When Sid Meier came up with the Civilization series two decades ago, I'm sure he couldn't have imagined how big they'd become. It's a series that's managed to stand the test of time, culminating in its latest addition, which was released not too long ago. No top ten list of strategy games would be complete without the series that created the habit of staying up several hours past bedtime to play "Just One More Turn".
The concept is simple: select a civilization, plan its development, and take over the world. How you do that is up to you.
The latest addition removes some of the series' less well designed features like espionage and has replaced its normal square grid system with a much better hex-grid combat system. The AI's got some issues, and the game isn't perfect but it's well on its way to becoming the best Civilization ever made.
2. MEDIEVAL: TOTAL WAR
If you've ever read multi-page battle reports from the game's horde of die hard players you'd understand the dedication that a game like Medieval: Total War can inspire in a gamer. Choosing a period between the Early Middle Ages to the Late Middle Ages, you choose your faction and engage in the total dominance of Europe. Taking the role of rulers like Saladin to King Richard the Lionheart, your goal is not only to secure your own lands but to wage a crusade against the infidels of the opposing religion. It's touchy stuff in this day and age, but no less satisfying when you lay waste to their cities.
The game is split between two modes: turn-based empire management and real time strategy battles. In the empire screen, each turn takes a season and your duties are divided into planning and strategizing the development of your empire, performing diplomatic actions, conscripting an army and making military decisions. The battles then take place out in the field where your armies go head to head against opposing factions.
1. AGE OF WONDERS
Sometimes regarded as the spiritual successor to Master of Magic, Age of Wonders takes a more mission based approach. You can choose between two factions: the high elves, and the dark elves. As as high elf, you play the role of an elven ruler who seeks to reclaim the elven lands. As a dark elf, you do the direct opposite of that. Along the way, you can recruit allies loyal to your cause and make enemies in the process. New heroes will join your forces and are capable of raiding dungeons for equipment and experience.
Your carry your heroes from mission to mission, along with a few veteran units who earn experience as they participate in battles, and build your cities to accumulate wealth and magic. The magic you research allows you to use powerful spells against your opponents and remains persistent throughout the campaign.
Unlike most other strategy games, the story in Age of Wonders was actually well written and it's very much worthwhile to play the game as both Good and Evil.