Tactical games are designed for either short-term or long-term play.
They are designed to either degrade rapidly or escalate endlessly.
Depending on which design mechanic is the basis of the game and what combat mechanics are used to support it.
Short-term games are most often designed around a mechanic known as degradation and as the game progresses less and less tactical play is possible.
This allows the game to quickly produce a winner and a loser, or most often, a draw.
These games typically support 1-6 players
Tic tac toe is the most basic example of this. Having 9 total squares, with the goal of acquiring 3 squares in a row, it’s so simple that it almost always ends in a draw and is often played by children for that reason.
This is achieved by using acquisition to support degradation. During each turn a player acquires a square and the simplicity of the board results in almost instant degradation, quickly producing a draw.
If we scale up its complexity, we can slow degradation, and what we end up with is chess.
Chess utilizes a larger game board of 64 squares and pieces of varying value and ability. The game is based on acquiring your opponents pieces, with the goal of capturing the King. It is very balanced and designed around acquisition while utilizing some escalation as well; however, as complex and balanced as it is, it can ultimately end in stagnation, and often does between equally skilled opponents.
The game of Risk also utilizes degradation. At first glance, we might only see regions of differing values and a large and complex board. But when we look closer, it consists of 42 squares and all pieces, or troops, are of equal value.
Although tactical, it uses dice to randomly produce a winner. The game is based on degradation, but utilizes some escalation. Like chess, it’s balanced.
Now look at the mess above, lol, and tell me how we can balance this. Will making this more complex slow degradation? Nope. It will be more likely to produce massive lag instead. Which is exactly what has happened.
Long-term games are designed around a mechanic called escalation, and as the game progresses, combat tactics escalate and players utilize positional dominance to support escalation. As combat ensues, the players fight for a better tactical position to attack from. This aids in creating endless conflict and long-term play. These games support a larger number of players than short-term games!
Long-term games utilize a larger game board. The game of Pente includes 144 possible positions. The ultimate goal is to move 5 or more pieces into a row, and no one piece or individual position is more valuable than the other; they are all of equal value.
A players overall position on the board, along with the size of the board, is what determines the outcome. This can go on without end, and the more players involved, the larger the board the longer the game will last!
Above is an example of a massive open map, without castles of differing values, where rank is determined by a team’s position relative to the center of the map. This view is zoomed all the way out. At the combat level view you can see rolling hills, valleys and other terrain features. This view is used for tactical planning and allows a player to see the map as a whole.
Note that each player’s base is a dot on the map and my base’s location is at the map’s edge. The map’s edge is where all players begin, or restart if they have lost all their troops,with the goal of reaching the center of the map.
I will have to fight my way back towards the center of the map to rejoin my team after having lost a battle and all of my troops. I will need to quickly rebuild troops to do this.
In this scenario, I will have to make a long distance attack to rejoin my team cluster. My team will need to help secure a position for me to take now so that I can rejoin them. Once I return to my team cluster I will begin to build up my resources and troops to contribute to their movement closer to the center of the map, where better resources and targets can be found.
My team will not want to establish a mega alliance and surround itself with allied teams because this will limit their mobility and prevent us from gaining better positional dominance. This tactic will produce small situational alliances based on position. These alliances are fleeting and change as teams vie for the center of the map where attacking is most profitable.
Additionally, because rank is determined by position on the map, it makes conflict happen positionally and prevents lag, because you won’t see 30+ teams sending multiple primes to a single location. Conflict only takes place between a handful of teams in any given location, so mega alliances would actually hinder your team’s efforts. Sandbagging could be done by individuals, but not by whole teams.
An open map founded on escalation would be ideal and is what I believe is needed.
Team rank should be moved to the map contingent upon position, with Diamond League at the heart of the map. The center would hold the best rewards and whoever holds the core area would definitely not want to surround themselves with allies, as doing so would essentially leave them nothing to attack.
I would like to see removal of the defensive castles that cause stagnation, along with building a long-term map revolving around combat and attacking, in lieu of defending tactically stagnant castles.
All teams should have a real reason to fight and the rewards at the center will need to be considerably better than the rank system we currently have to properly drive escalation.