Strategy Games for Beginners...besides Civ V


I know this isn’t the usual topic for the forum because usually topics are broad have room for lots of discussion. Things that make you go “Huh” in a good way. This is a lot more specific I suppose.

I have always wanted to get into strategy games, whether it be RTS’s or 4X games. There seems to be so many cool ideas going on with this genre and the stories that come out of them sound GOOD! But I always feel like there isn’t a good on-ramp. The Civilization series is rad…but I never feel like I can take that experience and translate it to the next game up the ladder in terms of complexity. That may simply be because I don’t have the mental capacity and Civ is where I max out in terms of juggling things but I like to think there has to be a better way.

So asking for some help. What are some good beginner strategy games to start learning concepts and strategies? And probably just as important, what games are a good NEXT STEP after you’ve gotten a taste. There has to be a gap between Crusader Kings II and Civilization. I just don’t know where it is.


Honestly when it comes to most big 4X or grand strategy games, my biggest advice would be to watch a stream or two so you can get a feel for the systems and the arc of the game. When I was younger I played a ton of GalCiv II but I, like you, could never transfer that knowledge to any other game. But when Waypoint did their Stellaris stream last year, I started watching and thought to myself, “I can do this. I can play this game” because watching other players do it - and especially having @austin_walker explain how the game worked to @danielle - was like he was explaining it to me, too. Eventually I’ve come to love Stellaris and have put in (according to Steam) 285 hours, surpassed only by Stardew Valley in time. It’s probably in my top 10 games of all time, but I never would have had the guts to give it a try if I hadn’t watched those streams.

So if you wanna make that leap to Crusader Kings II? Find a streamer (who you can stand, not easy I know) playing it and watch for a while to wrap your head around the game’s systems.


I would echo @sanchonino on suggesting CK2. Not because Paradox games aren’t daunting but more because the stories that come out of failure are often funnier than anything you have carefully plotted to make happen. You could check out IdleThumb’s multi-part YouTube series as Nick and Chris stumble and plot their way through Medieval politics. Or perhaps take a look at Dominions 5 as that next step from Civilization?

On the tactics side it’s hard not to recommend XCOM 2: War of the Chosen as a fun starting point for turn-based tactics. I might even go so far as to also recommend XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Within depending on your completist-ness (which I know is not a word). The Newfoundland port mission is epic and memorable your first time. Or you could jump straight into Mutant Year Zero if that aesthetic appeals.

Finally, I long ago started listening to the Three Moves Ahead podcast and even though the panelists are all far more competent at strategy and tactics games (except XCOM 2) you get a constant stream of games to consider.


I think this is getting to be a hard question to answer these days. The genre is so wide ranging and there have been a lot of great releases in the past few years, so it’s hard to pin down a specific “on ramp” to strategy games in general like you’re looking for.

That said, here are a couple of other 4X/grand strategy games you could try: Endless Legend is pretty similar to Civ but improves on that 4X formula in lots of good ways (asymmetric factions, quests) and includes a tactics mini game. Total War: Shogun 2 would give you a good combination of turn-based strategy (this layer is simpler than Civ) and real-time tactics (meat of the game), which might help suss out in what direction you’d like to dive deeper. If you prefer fantasy the Total Warhammers are a lot of fun.

What other strategy games have you played aside from Civ? Are there any that you’ve tried and bounced off of because you felt like you were in over your head?


XCOM and XCOM 2 are different enough that 2 doesn’t feel like a straight upgrade.

I would actually recommend start with XCOM because there are less mechanics and most turns are not time based. Plus you can get the complete collection for about $10 during a sale now.

For RTS games there’s a lot of really good choices and my only suggestion is just find one that has a theme you like.

Do you like Star Wars? Then try Empire at War.

More of a Halo fan? The Halo wars games are perfectly serviceable single player games.

Want something classic? Age of Empires 2 HD is great.

For turn based I would say that Advance Wars 2 is still an amazing game. Open source clone that runs on Mac, windows, Linux, iOS and Android


In terms of an RTS game, Rise of Nations is cool because it is kind of a real time Civilization game. You can adjust the difficulty of the AI as well. In terms of Grand Strategy, I would suggest to find something that you connect with thematically or aesthetically and then turn the computer AI to the easiest difficulty setting. As you get more comfortable with the systems of the game you can turn up the difficulty of the AI. That helped me learn to play Civ V.