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Subject: Strategy vs Tactics in games rss

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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.
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David Fisher
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Here are some articles and Geeklists that might help:

Strategy and tactics, a couple of definitions
Strategy and tactics, what's the difference?
What is the difference between strategy and tactics?
Strategy and tactics in board games
Games with a broad strategic horizon
Notable strategy articles
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Pete Belli
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Although not a fan of the CCG, perhaps I can help.

In game terms "strategy" can refer to planning, particular a flexible but focused long-term plan for winning. Think of a talented chess player plotting several moves ahead or a player of economic games making purchases that will eventually "corner" a market or a wargame player building up forces to strike an enemy flank.

In game terms "tactics" can refer to using the rules of the game to advance the broader strategic program. This is particularly true if the proper deployment of playing pieces, cards, or actions is crucial to success. Getting back to the example of chess, a player may use strategic planning to dominate one side of the board. The movement of individual pawns, knights, and bishops into crushing positions represents tactics.

For a CCG, a broad strategy might be based on the cards you hold; tactics might come into play as the card combinations hit the table.

A carefully crafted game design offers deep strategy with multiple pathways to victory. Once the designer builds this superior framework, the tactical details take on greater flavor.

Good Luck!
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Paul DeStefano
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In a CCG, deckbuilding is Strategy.

Gameplay is Tactics.
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Neil Whyman
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In the context of a card game I am tempted to describe Strategy as deciding what to do now in order to maximize ones chances of victory in the game; and to describe tactics as deciding what to do to maximize the impact of the cards one has right now. Players who have not seen the whole deck are limited to tactics only.
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Jonathan Hersey
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I say don’t overstress the balance between strategy and tactics. In terms of games anyone can argue one is better than the other or that one particular balance is better than anything else etc. When it comes to games there isn’t a master scale you can compare your game to see how good it is. People love playing different games for all sorts of reasons. I think your thoughts and efforts would be better spent thinking about what theme you want the CCG to be and then start thinking about mechanics. I agree that most CCG’s incorporate strategy in deck building and tactics in card play. It’s hard to escape a predominate emphasis on tactics when playing with cards but it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe you have some new twists and ideas to the genre which will then manifest into a balance between strategy and tactics that we haven’t seen in a CCG before.

If your game is polished, has good components, and a good theme, people will like regardless of the balance between tactics and strategy.

Good luck
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Isaac Shalev
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Some people like the cut-and-thrust of tactical play more, others prefer the more abstract thinking and visioning that strategy calls for. Since we're talking about games, the greater point is that you make the experience fun.

CCGer wrote:

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


Games in which the path to victory is clear, and which stress execution tend to be more tactical. Games that have multiple paths to victory tend to be more strategic.

To use the Chess v Go example, Chess has only one victory condition - capturing the opponent's king. Go, on the other hand, is a VP game. You get points for areas controlled and for stones captured. Every space is a victory condition, in a sense, since every space is worth a point.

Engine games, like Agricola or Puerto Rico, are more tactical than strategic. Once you make the strategic choice between bread and animals, or shipping vs buildings, you're largely dealing with tactical considerations of how to build the best engine.

I also believe that games that have high levels of constraints, that have decisions that are difficult to reverse, tend to be more strategic as well. If you play Risk and allow unlimited reinforcement moves, the game becomes very tactical. If you play with the highly limited reinforcement moves, you need to do a lot more advance planning and the game is more strategic.
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Joe Mucchiello
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The thing to remember here is that while definitions of the two terms vary, in terms of games, tactical games and strategy games are lumped together under the umbrella strategy games, for the most part. So the definitions are, for the most part, only interesting academically since people rarely agree on them the definitions in the wild.

For me, strategy is long rage planning that takes place before you meet the enemy. It is full of what ifs and goals that one hope to achieve in order to create later what ifs. Tactics takes place right now. There is no time to plan, you need to react to the situation as it is presented to you with the information you have now. This means tactics should be shaded by the overall strategy since what you know now includes the strategic goals you planned for earlier.

Balancing short term "failure" against long term "failure" is of course what being a Commander is all about.
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David Sevier
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Geosphere wrote:
In a CCG, deckbuilding is Strategy.

Gameplay is Tactics.


Pretty much this.

Although I have made decks in Magic where I gave myself several strategic options based on what came up, and then would be making 'Tactical' decisions that went along with the Strategy I picked. That's pretty rare, though, and basically amounts to a layering of Strategy and Tactics.

From a game design perspective for a CCG like game you want to make sure that there are many different strategies that a player can use so that the deck creation aspect is fun an interesting.

While playing you want to open up the possibility for many different Tactics during game play so that the player has interesting decisions to make.

I'd also suggest including some decent one-trick Strategies for players. A nice swarm deck in magic, for instance, can be lots of fun and a relaxing change of place from decks that require lots of thought to pull off successfully. Even if a Swarm deck has some serious problems against certain deck types, it's still viable in many situations.
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J C Lawrence
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My litmus tests for calling a game “strategic” are something like:

0) Does the game reward continuous planning from the current state out through the end-game starting from before the game’s actual start until the game ends?

1) Does the game also reward a continuous 3-5+ turn detailed look-ahead?

2) Are the decisions made in that detailed look-ahead primarily concerned with support of the continuous end-game planning?

3) Will players that fail to coherently do any of the previous three (necessarily(?)) lose to those that succeed in coherently doing the previous three?
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Johan Haglert
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I assume things such doing the best you can with the card drawn is tactics but for instance deciding which, well, in cards you're going to buy is strategic.

I don't really get the rewarding part though. Maybe in a sense that if the selectable options are random how good the result comes out will still matter depending on what you got to pick from, and in some cases there may be the mathematical correct or obvious solution which kinda make it unnecessary to choose at all (might be an issue in all mechanic games though.)

As far as strategy go maybe you have all the options available and aren't limited by chance (whatever the other player do something else lead to ruining your strategy, having you change strategy or lead to tactical choices is up for you to decide I suppose )

I like both.
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Johan Haglert
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Mephansteras wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
In a CCG, deckbuilding is Strategy.

Gameplay is Tactics.


Pretty much this.
Yeah I to thought about Magic when I wrote the card stuff.

Playing magic = do the best with whatever cards you draw and what others do = tactic.

Deciding what cards to include in the deck and how it will play = strategy.

You can still do some strategy while playing the cards I suppose since you may have a few at hand. But the majority of it will be done building the deck (which is kinda strange since you may know nothing about the other deck and make the game boring to play but whatever.)
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Nate K
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Since we're talking about CCGs and Magic has been brought up several times, I thought I would point out an interesting phenomenon.

Magic's designers did not initially set out to create the trichotomy of strategies that one now sees regularly in tournaments: control, aggro, and combo. (Yes, I know that there are more strategies, such as tempo, aggro-control, control-combo, etc. They are interesting, but largely irrelevant to my point.) This trifecta arose because the players discovered these strategies. They discovered multiple ways to win.

Thus, when players sit down to create a decks, they ask themselves: "How am I going to win?" The answer will determine which cards go into their deck, and therefore, determine their strategy.

Will they seek prevent the opponent from winning, controlling the board until they can drop a huge threat and win the game? That's a control strategy.

Will they try to assemble and cast a select group of cards that create a powerful engine, such as dealing a huge amount of damage, gaining a huge amount of life, generating a massive number of tokens, or milling the opponent's entire deck? That's a control strategy.

Will they play out a big, fast army and try to kill the opponent before he or she can get any kind of footing? That's an aggro strategy.

The interesting thing is that early Magic cards were not designed with these strategies in mind. Players sought out strategies for winning, and these are what they came up with.

With new games, however, designers have the opportunity and the foresight to craft their games more carefully. They can create multiple strategies for the players, and (theoretically) balance those strategies prior to the release of the game. New CCGs don't need to suffer from "Combo Winter" or from accusations of "Islands are broken."
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Strategy usually wins actual wars, tactics wins most games.
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Ben Pinchback
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I think that strategy can be harder to design with regards to re-playability. Once players know the optimal long term Strategy to win a particular game, it can be very difficult to keep the game fresh. Especially difficult is coming up with multiple viable long term strategies to win a game while keeping things fresh. That's where Tactics comes in at least for me. Introducing certain random elements into a design make it impossible for a player to stick to 1 rote formula to the T. The players now have to adjust to what the game throws at them and make the best tactical decisions turn to turn to accomplish the long term goal, which kind of unfortunately for me often ends up being simply "win".

So, the challenge for me would then be to come up with multiple long term and in game waypoint Strategies that players can strive for that are all viable and can be accomplished through solid tactics given the randomness presented.
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David Cheng
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I think the difference between strategy & tactics is like this :

Stratgy needs to be planned ahead. It includes management of resources like producing consumer goods or capital goods. Would you place a worker to collect more resources or train him to be a soldier? Would you invest your income in diplomacy? techonology? economy? or military?. Would you upgrade your city in this turn or save your money for next turn? Would you go to battle now or withdraw & wait for reinforcement? These are all strategies. Usually there are many various secondary objectives which you have to choose & plan as to achieve the final goal.


On the other hands, tactics is what you can do with the limited resources in hands at this moment. Usually, the goal is straight forward with limited options. Let say you see an orc charging at your hero. The goal is : you must survive. Would you draw your sword & strike first? Would you draw your bow & arrow & shoot? Would you draw your shield & wait? Or cast a freeze spell? These are the tactics.
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David Perez
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Statalyzer wrote:
Strategy usually wins actual wars, tactics wins most games.


Games normally rules and constraints on what you can do or what can be accomplished, tactics is how well you work inside the box inside those constraints.

Most games start out with the assumption of armies, warlords or companies fighting over terrain, resources or to be the best business. At this point you've already decided on strategy of fighting or conflict, versus negotiation/diplomacy or cooperation.

When is the last time you've played an 18XX game and decided, he lets just sit around smoking cigars and drinking fancy drinks while we collude to keep prices high and screw the consumer. To be a true strategy game you need to have the option to not fight.
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