We continue our list of the best games for Mac. The next category is:
Age Of Empires III
Where to buy: Amazon
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4, Intel processor, graphics card with 128MB VRAM
It's getting on a bit now, but Age Of Empires III is still a thoroughly enjoyable strategy game. It's set during the colonial era, and lets you control one of eight European nations, such as Britain or France, as they set out to colonise and control the newly discovered Americas. The 3D graphics are attractive and finely detailed, despite the game's age, and you can either work through the main single-player campaign or dip into its Skirmish mode for a quick fix every now and then.
At first glance, Anomaly 2 looks like a conventional strategy game, as your squad of six armoured units advances across each map and attempts to defeat the mechanical alien towers in their path. But there are twists: the ability of your armoured vehicles to morph from one shape to another, for instance, or the fact that Anomaly 2 doesn't allow you to directly control units in the same way as a conventional strategy game. (All you can do is to set the path that your squad will follow and then leave them to blast everything in their sights while you use a number of 'abilities' to assist your squad and protect them from enemy attacks.)
For £10.99, Anomaly 2 is an affordable and enjoyable tower-attack game.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
The previous games in the Civilization series have all followed the same basic pattern, putting you in control of a group of primitive settlers who fight and trade their way to world domination before eventually developing rocket ships and advanced technologies that allow them to reach for the stars.
Beyond Earth, as its name implies, takes the next logical step. The Earth is a mess, so a group of colony ships are launched into space in order to find a new home for the human race. Each ship has a 'sponsor', which is the national group that built the ship, such as the Pan-Asian Cooperative, Brasilia or the African Union. These sponsors provide different advantages, such as super-efficient Pan-Asian workers, or the military strength of Brasilia.
The colonists on each ship can vary too, including different combinations of scientists, artists, refugees and wealthy aristocrats, with each group providing different benefits for your new colony. And, of course, your new home world will present its own challenges. Some worlds are quite Earth-like, with large land masses and continents, while others may consist of endless dry deserts, or small groups of islands scattered across a watery ocean world.
The basic mechanics of Beyond Earth will be familiar to anyone that has played previous Civ games, but the space colonisation theme gives the game a different feel and introduces new elements that will provide plenty of challenges for strategy fans.
If you enjoy it, the Rising Tide expansion pack adds new content to the game to keep you playing, but also introduces some new features that may change the way you play.
You can wave the flag for Great Britain by playing as the new North Sea Alliance. As the name implies, this UK-Scandinavian partnership has a strong naval tradition, and its ship-building skills will come in useful as Rising Tide also allows you to explore the seas and gather new resources, and even to build floating cities that you can move around each planet's oceans.
We'd recommend that you buy it on Steam rather than the App Store, as the Steam version includes a multi-player option as well as the basic single-player game.
Civilization V: Brave New World
The Civilization strategy games' basic formula remains the same: you start with a bunch of cavemen and progress through history to create a civilisation that will rule the world. But the Civ series has long since passed the point where all you had to do was build up a big army. Civilization V beefed up the diplomacy elements and the Gods and Kings expansion pack added religion to the mix. Brave New World adds even more depth.
There are nine new civilizations, including Portugal, Morocco, Brazil and the Zulus, but the real substance in Brave New World lies in the new cultural and ideological systems. The 'Culture Victory', for instance, is a new way of conquering the world, whereby nations can place musicians, writers and artists in key buildings, such as the Globe Theatre in London.
There's combat aplenty if that's how you like your strategy games, but the political, religious and cultural elements that it adds to the mix create a game in which you really can develop an entire civilisation, rather than just building up a big army.
Company Of Heroes 2
It's a couple of years since Company Of Heroes 2 was released on the PC, but we've not had many good strategy games to play with on the Mac recently so this Mac version will be welcomed by many strategy fans.
The game shares the same World War II setting as the original Company Of Heroes, but shifts its focus away from the US troops - who, as we all know, won WWII all by themselves - and heads towards the Eastern Front. This time around you play a commander in the Soviet Red Army as you face a series of missions that range from the defence of Stalingrad to the final advance on Berlin.
Like most strategy games, Company Of Heroes 2 involves a balance between combat and resource-management, so you'll need to make the occasional detour in order to capture additional weapons and fuel, as well as creating command structures to build tanks and other weapons. The environment also plays a big part in combat - especially the bitter Russian winter, which can actually freeze your troops to death if you're not careful.
The main single-player campaign is about 15 hours long, but there's also a Theatre Of War mode that allows you to command either Russian or German troops in a series of one-off battle scenarios. There's a multi-player mode too, which allows you to play with up to seven other people.
If you're looking for a better online experience, take a look at The Western Front Armies DLC which is, in effect, the multiplayer mode for CoH 2.Unfortunately, the Mac version of the game will only allow you to play against other Mac users, so your choice of opponent may be a bit limited when you go online. Cliff Joseph
Only recently released on the Mac, Elite: Dangerous is an updated version of Elite, the classic game from the '80s that was one of the first truly open-ended games that allowed you to fight, trade and explore its vast outer space setting with complete freedom. It's not a casual game that you can dip into for a quick bit of fun - the system requirements are really high, and the installation process is complicated by the need to download and install another piece of software called Mono before you can even run the game. But if you enjoy rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck into a game that can give you a real challenge then Elite: Dangerous is well worth the £39.99 price tag.
Like the original Elite, this new version throws you in at the deep end, as a space pilot with a basic Sidewinder scout vessel and 1000 credits to spend on weapons and upgrades. After that you're left on your own to explore a vast 3D simulation of the Milky Way.
There are literally thousands of star systems and worlds for you to explore, and you can decide whether you want to specialise as a fighter pilot, explorer or trader. You're free to go off and do your own thing, but Elite: Dangerous is also an online game that allows you play alongside thousands of other players - including people with the PC version of the game - and there's a PowerPlay option that allows you to team up with friends and join an alliance that vies with other factions to control the known galaxy.
Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
Company: Virtual Programming
Where to buy: Mac App Store
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.6.8, 1.4GHz Intel processor, graphics card with 512MB VRAM
Europa Universalis III combines diplomacy and strategy as you develop your own world-conquering empire. However, it focuses specifically on European affairs in the period 1399 to 1820, and allows you to play any of 250 different countries.
There's great attention to historical details, so you may find that you have to contend with religious intolerance among your population, or groups of rebels rising up against the ruling aristocracy. This edition includes both the original game and a number of expansion packs, including Napoleon's Ambition, in which you have to deal with the intentions of the diminutive French emperor.
FTL: Faster Than Light
We've been hearing about the indie hit Faster Than Light (FTL for short) for a while, but didn't believe the hype until we tried it out for ourselves. The product of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, FTL has you captaining a ship across the galaxy in a dangerous mission to (for once) save the Federation from the evil rebels.
Your space adventure is constantly on edge for a variety of reasons. The rebels are always hot on your heels, meaning you can never sit around for too long in a given galaxy. Friends and foes crowd your path to success. Fuel, weapons and upgrades are in short supply and must be managed in and out of combat. Every encounter has multiple solutions for you to choose from. What will you do if a heavy missile barrage shuts down your shields? Reroute all power to the engines in an attempt to escape, power up additional weapons to blow your enemy out of the sky, or take the fight to them with a boarding party?
FTL is all about replayability. Your first defeat will be bitter, perhaps even surprising as the game is unapologetically difficult in its random generation. But once you understand the mechanics at work, casual space-farers will be sucked in by the simple premise and seasoned star captains will dig the complex strategic options at your disposal.
Not content with their original success, the developers released an "advanced edition" of the game for free, which included new ships to pilot, events, weapons and even music. For all your space exploration/adventure needs, look no farther than FTL. Jon Carr
It's odd that there haven't been more games with a Wild West setting, as you'd think that the lawless days of gun-toting cowboys would be tailor-made for some trigger-happy shoot 'em up action. Hard West aims to put that right, casting you as a young frontiersman in a turn-based strategy game involving guns, gold and a hefty dose of otherworldly demons and devils.
There's a backstory, involving the death of your mother at the hands of bandits who mumble about doing deals with the devil. But, at the start of the game, you're simply trying to scratch a living by digging up a few clumps of gold so that you can buy some proper mining equipment and a few guns.
To be honest, this initial stage of the game is a bit dull - as is so often the case with resource management in strategy games - but the local bandits soon decide to get in on the action and you find yourself holed up in your homestead along with a few members of your posse as you try to fight off the bad guys.
This is the start of a series of eight campaign scenarios in which you can recruit new members for your posse and gain abilities, such as stealth or the ability to fire ricochet trick-shots, that add variety and skill to the gun-shooting action. The main storyline takes a while to really get going, but the stylish sepia-toned graphics and twangy, atmospheric soundtrack do a nice job of evoking the atmosphere of those old spaghetti western films. Cliff Joseph
Hearts Of Iron IV
There have been plenty of World War II strategy games, but few are as wide-ranging in their scope as Hearts Of Iron IV.
The game stands out right from the start. As you'd expect, it allows you to take control of any of the major WWII powers, such as Britain, Germany, France or the United States. However, you can also stir things up by picking more distant countries that weren't historically involved in WWII, and this introduces a wild-card element that makes the outcome completely unpredictable.
You can also choose two different scenarios to set up your global conflict. The single-player campaign can start in September 1939, just as Germany is about to invade Poland. Alternatively, you can step back to 1936, before the battle lines had been drawn and before the various key alliances had been formed. This flexibility opens up all sorts of possibilities, allowing you to explore alternate outcomes that dramatically depart from actual history.
The battles are also fought on several different fronts. As well as simple military might, Hearts Of Iron IV allows you to conduct in-depth diplomacy, develop new technologies and weapons, and to enhance your 'national unity' to ensure that you have the support of your general population when the going gets tough.
The relatively simple overhead perspective graphics mean that Hearts Of Iron IV sometimes feels a bit like a board game, and it lacks the 3D action and mayhem of many modern strategy games. However, the freedom that the game gives you to explore different strategies and scenarios will provide a real challenge for hard-core strategy fans, and there's a 32-player online mode also available if you really want to test your skill. Cliff Joseph
Homeworld Remastered Collection
Reworking old games seems to be all the rage at the moment. Hot on the heels of Elite: Dangerous comes the Homeworld Remastered Collection, which includes updated versions of both Homeworld and Homeworld 2.
Back in 1999, Homeworld was one of the first real-time strategy games (RTS) to use 3D graphics for its depiction of outer space combat. The storyline is similar to that of the Battlestar Galactica television series, putting you in command of a fleet of spacecraft that is fleeing from an alien attack and seeking safety on their long-lost home planet. The sequel from 2003 is essentially just more of the same, but livens things up with a wider range of space-craft and technologies for you to play with.
The 3D graphics of the original games were pretty impressive for the time, but this Remastered Collection updates the graphics with higher resolutions - up to 4K for anyone lucky enough to own the new 5K iMac - and more detailed textures and effects. Both games are pretty challenging, especially when fly into battle against the enemy fleet and you've got dozens of space ships zooming around the screen all at once. There's also an extensive range of technologies that you need to research in order to build and upgrade your fleet. Newcomers might prefer to start with a more accessible space-strategy game, such as StarCraft II (which is also due for an update soon), but Homeworld and Homeworld 2 will be an absolute treat for more experienced space-jockeys and strategy fans.
Mushroom Wars 2
Most strategy games are challenging affairs that require hours of commitment and some serious thinking as you attempt to juggle resource management, troop deployment, and researching new weapons and technologies that can give you an edge in battle. Those elements are still present in Mushroom Wars 2, but the game concentrates on making its RTS action a bit more fun by (a) filling the screen with armies of cute little mushrooms who talk like the Minions from Despicable Me, and (b) streamlining the battles so that you can get through each step of the main campaign fairly quickly. It'd be a great introduction to strategy games for any parent that wanted to play with their kids, but there's still enough depth to challenge more advanced players who can enjoy the quick-fire battles that the game offers.
The game's setup is simple enough, simply pitting rival armies of mushrooms against each other in order to control the most territory. Each mushroom army can use three different types of buildings to enhance their strength. Villages produce little mushroom soldiers, and can be upgraded to increase their numbers more quickly. Towers provide ranged weapons that let you pick off enemies as they approach, while Forges allow you to develop new types of weapons. Each Mushroom army also has its own hero characters that can use special abilities, such as super-speed or invisibility, to turn the tide of battle.
There's a single-player campaign to get things started, as well as online multiplayer, and a custom mode that lets you play with friends either in small teams or in free-for-all battles where anything goes. And the game's cute 2D graphics means that it will run well even on older Macs too. Cliff Joseph
The developers at Daedelic Entertainment describe Shadow Tactics as "a cross-between Commandos and Assassin's Creed" - and that description alone was enough to get us firing up Steam to take a look.
Like Commandos, Shadow Tactics is essentially a tactical strategy game, in which you control a mixed team of agents, each with their own special abilities, as they undertake a series of missions. But the game gets its Assassin's Creed flavour from its emphasis on stealth and cunning - not to mention the fact that it's set in Japan's Edo period about 300 years ago.
So, instead of soldiers blasting their way to victory, your team in Shadow Tactics consists of a sneaky ninja called Hayato, who creeps through the shadows and picks off enemy guards with a precisely thrown Shuriken. Yuki is a young street kid who has a knack for setting traps and decoys, and if you need a bit of extra muscle you can call on Mugen, a sturdy samurai who takes care of the hand-to-hand combat.
Together, your team tackles a series of missions, such as tracking down enemies in a hidden forest camp, or climbing snowbound mountains to penetrate a remote monastery. Each mission is well paced and challenging, and each region or zone tends to be broken down into manageable sections so that you can dip into the game now and then without having to devote hours at a time. The game's graphics do require a fairly powerful Mac, but there's a demo that you can download so that you can try it out before buying the full game. Cliff Joseph
Sid Meier's Starships
Civilization: Beyond Earth took the long-running strategy game series into outer space at long last, but much of that game's action was still earth-bound, so to speak, taking place on the surface of the new worlds that were colonised by humanity's migrating hordes.
Starships takes a different approach, firing up its thrusters and throwing you into the outer space action in command of an entire fleet of starships. The aim of the game is pretty straightforward - simple galactic domination, which is achieved by gaining control of 51% of the vast galaxy that the game lays before you. Each time you approach a new planet you're given a number of tasks to complete, which can range from simple escort missions to battles against alien marauders. You can also gain influence through trading and diplomacy, as well as cold, hard cash.
There are several types of spacecraft that you can use in your fleet, including fast-but-fragile fighters, and stealth ships with their own version of the Klingon Cloaking Device.
Some reviewers have criticised Starships as a fairly lightweight strategy game, and it's true that it doesn't have the depth of the Civ series, but it's still good fun and it's the sort of game that you can easily dip into every now and then without having to devote hours of planning and tactical analysis to it. And, at just £7.99 for the Mac and iPad versions, Starships is an affordable option for strategy fans while they wait for the next StarCraft expansion. Cliff Joseph
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
StarCraft was the best real-time strategy game ever made, which meant the sequel had a lot to live up to. And sure enough, this is a slick, first-rate, blockbuster production.
You play the role of freedom fighter Jim Raynor, who leads the forces of humanity into battle against the alien Zerg and Protoss. The main single-player campaign provides a variety of challenging missions, ranging from small raiding parties to large-scale battles with big stompy robots.
Two expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, continue the story from the point of view of the Zerg and Protoss, so get ready to devote a lot of time to this game. In fact, talking of those expansions...
StarCraft II DLC
StarCraft II was originally released back in 2010, but Blizzard has kept the saga running with a series of expansion packs over the last few years, releasing two pieces of DLC that offer new missions and more.
This first pack includes three missions that focus on Nova, one of the human 'ghosts' - telepathic assassins who fought in the three-way conflict between humans, Protoss and Zerg in the earlier games. That war is now over, but a resurgence of Zerg attacks on human colonies suggests that a new conflict is brewing. There's also a new faction among the human population called the Defenders Of Man, who are plotting to overthrow the government of Emperor Valerian. And in the middle of all this, Nova and a number of her fellow ghosts go missing and are suspected of siding with the Defenders of Man.
So you now take on the role of Nova, as you try to uncover the plans of the Defenders Of Man and prevent yet another outbreak of war.
In Legacy Of The Void pack it's the Protoss who get their turn in the limelight. The single-player campaign follows the Protoss leader, Artanis, as he leads the Golden Armada into battle to reclaim the lost homeworld of Aiur.
As always, there are new military units available to spice up the action, but Legacy Of The Void also makes some more fundamental changes to the traditional StarCraft II formula.
The online multiplayer game includes a new Archon Mode that allows two players to share control of a single base. This enables one player to concentrate on resource-management and building new units, while the other player deals with combat and strategy. There are also a number of new co-op missions that allow two players to combine forces in order to achieve their objective. If you're really competitive then you can use the new automated tournament option to pit your skill against some of the game's most experienced players.
And, unlike the other expansion packs, Legacy Of The Void is available as a standalone game, so you don't need to own StarCraft II or any of the other expansions in order to join the action.
Total War: Warhammer
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Mac App Store and Steam
Requirements: Mac with OS X v10.12.4, 2.0GHz dual-core Intel processor, graphics card with 1GB VRAM, Intel Iris and Iris Pro integrated graphics
Price: £39.99 (on Steam)
Typical - you wait years for a decent Warhammer game to arrive on the Mac and then a bunch of 'em come along at the once. Following hot on the heels of Blood Bowl 2, Dawn Of War II and Dawn of War III, Feral has launched Total War: Warhammer.
As the title suggests, Total War: Warhammer is actually a collaboration between the Warhammer team at Games Workshop and Creative Assembly, the developer of the long-running Total War series of strategy games. The trademark of the Total War games is their large-scale warfare, filling the screen with hundreds of rival fighters, and that approach works really well in the fantasy world of Warhammer.
Instead of the historically accurate recreations of old European wars, this episode in the Total War series gives you control of the Vampire Counts and their legions of undead warriors, the orcs and trolls of the Greenskin Faction, hardy dwarves (who can sneakily tunnel underground), and the Empire of Man. Instead of riders on horseback you can swoop into battle on the back of a dragon or gryphon, while tanks are replaced by giant spiders and Trollhammer Torpedoes. The battles are spectacular although - thankfully - the game doesn't have the steep system requirements of some of Feral's other Mac titles, and it should work well on most recent Macs, as long as you're running macOS Sierra.
The game is sold on both Steam and the Mac App Store. In both cases the online multiplayer option is limited to Mac users only - so you can't play with friends who have PCs, unfortunately - but the Steam version is quite a bit cheaper, and also offers a selection of expansion packs that add new races and campaigns. Cliff Joseph
Warhammer: Dawn Of War III
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Mac App Store or Steam
System requirements: Mac with macOS 10.12, including iMacs since late 2013, 15-inch MacBook Pro since 2012, 13-inch MacBook Pro since 2016
Price: £48.99 (Mac App Store), £39.99 (Steam)
Another month, another Warhammer game. Most sequels offer 'more of the same', but this latest addition to the Warhammer series marks a shift of emphasis from last year's Dawn Of War II.
Taking a more traditional strategy approach, Dawn Of War III starts off by simplifying things a bit. The game now focuses on just three main factions who are competing for galactic supremacy - the human Space Marines, green-skinned Orks, and the elf-like Eldar - and forgets about the rogue marines and other alien factions that you also had to contend with in the previous game.
The aim of the game is pretty simple too: a super-powerful mega-weapon has been discovered on the planet Acheron so, needless to say, all three armies set off across the galaxy, battling every step of the way to get hold of the device that will allow them to conquer their enemies.
There's more emphasis on building up armies for large-scale battles this time around, and you also get to command 'heroes' - giant figures who stride across the battlefield, laying waste to the enemies around them.
It's not all gung-ho combat, though. Dawn Of War III also puts more emphasis on resource-management, and building barracks and other battle structures that provide back-up for your troops on the ground.
Further adding to the challenge is the fact that the missions in the single-player campaign require you to take control of all three factions at different times, so you have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each faction, and the differing abilities and technologies that they can take into battle.
There are some good tutorials for newcomers, and once you've gotten to grips with the single-player campaign there's an online multiplayer mode available as well - although this is currently only available to Mac and Linux players, so you can't play against friends who have the PC version of the game. Cliff Joseph
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - Elite Edition
This classic strategy game from the 90s gets a slick 3D update for the Mac, putting you in command of Earth's extraterrestrial combat unit - XCOM - as you fend off yet another of those pesky alien invasions.
XCOM's squad-based approach to combat makes the action intense and gripping. XCOM puts you in control of just a small squad of soldiers - four initially, growing to six later - so you can't afford to treat anyone as cannon-fodder. You need to plan your tactics carefully, finding cover wherever possible and picking off your alien opponents with precision. Squad members who survive each mission can be 'promoted' in order to gain new weapons and abilities.
This 'Elite Edition' for the Mac also includes a couple of expansion packs so you should get 20-25 hours out of the main single-player campaign.
Company: Feral Interactive
Where to buy: Steam or Mac App Store
Requirements: Mac with OS X 10.11.2, 2.4GHz dual-core processor, discrete graphics card with 1GB VRAM
Price: £34.99 (on Steam) or £39.99 (Mac App Store) - but check both for temporary sale reductions
The good news is that XCOM 2 has arrived on the Mac at the same time as the PC version. The bad news is that the aliens won at the end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown back in 2013. So now we jump forward 20 years and the Earth is ruled by Advent - a coalition of alien overlords and their human collaborators (boo, hiss) - so it's up to you to lead the human resistance movement and recruit a new XCOM team to wage a guerilla war against the alien oppressors.
Like its predecessor (above), XCOM 2 is a turn-based strategy game that provides an overhead isometric view of the battlefield so that you can plan your team's moves as they approach their target. But the moment you pull the trigger the action switches to a close-up view - similar to a first person shooter - that gives it a more visceral feel than most conventional strategy games.
There are five soldier classes available to help you out, including Sharpshooters with their long-range sniper skills, and Grenadiers who just charge in and blow up everything in sight. There's also the Psi Operative, who adds a fantasy/sci-fi element with telepathic abilities such as Soulfire and mind-control. Each class also gets its own selection of different skills, giving you plenty of freedom to develop your team in a way that suits your combat style.
There are other resources available too. Your base is a captured alien ship called the Avenger, and between missions you need to give careful thought to developing the engineering, research and armoury facilities on the ship in order to provide new weapons and technology for your team. It's gripping stuff, and guaranteed to keep strategy fans glued to the screen for hours on end. The only drawback is that the game's system requirements are pretty hefty, so you should check on the website before buying in order to make sure your Mac is up to the challenge. Cliff Joseph
Zombie Night Terror
There are plenty of games that pit you against hordes of brain-eating zombies, but Zombie Night Terror turns the tables by putting you in command of an army of zombies and challenging you to wipe out the humans who are scattered across the game's 40 levels.
There's a strong retro feel to the game, as it plays out like a 2D sideways scroller with chunky pixelated graphics. That simple format is quite deceptive, though, as there's a lot going on within each level, and we often found ourselves replaying levels in order to complete all the challenges and rack up a better score.
Rather than controlling a single character, you start each level by contaminating a few humans with a drug called Romero (geddit?) that turns them into undead monsters. However, you only have a few doses of the drug available, so you have to figure out how to use them to maximum effect. Your zombies are also pretty dumb, and mostly just shamble backwards and forwards unless you figure out how to guide them up and down stairs and through doors and other obstacles.
As you progress through the game you also gain special zombie mutations that allow you to create more powerful zombies. Some mutations turn your zombies into walking time-bombs that explode messily and contaminate everyone around them, while others provide abilities such as crawling up walls, or turning into a powerful Zombie Overlord. It's good fun, and surprisingly challenging, and our only complaint is that the foul language used in the game won't be to everyone's taste - and will, of course, be completely unsuitable for younger players. Cliff Joseph