What Is A Strategy Game?

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This is a debate that I feel shouldn’t turn into such a heated topic and yet, someone always loses their freaking mind.  No, I’m not talking about politics or religion. I’m talking about the definition of a Strategy game. Weird, I know. WRONG! Some of you are illogically fuming about this at this very moment! Calm down...


It seems people define what should be categorized as a strategy game and what should be excluded. This debate normally starts when someone says “There aren’t a lot of good strategy games lately. Last one I enjoyed was Dawn of War 2.” This expression of opinion opens retort in the vein of “You fat and stupid idiot. Have you not played XCOM 2?”  


First, I’d like to say - can we stop the body shaming?


Second, Dawn of War IS by practical definition a strategy game - just a sub-category defined as Real Time Strategy (RTS for short). Does XCOM 2 fit the strategy profile? It's more of a tactical RPG like Disgaea or  Fell Seal: Arbiters Mark.


Well no, I guess I’m wrong according to Steam. Then that means Battletech is a strategy game too. 



Letting RPGs fall under strategy also means board games like Gloomhaven are labeled as a strategy game which I don’t know if I agree with.


What else falls into the category of strategy? Traditionally when defining strategy games it's usually RTS or 4X  game like Endless Legends or Stellaris yet the genre seems to  drive into many other subgenres.



Games like Rimworld, which I would consider a colony/city builder sim is categorized as a Strategy game. Worms which… I don’t even know what subcategory that would fall under is labeled as a strategy game too.


Strategy seems to be a muddled category and anything using an ounce of tactical thought and outside of control over a singular character gets tossed into this leftover parfait of a genre.


How do you define the Strategy genre? What is your favorite “Strategy” game?


Let us know in the comment section below!

Replies • 24

Perhaps the anwser you are looking for is Heroes of Might and Magic III.

And yes, the lines have blurred over time; today builiding sims and puzzle games are sometimes labeld as strategy. I would say that the same thing happens with RPG.

I guess that times have changed, and the label has 'evolved' into something else than leading an army of little guys.

Really? Last strategy I was playing was "War for Crown" on C64. Maybe Panzer General also was pure strategy. For me only turn based games are strategy. Nowadays gendre is mixed wih RPG/RTS elements. I dont like to play like RTS like it was shooter. I really enjoy to play Europa Universalis 4 (only in single with active pause).

IMO "Strategy games" are both RTS and turn based. If i think about strategy games I think about different resource mangements, building stuff, diplomacy, warfare... Some of those can miss tho. Back in the 90s strategy games were Total Annihilation, Age of Empires, a bit later on Empire earth. Now I love Stellaris, Endless Legend.

For me strategy games usually doesn't have a story. You have scenarios to play, to win in different ways. Usually one "game" lasts for hours (that's why i never accepted Starcraft 2 as a strategy game).

One could consider Zoo tycoon, Jurassic World Evolution, Cities in motions... as strategy games. I'm a bit reluctant to do this. They miss some keypoints, like winning or losing a game. That's another keypoint. In strategy games you will always win or lose, you have a chance to win, there is a winning condition. Not a keep playing forever. Sooner or later the game ends. Mount & Blade (and I love that series) is a management game about a mercenary company.


That said, yes. Nowadays games are evolving, and so do they labels. XCOM 2 is a strategic turn based RPG, because you have some points from a strategy games, some from turn based games and some from RPGs. Games have to change, so we can have some fresh air. Otherwise playing X or Y will just change the age they are set in, or some other minor changes... We will grow bored in no time.

Ledian92 said:

IMO "Strategy games" are both RTS and turn based. [...] In strategy games you will always win or lose, you have a chance to win, there is a winning condition.

I agree, an overall win condition is necessary to be defined as a "Strategy game". Most old physical board and card games were meant to be strategic, I don't know Gloomhaven so can't comment there.

The label 'Strategy' is more popular than 'Tactical' and many probably don't know the difference, all the mish mash of genres not helping with 'management' thrown in the mix. It's easy for city/base builders to be mistaken as strategic, 4x games have the base building element in them, seemingly linking the two together. Steam tags are for what's in the game though so 'strategy' arguably can be tagged in non-Strategy-like games. Bioshock Infinite has time travel elements and is tagged such but you wouldn't call it a time travel game. A game with a few zombie characters in it might not be a zombie game but can be tagged with 'zombies'.

Love 4X games, need a pause button on any RTS elements though.


i define it it by the actual gameplay

if the gamplay is about setting a strat and overcoming challanges its a stratgy (Rimworld, total war, civ, etc..)

if the game is mostly tactical play and how you did the action, its tactical (Battletech, fell seal, etc..)

xcom is mainly tactical game with stratgy part (base stuff). i would call it tactical turn based game.


Real time strategy or rts games are not strategy games to many people? Are ATMs not Machines? 

XCOM is definitely turn based tactical game. There is base building though, so maybe it got defined as strategy cause of that. Turn based strategies are smth like Heroes of M&M or Disciples.

Favourite strategies that I could recall right now are Warcraft, Starcraft, Total War Warhammer, Red Alert, Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Mech Commander (guess its half strategy too), Stellaris, Endless Space, Rise of Nations, Civilization, They are Billions.