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Strategy Games for Console: The Best Titles for PS5, Xbox Series X and Switch

Strategy Games: A Guide for Beginners

Strategy games are a type of video game that emphasize thinking and planning over direct action in order to achieve a goal. They can be very challenging and rewarding, but also require some skills and knowledge to play well. In this article, I will provide you with an introduction to the history, types, and tips of strategy games, as well as some recommendations for beginners to try.

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History of strategy games

The history of strategy games begins on tables and boards, crammed inside cupboards alongside that knackered old box of Risk that every home seems to possess. The moment strategy made the leap to consoles and computers, it was already familiar. These werent just inspired by the games people were playing, in many cases they were direct copies that had been squeezed, sometimes awkwardly, onto a new platform.

In 1972, Invasion was released for the Magnavox Odyssey. It was Risk, essentially, but with Pong-like battles that were fought on top of overlays that had to be slapped on the front of the television. Aside from the battles, Invasion was mostly played on a physical board, so the actual strategy game didnt really take place on the console at all. The Odysseys limited capabilities ended at displaying a few squares that could be moved by twiddling the knobs attached to the little boxes that served as controllers.

The success of microcomputers like the TRS-80 and Apple II inspired a new wave of tabletop adaptations, spearheaded by Strategic Simulations Inc. So began a cavalcade of wargames, and more than a few RPGs, that would last for around 20 years. Founder Joe Billings had shopped around the idea of making adaptations of existing wargames to tabletop publishers like Avalon Hill, but had no takers. That didnt deter him. SSIs first game, Computer Bismarck, bore a striking resemblance to Avalon Hills Bismarck. The publisher noticed. Quickly, Avalon Hill started releasing its own games on computers, competing with SSI. The pair churned out wargames with dizzying momentum, but SSI took the lead early, launching 12 games in 1981. Some of these games were tabletop wargames with a digital componenttheir boxes full of tokens, maps and thick manualsbut others, including Computer Bismarck, featured AI opponents and could be played entirely on a computer.

Eastern Front (1941), published by Atari in 1981, immediately made its contemporaries seem antiquated. It was one of the first great leaps forward in strategy gaming, presenting players with a single year of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, where everything from troop morale to the weather played a role. It was meaty and complex, but also accessible and elegant. It was also the first strategy game to use a hexagonal grid, a feature that would become synonymous with the genre and continue to appear in many of its greatest games.

Eastern Front (1941) was also the first strategy game to be influenced by the work of Sid Meier, the godfather of the genre. Meier had created a series of simulations for various platforms, including a submarine simulator called Silent Service and a fighter jet simulator called F-15 Strike Eagle. He was interested in creating games that were more than just realistic recreations of historical events, but rather "interesting decisions" that challenged the player's creativity and problem-solving skills.

Meier's breakthrough came in 1987, when he released Civilization for the PC. Civilization was a grand strategy game that spanned the entire history of human civilization, from the ancient times to the modern era. The player had to guide their chosen nation through exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination (the four Xs that gave rise to the term 4X strategy game). Civilization was a game of epic scope and scale, where every decision had long-term consequences and every game was different. Civilization was not only a critical and commercial success, but also a cultural phenomenon that inspired countless sequels, spin-offs, clones, and mods.

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