Strategic Play

Part 4 of a six-part series reviewing examples of the six activity modes.

Strategic Play emphasizes the manipulation of resources – military, financial, or “human” – over a longer term. In games that emphasize problem-solving, achieving pre-set goals determines progress, while games that encourage a strategic mode of play often enable players to select their own or the computer’s benchmarks. Games with strategic activities include The Sims, titles in the Tycoon series, Civilization, and the Age of Empires. Few educational titles have incorporated this play mode.

I love strategic play, but I am only semi-good at it. To excel at strategic play, you must be able to see the multiplicities of options and how your decisions now affect future fortunes.

Desktop Defense: This is my favorite online strategic game. The player is given a starting pool of money to purchase or improve towers which then are placed on the game board to prevent the egress of little blobs of different types. As these blobs are stopped, the player gets more money to spend on the defensive towers. This is a common set-up for strategic games; another good example is Bloons Tower Defense with monkeys and balloons, always a winning combo.

A simple-to-learn, hard to master board game is Othello, which is a territory-capture game. Here two players are assigned a color, black or white. The players gain territory by placing their color to capture the other color between two of their own. These tiles get flipped — exposing the player’s color, and hiding the opponent’s. Play continues until all squares are filled. The exposed colors are tallied and whoever has the most wins.

Many games categorized as Role Playing Games (RPGs) contain a good bit of strategy. Based upon the Dungeons and Dragons games popularized in the ’80s, RPGs, such as Monster’s Den, have the player form a party of characters of varying strengths and weaknesses. These characters have human personas — pictures, names, and types, but really are a series of statistics that the player controls through add-ons found mostly through pillaged treasure and reward. Often cast in a mythological world, character death is temporary and nullified through use of potions or spells. Ensorcelled armor or weaponry improve the stats of the character.

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