No Sense of Strategy in Strategy Games

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I'm going to start off by saying this is not a thread bashing RTS's or TBS's as a whole, this is coming off of my experience. I'm looking for answers, not complaining.

I love real-time strategy games, though I haven't played a ton of them, the ones I have played I like. My only problem is that I never get a sense of using much of any actual strategy. The only real thing to do is to make a big army that consists of some dudes that fight ground stuff and some dudes that fight air or faraway stuff and send them off in a big clump to the enemy base. Once there, all you do is smash stuff, you don't really capture or take anything from it, just reduce it to rubble. My brain never goes to work while playing, it's on automatic (or panic mode if I'm under attack.)

One of my favorite RTS games, Age of Empires 2, tries to create an environment where players have to think, but it really only boils down to catapults kill guys with swords, guys on horse kill catapults, so you send in some guys with spears to kill the guys on horse, so your catapults can kill the guys with swords who kill the guys with spears. Basically the strategy is the same, a cluster of guys of slight diversity. I'm not saying the mindlessness of it breaks the genre for me, but I want to find a game that gives me what I'm looking for.

I mentioned Turn-based strategy games before because I expected someone to bring up Civilization, but that game is still the same for me. Sure your guys get bonuses based on the terrain and buildings in the city, but I still just clump them all together, making sure I have a couple archers or catapults just for diversity's sake.

Basically: Anyone else have this problem? Know any games that could really make me think and give me a sense of strategy while playing?

EDIT: Oh, and I know there are other genres in strategy gaming outside of the usual RTS and TBS, so it's fine to recommend those too.

So what you consider strategy is perhaps closer to, say, chess?

PieBrotherTB:
So what you consider strategy is perhaps closer to, say, chess?

I guess. Would it help if I mentioned that one of my favorite board games ever is Risk?

The problem is controls. It's hard to do strategy in real time with a mouse or a controller because you're just one person who's only able to do one thing at a time. You can't give orders to different groups in different places at the same time with the finesse required for actual strategy, so it ends up being about building a better army than the other guy and then steamrolling as hard as you can.

wookiee777:
Would it help if I mentioned that one of my favorite board games ever is Risk?

Goddamn Risk. Talk about a great game to make you absolutely despise the guts of your closest friends. We used to play games that would last full weeks... full weeks in which no one would so much as talk to each other. Good times.

Anywho, yeah, I tend to agree with you. Though I admit I've been finding the strategy genre somewhat lacking in strategy for a real long time now. I still find it fun, don't get me wrong... but yeah.

Granted, I tend to play the sort of RTS games where this-

image

-is the most common type of strategy.

I think the issue could be resolved by working in extremes, where individual units had no effect on anything but their strength, but that has its own set of issues, I feel it lays in the speed, RTS can be slow enough as is and youd almost want the game in slow motion or a "pause while giving orders" system to really feel strategic

Warzone 2100's campaign requires plenty of tactics at least, it even has persistent bases so you need to plan ahead somewhat.

Ai War will test you, seriously, the demo is pretty extensive although it is locked on super easy but you can play the tutorials and 3 hours of a campaign. Give it a look you might like it.

Re-read your OP: Yes AI War is what you want.

First of all, there is a difference between strategy, and tactics. From your post, I assume you are really talking about tactics, the act of managing your battles and leading units on the field. If that's the case, then the default reply would be the Total War series, that are all about formal, historical warfare where you are organizing thousands of soldiers, with major emphasis on how you are maneuvering your armies against each other.

Or if you are really talking about strategy, as the overall leading of a war, then I get your complaint about AoE, but not with Civ. It's a very strategy-centic game, where managing your tech development, resource management, diplomacy, etc, can all be part of a very logical strategic plan. If you want to see something like that but more in-depth, try the "Grand Strategy" genre, specifically Europa Universalis III. It's all about simulating everything about the politics beween early modern nation-states. The actual battles *are* simple, it's basically "the soldier figure with a big number under it beats the soldier figure with a small number under it", but the part where you are getting to that point, is incredbly deep.

wookiee777:
My only problem is that I never get a sense of using much of any actual strategy.

That's because they don't have much to do with how military works. They're more akin to tennis matches: fair fights, even playing field, reactions and physical reflexes mean a lot. There is a strategy layer underneath but it's all but meaningless unless your physical performance is up to snuff. Games like Civ are based on boardgames, with all the baggage that comes with those. Usually computer ports are Ameritrash games, Euro games tend to be something that aren't really seen on PC. Dunno why.

So with that out of the way, why not delve into real strategy games? There are some very good ones out there.

If you want realtime strategy, there are only a couple of choices. Wargame: European Escalation is my current favorite, with Close Combat being a close second. Total War games used to be fun, but bugs killed too much of my enjoyment and really, how much standing in lines can you take? Take Command series was also good for what it was, but I'm not a huge ACW buff. You'll get more out of it if you enjoy the period. Steel Beasts is more a simulation, but it's roughly as real as you can get on home computers.

Currently the best two WEGO games are Frozen Synapse and Combat Mission. I prefer WW2 period Combat Mission games, the engine doesn't really work all that well with modern equipment. Frozen Synapse is a great game, but it's a game, not a simulation.

Unity of Command, SPMBT and just maybe War in Russia/War in the Pacific are interesting challenges on their own. Unity of Command is very boardgame-like so if those aren't your thing you may want to give it a pass. SPMBT is still the most comprehensive tactical level modern warfare TBS. If you can overcome the UI then The Operational Art of War 3 is probably the best simulation of war ever done on a home computer. Culture shock may be a little harsh if you haven't done hardcore strategy games before.

If you can deal with patching things up, original X-Com and Jagged Alliance are fun beer & pretzels "wargames." Light, easy to learn and get into, with just enough complexity to be interesting.

Entitled:
First of all, there is a difference between strategy, and tactics. From your post, I assume you are really talking about tactics, the act of managing your battles and leading units on the field. If that's the case, then the default reply would be the Total War series, that are all about formal, historical warfare where you are organizing thousands of soldiers, with major emphasis on how you are maneuvering your armies against each other.

Or if you are really talking about strategy, as the overall leading of a war, then I get your complaint about AoE, but not with Civ. It's a very strategy-centic game, where managing your tech development, resource management, diplomacy, etc, can all be part of a very logical strategic plan. If you want to see something like that but more in-depth, try the "Grand Strategy" genre, specifically Europa Universalis III. It's all about simulating everything about the politics beween early modern nation-states. The actual battles *are* simple, it's basically "the soldier figure with a big number under it beats the soldier figure with a small number under it", but the part where you are getting to that point, is incredbly deep.

Upon re-reading my OP, I think I was a bit hard on Civ, but I don't have any other Turn-based comparisons to make. I was referring less to the planning stage of a Civ game and more the action itself. It's certainly strategic (I love building up my culture and swallowing up enemy cities without ever having fired one shot), but when the fight begins I don't find it as interesting as the rest of the game.

And thanks for the recs!

wookiee777:
I'm going to start off by saying this is not a thread bashing RTS's or TBS's as a whole, this is coming off of my experience. I'm looking for answers, not complaining.

I love real-time strategy games, though I haven't played a ton of them, the ones I have played I like. My only problem is that I never get a sense of using much of any actual strategy. The only real thing to do is to make a big army that consists of some dudes that fight ground stuff and some dudes that fight air or faraway stuff and send them off in a big clump to the enemy base. Once there, all you do is smash stuff, you don't really capture or take anything from it, just reduce it to rubble. My brain never goes to work while playing, it's on automatic (or panic mode if I'm under attack.)

One of my favorite RTS games, Age of Empires 2, tries to create an environment where players have to think, but it really only boils down to catapults kill guys with swords, guys on horse kill catapults, so you send in some guys with spears to kill the guys on horse, so your catapults can kill the guys with swords who kill the guys with spears. Basically the strategy is the same, a cluster of guys of slight diversity. I'm not saying the mindlessness of it breaks the genre for me, but I want to find a game that gives me what I'm looking for.

I mentioned Turn-based strategy games before because I expected someone to bring up Civilization, but that game is still the same for me. Sure your guys get bonuses based on the terrain and buildings in the city, but I still just clump them all together, making sure I have a couple archers or catapults just for diversity's sake.

Basically: Anyone else have this problem? Know any games that could really make me think and give me a sense of strategy while playing?

EDIT: Oh, and I know there are other genres in strategy gaming outside of the usual RTS and TBS, so it's fine to recommend those too.

I'd say Shogun II Total War would be a good place to start, with highly challenging battles. Then there's the Paradox games series - Victoria, Hearts of Iron, etc, which focus on grand strategy and really go in-depth with world-sized maps and a fluid world. It's not just your faction which is fighting for dominance or basic survival. There are hundreds of factions and potential factions. Each paradox game is a mix between an alternate history sandbox and grand strategy.

MammothBlade:
I'd say Shogun II Total War would be a good place to start, with highly challenging battles. Then there's the Paradox games series - Victoria, Hearts of Iron, etc, which focus on grand strategy and really go in-depth with world-sized maps and a fluid world. It's not just your faction which is fighting for dominance or basic survival. There are hundreds of factions and potential factions. Each paradox game is a mix between an alternate history sandbox and grand strategy.

Wow, seems like you've given me a lot to look into (as well as the other people who posted here). The Paradox games sound particularly interesting. Thanks!

EDIT: Which Paradox game should I start with? There seems to be quite a few...

Try Frozen Synapse. If you tell me there is no strategy in that then I'll...come up with something witty later.

..Oh! Oh! There's no strategy in your mom!

But seriously, Frozen Synapse might be my favorite strategy game. It is very chess-like, I think.

It sounds like you either aren't playing on a hard enough difficulty or you aren't playing against people that challenge you. You shouldn't be able to wait and build up an army in AoE. Any player who knows what they're doing will wreck you in the meantime, starting as soon as they can crank out a unit. You should be in the raiding stage of the game as soon as you are able to produce a unit. I don't have it in me to dust off AoE II, but if you have AoE III (you should, it's awesome, if you only like campaign it's still good but not great) I'd be happy to do some practice games or comp stomps. I'm far from a competitive player I assure you, but you will certainly need a strategy to beat me lol.

If all you know of Age of Empires is building up a huge army unopposed before assaulting the enemy base, you're really only scratching the surface. Only very long games and no rush games turn into big army unit-spams. And even then, you're talking about something very different than gathering a big army in your base unopposed and then just clicking on the enemy base.

Looks like you haven't played Warcraft 3. Give it a try. It's arguably the best RTS ever made.

MammothBlade:
I'd say Shogun II Total War would be a good place to start, with highly challenging battles. Then there's the Paradox games series - Victoria, Hearts of Iron, etc, which focus on grand strategy and really go in-depth with world-sized maps and a fluid world. It's not just your faction which is fighting for dominance or basic survival. There are hundreds of factions and potential factions. Each paradox game is a mix between an alternate history sandbox and grand strategy.

I second Shogun 2, or really any of the Total War games (I can only personally recommend Shogun 2, since that's the only one I finished but I heard ROME and Medival are good). The battles are great and I think you'll like it. Also if you head to steamtrades you can probably get ROME for like nothing.

-KC-:
Looks like you haven't played Warcraft 3. Give it a try. It's arguably the best RTS ever made.

Actually I have. But even in there, and it is a great game, my complaint still applies.

I kind of wish Stardock would combine GalCiv with Sins of a Solar Empire.

NightHawk21:
I second Shogun 2, or really any of the Total War games (I can only personally recommend Shogun 2, since that's the only one I finished but I heard ROME and Medival are good). The battles are great and I think you'll like it. Also if you head to steamtrades you can probably get ROME for like nothing.

Shogun 2 doesn't require Steam does it? I like Valve and Steam does have great deals (really great deals), but I don't agree with their license policy thingy, I know there's an offline mode, but when I get a game off Steam, I want to own it, not own the permission to play it.

I would suggest upping the difficulty. Tactics become more necessary as the computer gets better at beating your armies off. (MAKE A DIRTY JOKE THERE. DO IT! DO IT! D:<)

If that's not addressing it, you could try Frozen Synapse. Now THERE'S a game of strategy.

Somewhat of an aside, but only slightly.

People often say that RTS' are games of tactics and mechanics, not strategy. To take a Starcraft 2 example, a standard zerg vs protoss game will look like this: three fast bases into mass roach, followed by further expanding and cycling out roaches for infestor/corruptor/brood lord and turtling until you starve the protoss out and crush him in one massive battle.

Now, taking three fast bases? That's a tactic. Intentionally losing battles with your roach army to free up supply? That's a tactic. And that's often as far as people will go when looking at a game of SC (2 or Brood War) or Warcraft 3 or whatever the fuck.

Let's put that in terms of strategy: "Use a strong early economy to produce a large, cheap army, and use them to buy time for more efficient units that force the enemy to put his army where you have the advantage."

Another Starcraft example, this time from Brood War. There's a famous-ish video of the American protoss player Nony, high as a motherfuck, playing a game on Battle.net against some random guy. The random guy was being kind of a dick, so Nony wanted to beat him in as humiliating a way possible: mass arbiters (extraordinarly expensive support units). This strategy required that he delay his opponent as much as possible, so he used the tactic of a reaver drop (using a flying shuttle to unload a siege weapon right beside the enemy worker lines) to give him some breathing room while he worked on the arbiters.

Of course, there's still the mechanical side, the micro (how well you can maneuver and manipulate units) and the macro (how well you can manage your income and production).

wookiee777:

-KC-:
Looks like you haven't played Warcraft 3. Give it a try. It's arguably the best RTS ever made.

Actually I have. But even in there, and it is a great game, my complaint still applies.

I'm sorry but if you don't find War3 not-tactical enough you're either playing wrong genre of games or you don't understand that War3 has nothing to do with statements which bother you.

e.g.

The only real thing to do is to make a big army that consists of some dudes that fight ground stuff and some dudes that fight air or faraway stuff and send them off in a big clump to the enemy base. Once there, all you do is smash stuff, you don't really capture or take anything from it, just reduce it to rubble. My brain never goes to work while playing, it's on automatic (or panic mode if I'm under attack.)

Maybe you could apply that argument for 90% of RTS games but in War3 you have to micro manage each unit, while knowing what type of damage counters what armor type, using Hero abilities correctly on right targets while creep blocking enemy units so that they can't reach your hero, not to mention that you have to collect resources constantly because slightest economy mistake could cost you a game (in competitive games literally sending worker few seconds late to mine gold or chop wood will cost you a game).

There is so much combinations and different build paths that you can use and apply to make each game completely different and you will never experience two similar games.

The amount and thinking and mechanical skill needed to execute certain strategies are breathtaking. Basically there is a huge gap between games like AoE II, Civ , Total War series and War3 which is more fast paced strategy which requires more skill and awareness. Personally I like all of them but I enjoyed War3 more because of it's complexity which is only seen after playing bigger amount of games.

DustyDrB:
Try Frozen Synapse. If you tell me there is no strategy in that then I'll...come up with something witty later.

..Oh! Oh! There's no strategy in your mom!

But seriously, Frozen Synapse might be my favorite strategy game. It is very chess-like, I think.

That game. Oh God THAT game. I have sunken far too many hours into perfecting setting up one turn's worth of actions than I am proud of. So many calculations to make and gambles to take. If you want a solid strategy game that is akin to real time chess, definitely get.

Frozen Synapse
Heroes 3 Of Might And Magic (TBS)
Sacrifice
Populous 3 The Beginning

and maybe Dungeon Keeper

You should try unique games like those to see how far the RTS can be taken.

Sup Com made me think a little more than the average RTS. Some missions did come down to build massive fucking army and let loose, but most made you think on a grand scale from memory.

you need to head over to matrix games, battlefront.com and paradox interactive.

all 3 publish proper strategy games.

something like as someone else mentioned the combat mission games would be good and the last few can be played in real time if you desire, but be aware you could be looking at up to trying to maneuver and control a company or battlaion+ sized unit with all the supporting fire and attached units in real time and while its possible you are at a distinct disadvantage to the computer who can keep track of all its units and react in real time.

i say its a good strategy game as you litterally need to use real tactics or that company you charge at an objective will be wiped out to the last man in a minute or 2

the remade close combat games are real time and work really well, they are excellent fun

theres also frozen synapse and the men of war series

I suggest giving the Close Combat series a try.
It's old but it gave me a real feeling of having to think about what i was doing.
my personal favorite is Close Combat a bridge too far.

Mount and blade warband.

I mean really, just watch a couple vids... It's way too much to just explain.

wookiee777:

MammothBlade:
I'd say Shogun II Total War would be a good place to start, with highly challenging battles. Then there's the Paradox games series - Victoria, Hearts of Iron, etc, which focus on grand strategy and really go in-depth with world-sized maps and a fluid world. It's not just your faction which is fighting for dominance or basic survival. There are hundreds of factions and potential factions. Each paradox game is a mix between an alternate history sandbox and grand strategy.

Wow, seems like you've given me a lot to look into (as well as the other people who posted here). The Paradox games sound particularly interesting. Thanks!

EDIT: Which Paradox game should I start with? There seems to be quite a few...

These are probably the "core" Paradox games you should try out

Crusader Kings: A game about managing you dynasty and acquiring royal titles. Try the second one, the first one is really dated

Europa Universalis: Probably the biggest one, at least in scope. Global colonial empires and all that fun stuff :P. Timeline starts at the fall of Constantinople and usually ends at the napoleon wars. 4th game in the series has been announced and not that far from release.

Victoria: Very similar to EU. Industrial revolution with more focus on global trade. Ends with The Great War.

Hearts of Iron: World War 2 Wargame. Politics and army/navy/air force management with long term strategies involved. Second game in the series is easier to get into but is horribly dated. 3rd one more complex but very rewarding

I'd maybe recommend the HoI series if you are willing get bast the steep learning curve. otherwise go for EU. It's like the total war campaign map with more depth

wookiee777:

NightHawk21:
I second Shogun 2, or really any of the Total War games (I can only personally recommend Shogun 2, since that's the only one I finished but I heard ROME and Medival are good). The battles are great and I think you'll like it. Also if you head to steamtrades you can probably get ROME for like nothing.

Shogun 2 doesn't require Steam does it? I like Valve and Steam does have great deals (really great deals), but I don't agree with their license policy thingy, I know there's an offline mode, but when I get a game off Steam, I want to own it, not own the permission to play it.

I have it on steam, but as for whether it requires it, idk for sure, but I'm leaning towards yes.

NightHawk21:

wookiee777:

NightHawk21:
I second Shogun 2, or really any of the Total War games (I can only personally recommend Shogun 2, since that's the only one I finished but I heard ROME and Medival are good). The battles are great and I think you'll like it. Also if you head to steamtrades you can probably get ROME for like nothing.

Shogun 2 doesn't require Steam does it? I like Valve and Steam does have great deals (really great deals), but I don't agree with their license policy thingy, I know there's an offline mode, but when I get a game off Steam, I want to own it, not own the permission to play it.

I have it on steam, but as for whether it requires it, idk for sure, but I'm leaning towards yes.[/quote

yeah shogun 2 and empire total war both need steam

[quote="lexius87" post="9.393503.15908563"]I suggest giving the Close Combat series a try.
It's old but it gave me a real feeling of having to think about what i was doing.
my personal favorite is Close Combat a bridge too far.

they remade a bridge too far, and gave it a strategic map to move battlegroups. added night battles, etc its actually really good, but yeah its my favourite close combat game. i still remember the terror of advancing on arhnem bridge with my airborne forces and realising the luck of the random draw had given me a critical failure and the germans had a jadgtiger tank destroyer.. impossible to penetrate frontally with anything the allies had in ww2 and packed a 128mm gun. never did kill the thing but i tracked it thankfully even though that damn thing cost me half my unit

wookiee777:
but when I get a game off Steam, I want to own it, not own the permission to play it.

I just want to point out that no matter where you get a game from, you don't own the game, you're just purchasing a license that lets you play the game. It's been that way for a very long time.

Even the disks that you buy at retailers have licensing agreements. So to refuse to not use Steam because of that is a bit silly.

Play XCom: Enemy Unknown. Seriously, if you think there are no good strategy games anymore, just play it. Accepting the fact that the combat system is a little wonky because of the random chance factor (every attack is assigned a percentile chance to hit or miss based on various factors) causing you to reload several times per fight, the actual game as a whole is awesome. In combat you are forced to make very active strategic decisions based on environment, available cover, high and low ground, enemy disposition, etc... Outside of combat you construct your base of operations, carefully considering the use of your limited space vs. the number of workshops/laboratories/foundries/etc... that you need.

There are lots of other things to consider but yeah, that's the nuts and bolts. Not a perfect game by any stretch but it's totally worth playing if you're a strategy junkie.

lordmardok:
Play XCom: Enemy Unknown.

That's not a strategy game. It's an Euro boardgame disguising itself as a strategy game. It's extremely simplified, sleek and the game has an well defined structure which leads to the end in roughly the same time every attempt (provided you don't fail somewhere along the way).

It's still a fun distraction and there are several worse games out there.

For the most part, that problem's only in Real Time Strategies. (It's Real Time, or Strategy. Not both.)
Play some turn based strategies. I know they're hard to find nowadays, but there's always XCOM, Fire Emblem, Advanced Wars, and a few others.

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