Many of us drop in at the gym regularly to keep our bodies fit and flexible, but what about our minds? Strategy games provide one of the best workouts going for keeping the brain in shape -- and they can be a ton of fun.
A strategy game is one that requires thinking. It is not based on luck (as with roulette), or on physical skill (as with table tennis), or on quick reactions (as with first-person shooter video games). The rules of strategy games can be simple or complex, but what they all have in common is that players need to look ahead, plan and then carry out a strategy in order to win.
Strategy games have been around for centuries. One of the oldest and best known is chess. It uses only six types of pieces on an 8 by 8 board, and the basics can be learned in an hour or so, yet the complexity of the strategy is limitless. The number of possible chess positions after seven moves is more than 3 billion [source: Chess.com].
But strategy is not just about numbers. Chess, for example, pits two intelligences against each other, each with his own strategy. The challenge of the game -- and much of its excitement -- is in countering your opponent's strategy while pursuing your own. In computer versions, the opponent is the artificial intelligence (AI) that is built into the game's software.
What makes a game mind-bending? The best games demand both rigorous thinking and finely tuned intuition to outwit a human or computer opponent. The games may allow for subtle feints or include unexpected twists. What finally marks mind-bending strategy games is that they keep you engaged -- they're so involving that you don't want to stop playing.
There are two main mediums of mind-bending strategy games: analog and digital. Analog games, such as chess or Go, use a board or some other mechanical device for play. Digital games are played on a computer or a dedicated gaming platform such as Nintendo DS, Xbox or Sony PlayStation. Computer games may cost anywhere from $10 to $60 or more, although some are available as free downloads.
In addition to these mediums, strategy games can be divided up in two key types: turn-based and real-time. Real-time strategy differs from turn-based strategy in that players are constantly making moves instead of waiting on their next turn. You can read more about these types in the upcoming sections.
Read on to learn about some of the most mind-bending games you can play.