A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Winning Strategies


I’m a fan of developing gaming strategies. It fosters communication and broad discussion into what methods work for each person to achieve a quality gaming experience. That said, sometimes it can go a bit far and there are people who like particular strategies a bit too much… to the point of alienating other players and just generally being a social nuisance.

I remember when I would play Magic: The Gathering with friends at college. There was one guy there who was forever looking for the fastest method of winning games. After being beaten by him once, I never wanted to play him again (and I wasn’t the only one… he quickly got the hint and changed things up). A game where the setup was longer than the gameplay isn’t my idea of fun. So too, a game where it’s nearly impossible to beat someone is not exactly fun either. When things are balanced and skill is involved, that’s where the fun comes in. When you can walk away from the game feeling like you fought a good fight, that’s a good game.

The depth of the strategies I use greatly depend on the game I’m playing. These strategies range from an initial approach to research (X-COM UFO Defense), to a desire for particular quest rewards (Star Wars: The Old Republic), and even a specific combination of equipment and abilities (Star Trek Online). When I hit upon something that works for me in an individual game, I try to make it work as well as possible. When it runs up against something that attempts to break it, that’s when I adapt and adjust.

I pitted my U.S.S. Iowa-B against a friend’s tactical officer once. We resolved that it was a good learning experience but that we weren’t going to do it again any time soon. The reason? Well, my Iowa is a tank. I have several healing capabilities and counters to what my tactical friend could do. Also, I’m really durable. When it came to blows, he couldn’t deal damage to me quickly enough to counter my healing responses and so, in a war of attrition, he would eventually be forced to run away from me to regroup and heal himself. Then he’d dive right back in and we’d go at it again. I eventually won that fight and I don’t think he even killed me once. It was a great learning experience and it showed that my ship was well built, well thought out, and really worked for me. As to him, well, he’s still thinking up ways to beat my ship, but he’s not too worried as we’re on the same team and we genuinely prefer to work together. Also, that fight between us took FOREVER to finish.

I want to mention another card game experience here. I used to play the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game with my friends and I even would play it at a local competition hosted by a nearby bookstore. I was constantly retooling the deck to be responsive to all kinds of threats and my colloquial reference was that it was “able to respond to everything you did”. Eventually new cards came out and new strategies developed around them. There was one rather laughably weak card called the Yata-Garasu that had this unique ability that as long it was deployed on the field your opponent could not draw. When combined with another card called Jinzu (or something like that) that prevented the use of all traps on the field and was strong enough to kill a wide number of creatures, I couldn’t develop a response fast enough. Without most of my traps and my ability to draw from my deck, I was screwed. After losing a game to a 8 year old kid who used this strategy, I quit the game for good.

I suppose the lesson is that sure, there are winning strategies, but don’t be a dick in deploying them. Also, when it comes to card games, 8 year old kids are dicks.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “I will appoint captains to rule my cities, for it is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his book Citadelle

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One response

  1. Andrew

    Alot of what you are describing is actually Flow Theory. It’s the idea where your skill level and the level of difficulty of the task are well matched. For instance if the difficulty is WAY to high compared to your skill level, then you quickly experience frustration, whereas if the difficulty is too low in relation to your skill level, then you would experience boredom. So I think what game develops (hopefully) know is a little bit of leisure research on trying to maximize the early handholding (tutorial) to be coordinated with the later game challenge.so that players are challenged but not completely left behind in terms of OMGWTF.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM

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