Strategy game

Last updated
Chess is one of the most well-known and frequently played strategy games. Chess set.jpg
Chess is one of the most well-known and frequently played strategy games.

A strategy game or strategic game is a game (e.g. a board game) in which the players' uncoerced, and often autonomous, decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome. Almost all strategy games require internal decision tree-style thinking, and typically very high situational awareness.


Strategy game TSR's Divine Right Strategy Game.jpg
Strategy game

Strategy games are also seen as a descendant of war games, and define strategy in terms of the context of war, but this is more partial. A strategy game is a game that relies primarily on strategy, and when it comes to defining what strategy is, two factors need to be taken into account: its complexity and game-scale actions, such as each placement in a Total War series. The definition of a strategy game in its cultural context should be any game that belongs to a tradition that goes back to war games, contains more strategy than the average video game, contains certain gameplay conventions, and is represented by a particular community. Although war is dominant in strategy games, it is not the whole story. [1]


The history of turn-based strategy games goes back to the times of ancient civilizations found in places such as Rome, Greece, Egypt, the Levant, and India. Many were played widely through their regions of origin, but only some are still played today. One such game is mancala, [2] which may have originated in Samaria approximately 5000 years ago and has since diversified into scores of varieties worldwide.[ citation needed ] One form challenges two opposing players to clear their side of a board of mancala pieces while adding them into their opponent's side and thereby preventing the opponent from clearing their side. At each end of the game board in this version there is a larger pit in which each player must try to deposit the pieces to try to gain points. When one side is cleared the other side of the board's pieces are added to the cleared side's pile. This version of mancala can be played quite casually, but still presents strategy demands, e.g. to interfere in the opponent's playing area while clearing one's own.

Another game that has stood the test of time is chess, believed to have originated in India around the sixth century CE. [3] The game spread to the west by trade, but chess gained social status and permanence more strongly than many other games. Chess became a game of skill and tactics often forcing the players to think two or three moves ahead of their opponent just to keep up. [4] This game also became accepted by many as a proxy for intelligence; people who became grand masters were considered smart. The game portrays foot soldiers, knights, kings, queens, bishops, and rooks. Several portray actual positions in the historical European military. Each piece has a unique movement pattern. For example, the knight is constricted to moving in an L-shape two squares long and one square to the side, the rook can only move in a straight line vertically or horizontally, and bishops can move diagonally on the board.


Abstract strategy

In abstract strategy games, the game is only loosely tied to a thematic concept, if at all. The rules do not attempt to simulate reality, but rather serve the internal logic of the game.

A purist's definition of an abstract strategy game requires that it cannot have random elements or hidden information. This definition includes such games as chess and Go. However, many games are commonly classed as abstract strategy games which do not meet these criteria: games such as backgammon, Octiles, Can't Stop , Sequence and Mentalis have all been described as "abstract strategy" games despite having a chance element.[ citation needed ] A smaller category of non-perfect abstract strategy games incorporate hidden information without using any random elements; for example, Stratego.

Team strategy

One of the most focused team strategy games is contract bridge. This card game consists of two teams of two players, whose offensive and defensive skills are continually in flux as the game's dynamic progresses. Some argue that the benefits of playing this team strategy card game extend to those skills and strategies used in business [5] and that the playing of these games helps to automate strategic awareness.


Eurogames, or German-style boardgames, are a relatively new genre that sit between abstract strategy games and simulation games. They generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction and abstract physical components. The games emphasize strategy, play down chance and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends.


This type of game is an attempt to simulate the decisions and processes inherent to some real-world situation. Most of the rules are chosen to reflect what the real-world consequences would be of each player's actions and decisions. Abstract games cannot be completely divided from simulations and so games can be thought of as existing on a continuum of almost pure abstraction (like Abalone ) to almost pure simulation (like Diceball! or Strat-o-Matic Baseball ).


A German military wargame from 1824 Kriegsspiel 1824.jpg
A German military wargame from 1824

Wargames are simulations of military battles, campaigns, or entire wars. Players will have to consider situations that are analogous to the situations faced by leaders of historical battles. As such, wargames are usually heavy on simulation elements, and while they are all "strategy games", they can also be "strategic" or "tactical" in the military jargon sense. Its creator, H. G. Wells, stated how "much better is this amiable miniature [war] than the real thing". [6]

Traditionally, wargames have been played either with miniatures, using physical models of detailed terrain and miniature representations of people and equipment to depict the game state; or on a board, which commonly uses cardboard counters on a hex map.

Popular miniature wargames include Warhammer 40,000 or its fantasy counterpart Warhammer Fantasy . Popular strategic board wargames include Risk , Axis and Allies , Diplomacy , and Paths of Glory . Advanced Squad Leader is a successful tactical scale wargame.

It is instructive to compare the Total War series to the Civilization series, where moving troops to a specific tile is a tactic because there are no short-range decisions. But in Empire: Total War (2009), every encounter between two armies activates a real-time mode in which they must fight and the same movement of troops is treated as a strategy. Throughout the game, the movement of each army is at a macro scale, because the player can control each battle at a micro scale. However, as an experience, the two types of military operations are quite similar and involve similar skills and thought processes. The concept of micro scale and macro scale can well describe the gameplay of a game; however, even very similar games can be difficult to integrate into a common vocabulary. In this definition, strategy does not explicitly describe the player's experience; it is more appropriate to describe different formal game components. The similarity of the actions taken in two different games does not affect our definition of them as strategy or tactics: we will only rely on their scale in their respective games. [1]

Strategy video games

Strategy video games are categorized based on whether they offer the continuous gameplay of real-time strategy (RTS), or the discrete phases of turn-based strategy (TBS). [7] Often the computer is expected to emulate a strategically thinking "side" similar to that of a human player (such as directing armies and constructing buildings), or emulate the "instinctive" actions of individual units that would be too tedious for a player to administer (such as for a peasant to run away when attacked, as opposed to standing still until otherwise ordered by the player); hence there is an emphasis on artificial intelligence.

Modern day turn-based

One of today's modern games that has become a sensation for its strategy and tactics is the XCOM franchise, specifically the two most recent games, XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012) [8] and XCOM 2 (2016). [9] These two games portray the player as a commander of an international organization known as XCOM. The player's job is to repel an alien force using the recourses that you are given by each region and country that is a part of the organization. The game is played through confrontations with the alien force using a squad of four to six soldiers with periods of time in between where the player is able to even the odds placed against them by upgrading weapons and armor for the soldiers using technology that is recovered from the aliens. These upgrades result in boosted health as well as laser- and plasma-based weapons and are necessary to achieve if the player wishes to complete the game. Like chess the games have different classes of soldiers with different abilities which can turn the tide of the game if you use them correctly or not. They come in six classes for each game. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown [8] the soldier classes consist of heavy, capable of dealing heavy damage and carrying rockets as well as grenades; the sniper, capable of hitting enemies from beyond line of sight and doing immense amounts of damage with a single shot; the support, can heal teammates and provide cover using smoke; the assault, which relies on getting up close in order to use the shotgun that they use to make short work of any enemy; the Psionic, this class specializes in applying status effects and generally messing with the opponent's force; and finally the MEC, this used to be a fully organic being but volunteered to replace their organic body with robotic augments, this gives them massive amounts of health and makes them the tanks of the game on the protagonists side.

Another aspect of turn-based strategy rather than just a battlefield in modern video games is controlling countries such as in the Civilization franchise and their most recent title, Civilization VI. [10] This strategy game forces the player to look at the world as a whole as there are multiple countries involved in the game that will react to the player and their actions and how they influence the world. [11] The player must maintain relations with other nations as they try to progress their society forward by the inclusion of funding to sections of their society such as mathematics, art, science, and agriculture. Each of these is important to maintain as the player progresses because without the added funds to these branches of society most players will be stuck in the Dark Ages while other civilizations advance into renaissance eras and further. This can cause turmoil in the player's civilization as well as revolt and will bring the civilization crumbling to the ground. This is only a small portion of the game, the other nations around the player will offer treaties [11] and alliances [11] but some of these are shams and are used to lure the player into a false sense of security as an allied nation begins to take over resources or land that used to belong to the player. In these situations it becomes tricky to navigate as there are two paths, negotiation or war. Negotiations are often the best choice because it avoids conflict and allows your society to progress further whereas war takes a considerable amount of resources and the player must also be aware of the actual allies that the opposing force has and how much aid they will provide. Unfortunately negotiations are not always possible and it can result in war, this makes it very important to have loyal allies of your own and a suitable army with sufficient technologies which is all supported by your societies math and science departments respectively.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Board game</span> Genre of seated tabletop social play

Board games are tabletop games that typically use pieces. These pieces are moved or placed on a pre-marked board and often include elements of table, card, role-playing, and miniatures games as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wargame</span> Strategy game that realistically simulates war

A wargame is a strategy game in which two or more players command opposing armed forces in a realistic simulation of an armed conflict. Wargaming may be played for recreation, to train military officers in the art of strategic thinking, or to study the nature of potential conflicts. Many wargames recreate specific historic battles, and can cover either whole wars, or any campaigns, battles, or lower-level engagements within them. Many simulate land combat, but there are wargames for naval and air combat as well.

A turn-based strategy (TBS) game is a strategy game where players take turns when playing. This is distinguished from real-time strategy (RTS), in which all players play simultaneously.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miniature wargaming</span> Wargame genre

Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming in which military units are represented by miniature physical models on a model battlefield. The use of physical models to represent military units is in contrast to other tabletop wargames that use abstract pieces such as counters or blocks, or computer wargames which use virtual models. The primary benefit of using models is aesthetics, though in certain wargames the size and shape of the models can have practical consequences on how the match plays out.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abstract strategy game</span> Mental skill based games

Abstract strategy games admit a number of definitions which distinguish these from strategy games in general, mostly involving no or minimal narrative theme, outcomes determined only by player choice, and perfect information. For example, Go is a pure abstract strategy game since it fulfills all three criteria; chess and related games are nearly so but feature a recognizable theme of ancient warfare; and Stratego is borderline since it is deterministic, loosely based on 19th-century Napoleonic warfare, and features concealed information.

<i>PanzerBlitz</i> Board wargame

PanzerBlitz is a tactical-scale board wargame published by Avalon Hill in 1970 that simulates armored combat set in the Eastern Front of the Second World War. The game is notable for being the first true board-based tactical-level, commercially available conflict simulation (wargame). It also pioneered concepts such as isomorphic mapboards and open-ended design, in which multiple unit counters were provided from which players could fashion their own free-form combat situations rather than simply replaying pre-structured scenarios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hex map</span> Map subdivided into a hexagonal tiling, small regular hexagons of identical size

A hex map, hex board, or hex grid is a game board design commonly used in wargames of all scales. The map is subdivided into a hexagonal tiling, small regular hexagons of identical size.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Man-to-man wargame</span>

A man-to-man wargame is a wargame in which units generally represent single individuals or weapons systems, and are rated not only on weaponry but may also be rated on such facets as morale, perception, skill-at-arms, etc. The game is designed so that a knowledge of military tactics, especially at the small unit or squad level, will facilitate successful gameplay. Man-to-man wargames offer an extreme challenge to the designer, as fewer variables or characteristics inherent in the units being simulated are directly quantifiable. Modern commercial board wargaming stayed away from man-to-man subjects for many years, though once the initial attempts were made to address the subject, it has evolved into a popular topic among wargamers.

Turn-based tactics (TBT), or tactical turn-based (TTB), is a computer and video game genre of strategy video games that through stop-action simulates the considerations and circumstances of operational warfare and military tactics in generally small-scale confrontations as opposed to more strategic considerations of turn-based strategy (TBS) games.

Real-time tactics (RTT) is a subgenre of tactical wargames played in real-time simulating the considerations and circumstances of operational warfare and military tactics. It is differentiated from real-time strategy gameplay by the lack of classic resource micromanagement and base or unit building, as well as the greater importance of individual units and a focus on complex battlefield tactics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military simulation</span> Type of simulation

Military simulations, also known informally as war games, are simulations in which theories of warfare can be tested and refined without the need for actual hostilities. Military simulations are seen as a useful way to develop tactical, strategical and doctrinal solutions, but critics argue that the conclusions drawn from such models are inherently flawed, due to the approximate nature of the models used. Many professional analysts object to the term wargames as this is generally taken to be referring to the civilian hobby, thus the preference for the term simulation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Computer wargame</span> Wargame played on a computer or other digital device

A computer wargame is a wargame played on a digital device. Descended from board wargaming, it simulates military conflict at the tactical, operational or strategic level. Computer wargames are both sold commercially for recreational use and, in some cases, used for military purposes.

Strategy is a major video game genre that emphasizes thinking and planning over direct instant action in order to achieve victory. Although many types of video games can contain strategic elements, as a genre, strategy games are most commonly defined as those with a primary focus on high-level strategy, logistics and resource management. They are also usually divided into two main sub-categories: turn-based and real-time, but there are also many strategy cross/sub-genres that feature additional elements such as tactics, diplomacy, economics and exploration.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Game</span> Structured form of play

A game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for entertainment or fun, and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are different from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work or art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zillions of Games</span> General game playing software

Zillions of Games is a commercial general game playing system developed by Jeff Mallett and Mark Lefler in 1998. The game rules are specified with S-expressions, Zillions rule language. It was designed to handle mostly abstract strategy board games or puzzles. After parsing the rules of the game, the system's artificial intelligence can automatically play one or more players. It treats puzzles as solitaire games and its AI can be used to solve them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of games</span> Aspect of history

The history of games dates to the ancient human past. Games are an integral part of all cultures and are one of the oldest forms of human social interaction. Games are formalized expressions of play which allow people to go beyond immediate imagination and direct physical activity. Common features of games include uncertainty of outcome, agreed upon rules, competition, separate place and time, elements of fiction, elements of chance, prescribed goals and personal enjoyment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Game design</span> Game development process of designing the content and rules of a game

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, in the form of gamification. Game designer and developer Robert Zubek defines game design by breaking it down into its elements, which he says are the following:

This page explains commonly used terms in board games in alphabetical order. For a list of board games, see List of board games. For terms specific to chess, see Glossary of chess. For terms related to chess problems, see Glossary of chess problems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Professional wargaming</span>

A wargame, generally, is a type of strategy game which realistically simulates warfare. A professional wargame, specifically, is a wargame that is used by military organizations to train officers in tactical and strategic decision-making, to test new tactics and strategies, or to predict trends in future conflicts. This is in contrast to recreational wargames, which are designed for fun and competition.


  1. 1 2 Dor, Simon (April 2018). "Strategy in Games or Strategy Games: Dictionary and Encyclopaedic Definitions for Game Studies". Game Studies. 18 (1). ISSN   1604-7982.
  2. "11 Ancient Board Games". 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  3. (MisterCutie), Matthew. "The History of Chess: The Basics". Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  4. Adams, Jenny (2011). Power Play: The Literature and Politics of Chess in the Late Middle Ages. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   9780812201048.
  5. "How to automate strategic & tactical thinking Archived 2015-02-23 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Rundle, Michael (2013-04-09). "How H. G. Wells Invented Modern War Games 100 Years Ago". The Huffington Post.
  7. "Strategy Games". Apple. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  8. 1 2 "XCOM: Enemy Unknown Wiki Guide - IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  9. Stapleton, Dan (2016-02-01). "XCOM 2 Review". IGN. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  10. "Civilization 6 review – The best in the series to date". TrustedReviews. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  11. 1 2 3 "Civilization 6 Wiki Guide - IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2017-04-10.