New to Strategy Games

Alright, as a kid I used to dabble in RTS games (Age of Empires/Mythology, Command and Conquer, etc…), but it’s been quite some time since I’ve played one of any kind. What I was thinking about doing was going through some progression of strategy games throughout the ages. I wanted to get a feel for how strategy games evolved over time, for better or for worse. So pretending I’m coming in with a clean slate, can we recommend a starting place, maybe even a list of games you feel are relevant to each genre of strategy? Kind of like, this game represents most RTS games of its era, then this game came along and changed the genre, etc etc A most influential games list. All strategy genres are welcome!

Welcome back! If you’re looking for a different style than the classic collect + build, I would definitely recommend Relic’s RTSs - either Company of Heroes 1 or Dawn of War 2, depending on your preference of setting. Instead of getting resources and bringing them back to your base, your units capture points spread out on the map, which give a steady supply of resources. I think it makes for a much more aggressive and strategic game. Infantry units are squads as opposed to individuals, and the number of units on the field are generally much smaller than games like Starcraft 2. There’s a certain rock-paper-scissorness to it all as well, as plain ol’ rifles can’t do damage to tanks, but when you give them rocket launchers or bazookas, they become very lethal (but lose effectiveness against other infantry).

In terms of the most recent and successful old school RTS, that’s got to be Starcraft 2.

This would be my list for RTS games, and I’m sure I missed a few and was already torn on a few that I left out.

Dune 2 - The first semi-modern RTS.
Command and Conquer - An evolution of the above by the same company.
WarCraft 2 - A different company’s view of what an RTS can be, but in the same era as the above.
Total Annihilation - A tremendous increase in scale over the above.
StarCraft - A refined view of the WarCraft-style RTS that is still widely considered one of the best RTS games ever.
Age of Empires 2 - The superior early AoE game which retains a dedicated cult following to this day.
Homeworld - Revolutionary full 3D RTS set in space (with full three-dimensional movement). While the Homeworld games are generally excellent, this style of gameplay never became commonplace.
Ground Control - Early full 3D RTS set on a planet’s surface, no resource harvesting. Academically interesting, but gameplay was superceded by the future World in Conflict.
Empire Earth - The first attempt at an RTS spanning humanity’s history, starting in prehistory and ending in the nanotechnology age. Not a particularly good game in my opinion, but still interesting to see in action.
Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns/Ahriman’s Gift - Squad-based RTS with an emphasis on its hero mechanic and basic kingdom building. The concept never really took off but the games were excellent nonetheless.
WarCraft 3 - The evolution of the Warcraft series, this game also used a hero mechanic and became far more popular than the above Kohan series.
Rise of Nations - IMO, the single best RTS game ever made. Combines Age of Empires with elements of 4X turn-based games.
Company of Heroes - The evolution of Relic’s (Homeworld) take on RTS. Emphasizes territory control instead of resource harvesting.
Supreme Commander - A modern update of Total Annihilation.
World in Conflict - The evolution of Ground Control and a visual masterpiece for its time, it also has a very good single-player campaign.
Sins of a Solar Empire - Huge-scale space based RTS with heavy turn-based 4X influence.
Tom Clancy’s Endwar - RTS with voice communication. Decent game, but the novelty of voice control gets it a place on my list.
StarCraft 2 - The continued evolution of StarCraft, meant to demonstrate the 12 year difference in time and how this game functions compared to the last several on the list.
RUSE/Wargame: AirLand Battle (personal bias is showing through on this one) - Large-scale games with heavy strategy emphasis and minimized importance of micromanagement.

I think Warcraft 3 was a notable entry as well, though it emphasized micromanagement with all the special abilities that required player intervention to use.

I haven’t paid much attention to AirLand Battle, because, but minimimizing micro is something that appeals to me.

RTS would be something like…

Traditional: Dune 2 -> Command And Conquer -> Warcraft 2 -> Starcraft -> Starcraft 2

New School: Dawn of War -> Company of Heroes

Large: Total Annihilation -> Supreme Commander

Tactical: Myth -> Ground Control -> World in Conflict -> Endwar -> Wargame

Slow: Age of Empires -> Kohan -> Rise of Nations -> Ruse -> Sins of a Solar Empire

RPG Crossover: Warlords: Battlecry -> Warcraft 3 -> Rise of Legends

There are more in each category, of course, but those are the most important off the top of my head.

A decent sequence of RTS games to play would probably look something like this:

Dune 2 (1992) -> Command and Conquer (1995) -> Warcraft 2 (1995) -> Total Annihilation (1997) -> Starcraft (1998) -> Myth (1997) -> Ground Control (2000) -> Age of Empires 2 (1999) -> Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns (2001) -> Warcraft 3 (2002) -> Rise of Nations (2003) -> Dawn of War (2004) -> Company of Heroes (2006) -> Supreme Commander (2007) -> Sins of a Solar Empire (2008) -> Wargame (2012)

This leaves out a lot of great games that didn’t change the genre of influence a lot (Homeworld, for example, has always been on its own).

If I could like your post Giaddon I would.

Kohan is an excellent one that I omitted. I also left Warcraft 3 out because I felt Blizzard’s methodology was getting a lot of play in the list already, but I sometimes forget that it did have the heroes playing a large part in the game (which is not currently represented elsewhere on my list, probably as a result of my own bias against the idea). I’m updating my list to include those two.

I tend to do that as well, but it was an important departure for RTS games. As Giaddon pointed out, it’s a RPG crossover, since most RTS games don’t have units that gain experience, and sending out your heroes to gain XP by killing neutral monsters was an important part of the game.

Jeez Giaddon, let us contribute.

Kohan has traditionally been seen as introducing elements used by Company of Heroes.

It’s funny how many notable games are dead ends. Rise of Nations combines traditional base building with a strategic layer, but from what I understand it was the last of that type. Wargame: ALB does something similar with tactical non-basebuilding.

Find out if your tastes have changed. I can barely stomach base building now.

Hard to top those lists, but I might add some evolutionary dead-ends that were great (especially for console RTS) but didn’t really lead anywhere, like Megalomania and General Chaos.

Also, a pseudo-precursor to Sins of a Solar Empire would be Supremacy.

That’s basically what Sins does, but in space.

Some unique RTS’ I could recommend that haven’t been mentioned are also Conquest: Frontier Wars (which has an excellent multi-system supply model) and Seven Kingdoms II (which has a great dynamic campaign, a fantastic economic layer and some of the best espionage in the genre still). Both can be acquired on GOG.

Rise of Nations will always have a special place in my heart because of their use of territorial control. It took everything I loved about Age of Empires/Mythology and added that.

I grew up with the Herzog Zwei (come on! Can’t leave that one out) -> Dune 2 -> Warcraft 2 -> Total Annihilation -> Homeworld -> Age of Empires 1 + 2 / Mythology -> Rise of Nations -> Starcraft -> SoaSE

Currently, I’m dabbling in RUSE. I actually quite enjoy it. I initially thought it was some budget game, but it has some nice elements to it.

Double post

Wow, that was fast. Thank you for the replies. I’m liking the looks of Giaddon’s list and I think I’ll start there, while also throwing in a few that Otagan suggested that did not make Giaddon’s evolution of RTS games list (Homeworld being one I would really like to check out before Gearbox does what Gearbox does with games that don’t belong to them, and Ginger’s suggestion of Supremacy because I am really interested to give Sins a go and if it really is a pseudo-precusor I would really like to try it out beforehand).

I’ve been listening to way too much Three Moves Ahead recently and every time they discuss a game I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on so much by avoiding this genre. I have definitely gotten back into the swing of things as far as playing games is concerned and so I want to use this time to experiment with genres I do not typically follow.

Now it’s just a matter of finding these games to play them :-P

No love for Dark Reign? It was pretty good. Also I can’t remember the title, but there was another RTS around the time of Dark Reign that uses RICE or something similar as a resource.

Battle Realms (rice, water and peasants were your resources in that game). That game had a few really bizarre mechanics that died along with it, but might be worth having on a list for the novelty value. You basically trained all your soldiers from peasantry by assigning them to various types of buildings, and depending on the type of training you sent them to you got a different unit (so sending a swordsman to the archery range got you a unit with ranged attacks, but sending that same swordsman to the alchemist lab would get you a different type of soldier).

Don’t forget Paradox’s line of grand strategy pausable RTSs. Not RTSs in the same way Age of Empires / Command and Conquer are, but maybe something you would enjoy.
Europa Universalis (1 through 4), Crusader Kings (1 and 2), Hearts of Iron (1 - 3). I would only bother with the latest releases on these games, except for maybe Hearts of Iron 2.

(Homeworld being one I would really like to check out before Gearbox does what Gearbox does with games that don’t belong to them, and Ginger’s suggestion of Supremacy because I am really interested to give Sins a go and if it really is a pseudo-precusor I would really like to try it out beforehand).

I would emphasise the pseudo. It’s possible to describe Supremacy in a way that makes it sound much, much closer to Sins that it actually is. It combines real time mechanics with space 4x concepts like research, planetary conquest and development. But the moment to moment gameplay is nothing like Sins. Also if I remember correctly the system map in Supremacy is linear, whereas Sins has many paths between systems, which means multiple fronts rather than one.

I really doubt Supremacy holds up, but I sunk loads of time into it on my ST.