Every Friday here at Indie Games Ichiban, I will feature a sampling of reviews from the mountains of indie and vintage games that have crossed my internet connection in the past week. Each week will have some sort of theme, this week being old school turn-based strategy games available on Steam.
If you played PC games in the '90s, you probably know and love turn-based strategy. If you did not (and know what they are), you probably think that people who do love it are nuts. The three games below are all cheap, fun, and will run on a reasonably capable netbook, so take a flyer on them even if you haven't beaten a Civilization game on Deity.
Guardians of Graxia merges video, board and collectible card games together into one satisfying, but sometimes unwieldy package. This turn-based strategy game by Petroglyph Games puts the player in control of a powerful warrior on a grid-based battlefield/board. They and their enemies take turns using cards à la Magic: The Gathering to summon creatures and cast spells, then move their units around the board and attack each other until one side has lost. It is a fun game, but has a pretty steep learning curve for anyone not well-versed in games like Magic or Warhammer, from which it draws heavily.
If you like tabletop games and want a video game that has a similar feel, Guardians of Graxia is perfect. If you REALLY don't like video games (why are you here?), there is an actual board game version as well.
Greed Corps came out last year, but is the turn-based cousin of the excellent Gatling Gears featured here in May. It takes place in the same Mistbound universe as Gatling Gears, and is made by the same developer. Up to four players control individual factions on a hex-based board, which must harvest resources, build units, and attack one another for territory. Grabbing territory is important, because harvesting resources from friendly territory eventually destroys the land, forcing players to remain on the warpath constantly.
One complaint would be a lack of different unit types—there are only four and they are pretty basic, but yield a surprising amount of strategy. Greed Corps is great fun for anybody who likes to out think and blow up possessions of opposing players. It even has great music!
So, you are saddled with a 2-year old netbook with an Atom processor and a no-name graphics card. Or perhaps you're staying in your grandparent's basement trying to game with a Pentium 2. The two games above have pretty easy system requirements, but if even those are too intense for your machine, I humbly submit the all-time greatest tactical turn-based strategy game, 1995's X-Com: Terror From the Deep.
You can buy it on Steam for $5 and get hundreds of hours of fun in return. Players control an international organization bent on stopping an alien invasion. They must stategize the logistics of base-building, technology research, and squad management between alien attacks, and then control those squads of fighters in tense turn-based skirmishes when the aliens attack. The battles are genuinely frightening at times, and sometimes take hours to complete. I've never been scared by any other strategy game, nor have I been so hesitant to move around the corner in any game of any kind. X-Com is unique in that way, and worth playing for any gamer willing to take the time to learn its intricacies.