Thursday, June 15

Strategy In Board Games

I'm a big fan of 'Eurogames' - designer games released in the last few years. These games are usually fairly short, feature a lot of strategy and far fewer random factors than traditional board games such as Monopoly, Ludo and Risk.

My recent discussion on BGG made me consider what I mean by 'strategy' in a board game, and what it is about strategy board games I like. I was also doing some revision for an exam at work and came across a definition of 'strategy' in a project/business sense which made me think about it some more. I'll repeat the definition (courtesy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, on

The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.

And for reference, the definition of stratagem:

A clever, often underhanded scheme for achieving an objective.

This allows me to create my own definition of strategy in games:

The art or skill of planning, adapting and using clever, or underhanded schemes to win the game.

I stole bits of that from the other definitions of strategy on the same page. The point I'm trying to get across can be broken down into several sub-points. To be a strategy game I think the game:

  • must provide several strategy options allowing the players to plan a strategy.
  • should be deterministic enough that the player can choose a strategy in the early stages and then act it out throughout the game;
  • should allow players to execute their chosen strategy or strategies in an underhand way that means their efforts are not necessarily obvious to their opponents;
  • should provide enough depth that the players have to respond to the actions of their opponents adapting their strategies to the prevaling conditions;
  • should combine the above attributes in such way that players require skill, that can be developed through repeated play, to master the intricacies of the game, allowing them to choose strategies that will optimise their chances of winning the game under diverse conditions.

Even a simple game such as Carcassonne can fulfill the above points in my opinion, it doesn't need to be a heavy game such as Caylus.


P.S. Eng-a-land, Eng-a-land, Eng-a-land! Let's hope we can do better than we did against Paraguay.


Yehuda said...

I agree with all but the underhanded part.

If I decide to move my armies and atack you from the south, or move my armies and attack you from the north, that's two entirely different stategies, and neither are particularly underhanded. I just don't see this as a requirement.

Tactics can be underhanded. But again, they don't have to be. A feint to the south when I am attacking from the north is an underhanded tactic. But choosing to attack on foot or by horse to implement my north attacking strategy are both tactics and neither are underhanded.


Jack said...

I'd agree with your first point though that sounds a little more wargame-y than Eurogame-y.

I guess what I mean is that I like games where it is not immediately obvious to my opponents what I intend to do to win. Even though I have a strategy that I am undertaking.