Grand Strategy Games That Are Good For Beginners


Accessible is not exactly a word that one associates with grand strategy games. After all, it’s a video game genre where half the fun consists of figuring out why everyone’s waging war on you or why your territories keep going bankrupt. Point is, grand strategy games were meant to be complex as they can be in order to simulate immersive levels of geopolitics; they’re usually based on real-world history.


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And of the few dozen pure grand strategy titles around, it’s safe to say that only a handful are really approachable or accessible to the usual attention span today (thanks, social media!). Because most of the time, their tutorials are less about learning and more about baptism by fire. But with enough fortitude and maybe half-a-dozen caffeine shots by two a.m. in the morning, these following grand strategy games can teach beginners what it’s like to lead a country or faction— or rather, how stressful it can be.

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6/6 Total War: Shogun 2

  • Release date:
    2011
  • Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux

It’s more than a decade old now, but Total War: Shogun 2‘s atmosphere has yet to be replicated among its historical peers in the Total War lineup. Besides, it’s a good entry point for grand strategy beginners; all players have to do is pick a Japanese clan and lead their samurai armies to the top. Among all historical titles, Shogun 2 offers the most polished and immersive experience.

Some grand strategy purists will argue that Total War games are barely “grand strategy” and they’re partly right. These games are divided into two gameplay aspects, namely the turn-based campaign map and real-time tactical battles. The former is where the strategizing takes place, and it’s bare-bones and lacks complexity. But for that very reason, Total War games are a good stepping stone to deeper grand strategy rabbit holes.

5/6 Total War: Warhammer (Original)

  • Release date:
    2016
  • Platforms:
    macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Classic MacOS

It’s not based on history, but if players want something more fun than historical Total War‘s glorified chess matches, then the Warhammer lineup offers an awesome change of scenery. It’s based on the Warhammer Fantasy universe where vampires, humans, dwarfs, and Greenskins (orcs) clash with one another due to lore reasons most players will likely forget.

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Never mind the reason for conflict, of course; it’s a series called “total war.” In any case, Total War: Warhammer has proven itself even more popular than the historical titles in the Total War franchise. We recommend starting with the first game; the second and third ones have too much stuff going on with too many races and factions.

Due to the asymmetrical nature of the races and the combat, both the turn-based campaign map and the real-time battles here have more depth compared to historical Total War games.

4/6 Crusader Kings 3

  • Release date:
    2020
  • Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5

It’s a game where players can turn their whole family tree into a family circle through incest or even feed their whole noble roster to the townspeople in the event of a famine. Those are just some of the things that Crusader Kings 3 allows regularly. For many fans, it’s like the Sims for medieval domination except more violent and more depraved.

Apart from being a grand strategy game, it’s also a dynasty simulator. Players get to pick a medieval faction involving European, North African, and Middle Eastern countries and write whatever story they want with them through their decisions and orchestrations. The big difference compared to Crusader Kings 2 is that the third game has a more welcoming tutorial and will readily tell players how to achieve certain actions or strategic finesse.

3/6 Stellaris

  • Release date:
    2016
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Like Total War games, it’s a bit hard to pin down exactly where Stellaris stands in the genre box. But people generally consider this game as a hybrid between 4X and grand strategy genres, with a bit of real-time strategy (RTS). Also, it was created by the developers responsible for the Crusader Kings franchise. Regardless, it’s also a good way for newcomers of grand strategy to ease themselves into more familiar mechanics.

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Stellaris typically starts off like a usual 4X game where players expand their borders. The second half of that most playthroughs tend to transition toward grand strategy where players must outwit, dominate, and out-gun their rivals. Because by that point in this space strategy game, the borders start getting cramped. For beginners, smaller map sizes are recommended for easier learning.

2/6 Europa Universalis 4

  • Release date:
    2013
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux

Again another title from Paradox— the developers of Stellaris and Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis 4 is an ambitious retelling of the colonial period (from its infancy to its height). It takes players through four dramatic centuries of European history and development. It starts in 1444 and ends in 1821— a time period rife with colonialism, trade companies, powdered wigs, and obsession with sugar and spice.

As far as Paradox Studios games go, this one tends to be a bit more accessible. It’s relatively easy to pick up compared to some of Paradox’s offerings (such as Hearts of Iron, or Victoria), but expect to still learn new gameplay mechanics even after hundreds of hours of gameplay. Economy, after all, is an enigmatic puzzle.

1/6 Hegemony 3: Clash Of The Ancients

  • Release date:
    2015
  • ​​​​​​​Platforms:
    Microsoft Windows

Hegemony 3: Clash of the Ancients focuses on a different but no less grand time period during the Classical Age when the Greeks and Romans dominated the historical texts. The more unified focus on warfare and border expansion put Hegemony 3 in a simpler light compared to other grand strategy games with more complex economies.

In fact, it’s closer to Total War than to most other grand strategy titles. Here, players must choose their favored Mediterranean faction or country and lead them to power with the historical canon being the rise of the Roman Empire. However, players can rewrite history so that Greek salad is more prominent than Caesar’s, thus making pineapple with pizza less taboo. The possibilities are endless.

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Grand Strategy Games That Are Good For Beginners

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