Can discussing strategy be a spoiler?

So it’s quite easy to see in campaign or legacy games what a spoiler might constitute (plot, things hidden in a box).


Does talking about strategy constitute a spoiler? Sometimes I feel the best fun I get out of a game is figuring out some sneaky tactic or scam or understanding the game on a different level (see lots of knizia games). So does talking about those things ruin the game for other players?

I thought about this when thinking about the game Bresk. There’s a certain level of game in there that becomes apparent after a little while and the discovery of that was fun. However how does one talk about a game of restricted to even the layers of the game?


Good thought. I think it’s fair to tag strategy discussion as such – sometimes I want to read what more experienced players have worked out, sometimes I don’t.

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I think it can be a spoiler for those who prize discovery above all else—my partner is one of those people on the other hand he hates stumbling through a forest of rules he doesn’t grok, so I tend to give him strategy tips. As I do not know the game you give as example, I cannot quite tell if I might feel different for that particular one.

I’ve been known to watch strategy videos for computer games like Oxygen not Included because I’d never have figured out some of that stuff you need to survive.

I’d also rather discuss a game I like with someone and learn something than not being able to talk about the game at all. If that includes strategy spoilers: so be it. If I don’t like the game that much that I want to debate it in depth… well then I don’t care either.

But maybe I am talking from the privileged position of a gamer who usually plays the games before their friends and thus gets to explore them before they start strategizing.

Here there have been so few game specific strategy debates that I really have no idea how I would feel about it.


My favorite part of gaming is developing heuristics. Strategic, tactical; doesn’t matter – I want to explore decision space and put together my own rules for making one choice over another.

I always avoid reading strategic analyses and discussions.


For me, pointing out common pitfalls to a newbie isn’t a bad idea.

Or describing why you are doing something


When I’m doing a formal game demo, I generally describe just the rules up front, but during the game I’ll often talk a bit about strategies - particularly if I’m playing in it myself rather than just supervising the group. “So here you see I’ve extinguished that fire down to smoke so that I can move through it, even though it’ll spring back up to fire at the end of the turn.”


Awesome topic!

I’m also usually the rules guy/teacher, so I too find myself at the very least planting little seeds for players to potentially cultivate.

There is the other side of the coin as well: you’ve arranged a game for a bunch of new players, and one of them “did their homework”, showing up with rote strategies in hand. I’m not sure what you can do about that player. (And yes, this has happened before).


Why would you want to do anything about them? This sounds preferable to players turning up knowing nothing.

If the rote strategy wins despite the player not having any experience of the game, it’s nice to have a baseline for people to aspire to and/or work to counter next game, skipping some of the random flailing around that can cause first-time games to drag. If the rote strategy does not win, it’s effectively no different from any other first-time player’s attempt at understanding the game, and it’s just nice to have someone arrive having a working knowledge of the rules.

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I’m usually the teacher in my group. I feel like any time think I’ve got insight from the rules it usually bursts on contact with real life players.


I wonder though as the “teacher” do you have a role in highlighting to players who may be unaware that an experienced player is taking a certain strategy to raise awareness and allow prevention. Depends on your group I feel.

I think teaching strategy or at least introducing strategy is fine (although I often confound the teach with strategy chat).

The only time I feel it is wrong is when a game has a clear optimum strategy and teaching this essentially ruins the discovery and means the game can be dead in 2 - 3 plays.


I agree partially, especially for heavier games, and as a rule I request anyone joining does their homework ahead of time to smooth the teach. But I’m not talking about getting familiar with the game, I’m talking about going online, memorizing some brutal strategy widely discussed in competitive forums, and then executing that plan like a checklist.

That’s the equivalent, to me anyway, of inviting a bunch of new players into your learning game and then going out of your way to just destroy them. It’s something generally frowned upon when it comes to the teacher, I’m unclear why this would be seen as a positive addition to the table in this case.


I honestly can’t see how implementing someone else’s strategy could be entertaining.

In a particularly opaque game I could see starting out with a netstrat to see, perhaps, how it unfolds if it’s not immediately obvious from the outset… But as soon as you see what’s unravelling… I would necessarily have to deviate from the strategy… And if I considered myself to be winning, I’d take risky moves to jeopardize that (ill-gotten) lead.

And, perhaps, I’d only consider doing that if I had played the game before and failed to successfully develop any heuristics of my own.


I stopped short of posting the same, because I don’t know about that. The tier lists and metagame strategies at the highest levels of competition infiltrate the lowest levels in videogames and collectible games all the time, for example.

As a bonafide scrub in everything I do, I tend to look at these “opponents” as opportunities for weird shenanigans. Pick a bottom rung character and just pick them apart with unorthodox play. But that’s in videogames. I’m not sure I can take this approach without further ruining things for the rest of the table.

Oh wait, the point!: I think I’ve seen enough experientially to confirm there are plenty of people who can derive pleasure from implementing someone else’s strategy. My guess is the common thread is an overwhelming need to win.


I don’t like playing with these people. These are the people who, in my experience, will try to bend or break the rules to win, without regard or respect for the game or the other players.


I tend to think that if a checklist can work independent of anything actually going on in the game, then either the game is bad or players have a lot to learn before it becomes “a game” instead of “learning the game”.

I know that’s not a universally held view of games these days, or maybe even a widely held one, but it’s mine.

As a teacher, I expect I have knowledge of both the checklist and how it actually works or doesn’t work in practice and context, so I do have a responsibility not to use that knowledge to destroy new players who wouldn’t appreciate it (which is not all new players, obviously). Someone who has never played before using a checklist as a baseline from which to develop a real understanding of the game seems fine to me.

As an example, because I find such discussions never go anywhere without context to ground them: I read a lot of when learning Twilight Struggle, even in preparation for my first couple of games with an experienced teacher, and for a long while I just didn’t question the advice I read there. It took a lot of plays to see where the advice was wrong, the fixed plays and assumptions were wrong, rote plays weren’t applicable to real situations that arose in the game, etc.

Obviously this is a limited example because it’s a two player game and the only new player was me. But if there were similar resources for multiplayer games… Oh, Terra Mystica comes to mind. I did some research for that, and it didn’t help me much against the teacher, it just helped me feel my way through the first couple of games until I could play competitively.

I’m not sure what games could actually be ruined by internet sleuthing, maybe I need some examples to see where you are coming from.


I will also agree that if a game can be solved by “stand back everyone, I read a reddit post” l33t stratz, it’s probably not a great game. Buuuuuut, if everyone at the table is just starting out and fumbling their way through a complicated game, one of them using a netstrat can both create ripples in the group meta and possibly sour the rest of the players on the game if that netstrat is not perfect, but good enough to beat a bunch of noobs.

I think I’ve read quite a bit about Food Chain Magnate having “broken strats”, but I’ve also heard people talk about how “if you think X is broken, then your group hasn’t discovered Y yet. And if you think Y is broken, well… just wait until you find Z.”

FCM is definitely one example I can pull from directly, although that was complicated further by the teacher being the culprit. He was new to the game, barely did a teach, and proceeded to win (quite obviously) by like round 3, all while boasting about the “broken strat” he was unleashing. It sucked. I’d like you to imagine a big expletive in there.

@Benkyo I do get where you’re coming from, especially with respect to head-to-head games. I should have been more clear in the initial post, but the vast majority of my teaches (pre-pandemic) were through random signups via a meetup group I attended. Hopefully that provides a better idea of the circumstances.


FCM is a good example. Someone using Guru to wipe the floor with other new players does not seem to me to be a bad thing. Guru is slow, and without that win the game would be even longer, and a long game of FCM can really drag.

Certainly there are people who might come away from a Guru loss thinking the game is solved, but a decent teach, pointing out that it could have been beaten by faster strategies, should resolve things.


I’m not suggesting anyone comes away thinking the game is solved at all. On the contrary I think they walk away wondering WTF just happened and why they would ever give the game another shot. FCM is a hard nut to crack and requires several games of discovery just to really gain understanding, IMO. This is an awful thing to do to your guests.

[EDIT] to confirm it was absolutely GURU. Had to look it up.

[DOUBLE EDIT] Worth noting I took over teach duties in that game and the player using guru was in no way forthcoming about the what or why about any of it. Just snapping up cards and laughing.


Splotter games are very niche. You really can develop quite detailed opening strategies, and without one your early moves can railroad you into a guaranteed loss. The only solution imo is that everyone understands the game well enough to play competitive opening moves, so the real competition starts.

Having a “teacher” being the only person using a viable opening, and proclaiming that it’s great and y’all are going to lose isn’t where the conversation started. Obviously that’s not great. I’d actually be fine with a teacher using Guru as a timer to wrap up a first game, as long as they were pointing out that it’s slow and the next game would be about outpacing it. I’d also be fine with a new player doing the same, again if the teacher gave context.