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Subject: Strategy vs Tactics in gaming rss

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Mike
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We were sitting around talking about games and gaming last weekend after finishing Battlestar Galactica. One of the subjects was the concept of how much strategy there was in a a game and what counted as strategy.

I ended up coming up with the following rule: Tactics is when you're thinking only about what you're doing this turn. Strategy is when you take into account how the actions you take this turn will affect you in future turns.

Examples we came up with of purely tactical games were Fluxx, The Stars Are Right, and Tsuro. In these games, the situation changes so randomly between your current turn and your next turn, there's no point in trying to plan for that next turn. You should simply react to the situation that exists in front of you on your turn.

This isn't saying the game is purely random. You are making choices about what you do on your turn so good play has a chance to defeat bad play. But the choices you're making have to be made on a turn-by-turn basis rather than as steps in an overall plan.

Do other people see this as a useful distinction?

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J C Lawrence
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Can I usefully plan the end of the game from before the game starts?
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Anthony Ferrise
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Wikipedia is my friend:

The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.

Tactics - short term decisions, how you "win the battles"
Strategy - long term plans, how you "win the war"

Most games have both - even games where you are just making decisions 'int he moment'. Some just have increased or decreased forms of one or the other.
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Based upon my poor understanding of history, science, and ethics...
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As distinctions go, it's better than many.

Strategy does exist in Fluxx, though. Faking a heart attack requires planning and proper implementation to be believable.
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Paul Walsh
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I think your definition's good, though with one small change. In a game like chess a tactic is a short-term possibility that you and your opponent need to take account of in your overall strategy. It could be something that would take a single turn but it could also be multiple turns that are to some extent calculable and "forced".
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Maarten D. de Jong
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A sufficient amount of sequential tactics = strategy. They're really two words to describe various time scales in the game. Tactics is how players affect the game state in the short term. Strategy is how they do so in the long term. How long 'short' and 'long' are (measured in time or game plies) is intentionally vague and general. Note that the presence of randomness means nothing in terms of tactics and strategy; and that strategy may even transcend single games.
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In my mind tactical decisions tend to be reactive. Responses to specific events. Strategy is the overall plan.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Koldfoot wrote:
As distinctions go, it's better than many.

Strategy does exist in Fluxx, though. Faking a heart attack requires planning and proper implementation to be believable.
I do believe this is the best thing I've ever seen you say.
 
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Robert Wesley
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clearclaw wrote:
Can I usefully plan the end of the game from before the game starts?
'moi' ALWAYS "planned" on ""WINNING!"" whistle
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Grognads, that's understandable text.
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Geoffrey Burrell
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Risk is also a game where there is a fine line between tactics and strategy.
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Matt D
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I use the distinction in two ways:

Strategy is usually determined at the start of a game (or towards the start) to guide you towards your ultimate goal. Tactics are how you get there.

To me it's not so much about timing per se (you could employ tactics first and that steers you to your strategy), or even necessarily about size of scope (although strategy is almost always larger in scale it's not necessarily the case).

I think of strategy as the destination you want to get to, and tactics are the specific navigational turns you take to get there. (And by destination I don't mean "win" - many games allow you to set a goal and that goal will influence whether you win or not).

Some examples I like to use:

7 Wonders is almost entirely a tactical game. There is some limited strategy based around what cards MIGHT be available to you if the hand comes back around,Mobutu for the most part it is about making the optimal play on that turn.

7 Wonders: Leaders added a strategic element to the base game, although it itself is only forged after some tactical decisions are made before the start of the game.

The Voyages of Marco Polo is an extremely strategic game (with experienced players). Once the board is laid out and players have the choice of characters, and then destination cards, an experienced player has plotted out the game for the most part. What cities they will drop trading posts in by game end, and in what general order he/she will drop them in. The individual actions to achieve that plan is tactical. But if you don't start out with a strategy, you will almost assuredly lose to someone who does.

Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is almost entirely tactical (except for one expansion that does much the same thing as Leaders for 7W). It's almost always going to be an ever changing decision tree on your turn to make the optimal play at that time. Now as the game goes on it will evolve such that some cards become more,optimal plays for you based on synergy with cards you have, but that is still not strategic. It's not like in a game where you buy a bunch of copies of one card in anticipation of some action that benefits from having the mass of them. (That is somewhat strategic).

I think it's important distinction to be aware of.

If you are struggling with a way to conceive of it, you can use an oversimplified yardstick - if I have to plan ahead for my next turn (or two or three), the game is strategic. If I don't need to or can't decide now what I am doing two turns from now...more tactical.

Most (good) games have an element of both. But some don't. And I need to watch it because while my wife loves playing games, she hates planning ahead. So knowing this I avoid Agricola or Marco Polo, and we stick to Ascension and Carcassonne.
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Brent Gerig
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MK99 wrote:
Examples we came up with of purely tactical games were Fluxx, The Stars Are Right, and Tsuro. In these games, the situation changes so randomly between your current turn and your next turn, there's no point in trying to plan for that next turn. You should simply react to the situation that exists in front of you on your turn.


Interesting. When my group plays Tsuro most of us are planning at least 2-3 moves ahead, and often more. Those plans definitely have to be adjusted and re-evaluated depending on what happens between turns, but so do all strategies.
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Strategy is the "what", tactics is the "how".
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Matt D
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Statalyzer wrote:
Strategy is the "what", tactics is the "how".


Pithier, but very accurate. I like it.
 
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Thom0909
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In chess, they say strategy is what you do when there's nothing to do.

It's a joke, but it means when there's no obvious tactical (i.e., combination) play at the moment, you think longer term.
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Brent Gerig
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Statalyzer wrote:
Strategy is the "what", tactics is the "how".


I like this short definition. To take the earlier example of 7 Wonders, I could decide at the beginning that my strategy is going to be to build up my trading, and rely on my neighbors' resources. I'm going to attempt to go strong on military and civic for my points. The tactics come down to each turn figuring out what move is optimal to further my strategy, as well as impede my neighbors from their own.
 
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Andrew Taylor
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I think it's easier to draw a meaningful distinction between strategy and tactics in the context of something genuinely long time - like an actual war.

Within the context of a board game, most of which last a few hours at most, it's going to be a much more fuzzy distinction (if one exists at all)
 
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Timothy Young
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cymric wrote:
Grognads, that's understandable text.



Seriously. This site is going to hell in a handbasket.
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J C Lawrence
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Tactics rarely if ever include the consideration of abstractions. Strategies frequently do.
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Timothy Young
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flaquito wrote:
To take the earlier example of 7 Wonders, I could decide at the beginning that my strategy is going to be to build up my trading, and rely on my neighbors' resources. I'm going to attempt to go strong on military and civic for my points.


Thing is, you really can't do this very successfully in 7 Wonders. You could very well never get enough trade, military and civic cards to be able to implement your strategy, because your opponents keep taking them before they get to you. Which is why this game becomes far more of a tactical game than a strategic one.

"Hmmm," you say to yourself. "My strategy coming into this was to concentrate on trade, military and civicitude (ahem). But my opponents keep taking all the trade, military, and civic cards. Not to worry, this will be the fifth tablet card I've drafted, so that's good for 25 points."
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Chris Williams

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If I'm honest, I do feel like for many games, there needs to be a third term introduced. The strategies of many games are so in-baked to the games that calling pursuing that particular win condition a "strategy" seems a bit dishonest. Deciding to have the most yellow meeples in Five Tribes, for example, is something that you could decide by a simple dice roll, and then proceed on to target yellow this time, instead of blue. Minus the need of creativity and the possibility of bluffing and deception, it seems rather shallow to call this "strategy".

A strategy is something that you use to emphasize your strengths and target the weaknesses of your opponent(s). Straightforward set collection and scoring criteria are rarely going to allow for that.

So overall I'd argue for having the three:

tactics
win path
strategy
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Jim Hill
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In terms of war, strategy is everything you do to try and turn up at the battle with no chance of losing. Tactics is what happens after the battle is joined.

So in board game terms, strategy is rigging the dice, stacking the decks, bribing your opponents and ensuring you have a few important cards up your sleeve.

In war, last thing you want is a fair fight.
 
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Brent Gerig
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TIM0THY wrote:
flaquito wrote:
To take the earlier example of 7 Wonders, I could decide at the beginning that my strategy is going to be to build up my trading, and rely on my neighbors' resources. I'm going to attempt to go strong on military and civic for my points.


Thing is, you really can't do this very successfully in 7 Wonders. You could very well never get enough trade, military and civic cards to be able to implement your strategy, because your opponents keep taking them before they get to you. Which is why this game becomes far more of a tactical game than a strategic one.

"Hmmm," you say to yourself. "My strategy coming into this was to concentrate on trade, military and civicitude (ahem). But my opponents keep taking all the trade, military, and civic cards. Not to worry, this will be the fifth tablet card I've drafted, so that's good for 25 points."


"No plan survives contact with the enemy."

Yeah, I was drastically simplifying things. In any game that isn't essentially multiplayer solitaire, you're going to need to constantly modify your overall game strategy in order to win. But you're also not likely to do well if you don't have any strategy at all.
 
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Thom0909
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Burbage wrote:
So in board game terms, strategy is rigging the dice, stacking the decks, bribing your opponents and ensuring you have a few important cards up your sleeve.


True, but there can also be less duplicitous strategic decisions. "I'm going to win by laying low and letting the others beat up one another" is a strategy. how you go about doing that - which cards to play, etc. - would be tactics.
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