October 1, 2022

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Best 12 Strategy Games Like Civilization

Do you like commanding a plethora of complex systems on a board to advance a civilization towards peace, technology, and conquest? This is just a summary, though, as it’s the type of experience we’re looking for in games like Civilization.

Sid Meier’s Civilization stands as the most important board strategy title. That is, of course, after six main entries since its 1991 debut.

More importantly, the Civilization series is part of the 4X genre (which Sid Meier created):

  • Explore: Navigate non-visible and mostly procedurally-generated maps
  • Expand: Conquer territories
  • Exploit: Gather resources
  • Exterminate: Defeat NPC enemies through conquest or diplomacy

The 4X category is part of the grand strategy genre – a long-term civilization management simulator. Games like Civilization belong to the grand strategy family.

Selecting Games Like Civilization

From the outside, the Civilization series looks tough to understand. To simplify, we’re taking the latest entry, Civilization VI, as our example to find alternatives.

So, selecting games like Civilization requires us to understand the elements of said title. We believe fans of the entry would like games featuring a mix or a twist of these aspects: 

  • Genre: Civilization VI is a 4X turn-based board strategy game. You lead a historical civilization throughout various millennia.
  • Setting: You can play from the Stone Age to the Information Era. You can do it with various civilizations featuring historical events and leaders. 
  • Historical Value: The game offers a vast encyclopedia of knowledge across historical events, technologies, leaders, religions, cultures, and more.
  • Mechanics: You control various aspects through interfaces. These include exploration, trade, government, research, military, construction, and services.
  • Board System: On the board, you can see the cities, settlements, towns, armies, routes, and everything you and NPC civilizations have. 
  • Micro-manage: You also control individual units or military groups to explore. Similarly, they can conquer NPC settlements.
  • Economic Management: There’s also a great focus on the economy. You decide various forms of government revenue, like exports, and tax rates.
  • Diplomacy: Another focus is diplomacy. You can declare war, gain allies, trade partners, enemies, and similar. It’s a dynamic and evolving system.
  • Goal: Your goal is conquering the map by either diplomacy, conquest, or intimidation. You’re to become the biggest Civilization in history.
  • Victory Conditions: You can win the game in five ways, like research, diplomacy, or conquest. 
  • Leaders: You can unlock historical leaders by research, exploration, and conquest. They grant perks to your Civilization. 
  • Non-violence: Like most Sid Meier’s titles, the Civilization series has no violence, blood, or gore.
  • Multiplayer: The multiplayer feature allows you to play in co-op or against your friends across shorter game modes. 

Games like Civilization should take a similar 4X formula, allowing you to construct an Empire through board-like systems.

That also includes a focus on technological and economic power and micro-management. Moreover, it grants the freedom to achieve victory in various ways, like without violence. 

Games Like Civilization

Crusader Kings III

Crusader Kings III
  • Developer: Paradox Development Studio
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: September 2020
  • Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, PS5, Xbox Series

Crusader Kings 3 is not just a 4X game. It’s also a mix between grand-strategy games and RPG titles, with turn-based gameplay. There are no victory conditions either. Instead, you play through a medieval family lineage across various centuries. 

You start the game by choosing a noble house and leading it through the Middle Ages. You play on a board and use a series of complex mechanics to manage many aspects of your dynasty. You rule through a single-family leader and their heirs, and characters die. So, for instance, there’s a succession conflict system.

In essence, you handle diplomacy, politics, and economics of your empire on the one hand. On the other, you manage your military units across the map to travel across the globe and conquer other cities. The map is fully visible from the beginning. However, you still have to travel across the land to reach other civs.

Additionally, you’ll manage family members with various role-playing systems. They offer perks to your empire, but you also have to make choices for them. For example, you decide how to rule and who to marry. Likewise, you customize their appearance, attributes, vices, and virtues. 

Lastly, the world is quite immersive. It includes peasants, spies, courtiers, knights, knaves, jesters, love affairs, kings, and queens. There’s also a great array of historical characters you can romance. Significant NPCs in the world can become a part of your plans, like romancing, betraying, executing, or making allies. 

Stellaris

stellaris games like civilization
  • Developer: Paradox Development Studio
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: May 2016
  • Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series

Stellaris is a top-seller and expansive 4X game, only second in popularity to Civilisation VI. Luckily, the developers greatly support the title with free updates and paid DLCs. Over the years, over a dozen updates have kept expanding and upgrading the experience.

As usual, though, you’re to manage many aspects of your empire. That includes exploration, discovery, research, economy, construction, diplomacy, etc. As a grand-strategy game, the adventure evolves and becomes increasingly complex. Regardless, the board is a solar system, and your civ is a group of ships.

The campaign has a plot to follow. A new game begins with a civilization discovering the means of space travel. With your ships and technology, you can complete a series of quests to uncover strange worlds, strange stories, and branching paths.

The branching paths come because you have plenty of freedom. First, the game’s engine randomly generates the races and places you’ll find in the galaxy. Then, you can customize your negative and positive traits, ideologies, evolutions, limitations, and more. Lastly, you can interact via diplomacy, violence, or trading.

Lastly, the game includes interstellar combat. You can customize and evolve your
ships with gear and abilities. Speaking of which, combat happens between dozens, thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of ships. You can’t control anything during the battles; rather, you watch them unfold in glorious visuals.

The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia
  • Developer: Midjiwan AB
  • Publisher: Midjiwan AB
  • Release Date: February 2016
  • Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Steam OS, Android, iOS

Polytopia is a lighter and yet excellent 4X title. It debuted a grand strategy game for mobile, but it has evolved to reach the PC platform. Currently, it has over 12 civs, multiple procedurally generated maps, and every element you’d expect from the genre.

Also, the developers keep evolving the game by releasing free updates. For example, they’ve released balance patches, new maps, new factions, and overall performance fixes. You can also play it alone, or alongside other players (up to 8 people preserver, with matchmaking included). 

This is a turn-based civilization management game. You choose one of the 12 tribes, each one featuring a unique culture, nature, and attributes. Then, you explore,. farm, build, research, gather resources, and conquer other settlements. 

Additionally, the game has five map types, ranging from “tiny” to “massive!” These maps come instead of a fully-fledged campaign. On top of that, you can configure your own map, and play three distinct game modes.

Lastly, the setting is Square, a planet, home of the Polytopians. The board/map is a blocky landmass, drifting in space in an alternate dimension. Here, you’ll meet simple and charismatic tribes freighting for control of the entire planet. 

Endless Legend

ENDLESS Legend
  • Developer: Amplitude Studios
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Release Date: September 2014
  • Platform: Windows, macOS

Endless Legend is perhaps the most beloved game by the 4X community. Most players would describe it as addictive, relaxing, and greatly satisfying. This is a fantasy-strategy 4X game you play with turns through a board. 

The purpose is to dominate the fictional world of Auriga with one of the distinct 8 races available. You can win the camping through diplomacy, war, technological supremacy, or exploration. Yet, each civ has a unique storyline and gameplay. 

The engine randomizes the map on each new game and presents a hexagonal grid. Then, the system populates the terrain with various biomes, resources, and factions. In particular, each biome and terrain has a different effect on your units. 

Similarly, you start the game with a settler to establish your first settlement. Once you create your city in a region, the entire biome becomes a part of your faction. And after you build a city, you must manage the economy, trades, food, industries, science, magic, wealth, military, exploration, leaders, faction perks, etc. 

Lastly, the game also includes a combat system. Your units can engage with other military squads, which opens a turn-based battle system. Here, you can use your units’ gear, abilities, and terrain to win battles. You can “zoom-out” of the battle at any time to manage other aspects of your empire. 

Old World

old world games like civilization
  • Developer: Mohawk Games
  • Publisher: Hooded Horse
  • Release Date: July 2021
  • Platform: Windows, macOS 

Old World is a historical 4X grand strategy game. You guide an empire across various generations to build a long-lasting legacy. That said, it features a series of mechanics that set it apart from other games like Civilization.

First, you play through classical eras only, with civilizations like Assyria, Rome, or Carthage. Secondly, you can issue finite orders on every turn. Thirdly, some characters may determine the fate of your empire. Then, there’s wood and stone rather than “industry.” Lastly, the tech trees are randomized. 

The setting is also historical, but it features fictional events. But because of its era, you handle politics, marriage, heirs, family relationships, and similar. You also play as one of the seven available kingdoms, each one providing characters with perks for your cities. 

More importantly, there’s a great focus on family ties. In-game events and actions will force you to make decisions to make them happy or defeat them. For example, making family members too powerful is risky. In any case, there’re many characters, with many personalities that affect your empire and politics.

Lastly, you also handle diplomats, spies, governors, spouses, personality traits. And as for combat, you’ll interact (via battle or diplomacy) with other factions, tribes, and barbarians on a vast world. Bear in mind the game has various multiplayer modes.

Humankind

humankind
  • Developer: Amplitude Studios
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Release Date: August 2021
  • Platform: Windows, Google Stadia, MacOS

Humankind is a typical 4X game. You play through a board, across millennia, with 14 different cultures, or a civilization you customize by combining 60 different cultures. This quirk sets it apart from Civilization, but it’s still quite similar. We just can’t put it any higher on the list because there’re many bugs and balance issues.

You play from Ancient Times to the Modern Age, starting as a Neolithic tribe. In summary, you’ll play across six human civilization eras. You’ll expand and evolve civilization through various systems. The end goal is often reaching the Moon or Mars. You can do it alone, co-op, or against 7 other players.

The gameplay is about developing cities and technologies alongside military units interacting with other civilizations on a virtual planet (the board). The board is full of virtual civilizations the game generates randomly on every new game.

As you play, you’ll also need to gain resources for your civ. These include industry, gold, science, food, influence, and Fame. Fame is your victory condition, but you can gain fain in multiple ways, like wealth, conquest, research, diplomacy, etc.

Lastly, you can also engage other armies for combat. You play these scenarios with a turn-based system, commanding your military units and squads against the enemy army. Battles last certain turn numbers, depending on the type of combat. You can “insta-resolve” the combat and let the AI work out the winner, though.

Warlock: Masters Of The Arcane

warlock masters of the arcane
  • Developer: 1C Ino-Co Plus
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: May 2012
  • Platform: Windows

Masters of the Arcane is a fantasy 4X strategy game. In particular, it debuted as a competition for Civilization V, which became incredibly popular on its debut. There’s a sequel as well, Warlock 2, but it doesn’t feel better than the first.

The twist is how your armies can visit portals to other maps, other dimensions with monsters and rewards. Likewise, you can colonize these bizarro areas to expand your empire, and exploit your resources. 

The goal is to construct an empire across a randomly generated world. Along the way, you’ll control tons of systems, research spells, and conquer enemies. You play as a Warlock on a quest to become the ruler of the fictional world of Ardania.

Battles happen in turns, on the same board as the map. You mostly use your spells to defeat your enemies. However, you can also achieve victory by magic, or diplomacy. Also, most of the combat happens automatically. 

Lastly, the campaign has various parts. You can play at the side of any of the eight Gods. Each has a set of quests to complete, and they revolve on spreading their temples across the map. 

Master of Orion – Conquer The Stars

master of orion conquer the stars
  • Developer: NGD Studios
  • Publisher: Wargaming
  • Release Date: August 2016
  • Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, Steam OS

The Master of Orion series debuted in 1993. The original entry is a 4X pioneer, crafting the genre’s future alongside the original Civilization game. The latest entry, Conquer The Stars, recaptures the series’ old-school mechanics.

This is a space 4X grand strategy game with a turn-based system and real-time interstellar combat. In particular, combat happens in 2D. You can either command your units to move, attack, and use abilities in real-time or pause the battle. 

Before that, you’ll start the game with one of 10 original races. Then, you play as usual: explore, exploit, expand, and exterminate. The game focuses on tech, but the map also includes over 100 randomly generated solar systems, as well as thousands of planets and stars.

Another genre staple is the different victory conditions. As you’d expect, you can win a campaign via conquest, tech, and diplomacy. Another focus is combat, as you can customize your ships in many ways depending on the race you choose. 

Lastly, you can buy the Collector’s Edition on Steam, which packs the original trilogy. On top of that, it adds the “exclusive” Terran race, also “exclusive to the Starcraft series, one of the best RTS titles out there. 

Age of Wonders III

Age of Wonders III
  • Developer: Triumph Studios
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Release Date: March 2014
  • Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS 

Age of Wonders 3 is the third part of a long-running turn-based fantasy 4X grand strategy game. It mixes the Civilization formula with a fantasy twist, and turn/grid-based combat.

You start on a tiny map and a tiny settlement. As usual, you manage various systems to construct a fantasy empire. That includes economy, diplomacy, armies, tech research, spells, and hero units. Even so, the campaign has a story, and you can play as part of either side of the conflict. 

The game also has a separate tactical battle mode. It’s a standard turn-based system on a grid, where moving, using abilities, and attacking consumes turns. The world is not randomly generated, but it has other empires, quest nodes, dungeons, subterranean levels, and more. 

Also, you start the game by picking one of the six available races. Dwarves, for example, start with an underground settlement. Similarly, you pick a hero unit from 6 RPG-like classes. Then, you play the camping as you’d like, but the goal is expanding with diplomacy, tech, or conquest. 

Another noticeable difference is how you can fortify positions by building forts and outposts. The game also includes a magical system you can use in the tactical battles, or via the board interface. Lastly, there’s an in-game editor to create and share maps. 

Endless Space 2

endless space 2
  • Developer: Amplitude Studios
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Release Date: May 2017
  • Platform: Windows, macOS

The first Endless game was “Space,” so Space 2 is its sequel. It also debuted after Legend, but it’s part of the same genre. This is yet another space 4X grand strategy game. 

The game begins by choosing one of the 12 races or creating a custom race. Then, you control an empire you can expand (conquest, diplomacy, exploration, exploit, and research). There’re various procedurally generated systems, each one with up to 5 unique planets. 

You can explore these planets to gather its resources, or explore anomalies across space. You can also colonize environments, and gain perks and buffs by capturing planets. Similarly, certain constructions grant perks to the empire, which also depends on your research. 

Other systems include government types, tech trees, politics, and political parties. Outside of your empire, you’ll find other NPCs owning territory and resources. You can interact with them through trade or war. 

Lastly, combat happens on ships or the ground. The AI handles the action, so the outcome depends on your tech, numbers, strength, plus a slight random factor. You can also design your ships beforehand but, still, you’re to see the battles and their glorious cinematics rather than playing through them. 

Distant Worlds 2

distant worlds 2
  • Developer: CodeForce
  • Publisher: Slitherine Ltd
  • Release Date: March 2022
  • Platform: Windows

Distant Worlds 2 is the sequel to a critically acclaimed space 4X grand strategy game. It features a new engine and new 3D graphics but similar interfaces and mechanics. That said, the game has a cartoon style compared to others on the list. Similarly, it can’t be any higher as it’s currently full of bugs.

The title mixes 4X mechanics with turn-based management and real-time combat. The setting is deep and detailed, the world is immersive, and the mechanics are more difficult than most games in the family.

In essence, you play in huge and procedurally generated galaxies. These include thousands of planets, star systems, moons, and asteroids. You can explore and exploit anything through conquest, mining, and diplomacy. Theres’ a series of complex and evolving systems to manage.

Then, you choose from seven base factions with unique gameplay and storylines. The “campaign” is open-ended, as it’s all about how you interact with other colonies, alien races, monsters, pirates, and traders.

Lastly, you can customize the type of gameplay you want to experience. That means tweaking how much control you want to have over your civilization. Similarly, there’s a built-in game engine to create and edit your galaxy.

Total War: Rome Remastered

total war rome remastered
  • Developer: Creative Assembly, Feral Interactive
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Release Date: April 2021
  • Platform: Windows

The Total War delivers a blend of 4X, grand strategy, and RTS genres. However, most of the gameplay happens in real-time battles. This is a significant difference compared to the non-violent Civilization games.

We picked Rome Remastered from their wide catalog. The title brings back a beloved and popular entry series. It delivers 4K graphics, UHD resolutions, re-modeled buildings, high-res character models, environmental effects, a refreshed map, and overall better audio.

Here, you pick a Roman faction in a historical campaign. The goal is conquering a specific number of territories to win the campaign before a turn limit. The map, although not random, has multiple AI factions that can advance and evolve in different ways on any campaign. You can also play with other factions as well.

Like the Romans, you’ll handle your empire’s aspects on the board. That’s the economy, construction, taxes, trades, diplomacies, and more, plus the specifics of each settlement. On top of that, you move your armies, diplomats, spies, and more across the map.

The battles are the best part of the game. You use a series of troops, for example, 4 squads of 60 legionnaires. Then, you meet the enemy on an open battlefield, where you must move your troops in real-time (or via the pause menu) into battle. Moreover, your armies, and the generals, improve their stats by winning battles.