Games: the return of turn-based strategies

Older semesters can probably still remember a time when turn-based strategies were popular. Times when games such as Civilization (1991), Battle Isle (1991), Master of Orion (1993), Jagged Alliance (1994), Ufo: Enemy Unknown (1994) – the forefather of X-COM – or Heroes of Might & Magic ( 1995) dominated the free time of strategy fans.

Games in which hour after hour went by and you considered every move of your units, weighed the possible consequences and got angry when painstakingly worked-out tactics failed. We also encourage you to come in and try something new for yourself!

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Strategy for the persistent

But what made and does the allure of circular strategy games do? The appeal of games like X-COM, Civilization and Co. is certainly based on their leisurely pace. Real-time strategy games are usually based on tactics and speed, forcing the player to react quickly to a situation at any given moment. There are times when a game or mission fails within a few minutes because the player has made a small mistake beforehand, or reacted too slowly or incorrectly to the enemy. The round strategy, on the other hand, gives the player all the time in the world. As in a classic game of chess, every move can be carefully considered, the consequences – including the long-term consequences – replayed in the player’s mind so that he makes the right decision for himself.

Publisher EuroVideo, who worked on Age of Wonders 3 together with developer Triumph Studios, also sees the great strength of turn-based strategy games and the reason for their success, as public relations manager Florian Emmerich confirms: “With turn-based strategy I start small and keep discovering and expanding for hours, or I can just go to bed and think about how to capture that city tomorrow, what spells or technologies are best to research, etc. In short: great depth and the fact that it requires real strategic action [that’s what turn-based strategy games are]. In a turn-based strategy game you can usually lose a few battles without deciding the outcome of the war.

This leisurely pace, board game-like character, and focus on strategy that challenges the player for hours and days has made the turn-based strategy genre successful and popular over the years. The first games appeared back in the 1970s and were actually very reminiscent of board games such as Risk. It was for this purpose that a simple form of multiplayer mode was developed precisely because of this feature. In some games it was possible to send your move to an opponent by post or later email, who entered it into their version of the game to consider their next move themselves. This allowed players to compete against each other, which took a little time. However, the most famous representatives mentioned above only emerged in the 1990s, when


Because when Westwood published their real-time strategy game Dune 2 in 1992, the ‘decline’ of turn-based strategies began. Although real-time strategy had always existed before Dune 2, Westwood was the first to implement the genre so well that later games such as Warcraft (1994) or Command & Conquer (1995) inspired millions of players. While there was talk of the next stage in the evolution of strategy games, turn-based strategies, on the other hand, only existed in a niche setting, and major publishers, with few exceptions, chose not to develop new games. While turn-based strategies have been popping up again and again, they have not been a success. Only major series like Civilization or Heroes of Might & Magic cemented their popularity, but the triumph of real-time strategy games did not last forever either. Today, major brands like Command & Conquer, whose last full-fledged game was Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight (2010), have disappeared from publishers’ drawers because expected sales in most cases are no longer high enough.

The supposed departure from the strategy genre went so far that publisher Take Two announced a new X-COM, i.e. an offshoot of Ufo: Enemy Unknown, in 2010. However, the new game was intended to be a first-person shooter rather than a turn-based strategy game. “Strategy games are simply obsolete,” Take-Two manager Christoph Hartmann said at the time as a reason.

Wrong opinion, as it turned out. Fans of the series ran to the publisher with complaints, so a successor to the turn-based strategy game did appear. X-COM: Enemy Unknown has brought the well-known and popular Ufo gameplay not only to the PC, but also to consoles and subsequently to the iPhone and iPad. According to analysis website VGChartz, the game has sold 1.24 million copies – not a bad result for an “outdated” genre.

X-COM was developed by Firaxis Games, with whom publisher Take Two had already revived the veteran civilisation with a fourth installment in 2005. Its penultimate release, Civilization 5, was released in 2010 and, according to VGCarts, has sold around 1.3 million copies to date. The O marvellous new world DLC, released in July 2013, temporarily returned the classic to the sales charts.

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