Strategy and Tactics: How far do you like to plan ahead?

Often, I see people complaining when in a game the state changes so much between their turns that players cannot plan beyond their immediate actions.

Personally, I am not great at strategic thinking. I tend to play my turn “in the moment” more than I make elaborate plans at the start of the game. Which does not mean I ignore game-end objectives, but I tend to play whatever feels best that turn and if it doesn’t continue what I did on a previous turn… so what. (I am thinking this is how I keep losing Castles of Burgundy against a friend on BGA)

Since many games have a certain amount of randomness baked in this will also influence how players can plan ahead as well.

Are there games where it makes sense to decide on a strategy at the start and where it is likely a player will be able to follow through on that strategy? Are there games where it is impossible to do anything but react to the game state in your turn?

I would like to gain a better understanding of these aspects of games. I would like to be able to better analyze games to find out how strong strategic planning and tactical moves are. So I’d love to see some examples of games that lean heavily in one direction or the other.


I don’t think far usually but if I do think far I often get distracted by things that feel cool. Also if I plan far it’s usually a set up that helps do something good like a big combo but inevitably it’s overall inefficient or rubbish.


I think I’ve talked before about the frustration I’ve had from Terraforming Mars and Terminator: Dark Fate where you have to choose a card to acquire now, but some of them will only be useful if specific other cards show up later, which they may never do. I’ve articulated this before as “I can’t make any plans”, but I think to be fairer it’s “I can’t make any plans but the game is forcing me to commit to them anyway”. Because if I’m playing Firefly or A Touch of Evil I will have only the vaguest of plans (“go to places, get stuff to power up, take on the big challenge”) and then I’m happy to go with the flow.


As I’m generally not good at games I’d rather play quickly and fun than try to maximise my turn (so I find the enforced slowness of PBF actually improves my performance).

I always try to have an idea of what I’m going to do before my turn comes up. Not through deep strategic thinking but because I don’t like to keep people waiting.


As you guys can tell, I prefer having long term planning in games, but I do prefer having some tactical player interaction to make it more exciting and unpredictable. I don’t mind games that are heavily tactical or strategic. So, Splotters are obviously up there with their mix of short term and long term goals

On the flipside, I have a strong dislike for arbitrary tactical games like 7 Wonders or Terraforming Mars because the game arbitrarily forces you on one way or the other without giving you enough control or enough information. But there are interesting tactical games out there like the Pax series, or a lot of old-school Germans like El Grande (until you play it with King and Intrigue expansion and suddenly, it’s a strategic hand management game :wink: )

Heavily leaning on strategy that became exceptions would be games like Res Arcana - a pure resource management efficiency game, but the game is too lightning fast for me to get bothered by it. There’s Seasons where the Turn 0 drafting is a big deal; Concordia or any of Mac Gerdts’ stuff other than Imperial; Or Peer Sylvester’s Polynesia.


I like planning ahead and having a general strategy in mind, but I excel in games where tactical agility can let me pivot with ease.

However, there are games where strategic decisions never seem to pay dividends due to too much input/output randomness, or where the turn-to-turn tactical options are unsympathetic to your particular strategy; these are the games that I label as “swingy”.

That said, there are some swingy games where the swinginess is the game. Broom Service comes to mind. I love choosing the cards, trying to guess what my opponents may or may not need, and I love when it’s time to choose to be brave or cowardly. These are not, however, subject to the whim of a draw of a card or the roll of a die – it’s a wonderful “swinginess” because it’s all based on what my opponents literally chose or will choose to do. Estates is very similar but more opaque.


I do like strategic games but I’m much better at strongly tactical games. I like to be able to read the board state and react to that (Brass, Pax Pamir, Inis). I find I’m too easily distracted in games that require a commitment to a long term strategy from the beginning - I do really enjoy Splotter games, but I’m exceptionally bad at them!


Inis was the first game that came to mind when considering games that are basically impossible to do anything but react to the game state when it is your turn.


I like to plan ahead 2 or 3 moves. “I’ll do this, and then that, and then this other thing if someone hasn’t messed me up by then.” Any moves beyond this is beyond my mental horizon.

I have a fondness for (euro)games with build-in efficiency tension. “OK, I want to do A, but it’ll be better of I do B first, but that’ll be cheaper with C… do I have time to do C now or will someone get to A before me?” If there is a D, E, or F, forget it.

I like games where I can have an adaptive strategy, where I can break from the plan to do something opportunistically or shift gears if I’m blocked. Terraforming Mars does that for me. “Sure, I wanted to focus on building cities, but I’m not getting city cards, so I’ll do my best with the cards I do have and maybe bite the bullet and do standard projects to get the cities I wanted.” Power Grid is also good for this. “I’m invested in oil, but it’s getting more expensive… oh, hey, a green plant came up, maybe I can get it…”


Depends on the game, but for a Splotter or any game without cards or significant luck I think a vague game-long plan is necessary.

Like our game of Terra Mystica, I knew roughly what I was going to do, but had to give up on my initial two cities because Lalunaverde could disrupt it too easily, and then give up on a river crossing city because Yashima and whistle_pig could both disrupt it too easily. So I knew broadly what I wanted to do - with darklings, get a first-turn sanctuary, playing to the round bonuses - but I gave up on other things I wanted and switched to temple bonuses to make up the shortfall.

In Antiquity, the entire game can be planned, it’s just hard to do so, and wrinkles like how many graves you have to place can mess up a plan that is too precisely plotted. Only a Giorgio push by an opponent really shakes things up.

Then there are all the card games I love, where you can’t plan beyond your current hand, or turn, and they provide a completely different but also great experience. Innovation, Race for the Galaxy, Twilight Struggle, etc.


I think every one here is talking about friction and the fog of war(game). If so, then the preferences stated and criticisms of said games are as a result of preference for a particular type of contest.

The games I like to play, the strategy is related to the goals, and the tactics are about how to get to the goals.

Of course, I could be talking bollocks, because what do I know? So, you’re YMMV.

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Ooh, good thought: if I’m going into a wargame (assuming there’s more to it than “we both line up and blast away at each other”), I think I already expect to be making hard decisions on too little information. So why do I enjoy it there, but not when it’s “commit to this card, and the other card that makes it good may or may not ever show up”? Perhaps because there’s a human opponent who is also making hard decisions that directly affect what happens to me, rather than the cards being the main source of unexpectedness.


I like games where there’s multiple possible paths to victory and you should probably focus more on one and probably dabble in others a little bit as your big picture strategy for a game but then in any given turn you have to adapt somewhat to the board state and current conditions.

Like Feast for Odin. Are you going to focus more on raiding, whaling, hunting, farming, crafting, or what as your big picture strategy? That will shape what islands and other supplemental boards to go for, what boats to get the most of, etc., but on any given turn you adapt to what spaces are available, what weapon cards you got dealt, etc.

Or Great Western Trail. Do you want to lean more into building or managing your cows and cowboys or moving your train? You’ll have to do some of all of it, but which one do you want to go heavy on and how? Plan for that overall, but then adapt as necessary on any given turn based on the board state, resources available, etc.