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What makes for a good strategy game? Look around any corner of the web and you’ll find no shortage of “strategy browser games,” but many of them don’t actually require much strategy. In fact, where strategy is concerned, the deepest games tend to be the ones we don’t expect.

Strategy should not be confused with complexity. Complex games can be shallow and simple games can be deep. Here’s a collection of games that run the gamut from simple to complex, all while remaining as strategic as possible.

Note: Most empire-building games have been excluded from the list due to being the “obvious answer” as far as strategy goes. Instead, we intentionally focused on non-empire-building games with unexpected levels of depth.

Duel of Champions

Duel of Champions is a browser-based multiplayer card game that’s reminiscent of most dueling card games: complex combat that centers on decks drafted from hundreds of various card types. It has been described as the middle ground between the more complex Magic the Gathering and the more newbie-friendly Hearthstone These 7 Websites Will Make You A Better Hearthstone Player These 7 Websites Will Make You A Better Hearthstone Player The best way to improve at Hearthstone is through trial and error by playing the game consistently, but it helps to read and study up. You need to know what cards are popular, who is... Read More .

Why is it surprising?

This is a highly polished game that has stayed under the radar for quite some time. The graphics are high-quality and pleasing to the eye. The gameplay isn’t overly complex but deep enough that player skill is rewarded over randomness. Those who are new to the dueling card game genre may find it a bit tough at first.

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What makes it deep?

As a dueling card game, Duel of Champions makes a few core gameplay changes that set it apart from its big-name competitors. Namely, the unique resource management, the balance between “Might” and “Magic”, and the human-vs.-human nature of multiplayer make it a great game for those looking for a real strategy game experience 6 Of The Hardest, Most Unforgiving Strategy Games Ever 6 Of The Hardest, Most Unforgiving Strategy Games Ever Ready to distinguish yourself from the masses? Here are some of the toughest strategy games ever designed. Try mastering all of them. Read More in a browser.

Dominion

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Fans of the Dominion board game 5 Awesome Free Printable Board Games 5 Awesome Free Printable Board Games If you're on the lookout for a new geeky craft for yourself or the kids you've probably considered making your own board games as an idea. But you probably didn't realise that you can do... Read More already know how great this game is, both in terms of originality and strategic depth. Over the course of eight expansions since its debut, Dominion grew so popular that a couple of online versions began popping up.

The Goko version was adopted as the official one, and all competing versions, including the popular Isotropic version, were shut down.

Why is it surprising?

To my own surprise, a lot of players don’t actually know that they can play Dominion online Play Dominion With Style Using These Cool Apps [Web/Android/iOS] Play Dominion With Style Using These Cool Apps [Web/Android/iOS] If you're a board game geek, you've probably heard of the game Dominion and its ever-growing list of expansion packs. That's because it's an excellent board game and everyone who plays it feels the need... Read More . The benefits of the online version are numerous:

  • Play with anyone, anywhere, at any time.
  • Skill rating and leaderboard for competitive players.
  • Faster gameplay due to auto-shuffle.
  • No downtime for cleaning up cards, resetting, etc.

What makes it deep?

Dominion’s claim to fame is its deck-building mechanic. Rather than drafting a deck prior to actual gameplay, the deck-building is the gameplay itself. Each turn is crucial because the slightest variations on which cards to buy, which to trash, and which to use can spell the difference between pulling ahead or falling behind.

The Space Game

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The Space Game is an unconventional real-time strategy experience that tosses aside the army-building aspect in favor of straight economy management. Your goal is to mine asteroids by constructing various buildings while maintaining a stable energy source and defending yourself against invaders.

Why is it surprising?

Flash games aren’t exactly known for their graphical quality or their gameplay polish, which is why The Space Game sets itself apart from others of its kind. I’m not saying that it rivals EVE Online New to EVE Online? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do New to EVE Online? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do Unlike most MMORPGs, EVE Online doesn't hold you by the hand and guide you along with signposts. You need to forge your own destiny or die trying. Read More or other deep space games Can't Wait for Civilization Beyond Earth? Play These Space Games Now Can't Wait for Civilization Beyond Earth? Play These Space Games Now Are you excited for exploration beyond Earth? It's time to try these high quality titles that let you wander among the stars while you wait. Read More , but for those looking for a web-based space RTS, this one should be way up there on your list.

What makes it deep?

The game itself isn’t too complex and the tutorial helps you get over the moderate learning curve rather quickly. That being said, the constant triangular struggle between managing energy, mining asteroids, and defending against enemies provides for some entertaining strategic scenarios, especially when you reach the later missions.

Warlords: Call to Arms

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The playing field is made up of eight rows. Every few seconds, you can spawn a soldier in one of the eight rows. The soldier runs across the field, clashing with any enemy it encounters along the way. For every soldier that makes it across, you earn points toward victory. The difficulty is picking the right type of soldier.

Warlords: Call to Arms is basically a form of tug of war with influences from Rock-Paper-Scissors and Plants vs. Zombies Plants Vs Zombies Is Still One Of The Most Fun Things You Can Do On Mobile [iOS] Plants Vs Zombies Is Still One Of The Most Fun Things You Can Do On Mobile [iOS] The world of iOS gaming moves fast. Games come out, generate hype, and are forgotten all in a matter of a couple of days. On consoles, gamers will stick with a game longer, but with... Read More . It’s a whole lot of fun.

Why is it surprising?

Tug of war isn’t normally a game that’s deep on strategy – in fact, it’s typically 0% strategy and 100% brute force – but Warlords does something magical: it takes the tug of war concept, throws it in a pot with a few other gameplay elements, and cooks up a game that’s deeper than it might first appear.

What makes it deep?

The strategic depth of Warlords is fourfold:

  • Different soldier types are weaker or stronger than others.
  • Different soldier types move faster or slower than others.
  • Different soldier types take longer to produce than others.
  • Picking the proper lane per soldier is crucial.

All combined, you get a game that’s extremely simple to understand yet unexpectedly deep and difficult to master. That’s pretty much the holy grail of gaming, isn’t it?

Desktop Tower Defense

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The tower defense genre seems like it would be a perfect fit for those who need their strategy fix, but most tower defenses miss the mark Tower Defense? Boring! Tower Offense Is Where It’s At Tower Defense? Boring! Tower Offense Is Where It’s At The tower defense genre is one of the biggest success stories of gaming’s last decade, but now gamer's want something different and are turning to tower offense instead. Read More . They become games of endurance that lack any meaningful decision-making process. Desktop Tower Defense is one notable exception.

Why is it surprising?

The graphics are childish and the gameplay is incredibly simple. Easy Mode only has five different towers you can build while Hard Mode only has nine. That doesn’t seem like much variety, does it? It makes up for it with smart wave design and nearly a dozen alternative modes for challenging yourself or just having fun.

What makes it deep?

One unique factor is that enemies don’t travel along a predetermined path as they would in most other tower defenses. Rather, the field is a rectangle and enemies, who spawn along the outer edges, simply cross the field. Combine that with the fact that there are multiple ways to win and you end up with a lot of strategic possibilities.

What are your favorite browser-based strategy games? Surely there are hundreds of them out there on the Internet. Tell us about the ones you’ve found most compelling!

  1. codeElf
    August 9, 2016 at 2:37 am

    The Grid is a great little international multiplayer real-time strategic war game with a retro theme. http://codeelf.com/games/the-grid-2/grid/

    • CDarwin
      November 2, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      The Grid is absolutely terrible full of horrible players and is lacking in every way.

  2. Samwise
    May 20, 2015 at 12:10 am

    http://littlewargame.com/ definetly deserves to be mentioned here i think

  3. Leopardmask
    October 3, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I love Desktop TD! It's what Tower Defense should be.

    • Joel
      October 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Desktop TD has definitely hit the nail on the head!

  4. Mike
    October 3, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    No love for gemcraft?

    • Joel Lee
      October 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      I was debating between Gemcraft and Desktop TD. Both are innovative in their own ways and Gemcraft certainly has more complexity, but I felt like Desktop TD had slightly more depth to it.

      In any case, Gemcraft deserves a mention and I should've at least mentioned it in passing. Thanks for bringing it up here.

  5. bj_waters
    October 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I'm surprised I don't see littlewargame.com, a HTML5 based RTS that plays just like stripped down Warcraft 3, but with cuter pixel characters. They're still building and adding stuff, but it's available to play right now with online multiplayer.

    • Joel Lee
      October 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Cool! I've never even heard of Little War Game but I checked it out and it's awesome. I love the graphics and the theme. The fact that it's HTML5 is a great big cherry on top. Thanks for sharing! I'm going to go play it some more.

  6. Matt L
    October 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Have you tried Game of Thrones: Ascent? You can switch between playing it on mobile and in your browser (or via Facebook, if you prefer), and it has far more depth and strategy than similar type of games...

    gota.disruptorbeam.com

    • Joel Lee
      October 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      I'm sad that I've never heard of this game despite being a big fan of the show. I gave it a small peek and the concept is intriguing, though I'll need to play it some more to really get a good sense of it (it seems a bit complex). Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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