Games for an elderly strategy fan who doesn’t play computer or complex board games?

My father in law is staying with me for an indefinite period. He’s extremely smart, loves chess, backgammon, bridge, and other similar games. I was thinking to introduce him to some PC strategy games but so t want him to be overwhelmed with UI and complexity until he is comfortable playing on the PC.

What suggestions do you have for gateway-games that will ease him into playing on a PC and will be suitably complex but not require 12-dimensional chess or complex UI? I’m also open to suggestions around a progression of more complex games. He might be here for 3-4 months.

Boardgame conversions would be my first area to look at.

Otherwise… Into The Breach is a great game that isn’t too overwhelming, and has a nice learning curve.

GOG might be a great resource - Civ 1 is still a lot of fun and isn’t terribly complicated.

yeah, I’d probably pick one of the Civ games and have him just do what seems intuitive until you want to get into tactical details. You can do fine on lower difficulties just with “would I rather have bronze or horses, horses seem cool, let’s do that”.

I would go maybe for something in the Picross department? Most of them offer mundane puzzles, but the Jupiter ones offer quite a strong challenge, while offering a variety of hints to tune the experience. The bonus is that they let you get very familiar with the mouse movement and screen space of the computer.

Games from BrainGoodGammes could be good, but I needed to watch Tom’s help on most of them to grasp them completely. They are quite complex.

Finally, I wouldn’t underestimate the potential appeal of pinball games to people of his generation: my dad was a fan of those, from his late 50s to his death. His favourites were Devil Crush/Devil Crash (on his own SuperGrafx!) and Metroid Pinball on the DS.

The old Panzer General 2 SSI game (on GOG) could be a good choice. It’s a beer and pretzels war game that has easy mechanics. He should be able to grasp it pretty easily and be comfortable with the history.

My father liked StarCraft back in the day, but he could tolerate sci-fi more than most.

It seems like non-gamers like Tower Defense strategy games a lot. The Kingdom Rush series is pretty good for those; but there are a lot of Tower Defense on mobile. Probably a bit less so on PC. He might even like Plants vs Zombies tbh. I also played a third-person competitive PvZ with my nephew once, but I have no idea what game that was now.

Honestly i’d try Civ 5 for turn based (yes, maybe it’s not as “deep” as Civ 6, but it’s easy to understand where all the weirdness under the hood of Civ 6 makes it much too complicated for non-gamers), and Age of Empires 2 or StarCraft 2 for real time strategy. He might prefer Company of Heroes for it’s more realistic WW2 theme. Civ 5 is still quite a time investment though.

If you want sort of generic time-burners the recent Islanders is sort of building placement, non-competitive.

He might or might not like Ultimate General Gettysburg for its Civil War theme. He might like one of the Tropico games - both of these have a definite “political” triggering element he may love or hate.

He might like Talisman: Digital edition if he like skeuomorphic sorts of games. Risk and Monopoly and Carcassonne also have good skeuomorphic games.

If he likes more realistic sim games, and has gotten over the hump, maybe Cities in Motion or Cities: Skylines. But i’d eskew Paradox games until you know he can really dive into deep, complicated game systems.

I like old fashioned chess… It’s the gateway drug to things like Action Figure Chess, aka X-COM.

(Sorry I missed he played chess and backgammon.). Then he’s ready for XCom!

It’s a shame that Civ: Revolutions isn’t on PC. How does the best platform not have the best version of that series??

I think Into the Breach is probably a great pick if you want to focus on turn-based games. And Plants vs Zombies for real-time. That game was literally made to be a strategy game that the designer’s mother could learn to enjoy.

Defense Grid or Kingdom Rush feel like the most accessible tower defense games, which is definitely a good intro genre.

Is Mini Metro enough of a strategy game? Maybe not, but I bet he’d enjoy it anyway.

Cities: Skylines for a non-confrontational strategy game. Or maybe he’d like something logistical like Big Pharma?

I would say Kingdom: New Lands, but it explicitly wants you to explore to learn the mechanics, and that would probably be frustrating, unless you wanted to be there with him to just explain things.

Turn-based: Prismata, Slay The Spire, Chaos Reborn, Space Tyrant, King’s Bounty: The Legend.

Puzzle: Snakebird, LYNE, Stephen’s Sausage Roll.

I like the suggestion of Xcomby @Guap. I would also say that if WWII theme is neutral to positive for him, then Unity of Command is fantastic. Deep, but simple design, which isn’t very demanding from an interface perspective.

Also maybe something like Cities Skylines, old school Rollercoaster Tycoon, Mini Metro, pr Train Valley for a real time, but not micro heavy options.

How about Spaceward Ho. Not sure if it still available somewhere.

The Close Combat series is pretty straightforward. There’s no economic or strategic layer that gets in the way of combat, and the games are set in WWII so no fussing over elves and dwarves.

The Anno games are a nice balance between city builder and puzzle game, but they can get confusing once supply chains require multiple islands.

Sid Meier’s Colonization is probably the most focused of the Civ series, and still pretty fun. Sid Meier’s Railroads has a good balance of challenge and whimsy for an amateur gamer.

Ooh, seconded. Remember you can turn off the pirates and/or competitors if you want a very chill experience.

I was going to suggest this.

My father was fond of chess and lite strategy, and HOMM3 was his favorite game by far. Most of the other alternatives I presented to him over the years he found too complex.

Are there any themes he likes? History, Sci-fi or Fantasy?

If he has never played games on the computer, I think the best starting point would be Hexcells. The interface is simple and elegant, and the abstract theme would not be a big step aeay from chess and the like. I think we longtime gamers tend to really underestimate the strangeness of playing a video game for someone that has never done it.

Warlords is pretty accessible, I’d say. Go for Warlords III. Chaos Reborn, maybe?

The Disciples games? (I’d recommend Disciples II as it’s not as punishing as the first one and a bit more polished, though Disciples I is also an excellent game. Skip Disciples III.)

Heroes of Might & Magic V? Colourful and accessible.

I think real-time games are more challenging, but some of them might be OK. I’m thinking Dungeon Keeper (or the sequel), and maybe Populous: The Beginning? All of these game have a single-player campaign that nicely ramps things up as you go along and they’re not too frantic.

These are also all games I love, so I recommend them regardless, but I also think they’re not overwhelming for new (elderly) players. The turn-based ones are especially easy to get into.

Civ 2!


I might suggest HOMM III for simplicity. The 3D can can obscure paths and items sometimes, which might more difficult for someone new to the space to navigate.

A game that is not for sale anywhere!

That seems fair.