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Strategic Games


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Strategic Games

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Strategic games are those in which the development of strategy is a major component.

Developing strategy starts with an analysis of the situation, including:

  • The overall objective.
  • The rules and constraints by which the objective is shaped.
  • The time available to achieve the objective.
  • One's own strengths and weaknesses in terms of capabilities and resources (including that of any team members).
  • The strategic approach that opponents have used (and how successful these have been).
  • The context or environment in which the game is played, including factors such as terrain, weather.
  • The availability of information about the playing context, such as maps and histories.
  • Threats and opportunities presented by competitors, rules, materials, environmental factors and so on.

Strategy starts with an overall approach, for example in a game it may be to go fast and light and try to overpower the opponents with speed, or it could be to use crafty deception to lure them into a trap.

The approach taken should play to one's own strengths and against the weaknesses of opponents. It may also make use of constraints and environmental factors, such as time limitations or the availability of additional resources.

Typical strategic decisions include:

  • Do it alone or get help.
  • Do it fast or go slowly and carefully.
  • How to use one's own resources and strengths (and avoid weaknesses).
  • Approaches to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Whether and how to avoid or handle risks.
  • The main activities and overall sequence of actions that will achieve the objective.
  • Patterns of moves to use that have worked in the past.
  • What you want opponents to think of you (strong, weak, etc.) and how you will do this.

It is also important in strategizing to consider how approaches may need to be changed if the context changes, for example if opponents use unexpectedly different approaches. To help with this you can consider different scenarios and how you would cope with these.

When strategies are decided, then break these down into operational tactics of individual moves and actions. Then check that the tactics and strategies will together achieve objectives.


In chess, players may analyze the way opponents play and then develop an optimum strategy to defeat them.

In role-playing games, a party may discuss how to go about finding a treasure, considering approaches such as getting help from outsiders or keeping it quiet and looking by themselves.

In football, a team may decide to play a cautious, passing game that wears opponents down, or go all out for rapid scores that overwhelm and demotivate opponents.


Some people like to get into the detail of what they do. Others prefer the big picture, working at the macro-level. Strategy is very much a high level activity where an understanding of the big picture is important.

Strategy can make good use of innovative approaches. The best strategy is unexpected, which means it is new and has not previously been used in this setting. Brainstorming can hence be an important strategic tool as can other creative techniques.

Studying strategies of war and strategic business methods can also be helpful in designing a winning approach. Importing strategies from other, non-game disciplines can be a good technique when these provide novel but proven possibilities. History books are a rich source here.

Another field that can be surprisingly useful is storytelling. When you view games as storying, the consideration of narrative can provide a useful sense-making frame in which strategies can be developed.

There are often a number of important decisions around risk, for example whether big risks will be taken or avoided, and how risks will be handled. It is the uncertainty of risks that makes games exciting and, if the game is not too serious, you can take risks here that you would not take in everyday life.

One of the risks of strategizing is that it can become detached from reality. This can be useful for exploring ideas, but these should eventually be tested and considered in the light of the real game.

A good game gives opportunities for players to identify and take different strategic approaches. A way of doing this is to provide them with a number of options and 'levers' to change variables that will affect later tactical play.

See also

Warfare, Storytelling, Marketing, Creative techniques


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