[Top 15] Best Turn Based Strategy Games to Play Right Now

Best Turn Based Strategy Games to Play Right Now
Iconic Empires

You may not think about it much, but if you have so much as enjoyed a friendly (or friendship ending) game of Monopoly or Uno, then you have already experienced some of the earliest forms of turn-based games. Truly the grand playground of the keyboard general, these meticulous and complex games will challenge both your wit and resourcefulness. From the far reaches of the galaxy to fantastic stretches of the imagination, you are sure to spend countless hours mapping out your next steps on the way to supremacy. We’ve gathered together an all-star list of some of the most intricate and captivating turn-based strategy (TBS) games fit for any general. In no particular order, here are the top 15 turn-based strategy games bound to keep you glued to your chair.

1.) Age of Wonders: Planetfall

The fifth installment in the Age of Wonders series masterfully tuned by Triumph Studios, Planetfall breaks the mold and takes us into the vast unknowns of space, grappling the sci-fi genre to deliver us new and exciting themes previously unexplored by the franchise. Old fans will slip right into a familiar comfort zone while the game presents new features crafted from the loads of loving criticism, suggestions, and advice stemming from previous titles’ fans. Choosing from one of six distinct factions, you are tasked with leading your civilization into a new age of wonder (I did and am not ashamed of it) following the events of a mysterious cataclysm that drove the previous galaxy-spanning empire into ruin.

One of the standout features of this title is its merging of TBS with turn-based tactics gameplay. Players will enjoy the typical management style, keeping track of resources and territories spanning across gorgeous and devastating terrains while also being challenged by strategic combat where you control units on a battle map in a fashion similar to XCOM.

2.) BattleTech

If you know the board game, this one will rock your socks. And if not, well, this game is certainly something you won’t want to ignore. The company Hairbrained Schemes steps forward again to deliver us a complex and character-rich environment exploring a dystopian future where constant war has caused humanity to shrink and technology to regress.

A closer fit to the turn-based tactics style of play, BattleTech puts you in control of a relatively small command of four battlemech pilots each sporting unique personalities and talents. While utilizing the already deep lore of the BattleTech universe, the game takes players on an original tale exploring the Inner Sphere, a vast stretch of space divided between five noble-governed states, where the game developer endeavors to explore a unique story without stepping on the toes of prior lore.

The main draw of BattleTech is the back-and-forth, blow-for-blow, battles where forces whittle each other down and capitalize on advantages to disable, or outrightly destroy, vital systems like weapons or mobility via targeting legs, arms, the cockpit, or chassis which a slew of weapons from missiles to the mechs very own fists.

3.) The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia was originally a mobile game released for iOS in 2016 as Super Tribes. It has since made its way across varying platforms, including Windows and Linux. In the turn-based genre, Polytopia grounds itself on quick and randomly generated play solidifying it as one of the few 4X games that can be picked up and played without an extended time commitment. New players can generally expect to sink about an hours’ worth of time into this one, while more experienced players may find themselves able to complete matches in much less time.

One of the major drives of this game is its multiplayer aspect accented by its simplistic nature. Unlike traditional 4X games where multiplayer matches become a game of hurry up and wait, Polytopia’s rapid gameplay drops you into the fun with little downtime to get in your way.

4.) Civilization VI

Amongst the most widely critically acclaimed turn-based strategy games out there, Civilization was first released in 1991 and has since garnered a slew of sequels and spin-offs across several video-game platforms even having releases for Android and Windows Phone. Civilization VI is Firaxis Games’ latest entry into the series and, since its release in 2016, has come to expand its content with eight DLCs introducing new world leaders in addition to new mechanics and game modes.

Able to handle up to twelve players, Civ 6 drops you into the seat of a world leader of your choosing as you lead your civilization through multiple ages of technology and development from ancient times and advance into the near future. It is up to players to decide how they want to secure their victory; this could be through diplomatic relations, vicious conquest, grand breakthroughs in science, or cultural domination. Players of previous Civilization titles will notice strong similarities in this title while being introduced to new mechanics and improvements, such as new gameplay revolving around the growth and expansion of player cities.

5.) Crusader Kings III

Crusader Kings III (CK3) is best known for its gameplay revolving around managing and maintaining a dynasty across the Middle Ages and challenging players with the complexity and intricacies of global politics. Released in 2020, CK3 is the latest entry from Paradox Interactive in the grand strategy franchise. The main draw of the title is the RPG elements that allow players to explore a vast stretch of history while controlling a trait-based individual and working to lead their dynasty through various stages of growth and development. Unlike other games of its style, Crusader Kings has players act within a continuous timeline much more similar to a real-time strategy game while offering the ability to pause the game at any point in order to plan out the next steps or gather details about the world.

In controlling their dynasties, players will enjoy the freedom to shape important cultural aspects such as religion and government. Players are urged to participate in wars, legitimize marriages, dispute claims to land/cities, oversee the execution or imprisonment of other vassals, and much much more.

6.) Dominions 5 - Warriors of the Faith

Dominions 5 is a fantasy 4X strategy game that plants the player in control of a godlike being who rules over one of 80 unique nations. The game offers a fantastic array of possible spells, magic items, and diverse units. Dominions 5, like the four other titles proceeding it in the series, presents itself with simple graphics on top of a sprawling variety of options and choices for the players to enjoy while waging war against other godlike deities to cement themselves as the last remaining avatar and achieve godhood.

Whether playing against other players or AI, turns are resolved simultaneously and conflicts are decided between rounds. Spells are utilized during conflicts to greatly alter their outcome by providing units with buffs or debuffs, dealing direct damage, or summoning allied units. Overall, management in the game can be considered on the lighter side as far as 4X games are concerned, the focus of gameplaying being heavily concerned with combat and military strategy.

7.) Endless Space II

An absolute spectacle for the eyes, Endless Space II opens players to strategic space exploration and diplomatic conflicts across the Endless universe once controlled by God-like beings but now home to various races spanning different ranges of technological advancements. As the leader of one of eight playable races (twelve if one were to purchase the DLCs) each with a unique playstyle and story to shape, players will vie for the control of planets and resources along the path to spread their vision for the galaxy. Each race presents unique mechanics to keep in mind while expanding your empire, some benefiting from exploiting the galactic market while others utilize resources in a specific way.

Coupled with an immersive soundtrack, beautiful cinematography highlighting hundreds of unique worlds, Endless Space II easily draws in players with its presentation. Players will have the opportunity to interact with several intriguing minor races and factions, choosing to assimilate them into your growing empire for resources and expansion.

8.) Galactic Civilizations III

Following through from where the story left us off in Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (GalCiv 2), we are introduced again to a story that has spanned two decades of development which tells the tales of various civilizations with, many having risen and fallen throughout the ages. Stardock Corporation first released GalCiv in 2003 which was met by a rocky initial release. The series took off following GalCiv 2 in 2006 and the many expansions that solidified it as one of the highest-ranking space conquest games available.

GalCiv 3 shines in the customization department. Players can create and modify factions right down to uploading custom images, tweaking traits, and altering how they appear in-game. This is supported by the game’s ship-builder allowing players to also create unique starships. Furthermore, GalCiv 3 sports a significant modding community, allowing players to share these custom factions and ships along with other features all support by Steam Workshop. In the past the developers have even held contests for player-created content and integrated the winning content into the official game as a reward. I wouldn’t count on it happening again, but considering the time between the last GalCiv and this one, there is ample time for them to decide to do something like that again.

9.) Hearts of Iron IV

Another one from Paradox Development Studio, Hearts of Iron IV (HoI4) is a 2016 grand strategy game and is considered to be the fastest-selling historically themed video game to date. It focuses on the era surrounding World War II and allows the player to control nations during that period. HoI4’s gameplay revolves around experiencing and navigating the tense political events of the 1900s through an intensely complex system. This system can take several hundred hours to learn and potentially master but can be extremely rewarding for those looking for a challenge of management, planning, and an understanding of politics and economy.

DLCs for the game have focused on expanding content around many of the available nations, increasing the depth and viability of minor nations, while adding new gameplay mechanics such as introducing espionage and occupation mechanics. It would seem with every passing year HoI4 grows in depth. Yet another expansion is set to release alongside patch 1.11 coming this year.

10.) Into The Breach

Coming from the development duo known as Subset Games that gave us the real-time strategy roguelike FTL: Faster Than Light, the micro company sets out again to provide us with yet another beautifully imagined sci-fi simulator. In this turn-based game, you take control of a squad of mechs in a ruthless war against giant insects known as the Vek. The gameplay itself is similar to chess and emphasizes gathering information, controlling the battlefield, and strategic sacrificing of units to gain and push your advantage.

Subset Games initially struggled in creating a unique way to differentiate their game which led them to implement systems that revolved around preventing collateral damage and the challenges that such damage could cause the player. Throughout each scenario across procedurally generated maps, players will be challenged to protect allied cities from damage lest they risk losing the power necessary to power their mechs. The challenges don’t stop there, as various out-of-combat text-based scenarios must resolve and lead to vast changes in the game as it proceeds.

11.) Panzer Corps II

Panzer Corps is the spiritual successor to the 1994 turn-based strategy game Panzer General which was originally developed and published by Strategic Simulations. While many other titles that released underneath the Panzer General series, Panzer Corps is the latest game considered to be a successor of the series as a whole, and Panzer Corps 2 (PC2) shapes up to continue along the trend.

In single-player, players will pick up strategic control of a German commander during World War 2 and lead their military forces through historical events. Players must adapt to environmental strategies while maintaining and training their forces’ abilities in combat against hundreds of units from tanks and aircrafts to infantry and artillery placements. It is key to keep in mind the types of units that you are positioning against others as each unit has its strengths and weaknesses against other types of units. Overall, the game should feel quite familiar if you are familiar with any of the long list of historical wargames out there.

12.) Stellaris

Stellaris tends to fit the mold of a traditional 4X game more than some of the other titles released by Paradox and draws more attention to strategic planning and deep choices that alter your civilization as you play. That said, Stellaris still presents a wealth of RPG elements where the developments and growth of your species is heavily influenced by their initial traits and the choices you make. Civilizations start in the early stages of space travel and verge out into the expanses of space while encountering a myriad of species.

The depth and complexity of controlling your empire often leads players to walk away from the game with their own unique story to tell about the growth and development from a new space-faring civilization to the unimpeded rules of the galaxy or race of galactic monopolists.

13.) Total War: Warhammer II

Total War games are known for taking combat and expanding it by creating incentives for players to flank and outmaneuver their opponents for high-intensity encounters that can often be influenced by quick-thinking. Total War: Warhammer II, developed by Creative Assembly and released in 2017, is no exception and takes these mechanics to apply them to the dark and gritty Warhammer Fantasy universe stacked with supernatural creatures, monstrous aliens, hyper-futuristic weaponry, and fantastical powers.

Warhammer II involves both turn-based strategy as well as intense real-time combat to encompass the complexity similar to a 4X title while also involving players in lengthy combats featuring impressively rendered graphics/cinematics drawing the player into every conflict. The single-player campaign is one of its biggest draws and presents players with various tales spread out across several factions. In this, players are allowed to invite a friend for co-op gameplay, but there is also PvP available across multiplayer designed maps.  

14.) Unity of Command II

As the sequel to Unity of Command released by 2x2 Games in 2011, Unity of Command II is the next in the turn-based strategy game that explores the events of World War 2 in which you take control of the Western Allies. Unity of Command specifically attempts to balance historical accuracy with game design elements with a focus on pulling away from the complexity of elements present in other wargames that can often turn players away or cause them to endure insane learning curves before they are considered to be well versed.

Some regard the game as being dumbed down in this aspect, but many others regard this simplification as a benefit to the game as a whole. Unity of Command 2 presents a certain smoothness that can be elusive to other wargames but maintains much of its original charm and draw that caused players to flock to its predecessor.

15.) Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus

A turn-based tactics game, released in 2018 and developed by Bulwark Studios, Mechanicus puts you in control of the technologically superior Adeptus Mechanicus, the scientific and technological backbone of the Imperium. Each battle you face presents the player with several units under their command each with unique abilities and upgrades that are available to them. You will battle your way through countless enemies facing both great victories and crushing defeats along your path of spreading your faith in The Machine God.

Mechanicus presents itself as a heavily narratively driven game with units carrying individual personalities along a rich story steeped in the Warhammer universe and the specific lore around the Adeptus Mechanicus. You will be faced with tough decisions accented by the game's gorgeous art style and gripping audio which yearns to engross you in its universe.

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A cynical hermit wearing rose-tinted glasses, he is fascinated with the human psyche, personality quirks, and is a closet melodramatic. Avid proponent of the age old epigram: "Stay awhile and listen."
Gamer Since: 1998
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: RimWorld
Top 3 Favorite Games:Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Shadowrun: Hong Kong

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