These were the best Strategy Games at the Steam Games Festival…

After plundering the Steam treasure trove that is the Steam Games Festival for nearly three days straight, my accrued gameplay time on one of these diamonds in the rough makes it a clear winner.


Terra Nil

Terra Nil isn’t news around here. In fact, if you want to play the original concept for Terra Nil get ready for a treat because it still stands as rather solid game in it’s own right. It even sports a drop-dead gorgeous pixelated artstyle. Download it for free here. Terra Nil describes itself as a reverse city-builder but that’s not really the truth because you’re not building cities nor managing them. It’s more of a 3D puzzle game, akin to Islanders, the fantastic minimalistic puzzler and top rated game on Steam. Each building available costs a certain amount of currency (or leaves, in Terra Nil), and by plopping basic buildings you’re setting yourself up for wombo-combos later down the line. Imagine a very complex version of Tetris.

After purifying the soil and restoring the biodiversity it’s time to pack and board a quad-copter into the next adventure. Terra Nil is a handful, for sure, but I still prefer the pixelated artstyle of it’s prototype.


Regiments

Regiments stands out for it’s unabashed ambition of overtaking the decade-long Wargame franchise by Eugen Systems. The influences are as easy to spot as bullet tracers in the night sky and the differences stand out like a Leopard column in the open. Still a deck-based, arcadey RTS, I can tell from afar Regiments is not going to be the hardcore version of Wargame I was expecting.

The reinforcements system borrows a lot from Eugen Systems, Steel Division, but instead of deploying units by phase, every couple of minutes a new task force of the players choosing is added to the pool of units available to call into the field of battle. Supposedly, it’s not to railroad players into very strict unit builds and allowing for some in-game adaptation to the situation at hand, providing new strategical strengths and counters on the fly while opening new tactical avenues. Let’s say the situation calls for critical air support at that specific moment. Commanders can pick an aerial focused task force to bring helicopters and ground attack aircraft to bear. Or maybe it’s important to consolidate your position into those buildings over there. Pick an infantry focused task force. It’s an interesting way to pull this off and it manages to keep you on your toes while playing because you never know what kind of rabbit the enemy is going to pull out his hat.

I would describe Regiments as the slow-burning version of Wargame and it even has some down moments where all guns stop firing for a while- something Wargame sorely needed but never got. This small pauses allow for some tactical and operational pondering, giving the players time to set-up defensive positions (units dig down automatically if they don’t move for a while), assign artillery their targets, restocking your companies and preparing the next assault. Wargame incessant action makes for very exciting and fast paced gameplay for a while but the non-stop guns going off, the fast and frantic unit movement, the amount of information in display quickly disrupted any interest I might have in the long term. Steel Division 2 addressed this and took big steps into improving this problem but the system still needs some work. Regiments manages to find somewhat of a middle ground but it still leans into the fast-side, but less APM focused.

While it’s easy to commend the game for what it’s trying to do, I have some serious doubt Regiments will be able to stand out when paired with an already established franchise. We’ll see when it releases later down the line.


Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector

I’ve written at length about this new effort from the guys at Black Lab Games and Slitherine so if you, my dearest reader, missed the opportunity to play this fantastic game you can get a general overview by clicking in the image below:

And if you’ve played the first 2 missions of the campaign but were left wishing for more, you can read about my exploits in Baal Secundus until the 6th mission by simply clicking on the next image.


City of Gangsters

What an absolute unit of a game, my favourite indeed! This not only came out of the blue but it rocked the sky from hence it fell. The guys who developed Empire of Sin should be sentenced to play City of Gangsters for a month and only be allowed outside after writing an essay on what makes a great whiskey peddler simulator. Ditch the half-baked tactical battles and the half-assed empire management, the Bioshock graphics, the bosses, the overpriced DLC and focused solely on the creation of a system that allows the players to create their own stories and their own ways running their crime syndicates.

City of Gangsters does this flawlessly, by combining the business management side of running an underground operation and by creating a sense of belonging to the city you’re in, with characters persistent across the map and with actual relationships with one another that affect their view of you and your crew. Make friends or enemies, create a network of connections that can open new business opportunities and pull favours to get things done. Your name and actions carry weight and people will either put on a positive word for you or rat you out, so keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

The fact that the player is not this magical, omnipresent deity, but instead needs to go unto the streets to get business done (these actions can range from having to manually load trucks and cars with illegal goods to buying raw material. Having to physically go to a store and trash it in order to make sure your name doesn’t get disrespected and, if push comes to shove, to beat the hell out of some wiseguy stepping out of line) also helps to sell the illusion that you exist within this world.

Al Capone didn’t work alone and neither will you, during my limited time with the game I managed to get two thugs working for me and we actually ended up having to slap around a rival family member for trying to racketeer around my borders. We can’t have none of that. Alliances have to be made and not every problem can be solved by introducing the butt-stock of a rifle to an unfriendly face or by showcasing the edge of a knife. Instead, conniving and planning minds are wanted and needed. City of Gangsters teaches you that it’s better to get rich by exploiting the labor of your enemies than to be poor and surrounded by friends who pay you nothing.

It got me so invested in it’s emergent story telling capabilities that I’m now reading a book about the history of organized crime.

City of Gangsters is just fantastic and my hopes are riding high for it’s late game possibilities. Can’t wait for the full release in August 9, 2021

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