Most of our decisions in life are based on strategy. We weigh likelihoods against risks, consider variables and act with what we assume to be our own best interests. Whether you’ve ever actually played a classical strategy game or not, chances are that you’ve used some of the basic game-play principles in your daily life. Strategy board games are all about the process of decision making. The better we get at making decisions, the better results you tend to get.
Playing strategy is pervasive in everyday life. Strategic decisions influence your life on every level. The more we understand about strategy, the more we can understand the world around us. Governments use “games” to plan for not only defense, but also economic development. Corporations use “games” to devise sales plans and plot ad campaigns. In fact, we use “game-thinking” in almost all areas of day to day life.
If you are interested in playing the “game of life” better and more efficiently, strategy games are a great place to get started. They’ll help you plan, predict, measure outcomes and generally give you a head start on everyone else.
The History of Strategy games
Strategy comes from an old Greek word meaning “generalship”, or the art of being a general. To devise and plan rather than execute and coordinate (tactics). Although the concept has been around for a very long time, “the father of strategy” is generally thought to be Sun-Tzu. His book, The Art of War, written around the 5th century BC, is still studied today. Not just military people make use of this book, but also businessmen from around the world.
Classes in strategy were part of a Roman child’s education. Julius Caesar used to have a Greek tutor visit him and explain how battle campaigns were planned and won. He actually had hundreds of “toy soldiers” with which to lay out on a board and move as the battles developed. Doesn’t that sound like a board game?
Types of Strategy Game
There are many types of game play that you can play by yourself or with others. The two most popular formats are turn-based and real-time.
Turn-based: This is where all events happen in sequence. I play and then you play. I respond to your move and then you in turn respond to mine. Although most games have been designed around turn-based systems (think of chess or checkers), more people are seeing this as the lesser version. The games can be more exciting in terms of setting up longer term strategies, but lack the realism of actual situations.
Real time: This type of game is for the purists. From the beginning of the game, you and your opponents are constantly playing. So not only do you have to keep moving forward with your strategy, but also interpret what else is going on and make adjustments. With each player making moves at the same time, it is important to pay close attention. Real time play is usually more realistic and better for improving strategy skills.
Geo-Politics and Strategy Board Games
If you have ever played the board game Risk, you’ll probably have noticed some similarities between it and the world we live in. Both involve building defenses and controlling territory. You try to build a resource base (Risk cards). You look areas of susceptibility (heavy armies on your borders). And more often than not, you build temporary alliances that are mutually beneficial.
If it seems like politicians are playing a Real time strategy game with the world, that’s because they are. The principles of strategy games are the exact ones that influence high-powered decision makers: risks, susceptibilities, ratios of reward.
The Classic Strategy Game
Many people think chess is the ultimate strategy board game. You can trace its roots back to 6th century India (with root origins being even older). It combines strategy and tactics in a turn-based arena and usually has a winner that can think most abstractly.
With hundreds of millions of players worldwide, it is probably the most popular turn-based game in history. China has a similar version that is from a similar period in time, but has a focus on tactics rather than strategy.
Games in the Present Day
As with most activities, the principles stay the same but the practice has moved online. You can find hundreds of quality games to play online against real opponents or against computer players offline. Far from being a kid’s activity, producers aim at the mature audience that values skill, patience and strategy formulation. From the hugely popular Warhammer 40K universe to empire building games like Age of Empires, there is something on the market for everyone.
One of the best games for balancing strategy with tactics was release in 1957 and has been a favorite ever since: Risk. It gives players an equal opportunity to win by involving dice rolling in the battle procedure. The aim is to use your limited resources to defend and ultimately conquer countries and continents. Part of risk’s enduring appeal is that it involves both tactical and strategic thinking. In this game, you may have a grand plan, but you still have to deal with other player’s empire building schemes.
Most of the heavy hitters in online strategy say that Empire Building games are the best test of a strategist’s skill. Not only do you have to expand through war and conquest, but you also have to balance an economy. Creating the right mix is a tough challenge that can (if successfully played) take hours of focus.
In the Asian market, there are cooperative real time games like Dota and Dota 2. These games have sparked worldwide tournaments and have a massive following. You can create teams that link online or play with other single players to achieve goals. Dota has a lot of social aspects too with Cosplay parties and local contests.
Game strategy is not only fun, but also exercises the mind. It can help you make better decisions and be more decisive. Strategy board games were the bread and butter of people like Caesar and Napoleon. Don’t you think they’re worth a try?