The Strategy Gamer's Guide To: Gaming on Your Couch

By Josh Brown 27 Sep 2017 0

Despite the long-running gag of strategy game fans being referred to as 'armchair generals', we can attest to most sitting on the same, worn-out office chair at a PC desk. It's just easier that way. Strategy games typically require peripherals capable of turning quick-fire decisions into on-screen motion, and a keyboard + mouse combo continue to be the best tools for the job.

But non of us can refuse the allure of a good armchair. Steam have been trying to turn the living room into a viable PC gaming space for years now, and while the Steam Controller attempts to put a mouse and keyboard in the palm of your hands, it's a bit messy to set-up. That's why we've decided to list some of the best strategy games that fully support traditional gamepads. You won't need to hunch over your desk to enjoy a large-scale war for much longer.

IronTides

1. Iron Tides (Steam) (Early Access Preview)

Potentially one of the newest games of our list, Iron Tides left a lasting impression despite being a fresh entry onto Steam's Early Access program. A turn-based tactical game akin to XCOM in some respects, it isn't hard to understand why this one makes for a great couch strategy game.

Turn-based combat means there's more time to contemplate the right move, rather than having to make numerous split-second decisions over and over. Melding tactical RPG gameplay with rouge-like elements means Iron Tides can hook you for hours on end. It's brutal, satisfying and easy on the eyes. We actually played it on a cinema screen within the Oculus Rift when conducting our review for the ultimate lazy general experience.

SupremeCommander2

2. Supreme Commander 2 (Steam)

This one is more for those looking to get a StarCraft fix while avoiding the need for triple-digit APM counts. While not a retro title by any stretch of the imagination, the days of Supreme Commander seem long gone. Released on both PC and last-gen consoles, that fact alone means the idea of controller-based play was burned into this one from the start.

Set 25 years after the events of the first game (which also supports gamepads), Supreme Commander 2 comes from Chris Talyor, creator of the beloved Total Annihilation series. Hopefully the name alone is enough to assure you Supreme Commander 2 was crafted from capable hands.

HaloWars3

3. Halo Wars 1 (Steam) & Halo Wars 2 (MS Store)

While fans of Microsoft's original big black box are the ambassadors of the Halo franchise, it wasn't until the launch of Halo 2 on the Xbox 360 that the series really became the gargantuan name it is now.

Though it took until 2017 to gain a sequel, Halo Wars is now available on PC – and it looks far sharper through its transition, too. Blending tactical combat with the strategy of a card-game through its separate 'Blitz' mode, Halo Wars 2 offered a fresh take on controller-based strategy alongside its traditional RTS modes. You'll also earn a free Xbox One copy of both games by picking them up on your PC, and there's even a demo!

DungeonDefenders

4. Dungeon Defenders (Steam)

A personal favourite of mine, Dungeon Defenders is a much more light-hearted take on the strategy genre. Being more of a tower defense than anything else, it turns away from the traditional top-down 'wait and see' approach and drops you right into the action as a tower-summoning hero who can deal as much damage to the enemy as the turrets they construct.

What's best about Dungeon Defenders is its sheer length, replay value, expandability and co-op play. Your characters level up and constatly scale in strength. Mixed with some Diablo-esque loot systems, it's a near endless quirky mash-up that'll test your mind and reflexes either solo or with a bunch of friends. There's something insanely satisfying about fixing your own strategical mishaps with the frantic swinging of a sword.

XCOM2

5. XCOM 2 (Review) (Steam) (War of the Chosen

You didn't think we'd forget about this one, did you? The long-awaited sequel got a whole lot bigger this month with the release of War of the Chosen – an expansion pack that costs just as much as the main game.

Carrying on the long legacy of the XCOM franchise, XCOM 2 and its War of the Chosen add-on are highly regarded as the pinnacle of turn-based tactics. Just like Iron Tides up above, the reason this one is so suited to comfortable controller play comes from a tidy UI and its turn-based nature. Pair that with an epic sci-fi setting and a camera devoted to showing the action from the best possible angle and XCOM 2 becomes a recipe for couch gaming strategy bliss.

Armello

6. Armello (Steam)

Kotaku once described Armello as 'like Game of Thrones, only with animals' – and they couldn't be more right on the money. Rather than a Telltale take on the fantasy epic, Armello is a beautifully presented virtual boardgame that requires copious amounts of forward thinking.

Like any boardgame, you're looking at another turn-based affair here. Its colourful artstyle is particularly easy on the eyes, too, making it perfect for seeing the weekend through in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night. With enough DLC to cost more than the game itself, there's plenty of expandability here if you manage to burn through its vanilla offering. You can even pick up skins for your dice and heroes if you're that commited.

Blood1

7. Blood Bowl 2 (NotReview) (Steam)

Think you could go through a strategy list without finding something Warhammer related? Think again! Blood Bowl 2 represents one of Game Workshops' more bizarre takes on the classic franchise, churning it together with the ruthlessness of American football to create something bloody, green and downright mesmerising.

Carefully adapted from the Games Workshop tabletop game of the same name, Blood Bowl 2 is special in its ability to blend sport together with a genre and franchise that couldn't have been further away from each other. Pitting famous Warhammer races against each other yet again, friendly competition still isn't really within their interests. Turn-based strategic sports with a Warhammer skin and copious amounts of violence? Sit back and enjoy the tackles.

HasBeenHeroes

8. Has-Been Heroes (Steam)

From the folks behind Trine and the upcoming Nine Parchments, Frozenbyte's Has-Been Heroes arguably didn't take off quite as much as many expected in the wake of Trine's popularity.

A first for the group, Has-Been Heroes is a turn-based strategy game with strong rogue-like elements that plays upon the lighthearted fantasy setting they're known for. While looking more like a traditional turn-based RPG for the most part, Frozenbyte's attention to detail when it comes to character attributes and lane-based gameplay makes for a challenging, over-the-top combat simulator with a strong emphasis on reading the situation and reacting with absolute certainty. Just try not to throw your controller.

SteamWorldHeist

9. SteamWorld Heist (Steam)

Taking the steampunk aesthetics of their debut indie hit SteamWorld Dig, Image & Form released SteamWorld Heist to rave reviews last year.

Swapping out platforming for strategy, SteamWorld Heist attemps to pull the best tricks from Worms and XCOM and integrate it into its fleshed-out world of rusty metal and neon lighting effects. Commandeering a troupe of of steam-driver pirates, you'll be bouncing bullets around the claustrophobic confines of this steampunk world relying more on strategic skill than RNG.

ValkyriaChronicles

10. Valkyria Chronicles (Steam)

If you're looking to scratch that age-old Final Fantasy Tactics itch, Valkyria Chronicles should make a strong case. Fully upgraded HD visuals makes this PlayStation 3 port a critically acclaimed TBS title from Sega – and we're all well aware of their hand in the strategy genre over the years.

Adding a softer palette to your usual 20th century war, Valkyria Chronicles adopts an anime-inspired aesthetic while retaining period weaponry like bolt-action rifles and heavy tanks. Through the 'BliTZ' system, you'll dive straight into the heart of the action with traditional RPG gameplay while switching out to more traditional strategy game elements to conduct your moves. It's a difficult one to grasp through words, so be sure to check out some gameplay videos first.

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And that's your lot! This was by no means a top 10 list, or ranked in any way that suggests one is better than the other. Instead, we hoped to outline a bunch of controller-friendly strategy games that will get you out of the ergonomically correct office chair and into something a little more fitting of that armchair general name you've heard thrown around from time to time.

There's plenty more out there, so if you have any suggestions for both our authors and other readers, be sure to voice your opinions down below.

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