Strategy games are a genre of computer games that require critical thinking tactics and at times shrewd diplomacy. There are two main sub-genres of strategy games – turn-based and real-time.
Turn-based strategy games like Chess let an opponent move their pieces in a static non real-time environment, then end their turn and the opponent does likewise. In a real-time strategy game both (or all) teams move their units / pieces and control their bases, castles, and cities at the same time. It is more like real warfare.
Nearly all of the time a strategy game is a war game where players command units and armies in war against their opponents.
The first significant turn-based strategy game was Sid Meyer's masterpiece; most probably one of the best games of all time – although this is a subjective perspective – Civilization. In Civilization you had to build cities, recruit armies and take over or civilize the whole world – whether by force, diplomacy, building the seven wonders of the world or by technology. I spent countless hours of my young life playing this game. Civilization was not just a turn-based strategy game but it was an educational game as well, as each time you searched new technologies there would be a brief article on what you had studied and its implications in the game. Also, it is a game where you have to explore the whole globe to conquer it.
Debatably, the first real-time strategy game of significance was Dune 2 (based on David Lynch's movie Dune) – released by Westwood Studios in 1992. In Dune 2 you chose one of three races – noble Atreides, evil Harkonnen or the weird Ordos and battled for ownership of the planet Arrakis or Dune. Now players battled the computer in real-time – building bases, defenses, troops, and attacking the same in live action.
Following this came Warcraft – 'Orcs verse Humans' released by Blizzard in 1994 – a game that really made real-time strategy games popular. Here Orcs battled humans and the income of the human race rested on you shoulders.
The thing about early strategy games is that although they were fun, the artificial intelligence was lacking as the enemy would often get stuck on the way to your base or just be in a random manner. Thus programmers developed the 'A * algorithm' which allowed the enemy to find its way through a maze to your base, so the enemy would get to you no matter what.
Following these games there have been countless other masterpieces in the genres such as Age Of Wonder (turn-based) Warcraft 2 and 3, Starcraft 1 and 2 and another cult classic Command and Conquer (there are to many to name).
If you enjoy this genre of games I highly recommend you get a hold of a copy of Civilization, Dune 2 and the first War Craft. These are without doubt collector's items.
So until next time good gaming, go out and conquer the world!