As we head in to the 2012 Holiday Season, I know there is one burning question on all of your lips. What do I buy the strategy gamer in my life? The problem my wife always has when buying me games is that it’s difficult to figure, out of the games I haven’t purchased, which are actually worth buying. While guides abound for more popular games, The Strategy Gamer knows that for our particular niche, such a thing is few and far between.
Thankfully, I am here to end the pain of every hard core strategy lover who looked down to find another copy of generic 4X Game 12 in their stocking. And so, if your significant other, mother, or second cousin once removed is looking to give you some entertainment options for the New Year, point them here. The Strategy Gamer steers no one wrong.
For the World Leader
Strategy games have a reputation for favoring function over looks. Crusader Kings II, the latest in Paradox Interactive’s line of grand strategy epics, favors both. The action unfolds on a beautifully rendered map of Medieval Europe, as you guide your dynasty through crusades, plagues, rebellions and intrigues of all kinds. The game introduces a host of role playing elements, really placing the player in the position of medieval ruler. Even better, the game has already received three expansions, added Muslim nations in The Sword of Islam, Byzantines in Legacy of Rome, and, most recently, a massive Aztec invasion of Western Europe in Sunset Invasion. This is truly an epic gift for the most discerning strategy gamer.
For the Civilization Fan
Odds are, if you love Civilization, you already have Civilization V and this year’s expansion: Gods and Kings. If you haven’t yet picked it up (if you perhaps tried out Civilization V and found it to be lacking), I highly recommend Gods and Kings, as it adds some much needed depth. But assuming if you’re looking to take your love of turn-based 4x strategy in a different direction, I would point you to Stardock’s recent release Elemental: Fallen Enchantress (review forthcoming, but let me say here, what I have played so far has been excellent).
Fallen Enchantress takes the Civilization formula of exploration, city foundation and conquest, and adds heroes, quests and spells. The level of depth and content here is astounding. Additionally, the game include turn-based tactical battles when two armies are at odds. These have an excellent Final Fantasy Tactics feel to them. If you’re looking for a game that emulates Civilization, but includes some compelling RPG features as well, this is a great place to look.
For the Total Warrior
This year we may not have gotten a new Total War game, but we did get a new standalone expansion to Total War: Shogun 2. Fall of the Samurai provided an new campaign set in the 19th century, when fire arms proliferate Japanese battlefields and horses are used less for combat and more for battlefield transport. The expansion includes some new features, including the ability to personally control and aim weapons on the battlefield, along with tons of new units, and locations. It’s a fully featured “expansion” that does not require its predecessor to play. For fans of commanding on the battlefield, this is certainly worth a solid look.
For the Space Emperor
There are few better gifts you can give than the ability to rule an entire galaxy. In Stardock’s Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, you’ll have that chance. Conquer and colonize alien worlds, battle rival civilizations, stave off pirate attacks, and, in classic Stardock fashion, fight off the fiercest AI in the business. There have been a number of recent entries into the 4X space genre, but Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is clearly at the top of the pile. The colorful units, capital ships, and epic titans battle it out for supremacy in a wonderfully colorful fashion. This game is a must for want-to-be Vaders and Emperors alike.
For Something Completely Different
Perhaps your Strategy Gamer wishes a break. After all, there are many, many games out there beside strategy games. Still, I’d recommend a thinking man’s game: The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition. This is an action game that focuses not on twitch fighting skills but on properly planning and forward thinking. The game also includes a massive branching storyline and a world with a ton to do. More than that, though, it’s an adult game, for people looking for a mature, thoughtful experience. It’s also a whole lot of fun.
BONUS STOCKING STUFFER
Maybe you’ve run over-budget. Look than further than the excellent turn-based tactical combat game Great Big Wargame. This game includes a massive campaign set over 50 mission, all of which feel fresh and enjoyable. The player will battle through modern combat on land, sea, and air. Oh, and it’s only $10. Who could ask for more?