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The best strategy games on PC don’t cost a dime to pick up. Here are a few of our favorites

Strategy games and the PC are just made for each other. With the precision of a mouse and the power of a good graphics card, the depth and complexity inherent to their design can be fully fleshed out into massive, expansive worlds that offer hours of entertainment.

These are a few of our favorite strategy games that you can play for free on the PC today.

Hearthstone

Not since Texas Hold’Em has a card game gained so rapidly in popularity across all walks of life. According to Blizzard’s latest investment call, the Hearthstone playerbase currently enjoys a roster of over 25 million monthly card sharks, a number that only continues to swell as more people get hooked on the “deceptively simple, insanely fun” game.

The game is similar to many other CCGs in the same category, such as Magic the Gathering. You build a deck of thirty cards using one of nine different classes (Mage, Shaman, Druid, and more) that you think will have the best chance of beating your opponents.

Equal parts devastating frustration and jubilant triumph, Hearthstone takes all the best elements of tabletop CCGs and throws them into a giant number generator to see what comes out the other side. Because the game is digital, many of the card effects can be randomized, meaning no two matches ever play out exactly the same as the last.

So strap on your card playing gloves and get ready to pray to RNGesus, because Hearthstone is free to play on your PC, tablets, and phones today.

League of Legends

Born out of a mod for Warcraft 3 back in 2005, the MOBA (short for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre has come to dominate the F2P PC gaming scene in the past few years, with titles like Heroes of Newerth, Heroes of the Storm, and DOTA 2 flooding onto our desktops by the handful.

On the outset, the premise of League of Legends is simple. Two teams of five players fight each other on a battlefield containing three lanes. Neutral monsters, or “minions” periodically feed down each lane, and players try and kill as many as they can while also trying to kill each other at the same time. As minions die, gold is gathered and levels are gained, items to increase stats are bought, which can then be used to beef up your character when you eventually start fighting as a team.

Lightning fast reflexes combine with relentless action to provide an adrenaline-fueled ride that entertains from start to finish. The skill curve can be punishing for newbies, but LoL’s tutorial and co-op system make it easy for players of all ages and backgrounds to ease into things before diving into a full on 5v5 on Summoner’s Rift.

At current, the developer Riot Games boasts over 110 million players who sign into the game at least once per month, making League not just the most popular game right now, but the most popular game of all time.

Personally, I’ve been doing battle on the Rift for almost four years now, and haven’t spent a dime. As long as you’re happy learning the ropes on the stock rotation of free weekly champions, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able buy your favorites using the in-game currency to play as often as you like in ranked and unranked matches, online or off.

Download League of Legends for free today.

Starcraft II (Arcade)

If you ask anyone who’s older than 12 what the quintessential real-time strategy game of our era is, Starcraft is the answer you’ll get.

Starcraft wasn’t the first of its kind, with other series like Command and Conquer and Age of Empires predicating it by almost half a decade by the time it came out in 1998. It was, however, the king of the RTS genre for the next ten years, with perfect mechanics and a deep meta-game that continued to evolve through patches and expansions.

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Image Credit: Blizzard

Now we have Starcraft II which, while imperfect in many ways, still has an amazing custom game scene that you can dive into free of charge. The Starcraft II Arcade is filled with highly-addictive fan-made maps like Squadron Tower Defense, Nexus Wars, and Marine Arena. Each incorporate wildly different play styles into their strategies, and on their own are enough to warrant the cost of what you’d get with the full game.

Set up a free account with Blizzard’s Battle.net service and download the Starcraft II Arcade without dropping a dime.

Stronghold Kingdoms

Part Civilization V and part Clash of Clans, Stronghold Kingdoms has a healthy population of players which will keep you on your toes as everyone fights and duels it out for complete control of a map containing gold to gather, villages to plunder, and armies to fight.

You start with a meager castle, a few workers, and a dwindling amount of resources, and use those to slowly start amassing an empire. Explore the outer reaches of the world to feed your growing city, but be careful, because that’s when you’re most vulnerable to being attacked.

Alliances can be formed and broken between rival players, and although the graphics may be a bit outdated, there’s enough content here to make up for any losses in image fidelity.

You can find Stronghold Kingdoms on the Steam store for the low price of free-99 today.

Epic Arena

Epic Arena takes everything we love about the Heroes of Might and Magic series and melds it together with Magic the Gathering-style card mechanics into one, polished package.

This turn-based strategy game starts you out on a hexagonally-divided game board with a pre-established set of units that you use to face off with your opponent. The game is all about positioning, and carefully choosing which engagements you take to optimize the power of your army as a whole.

Upgrades and power-ups are acquired through individual cards which can be earned after each victory or loss. By managing how your soldiers gain levels and equip gear, you can create thousands of different styles of armies, like a burly set of bruisers who take the fight head on, warlocks who use spells and trickery to outwit the opponent, or thieves who use movement and agility to keep the enemy in the dark.

The game is built with your choice of a single-player campaign, or multiplayer arenas with leaderboards, seasonal resets, and a ranked system which ensures you’ll never bet matched with anyone too far outside of your skill level.

Epic Arena is available through the Steam Store now.