Linux gaming, part two: strategy games

June 19th, 2007 | Games, Linux by th

Part one covered first person shooters on Linux. Blizzard just announced Starcraft 2 for Windows and Macintosh, but how’s the strategy gaming on Linux?

Usually strategy games are either real-time strategy or turn-based strategy games, but there are also real-time tactics and turn-based tactics games. So what’s the difference between these types?

Real-time, as the name says means actions happen in real-time, the game flow is continuous and player actions shape the game world all the time. For example the enemies might attack while you’re building a structure, so the player must be aware of the game happenings all the time. Legendary well-known real time strategy games include Dune, Blizzard’s Warcraft and the Starcraft series and the Command and Conquer series. Microsoft’s Age of Empires and Age of Mythology are also popular real-time strategy games.

Age Of Empires Warcraft 3

Age of Empire on the left, Warcraft 3 on the right

Turn-based strategy games give the players time to think for their actions, or the players might do the actions in turns, which means the players don’t have to be constantly “aware” of the game happenings. Popular turn-based strategy include games like Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Civilization 3 which both were ported to Linux by Loki Software.

Heroes of Might and Magic 3 Civ 3

Screenshots of Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Civilization 3

Real-time tactics usually leave the resource management, economics and building structures in the background, but the combat and the control of the warfare happens in real time. Well-known games in this genre are the Close Combat- series, Warhammer: Dark Omen and Total War.

Turn-based tactics usually have real-time movement in the game world, but the combat is turn-based. Many turn-based tactic games also give the player a predefined army or a character rather than free resource-building like in Warcraft games. Examples of this genre are games like Jagged Alliance (Jagged Alliance 2 was also ported for Linux) and the X-COM series. From classic games, Laser Squad was a popular turn-based tactic in the late 80’s.

Jagged Alliance 2

Jagged Alliance 2 running on Linux

UFO: Alien Invasion

Heavily influenced by the well-known X-COM game series, UFO: Alien invasion is undeniably one of the crown jewels of open source games. The game itself is based on modified Quake 2 engine, making it also one of the few games using Quake engines that are not first person shooters, interesting fact in itself. All X-COM fans will definitely notice the similarity to the original UFO games, as the gameplay is very similar to X-COM: UFO Defense. It is a turn-based game where players control a team up to 8 soldiers, attacking against alien ships, terror attacks and other similar scenarios. The game also looks very professional and beautiful, and has quite magical atmosphere, like the original X-COM games. UFO: Alien Invasion is available as free download for Linux and Microsoft Windows. Beta of Mac OS X version is also available. If you ever played and liked X-COM games, this is the game for you, or anyone who likes turn-based strategy games.

UFO: Alien invasion 1 UFO: Alien invasion 2

Screenshots of UFO: Alien Invasion

Warcraft 3

Although Warcraft3 is not available for Linux as native version, the game runs surprisingly well on Cedega and is one of the most popular emulated games running on Cedega. Also the expansion set, The Frozen Throne works with Cedega, as does the online portion of the game too. Blizzard has traditionally supported Mac platform alongside the PC version, but haven’t yet released Linux version of any of their games. Blizzard’s popular online MMORPG, World of Warcraft works on Linux with Cedega.

War3 image 2 Warcraft 3

Screenshots of Warcraft 3

Battle for Wesnoth

Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based open source strategy game with a fantasy theme. The game runs on amazing number of different operating systems (GNU/Linux, Windows, MacOSX, BeOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, AmigaOS4, OS/2 & eComStation). and has clean and beautiful pixel graphics. It’s also translated for 35 languages. The game has more than 200 units, internet play, and much much more. In a nutshell, Battle for Wesnoth is one of the top open source games you shouldn’t miss.

Battle for Wesnot 1Battle for Wesnot 2

Screenshots of Battle for Wesnoth

Warzone 2100

Warzone 2100 is a real-time strategy game that started its life as propietary game and was released for PC and Playstation in 1999. Nowadays, it’s however, free as in beer and free as in freedom, with full source code available. Since it’s open sourcing, many advanced features have been added, such as support for high resolutions. Age shows in the game graphics, but it’s still nice light-weight strategy game to play, especially if you have an older computer which can’t run latest games. Source code and Windows version are available for download at Warzone 2100 homepage, but some Linux-distributions have pre-packaged easily installable versions of Warzone in their repositories, like Ubuntu and Debian (package ‘warzone2100′).

Warzone 1 Warzone 2

WarZone 3 Warzone 4

Screenshots of Warzone 2100


Glest is a free real-time strategy game with sweet 3D graphics. Current version includes single player game against AI controlled players, providing two factions for the player to control: Magic and Tech, each with their corresponding tech trees, units and buildings. Glest takes place in a context which could be compared to that of the pre-renaissance Europe. Even the project supports Linux, they unfortunately don’t offer pre-compiled Linux binaries. Linux users must download source code and datafiles from Sourceforge and compile it. The game is still work in progress, but definitely one to keep an eye on.

glest1.jpg glest4.jpg

Screenshots of Glest

Globulation 2

Globulation 2 calls itself an innovative real-time strategy game. Indeed, the game idea sounds original. The player chooses the number of units to assign to various tasks, and the units do their best to satisfy the requests. This allows players to manage more units and focus on strategy rather than individual units’ jobs. Globulation 2 is a free software under the General Public License and is available for Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Microsoft Windows.


Globulation 2 in action


Linux also has free multi-player remakes of some classic strategy games. Civilization fans simply can’t miss FreeCiv. This beautiful Civilization remake has been in development amazingly long, the project started in 1995. Age shows in the game only positively, as it’s very carefully balanced and the beauty is in the details. FreeCiv not only includes translations for 18 languages so players can enjoy it in their native language, the game has more than 50 playable units and far beyond 100 nations.


Screenshot of FreeCiv

Commercial strategy games

There are several commercial strategy games released for Linux along the years. Some well-known games include Myth 2, Civilization 3, Jagged Alliance 2, Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood, Heroes of Might and Magic 3. However, even these games are pretty big names, great games in themselves and good quality ports, lately there hasn’t been any remarkable releases for Linux. Many popular new Windows games work under Cedega, such as Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and Civilization 4. You can check the Cedega Game Database for supported strategy games.


Although the strategy game availability on Linux is limited, there are some very impressive open source strategy games that can even challenge commercial games, like UFO: Alien Invasion and Battle for Wesnoth. Along the years, many commercial games have found their way to Linux too, even in limited numbers. Open source strategy games presented here still present only the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other strategy game projects out there for Linux., a fine source for Linux gaming news, alone lists 151 games in the strategy category.


Read also other parts of this article:


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41 Responses to “Linux gaming, part two: strategy games”

  1. kahvipapu » Linux gaming, part one: first person shooters |

    […] Linux gaming, part two: strategy games […]

  2. Tsiolkovsky |

    Another great Linux gaming article. Strategy games are my favourite and it is nice to see so many high quality free and open source strategies for Linux. In fact there is only one type of strategy games that I still miss on Linux: 4X space strategy games (you know like Stars! or Reach for the Stars or Master of Orion). I hope some fans of this genre who have some programming skills find each other and start working on something similar.

  3. th |

    There’s actually a master of orion-clone project called FreeOrion which looks pretty promising:

  4. Tsiolkovsky |

    Thanks for the link th. I didn’t know about Free Orion. It looks promising indeed. While browsing their page I’ve also come across List of Space Strategy Games
    and there I also found another game Thousand Parsec
    that looks almost perfectly what I was looking for. The graphics doesn’t seam to be at the same level as in Free Orion yet, but the gameplay itself is more to my liking. And it looks like they even have 4 students sponsored by Google as part of Google Summer of Code 2007 working on Thousand Parsec. Thank you Google for supporting open source 4X games development!
    Anyway, again thank you a lot for the link and I sure will be keeping my eye on both of these projects.

  5. Scott Ritchie |

    Warcraft 3 works beautifully under Wine, there’s no need for Cedega at all.

  6. Mark |

    You didn’t mention Bang Howdy!

  7. The Whale |

    Age of Empires is mentioned above but not covered as a playable Linux RTS. Has anyone figured out how to make it work? AoE3 is one of a few pieces of software preventing me from moving my Alienware to Linux (burn Vista burn!).

  8. sh |

    There’s another great RTS in development for Linux based on the original Total Annihilation game. It’s called Spring (, and though it still in beta its highly playable and relatively error-free. Any fan of Total Annihilation owes it to themselves to go and check it out.

  9. spring fan |

    take a look at Spring! its like total annihilation and supreme commander in one game and its free plus there are several good mods also WW2

    it is mostly an online multipayer strategy game with a huge community


    mods and maps

    have fun playing

  10. ds |

    I think you shouldn’t set the focus too much on Cedega. Even Wine which is open source and free can run a lot of games like Warcraft 3 just perfectly fine.

  11. MoritzMH |

    Defcon and Darwinia - excellent fun strange strategy games would have deserved mention.

    Also no mention of the Dominions series. I lost a girl-friend to Dominions2…

  12. Alejandro |

    No mention of FreeCol?

  13. th |

    Thanks for the comments everyone. :)
    Spring does indeed look very promising. And yes, I should have mentioned games like Defcon, Darwinia, FreeCol and Dominions. Shame on me. I’ll update the article later and link to those games too.

  14. Trab |

    While I’m certainally not trying to be negative (the first part of this article about FPS games changed my view in that arena) I disagree with this article. While Turn-Based, and some of the other strategy genre’s are ok on linux , RTS is severely lacking. the games are sloopy looking, and often too buggy to play, with poor network support.

    I hope this changes soon, in fact i pray that StarCraft 2 has a linux port… it would be the best thing EVER to happen to linux. we should start a petition.

  15. th |

    True, I agree that RTS’es are lacking and I found this part much more challenging to write than the first part. I guess Starcraft 2 on Linux is just a daydream but Blizzard generally releases their games for Windows and Mac OS, which means their engine code isn’t tied to Windows. I heard wild rumor that there actually was a native World of Warcraft Linux client back in beta times but they pulled it.

    Technically I don’t think Blizzard would have problems porting their games for Linux (since their engine is multi-platform already), but the actual problem is to get Blizzard realize the business opportunity. Linux has dramatically grown since Loki days, hopefully some publisher takes re-try with Linux-ports (I’m aware of Linux Game Publishing, but unfortunately they don’t have any big titles ported that I actually would be interested in).

    About the Cedega:

    I probably should concentrate less on it, but I think popular hit-title games that do run well under it should be mentioned. I don’t run Windows myself (at all), and I found out Cedega runs Warcraft 3 and Guild Wars, it was a big relief for me and I found it extremely useful.

  16. norg |

    Another native linux strategy game:

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  19. Rax |

    Also checkout Savage2 ( that combines RTS and FPS into a single game. Also a native linux version.. tho I think most of the game is online.

  20. Rax |

    oops.. should have mentioned that this is a commercial title..

    also I believe that they’ve released the original (also available for linux) free of charge.

  21. Jay |

    What about Stratagus-based games family?

    For example, Wargus is WarCraft II clone based on Stratagus engine.

  22. kahvipapu » Linux gaming, part three: strategy games (continued) |

    […] out, there are many cool strategy games available for Linux that weren’t mentioned in the part two. These games are simply too good to be missed, so here’s take two for the strategy […]

  23. MJH |

    glest is available as a package from the standard Mandriva repositories. other distributions may also have it packaged, so the “must be compiled” isn’t necessarily correct.

  24. Motorcycle Guy |

    Where can you buy civilization 3 for linux?

  25. AdamK |

    Where can you buy civilization 3 for linux?

  26. DevUrandom |

    Warzone 2100 link and download page are wrong. They have to be: and

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  30. SteveOC |

    Being a wargamer / miniatures player from way back .. I cant help but get drawn back time and time again to 2 old favorites :

    lgeneral - native linux clone of panzer general, (Turn based WW2 grand tactical - played at Corps/Army level) Includes utilities to import PG scenarios. Point releases of LGeneral change the AI enough to make re-playing all the scenarios different again :) Scenarios are all just hard enough to make it always a bit of a rush to beat the clock.

    netpanzer - real time multiplayer tank building and figting game. Excellently balanced play means that nobody ever really ‘WINS’ .. just keep respawning, so the battlefield is in a constant state of churn. Netpanzer is awesome and highly addicitive - the player that ‘WINS’ for a period of time is the one most capable of thinking and anticipating play about 5-10 minutes in advance.

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  32. Iggi |

    “Where can you buy civilization 3 for linux?”

    Nowhere, because it seems to be an error in the article. The author probably means “Civilisation - Call to Power”, which was ported by Loki.

  33. th |

    Yes, I meant Call To Power. Sorry about that :/

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  36. me |

    is their a way to get empire earth to run on linux?

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  38. Tom Benko |

    Wow! I like strategy games, specially tbs. And mentioning Laser Squad bring me good old memories from my teen age. I wonder why no one made it for Linux yet.

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  40. Spore |

    Good one, I love Jagged Alliance games.

  41. Lenny |

    good list but theres a few more awesome linux games listed here that you missed:

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