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By definition, 4X is the abbreviation of eXploration, eXpansion, eXploitation, and eXtermination, a term originally coined by Alan Emrich. In terms of use and practice, 4X is some what more complex and may have expanded from its original definition.

Traditionally 4X was first popularly used to identify strategy games such as Sid Meier's Civilization and Master of Orion, although 4X games by its characteristics may have existed far earlier than the aforementioned games.

A 4X game must fulfill ALL the following requirements:
  • Strategic Gameplay
  • The player usually plays the role of a leader or adviser to a race, faction, country, civilization, nation, or any bunch of blokes in a large scale population against opposing forces. The game genre is usually limited to the strategy gameplay. No other genres have been identified under 4X.

  • eXploration
  • The eXploration category identifies the purpose of exploring surrounding territories, which may signify the use of a map. Exploration is conducted by sending out units to unexplored regions, where newly discovered locations become and remain revealed, depending on the variations of an implemented fog of war effect.

  • eXpansion
  • The eXpansion category identifies the objective to expand territory or area of control, usually (optional) after eXploration campaigns have been successfully carried out. The strategy of eXpansion requires a balance between the player's ability to expand as well as the player's ability to defend and hold conquered or areas under the player's control. Existing or new areas/territories (towns, planets, etc.), may then be developed with structural buildings or other enhancements.

  • eXploitation
  • The eXploitation category identifies the objective to control resources, where resources may or may not be limited. The eXploitation category goes hand-in-hand with the eXpansion category: the more territory the player controls, the less the opponent does, thus the more resources the player has to his/her disposal.

  • eXtermination
  • The eXtermination category is the result of continuous expansion. Conflict is inevitable and when push comes to shove, extermination of the opponent is eminent. Extermination requires the total elimination of an opponent or to subdue the opponent under the player's direct or indirect control (i.e. vassal, puppet, etc.) via armed conflict or diplomatic devices.

  • Randomly Generated Environments
  • See the Games with randomly generated environments game group for further information.

  • Structural Building
  • No 4X game has been identified to do without a structural building or similar devices. Anything from a latrine to a planetary doomsday weapon station may be used to further advance the player's purpose.

  • Technological Advancement
  • Traditionally, 4X games have identified the use of technology advancements (or popularly known as a technology tree). These advancements are usually identified with the requirement to use resources, time to research, upgrade an idea or object, or other steps/factors needed before a certain (new or upgraded) technological benefit, unit, building, or similar devices be available to the player.

  • Diplomacy
  • The concept of not being alone in this existence refers to other beings(s) that may have different goals or priorities than the player. Diplomacy is the bridge to those differences of 4X. Diplomacy is used to make allies or enemies, trade resources and information, or even as a channel for espionage. Most 4X games prefer complex uses of diplomacy rather than the standard friend or foe commonly found in non-4X strategy war games.
For purposes of this game group, games where primary gameplay focuses only on eXtermination without any other possible victory conditions are excluded from this game group.

This means games such as Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Heroes of Might and Magic, or Warcraft should not go here.

Additional Note
Some hybrid games do not follow the traditional identification of 4X games, disabling one or more of its common features, yet may officially identify itself under the same genre. Whether or not these games should be included remain open for debate.
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sorted in ascending orderGame Title

Commodore 64 (2006)

Advanced Space Battle is a turn based space strategy game for 1 to 4 players. Your aim is to build...

Age of Wonders Windows Front Cover

Windows (1999)

Age of Wonders is a turn-based strategy game set in a fantasy scenario. The campaign can be played on two...

Age of Wonders III Linux Front Cover

Linux (2015), Windows (2014) and Macintosh (2015)

Age of Wonders III is a turn-based strategy game and is mechanically similar to Master of Magic. The background story...

Age of Wonders II: The Wizard's Throne Windows Front Cover

Windows (2002)

Age of Wonders II: The Wizard's Throne is about a young wizard named "Merlin". The world is unbalanced, and Merlin...

Age of Wonders: Planetfall Windows Front Cover
Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic Windows Front Cover

Windows (2003)

Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is a stand-alone sequel to Age of Wonders II: The Wizard's Throne. Like its predecessors,...

Aggressors: Ancient Rome Windows Front Cover
Alien Legacy DOS Front Cover

DOS (1994)

After an alien attack in 2043, great technological leaps were made and space travel was significantly improved upon. In 2119,...

Windows (2004)

Based on the classic DOS game Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021, this shareware remake (by the original game's designer) adds a graphical,...

DOS (1987)

Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021 is an ASCII space strategy game in where you play (obviously) as the supreme leader of a...

A New World: Kingdoms Windows Front Cover

Windows (2017)

A Planet of Mine Windows Front Cover

Windows (2019), iPhone (2017), Android (2017) and iPad (2017)

Armada 2525 DOS Front Cover

DOS (1991)

An early 4X space strategy game that foreshadowed the more recent Master of Orion I and II. The game can...

Armada 2526 Windows Front Cover

Windows (2009)

Armada 2526 is a 4x space game and the successor of Armada 2525. As usual the player takes control over...

Ascendancy DOS Front Cover

DOS (1995), iPhone (2011) and iPad (2011)

Ascendancy is similar to, but nevertheless very different from, Master of Orion. You play one of many races, each with...

Astra Exodus Windows Front Cover

Windows (2020)

Windows (2004)

Aurora 4X is a grand strategy space 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) game that has been in development since 2004....

The Blue Planet 2000 DOS Front Cover

DOS (1995)

The Blue Planet 2000 is a 4X game and could be described as Civilization variant. The game starts in 6000...

Call to Power II Windows Front Cover

Windows (2000)

The sequel to Civilization: Call to Power, Call to Power II gives the player the chance to lead a civilization...

C-evo Windows Front Cover 1st version

Windows (1999)

C-evo (short for Civilization Evolution) is a 4X strategy game similar to Sid Meier's Civilization II. The game features hotseat...

Chieftain Linux Front Cover

Linux (2018), Windows (2018) and Macintosh (2018)

N-Gage (2006)

Civilization for N-Gage is a handheld version of a popular strategy series. However, it's not a port of any existing...

Civilization: Call to Power Linux Front Cover

Linux (1999), Windows (1999), Macintosh (2000) and BeOS (2000)

Civilization: Call to Power is a turn-based empire building game. The players start a civilization in the stone age and...

Civilization II: Multiplayer Gold Edition Windows Front Cover

Windows (1998) and Macintosh (1999)

This compilation includes the contents of the following games on one single disc: Sid Meier's Civilization II (base game) Sid...

Civilization II: Test of Time Windows Front Cover

Windows (1999)

Civilization II: Test of Time is a variant of Sid Meier's Civilization II (without Sid Meier's involvement) which comes with...

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