Since the early days of history, war games have been incredibly popular – games like Chess, Vikings and Go have been around in one form or another for centuries. Military strategists have used them to train critical thought and analysis of combat situations. But there is an issue. These are all ‘perfect information’ games. In other words, you know everything there is to know about the ‘battle’ situation. Real life is far more complex. Imperfect information about troop numbers, positioning and chaotic battlefield conditions can overwhelm even the most perfect of strategies.
Video games go some way to addressing this with fog of war to hide opponents’ moves, and the need to balance economies and vital resources. For the budding armchair generals amongst you, let’s take a look at five of the all-time best strategy game franchises.
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a masterclass of battlefield warfare. Set in World War II, the franchise offers peerless tactical game play with resource capture, cover, line of sight, range, flanking and action-packed fighting. To master the game you must learn to use different units and take full advantage of the terrain around you. It even incorporates adverse weather effects to confound your best efforts.
A classic of the genre, this was the first RTS game to feature 3D units and terrain. Set in the distant future, you build a base to collect resources and create a huge mechanized army. Explore the map and build radar centers to reveal your enemy’s movements. The game’s battles are epic, with incredible effects as you rain destruction upon your enemies. It is tactically superb with a number of effective strategies to choose from.
The Total war series cleverly combines turn-based strategy with real-time battles to create one of the most immersive war game experiences around. In the original game you play as a feudal warlord vying to win control of Japan, outwitting your opponents both on a strategic and tactical level. Manage your resources, capture neighboring provinces and personally lead your armies into battle. Diplomacy plays its pat, with dynastic marriages influencing events in later iterations of the franchise.
Lead a covert force of scientists and soldiers to monitor and defeat an ever-increasing number of alien incursions on Earth. Similarly to the Total War series, X-COM games blend high-level strategy with deep tactical combat to awesome effect. Research alien technologies, develop new fighters and equip marines to effectively counter the threat of alien invasion. Its tactical combats turn-based and drenched in atmosphere – you actually fear for your troops as they are confronted by wave upon wave of alien terror.
Civilization is a strategy franchise on a grand scale. Starting at the dawn of recorded history you lead your civilization from Stone Age times to near future, founding cities, researching technology and ultimately sending colonies into the vastness of space. You are surrounded by enemy civilizations with whom you must trade, fight and ally for control of land and resources. Incredibly well-researched and implemented, Civilization combines science, history, religion and culture to create an unforgettable game experience.
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