Best Strategy Games of 2012

by Adam Rochford 27. December 2012 11:26

I've been away for a while, playing video games of course.  Here is my list of the best strategy games of 2012.

Best Co-op: Orcs Must Die 2

Official Site

Hands down one of the best co-op games of all time.  This game can only be described as pure joy.  A mix of 3rd person shooter and tower defense.  You will slaughter Orcs by the hundreds as they attempt to run through your gauntlet or traps while you shoot and maim them.  I can't recommend this game enough.

Best Indie: FTL

Official Site

You'll feel like Captain Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise with this rogue-like spaceship simulator.  You'll command crew, upgrade your ship, target weapons at shields, engines, engineering and crew all the while protecting your crew, engines, venting fires and making sure your oxygen tanks don't explode.  Your commands will be the essential decisions needed to keep your crew alive and your ship in one piece.  This is a great little game for any aspiring ship captain.  Also it's JefMajor approved.

Best Epic Strategy: Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Official Site

Sins of a Solar Empire is back with epic space battles, planet bombing, giant starbases and giant tech trees.  Just with any epic strategy game, there is a fairly steep learning curve, but Rebellion's great AI tuning will get you in the game at a pace you can enjoy.  While the improvements in Rebellion aren't all that vast, this already great epic strategy game has been improved and made into a standalone game so more can enjoy and jump into what is a great strategy game.

Best Turn-Based Strategy: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Official Site

Remakes don't generally turn out well or remain true to there ancestor's but the new XCOM is a refreshing take on an old favorite.  It may be more storyline driven than the original, but this doesn't really detract from it's openness and it's turned based tactical combat is refreshingly new and exciting.  You run your secret black project alien annihilation station managing research and engineering projects from your underground bunker, organizing alien interceptions and managing your relationship with world powers.  This part of XCOM resembles city building strategy which then seemless stream into combat scenarios where your recruits that may have been alive for many missions put there lives and skills on the line in nail biting tactical combat.  Usually turn based combat isn't known for putting you on the edge of your seat, but it gets tense when you have veteran soldiers that have been alive since the beginning of your game could die at any moment, the combat situation gets tense.

Most Innovative: Endless Space

Official Site

Endless Space has taken a combination of things that have proven to work well together: turn based civilization game, resource management, research, ship and fleet design and thrown in a dose of refreshing combat mechanics into an epic turn based space civilization game.  It takes a certain amount of patience to learn and play a game like Endless Space, but if you're like me, sitting back and meticulously planning your enemies demise is your favorite part of any game, then this game is for you.  You design your own ships and fleets and manage every single planet and solar system from micro to macro and somehow it doesn't feel tedious on a grand scale.  Throw in a an interesting card based combat mechanic that I have never seen in any other game and you have a streamlined epic strategy game known as Endless Space.

Most Anticipated: Europa Universalis IV

Of course I can't wait for Paradox Interactive's Europa Universalis IV, PC's premier historically accurate grand strategy game.

Honorable Mentions:

Tropico 4

Tropico remains one of the greatest city building games, but it's somewhat lost track of what made the game popular in the first place.

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action

With Tactical Mode now in the game, this game is actually pretty good.  I only wish there was either some sort of coop or multiplayer mode, but obviously such a mode would present difficulties in a game like this.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Legends of Pegasus

Phenominal score of 35/100 metacritic, I regret ever previewing it on this site or getting hyped about it at all.  Kalypso's reputation took a big hit on this one.

Sword of the Star II

A very buggy release, and even after several issues have been fixed, the game has been overshadowed by Endless Space with it's streamlined gameplay and interface and simplified combat system.  For the extremely hardcore masochist strategy gamer, Sword of the Stars II could be for you?



Jagged Alliance: Back to Action

by Adam Rochford 23. May 2012 14:38

I have to admit, I have been playing Diablo 3 religiously for the past week since it came out.  However before that happened I was glued to the tactical strategy game that is Jagged Alliance: Back to Action.  Often I find tactical strategy games to be lacking anything really tactical about them.  However this game with it's recent patches is now a perfect blend between tactical strategy, resource management and grand strategy.  You run a mercenary group set on killing the evil queen of a small island nation.  This queen exploits the people and resources of the nation for her own monetary gain while deploying squads of brutal warriors with machetes and machine guns to gun you down.

The story is actually pretty good and the game really puts you in control of the situation to try and take back the island as you see fit.  You start off by taking over a small airport at the northeastern side of island.  From then on you literally walk your squad on a grand map to various locations to take them over or in some cases, intercepted by roaming troops searching for your band of misfits.  As you go through and find diamonds to sell to make money, you can hire more mercenaries.  Mercenaries have various skills such as explosives, lockpicking, weapon specialties, gun repair, medical and all sorts of fun stuff.  Eventually you will find yourself setting up multiple squads to defend the territory you have already gained.  Maneuvering them on the grand map and placing them in defensive positions will be key.

However the real fun is in the fighting.  You are able to pause the game and make split second decisions including lining up moves so they are done at the same time.  One person could be kicking in a door while the other is getting in a flanking position.  You can tell your units to perform headshots, throw grenades or give medical assistance to other characters.  However it's really best to just see how great the game really is.  The user interface is the nicest I have seen for a tactical game like this.  And user interface is extremely important in tactical games and makes it a really smooth experience so you can simply focus on playing the game instead of figuring out how it is played.  jefmajor got me into this game.  This is his second video in his Let's Play Jagged Alliance series.  The entire playlist can be found here.



Tropico 4: Modern Times

by Adam Rochford 15. April 2012 19:02

Modern Times is an expansion being sold on Steam as a Downloadable Content Package.  This is somewhat unfortunate as you can no longer player with just the original buildings of Tropico 4.  I have some mixed feelings towards Modern Times because Tropico has always been a game about a communist country stuck in the past.  Now you can modernize your island nation with all sorts of skyscrapers and modern amenities.

The new game includes several new buildings and allows many buildings to be upgraded throughout the game.  By far the best new feature is the metro station.  This is a very small building and while you are not actually building any real subway system, the building is extremely useful.  Basically it acts a teleportation station.  Any citizen can walk in one metro station and end up at any other metro station that you have placed.  So you need to build two for people to start using it.  The more you have the better.  Once you start building these, people stop using Garages nearly as much and traffic flow will hardly be a problem any longer.  This is an extremely expensive building to build though.

Other buildings include towers that can be setup as mortgage centers and banks.  There is a new massive hotel that towers over the previous Hotel Tower.  There is an aerodome which supports more tourist traffic.  By far the most silly aspect of the game is the inclusion of a space launch center.  While you might have to build some really weird series of buildings to get it, it totally removes the realism of the game for this small communist country to build a space shuttle.  One event allows you to travel to the moon.  Tropico has always had some silliness, but this takes it a bit too far in my opinion.

Good new buildings include, solar power stations, vehicle and electronic manufacturing and upgraded apartments and condominiums.  New much larger farms provide much needed food.  Overall it is a great expansion, but for me it kills the theme of the original games by quite a large margin.  It is certainly worth looking into.  Like it or not, Tropico has been modernized.



Memoir '44 Online

by Adam Rochford 6. April 2012 16:10

Memoir 44

Memoir '44 is by far one the best and most simple tactical World War II board games.  It is now available to play online and is available as a free download either through there website or even Steam.  If you are a Steam user, I recommend getting the game through Steam as you can use your Steam account for there login system. 

You can play solo against the AI or against other players online.  The AI is surprisingly good.  The interface for the game is fantastic.  If you have ever played the Settler's of Catan game online, you know how bad interfaces can ruin a game.

The game is not 100% free.  They start you out 50 coins or "Gold Ingots" for free.  It costs 3 coins to play a single game of Memoir Online, so you can sufficiently try out the game without paying for at least 16 games.  Also it's only the person that starts the game that loses the coins.  If you pay for the higher level membership you can also create your own scenarios!  This makes the game a lot more interesting as other players are playing there custom scenarios online as well.

Every expansion is also available to play online.  Weather you are a seasoned Memoir '44 fan, want to learn how to play the game or even want to try out the expansions before buying them, Memoir '44 Online is a fantastic experience.  It is by the best implementation of an board game online I have seen yet.

Memoir '44 Online
Memoir '44 Online on Steam


Board Games | Reviews

Tropico 4 Review

by Adam Rochford 3. September 2011 12:26
Tropico 4


Here is our initial review of Tropico 4.  Tell us what you think about the new game from Haemimont Games.  Our guide to Tropico 4 strategy will be available in about a week.



R.U.S.E. Review

by Adam Rochford 30. August 2011 15:20

R.U.S.E.: The Art of Deception

R.U.S.E. is a beautiful game.  However graphics are never the key to a good strategy game, gameplay is far more important.  But what gives R.U.S.E. it's slick look is it's easy interface.  The zooming in and out.  The quick access to every single building and ruse is what makes the game.  The whole process of playing the game is fluid and makes the rush of it all actually fun to play.  The user interface makes taking on your enemy feasible and not a headache. Unlike some RTS games where clicking and micromanaging is a pain, this game makes it much easier to just simply play the game.

Zoomed out R.U.S.E. looks like a board game, as if you are playing Risk, but this is real time.  You will see your battalion of tanks stacked on poker chips.  Zoom all the way in and you see each individual tank moving across the field.

This game is not about building up a huge force.  It is often more about the rush and quick use of tactics and deception.  The absolute most time any game lasts is 45 minutes, it's usually more around a half an hour or less.  This game is truly all about the multiplayer.  Fighting the computer doesn't get a lot of replay value but can still be challenging.

R.U.S.E. is set in World War II.  The UK, US, Germany, Italy, France and the Soviet Union are all playable countries.  Each country has it's strengths and weaknesses.  The Soviet Union has infantry bonues, Italy has long range artillery, etc.  There is also a nuclear mode where nuke cannons can be built, but this kind of kills most of the fun.  R.U.S.E. is fun to play especially if you have a teammate.  The games don't last long so when playing multiplayer you can quickly get a feel for what tactics work and what doesn't.

You usually build your base within the first 5 minutes, this game does not have a big buildup.  Often you want to get your infantry to that strategic city or some anti air in a strategic forest as quickly as possible.  You'll need to decide which tactic if best for your country.  I've found many players like to play UK or Italy.  UK players will try to build a quick airforce with bombers.  Italian players will build massive artillery arsenals.  Some players simply go for a mix of everything.  Protecting your supply routes is key, and the amount of strategic options to play is surprising.  Simplicity makes R.U.S.E. fun and the variety of countries gives a different set of skills for everyone to take advantage of. 

If you like quick on your toes strategy, I highly recommend R.U.S.E.  I generally don't like games that force you to rush, but R.U.S.E. pulls it off well as a real time tactics games.  The units are unique and all have there advantages and disadvantages, the learning curve is quick to master and for once it's actually fun to just jump into this RTS online.  This game isn't for everybody, but as a real time strategy/tactics game set in World War II, no other game compares.  I haven't played this game on a touch screen monitor but it looks impressive, see the video below.

Total: 4.60/5.00

Graphics/Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 4.5
Interface: 5.0
Replay: 4.0
Strategy: 5.0




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