion) should only be bought with a 50% or more discount on Steam. But whenever you do decide to buy, this title will grant thousands of hours of fun.
Get Crusader Kings II on Steam. Deus Vult!
I like to call this series "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann simulator" -- because it is, to my knowledge, the only space-themed 4X where you can build a ship as big as the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, which is 1 million light years in length.
If you want to kick reason to the curb and do the impossible, this is the game to do it in. It has an incredibly detailed ship-building system. And it's also completely moddable, coming with the source code in text file form. This makes for a pretty big modding community, and that is always nice.
The first game itself isn't particularly hard, although it requires micromanaging at times, second one requires less micromanaging but has a more "realistic" max ship size (the size of a star).Overall it's a pretty solid series for any strategy fan to pick up.
Do you agree with these choices? Do you feel there are other, more deserving strategy titles that we forgot to mention? Do you want to share your gameplay experiences with these games? Post a comment below and let us know!