Probably the oldest type of game, Turn-Based Strategy games are a type of Strategy Game which are generally wholly abstract, or a kind of military simulator. The players take command of a number of pieces or units, and then take turns manipulating them over a playing area usually marked with a rectangular or hexagonal grid. In each turn, player actions typically consist of some combination of moving a unit, attacking an enemy unit, or exploiting natural resources, most often by recruiting more units or building more fixed facilities. Typically, each unit can move, then undergo one other action per turn. Play typically concludes when some specific objective has been reached, especially the destruction of all enemy units (or all enemy structures,) though timed games are also common.
TBS games derive from traditional board games, tabletop wargames like Warhammer Fantasy Battle and BattleTech, and the miniature tabletop battles used by real generals and historians to practice and conduct actual wars for millennia. Many computer TBS titles use similar grid maps, hit and damage systems, and unit balance concepts to their earlier dice-and-paper equivalents. Recreational miniature wargaming is, however, Older Than They Think, with an early set of rules invented by H. G. Wells for tin soldiers in 1900! Many ancient boardgames, including Chess and Go, are predecessors of this genre, making it at least Older Than Feudalism, possibly Older Than Dirt.
Today, TBS has lost popularity to Real Time Strategy, which is essentially the same style of play without the turn structure, its main advantage being the ability to handle larger number of players and units without increasing the duration of any given match. Nonetheless, some players still prefer the turn-based structure (even if only for single-player games) because of its greater allowance for long-term strategizing and precise execution. A huge difference between the style of play in a Real Time Strategy is that you have to think on your feet as much as you have to think ahead. In a Turn-Based Strategy; more emphasis is on thinking ahead and taking time to plot your moves and consider other possibilities. One compromise between TBS and RTS games is Pausable Realtime, although it's still impractical in multiplayer. Another compromise is Simultaneous Turn Resolution, aka "WEGO,” in which players formulate and submit their orders for the turn at the same time, then all are resolved (executed) at the same time.
The console-style strategy game became popular in Japan in the mid-1980s, but took longer to catch on in the West. Console-style TBS games are also more common on handhelds than on set-tops. In fact, some normally realtime series have been converted to this genre for handheld installments. Turn based strategy stands up especially well to the limited computational muscle and controls of handhelds, not to mention that turns are suitable to spurts of frequently interrupted casual play. The console-style strategy subgenre occasionally overlaps with the Eastern RPG genre.
The major variation between sub-genres in TBS is the scale of its action, which spans everything from squad-level individual combat (which, owing to the lack or greatly simplified resource management and production, is known as Turn Based Tactics) through international conflicts all the way up to controlling whole worlds or galaxies. Larger-scale games often devolve from violent conflict into general competitive empire-building simulations with the possibility for non-violent victory, at which point they become so-called "4X" (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) or “Grand Strategy” games.
For tropes common to all strategy genres as a whole, see Strategy Game Tropes.
Compare Strategy RPG.
- Adventures to Go
- Battle for Wesnoth (An open source PC game loosely inspired by the Master of Monsters series and Langrisser)
- Down Of Heroes
- Drone Tactics Giant Mecha Insects
- Fire Emblem
- Gadget Trial
- Gate Keepers
- Ge Ne Sis
- Gihrens Greed
- Gladius (an occidental example)
- Heroic Armies Marching
- Kamidori Alchemy Meister
- The Last Remnant
- Moe Moe Niji Taisen
- Monster Labs
- Namco X Capcom
- Nintendo Wars
- Nobunaga's Ambition
- Operation Darkness
- Piece of Wonder (also a Visual Novel, and the last game translated by Hirameki International)
- Pocket Tanks
- R-Type Command
- Ring of Red
- SD Gundam G Generation
- Tear Ring Saga, a spiritual successor to Fire Emblem.
- Tokyo Majin Gakuen
- The Unholy War mixes this with the Mascot Fighter (without the mascots)
- Utawarerumono also mixes this with a Visual Novel.
- Vanguard Bandits
- Vantage Master
- The War of Eustrath
- Youju Senki AD 2048.
- Zoids Assault
- Advanced Strategic Command
- Age of Empires on the Nintendo DS, unlike the main RTS series on PC.
- Age of Wonders
- Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
- Archon has its turn-based portion serve as the frame to a series of arcade-style battles.
- Battle for Wesnoth
- Buzz Aldrin Race Into Space.
- Civil War Generals
- Conflict Middle East Political Simulator
- Conquest of Elysium 2
- Crush Crumble and Chomp
- Cyber Storm
- Delve Deeper
- Dominions is an especially oddball hybrid series, with a normal turn-based game on the continental scale, but a very extreme form of Simultaneous Turn Resolution for tactical battles: You aren't actually allowed to give any orders when battle ensues. Instead, you can only give standing formation and conditional tactics orders to a unit of soldiers in the strategic view, then sit back and hope for the best whenever they come into contact with the enemy.
- Walter Bright's 1978 Empire series is quite possibly the first TBS game, influencing the entire genre.
- EndWar on handhelds, unlike it's Console/PC counterpart.
- Fallen Haven
- Fate of the World
- Galactic Civilizations
- Heroes of Might and Magic
- Heroic Armies Marching
- King Arthur the Role Playing Wargame has a World Map where manual combat is realtime.
- Kings Bounty
- Making History, which combines this with Grand Strategy.
- Master of Magic (spinoff of the 4X Master of Orion series)
- Elemental War of Magic which is considered to be a Spiritual Successor.
- Lords of Magic
- Master Of Monsters
- MAX Mechanized Assault and Exploration
- Moon Base Commander
- Mother of All Battles
- The Panzer General series (plus spinoffs like Allied, Star, etc…)
- SSI's first and third Warhammer 40,000 games, (Final Liberation & Rites of War) made using the same engines as the Panzer General series.
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- Shattered Union
- Space Empires
- Spaceward Ho!
- Star Control (the first game's Full Game mode)
- The Star Trek Text Game, possibly the first, from 1971.
- Stars! (with Simultaneous Turn Resolution, since it's designed for Play By Post multiplayer)
- Sword of the Stars
- Total War (Shogun 1/2, Medieval 1/2, Rome, Empire and Napoleon) is an interesting hybrid, with a continent-scale strategic turn-based game that jumps to Pausable Realtime battles for resolving conflicts between opposing armies.
- Wing Commander Armada, which combined this with simulated space combat.
- Wrath Unleashed