Skip to Content

Strategy vs Tactics in games

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 07/28/2011

In my quest of designing a CCG, I am currently quite confuse with the notion and role of strategy and tactics in games. I do understand the standard definition of strategy and tactics (strategy is long term plan, tactics is short term plan...), these definitions are normally found in business or military field. The main problem I have is strategy and tactics in GAMES.

There are people who suggests that strategy is harder to plan while tactics are easier to make, and that strategy is superior to tactics. In fact, if I am not mistaken, in Sun Tzu's Art of War, he said something like: Strategy without tactics is the slowest way to victory, tactics without strategy is the sure way to defeat. This further stresses the idea that strategy is more important and more rewarding than tactics. For example, people always tell me that chess is 99% tactics, and go is more on strategy (some may argue that go has tactics as well) and therefore go is superior to chess. Is it true that a game which focus on strategy is tougher and more challenging and so, more rewarding than a tactical game?

Lastly, what are some game mechanics that make a game more strategic and which makes the game more tactical? Thanks.

Joined: 12/12/2011
As far as card games go, I

As far as card games go, I see strategy as being your deck design (the pre-game) while tactics are the turn to turn choices that you make.

For this reason, card games need both in equal amounts. If it's all strategy, then the game would end up having no decision-making after 'play' begins, and it's impossible to be strictly tactics if players are required to design decks in the first place.

The more styles of possible decks and/or ways players can utilize card interactions, the greater the strategy for a card game, IMO.

A higher level of tactical play comes from having options during the course of the game. This can be done by the way cards are played, the way resources are managed, greater diversity in the cards a player chooses to put into their deck, etc.

Those are my thoughts anyway. What CCGs are you familiar with?

Horatio252's picture
Joined: 03/13/2011
Neat Question

I will make up definitions then use it. A tactical decision is one I make about what to do this turn. A strategic decision is one I make about what to do in a future turn. With this definition moving my Knight to take your Rook is a tactical decision. Moving my Knight to take your Rook so that next turn I can move my Queen put your King in checkmate is a strategic decision. Perhaps the contrast is most obvious in a situation where I expose my Queen to being taken in hopes that my opponent will leave his King exposed by taking my Queen. The tactical choice is to the take the queen, it is the best move this turn. The strategic choice is to not take the queen and keep his pieces protecting his king.

I think then that how strategic a game is has more to do with player's abilities to plan ahead and use current turns to prepare for later turns. For example, in Settlers of Catan whether I build on a given turn usually tactical: if I have the resources I need, I build. There is no point in waiting for a later turn. Also, if I don't have a resource I need there is no guarantee I will get one on or before my next turn so I can't plan ahead very well. On the other hand, where I build is strategic. If I have no access to Wheat then I will build roads towards Wheat and a settlement on the edge of a Wheat hex. That takes planning over many turns.

Games which fit under the description "engine building" are pretty strategic. Games with "take that" mechanics, scored rounds, and most party games are more tactical.

I would think that games with more strategy are more rewarding for good players and encourage repeated play. Games with more tactics are more rewarding the first time and have less of a disparity between new and experienced players.

Those are my thoughts, based on my made-up definition of strategy and tactics in games.

James Rex
Joined: 12/10/2011
All plans are strategy.

All plans are strategy. Tactics are how well you execute plans.

You can make strategy more important: simply make sure that a certain strategy can always beat another despite how well a person plays.

You can make tactics more important: simply let a player's skill always win despite any combination of counter-strategies played against him.

To make a good game, though, you need both in equal measure.

===== More Notes =====

Strategy, as defined, is the plan you set forth to win the game. Usually, the designer has a few paths in mind that players can use to achieve victory. In Chess, a strategy might be to control the center of the board to overpower your opponent with tempo; another strategy might be to always trade pieces to open up the board. In Magic, there's the trinity of Aggro, Combo and Control.

A great strategic game should have multiple valid strategies, variants on the designer's idea of those strategies, and counters to the strategies. CCGs, Twilight Emperium, Catan are great examples of strategy.

Tactics, as defined, is "how" you put forward the strategy. With the chess strategy of taking the center with pawns, the tactic is how you play those pawns to take the center. Your beginner won't care about tactics and just throw moves out there with no notion of whether it was right or not. An expert will know what move to do in what circumstance against a particular strategy to forward his own strategy. A game with no tactics will measure all moves equally and is just boring. See Chutes and Ladders for the least tactical game. You always want to land on that ladder and avoid the slides, for example.

A great tactical game should allow the skilled player to win against an unskilled player most of the time if they're using the same strategy against each other. Chess, Go, Puetro Rico are great games of tactics.

James Games

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut