Whereas strategy games are more concerned with long-term planning, tactics games are more concerned with smaller-scale engagements. The X-Com series’ squad fighting is a clear example of a tactics game. It does necessitate long-term preparation, but not on a large scale.
Tactics games are usually shorter and concentrate on more personal situations. As a result, they are more likely to concentrate on controlling small groups rather than empires or economies.
Games of Grand Strategy
Tactics games are the polar opposite of grand strategy games. They concentrate on the big-picture plans and intrigues of running an empire. The player is rarely granted direct power over their citizens or even their economies, but rather serves as the nation’s guiding spirit.
The Paradox Interactive series of games or Starborne are the best examples of these games. Victoria II by Paradox brings the genre to a new level, allowing the player to lose almost all direct control of their economy if certain political parties gain power.
How Have Strategy Games Changed Over Time?
Initially, strategy games were turn-based, with two teams pitted against each other. This format has proven to be durable, and it is used in many of today’s most popular strategy games, such as go and chess. These games could last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, with the length of play increasing as the level of difficulty increased.
In general, games became more complex over time as they attempted to better represent the realities of command. The thinkers of the time influenced many games, with Carl Von Clauswitz being one of the most influential.
Although Kriegsspiel still pitted two players against each other, it was created to accurately simulate the stresses of command faced by a general in the field. As a result, structures like a basic fog of war were introduced, which were later developed by the board game Stratego and refined by video games like Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm.
Strategy games, on the other hand, get more complex over time. Multiple players were pitted against each other in some board games, such as Diplomacy and Danger. The addition of multiple enemies to the strategy game genre introduced a new level of difficulty and unpredictability. It also allowed for more “social” gaming, including alliances and deception. Diplomacy, in particular, experimented with the concept of unequal power distribution among participants. As a result of being squeezed between more powerful rivals, countries like Austria and Italy are forced to make violent and unpredictable moves.
The sheer amount of creativity that occurred before computers enabled us to create strategy simulations is truly astounding to a modern strategy game enthusiast. Kriegsspiel, Chess, Danger, and other games all offered complex, if restricted, representations of command stresses. Video games, on the other hand, allowed game designers to make increasingly complex and nuanced decisions.
Over the course of hours or days, it became possible to recreate entire battlefields and time periods. This also helped the player to see how their choices affected the game more clearly thanks to improved graphics. Most significantly, it paved the way for the development of the real-time strategy genre, which added an extra layer of tension to the game.
MMORTS games like Starborne eventually brought together hundreds, if not thousands, of players in grand strategy games. These games took days or months to complete and pitted players against each other in difficult situations, bringing us one step closer to simulating the realities of command.