Best entry level strategy games?

Jan 13, 2020
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I'm getting burned out on shooters and I want to expand my horizons. What are some strategy games that are relatively easy to get into?
 
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Nov 24, 2019
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Crusader Kings 2.
I KID, I KID!

Kingdoms and Castles is actually a pretty decent mini strategy/builder that's good to pick up and put down as needed. It doesn't require a lot of intense thought, isn't on the scale of a Paradox-style "grand strategy", but does require some strategic thinking and planning.

They Are Billions is also a good simplistic strategic game. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition is out now as well, and fairly decent and a classic if you haven't taken a dip - run the campaign for a straightforward dive. FTL was quite good, too, if you're more into the sci-fi with a definitive start and stop.
 
Jan 1, 2020
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I second Crusader Kings 2.
- It can seem daunting because of the number of expansions and DLC and all of the options at one's disposal. However, it has a very good and thorough tutorial and furthermore the game is all about losing anyways and learning from it. You set your own goals and you learn the game at your own pace. If you lose, that's okay. Start a new character and try again, nothing is ever the same!
 
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Schism Navigator

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Jan 5, 2020
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Depends what kind of experience you are looking for. Do you prefer something you can take your time with (turn based) or something that gets your blood pumping (real time)?

Do you prefer the idea of managing economies or armies? Are you looking for something considered a classic or a more contemporary game?
 
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Jan 13, 2020
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Any of the newer Total War games are a great entry point I think. They don't quite have the complexity of the Paradox games but I feel that with the manual battles it includes, it can sometimes be a little more entertaining than the grand strategy games usually put out by Paradox. Like @jpishgar said above, Age Of Empires 2: DE is out now and is a great classic strategy game but is more fast paced than the likes of the Total War series.

Honestly it just depends on whether you want short, small scale strategy or longer and more thought out "grand" strategy. There are many quality games that fit into both categories.
 
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Jan 14, 2020
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If you feel like giving turn-based strategy a try, I highly recommend XCOM 2. Although you could start at XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you're not missing out by skipping the first one. XCOM 2 is an iterative sequel that builds upon the foundations of the first game and improves upon it in every way.

What I like about XCOM 2 is that it's very easy to grasp and all the information you need is conveyed to you clearly. You start with a squad of just 4 soldiers and each of them can perform up to 2 actions per turn. The different character classes and their abilities are cool as hell and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is a feeling that this game has perfected to a T. Also, this game has got style. The cinematic camera really brings the game to life and shows off the detailed character models well.

Add to that the cool strategic layer that now offers you more freedom and choice and the fact that you can customise all your soldiers and write backstories for them. This game is an easy recommendation from me, particularly now that it's so easy to get on the cheap. You will find it on sale at a deep discount almost all the time.

(Also, don't bother with the expansion War of the Chosen straight away. Just start with the base game, which is plenty hard and engaging as it is. The expansion is aimed mostly at genre veterans.)
 
Jan 13, 2020
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If you feel like giving turn-based strategy a try, I highly recommend XCOM 2. Although you could start at XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you're not missing out by skipping the first one. XCOM 2 is an iterative sequel that builds upon the foundations of the first game and improves upon it in every way.

What I like about XCOM 2 is that it's very easy to grasp and all the information you need is conveyed to you clearly. You start with a squad of just 4 soldiers and each of them can perform up to 2 actions per turn. The different character classes and their abilities are cool as hell and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is a feeling that this game has perfected to a T. Also, this game has got style. The cinematic camera really brings the game to life and shows off the detailed character models well.

Add to that the cool strategic layer that now offers you more freedom and choice and the fact that you can customise all your soldiers and write backstories for them. This game is an easy recommendation from me, particularly now that it's so easy to get on the cheap. You will find it on sale at a deep discount almost all the time.

(Also, don't bother with the expansion War of the Chosen straight away. Just start with the base game, which is plenty hard and engaging as it is. The expansion is aimed mostly at genre veterans.)
Second this, XCOM 2 is a great game. A little punishing at times on the harder difficulties but very fun to build out your squad over time and work out different tactics for different scenarios.
 
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Jan 14, 2020
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denizkocaturk.com
Crusader Kings 2.
I KID, I KID!

Kingdoms and Castles is actually a pretty decent mini strategy/builder that's good to pick up and put down as needed. It doesn't require a lot of intense thought, isn't on the scale of a Paradox-style "grand strategy", but does require some strategic thinking and planning.

They Are Billions is also a good simplistic strategic game. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition is out now as well, and fairly decent and a classic if you haven't taken a dip - run the campaign for a straightforward dive. FTL was quite good, too, if you're more into the sci-fi with a definitive start and stop.
Hello!

I slowly smiled when I read your CK2 comment. Actually, it's not as easy as it looks; the player should give so much attention to everything that happened in the world. Still, you can give a chance to Paradox Interactive games, because their grand strategy titles are great. You can start with Europa Universalis IV. Then Hearts of Iron IV, and then Imperator: Rome. The last one, Imperator: Rome, has a lot of negative comments right now, but it still growing. I believe people will change their comments in the future, as Imperator: Rome improves. For now, I'm really enjoying playing this game.

Bests,
 
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Jan 13, 2020
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It really depends on what you enjoy more. There's an incredible wealth of strategy games available these days. From the grand strategy games, to some story-heavy resource managers. I'm very partial to This Is The Police I & II and We. The Revolution myself.

You can always give Starcraft II single-player a shot (I believe that the initial campaign is F2P these days?) and see whether the 'traditional' RTS experience is something that you enjoy. Ubisoft throws the occassional Anno free weekend as well.

I say, go with your instinct. If screenshots of something grab you, find a demo, give it a whirl. There's no such thing as 'The Holy Game' that anyone is obligated to worship by law. Except the Witcher III, obviously.
 

Inspireless Llama

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Dec 20, 2019
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Any of the newer Total War games are a great entry point I think. They don't quite have the complexity of the Paradox games but I feel that with the manual battles it includes, it can sometimes be a little more entertaining than the grand strategy games usually put out by Paradox. Like @jpishgar said above, Age Of Empires 2: DE is out now and is a great classic strategy game but is more fast paced than the likes of the Total War series.

Honestly it just depends on whether you want short, small scale strategy or longer and more thought out "grand" strategy. There are many quality games that fit into both categories.
I think Shogun 2: Total War was considered the easiest one, if you're into Japanese strategy. But it indeed depends on what kind you want to play. I think the civ games are pretty good, and while I didn't play them much, I think they're decent in getting learned.

If you're more into Real Time you could consider Company of Heroes.
Also, I'm not sure if they're really strategy or not, but there are games like Age of Empires. Also Stronghold Crusader.
 
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In terms of "easy to get into", FTL isn't bad, but it might have more randomness than you're looking for. Some of the earlier RTS titles are fairly straightforward but their interfaces might have you pulling your hair out. Maybe not the remaster of Age of Empires II, but I haven't tried it yet. If you're not averse to a total shift in pace from shooters, a turn-based game like Civ might work, depending on what you're looking for. It gives you the strategy part without the added mouse-and-keyboard expertise required of a lot of other titles. (Though even in games like the earlier mentioned AoE2 there's often the option to pause, though that is far more limited if you're looking for multiplayer.)

Or if you're not looking for military strategy, there are titles like Planet Coaster, which are a bit more sim-y but have some elements of strategy, though even as I say this, I realize that's a bad one to start with because it can be super finicky and somehow also arbitrary at times (particularly the people running around in the park.)

If you can get past the older graphics, I second slime_golem's recommendation of Master of Orion II. I still enjoy that one from time to time. It might have more of a learning curve than I remember, though. It's been literal decades since I learned to play it.

My advice is to get one of these trial passes for Origins or whoever else for five bucks, download some of the titles they have, and try some out to see what does or doesn't do it for you, because we can give all the advice in the world but only you can know what you'll enjoy.
 

Lutfij

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Jan 2, 2020
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I still play Stronghold Crusader 2, C & C: Red Alert 2 and it's expansion pack, played Starcraft II(have yet to play the third installment) and I would go back to Age of Empires and even Age of Mythology if you love Age of Empire's mechanics and gameplay.

As asked prior, it depends on what you're actually looking for.
 
Nov 24, 2019
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Actually, it's not as easy as it looks; the player should give so much attention to everything that happened in the world. Still, you can give a chance to Paradox Interactive games, because their grand strategy titles are great.
Got 430 hours clocked into Crusader Kings 2. The Paradox Grand Strategies are glorious and wonderful, but goodness, not entry level. Unless you want to kill OP! Wrangling the feudal obligations of a series of dukes and barons while juggling dynastic heirs and the nuances of cognatic primogeniture? Perhaps not on the first toe-dip into strategy!

Civ might be a good bet, too. A little bit more simple and straightforward. Endless Legend or Endless Space 2 if you want to rev up some of that old Master of Orion feel without getting buried in eyeballs-deep in Stellaris. RimWorld if you're looking for something truly punishing, and Dwarf Fortressy. You will lose, but half the fun is how horrific the loss is.
 
Nov 24, 2019
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Civilization is an amazing game as well! Another one just came to mind, FrostPunk.
Perfect. Frostpunk is the perfect intro to strategy. It's straightforward, there's a definite start and end. It's not too sprawling either. The intent is pretty clear-cut.

I will caution against playing it on super cold days if you live in a northern climate, though. I once made the mistake of playing Frostpunk while a blizzard was occurring outside. It felt like I was going to die!
 

Lutfij

Moderator
Jan 2, 2020
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Much like how I always ended up playing Diablo II's first act during the monsoon, couldn't make out if it was raining/thundering/lightning outside or if it was in-game. :lol:
 
Jan 14, 2020
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Crusader Kings 2. However with the high entry price point you may wish to wait until Crusader Kings 3 comes out.
XCOM 2 for some good turn-based team combat.
Total War, you may want to start off with Shogun 2 or Rome 2 if you feel like Warhammer isn't your thing and would prefer something grounded in history than fantasy. Good mix of large turn based strategy with real-time tactical battles.
A bit of an older one but goodie for me personally is Sins of a Solar Empire. A good real-time 4X.

Another real-time strategy game with base building I love is the original Dawn of War. I wish a dev would come along and make something like it again but with the new concepts and improvements of the past 15 years.
 

Dan

Jan 15, 2020
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For real time strategy, I think Age of Empires is a great one to get started on.

Games like Crusader Kings have always looked really indepth so I have never gotten around to playing them.
 

PCG Andy K

Alien: Isolation editor
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Dec 10, 2019
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I have tried and failed to get into so many strategy games. I just don't have the patience for them. But recently I bought Endless Space 2 on a whim and found it surprisingly easy to pick up. It helps that the UI (and presentation in general) is so good. An unbelievably handsome game which generates some great little emergent sci-fi stories as you play.
 
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Jan 1, 2020
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Games like Crusader Kings have always looked really indepth so I have never gotten around to playing them.
Crusader Kings 2 is definitely an in-depth game, but it's overstated on how hard it is to get into the game. Playthrough the learning scenario and you'll have the basics and be able to play the game from there. Then as you continue to play you learn more and more about the game. You also don't need to be able to get super in-depth to enjoy the game.
 
Jan 15, 2020
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Crying Suns isn't easy, per se, but it has sort of an arcade element to it since the game encourages you to replay it. I think the hardest part of strategy, and grand strategy games is how punishing it is because matches can last several hours, but you won't have that problem with Crying Suns.

When you're ready for more in-depth, crazy management strategy games I'd recommend Stellaris!
 

Zloth

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Jan 13, 2020
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For 4X, I would say Endless Space. Civilization can be good, too, for the whole "Great Wall of France" factor - though maybe not Civ 6.

For squad based tactics, maybe Valkyria Chronicles 4? Or even 1 if you can deal with the weird story.
 
Jan 14, 2020
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After giving it some time, I thought of a few more excellent examples of (turn-based) strategy games that have a low barrier to entry, are relatively bite-sized and easy to parse. That they are as fun to look at as they are to play doesn't hurt either.



First on the list is Wargroove, the latest game by Chucklefish. It's an indie adaptation of the classic Advance Wars formula, a series of games that were at the height of their popularity in the days of the GBA and the Nintendo DS. This game sort of plays like chess with a rock-paper-scissors element to it, in that every unit is particularly strong against some other units but extra weak against others. For instance, pikemen are a hard counter to mounted units, but get destroyed by axemen. Catapults wreak havoc on cities but are literally defenseless against air units, etc.

The game's got a lengthy and fun campaign (soon with co-op), scenarios, a map editor, robust online multiplayer and even works cross-platform. I own it on Switch and play with my brother who's on PC!



Next is Into The Breach, the glorious roguelite strategy timebender from the creators of FTL. This game is brilliant in its simplicity. You are the commander of a squad of three mechs, trying to fend off an increasingly overpowering kaiju invasion. It's turn-based Pacific Rim, basically.

The gimmick here is that you can always predict accurately what your opponents are going to do, as they telegraph their moves and attacks. The game then becomes less about trying to predict their next move while constantly second-guessing yourself, and more about trying to make the best of a bad situation. You will only ever be a squad of 3, and enemy numbers are usually vastly superior. Moreover, mech pilots can level up and gain new abilities over the course of a run, but when they die they're gone for that run.

What's also pretty clever is that you can reset time after a failed run and start back at the beginning to try again. There's even multiple squads to unlock, and later in the game you will get to use mechs that turn the game into an extremely complex but super satisfying puzzler.



Last on my list of recommendations is Invisible, Inc. Just the title alone makes me want to play it again, it's so incredibly clever. I don't remember the specifics too well, but basically it's a roguelite turn-based stealth action game where you play as a small group of highly skilled hackers and infiltrators, trying to thwart dangerous corporations in a futuristic cyberpunk setting.

The different agents you have at your disposal all have very different abilities and therefore offer completely different playstyles. What's most fun about this game is that as you take longer to achieve your objectives, the game's enemies start becoming more aware of you and will eventually close in on you if you take to long. You're no soldier, and enemy contact will almost certainly spell doom for you. You will constantly be battling the clock to get in and out as quick as you can, while collecting as many goodies and clearing as many objectives as you can manage. This one can be a real heart-pounder and it's all the better for it.

There's many more games I can think of, but these in particular stand out to me as perfect introductions to one of the oldest and sometimes most complex genres in gaming. Into the Breach in particular is practically a must-play for every gamer and it's dirt cheap to boot, so there's no real excuse not to try it!
 

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