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If you’ve spent time playing classic board games like Risk or Chess, then you’re no stranger to turn-based strategy games. The concept is simple; the player takes their turn by making a move on the board. Unlike their more basic board game counterparts, the best turn-based strategy games can be quite complex. They allow the player a chance to take on a leading role in deciding their fate in the game. All decisions must be made strategically to complete the required objectives. There are wide ranges of turn-based strategy games on the market, and these objectives can vary dramatically. You may be conquering a nation in one game or surviving an extraterrestrial invasion in another. One thing is for sure; if you like strategizing, then you’ll love these games.
🏆 Our Honorable Picks🥇
» Best Pixel-Style TBS: Wargroove at Amazon
“The game has received incredible ratings across the board from many game industry authorities.”
» Best Innovative Gameplay TBS: Civilization VI at Amazon
“Many will say it is the best turn-based strategy game of all time, and we wouldn’t disagree.”
» Best Tactical Style TBS: Valkyria Chronicles 4 at Amazon
The unique and immersive style of gameplay sets it apart from others in the TBS genre. “
» Best Fantasy World TBS: Total War: Warhammer II at Amazon
“Where many games in the genre aim for realistic locations and characters, Total War: Warhammer II creates a world of their own.”
» Best Alien Invasion TBS: XCOM 2 at Amazon
“The graphics are incredible, and you get both wide-view aspects and third person, on the ground views.”
» Best Challenge TBS: BattleTech at Amazon
“Feel like you’re in full control of a giant robot, along with all the bells and whistles.”
» Best Sci-Fi Combat TBS: Age of Wonders III at Amazon
“An excellent turn-based strategy game for those who like a more fantastical style of conquest game.”
» Best Card-Based TBS: Slay the Spire at Amazon
“If you liked Pokémon back in the day (or still do), you’re going to love Slay the Spire.”
Wargroove is a recently released turn-based strategy game and has quickly gained recognition. Though the release was at the beginning of 2019, it has already become a contender for the most popular TBS available. The game has received incredible ratings across the board from many game industry authorities.
The main goal of the game is to adventure through the map and conquer your enemies. You will play as the leader of an army who’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He is determined to defeat the opposing army at any means necessary.
The controls are simple and easy to get the hang of, so it’s great for everyone whether they’ve played turn-based strategy games or not. The graphics are fun, with a nod to past art of pixelized gaming. They replicated the nostalgic style, but in a much more advanced way. You get the pixel style, without the jerky movements and hard to see characters.
Another great feature of this game is that it has been released on many different consoles and for PC. You can get your fix on either PS4, Xbox One, or Switch as well, so there’s no excuse not to jump on board. It is both published and developed by Chucklefish, and they’ve taken inspiration from another big name. The game plays very similarly to the popular Advance Wars series, though it has no relation. It’s more of a spiritual successor.
For a bit more about the plotline, the story takes place in a fictional world where your player is the commander of an army. There are thirteen different commanders to choose from when you begin the game. Each commander has a unique personality and motivation, which sets them apart from the others. They will all have an individual campaign as well as an unusual move that they can deploy during battle. It is called their personal ‘Groove.’ These moves will throw a major curveball into the fight.
Winning the battles takes more than just offensive fighting. You will need to gather resources along to the way and continue to build up your army to succeed.
Beyond just playing a campaign, you can also build customized maps with unique objectives. You can share these maps to the server so other people can also play them. Those players can also share their maps so that you can play them as well. The ability to create campaigns and maps means that even once you finish the primary campaign, you will still have an unlimited amount to play.
We’re willing to bet you’ve at least heard of the Civilization Series. The series is a staple in the turn-based strategy game genre. Their newest release, number six, delivers the innovative gameplay we’ve come to expect from the series. If you’ve not played one of the Civilization games, then we recommend you grab a copy. Many will say it is the best turn-based strategy game of all time, and we wouldn’t disagree.
Civilization VI was released a few years ago, in 2016. The basis of the game is to grow your Civilization from its inception. The eventual goal is to become the largest empire in the world. You’ll start as a small tribe back in 4000 BC. You’ll slowly grow your territory, gain allies, and make enemies. You play the game until you reach the year 2050 AD unless you are defeated first.
You’ll have a wide view of the map the entire time. As you discover new areas of the map, you will be able to see where your enemy territories are, so you have an idea of what they are up to. If you form alliances or agreements with other nations, you can even see what is going on in their cities, such as what they are building.
Conquering other empires isn’t the only way to win in this game. There are many different paths you can take to be successful in Civilization. You can, of course, go the war route and take out all the other empires. To do so, you will need a strong focus on the military from the beginning. Building a powerful army has additional benefits as well, even if you don’t necessarily use it. You don’t need to defeat all the other nations to be victorious. There is also the possibility to win the game by military might, which is just having the most powerful military in the world.
On top of that, you can also win by having the best economy or technological advancements.
While the earlier versions of the series were solely PC based, Civilization IV is available on PC, Mac, iOS, and Switch. It’s produced by Firaxis, who make a vast range of turn-based strategy games.
All in all, Civilization IV is a game that all gamers should have a go at. With so many different variables, no two games are the same. You can play time and time again with new strategies each time.
Valkyria Chronicles 4
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the fourth installment in this epic turn-based strategy game series. It is a tactical style of gameplay with the prime objective of leading the Atlantic Federation to victory on the battlefield. With anime-style graphics, the story of the armies’ path to success has a storybook-like presentation. It has excellent cutscenes and battle scenes as well.
The unique and immersive style of gameplay sets it apart from others in the TBS genre. Unlike the traditional map-view style, this game drops you straight in action. You will be on the battlefield itself, engaging in direct combat. You will lead the units through battle, seizing enemy bases as you go. There are both wide-view portions of the game as well as player point-of-view portions. It provides a more exciting and multi-layer gameplay experience.
The combat style is slightly complicated. Your units are broken down into six unique classes — each one with different strengths and weaknesses. You must learn how to utilize these characteristics to their highest potential properly. Make a wrong move, and the enemy will take you out. The available classes are grenadiers, snipers, scouts, shock troopers, lancers, and engineers. On top of your standard units are the main storyline characters. These characters are more powerful than the other groups and can alter the course of the battle.
Previous installments of the game introduced many of the classes. Valkyria Chronicles 4 adds a new category, the Grenadier. Another new feature is a battle system called ‘Brave.’ It is used on the battlefield and can allow you to deploy many different tactics. You can restore command points to increase an ally’s ability or restore action points to enable extra moves or attacks.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is available on PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PS4. The wide range of console options makes it super accessible to anyone looking to get into the world of turn-based strategy games. Their unique style combines multiple gaming aspects to make it one of the most immersive turn-based strategy games on the market.
Total War: Warhammer II
Another turn-based strategy game series that dominates the scene is Total War. Their newest release, Warhammer II, offers some superior features to the others in the series. What we love about this game is the unique fantasy world they have created. Where many games in the genre aim for realistic locations and characters, Total War: Warhammer II creates a world of their own. It’s slightly different from the others in the series due to that fact. The previous focus more on real-world scenarios.
The Warhammer II world is home to many different races of beings. You can choose to control whichever race you like, and each one has individual abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Some of the races include Skaven, Lizardmen, High Elves and Dark Elves. The map is enormous and well-integrated. Compared to the last one, there are double the locations. There are also massive battles as well, so a lot is going on. Players will need to keep a sharp eye to be victorious. Besides just standard battle tactics, like defensive and offensive procedures, you can also go the diplomatic route.
Beyond just military tactics, you’ll also need to build up your cities by continually researching and progressing. It will allow you to discover new units and grow the economy of your empire.
What sets it apart is that it combines some real-time aspects into the game as well. While you play the majority of the game is in a turn-based fashion, the battles themselves take place in real-time. It adds a layer to gameplay. You can play against the AI computer system or online against friends or other players worldwide.
Total War: Warhammer II is available on Windows, Linux, or Mac and was published by gaming veterans Sega. This addition to the saga made an appearance in 2017. The innovative races and world they built making it one of the best turn-based strategy games on the market.
XCOM 2 takes place during an alien invasion. It is the sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, following its release in 2012. Both games feature a fight for survival and freedom from an alien race. The newest XCOM 2 is a tactics style TBS in which you control a mobile defense base. You’re the leader of a band of rebels. You’re fighting to protect yourselves from the aliens, who have overrun the planet. The majority of humans have become pawns to the aliens over the last 20 years since XCOM: Enemy Unknown. But not all humans are willing to bow down to the alien invaders. That’s where you come in.
The storyline is pretty simple, but the gameplay is quite complicated and keeps you on the edge of your seats. Most turn-based strategy games will have you as the leader, with an army of no-name soldiers. When one dies, it’s not a big deal, as you tend to level up troops as a whole, introducing higher-level units. Not in XCOM 2. Each soldier levels up individually. You also equip them with high-quality gear that you find during gameplay. When you lose one of these soldiers, the stakes are much higher, as you put a lot of time into each one. When you lose a soldier, you’ll have to start all over with a low level, equipment-less one.
The base you command will be used to issue orders to the members of your troops. You can also research new technologies, which allows you to produce new and improved weapons and gadgets.
Another cool feature of the game is all the customization options. You can alter how stock weapons and armor look. You can also change the personality attributes of your units and give them unique names.
The graphics are incredible, and you get both wide-view aspects and third person, on the ground views. Firaxis games produce it, the same producers of Civilization, so they know what they are doing in this genre. You can get XCOM 2 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
For a new twist on the classic alien invasion story, XCOM 2 is the best you can get.
If you’re someone who thrives on challenge and wants a complex game that takes incredible strategic tactics than we’d recommend BattleTech. BattleTech is probably one of the most challenge turn-based strategy games on our list, but it’s challenging in a good way. If you’re new to the genre, then you may want to start with something a bit basic. But if you’re up for it, you can take your strategic gameplay to a whole new level.
The game itself is based directly on a board game called Classic BattleTech. It was first released back in the 80s and spawned a string of books and other merchandise. All the previous eventually leading up to the release of the game in 2018.
You will play the role of a commander in charge of a unit of Battlemechs. Battlemechs are huge, walking war machines. Humans control these robot suits, and you are responsible for making them combat-ready. They can be fully customized, from their armor and weapons to their skills and who you want piloting them. You’ll have control of four mechs total during battles.
Five major houses run the BattleTech world. They are Cappellan Confederation, Draconis Combine, Federated Suns, Free Worlds League, and Lyran Alliance. These houses are always at war with each other, and you get to choose who you would like to serve. You can select more than one house to fight for, but remember, if you’re not with them, you’re against them.
As a commander, you will fulfill contracts to these houses by defeating your opponent with the use of the Battlemechs. The game is very detail-oriented, and there are many aspects of the mechs that you will need to keep an eye on. These include heat dissipation and weight distribution. Upgrading them with new equipment is also essential as they continuously get damaged on your missions.
There are both single-player campaign modes and PVP multiplayer modes, as well. You can get BattleTech on PC, Mac, or Linux.
BattleTech is the best turn-based strategy game if you like a challenge and big metal robots. Its campaigns deliver complexity and will regularly test your strategic decision making. If this sounds intriguing to you, then don’t hesitate to check it out.
As the name would suggest, Invisible, Inc. is all about staying in stealth mode. This exciting turn-based strategy game has you take on the role of a remote operator for an agency of spies. The twist is that there’s a threat to the agency. You’ll need to send out agents to collect resources and additional support to save the agency.
You’ll be the point-of-contact to operate each infiltration mission, directing your agents on the appropriate moves to make.
The game features a string of missions to complete. Your agents will enter enemy bases, and the goal is to remain undetected. Your agents are on the clock, and the longer they stay in the base, the closer they become to being detected by the enemy. If they are seen or take too long, the alarm will go off, alerting the enemy of their presence and failing the mission.
The objective of each mission varies. Each time the maps randomly generate, which means each time you play, it’s completely different. Your agents will be deployed across the world to collect information, equipment, and valuables to help their cause. As you go on, you will also be able to unlock additional agents with unique skill sets.
The stress of having a constant timer running can be a bit overwhelming for some. But if you thrive off pressure, then you’ll love the stealth needed to be successful in this game.
The graphics and cutscenes are top-notch, with voice-over animation, so you don’t need to read pesky sub-titles the whole time. There are also five different game modes available, meaning that there is no end to the gameplay options with this game.
Invisible, Inc. is available to play on PC or PS4. The high-pressure gaming style may take some time to get the hang of. Once you do, it is the best turn-based strategy game in terms of esthetics and immersion.
Age of Wonders III
Age of Wonders III is the newest installment in the trilogy. The game slightly resembles Civilization, but with more focus on the military aspects. It also takes place in a fantasy world all of its own, filled with many races and unique classes.
You will play the game as the military commander. The name of the game is to build up your empire’s army and meet the objectives of the campaigns. The map lets you see a broad view of the terrain as you explore it and locate other realms. Once you discover the other empires, you can choose which move to make, take them out, or be diplomatic, for now. You never know when the other empires may turn on you, so you must always be prepared.
Preparation comes by constantly leveling up all your heroes and leaders. The military focus needs to be coupled with exploration, as you want to have an idea of what you’re dealing with as early on as possible. When you do encounter enemies, you can opt for auto-combat mode, in which your units will do as they please. Once you’re more experienced, you can keep units in manual mode. That way, you’ve got full control over the moves they make.
When you begin, you get to choose which race you would like to be. Each race has unique traits, from extra HP and defense to affinities for individual elements. The races you’ll have to choose from are Humans, Dwarves, High Elves, Draconians, Orcs, Goblins, and Halflings. We know, it sounds a lot like Lord of the Rings.
Beyond the races themselves, Age of Wonders III has added a class system. The class allows you to customize your race even further, delivering an additional string of perks. You can choose Warlord, Rogue, Theocrat, Sorcerer, Dreadnought, or Archdruid as your class.
Age of Wonders III focuses on development on a larger scale. You won’t need to micro-manage individual cities or individual units, so it allows you to keep an eye on the bigger picture. You do have the opportunity for general city development, but the priority in the game will always be military might and conquest.
The game was released in 2014 by Triumph Studios and is available on PC, Mac, or Linux.
It’s an excellent turn-based strategy game for those who like a more fantastical style of conquest game. It can take a bit of time to figure out all the systems, but they provide a comprehensive guide in the game that makes it simple for new players.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is an entirely different turn-based strategy game than any of the others on our list. It also hovers the line into roguelike and deck-building game genres. The whole game revolves around a deck of cards. Each card has an individual set of specs. These include character buffering, inflicting status effects, and of course, causing damage. You’ll use the cards to defeat enemies in a series of dungeon battles. Therefore, you need to build a powerful deck that will allow you to complete all the levels of a spire.
When the game begins, you’ll choose one out of three characters. The character you choose will determine the cards you start with, as well as how much gold and health your character has. From there, as you fight battles, you will attain new cards to add to your deck. For each fight you win, you can pick between three card options but choose wisely. The first few runs are relatively easy and will not require a ton a strategy when choosing cards. Once you move on, the combination of cards you pick will become increasingly more important.
Throughout the game, you will find campsites, which offer a bunch of options. You can heal up and buy new cards from the shopkeeper. You can also upgrade your current cards and find chests with valuable items. At the campsites, there may also be random encounters. Though it may sound simple, a lot is riding on the choices you make as you go on.
Each time you play, you can take an alternative approach to how you build your deck, which will give you different results. There are 283 cards total, so you’ll have a chance for a new combination every time. Within your first couple of battles, you will need to start deciding which theme you want your deck to be. If you don’t, you risk having a mismatched deck that isn’t effective.
You can play Slay the Spire on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
If you liked Pokémon back in the day (or still do), you’re going to love Slay the Spire. It is one of the best turn-based strategy games for those who aren’t interested in war-style games. The game offers players a chance to get familiar with the style in its easy intro levels but requires more strategy as you go along.
The turn-based strategy game genre has been around forever. With its roots in classic board-games, it has progressed with the times and transitioned into modern-day gaming. The turn-based strategy video games that are on the market today deliver immersive and entertaining gameplay. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned veteran, there is a game out there with your name on it. Our ten picks offer an excellent overview of the current state of the turn-based gaming industry. We know this genre will continue to develop throughout the years, just as it has up until now.
While the genre isn’t as popular as some other gaming genres, there is just as much passion surrounding it. Both the fans and creators of turn-based strategy games stick behind this style of gameplay. Many games revolve around war or battle scenarios. Just as in real life, you’ll need to use skillful tactics to be successful. You’ll also need to be an excellent multi-tasker to keep track of everything that is going on.
Regardless of the storyline, the best turn-based strategy games all have a common goal. That is to allow players to develop something themselves and watch it triumph under their command.
What is a Turn-Based Strategy Game?
The most straightforward description of a turn-based strategy game is in the name, turn-based. TBS refers to video games in which all sides take turns making moves or taking action. They are digital board games in which players are required to consider strategies and then execute them. Turn-based strategy games involve at least two sides. There can be one side controlled by the player and one by the computer, or both controlled by human players.
Everything takes place in a structured format in these games; there is no chaos. Each player executes their moves and then waits for the opponent to take their turn before they can move again.
While turn-based strategy games have a few subgenres, they usually refer to strategy games that revolve around war or battle scenarios. Although, in a literal sense, TBS refers to any strategic games in which players take turns.
What sets a TBS apart from other genres is that they require some critical thinking and forethought. The games aren’t as simple as just making a move since each move can have dire consequences. Players will need to move with intention and with the big picture in mind.
What is also really cool about turn-based strategy games is some of the tactics you get to use. These include things like sabotage and espionage missions that we all secretly wish we could do in real life. You will need to employ these tactics in-order to pre-empt enemy movements and plan yours accordingly. On the defensive side, you’ll have to strategize early on, but be open to altering it as your enemy makes their moves. If you can combine a perfect balance of offense and defense, then you’ll have the best chance of success in these games.
Wartime based scenarios are among the best turn-based strategy games and dominate the market. The storylines may differ, but they all revolve around building up your empire and conquering your enemies. Though you can go in with a solid strategy, you can never totally predict your enemies’ moves. The enemy may try to predict yours as well, so you want to catch them by surprise. You’ll notice that all the games, at their core, can be compared to old school games like Chess.
Turn-based Strategy Vs. Real-time Strategy
In the genre of strategy games, there are two divisions, turn-based and real-time. You have seen both names used to describe games, but what’s the difference? It’s essential to understand the differences between these two types of gameplay. It will allow you to make an informed decision about which to purchase.
The most notable difference between a turn-based and real-time game is how they represent time. If you look at the flow of time in each style, it will usually be quite noticeable, which is which.
In turn-based, time passes in defined phases. Each player receives a timeslot in which to make a move. Sometimes there is a time-limit on a turn, and sometimes you can take as much time as you need. The same goes for the AI computer player. The most fundamental defining factor is if you and your enemy take turns executing strategies, then you’re playing a turn-based game.
If time is in constant flow and all players can make moves at the same time, then you’re playing in real-time. All players, including AI computer players, will not have allocated turns. Time does not stop in these games. You are always under the threat of being hit by your enemies.
Real-time is more realistic. While the storylines are unrealistic, the structure of time resembles real life. Additional skills will come into play in real-time games as you’ll need to rely on your reflexes to ensure the enemy doesn’t take you by surprise.
Which is Better?
There eternal debate among gamers is which genre is better. There’s no simple answer. The choice will come down to personal preference, and there are many fans for both types.
Real-time strategy games can become a bit stressful as the clock is always moving. Some players may like the additional challenge that this poses, while others may find it overwhelming.
In real life, you can’t take your time to make decisions when an enemy army is running at you. That said, we are talking about video games, and you play them for entertainment, not necessarily real-world simulation. Playing a turn-based game still requires skillful tactics and strategies. They allow you the chance to contemplate your own and your enemies’ next moves, without the added pressure of the clock.
Both turn-based and real-time are enjoyable gaming genres. It’s up to you to try them out and decide which style you like best. Below, we’ve got some great recommendations for the best turn-based strategy games to get you started.
Tactics Vs. Non-Tactics
The turn-based strategy genre can be sub-divided further into tactics and non-tactics games.
Tactics style games mostly refer to battle and war games. These games put the focus on combat, and you move through the game by winning battles. There is also a scenario structure during which you complete one scenario at a time. Win the battle, progress to the next situation. Generally, in the tactics style of game, you cannot win unless you defeat your enemy in combat.
Non-tactics style games are the more popular of the two. They combine a more extensive range of scenarios and outcomes than the combat-focused tactics style. A non-tactics style format is more common amongst turn-based strategy games.
They are not based on multiple individual scenarios but operate with a more long-term structure. So, unlike tactics style where you complete shorter objectives and move on, in non-tactics, you work long-term towards your goal. Usually, they present this style in a large, open-plan map. All players, AI and real, will complete on the same map for the duration of the game.
The games are long, and they can take many hours to complete. You will complete non-tactic style games throughout hundreds of turns, making strategic decisions to be victorious.
Another thing that sets non-tactics apart is how you win. In tactics, you have to defeat your enemy to win the game. In non-tactics, there are usually multiple routes to victory, and they don’t all involve combat. There will often be a couple of different paths you can take to win the game. That factor can make the games more dynamic and exciting as it requires a more in-depth strategy.
Different game titles will put precedence on different ways of winning. One may be quite combat-heavy, while others will require a more diplomatic route.
Wide View Vs. Player POV
Many of the best turn-based strategy games will feel as if you’re playing a digital board game. These will give you a full view of the whole map so you can see what is going on at all times. You’ll be able to see the entire battlefield, or gaming world, including your opponents and their territories. The wide view map is the most common structure you will find in turn-based strategy games.
Some games will offer you a player point-of-view. The POV structure is most common when playing tactic style TBS games. It will drop you in the middle of the action, and you’ll view the game through the eyes of your players. It is a more immersive experience but also gives you a limited view of your opponent’s territory.
Both views are excellent in their own way and will require different strategic moves to excel in each one.
The Best Turn-Based Strategy Games of 2020 – Reviews
There are hundreds of turn-based strategy games on the market. They’ve been a staple in the gaming industry for many years. Creators are continually adding new and innovative twists to these games, and some great titles have come out in more recent years.
We’ve chosen and reviewed 10 of the best turn-based strategy games of 2020. While titles like Final Fantasy Tactics and Heroes of Might and Magic are classics, this list is slightly more current. We wanted to showcase how turn-based strategy games have improved over the years and what you can expect to find out there now.