4X Strategy |OT| eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate

Hella

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Oct 27, 2017
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This thread is for anyone interested in 4X strategy games; the kind that you always want to play for one more turn, to learn if that spearman really can take that tank.

Whether you're a new player or genre veteran, feel free to discuss upcoming releases, seek help or recommendations, relive past glories, or just in general share your enjoyment (or befuddlement) of 4X games with others.


Haven't played a 4X game before or just looking for something new? This thread can help:
The Big List of 4X Strategy Games or 4X Strategy-like Games That Are Classified "Hella Worth Playing"

Sid Meier's 4X

Space 4X

Fantasy 4X

Hybrid 4X


FAQ
What is 4X?
Put simply, a genre of strategy games. Named for their 4 X's: explore, expand, exploit, and exexterminate--which is the general gameplay loop. Sid Meier's Civilization is the premiere example of the genre.

What is this "one more turn" thing people are always talking about?
It's difficult to put down. But turn-based!

Are there any subgenres in 4X games?
Officially? I have no idea. But generally, there's Civilization-like, Space 4X, or Fantasy 4X, with others that are more difficult to classify. Civ-likes have a focus on history, Space 4Xs on designing things like spaceships, and Fantasy 4Xes include magic spells and generally have deeper combat systems.

"Spearman vs. tank"?
It's a whole thing. https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/whats-is-wrong-with-this-spearman-vs-tank.56572/

Why is Sid Meier's name on every Civilization game?
Advertising. https://kotaku.com/the-father-of-civilization-584568276
 
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spiritfox

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Oct 26, 2017
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Should at least add the GalCiv series. It's pretty decent back when I was playing it.

Great thread though.
 

Anno

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Oct 25, 2017
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So it looks like Rise and Fall LPs are starting up today. Quill is running Korea at the moment and others I'm sure.

And thanks for the thread!
 

TeenageFBI

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Oct 25, 2017
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I loved this genre back in the day. Master of Orion and Master of Magic are SO GOOD.

Even though I buy many of the recent 4X games, I rarely play them for long. I think I get intimidated by all of the different systems and mechanics.

I should fix that but I'm not sure what to play. I suppose it's between Civ 6, Endless Space 2, Endless Legend, and Age of Wonders 3.

Thanks for the thread.
 

Anno

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Age of Wonders is pretty systems light and has scripted campaigns to guide you through it. The empire building is pretty light because the game is mostly about the tactical combat, which is very good.
 

Poodlestrike

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Everybody make sure to check out the Rise and Fall stuff, it looks bonkers. They're really pushing the bounds of what the series has done.

My big 4X obsessions these days are Endless Space 2 and Civ VI. I used to adore Gal Civ 2, but it's really showing its age and I was never all that impressed with 3 for whatever reason.

One thing I've never really gotten into were the fantasy 4X's with tactical combat. I keep trying 'em, but I bounce off like that. Give me Endless Legends but with a different combat system, I'd be in heaven.

Speaking of, man, the Endless games really stepped their shit up after ES1.
 

butzopower

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Oct 27, 2017
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Cool idea for a thread, definitely my favorite genre.

I would implore people to try out Dominions 5, game is so deep and crazy, although not the most beautiful game.
 

Avengers23

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Oct 25, 2017
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I used to always have questions about good 4x games on mobile platforms.

Starbase Orion was the standard-bearer for space 4X games. I could never get into Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy or Star Trader 4X. Palm Kingdoms 2 Deluxe hits the Heroes of Might and Magic itch. Autumn Dynasty Warlords is more RTS than 4X. Super Tribes is good for a dose of 4X on the phone. And, of course, we now have Civ VI on mobile.
 
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Iggy

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Oct 27, 2017
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Hurray! *watched*

I love Endless Legend and ES2, but I just don't understand what they're trying to do with that combat system. It's still better than simply sending all forces crashing head-first into the other, but...
A simple battle screen like Heroes of M&M would be so much better, especially for Legend.
 
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Hella

Hella

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Oct 27, 2017
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The Endless games always break my heart because I can never stand the combat in any of them. ES2's free weekend was the fastest I've ever bounced off a 4X, and EL, for as much as I love the pitch, has what I can only describe as the worst combat in a 4X.

Dominions (well, that spin-off one that looks 90% the same) is in a similar camp, except for UI. I salute anyone that can navigate that game, because I just can't. I love how imaginative they are, though. Always wanted to try Dominions 5, but I'm afraid I'd ricochet off of it.

And mobile 4Xes just blow my mind. Especially Civ6 on mobile. That's black magic at work.


Oh and my 'big ol' list of 4Xes' is basically just my personal "best 4X list" for the most part. I'll think on how to expand it in the future. A section for mods and another for mobile 4Xes seems sensible. I didn't really consider them as anything other than a PC thing, but that's not really fair of me.

If anyone has recommendations on what to add, I'd prefer a category (e.g. Space 4X), full title, and link to a good place to buy it from. Or just a link to an overview, in the case of a mod. Not too worried about descriptions or anything, just being able to look it up and categorise it easily should be enough. Maybe mods get a bit of a description. I dunno yet. Anyways, just don't recommend garbo stuff.
 

Poodlestrike

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ES2 combat is strange, but it makes sense once you grasp what the rules of it are. Ship-to-ship combat is broken up into 3 "lanes," each of which has one flotilla, and each lane is further broken down into 3 range distances (more on that in a bit). Flotilla size is dependent on overall fleet size; very small fleets (starting size, up to I think 5 control points worth of ships, which is to say 5 of the smallest size, 2 of the medium & one of the smallest, or 1 of the biggest class) will occupy 1 flotilla, with the others remaining empty until you get more ships into a fleet. Behavior is dictated by the cards. Flotillas always start at the longest range stipulated by either flotilla (so, if your card has a flotilla starting at long range, and the enemy card has them starting at close range, they both start at long range) and closing at a maximum of 1 distance measurement per turn until they reach their ideal; if both flotillas are set for Long Range, for instance, they'll both stay at long range for the entire duration of combat. During this time, combat continues as you'd expect; shots are fired, damage is dealt, effects are doled out. Now, since different weapons have different range effectiveness, you'll want to make sure your fleets are designed such that you've got ships that can fill out whatever range increments you have on your card.

Exact ship design is going to vary a lot by what cards you favor and what weapons you get, but long range is always going to be extremely valuable. It's the only range you can force, and once you kill all the ships in an opposing flotilla, your ships will begin firing on other lanes at the equivalent of long range. So you always want a healthy scattering of missiles or strike craft. There's a lot of other factors to consider, but that's the big one you can start with and figure stuff out from there.
 

Tachya

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Oct 25, 2017
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Yeah Amplitude's combat systems in the Endless games definitely have room for improvement. Combat and meaningful unit customization/equipment are weak points in otherwise very strong games. I mean there's systems there, but they just don't end up doing much or being very engaging.

And while not a 4X, I really should try some Dungeon of the Endless again sometime. Really cool little tower defense/roguelike hybrid from Amplitude set in their Endless Universe.
 

Iggy

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Oct 27, 2017
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The problem I have with the combat in Endless games is that I never feel in control of what happens. I have choices, but they seem more like a proposal I give to the units, and then they decide to act their own way. There's no reason for it to be so frustrating.

Also, I copy and paste my thoughts on the excellent senate system of ES2:
My favourite new thing is the political system: every action you make is weighted towards an ideology (militaristic, scientific, capitalistic, pacifist, etc) and every 20 turns, you have elections that shape your government. If you're a democracy, you'll have 3 parties in parliament according to the votes, and very little power to sway the votes (while in autocracy, there's only one party, and you have much more control over it). These parties dictate which laws you can pass, which in turn funnel into your choice of actions, etc. So every action you make requires you to do a double-take "doesn't it have a risk of raising the votes for a party I don't like?". It's also very good from a role-play perspective: if you start pumping money into recruiting more armies to prepare for war, your population will change towards a more militaristic point of view, which will drive away the pacifists and the economists who want to trade with all the empires, so while it may be beneficial in the short term (passing more pro-war and pro-spoils-of-war laws), you may fall behind in the science and economic field later on.
It's a superb system all in all. It has room for improvement and tweaking, but it's ten times more interesting than the artificial card system of Civ 6 (which I really hate).
The current main problem of ES2 is that it has a barbarian rush starting around turn 11, and if you don't defend immediately it can spiral out of control and screw you over, so the first turns have to be militaristic regardless who you pick or how you play. It really sucks with pacifist empires, who have weaker starting units. If they could just weaken this initial barbarian-space-pirate event, the game would be perfect.
 

Matttimeo

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Oct 26, 2017
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I would implore people to try out Dominions 5, game is so deep and crazy, although not the most beautiful game.
I will second that. It certainly isn't the most approachable game, but once I got into the Dominion series it generated stories that were four times richer then the majority of other 4x games.
 
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Hella

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I like the way 4Xes are beginning to mimic Paradox's grand strategy titles, insofar as things like politics and population are concerned. Like, I've always found the more roguelike/RPG-like elements in GS to sit better with me than traditional dry 4X mechanics. It adds a really great wrinkle to empire management, when you have to consider not only the affects your actions have on others, but also yourself; like, "how will my empire reaction to my actions?"

Stellaris has done a great job bridging the two genres, although it has some serious shortcomings it's working on correcting. But I'm kinda thinking Civ6 will do a better job bridging them--if Rise & Fall is as awesome as it sounds, it just might.
 

SteveWinwood

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Oct 25, 2017
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Gal civ 2 is still my favorite 4X game. It has it's faults and I hope there are better ones out there now, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.

I just don't have the time anymore unfortunately to really get into gal civ 3 even though I bought that get all the dlc for the rest of time package. Last I checked into it people were starting to come around on it after a rough beginning. Stardock titles always have that though, mediocre title turning into a really good one after a couple years of constant expansions and patches.
 
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Hella

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When I think of Stardock, all I can think about is Elemental.

I actually own Elemental: Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes (the third Elemenetal game, if I have my lineages correct). On paper it should be my favourite 4X, since it has all of the elements I like--tactical combat, unit designing, heavy RPG stuff, dragons, etc. But it's just kinda... overcomplicated and meh. It's lacking some vital thing to give it that one more turn feeling that I get so readily from most other 4Xes. It's like, Stardock's games are weirdly sterile or something.


Also, in the spirit of disappointing 4Xes, a shout-out to At the Gates which continues to be in the worst kind of Kickstarter hell.
 

Avengers23

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Oct 25, 2017
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Gal civ 2 is still my favorite 4X game. It has it's faults and I hope there are better ones out there now, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.

I just don't have the time anymore unfortunately to really get into gal civ 3 even though I bought that get all the dlc for the rest of time package. Last I checked into it people were starting to come around on it after a rough beginning. Stardock titles always have that though, mediocre title turning into a really good one after a couple years of constant expansions and patches.
That's why I need it on mobile. I don't have time to sit at a computer for hours at a time, but I do have 30 minutes here and there during a commute to play something.
 

Iggy

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Oct 27, 2017
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There's a game in the "Hybrid" section of the OP that I've been curious about for a while, but it never made it out of my wish list: Thea: The Awakening.
What kind of game is it, as far as 4X go? Who would you recommend it to?
 

Anno

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It's only kind of a 4x game but I thought that Sorcerer King was better than any of Stardock's other attempts at the Elemental formula.

I'd also vote to add Sins of a Solar Empire to the space 4x list.
 
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Hella

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There's a game in the "Hybrid" section of the OP that I've been curious about for a while, but it never made it out of my wish list: Thea: The Awakening.
What kind of game is it, as far as 4X go? Who would you recommend it to?
It's a great game, with a sequel on the way. It throws some roguelike, RPG, and adventure game elements into the mix, but is still at its core a 4X. The thing is you only ever control one city, and just expand the villagers in it (who are each their own RPG-like characters). It has the best card-based tactical combat I've ever seen. The only thing that might hold some folks back is that it's super difficult, at least for me. A lot of it is based around sending out parties to scavenge and explore, and ultimately fulfill your victory objectives (or die trying).

I'd highly recommend it.
Rob Zacny's review for RPS is a good start to figure out if Thea: The Awakening is for you.
Holy cow, I never realised that Rob Zacny reviewed it for RPS. (He's at Waypoint now) That was where I was sold on the game, IIRC.

Rob Zacny is awesome.
 

Tachya

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Oct 25, 2017
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More mobile 4X games would be nice. Anyone know of any besides the relatively newly released Civ 6 for iPad? I don't have an iPad with me right now at school (maybe working to change that), but I do have my iPhone.
 

Avengers23

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Oct 25, 2017
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More mobile 4X games would be nice. Anyone know of any besides the relatively newly released Civ 6 for iPad? I don't have an iPad with me right now at school (maybe working to change that), but I do have my iPhone.
Starbase Orion is a low level mobile 4X. It's all research and combat; there's no diplomacy to speak of in the game. There is multiplayer, so you can play asynchronously with a fairly healthy multiplayer community in their forum. There aren't many bells and whistles, so it should run on an iPhone.
 

Tachya

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Oct 25, 2017
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Starbase Orion is a low level mobile 4X. It's all research and combat; there's no diplomacy to speak of in the game. There is multiplayer, so you can play asynchronously with a fairly healthy multiplayer community in their forum. There aren't many bells and whistles, so it should run on an iPhone.
I'll check it out later today maybe.

I almost forgot, but there's Project Aurora, sort of an EVE Online-based game that looks like it might be pretty 4X-oriented. Not much in the way of details yet, but it's supposed to be fully released sometime this year.
 

butzopower

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Oct 27, 2017
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The Battle of Polytopia is a really good mobile 4X-lite that is getting online multiplayer soon (not sure if active or async). The base game is free with 4 nations, and it's like $.99 for each of the nations.

Not sure if Distant Worlds counts as 4X, as it's also very universe simulation-ey, but it's a pretty great game that I don't get to play as often due to not having easy access to Windows.

EDIT: And I think if you are willing to put something as unapproachable nowadays as Master of Magic, I think you could add at least one Illwinter game. The average playtime per copy per Illwinter game on Steam is something like 70 hours.
 

spiritfox

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Oct 26, 2017
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Holy cow, I never realised that Rob Zacny reviewed it for RPS. (He's at Waypoint now) That was where I was sold on the game, IIRC.

Rob Zacny is awesome.
If you like Rob you should definitely listen to Three Moves Ahead. It's a strategy podcast that he occasionally hosts and covers 4xes from time to time (though they're pretty down on the 4x genre nowadays).
 

Tim

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Oct 25, 2017
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If you like Rob you should definitely listen to Three Moves Ahead. It's a strategy podcast that he occasionally hosts and covers 4xes from time to time (though they're pretty down on the 4x genre nowadays).
Agree with their assessment, tbh. The genre feels like it has plateaued over the last 5-10 years. Some solid games have come out in that time frame, but I'm not sure I'd consider any of them to be classics. I can't remember the last time I got really grabbed by a 4x game.

Meanwhile Paradox has been absolutely killing it on the grand strategy front to the point that 4x games now feel shallow by comparison.
 
Oct 30, 2017
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Love the thread. One thing I would say is Civ 4 complete is where I'd start if I was advising someone on how to get into the Civ games, not Civ 5.
 

spiritfox

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Agree with their assessment, tbh. The genre feels like it has plateaued over the last 5-10 years. Some solid games have come out in that time frame, but I'm not sure I'd consider any of them to be classics. I can't remember the last time I got really grabbed by a 4x game.

Meanwhile Paradox has been absolutely killing it on the grand strategy front to the point that 4x games now feel shallow by comparison.
I don't disagree. The genre hasn't really made any innovations in the past decade, and GSGs has pretty much taken the concept and developed a deeper and compelling take on it. Hopefully we get more games that take concepts from GSGs like R&F is kind of doing.

That said, I grew up on Civ and it's always kind of a comfort food game I can go back to and mess around with when I want a distraction. I can't help but like the genre even now.
 
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Hella

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I dunno that I'd agree 4X are stale or anything, but I do think something like Stellaris is the future of 4X--a fusion of Grand Strategy and 4X. It's exactly the sort of 4X I've personally always wanted, even if it's coming up a bit short right now; it's kinda easy to hang with it having witnessed Crusader Kings 2 since the beginning, and how far it has come.

I'm also very pleased with the inspirations Civ6 is taking from Grand Strategy. I thought I'd hate Civ6, but actually playing it has made me fall in love. The xpac can't drop soon enough.
If you like Rob you should definitely listen to Three Moves Ahead. It's a strategy podcast that he occasionally hosts and covers 4xes from time to time (though they're pretty down on the 4x genre nowadays).
I've been meaning to for a while now, but just can't find the time inbetween the other podcasts I listen to. (Giant Bomb's and Waypoint's.)

I really wish I had learned of him earlier. He's like my exact venn diagram as far as podcasting goes.
Love the thread. One thing I would say is Civ 4 complete is where I'd start if I was advising someone on how to get into the Civ games, not Civ 5.
I'm curious as to why. Civ5's like the 4X gold standard in UI, presentation, and polish, which will help new players out a lot.

This isn't a doomstack vs. 1upt thing is it? Because there's no winning that war. (Although I really like how Civ6 merges them a bit.)
Ok, where is the Warlord series, and Battlecry?
I'm drawing a blank on what these even are.

Huh.
 

Tachya

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Oct 25, 2017
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Definitely favor one unit per tile or at least curtailed/limited ability to doomstack (as it exists in Endless Legend, for example). Civ IV to me was a mess after experiencing Civ V (at least post-expansions).
 

Anno

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Stale or not ( I don't really think they are ) I just don't get the same satisfaction out of GSGs as I do from Civ, even if I realize they're probably better X's and O's strategy games. With the exception of Stellaris (which I like a lot) there's no real exploration and I don't get the same sense of empire building. I welcome more/better diplomacy coming to Civ, though.

Also this is really the one genre where graphics really impact hope much I enjoy a game. Clausewitz is a cool engine for making games but to me it just doesn't feel the same as seeing my empire stretch over the horizon in Civ 6 or Anno 1404.
 

Iggy

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Oct 27, 2017
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I think with Stellaris, the frontier between 4X and grand strategy has become more blurry. The problems of that game at launch was really that it was seating in the middle and had both genres' issues without really either's strengths. The few patches have made the focus clearer by adding more feature and cleaning some of the rougher edges, but it still feels like the designers still aren't sure which one they want the game to be.
The thing I like best in GS games is the possibility to role-play my empire for a while, instead of "I need to reach completion in these two tasks so that I reach 50k points in order to fill this victory objective". I know most options are just "gives +10% of this artificial value, +3 points of that artificial value" but it's important the game lies to me for me to pretend I'm playing with a real empire and not some prettified spreadsheet.
That's really where the government cards in Civ6 rub me the wrong way. They're probably very good from a game balance perspective, but they're super artificial and take me out of the RP (and, well, that and the psychotic AI).
 

Poodlestrike

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Stellaris' problem is that it just wasn't very good at launch. I'm keeping my eye on it for the 2.0 update, but I'm not super into it like I thought I would be. The systems just... didn't work that well. Diplomacy was incredibly rote, and combat was deeply unfun.
 

Tim

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Oct 25, 2017
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The thing I like best in GS games is the possibility to role-play my empire for a while, instead of "I need to reach completion in these two tasks so that I reach 50k points in order to fill this victory objective". I know most options are just "gives +10% of this artificial value, +3 points of that artificial value" but it's important the game lies to me for me to pretend I'm playing with a real empire and not some prettified spreadsheet.
That's really where the government cards in Civ6 rub me the wrong way. They're probably very good from a game balance perspective, but they're super artificial and take me out of the RP (and, well, that and the psychotic AI).
This is a very good point, and one I'm sure is pretty divisive among strategy gamers. I personally enjoy the RP aspects of these types of games more than the min/max board game element. The moments I remember the most over the years come from small moments of personal victories rather than the big "I won that game" moments.

I totally get why some people prefer a more balanced game where the goal is to achieve a victory condition, but I'd like to see more 4x games embrace the idea of more variety / randomness where the goal is simply to do your best. I have 250 hours in EUIV and I've never once cared about my final score. Hell I usually don't even finish games. But it's still one of my all-time favorites.
 

Anno

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I think roleplaying is perfectly fine in Civ. 6 even facilitates it quite well with all the AI Civs having specific agendas to play against and most Civs having a pretty unique identity when their bonuses are abstracted out. If I win cool, if not it's no big deal. I just like exploring, empire building and trying to roleplay both whatever Civ I'm playing as well as fitting into the zany desires of my neighbors.
 
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Hella

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This is a very good point, and one I'm sure is pretty divisive among strategy gamers. I personally enjoy the RP aspects of these types of games more than the min/max board game element. The moments I remember the most over the years come from small moments of personal victories rather than the big "I won that game" moments.

I totally get why some people prefer a more balanced game where the goal is to achieve a victory condition, but I'd like to see more 4x games embrace the idea of more variety / randomness where the goal is simply to do your best. I have 250 hours in EUIV and I've never once cared about my final score. Hell I usually don't even finish games. But it's still one of my all-time favorites.
Agreed! I love that roleplaying mentality too, and would love to see more of it.

I always end up kinda-sorta roleplaying my way through Civilization games, often to my detriment. It was a looonnng time before I played CK2, which is what really crystalised what I wanted from the genre. But fortunately Civ6 does seem to be embracing it a bit, adding some character alongside the numbers--I think that's key.

CK2's a truly incredible game. (And for anyone interested) it's probably the best entry point into grand strategy games, aside from maybe Stellaris... sorta.
Stellaris' problem is that it just wasn't very good at launch. I'm keeping my eye on it for the 2.0 update, but I'm not super into it like I thought I would be. The systems just... didn't work that well. Diplomacy was incredibly rote, and combat was deeply unfun.
From what I've read of the dev diaries, it sounds like Stellaris will really shine once the "stellar geography" stuff makes it into the game. I think it's due some time later this year, with no precise ETA. (I'd link the exact dev diary if I could remember which one it is.) It will turn the amorphous space terrain into something something with more, I dunno, character that can help shape stories and conflict in each game. It'll also open the door to some cool species and empire traits, I think.


I really love Stellaris' willingness to just empower every sci-fi faction you can think of. I'm gonna dive back into it when the new xpac launches, issues or no.
 

Tachya

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As far as I understood, 2.0 should come with Apocalypse, which is set to release probably roughly in the next couple of months. Actual release date TBA.
 

Delio

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Oct 25, 2017
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Oh wow, i didn't see this thread. Totally watching it now. I have Stellaris and Endless Space 2 do you guys recommend any others for me to try?
 

Matttimeo

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Oct 26, 2017
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Oh wow, i didn't see this thread. Totally watching it now. I have Stellaris and Endless Space 2 do you guys recommend any others for me to try?
Well, their is an ocean of quality 4x strategy games. But if I had to just list a few scifi strategy games I would say Masters of Orion 1+2 are cool starting points to see the genre at a much younger period, Galactic Civilisations 2 is an awesome space 4x, Sins of a Solar Empire is a pretty nice 4x/rts mix, Endless Legends is worth checking out if you liked ES2, Distance Worlds: Universe is a mad complex game which I don't know if I recommend but it is worth being aware of, Star Ruler 2 is quite fun and finally (this isn't a space 4x but purely for myself I have to recommend it) Age of Wonders 3 is phenomenal and well worth checking out.
 
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Hella

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Oct 27, 2017
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Some 4X deals are afoot:
Civ6 for $12 is a tough deal to beat right now. It's part of the Humble Monthly, so you'll get more games with it at the start of next month, too. And Stellaris is in the $12 tier on the Paradox bundle.

Oh wow, i didn't see this thread. Totally watching it now. I have Stellaris and Endless Space 2 do you guys recommend any others for me to try?
In terms of space 4X, Master of Orion 2 is essential. It's a very old game that gets so much right--it's kinda amazing.

Also, I always liked the concept of Sword of the Stars (1 and NOT 2), even though I could never get into it. It's got some pretty deep real time combat and Stellaris-like FTL systems, IIRC. Sorta Total War: In Space, I suppose. The sequel is unfortunately a trainwreck so don't think about it too much.
 

spiritfox

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Oct 26, 2017
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Oh great, 1 more month before I can play Stellaris again.

Edit: That's a pretty great trailer.
 

Tachya

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Oct 25, 2017
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Feb 22nd is definitely a bit sooner than expected.

Won’t have too much time between Civ 6 expansion and Apocalypse/Cherryh.