Strategy versus Tactics

Everyone knows than an RTS is for real time strategy (or you do now). Most people actually play it tactically. Recent sessions with XCOM really drive that point home.

A strategy is a high level plan, one with goals and structure. You can say that your strategy is to focus on new weapon research and satellites. It is a set of guidance rules for decision making. “How does this choice affect my long term goals?”. In XCOM, I select engineers whenever possible as a reward as they have a very high value and help me in getting satellites launched.

Tactics are the actual decisions you make along the way. Using the grey market to fund a project is tactical – I lose a few components now in order to get them back later. The battlescreen is a better example.

My strategy is to split the team into 2 groups, use cover and flush enemies. I keep a high ground sniper in the back for help. This works up until I find a Cyberdisk and 3 Mutons next to each other. Thank goodness for no time limits!

When I get into a pinch, I have a general attack order that’s preferred and I execute. Shredder rocket, a grenade if I can get there, Sniper shots (double tap), ranged attacks and finally run and gun. That works most of the time, unless you get really unlucky and that first rocket knocks down a wall with 3 Thin Men waiting.

Tactics then HAVE to change. Each action should accomplish one thing but if it doesn’t (say a miss or more enemies show up), then a new choice is needed.

Back to RTS games. Few people actually have a strategy here other than “build big, swamp enemy”. I’ll take StarCraft 2 as an example.  There are single player challenges available.  People who have completed those on the hardest difficulty are in the vast minority.  And those folks would get wiped on ranked ladder play.  You need a complete understanding of all pros/cons for each object in the game, fast mental reflexes and the agility of a cat to get enough clicks in time to defeat your opponent.  Most folk think “50 zerglings > anything else”.

You can put this into MMOs too, raids and mass PvP.  Thanks to TiDi in EvE, you can be very strategic in the battles as well as have enough time for smart tactics.  Support first, then capitals and so on. Raids are in the same vein.  You can visit WoWPedia for the enemy abilities and develop a strategy for the battle.  Once you’re in the thick of it, and someone makes a mistake and dies, you need tactics to recover from the loss.  World First raiders have supreme strategist (generals if you will), that evaluate all the variables.  They also have great tacticians, that can adapt quickly to a situation.

I know my strengths are in terms of strategy.  I write gaming guides which are all about strategy.  I love Civilization and XCOM for the strategy, the long term plans. I think this blog and all the posts over the years makes that point quite evident.

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