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Strategy games are a vital part of the PC's heritage. Whether you favour real-time bouts or brainy turn-based simulations, great strategy throw you into uniquely massive scenarios that let you rule empires, control spacefaring races and marshal cavalry charges against armies of hundreds. We love them. But we love 20 of them a little more than the others. Will you agree with our picks? Are there any you'd add or like to recommend to fellow readers? Have your say in the comments.

Endless Legend​

One of last year’s real sleeper hits, Endless Legend is a 4X fantasy follow-up to Amplitude’s Endless Space—a pretty good game, but apparently not the full measure of the studio’s potential. Shadowed at the time of its release by the higher-profile launch of Civilization: Beyond Earth, Legend is easily the best game in the genre since Civ 4. It’s deep and diverse, with fascinating asymmetrical factions, sub-races, hero units, quests to discover, and more. It looks gorgeous, too.

Neptune's Pride 

As much a social experiment as a strategy game, Neptune’s Pride pits friends against one another in a battle for control of a star system. The rules are simple: upgrade your stars and get them to build ships, then deploy them to poach more stars. The war unfolds slowly in realtime over the course of a week or so, and may slightly ruin your life during that period. The simple but elegant ruleset leaves lots of room to make and break alliances, and before you know it your friend’s getting up at 3am to launch sneak attacks while you sleep. A simple game that orchestrates amazing drama.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Red Alert is possibly lighter on strategy than any other game in this list. Were you the first to build a tech centre and send 25 mammoth tanks to the enemy’s base before they could do it to you, or to dispatch a chinook full of Tanyas behind their construction yard? Congratulations, you’ve won every skirmish ever! In a way, the lack of balance is part of the appeal of this ’90s peak for the Command & Conquer series, but the escalating chaos of its battles, on land, air and at sea, also ensure that it’s still worth a play today. Plus, it’s freeware now.

XCOM: Enemy Within

By simplifying the XCOM formula, Firaxis cut a more direct route to the things that the series has always been about. This is, fundamentally, a squad action game where you should really care about your squad. Whether you get there by grafting them into towering mechs or by naming them after your friends (or both), Enemy Within stands above other strategy games as the one most likely to make you care about the decisions you make.

Galactic Civilizations 2

If you’ve ever wanted to conquer space with an army of customisable doom-ships, this is the strategy game for you. It has smart, creative AI, and a full-size game can take weeks to complete. You have to balance economic, technological, diplomatic, cultural and military power to forge alliances, fight wars and dominate the galaxy. Reminiscent of the Civilization games, but on a much grander scale,
and with a lot more depth in places.


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