Real-time strategy games are hugely popular, but a subgenre of that larger umbrella category is the grand strategy war game. Think titles like Europa Universalis or even, if you stretch it, online games like EVE Online.
Grand strategy war games involve massive military campaigns, often drawn from history, and offer players a level of detail and micromanagement that would make a Civilization title look like child’s play in comparison.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to play the board game Axis and Allies then you have some idea of what a grand strategy war game is like. Often known for esoteric mechanics, overwhelming interfaces, and scales that boggle the mind, grand strategy games are anything if not tough.
There is really no such thing as a casual grand strategy war game and, indeed, few casual players of strategy games would dare to enter into these lightly. Combat is often based upon dice rolls or some combination of dice rolls and card-playing mechanics.
Each title has its own system but all of them are equally esoteric. Some titles will focus the player’s attention solely on the military aspect of things while others will involve you in everything from domestic politics and economics to international affairs.
When based upon a historical event, these games often draw their details from intense readings of the history and what-if scenarios surrounding these events. They’re not scripted but there is a general thrust to everything if you’re playing a historical scenario.
Even in titles like Europa Universalis, which allow for huge amounts of customization, enforcing ahistorical scenarios is nonetheless challenging and for the adept only.