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

Gameplay

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).