Guidelines for Strategy Game Design

A functional and lightweight game design manual by Level 99's D. Brad Talton Jr,
on how to create tense, dynamic, decision-driven games.

§ 1.4 - Key skills are clearly defined.

§ 1.4 - Key skills are clearly defined.

§ 1.4 - Key skills are clearly defined.

What skills will a player need in order to succeed at this game?

When designing your game, it is ideal to outline the key skills up front, then design components and tools that will leverage or enhance those skills.

What are some key skills?

Prediction - Can you anticipate and counter your opponent’s next move? Can you set a trap that your opponent will fall into? Can you adapt your strategy to incorporate counter-strategies?

Valuation - Are you paying a discount, or a premium for what you get? Will it be worth what you’ve paid for it in 5 turns? Between two options, which one is going to provide the better value, both right now and over the course of the whole game?

Tactics - Can you see 3, 4, or 5 moves ahead? Can you predict the responses to your actions, and have reactions at the ready? Can you initiate the sequence at the right moment, so that the chain of consequence lands in your favor?

Resource Management - Can you manage the flow of resources to maximize the performance of your engine? Can you minimize downtime, expense, and maintenance? Can you be ready to seize opportunities when they arise?

Risk Management - Do you know when to press your luck and when to stop? Can you thread the needle between luck and skill? Will you trust your instincts or the numbers? Will you press the advantage at the right moment?

Strategy Formation - Can you discover a cohesive strategy within a set of diverse tools? Can you build a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts? Will you form a strategy around exploiting a point of leverage, or adapting to circumstances?

Social Skills - Can you work together with others to achieve your goals? Are you willing to form and break alliances as needed to reach victory? What will it cost you on a personal level to do what you need to win? Are there principles that go beyond the table?

Execution - Do you have the physical skills or strength to win? Will you take the long shot, or play it safe? Can you imagine unconventional solutions to open-ended challenges?

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