10 Best Grand Strategy Games to Play in 2015
Micromanagers rejoice! The list you've been waiting for is here!
Grand strategy games are a bit different from what most people think of when they hear strategy games. Most gamers think of titles like Sid Meier’s Civilization or Total War. It’s hard to fault them as the differences between grand strategy games and 4X strategy games are hard to pin down.
So, generally speaking, what distinguishes a grand strategy game from a 4X strategy game? Grand strategy games are typically real-time strategy games, wherein the player assumes the role of a single country or civilization. 4X strategy games, by contrast, are generally turn-based. 4X games are generally won by eXpanding from a single spot on the map, eXploring your surroundings, eXploiting the resources you find, and eXterminating the competition (4X).
Those definitions aren’t exact and there is debate on which titles belong in which genre, but here’s our ten favorite grand strategy games that you need to play in 2015:
10. Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension (Illwinter Game Design)
‘You can be a god that’s literally a fountain of blood.’
A Grand Strategy game with a fantasy twist, Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension, places the player in the role of a god leading a loyal nation of followers in a war to ascend in their godhood to become the world’s new Pantokrator (basically a supreme god-like being). You are opposed, however, by powerful pretender gods who you must vanquish before you can become Pantokrator.
The game even allows players to customize their god, choosing the form they will take, whether it’s a stone obelisk or a bat-winged demon. For players tired of World Wars and outer space, this game is a breath of fresh air.
9. AI War: Fleet Command (Arcen Games, LLC)
‘Hope you like units!’
AI War: Fleet Command is set against the backdrop of a decimated humanity which has lost a war against sentient machines. You must lead a small band of resistance fighters in a guerilla war against the machines to destroy their AI cores or all hope for humanity will be lost. And you must do it without arousing too much attention from the machines or you will be destroyed by the weight of their huge numbers.
The game is great for players who enjoy large, space battles and huge fleets of ships. The game is also slightly reminiscent of a tower defense game as the player must construct and place turrets around their space stations to protect them from enemy spaceships.
8. Knights of Honor (Black Sea Studios Ltd)
‘If you get invaded playing as Switzerland you fail at life, it’s completely surrounded by mountains.’
Published in 2005, this game is beginning to show its age, most notably in the sound and menus, but it’s still a solid title. The player has their pick of around 100 kingdoms with the ultimate goal of being anointed emperor of Europe. Players can secure trade pacts, decide what is constructed in each town’s limited space, and appoint a royal court as they grow their empire.
The graphics still look fine and, actually, have a bit of retro charm. All in all, the game is a fun title with an interesting management system which will keep players occupied for hours.
7. Star Ruler 2 (Blind Mind Studios/Glacicle)
‘So many lasers.’
Star Ruler 2 is a game with an impressive sense of scale. Maps in the game encompass literally hundreds of planets and dozens of stars. Interestingly, the game’s interface looks similar to a Google Chrome browser with the player being able to open and close tabs managing things like diplomacy, planets, research, and community, making it easier to stay on top of managing your empire.
A particularly cool feature of Star Ruler 2 is the player’s ability to craft and customize ship designs using a simple, hexagonal grid. If you like a ship’s design, but need it to be more powerful, you can just scale up its size to suit your needs. Ships can always use more lasers.
6. Crusader Kings II (Paradox Development Studio)
‘You get an assassination, and you get an assassination; everybody gets an assassination!’
Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game focusing on the time period surrounding the crusades. The player assumes control of a medieval dynasty from the years of 1066 to 1453. The game features a correspondingly high amount of political intrigue as might be expected of a game set in medieval times.
Players must learn to exploit political marriages, perform assassinations, and wage wars to ensure their dynasty’s future. One cool feature is a system whereby the children of your dynasty will inherit traits and skills from their ancestors, making choosing marriage partners for your dynasty important for survival.
5. Supreme Ruler Ultimate (BattleGoat Studios)
‘That music got me pumped! Time for some history!’
Supreme Ruler Ultimate is an underappreciated game that’s a solid entry in the genre. Control a country starting from beginning from World War II and stretching into the future. The game features a campaign mode as well as scenarios or just good old sandbox style matches. Manage what your country is producing, decide what they research, and manage your country’s economy while your country becomes embroiled in the historical dramas of the 20th century.
Supreme Ruler Ultimate isn’t the prettiest game out there, but does have robust political, military, and economic systems that will keep players engrossed and entertained.
4. Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game (Martin Ivanov)
‘Dang it! France got destroyed again!’
Interestingly, this game was actually developed from Hearts of Iron II by a team of modders from Paradox Games’ forums which Paradox Interactive then proceeded to publish as an official release. The game features a campaign which allows the player to begin starting at the beginning of World War I and ends around start of the Cold War.
Keep in mind that the game was developed by modders of Hearts of Iron II, so it has a steep learning curve as compared with other titles in the series.
3. Victoria II (Paradox Development Studio)
‘You don’t hear many waltzes in strategy games.’
Victoria II places the player at the head of a nation and tasks them with navigating the nation’s way from 1836 to 1936. The game features a colonization system which allows nations to colonize lands not currently controlled by a European power.
Experience the action first hand as the world’s countries duke it out in the scramble to colonize Africa and the Americas. Imperialism has never been so much fun!
2. Hearts of Iron 3 (Paradox Development Studio)
‘First course of action: Invade Poland.’
Hearts of Iron 3 caught some flak when it was released by its hardcore fans for deciding to reduce the amount of micromanagement required in the game to make it more user-friendly. We would rather see a developer taking some risks and trying new things as opposed to just repackaging the same game with spruced up graphics and menus every few years.
Hearts of Iron 3 is remarkable for its historical accuracy. The game’s Steam page boasts that it is the most detailed depiction of World War 2 ever made and, with over 10,000 provinces and hundreds of historical figures, we’re inclined to believe them. If history and strategy are your thing, then this game is for you.
1. Europa Universalis IV (Paradox Development Studio)
‘The granddaddy of historical grand strategy games returns.’
Something we discovered researching this article is that Europa Universalis is actually based on an old board game. Who knew? Paradox Development liked the board game so much that they created the first Europa Universalis computer game back in 2000.
Paradox Development Studio has been riding the wave of success generated by that first Europa Universalis game ever since, releasing sequels and spinoffs galore. Europa Universalis IV demonstrates why the games have been so enduring.
The game is gorgeous and the map is beautifully crisp and detailed. The gameplay is good, the graphics are nice, and the game just feels polished and precise. There’s a reason the franchise has been around forever: Because they’re just that good.
Tell us your favorite titles in the comments below and be sure to read some of our other great articles!
Fan of MMOs? Check out 5 Rule-Breaking Reasons Tree Savior is Getting Our Attention.
Do you love Sid Meier’s Civilization games? Check out Civilization: Beyond Earth Takes a Trip to the Sea with Its Latest DLC.
Is Fallout more your style? Our new articles, Fallout 4, Modders Paradise: 5 Reasons Modders Will Keep Us Playing for Ages and 5 Things We Learned about Fallout 4 at QuakeCon 2015 will interest you.
If you like The Elder Scrolls, check out The Elder Scrolls by checking out our list of All Elder Scrolls Games, Ranked Best to Worst.
Previous StoryThis is the oldest story.