Needs to be 6+ players - and preferably real-time or simultaneous turn.
Things we already tried:
Civ 4 and 5 (Doesn’t work well in multiplayer when war starts).
Paradox games (Too hardcore and time consuming).
Sins of a Solar Empire (We already love this).
Alpha Centauri (Same problem as Civ).
Age of Wonders (Can’t get them to like this, sadly).
HoMM games (Doesn’t work well with many players).
Dominions 3 (The aesthetic ruins it).
That doesn’t quite make the cut in terms of aesthetics. I can accept a relatively low level of graphics (MoO2 looks pretty good, still) - but not that low. I’m probably the most forgiving of the bunch in this way, so…
Yeah I had typed out an entire Conquest of Elysium 3 recommendation, but realized the aesthetics most likely wouldn’t make the grade. It is too bad because the gameplay and strategy may be just what you are looking for although I am not sure if it does simultaneous turns.
Sword of the Stars offers simultaneous turn based multiplayer for up to eight players. I’ve only played it with one or two other people, but it was a good experience and I think it should scale to more without problems.
The game is designed so that the gameplay for multiplayer is the same as single player, although you can add turn time limits to stop slow-pokes from taking too long. Players can drop out and the AI will seamlessly take over and new players can transparently take back control from the computer. This really helps make sure the games are fluid and don’t get bogged down. The gameplay of SotS also lends itself well to multiplayer; there is not a great deal of time consuming micromanagement and most of the diplomacy is done down the end of plasma cannon.
There are some interesting scenarios for various numbers of players. A nice cooperative one I recommend for introducing new players is “The End Of Flesh”. The belligerents are two alliances, each composed of all six races, one of which are free and may be controlled by players and the other of which is under the yoke of an insane AI rebellion.
I’ve actually suggested the game a number of times, but it’s been a hard one to sell. It seems to focus a bit too much on warfare - and not enough on strategy and building stuff.
We’re all huge fans of the “Civ-model” with the emphasis on researching infrastructure and designing planets on a lower scale. Something like a multiplayer MoO2 (it is multiplayer, but it’s not stable and it’s too cumbersome for the standards of today) - would be ideal.
I adore Dom3 in terms of the actual gameplay - but I can’t get past the aesthetic even myself, so I know it’s going to be impossible to smack people into liking it :)
I’ve often considered making a UI/visual make-over for the non-combat portions of Dom3. I’m not a professional, but I do “ok” with the stuff I make for myself (indie level thingsy). Certainly, I think my own work looks better than that awful mess. It would be the one game where I’d feel comfortable doing a visual mod, because I can’t be that bad. The maps, for instance, are U G L Y!
It’s also a Paradox game, which I’ve ruled out. Not that I wouldn’t want to try a MP session in EU3 one day - but I’m quite sure I couldn’t get the others to dive in. It’s too “grognardy” for them.
We go to the summerhouse with beer and gaming 2 times a year, and though we mostly play shooters and RTSs - we keep looking for a workable GS 4x game. Civ 4 and 5 were close - but they break down completely once war is started, because of how unit movement works. Which is a shame, because we love Civ.