As a gamer, I’m a fan of a good grand strategy game. While their universal ability to consume whole days of time means they don’t form a regular part of my gaming schedule purely for reasons of self-preservation, every now and again I will indulge and sink my teeth into a meaty title just long enough to conquer whichever slice of the world (or galaxy) is on offer today. Such games come in both turn-based (Civilization, Total War) and real-time (Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings) offerings, and they key differences between them and other titles is the way in which their gameplay represents the passage of years of time, and the available playing field spans continents or whole worlds. In a grand strategy game, you do not control an army, but whole nations – and the depth of the game systems from cultural to economic to diplomatic reflects it. The scale on which the player operates is such that individual armies and battles are often abstracted away with unit markers and dice rolls, rather than being the focus (the famous exception being the Total War games, which offer both a turn-based grand strategy map and the ability to directly control your armies in real-time combat).
No matter which style of gameplay they fall into, however, all grand strategy games face the same problem: How to stop a player from simply overrunning their opponents and bringing the game to a close quickly once they begin to gain an advantage. The solutions vary, and some are far, far worse than others.