Matrix Games’ Seasonal Strategy Sale

By Adam Smith on December 15th, 2011 at 10:57 am.

People either find things like this very exciting indeed or think that people who do are mad in the head

‘Tis the season to report that many a thing is on sale. The latest discounts to come to my attention are over at Matrix Games, eminently serious-minded purveyors of complex strategic delicacies It’s not often that these grizzled veterans emerge into the wilds – they hate breaking cover – so the only hope for a discount is usually when Matrix have their own sales and this year, the holiday sale includes everything released before 2011, as well as a few from this year. Head over and take a look.

It seems that computer games are mostly either free or in bundles these days, so the prices that Matrix offer during a sale will come as a shock to some. Nothing here is particularly cheap, especially in comparison to the pennies demanded for some top quality titles elsewhere on the internet. But if gaming is a hobby, this bunch are the hobbyists within the hobby, making the kind of complex, deep strategy that it’s damnably hard to find anywhere else.

Take any game with “Gary Grigsby’s” before the bulk of its title. See those words and you can expect hexes and intense turn-based historical strategy that takes into account every possible permutation of war, from weather to supply chains and morale. There are several Grigsby games in the sale but War In the East is the crowning glory, a stupendous game that simulates the Eastern Front of the Second World War over four campaigns. It’s the kind of thing I could imagine finding my grandfather stooping over in his study, except there it would have been laid out on a board rather than crammed onto a hard drive. Sadly, the price is somewhat akin to buying an actual board, with hundreds of pieces, so even with a 33% discount it costs $53.99/£37.99.

You probably already know if you want to pay money for this sort of thing and if you do, these are prices as good as I’ve seen all year. Also worth its own mention is Distant Worlds, my favourite space strategy title of recent times. The base game is currently discounted by 33%, as is the first expansion.

The full list is a dangerous thing to peruse if you are of a similar mind to me. I don’t know many people who would want these as gifts but I also know that unless I buy them for myself, no one will indulge me. I have been a good boy this year though. I deserve all the hexes in Europe.

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40 Comments »

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  1. TC-27 says:

    I am going to take a risk on Distant Worlds though getting it plus all the expansions is going to be £50 even in this sale.

    Gods of gaming be with me.

    • abremms says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Sins, its in my top 10 best games of ever, but Sins is a kiddie pool next to Distant World’s Deep Sea of Maximum Depth wot goes Really Deep. That doesn’t necessaily make DW a better game, but if you are willing to put in the time to climb the learning cliff you’ll find a satisfying game that is, in my opinion, worth the admitedly rediculous ticket price.

  2. WMain00 says:

    That top picture looks mind bogglingly complicated.

  3. Zeewolf says:

    BUY DISTANT WORLDS!!!!

    (that was my attempt at super-liminal messaging … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xx4BsBr2fU )

    • TheOx129 says:

      I wouldn’t say Distant Worlds is a niche game necessarily, just that it takes a very different approach to the 4X genre, focusing on macromanagement instead of micromanagement (though you can alter how much you wish to micromanage by changing automation options). It also has a lot in common with Paradox games in terms of scale, it being real-time, etc. However, the macromanagement focus is something that I wish more 4X games would explore, as the only other example I can think of is MOO3, which while a disaster at launch shaped up into something unique and, IMHO, quite entertaining with patching and mods.

  4. Jams O'Donnell says:

    All I want is a nice accessible hex game, or more accurately a 100% faithful remake of Battle Isle or History Line.

    • Adam Smith says:

      While it can become terribly complicated, Panzer Corps is fantastic and much less tricky to get to grips with than some of the other stuff on there. Also, there’s a demo!

      Definitely worth trying.

      Here ’tis.

    • TC-27 says:

      Check out Unity of Command.

      Its really Hexes but hidden with nicer grpahics.

    • Adam Smith says:

      That was to be my next suggestion – but I’ve not really played enough of it yet to be sure.

    • Gaytard Fondue says:

      The thing is that I can always go back to PG 2 or Open General instead of paying for a clone (a good one, yes). So I don’t think my government would allow such a purchase.

    • Premium User Badge

      Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Unity of Command is out? Why did no one tell me?

    • Arona Daal says:

      “…100% faithful remake of Battle Isle…” + Free =

      http://www.asc-hq.org/

      enjoy!

  5. adamsolo says:

    Distant Worlds Legends is a great buy. Totally recommend it.
    Here is my review to help you decide: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2011/12/distant-worlds-legends-review/
    You have another review from the gamesquad.com guys here: http://www.gamesquad.com/review/reviewed-distant-worlds-legends
    Another here (for spanish speaking folks): http://estrategasdesillon.blogspot.com/2011/12/distant-worlds-legends-descubre-los.html

    DW Legends is the new 4X space strategy game reference.

  6. Squirrelfanatic says:

    Holy cow, YES! Quick, inform the guys of ThreeMovesAhead about this. :)

    Edit: Looks at prices. Oh no! :O

  7. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Hnnnggghh… Battle Academy still remains tantalisingly out of impulse buy price range.

    For an idea of the flavour of War in the East I heartily recommend Bruce Geryk’s game diary from earlier in the year (start at the bottom then continue to page one, and then perhaps on to his as yet unfinished ‘Eagle Day’ diary) and the brace of podcasts the Three Moves Ahead guys devoted to it (one and two) which, iirc, also contain Bruce in all his pomp.

  8. Moth Bones says:

    I am so, so tempted to dip my toe in these waters. Adam, other posters – recommend a good entry-level title from this catalogue. Matrix can get what I’ll save from boycotting CD Projekt until that business is sorted out :-)

    Edit – Ah, posted too soon. Reckon I’ll just try the Panzer Corps demo then!

    • Dariune says:

      If you haven’t tried Distant Worlds already I can reccomend that.

      Its very different to other 4x’s with a few hit and miss ideas but for the most part, its fantastic. It takes a lot of getting used to but it plays really well, with a real feeling of empire management.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I’m sure there are better entry-level games on the list but a demo is the greatest gift of all and they are few and far between. Plus, Panzer Corps is very good indeed.

      My advice: embrace learning, don’t be intimidated, remember that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s easy to get bogged down with every detail but just playing and trying to execute different strategies is what it’s all about. Nothing wrong with learning through failure and it can be great fun.

    • Moth Bones says:

      I had a look at Distant Worlds but the real-time aspect puts me off; I rather bounced off AI War because of that. I know RTS games are pausable, but that doesn’t really seem to help for me (not on a tactical level anyway; I’m fine with grand strat games like EU3). So it’s the turn-based stuff I’m really looking at. I bought Dominions 3 at full price earlier this year and don’t regret it, so I know I do have an affinity. It’s just working out which war/era I’m most interested in, I guess.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      This episode of the ThreeMovesAhead podcast deals with the issue of to get started with strategy gaming. Maybe it is of interest to you.

      http://flashofsteel.com/index.php/2009/09/08/three-moves-ahead-episode-29-getting-started/

    • PUKED says:

      Moth Bones, if it’s the hectic pacing of AI War that put you off Distant Worlds isn’t at all like that, it’s real time but still pretty ponderous. The only time it feels like things are getting away from you is in the late game if you get really war happy, but even then it’s not too bad.

  9. Dariune says:

    I notice Armada and expansion are on there. I have heard so many mixed reports of that game.

    Anyone here played it and have an opinion on whether it is worth getting? Anyone at all? Hive mind perhaps?

    I’m sure you have nothing better than to give me personalised reviews for games I’m thinking of buying.

  10. Megadyptes says:

    Gods damned Matrix games, everything so overpriced and they don’t even show you the full price + tax ’till you hit the checkout.

  11. adamsolo says:

    @Dariune, and everyone else also of course :)

    Quick story

    Armada 2526: TBS, (RTS for battles), great eXploration feeling. Great first-half game. Lacking tech-tree and space combat. Reminds you of Master of Orion 2. Supernova (the expansion) brings good things like trade, improved research and many other things.

    Distant Worlds: RTS, 2D, complex, steep learning curve (but better now with the expansions), lots of automation options if that’s for you. Diplomacy is one of the best, research is good, space combat is ok. Original (vanilla) not recommended. Return of the Shakturi (1st expansion) is good, Legends (2nd expansion) is great. UI has been significantly improved in the expansions.

    As we are in the subject.

    Star Ruler: RTS, 3D, best ship design ever, good depth, good UI, good music, few annoyances, ok/good space combat (not Sins but good), light diplomacy, weak/light research.

    My personal preference is for Distant Worlds Legends first, then Armada 2526 Supernova and then Star Ruler.

    You can know more details in my blog.

    • Dariune says:

      Wow Thanks adamsolo.

      Great write up (and blog)

      I agree about Distant Worlds. Im a big fan. I also love Galciv, though the research is a bit cheesy and the combat is dull (You can only watch)

      I havent tried Star Ruler or Armada because of the hugely mixed reviews i have heard. I am seriously considering an Armada purchase though.

      (Once I am finished with Anno 2070 which is a phenominal game :) )

  12. Iain at Slitherine says:

    Thanks for the recommendations Adam! For anyone looking for an entry level wargame then Panzer Corps or Battle Academy are definitely the best ones to look at. They are $29.99 and $20.99 respectively and both have demos. Battle Academy is also available on Mac and nearing completion on iPad.

    Panzer Corps – http://www.slitherine.com/games/panzer_corps_pc
    Battle Academy – http://www.slitherine.com/games/bbc_ba_pc

    Iain
    Slitherine / Matrix

  13. mcol says:

    Distant worlds is fantastic, I went beyond the pain threshold it is true to break out the wallet on that game (even on sale it is £53 for all of them, and you need all of them really), but I most definitely do not regret it.

    Personally I think it is the best of the genre, and I’ve played many/most. Simply because it makes me feel like I am governing in a living breathing galaxy and making decisions that I would expect of my lofty position, rather than micro’ing down to a ridiculous level.
    You can adjust the level of control you have, from the game virtually playing itself, down to complete control of everything. So you can find your level depending on how much you wish to control, or your level of knowledge and experience with the game. This makes the game very accessible despite its complexity.

    At a minimum I would get the base game and Return of Shakturi, as the first expansion improves the base game massively. Spend an hour or so going through the tutorial, and then you’re good to go. But start with a small galaxy, with one or two other opponents, set it to sandbox (remove victory conditions), remove priates and aliens, and have a tinker. Gradually turn off automation during the game as you feel fit.

    Edit: on the price – no I don’t understand it either. I guess Matrix position themselves as the single purveyor of extremely first class and very niche wargames, and price accordingly. But I cannot help but feel that it prices so many potential customers out of the genre.
    Fwiw – I felt like I got value for money on DW, at the sale price. It’s clear this game is going to last me years, it’s full of meaty goodness.
    By comparison I felt robbed when I purchased Panzer Corp on release.

  14. impar says:

    Get Panzer Corps.

    Enough said.

  15. sinister agent says:

    I’ve had my eye on Distant Worlds for ages, but even before I was on a tight games budget, I wouldn’t have spent £23 on it. And that’s with the discount.

    I can only assume they don’t care how many people buy their games.

  16. Suits says:

    Well I dodged this bullet towards my bank account at least.

  17. Retro says:

    Here’s an AAR for a War In The East campaign that’s been ongoing for 10 months.. http://simhq.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/3183226/WitE_Grand_Campaign.html

  18. ru_disa says:

    After trying the demo, I bough Panzer Corps (and Unity of Command, for good measure). I’m loving both games immensly. Very different mechanics and things to play with… so I’d say that getting both was justified! I know there are freeware remakes of PG2 available, but a couple of subtle changes in the game rules and flavor additions make PC woth it, IMO.
    I’ve only just completed the tutorial and started the first campaign, but there seems a lot of game here…

    @mcol: Why do you say you felt robbed by Panzer Corps?

  19. Preciousgollum says:

    I purchased Panzer Corps recently and I would say that it is fairly easy to get into. Although I am interested in many game genres, I have recently had a real hunger for strategy games of all types and complexities.

    I actually took it far enough to write an article about a battle in Panzer corps that turned out to be part history, part essay on the wider learning process, using an AAR of Panzer Corps (Barbarossa) as a way to tie this information together and provide a model (or artefact) for understanding. We realise that a lot of what we do is only skimming the surface of our understanding and this helped me realise little nuances on a deeper level.

    It is over 3000 words (all written yesterday, although, depending on its purpose, entire sections of the article can be removed in a ‘modular’ way) and I would be interested in distributing it somehow. How would people here recommend I go about doing this?

  20. cptgone says:

    i’ve been lusting for matrix games for years now, but… homebanking computer says no.

    however, some of the ‘discounted’ games can be found much, much cheaper elsewhere!
    e.g. “WW2: Time of Wrath”, which isn’t bad at all (allthough it’s supply concept is overly simplistic, and i didn’t like the way air strikes are handled much either). a sequel is in the works BTW.

  21. admanb says:

    I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy Field of Glory. This ought to do it.

  22. fhfghf says:

    Happy 2012 new year,Merry Christmas ,Christmas top gift
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  23. Warth0g says:

    Like some of the previous posters I’ve always wanted to get into a good wargame but never really managed it. I did try Heart of Irons which look like it would be fantastic but I couldn’t get past the learning curve. I don’t have the time to figure out games of that sort of complexity and I’m sure many other are similar.

    What I’m really after is a computer version of something like GEV or Ogre. Anyone remember those? They were relatively simple hex based war games which were great fun but didn’t have the layers of micro-management which I have no interest in. Is there anything like that out there? I will give Panzer Corps a go…

  24. CaBBagE says:

    Just want to put another hand up for Distant Worlds, it manages to meld two things I enjoy a good 4X but with a deep storyline and gripping space exploration, ok that’s three. It is pricey but for once I’d say its worth it. The tutorials are better now and the way the game begins, with your empire mainly automated, you get to take on what you can handle as you can handle it. For instance in my last game I wanted to explore so I took over the ship design process etc. and everything related to finding what’s out there. The fact this ended up in me being battered from one end of the galaxy to the other is neither here nor there lol!

  25. Chris says:

    Distant Worlds is good.

    But not £50 good.