Strategy terms from historical games

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Bucky, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    These are all strategic concepts that have shown up in old games, but which apply to whole categories of strategy games. It's good to know about them when designing new strategy games. I've tried to match these terms to their original sources.

    (General terms)
    Dominance (Game Theory) - Maintaining a position where you are at a small advantage compared to the opponent in every single aspect of the game. Once dominance is achieved, you can typically win by either copying the opponent's tactics with an advantage or by countering whatever they do.

    (Turn based games)
    Threat (chess) - Setting up a move that could cause crippling damage to the opponent's strategy. The opponent must spend their next move to prevent the threat or make a larger threat, or suffer the consequences.
    Check (chess) - A threat to win the game on the next move, done to force a response from the opponent rather than for the chance to win the game outright.
    Checkmate (chess) - A position where one player can move, but the other player will win immediately no matter what they do.
    Fork or Double Threat (chess) - Making two different threats simultaneously, to which the opponent can only respond to one. Usually, the one they don't respond to will be carried out.
    Pin (chess) - Being unable to use a piece because it's blocking an important move for the opponent.
    Zugzwang (chess) - A position where every move a player might make would put them at a disadvantage. This uses the fact that they must make a move against them.
    Transpose (chess, borrowed from mathematics) - Two different sequences of moves that lead to the same position after the same number of moves. Important for planning openings.
    Gambit (Chess) - presenting an offer of material advantage to your opponent in exchange for a positional or tempo advantage.
    Blocking Move (unknown/ concept from Go) - Making a move to prevent the opponent from playing the same move.
    Temperature (Game Theory, adopted by Go) - The value of having an extra move in a turn based game. A game-state (or region thereof) is Hot if the next player to make a move there gains an advantage from it even for a relatively weak move, while it's Cold if being forced to act next is a disadvantage (i.e. mutual Zugzwang).
    Tenuki (Go) - Responding to a move with an unrelated move elsewhere. This lets the opponent take two moves in a row in one area in exchange for taking two moves in a row elsewhere. There are two reasons to do this; either you think the other area is more important or you want the opponent to commit to a direction before deciding how to respond.

    (Risk, hidden information and probability terms)
    Feint (Fencing) - a fake attack, intended to provoke an inappropriate response.
    Mixed Strategy (Game Theory) - In a simultaneous-action game where predicting the opponent leads to an advantage, choosing from several actions randomly or pseudo-randomly.
    Poke (Fighting games?) - A low risk, low reward aggressive action. In hidden information or fast real-time games, frequent pokes are often used to make higher-risk attacks less immediately obvious.
    Scout (RTS games) - In a game with hidden information, sacrificing material in exchange for revealing hidden information.
    Yomi (Fighting games) - In a simultaneous-action game where predicting the opponent leads to an advantage, attempting to learn how the opponent chooses their actions rather than using a simple Mixed Strategy.

    (Pacing terms)
    Rush strategy (Warcraft II?) - Attempting to end the game quickly, before the opponent has set up their own strategy.
    Rushdown (Fighting games) - In a real-time game, taking actions that require a response at a higher frequency than the opponent can think through your actions. This can lead to confusion and, hopefully, inappropriate responses.
    Turtling (various) - A passive style of play that tries to keep the opponent from gaining large advantages while accumulating small advantages.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
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  2. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    What I'm looking for in this thread:
    Additional terms that have been used outside their original game/genre.
    Original sources for terms.

    (E): If you want your term included quickly, you should provide some examples of other games that have adopted the term to refer to the same concept.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
  3. Weaver

    Weaver Active Member

    Timing (Go) - In a local fight in place A and when you have sente, you make a forcing move, that is not too early that you waste a ko threat for nothing, but not too late that the forcing move becomes not so useful any more, in place B. After the opponent answers your move, you go back to place A to continue fighting, but the exchange in place B gives you a little advantage in the fighting place A. It also should be an absolute forcing move, otherwise you lose sente and your opponent disrupts your fighting plan in A directly.
  4. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    Where is that definition+concept pair used outside Go? Why is it more important to strategy games in general than the RTS sense of the term (i.e. attacking during a weak time-period in the opponent's build)?
  5. Weaver

    Weaver Active Member

    It's really different to RTS version of "timing". It's more like "forcing the opponent to do small exchanges just before you are about to start a big fight elsewhere, no earlier, no later". It's called Timing in Go, but the same concept should exist in other strategy games as well. I agree this name may cause confusion outside Go but can't find another succinct name yet.
  6. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    Did I use the term "blocking move" correctly?
  7. Weaver

    Weaver Active Member

    In early or mid game, the preferred term is:

    In endgame, it's a special case of reverse-sente play:

    Go terms are a mess by default because Japanese, Korean and Chinese terms are all used to a certain extent so I guess we can use whatever we like as long as the meaning is clear.
  8. KindFortress

    KindFortress New Member

    Rampage (chess) - launching an attack with a series of moves by a single powerful piece, unsupported by others. In chess, this is usually the queen.

    Gambit (Chess) - presenting an offer of material advantage to your opponent in exchange for positional advantage
    Expand (Warcraft?) - Secure an additional resource-producing region and begin to exploit it
    Finesse (Bridge) - Win a trick/exchange, despite your opponent having a higher-value card or asset, by using proper timing that deters the opponent from fielding their higher-value card. Typically leads to winning two tricks where traditional play would yield only one. In essence, a finesse wins an advantage with cleverness and daring that brute force could not win.
  9. SwiftSpear

    SwiftSpear Active Member

    Some Starcraft/RTS ones

    On a game with a exponential resource buildup, do the bare minimum to stay safe while maximizing resource gathering
    Tech: In a traditional RTS, choosing to upgrade units and open access to more powerful units at the expense of creating a larger army and gaining economic advantages
    Timing Push: Aggression against your opponent which you initiate after a period of more passive play either focused on Macro or Tech. An attack designed to optimize the advantage that a recent flux of technological power or economic buildup by hitting the opponent before they have had time to respond to your buildup, or during a time that you know they will be weakest due to the build path they have chosen.
    Poke: Pushing your army forwards, without the intent of committed attack, to force the opponent to respond to the location of your army (taxing their attention and ability to position correctly) and/or to search for a weak point in the defensive line. A poke can also allow a weak army to delay the advance of an overwhelmingly more powerful army and buy time to overcome the army size difference by forcing the larger army into fortifying their position more frequently, interrupting their supply lines, or threatening a particularly soft target the large army will need to defend. (In starcraft it's almost always correct to be poking constantly)
    Scout: Send a cheap unit to some area of interest (or the opponent's base) to gain information about the opponent's strategy/capabilities. A trade off of some small amount of resources for information.
  10. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    You mentioned Tempo in one of your descriptions, but it itself is a good term. I heard it first in Puzzle Strike.
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  11. KindFortress

    KindFortress New Member

    Tempo is used extensively in chess, though I don't know if the term originates there. A related term is a Ply, which is a turn for one of the players. Two plys makes a full round in chess. In multiplayer games, the ply term could help differentiate more clearly between rounds and turns.

    Other really useful terms from chess:
    Blunder - a really bad move, usually leading to a loss
    Desperado - a piece that is certain to be lost anyway being sacrificed for the highest possible return
    Discovery (also 'revealed') - an attack that is leveled by removing a piece that blocked the attacking piece
  12. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    I think the term Tempo came from music, but it has different meanings in different games.

    In Chess, a tempo advantage is eliciting several moves in response to a single move, particularly during the opening (how I used it describing a Gambit, where the extra move means activating back-line pieces sooner) or pawn promotion endgames (where advancing a pawn an extra time often lets it outrun the opposing king).

    In Puzzle Strike, tempo refers to changes in total gem pile height beyond the normal ante. More gems increases the speed of the game by giving players more chips and threatening to end the game sooner, while removing gems has the opposite effect.

    In American Football, tempo refers to how much time the offense spends in between plays; aside from clock control, it's also used to manage players' stamina and (for a very high tempo) limit the opponent's ability to substitute players.

    I'm not including it because it's so different between games.
  13. Waterd

    Waterd Well-Known Member

    Inevitability: From magic
  14. richy

    richy Well-Known Member

    Raising the Stakes: Offer the opponent the choice between committing more resources to a subpart/whole of a match, or conceding defeat in that subpart/match. Term from any kind of gambling game I suppose but applies in lots of games.

    Longshot: A high-risk, high-reward play.
  15. major_shiznick

    major_shiznick Well-Known Member

    Two more from Chess that I'm surprised not to hear more often: closed vs open positions

    Closed - Characteristic of a game state in which both players have relatively few non-blunder moves available. In Chess, this usually happens when pawns control most of the board space, rather than other pieces. Closed games typically involve both players jostling for subtle positional advantages that will allow them to "break open" the game in a way that leaves them with a decisive advantage.

    Open - Characteristic of a game state in which both players have a large number of non-blunder moves available. In Chess, this usually happens when long-ranged pieces like bishops, rooks, and queens control most of the board space. Open games are often described as "sharp" or "tactical" and typically require that players calculate many branching lines of play to correctly evaluate a move.
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  16. Kdansky

    Kdansky Well-Known Member

    Tempo is also used extensively in card games such as Magic or Hearthstone: Burning a lot of resources to get a board advantage is a play for Tempo. It's the opposite of a Greedy or value play: Trying to get high returns on your resources, at the cost of slowing down. Easiest example would be to play a higher costed card that also draws a card: You gain resources in the form of cards.
    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  17. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Puzzle Strike made really good use of tempo I think. Also weirdly enough Puerto Rico does, with the Prospector and Mayor roles being the slowing and speeding up tempo options. Kind of.
  18. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    (added Poke and Scout under the risk & probability heading)

    Where is this term used outside of Magic-clones?
  19. Spittledrum

    Spittledrum Member

    Fun list. You might also want to consider fencing terms, which tend to overlap a lot with fighting games.

    A few most relevant:

    Feint - (similar to poke) An apparent attack meant to draw a response in order to follow up with the true attack.

    Appel - An attack coupled with loud noise and/or gesture to distract.

    Remise/Redoublement - follow up offensive action when initial hit fails to land

    Probably too basic to warrant separate entries, but parry and riposte are useful synonyms for deflect and counterattack
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