Games Workshop’s grimdark Warhammer franchise has been highly popular for strategy games to adapt. The core of Warhammer’s popularity can be found in eponymous tabletop miniatures games where players construct their armies, paint them up in glorious fashion, and engage in impressive set piece battles. Warhammer is a match made in heaven for strategy games as the franchise has strategy gaming written in its DNA.
In either of its fantasy or science fantasy settings, Warhammer is soaked in an absurd grimdark tone where the most horrible and heroic events take place. The 40K universe in particular is exceptionally ripe for extensive storytelling as the races and factions are the most unique and storytellers have an entire galaxy to explore. Both the strategic core of the franchise and its narrative potential create the perfect environment for varied and innovative adaptations of the license.
With Games Workshop gunning to make their franchise mainstream and with a bright future for Warhammer video games ahead, here is our list of the best Warhammer strategy games of all time.
The Best Warhammer Strategy Games
15. Final Liberation: Epic 40,000
Developer: Holistic Design Publisher: Strategic Simulations Platform(s): PC
Starting off the list is an oldie but a goodie. Final Liberation was one of the first Warhammer 40K strategy games to truly encapsulate the scale of combat in the grimdark future of its universe. Such scale allows for compelling combined arms warfare, as players need to use a variety of troops encapsulating air, armor, and infantry to achieve their battlefield objectives. Though graphically the game is dated at this point, it still maintains Warhammer’s distinctive and colorful aesthetic direction making units immediately recognizable at a glance.
Final Liberation is also a game of its time, populated by a clunky UI and a slew of cheesy and campy cutscenes and dialogue, which inadvertently give the game its charm. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air compared to some of the recent Warhammer games, which are more grandiose, bombastic, and self-serious. It’s certainly worth checking out if only as an indicator of the franchise’s evolution.
14. Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate
Developer: Random Games Publisher: Strategic Simulations Platform(s): PC
Unlike Final Liberation, Chaos Gate is a smaller scale take on Warhammer strategy and, puzzlingly, one of the only few XCOM-like turn-based 40K games on this list (along with Mechanicus).
Chaos Gate sees the Ultramarines Space Marine chapter pitted against their Chaos chapter archenemy, the Word Bearers, which gives the strategy game a narrative heft lacking in our previous entry. On top of that, the game has excellent customization options and a wide range of troops to use from Space Marines infantry forces, such as Tactical and Assault Marines, as well as Terminators.
Two areas where Chaos Gate is similar to Final Liberation are the notable graphical style and clunky UI. It’s a common theme that Warhammer’s distinctive look props up games with otherwise low graphical fidelity. Despite its age and some outdated elements, Chaos Gate is worth playing as it gives the best strategy experience of commanding a task force of Space Marines.
Originally launching as a mobile title, Space Wolf has successfully been ported to PC and several consoles. Space Wolf’s highlight feature, clearly designed for mobile sensibilities, is its unique deck builder action system where players select cards to play to activate their individual Space Marines. Though it may look like an XCOM-inspired tactics game, Space Wolf feels closer to an action tactics game that marries tactical thinking with the exciting randomness of card games.
The game’s scale is limited even compared to Chaos Gate, but this only serves to focus the action on fewer characters and make each engagement that much more heroic and satisfying when players successfully complete a well thought out chain of actions. The graphical detail is mixed at best, but again is propped up by the excellent aesthetic direction of the franchise.
Even though it may look like a small time-killer game, Space Wolf’s card-driven take on command-and-control makes it one of the more innovative games on this list.
12. Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus
Developer: Membraine Studios Publisher: Membraine Studios Platform(s): PC
Another common theme with some of the best Warhammer strategy games is that they’re adaptations of Games Workshop’s games and spin-off titles. Adeptus Titanicus is one such game as it adapts the Titan Legions game system, bringing Warhammer 40K giant mech combat to life. In fact, it’s the only Titan-focused game on this list, gaining points for such an underrepresented premise.
Compared to the previous three entries Adeptus Titanicus’ graphics are unfortunately a mixed bag as, aside from the Titans themselves, a lot of the environments and maps look samey and bland and some of the effects look generic. Despite this, the game gets the feel of deliberate and sluggish mech combat down to a tee, a la BattleTech. Most games focus on the puny little humanoid troops and toy tanks scouring the land and rarely illustrate the power and weight of skyscraper-sized Titans.
Placing Adeptus Titanicus: Dominus’ perspective on Titan combat gives the game a distinct place amongst the rest of the great Warhammer strategy games.
11. Warhammer: Mark of Chaos
Developer: Black Hole Entertainment Publisher: Bandai Namco, Deep Silver Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
I personally have a soft spot for Mark of Chaos as it was the first Warhammer game I ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Fantasy Warhammer hasn’t had as much attention as 40K, but it’s certainly had some of the bigger and brighter adaptations of the source material.
Mark of Chaos itself is a spiritual successor to the earlier Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen games in that players command small squads of troops and heroes all the while completing campaign missions and engaging in skirmishes. The addition of a larger suite of hero items went a long way in improving character customization and their effectiveness in combat, with the added benefit that players can discover creative ways to better their small armies for each challenge.
In a way, Mark of Chaos was the first attempt at a Total War: Warhammer type of game, with more emphasis on tactics and less on grand strategy. Though the game’s scale is lacking in translating the gargantuan conflicts of the franchise, Mark of Chaos did a solid job of adapting the magic system and including an interesting hero dueling system, with all the fun and the technical jank that went with it. It’s worth checking out for its decent faction variety and squad combat.
10. Mordheim: City of the Damned
Developer: Rogue Factor Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Another fantasy Warhammer game on the list, Mordheim is an adaptation of a board game system in the same vein as Adeptus Titanicus.
Mordheim sees the player compose a squad of characters and units from a variety of factions, like the Skaven or the Undead, and take them into a campaign mode or fight other squads in multiplayer skirmishes. The amount of customization and options for squad synergy is staggering and players can easily lose themselves in that component alone.
The game does a great job of setting the action in a dilapidated and decaying city and innovates the turn-based tactics genre by giving players control of characters through a third-person perspective. For a tactics game, Mordheim is heavily reliant (if not overly reliant) on luck and can be exceedingly frustrating, as at times players might feel like their decisions don’t matter. Regardless, Mordheim does the source material justice and is one of the best Warhammer strategy games for its incredible flexibility in player choice.
9. Space Hulk: Tactics
Developer: Cyanide Studio Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC
Space Hulk, yet another board game adaptation, has had a long and storied history of multiple video game iterations. Its latest one, Space Hulk: Tactics, is the most successful with its refined mechanics, graphics, and lengthy campaign.
The core of Space Hulk’s solid gameplay lies in its claustrophobic approach to turn-based tactics where players will have to carefully consider positioning and squad composition to succeed against the xenomorph-esque sneaky Genestealers.
Space Hulk, similar to Mordheim, suffers from an overreliance on luck in its combat, but to a slightly lesser extent. In addition, its campaign and gameplay loop can get repetitive and stale after some time due to a lack of mission objective variety and samey environments.
Nonetheless, its tactical core and interesting take for a tactics game make it worth a look.
8. Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon
Developer: Flashback Games, The Lordz Game Studio Publisher: Slitherine Software Platform(s): PC, macOS
From small skirmishes to massive battles, Armageddon is a turn-based strategy game based on the Panzer Corps engine and is a spiritual successor to the older Rites of War strategy game (itself based on the Panzer General engine).
Players will take command of either the forces of the Imperium, including the Imperial Guard and three separate Space Marine chapters, or the Orks vying for dominance over the aptly named planet, Armageddon. The war for Armageddon can be experienced in either the lengthy persistent campaign or through separate scenarios, highlighting some of the major decisive engagements.
The biggest highlight of the game is the absolutely staggering unit variety, especially for the Imperium, as players can compose the army of their dreams, taking into consideration unit roles, stats, and capabilities. Ironically, the Orks get the short-end of the stick and to truly experience their perspective Slitherine, oddly, split their campaign off into a separate standalone expansion. However, the tactical gameplay is excellent and the variety of scenarios is great, making Armageddon one of the most focused Warhammer strategy games.
7. Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War
Developer: Proxy Studios Publisher: Slitherine Software Platform(s): PC, Linux
Puzzlingly, there are very few grand strategy or 4X games set in the Warhammer universe. Though Gladius – Relics of War may call itself a 4X game, that’s not fully accurate as it’s solely focused on combat, resource gathering, and technology and lacks some key features to make it a true 4X strategy game, such as diplomacy and politics. I would argue that it’s more appropriate to classify Gladius as a classic RTS in turn-based form.
Gladius has an excellent premise where several major factions find themselves on a hostile planet to reclaim it, dig up powerful artifacts, and eliminate the competition. Facing off against unfriendly factions is only part of the game as players will have to contend with hordes of wildlife and hostile creatures to reach their objective, creating a very tense early and midgame.
Though balance issues keep the game from reaching perfection and the lack of game modes can leave the game feeling repetitive, the faction diversity and hostile environment make Gladius one of the most unique games on this list.
6. Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach
Developer: Straylight Entertainment Publisher: Slitherine Software Platform(s): PC
Sanctus Reach is the closest thing we’ll ever get to a faithful adaptation of the miniatures game in virtual form. The game uses the Field of Glory series engine to simulate tactical battles in a turn-based format. Sanctus Reach’s greatest strength, just like Armageddon, is the sheer amount of unit variety and abilities available for players to tinker with and consider during any engagement or mission.
Sanctus Reach has a pretty lengthy campaign where players will take control of the Space Wolves chapter, persistently levelling up and upgrading, to combat the Ork threat. While the faction variety is a bit lacking compared to some of the other Warhammer 40K games, it does have a fair number of DLC expansion packs that expand their number considerably, as well as adding new campaigns to play through.
For players itching for that miniatures feel in their Warhammer strategy games, Sanctus Reach definitely can’t be beat.
5. Blood Bowl 2
Developer: Cyanide Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC, macOS, PS4, Xbox One
Who would’ve known that one of the best sports strategy games would also be one of the best Warhammer games on the market? Blood Bowl 2 is once again a faithful adaptation of a board game that translates the turn-based American Football or Rugby-esque system to video game form so well that it overshadows the original source material.
Alongside the quality aesthetic direction, another common theme among Warhammer strategy games is faction diversity — and Blood Bowl 2 is no different. There’s a great number of teams here, each having a unique playstyle and deep player development system, which warrants multiple playthroughs with different teams, as well as returning to familiar ones. The reliance on luck in the game can create situations of extreme frustration and jubilation making the experience quite uneven at times.
At the end of the day, the competitive and replay potential of Blood Bowl will see players sinking thousands of hours into perfecting their sports skills.
4. Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus
Developer: Bulwark Studios Publisher: Kasedo Games Platform(s): PC, macOS, Linux
Mechanicus is the other XCOM-inspired strategy game on the list where players will have the opportunity of taking command of an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition to a waking ancient Necron Tomb World.
Players will have limited time to complete their objectives and will have to make practical and moral decisions regarding their approach to the rising Necron threat. Safe to say, the premise and the presentation of Mechanicus are absolutely stunning, with excellent music, appropriate visual effects, and UI (some jank notwithstanding).
Where Mechanicus falters somewhat is in its balance. There’s a huge variety of equipment, classes, and troop types to bring on missions, but some are very clearly better than others.
These issues, though, aren’t enough to hamper Mechanicus’ replayability and unique setting. This is definitely one of the best recent Warhammer 40K strategy games.
3. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
Developer: Tindalos Interactive Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform(s): PC
Oh look, another board game adaptation, but this time the developers adapted the game into a real-time tactics format — a rare departure from the source material board game.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 is one of the only space combat games set in the Warhammer universe on the market and also happens to be one of the best as well. The game looks and sounds amazing in every aspect, including the ships from the 12 well-realized factions, the dialogue, and backgrounds. The original Battlefleet Gothic: Armada has a lot of the same sensibilities on a smaller and is also worth a look.
Battlefleet Gothic’s gameplay focus stays squarely on the intense real-time space battles, but what sets the game apart is the presence of three (not counting the additional expansion DLC) lengthy and fully voiced grand strategy-lite narrative-driven campaigns. Just like Mechanicus though, the game does suffer from balancing issues as certain ships and abilities overshadow others, as well as some UI clunkiness.
Putting such problems aside, Battlefleet Gothic has a lot of content, a distinct setting, and intense combat that make it not only one of the best Warhammer strategy games, but also one of the best space combat games out there.
2. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
Developer: Relic Entertainment Publisher: THQ Platform(s): PC
Arguably the game that propelled 40K and Warhammer in general into massive video game popularity, Dawn of War is a classic RTS that highlights all the most compelling aspects of the Warhammer franchise.
When it comes to Dawn of War, you have to also include all of its expansions as they’re inseparable from the game. Faction variety, pulse-pounding intense skirmishes, resource management, and unit customization all come to a head in Dawn of War. Even though it’s quite an old game at this point, with UI and controls being especially outdated, the unit designs and visual effects are still impressive and the gameplay core holds up to this day.
If that wasn’t enough, players can play through campaigns for each faction to get to know them better and connect with their characters. The sequel, though a smaller scale and more action-oriented strategy game, is also worth checking out as it has the same sensibilities as the original with updated graphics and refined systems.
Ultimately, Warhammer’s current success rests largely with Dawn of War’s accessible approach that perfectly encapsulates the Warhammer 40K experience.
1. Total War: Warhammer 2
Developer: Creative Assembly Publisher: Sega Platform(s): PC, macOS, Linux
Ironically, Dawn of War’s legacy on Warhammer strategy gaming wouldn’t culminate in 40K, but in fantasy.
Total War: Warhammer 2 brings nearly all the elements mentioned in every previous entry together into one massive offering.
The Total War series is a perfect match for the Warhammer franchise, as players can fulfill their power fantasy dreams by taking the role of any one of the huge number of colorful characters from the fantasy grimdark universe and lead their faction to victory.
All the units are well-animated and generally well-balanced, the magic system spices tactical battles up with flare and impact, and the Mortal Empires campaign gives players an unparalleled sense of scale and opportunity to explore the Warhammer world.
Safe to say that it will be difficult for future games set in the license to measure up to the best Warhammer strategy game.
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