Everyone’s dreamed of being an armchair general for some of history’s most prominent battles. We know we have; the idea of being able to dictate the outcome of the Battle of Thermopylae, or the Battle of Hastings, with just the flick of a wrist gets us through a lot of long days. Grand strategy games, or empire games, can really uncoil a knot of stress after a long day. Here’s some of our favourites.
Sparta: War of Empires
Let’s start off with a freebie. Yup; Sparta: War of Empires is entirely free to pick up. Developed by longtime strategy buffs Plarium, Sparta: War of Empires offers players the chance to live and fight alongside Ancient Greeks. You’ll create Coalitions of convenience with friends, defeat rival Coalitions together with fellow Archons and engage in diplomacy and trading in your very own City. Sparta: War of Empires offers all the depth of standard empire games in a free-to-play package, and to top it all, you can get this one on your mobile, too. Veni vidi vici!
Crusader Kings II
Still an old favourite despite being a little long in the tooth, Crusader Kings II is the last word on Middle Ages grand strategy. This game offers a staggering level of depth and complexity, complemented by a frankly insane amount of customisation. If you’ve ever wanted to control your own Middle Ages dynasty, watching as your empire grows and others fall around you, Crusader Kings II will serve you perfectly. Also, you can marry a horse if you tee it up correctly. That’s a stone cold vote in our books.
Europa Universalis IV
Paradox Development Studio really are the go-to guys when it comes to grand strategy. Europa Universalis IV is a slightly similar experience to Crusader Kings II, with a couple of key differences. It’s a sort of sequel, in fact, taking place between around 1450 and 1830 (Late Middle Ages to Early Modern, for history buffs). Players will conduct trade, diplomacy, warfare and everything else a budding nation can expect to engage in. Europa Universalis IV casts its net a little wider than Crusader Kings, but it’s no less deep for it.
Distant Worlds: Universe
Maybe all this history stuff is sounding a little dry to you. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of conquering the final frontier: space. If that’s the case, then say hello to Distant Worlds: Universe. This grand strategy-slash-4X (expand, exploit, explore, exterminate) game takes place in a universe of up to 1400 star systems, with nigh-on 50,000 planets, moons and asteroids for you to explore. You’ll still engage in diplomacy and warfare with other civilisations, but this time they’re alien rather than human.
Total War: Shogun 2
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this long-standing and much-loved franchise. Total War: Shogun 2 really nails the combat side of things; the Total War franchise is well-known for its vast battle of incredible scale and intense tactical strategy, and nowhere is this more apparent than Total War: Shogun 2. If you want to get up close and personal with the war, and you’re not interested in serving from the sidelines, then look no further than Total War.
If you would like to learn more about strategy games, we highly recommend this video about the top10 history strategy games.