What strategy/simulation based games would I love?
February 27, 2008 8:35 PM   Subscribe

What strategy/simulation based games would I love?

I have a feeling that there are some really cool, real-time strategy and simulation-type computer games out there that I have never heard of and am missing out on. That said, I'm not really sure how to explain what I'm looking for, so here goes nothing...

I want a game that:

(a) Is not resource intensive in the least. In other words, a game I don't need a bunch of RAM or a fancy video card to play. So "low-fi" graphic-based games and even text-based games are ideal.

(b) I'm more interested in games that have a cult following vs. games that are extremely popular. I've found that games with a small but devoted fan base are much more to my liking than big, corporate games.

(c) The more detailed, the better. For example, if I have to read a whole bunch in order to learn the rules of the game, that's great. And industry-specific games (like business simulations) are welcome as well.

(d) PC and/or Mac friendly. No console games please.

(e) Free and for-profit games welcome.

Games I've loved in the past include stuff like SimCity 4 (I know, it's both super-popular and resource intensive, but I'm referring to the general spirit of the game), the Hollywood Stock Exchange, and various basketball simulations (like Total College Basketball).

An example of a game I'm not looking for would be the Civilization franchise. Too much emphasis on graphics, not enough on detail and realism.

Bottom line: I'm totally out of the loop when it comes to cool underground games that match the criteria above. I'd love to hear some suggestions.
posted by JPowers to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (34 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how far away from "strategy" it is, technically, but you might get a kick out of Nethack, which is extremely easy on the graphics, has a dedicated cult, and miles of complicated documentation.
posted by klangklangston at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2008

You'd probably get a kick out of Shattered Galaxy. Free to play, $10/month for an 'elite' account. It's got quite the cult following.
posted by anifinder at 8:48 PM on February 27, 2008

Dwarf Fortress might be just the thing you're looking for- I would say it perfectly fits all your requirements, actually. Mostly a strategy/simulation game (the more developed half of it, anyway), not resource intensive, PC based (with a Mac version recently released), freeware with a cult following, and immensely detailed, more so than any other game I think I've ever encountered. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but it doesn't sound like that's an issue for you.
posted by a louis wain cat at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

The Master of Orion series. The first one was fairly simple enough, but they grew progressively more complex.

I actually lost interest in the second and third ones because there was too much of a learning curve, and I was at a busy time in my life. Lots of people swear by the games, though. Sounds like they're right up your alley.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2008

I would say anything by Paradox interactive. Their games really let me get my hands dirty in running a country and they aren't very computer intensive. I would recommend Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis 2, though Hearts of Iron is a blast as well.

For an added bonus, you can play through history from 1066 to 1955 with four paradox games, converting your save to the next level as you go.
posted by Carillon at 8:52 PM on February 27, 2008

posted by Carillon at 8:53 PM on February 27, 2008

anifinder: Shattered Galaxy stole a large chunk of my freshman year of college

It might also work for you, OP - The rules are simple, mastering the different weapon and armor and special ability combinations is hard.

Damn you shattered galaxy! I want my year back!
posted by chrisamiller at 8:53 PM on February 27, 2008

Also, Rise of Wesnoth.
posted by klangklangston at 8:53 PM on February 27, 2008

Wulfram 2 is the ticket. 3-D action/strategy hovertank team game. It's underground and incredibly deep. It's online and free. It nigh on 12 years old asks nothing of your graphics processor.Many loooong time players and has a super cult following. Players are super-friendly and help you along the quickly sloping learning curve. Great sdfx and atmosphere and addictive fun.

Along the same lines are Homeworld 2. Not a AAA title but game of the year for every release and has cult status $15-$20 . great strategy and cool graphics. the ability to pause the game and plan tactics and strategy is helpful. Although you can only layer so many orders to your squadrons/vehicles using this. But it can also be frantic heart-beating fun!
posted by Student of Man at 8:59 PM on February 27, 2008

If you're interested in economic games, there's always OpenTTD, an open source clone of TransportTycoon Deluxe. I'd also check out the Railroad Tycoon series... it's got enough of an economics engine to make it interesting and involves a good deal of micromanagement. As a plus it plays well on older hardware.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:27 PM on February 27, 2008

You sound like the ideal player for Dwarf Fortress. That game is bananas.
posted by billtron at 9:30 PM on February 27, 2008

Victoria might be exactly what you're looking for. Make sure you get the expansion set because otherwise some things are horribly broken. Available for Mac, too.
posted by Electrius at 9:51 PM on February 27, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire was released just recently and has quite a following, also it doesn't require much in terms of hardware (as far as newer games go).

Dominions 3 is a great independently made strategy game that has very unique mechanics and not nearly enough people have heard of.

Silent Storm is a WW2 turn-based strategy/tactics game that is worth a look if you can find a copy.

The Myth was -the- rts for the Mac, and would definitely be classified as having a cult following.

Finally, The X-Com Series is an older and canonical strategy game, it is also very different from most modern games in the genre.
posted by paradoxflow at 10:24 PM on February 27, 2008

Seconding Europa Universalis 2. (Favorably reviewed here.) It was published in 2001, so the graphics aren't particularly intensive, and it has all the ludicrous granularity and realism you could ever want. You can get it with Victoria, Hearts of Iron, Crown of the North, and Two Thrones in Paradox's Strategy Pack-Six. [sic]

You might also want to try Guild: 1400, a flawed (no manual, occasionally terrible interface design) but unique (duels, poisoning, political maneuvering, persistent dynastic feuds) attempt at a Machiavellian Renaissance business sim. Not a perfect game, but it's been a regular on my hard drive since I first installed it.
posted by Iridic at 10:51 PM on February 27, 2008

Total Annihilation is something I still play regularly (it's an RTS game). It came out in 1997, so anything close to a modern computer would run it.

The graphics still look pretty good, the AI is not too terrible, and you can still find map packs and unit packs online. You can still pick it up on ebay.
posted by tomble at 10:59 PM on February 27, 2008

Imperialism 2 might very well fit the bill. It's deep, has a very strong ai, and is probably my favorite 4x game ever.
posted by aspo at 12:08 AM on February 28, 2008

The Combat Mission series might be of interest. They are insanely detailed.
posted by sien at 1:18 AM on February 28, 2008

Another vote for Paradox's Victoria: Revolutions - I just finished my first game in it in about a year and every other grand strategy game feels shallow and incomplete. It got criticized for having out-of-date graphics when it came out (along with a screwy economic system); they've fixed the latter in Revolutions and left the former as charming as it was to begin with. You'll spend a lot of time in the nitty-gritty of fiscal and political management, so if that's what you're into it's well worth the time you'll spend getting acquainted with it. And if you get bored with the original game, there's a huge modding community who'll fix you up with an even more realistic update, or wildly divergent versions of history.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 2:03 AM on February 28, 2008

I agree with the recommendations for Dwarf Fortress and Imperialism 2.... well, honestly, most of the recommendations here that I'm familiar with are very good. But I know DF and Imp2, and I'll bet you'd like both a lot.

One that I've never personally gotten too enamored with, but which I know has a real cult following, is Hollywood Mogul, a text-based movie studio simulation game. It's quite intricate. I lost interest when I realized I needed to be keeping notes to play the game properly; with computers being as powerful as they are these days, I figure a game that needs note-taking has an interface problem. But if needing a paper notepad doesn't annoy you, HM might be right up your alley.
posted by Malor at 2:09 AM on February 28, 2008

It isn't that rules intensive, but if you want a neat and fairly fast game to play I've been playing protector.


It seems like it is strategy light, but there is a correct balance you need to find with putting your guys too close to the front and leveling them up too fast so that the people towards the end don't get any experience. Plus it is a web game so it is free, a small download, adn availible on any platform as long as it supports flash.
posted by koolkat at 2:50 AM on February 28, 2008

Another shout for Dwarf Fortress. It should be right up your alley.
posted by MrMustard at 3:44 AM on February 28, 2008

Total Annihilation has been re-implemented in a more modern 3D engine, called Spring. It has slightly higher requirements than the original engine but is still well within the envelope of any machine built in the last decade. Even runs on Linux.

Dwarf Fortress flew to mind reading this question. There was a great post on mefi about it here.
posted by Skorgu at 3:57 AM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're a sports fan, one of the best is the online soccer management game Hat-trick. I'm not even a particular football fan and I was quite absorbed for a few years ...
posted by unsliced at 5:49 AM on February 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Second the Paradox Interactive games: Europa Universalis II; Hearts of Iron II (which makes HoI I redundant); Victoria Revolutions; etc. Hearts of Iron II has a 100+ page manual that is required reading, so that's up your alley.

Also seconding Combat Mission II: Barbarossa to Berlin.

Also, consider the games being released by relatively new developer AGEOD. And maybe what you want is full-on bearded-gamer wargaming, in which case The Wargamer is the review site you should check out.
posted by Prospero at 6:07 AM on February 28, 2008

I'm playing Vox Imperium, free, online, real-time strategy. I don't know that it's quite got a cult following as such, but it could get there. Games can last between four hours and a couple of months depending on the way they're set up, graphics are basic, documentation is likewise - but if you read your way through the forums you can find a lot of explanations and tips that aren't in the official instructions.
posted by Lebannen at 8:02 AM on February 28, 2008

Defcon is a global nuclear war simulator that's light on the graphics, and definitely has a cult following. Available for PC/Mac.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 8:13 AM on February 28, 2008

I'd like to third the mention of Combat Mission. It's got a great order system (both players submit moves and they're resolved simultaneously in real time). It's super fun to set up your orders and see how they roll out. Some of my favorite moments are attaching my view to the back of a tank that's hightailing it across an open field under fire. The graphics aren't great, but they're evocative. Its modeling of command delays, morale, armor penetration, movement, etc are both fun and convincing. Also: watching artillery fire come in (3 minutes after you called for it, so you have to plan ahead) is pretty spectacular.

You also get a pretty great sense of the different tank types. Other games have the tradeoffs broadly right (Panzers tended to be slower, better armored, and with stronger guns, American tanks were faster, more numerous, usually had gyro-stabilized turrets), it's a totally different experience when you actually use individual tanks on the field.
posted by heresiarch at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2008

Ditto the Paradox wargames. I've played several of them, and am currently enjoying Europa Universalis III.
posted by mkultra at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2008

Steel Panthers: World at War is available in a freeware flavour, and a CD-ROM 'Generals Edition' that includes four large campaigns.

If you like WW2 strategy, it's stellar, and the community aroud it is large and dedicated. Highly, highly recommended.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:35 AM on February 28, 2008

Check out Utopia. I don't know if you've played it before, but if you haven't, it's a text-based strategy game, been around for about 8-9 years, and definitely has a cult following. It's free and real-time/tick-based - ticks are every hour. There is a bit of a learning curve but not a lot. You can either play it casually or play it seriously; the game can get pretty complex if you are into it. Tonnes of formulae to tinker around with and opportunities to devise strategies and test them against other players. At a higher level it is very much of a team game though, so if you're the lone ranger type this might not be for you.

If you get interested in the game I recommend you check out the IRC server (run by players).

server: irc.utonet.org
port: 6667
posted by Xianny at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2008

I hear you 'cause realism is in short supply these days in the big-budget computer game market. But there is a whole alternative tradition coming out of the 8-bit era.

For modern systems there is a whole underworld of hardcore baseball sims, for one thing, ranging from Diamond Mind Baseball and APBA to to a number of business simulators like Baseball Mogul, which my dad got a kick out of.

In the old school category there's some great stuff like President Elect and a zillion wargames, but I'm not sure if you want to mess around with emulatorz.
posted by johngoren at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2008

NucleophilicAttack: "Defcon is a global nuclear war simulator that's light on the graphics, and definitely has a cult following. Available for PC/Mac."

And Linux
posted by zouhair at 7:14 PM on February 28, 2008

Sorry,sort of a thread-jack, but when I first read this, I instantly thought that the poster was looking for a baseball simulation. Then, I got confused why other people were offering sci-fi suggestions.

I re-read over the original post and didn't find anything related to baseball, but then I saw johngoren also thought of the same thing as well...
posted by fizzix at 2:01 PM on February 29, 2008

Perhaps you should try Ore no Ryomi 2. Its a free fast paced simulation game that focuses on the restaurant industry. The goal is to make as much money as possible by buying recipes, serving customers perfect or average orders (only perfect orders pay full price), catch robbers, and competing in challenges on the Iron Chef television show. You also have to keep your restaurant safe and clean at the same time to keep your safety rating high. If your safety rating is negative when the health inspector visits your restaurant you fail the inspection and get fined $500. Overall, Ore no Ryomi 2 is a very fun and addictive game.
posted by realitytvlover at 4:37 PM on February 29, 2008

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