G2A.COM  G2A News Features The Best Grand Strategy Games
The grand strategy genre is unique in its complexity and scale. Even other strategies don’t often have quite as many moving parts, factors to consider, and breadth of systems meant to simulate every aspect of a country or faction’s functioning.
In fact, few games in general do, and the undisputed royalty of the genre are Paradox games, of which we have quite a few on this list already. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s no competition, especially from games usually assigned to the 4X genre, which is grand strategy’s closest sibling.
With that in mind, we’ve prepared a few suggestions of strategy games you should have a jolly good time playing if you’re looking for a game where you control a country or faction as a part of a complex landscape.
Crusader Kings III is both a roleplaying game and a grand strategy, and it’s extremely proficient on both fronts. You get to create your own ruler using a very robust character creator and set them as the head of a noble family. CK3’s map is huge, covering Entire Europe and stretching out to India, Arctic, and central Africa, plenty of space for political machinations and increasing your family’s status.
Of course, climbing the Medieval social and political ladder isn’t easy, and you may need to engage in diplomacy and armed conflicts even within your own dynasty, let alone foreign powers. The map helpfully can inform you on various aspects of its regions, including culture and religion, but what you with that info is up to you. Crusader Kings 3 is a complex but thrilling Medieval dynasty sandbox.
Crusader Kings 3
The Civilization series is better known as a classic 4X game, but it does have the scale and the abstraction that fans of grand strategies could find alluring. The premise is simple: you pick a civilization at the start of the game, and as its immortal, anachronistic leader you have to take it from a one-town culture to a global power via conquest, diplomacy, or a few other paths to victory.
Civ6 introduced a few interesting features to the series, including a rework of the way city expansion works. It also retains the series’ famous, and dangerous ability to consume hours of your time. Every civ has different traits, which predispose it towards a certain playstyle, and the maps are procedurally generated, opening up the way to virtually endless, engaging future playthroughs.
The second Paradox game on the list, and not remotely the last, because nobody does grand strategy like Paradox. While Crusader Kings III is interested in the Middle Ages, Europa Universalis IV plays out between 1444 and 1821, and is more interested in nations and kingdoms than family feuds and big personalities. EU4 fully embraces the grand scale, and, by extension, the complexity.
Even the map itself is complex, containing hundreds of regions, any of which can gain power, expand, and become more than just a province in the backyard of a grander nation. Once you get the hang of the systems you can drastically change the course of history, and since the map covers pretty much the entire world, you can form truly ambitious plans… and contend with many enemies.
Europa Universalis IV
The Total War: Warhammer trilogy deviates greatly from the previous Total War formula and instead of a historical setting it decided to skip genres and make a fantasy game. Warhammer Fantasy’s Old World is a perfect setting for a grand strategy. It’s filled with species, nations, and regions, a rich and satisfying canvas on which to paint the tapestry depicting your species and faction’s way to victory.
Each entry takes place in another region of the world, but if you own more than one game in the series you can merge the maps for a massive Mortal Empires mode, featuring all the species and regions from contributing games. Much of the game happens on the strategic map, but when armies meet, the view shifts to the real-time tactical battlefield with hundreds of units on-screen simultaneously.
Total War: WARHAMMER
Total War: WARHAMMER II
Total War: WARHAMMER III
Not satisfied completely by earthly matters, Paradox created Stellaris to take their grand schemes into space. Stellaris has a truly galactic scale, but your chosen (or designed) species has barely left its own star system. As you create a species, you not only pick their physical traits, but also a number of aspects that define the kind of empire the species will hopefully find among the stars.
Stellaris also happens to be beautiful, presenting the galaxy and its many stars and planets in 3D, and each planet might hide a story or a species with which you might initiate diplomacy, or add to your growing empire only to be overthrown later. The game has also been frequently updated since its 2016 release, significantly changing the experience compared to the initial state.
Endless Legend would probably appeal the most to fans of Civilization: it’s also mostly a turn-based 4X game set in a fantasy world divided into convenient hexagonal tiles. There are over a dozen different factions once you add the expansions, and each presents not only a different theme, a different preferred playstyle, and a different goal to accomplish in this storied setting.
Unlike many 4X, Endless Legend pays attention to regions as a whole, so when you found a city you also gain control over the adjacent region. Since there’s no place for two cities in one region, conflicts are inevitable, and not all of them you’ll be able, or willing, to avoid through diplomacy. EL also has minor RPG elements thanks to the quests, which bring a lot of storytelling to the game.
Europa Universalis IV’s campaign ends in the early 19th century, leaving history hanging in the air. Hearts of Iron IV pick it up a century later, just in time to give you time to prep for World War II. The campaign starts either in 1936 or 1939 and can run to 1948, presenting a more detailed experience than either CK3 or EU4 which run for centuries. What stays the same is your ability to change history.
As one might expect, the gameplay of HoI4 focuses on warfare, with your military split into grounds, air, and naval forces which you can use to defend and conquer provinces. Of course, there’s still a lot of room for diplomacy, which might be a big help if you choose a small and/or weak country to play as. You’ll also conduct research, which might eventually lead you to develop the atomic bomb.
Hearts of Iron IV Cadet Edition
Total War: Three Kingdoms is an interesting entry in the series. It takes place during the, well, Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, but it offers two visions of it. One is in the Records mode, which is more down-to-earth and historically accurate. The other mode, Romance, takes a more magnificently heroic route, inspired by the famous epic, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Other than that style divide, the game plays mostly like the rest of the Total War series, with a few thematic twists. One is that in the Romance mode generals are powerful hero units that can turn the tide of battle. The other part is the social layer of the game: generals have well-defined personalities, and they form connections throughout the game. Your plans should take it into account.
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Before Stellaris was a twinkle in the devs’ eyes, Distant Worlds (and the “Universe” edition) was a grand-scale space-bound science fiction strategy game. It might now wow you with its graphics the way Stellaris does, but if complexity is your jam, Distant Worlds has that in spades. It also has a massive universe to drop you into, boasting about up to 1400 star systems and 50 thousand planets.
The Universe edition includes the original Distant Worlds as well as the expansion packs, tossing all that content into one package. Thankfully, DWU for all its complexity also features useful automation, so so you don’t need to micromanage everything to maintain the forward momentum. It frees you to deal with the most important things, like diplomacy, expansion, or running a tight military.
Distant World Universe
Another large-scale science-fiction space-based grand strategy game on the list, Galactic Civilization III should excite fans of robust strategies. GC3 is a turn-based game putting you in control of one of many species, both human and alien, and lets you do pursue whatever goals you set for yourself…or you can follow the storyline if a directed campaign is something you’re more interested in.
Galactic Civilizations III includes a number of intriguing features, including deep customization of spaceships your faction is using, and a Mega Event system introducing random boons and obstacles to your playthrough. With the DLCs GC3 becomes incredibly feature-rich, gaining new systems, including a faction creation, in case the pre-made ones have lost their luster after a few playthroughs.
Galactic Civilizations III
This ends our list of suggestions. We covered games with all sorts of settings, from the high fantasy of Warhammer to the gritty historical simulation of WW2, and we brought some competition to the grand strategy masterclass of Paradox-developed titles. Hopefully among this mix of complex titles, you’ve found one that sparked your interest and you’re already forming plans within plans.