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Turn based games are (perhaps were) pretty popular, and for good reason, there are some great ones out there.

My question is: What makes turn based games good, and stops them becoming boring in all that time where nothing's happening?

So, what's your personal favourite Turn-Based game, and what makes it go good?
Favorite game: Civilization IV, especially when expanded (through mods) into a massively gigantic game.

What do you mean, "all the time when nothing is happening"? There are always _tons_ of things happening in Civ4, more than in most real-time games. You just have more control about when to address it.
My current favorite is Eador: Genesis. As Psyringe alluded to, there's no real down time in the turn based format, per se. It's just that you can do things at whatever pace you desire (for the most part, anyway). I can take as much time as I want to plan moves, but it's not really the game imposing the restriction on me. In Eador, I click the 'End Turn' button, the game cycles for a couple of seconds and then it's back to the game.

Why do I enjoy Eador: Genesis specifically? For one, I enjoy fantasy-themed turn based games in general so I've gone in with a bit of a positive bias. I like the look of the game. The graphics aren't breath-taking, but the color pallette (sp?) is pleasing to the eye...vivid...nice contract. I like the depth of the game's strategic elements. You have to balance combat, economic, and diplomatic considerations pretty carefully. There's no building a killer stack from the get go and steam-rolling through the map. You need to not only take immediate needs into account, but think several turns in advance, as well. As with most good games in the genre, there's no real 'right' choices, just what you think is the best available option at the time. What puts it over the top for me is the replayability factor. Not only does it possess the 'just one more turn' factor (for me, anyway. But I can't wait to start another game and try a different strategy even if my last game ended in a horrible flame out.

Hope that helps.
Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic.
The strategy, empire building and city building part is not better than in other games, but the Age of Wonders games have the best tactical combat of any strategy game I've played.
Why should a turn-based game get boring? There is a number of reasons why this could be – but in some way they can also occur on realtime strategy games.

1. Repetition without something new
If you have to almost the same thing again and again without change and without some event to happen now and then, this could be boring. At first it’s ok because you learn the game mechanisms, but after you got behind what you’re doing, it’s only a small step to just process a neccassary routine. There has to be more or less constant progress in performing your strategy.

2. Length
Depends on the game, some need more game time, some come quick into action. Length is not bad, if you like doing a grand strategy, or if you want to build or expand an empire bigger and bigger. As long as 1) is no concern, the length is a matter of your own game taste.


Currently I play Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which is a successor to Civilization 2 with many unique elements. And it’s in space. I have fun in this, even when a game lasts several hours and I can only play one game per week. Compared to Civ I like the post-modern tech tree and units, the setting as a whole. Even the not-so-pretty graphics are no drawback.
I like micro-management, plan every single base by myself (not the automated governor). This costs time, but if I get bored, I can set my own speed. Just click „next round“ several times, and whoops the action comes quicker then you can build a new infantry unit. :)
STARS!
It's the only TBS I really like and I truly adore it. I think it has to do with the fact that it can be as complictaed or non as you want it to be. I love a good mental challenge but not usually when I'm gaming and STARS! can offer both. It's entirely possible to win without figuring out how to orchestrate intergalactic trading and mining routes, but if you want that challenge it's there for you. You can win it with simple brutality or not. It's your call.
There are a lot of good TBS games. I really like Age Of Wonders. The story line is good, the units varied and I love the fantasy setting. I also thought the depth of the game was great with heros, items, unit tiers, different spheres of magic. The animation has also aged well. The scenario format is fun too. As has been mentioned TBS can get boring near the end of th game, but the progressing story on different maps was great.

I'm playing imperialism right now and I like the economic factor. It is REALLY important and you need the other players to get ahead.
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Psyringe: Favorite game: Civilization IV, especially when expanded (through mods) into a massively gigantic game.

What do you mean, "all the time when nothing is happening"? There are always _tons_ of things happening in Civ4, more than in most real-time games. You just have more control about when to address it.
When I read the OP, the thoughts forming in my mind were precisely how you answered. Each incarnation of Civ has been my favorite TBS with Civ IV taking the cake. And yes, there is stuff happening all the time in a well made TBS. Only bad ones feel like nothing happens and gets boring or repetetive.

The 2nd response in this thread is also an answer I agree with since Eador is my favorite current TBS for all the reasons Homer mentioned. So many options with what to do in every turn of this game. Its super fun and very well paced.

TBS is such a fun genre.
There are so many and I am more an RPG gamer myself but I am going with Panzer General. I think it is great for the same reason so many others are. Its easy to get into and has a great depth as you continue.
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robotgoblin: My question is: What makes turn based games good, and stops them becoming boring in all that time where nothing's happening?
I always have this feeling that turn based combat artificially stretches game's duration 10-fold. In Heroes of M&M for example sieges can last over an hour, sometimes replaying the same one 6 times gives you .. right, black hole of wasted time. In jRPGs the issue is even more obvious.
To the good sides: TBS doesn't make you generate 600 clicks per minute as an RTS, no rushing, following your own pace.
HoMM 3. I dunno, there's just something different about it I can't find in any other game.
I want to mention the great Julian Gollop
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Gollop
Lords of Chaos and Laser Squad were awesome back on the C64 and then the man went and brought us the X-COM series - sublime!
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robotgoblin: ... My question is: What makes turn based games good, and stops them becoming boring in all that time where nothing's happening? ...
In the best case there is always something happening. When you aren't directly at war you are plotting to go to war or find allies and upgrade your technology. Since the objetives are so different and not all achievable at the same time and since good strategy games are so well balanced you need some complex strategy. A balanced strategy can take you far, but going extreme often is the key to success. You must simply know when to go all in. And then no game is the same because the optimal action always depends on what the others do. As minor positive effects you have historical settings giving you the "ruler of the world" feeling/immersion and the exploration part, in the beginning you don't what the world will contain.

Some of the best tbs games achieving all this are Civilization series, Master of Orion 1+2, XCOM, Heroes of Might and Magic, ... and most time I spent with Civ III and MoO 2, so these must be the best for me.
Jagged Alliance 2

My favorite TBS and one of my favorite games of all time. Generally there's not a year that goes by without me playing this game. Guess what game I'll be playing when I get home now that you reminded me of it? :)

The number one reason why I love it are the mercenaries. They are so different from one another, different skills lead to different play styles. Different personalities lead to different teams, some mercs get along great with one another, while some can't stand each other and will actually stop working with you if don't fire the other one. And it's the little things that make it seem more alive. Like one of the mercenaries, Vicky, is claustrophobic. Not a good idea to bring her into a mine :)

There are different ways to go about combat. You can get stealthy night ops mercs and take out locations in the middle of the night. The enemy won't know what happened. Or you can go guns blazing, one pistol in each hand, a heavy assault rifle, some mortar, rocket launcher, grenades, whatever you like. Or maybe you'd like to go the sniper route. Pick up a Dragunov, get on a roof and blow the brains of everything your spotter finds.

There are some RPG elements. You mercs evolve (so does their pay), you get to recruit some mercs from the local populations, do a few quests. Overall it's a great game and the mercs and NPC interactions give it personality.
Main is Age of Wonders.

The city/management is not complex, you can focus more on tactics rather than strategy. The story is interesting and beside this, the graphics and the music are very nice.