The turn-based strategy genre has its origin in board games and remains a popular niche market despite the onward march of technology. Players enjoy the in-depth thinking and strategic decisions they can ponder over, a welcome break from more faster-paced games such as Starcraft. Here we have compiled a list of some of the best turn-based strategy games on the market for you to enjoy. The list has a mix of both old and new with something for every player to enjoy.
The Total War series has inspired numerous imitators with its innovative mix of turn-based and real-time strategy. The strategic risk style map is turn-based as players manage their cities, recruit troops, and invade foreign provinces. Battles have it switch to a real-time battle map with the terrain reflecting that of the province geography.
The games settings are just as varied. Players can wage war with Ancient Rome, Shogun-era Japan, Medieval Europe, the Napoleonic era, and even the fantasy world of Warhammer! The games also offer extensive expansion packs as well as a thriving modding community.
The Civilization games are one of the most popular turn-based strategy games of all time. Players begin with a single settler and build an empire from there. Players can select or create their own civilization, each of which provides unique bonuses, improvements, and units.
The game is open-ended, taking place in a procedurally generated world ensuring that each playthrough is a unique experience. Players must strive to not only survive but become the dominant civilization whether through economic, military, scientific, or diplomatic means.
The game has inspired numerous copycats and helped to make the 4x genre what it is today.
This series from Firaxis is a reboot of the PC classic UFO: Enemy Unknown. Players command XCOM, a secret organization dedicated to fighting extraterrestrial threats to Earth. Gameplay is split between the strategic world map and the tactical combat view. Fighters shoot down UFOs and XCOM sends in a squad to combat the survivors.
The gripping turn-based combat frequently has the player both outnumbered and outgunned, requiring careful tactical thought. Research can help level the playing field with the player’s squad moving from assault rifles and ballistic armor through to plasma weaponry and alien combat suits. It is one of the best turn-based games of all time.
Heroes of Might & Magic is a popular series of turn-based strategy games set in the wider Might & Magic universe. The games offer an in-depth single-player experience with a series of campaigns exploring the story from alternate viewpoints.
The games are a combination of strategic map exploration and tactical turn-based combat. Heroes command armies of monsters and units inspired by popular myths and legends. Each faction has their own unique units and abilities with players able to mix and mash units to create custom armies.
The Endless Space games are a series of science fiction 4x strategy games that allow players to control the evolution of a civilization from a minor power to galaxy-spanning empire. The game is an open sandbox that allows players to create or choose their own race before deciding how they will expand to dominate the galaxy.
The game is part of the wider Endless series, with some elements of the game similar to that of the other games. As well as war, diplomacy, and trade, players can also explore the ruins and artifacts of ancient civilizations, exploiting them for research bonuses.
Divinity: Original Sin is a series of cooperative single and multiplayer adventures following the path of two Source Hunters, slayers of dangerous magic users. Players can choose from pre-made characters or use their own custom creation.
The games take place in the fantasy world of Rivellon, setting for the wider Divinity universe. Players can use the skill crafting system to mix and change skills. The game also offers competitive multiplayer with players split into teams to fight on an arena map.
Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based roguelike RPG. The game is set in a gothic universe and focuses on the psychological stresses of adventuring. The player leads a party of imperfect heroes who must not only battle monsters but also disease, famine, stress, and the unrelenting dark.
The game’s Affliction system means players must deal with traits such as paranoia, masochism, and fear manifesting in their heroes. It features detailed hand-drawn art and over 16 unique character classes to choose from. The game’s procedural maps and permadeath ensure it can be replayed again and again.
Endless Legend is another entry in the popular Endless series, set in a fantasy world on the brink of destruction. Players take charge of one of 11 factions in this immersive 4x strategy game. The map is cloaked in the fog of war, concealing rival powers, resources, minor factions, and other surprises.
As is common with 4x games, players can achieve victory through many different means such as such as economic, supremacy, or diplomatic. The game also features some elements of an RPG with the story advancing through the completion of quests.
The closing act of the trilogy, Galactic Civilisations III continues the epic story that follows the return of the genocidal Dread Lords in the previous game. It takes up the story some ten years later in a universe where Earth has been subjugated and the Drengin Empire with the Yor reign as the supreme power.
The campaign follows the struggles of the Terran First Fleet to liberate Earth and take the offense against the Drengin and Yor. Sandbox offers a freeform experience where players can enjoy this latest installment in a classic 4x series.
The Banner Saga is an ongoing fantasy RPG that features an immersive and personal story. The player is the leader of a group of refugees in a dying fantasy world inspired by that of Norse mythology.
Gameplay is split between the story mode where players engage in dialogue, manage their units, and lead their caravan to safety. Combat is turn-based and tactical with the player controlling a small party of heroes against the enemy. It is one of the best turn-based RPG’s on the market right now with the third game in the series scheduled for release soon.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
A spiritual sequel to Civilization, Alpha Centauri takes place on a distant planet in the titular system. Players take charge of one of seven ideologically different factions as they compete to colonize and control the planet.
Gameplay is similar to Civilization with research, diplomacy, military, and economic roads to victory available. Science fiction elements include terraforming, advanced technologies, and of course the ever-present threat of the alien planet.
Alpha Centauri remains a popular game despite its age. Its unique setting and brave step into the unknown ensures that it continues to be regarded as a gaming classic.
Armello is a board game RPG that is set in a fantasy world populated by anthropomorphic animals. Designed for up to four players, it has the players take the role of a hero, each of whom represents their respective clan.
Players complete quests, explore dungeons, capture settlements, and battle rival heroes. The ultimate goal is to storm the castle and become the new ruler of the kingdom. Players can also earn currency and use it to purchase upgrades and abilities.
Armello also features a day/night system with heroes gaining different bonuses and certain enemies only appearing at particular times.
For The King
For The King is a strategic RPG that mixes in elements from roguelike and tabletop games. It offers both single and multiplayer options with players able to work cooperatively. The kingdom of Fahrul is in chaos and it is up to the player and their party to put things right.
Players must brave the elements, fight monsters, sail the seas, and explore the dark underworld. Only they can put a stop to the Chaos. Fight in tactical turn-based battles, using a combination of special abilities and attacks to defeat your opponents. This struggle is not for yourself or your home, but for the king!
Age of Wonders is a popular series of turn-based strategy games set in a fantasy universe with strong RPG elements. Players choose from a selection of fantasy races and create their own hero to lead them. Your leader is a powerful unit on the battlefield but their death results in instant defeat.
Cities produce units according to which race they are populated by. Players can raze cities for more gold, change its ruling race, or fortify them to serve as a base of operations. Heroes can explore the map, explore dungeons for rare magical items, and lead armies in tense tactical battles.
Atlas Reactor is a free to play turn-based team tactics game. Designed for player versus player, it has the players take the role of Freelancers in the megacity of Atlas. Freelancers war with each other on the behalf of corporations to control the titular Atlas Reactor.
Matches are generally 4 versus 4 with players able to die and respawn indefinitely. Turns are divided into a Decision and Resolution mode. Players are given 20 seconds to coordinate tactics and select actions before they play out simultaneously.
The first in a new trilogy of games, Shadowrun Returns is an isometric turn-based RPG set in the popular cyberpunk world. Players create a character, choosing from different classes and races, each with their own traits and abilities. They then start out on the trail of a dead friend, gathering other specialists into their party as they progress through the storyline.
Gameplay is generally linear but some elements of the world allow for greater exploration. Combat is turn-based with characters able to use a cover for defense, attack at range or melee, use magic, or other special abilities.
SteamWorld Heist is a turn-based strategy shooter. Players control Captain Piper Faraday, a smuggler and pirate who must recruit an eclectic collection of robots before setting out on a space adventure.
The game focuses on skill over chance, with side-scrolling gameplay. Players control a team of robots as they board enemy spaceships and engage in shootouts. Players can upgrade and customize their crew after each battle. The vast majority of levels are procedurally generated.
Disciples II is a fantasy turn-based strategy game set in the land of Nevendaar. The game centers on four warring factions. The game is split into three distinct sections, city management (to build new structures and recruit warriors), the map (exploring and discovering), and finally the battles themselves.
Players can also choose their character class (such as mage, warrior) which confers extra advantages in battles and on the game map. The game includes a gripping singleplayer storyline campaign as well as more freeform sandbox gameplay.
Wasteland 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the eighties post-apocalyptic classic. A party based RPG, it’s set in the devastated remains of the former south-west USA. The player controls a squad of seven Desert Rangers, an organization dedicated to maintaining law and order in the harsh world of the apocalypse.
An inspiration for the Fallout games, Wasteland 2 allows in-depth customization of all the party members. NPCs that join the party will each have their own motivations and distinct personality. The game’s combat system encourages the use of cover and careful tactics to achieve success. Its difficulty has been praised by players.
Field of Glory II
Field of Glory II is a turn-based tactical game set during the early days of Rome from 280 BC to 25 BC. Players can choose from over 48 different factions and nations to lead with over 86 individual unit types. Play through one of the 4 historical campaigns or play in the freeform sandbox mode.
The game uses a simple interface with a tile-based map. It supports both single and multiplayer. Differing unit organizations, combat capabilities, and tactical doctrines give a full representation of the historical differences of the period. The game is also mod friendly with an in-game map editor that allows the player to create scenarios for themselves and their friends.
Blood Bowl Series
Blood Bowl is a series of sports games set in the entertaining universe of Warhammer. A parody of American Football, Blood Bowl features teams from each of the Warhammer races, such as humans, orcs, elves, undead, lizardmen, and more! Each race has their own distinctive playstyle. Players become the manager of a team in this brutal and fast-paced game.
The campaign mode has the player manage the disgraced Reikland Raiders. You can buy and sell new players, customize your stadium, and take part in tournaments to improve your ranking.
Hitman GO is a turn-based puzzle game that has the player control Agent 47 on a series of missions to eliminate targets. Each level is laid out in a grid with nodes or positions that the player can occupy as well as lines connecting these.
Players must navigate the map, avoiding or killing enemies. Levels increase in complexity with new opponents and challenges unlocking as the game goes on. Players can use items such as firearms, disguises, keys, and distractions to aid their progress through the game and achieve their objective.
Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation
Tales from Candlekeep is a turn-based dungeon crawler set on the deadly peninsula of Chult. Four adventurers must battle their way through a selection of jungles, labyrinths, and dungeons to reverse the effects of a deadly curse.
Players choose one of four unique adventurers to fight through over 30 story and side quests. Each map is procedurally generated allowing for numerous replays. The game brings to life the atmosphere of a board game. Players can level up their heroes, craft powerful items, find treasure, and combat a whole host of monsters and villains.
A spiritual successor to the original X-COM game, Xenonauts differs substantially from the more recent X-COM games. Set in an alternate 1980s, the game follows the struggles of the titular Xenonauts as they combat an alien invasion.
The game is split between strategic and tactical modes. The former has the player intercept UFOs, manage base construction, research, and troop equipment. The latter occurs when assaulting UFO landing sites or alien incursions.
The game’s difficulty level ratchets up considerably as time drags on, encouraging the player to achieve a decisive victory. It is very much a game for strategic thinkers and it rewards careful play.
Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based strategy game where players control secret agents infiltrating dangerous corporations. Players must use a combination of stealth, precision, and teamwork to outwit the AI and complete their mission.
10 different agents with 6 different variants are available to play. The game offers extensive customization with 5 different game modes playable. The game ensures each setup is randomly generated, not allowing players to become complacent. It also offers a large number of cutscenes and dialogue to guarantee an immersive experience.
Galaxy Admirals is a multiplayer turn-based strategy game. Set in a science fiction universe, players take on the roles of admirals competing to destroy their opponents base and defend their own.
The game is laid out on a hexagonal field. After each move the field of play rotates around the center cell, changing the strategic situation. It encourages innovative thinking and improvisation. Each playable race offers a different selection of ships and abilities to use. The procedurally generated maps ensure that no level is the same on a second playthrough.
Thea: The Awakening
Thea: The Awakening is a turn-based strategic survival game set in a dark fantasy world inspired by Slavic mythology. The game is set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event known only as The Darkness. Players control a few last desperate survivors.
The game offers multiple options. Players may stay in their village and build defenses or else venture out into the wilds and explore. Diplomacy, assassination, hunting, and stealth are all available to solve conflicts.
The game is procedurally generated with multiple story endings available as well as numerous in-game events and a variety of enemies to fight.
A hybrid of turn-based strategy and collectible card games, Duelyst is a tactical game between two players. Players take turns to play and position minions and spells, all of which are drawn randomly from a custom built deck. The game is fast-paced with an average match lasting ten minutes.
Cards are chosen from six different factions, each with their own distinctive traits that affect deck gameplay and strategy. As well as the tournament mode, the game also offers puzzle challenges, practice mode, and a ranked season ladder.
A turn-based tactical RPG, Expeditions: Conquistador is an indie game set during the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Players take on the role of a Spanish conquistador leading an expedition to Mexico in the year 1518. Players must amass gold and influence to sustain their expedition and win glory.
The players must assemble a party with a series of different classes, six available for native characters, five for Spanish. Combat is turn based on a hex grid. The game rewards careful resource management and the story is told as interactive fiction. Player choices affect the game with several branching storylines available.