What is a Grand Strategy Game?

Grand Strategy Games (GSGs) put the player in control of a political entity capable of influencing realistically simulated world, usually in a specific historical period.

Modern computer grand strategies are usually associated with Paradox Interactive. The studio developed most popular grand strategy games: Europa Universalis IV (over 2 million copies sold) and Crusader Kings 3 (1 million copies sold in the first month after release). Together with other popular franchises, such as Victoria or Hearts of Iron, they serve as a good example of features common for all grand strategy games:

  • * map as the main element of user interface
  • * complex simulation of the world, based on a historical period
  • * multiple asymmetrical starting positions
  • * dozens to hundreds of active AI players
  • * arbitrary start date, significant historical accuracy
  • * sandbox feeling, creating alternative history
  • * interaction via deep diplomacy, economy, military
  • * decisions with long-term consequences
  • * lack or very limited tactical level
  • * semi-real-time with turn-alike ticks and pauses
  • * hundreds to thousands of events presented in popups
  • * comprehensive mods (e.g., conversion to Game of Thrones theme)
  • * steep learning curve
  • * very high replayability, hundreds to thousands of playtime hours


Players usually tend to a few main, non-exclusive playstyles:

  • * Initial: Starting with a small nation or political entity to gain basic grasp of game mechanics
  • * Roleplaying (RP): Following flow of the game and/or own rules for fun
  • * Blobbing / Map Painting: Aggressive expansion, conquering significant parts of the map
  • * Min-Maxing: Detailed in-game decisions, leading to impressive (game breaking) efficiency
  • * Replaying History / What If: Playing out scenarios with different decisions at points of historical divergence
  • * Memeing: Achieving absurd result, such as conquering whole world as Ulm
  • * Iron Man: Playing with no ability to return to saved state, all decisions are permanent, usually tied with achievements
  • * Simulation: Minimal interaction with the game, observing as the world history is rewritten by AI players

Most popular Paradox grand strategy games

Paradox Interactive maintains a few well-known GSG franchises:

  • * Europa Universalis: playing as a nation from 1492 to 1801
  • * Crusader Kings: playing as a head of family from 867 to 1453
  • * Hearts of Iron: playing as a military-focused nation from 1936 to 1950
  • * Victoria: playing as an economy-focused nation from 1836 to 1936
  • * Imperator: playing as a nation or tribe from 304 BCE to 27 BCE
  • * Stellaris: playing as a civilization from 2200 onwards (usually to 2500)

Significant non-Paradox grand strategy games

There are a few other games included in the GSG genre:

  • * Total War: multiple periods and universes, more focused on battles
  • * Age of History: playing as a nation or a province, spans thousands of years
  • * Supreme Ruler: playing as a nation, multiple periods

Players of grand strategy games also usually enjoy adjacent genres:

  • * 4X (Civilization, Endless Legend, Endless Space, Distant Worlds)
  • * political simulator (Power & Revolution, Democracy, Real Politiks)
  • * strategy RPGs
  • * wargame
  • * city builder

These genres also point to popular hybrids of grand strategy games: Crusader Kings (character-driven GSG, borrowing features from RPGs), Stellaris (space- and exploration-based GSG, intersecting with 4X games), Hearts of Irons (focused on military conflict in the World War 2, using many features of wargames).