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.

§ 2.3 - There are multiple compelling strategies to pursue.

§ 2.3 - There are multiple compelling strategies to pursue.

§ 2.3 - There are multiple compelling strategies to pursue.

For a game of strategy to be compelling, there must be multiple compelling strategies to pursue. To be compelling, a strategy needs to be a reasonable path to victory.

Strategies and their outcomes are clear.

Beyond the existence of multiple strategies, players need to be able to identify what strategies are available within a game and what outcomes they lead to.

Ideally, players can do this within the early turns of their first game, but they should certainly be able to do it by the second game.

Most importantly, players should be able to understand which strategies will overcome other strategies.

Strategies evolve as the game progresses.

Most games play a bit differently at the start, middle, or end of the game. As the game’s stage changes, the players must be able to adapt their strategies. In order to adapt, the available strategies must be clear at each point of the game.

As a designer, you should be able to identify these strategies, and make sure that sufficient tools are available for the player to use them. Those tools should also be clear enough in their design that they implicitly communicate the available strategies to the players.

Players can pivot strategy mid-game.

A good rule of thumb is that players should be able to shift their strategy effectively about every 20-30 minutes of play time. So a game that lasts an average of one hour should have 2-3 opportunities for players to select and implement a strategy.

Short games may not offer a great opportunity to pivot. Instead, the pivot comes in repeated plays. Thus, shorter strategy games should offer a multitude of options immediately at the start of the game.

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