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Tactics, Strategy, Grinding

April 4, 2008

Tycho’s assessment of competitive videogaming design highlights a more fundamental concept behind a lot of strategy design- you have immediate tactics vs. long term resource building two core aspects of strategic play.

Roleplaying games for the most part have focused on long term resource building, primarily through character builds, as the strategic elements of play. Immediate tactical elements were often either direct ports from wargames or else homebrewed bits usually dealing with fictional positioning- only recently are we seeing stuff like Riddle of Steel or Burning Wheel which incorporate immediate tactical bits into resolution as part of play and little or no relation to wargame positioning.

The other interesting aspect of that is that the short term decision reward/punishment cycle requires a much higher level of player mastery, and player engagement with the rules.

As I spoke about earlier with the Gamer Hurdle, I think many groups see this as antithetical to their goals, which also is similar to how some console videogame rpgs handle things- you grind and grind and no real skill is required. In the same sense, for both Illusionist and Participationist rpgs, tactics are unimportant except as color and pacing between one delivered story element and another.

In general though, I think that has also been part of the reason we’ve seen a break off of strategic players from the rpg scene- minis, CCGs, and videogames more reliably provide for that kind of play in the face of the widgy play of the rpg scene. It’ll be interesting to see if stuff like 4th Edition D&D can pull some of them back (or build a new strategic base).

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