Help a strategy game idiot

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but bahimiron’s JRPG thread reminded me:

I am convinced I’m basically the worst strategy game player ever.

This is a problem, 'cause I love the idea of strategy games. I’ll happily listen to people talk about strategy games (Three Moves Ahead, for example), and I’ll often buy them because they sound so great.

And then when I actually play them… I kinda suck at them, and it’s not really much fun. I’ll get bogged down in details and get overwhelmed and then frustrated when the game slips out of control.

What am I missing? What’s a good crash course for learning the right kind of patience and tactics I’ll need to actually get something out of these games?

Note that I’m mostly talking about turn-based stuff here, and I’m more into Civ-type, diplomacy, city-building, or trading games than grognard-y wargaming.

I’m in the same boat. Love them but suck at them.

Yay, I’m not the only one! I could read AAR’s and that wonderful GalCiv2 play report that was done, but for the life of me I suck at these games. I do fine at board games requiring a bit of strategy, but when it comes to turn based strategy, RTS or civ-type ones I do okay, just always hit a wall!

Save us grognardy gamers, you are our only hope.

Same boat here, strategy-stunted and not sure why that is because I want to like them. Actually, it’s not that I’m bad at them as much as it’s the fact that I just can’t get into them.

I’ve been a die hard HoI “tryer” since it’s inception but somehow none of them have ever got out of the driveway. The very thought of what those games are/can be strikes me with the urge to play. Nations, armies, continents and grand plans of world domination through technology development and mindful building of ones resources. It sounds perfect, until I actually start up the game find myself faced with the stark reality of it all. My brain frosts over with a thin icing of malaise, that I have to fight to scrape off before I can even begin to make any progress in figuring things out.

It’s around that point that I start to feel like these games are more work than play, and that if I could get up the Pike’s Peak Learning Curve™ I might find a plateau of enjoyment somewhere just below the cloud layer. The problem with this is that I already have a job, and when given some free time I really don’t want to do more work. It’s from this, that the learning curve goes unclimbed and I just slap about the base camp not really ever getting anything out of the experience.

I want to climb up there, but I just haven’t got the energy anymore.

Perhaps you are playing the wrong type of strategy games? While they are a group, there are different types. For example, I don’t like traditional RTS style strategy games. I’ve tried many and they don’t work for me so I’ve stopped buying them. But there are other strategy games that aren’t of that type that I really enjoy.

Also, the more complicated ones have a learning curve that is steeper then what most games these days have. I’ve played most Paradox games, and each one requires a few hours before I feel like I have a real idea of what is going on. That may not be the kind of work you are willing to put in to have fun.

Can I join this club? I love the idea of many (especially grand) strategy games, but playing them is often more chore than fun.

Dude, we should start a club. I haven’t played a strategy game I really enjoyed and felt I did well at since Panzer General. I really don’t have the head for maintaining an entire army and having them work together well to achieve my objectives. And don’t even get me started on RTSs, those are as alien to me as, you know, aliens.

But I still try them now and then. I completely suck at the Civ games, but kind of enjoyed the Civ Revolutions game on the Xbox for a while. I think I need to dig that one out again.

I so love the atmosphere of StarCraft, but on like ten tries I’ve never even made it furter than the first Zerg rush.

I never get the right balance between offense and defense, and I do everything with wrong timing.

I think this is part of it. I’ve lost track of how many hours I put into various iterations of SimCity, and I’ll play Strategery (think Dice Wars) on my phone for hours, so there are clearly some strategy games that’ll grab me.

It may be a learning curve & patience thing, you’re right.

But still, I’m kinda captivated by the grand scope of some of the more complicated games and just wish I had the patience for them.

I think one solution could be if you could get a friend play a strategy game with you (at the same computer) and explain the finer points to you. After you learn to play one strategy game, the rest are easier. It’s a certain mindset you need to get ahead in one of them. It’s more difficult to arrive at by yourself than by getting mentoring from a more experienced player. I’m certain you would pick some pointers on how to proceed with this kind of game from just watching someone play and asking them questions.

It would probably be best to pick a game with a setting that is especially interesting to you. It would help you to keep playing through the period of frustration you describe.

That’s really not a bad idea at all. Most of my gaming buddies are RPG dorks, but I’m sure if I ask around one of them will have a secret shameful strategy habit.

Yeah, I’m thinking I may need to cave and grab the PC version of Dawn of Discovery, 'cause the setting fascinates me. I grabbed the Wii version on the theory that I might be able to talk my wife into trying the co-op, but haven’t had time to try it yet.

Thanks for the tips.

Also, apparently the rest of us will need to form a support group or something.

I think the trick is to throw away a weekend on learning how one of them works, and then just play that one game for the next couple of years. That’s what I do.

If you lack strategy dork friends, you could always try to ask someone to do an AAR/explain how everything works thing for whatever game you’re interested in. I could probably be persuaded to do something like that for Armageddon Empires, GalCiv2, Dominions 3 or Blood Bowl - if you don’t mind small, weekly instalments (I have one of those pesky life things too).

If you don’t have anyone locally try a compstomp multiplayer game with some voice chat enabled like Skype or Vent.

I’m trying to get into Armageddon Empires. My head hurts.

See, that’s part of the problem – patience. I’m cool with losing a game if I know why I lost, but with a lot of strategy games I end up in this pattern where I just keep losing and don’t know quite what I did wrong. After a while, the big pile of backlog games looks too tempting and I just give up.

I think the key may actually just be learning how to get more out of losing.

This would actually be pretty cool, no matter what the game is. AAR / explanation posts are a good read – even if they end up not teaching me a ton, they’ll still be fun to follow along.

If you’re talking about RTS games I have one word for you… hotkeys.

I do okay at strategy games, depending on the game. I suck at Age of Empires because all I do is sit around building walls and cities (placed for aesthetic appeal)as if it were a Sim City/Rollercoaster Tycoon game, I pretty much only create units to stand around in formation and look cool around my town. Then I get wiped out because I only bought upgrades that add to my town and people cosmetically.

I do fine at turn based games, but only for certain types of victory conditions. I do great with Diplomatic or Culture or Wonder type victories (CivIV or GalCivII for example), but I am the worst military strategist this side of the screen, so I normally have to talk or buy my way out of a fight. In games like Warlords III, yea I’m toast. Although I do great at King’s Bounty and have no idea why.

I can not, will not, will never, ever be able to compete in RTS games against real opponents though. I thought I was totally bad-ass at WarCraft III, until I played online. Then I logged off and cried myself to sleep.

See Civilization is the line for me. I understand Civ (enough) and can play well (enough) to muck away a few hours and at least know why (more or less) France of all places handed me my ass on a fancy le’ platter. I admit to not necessarily knowing the finer points of the game, but I know enough that I can at least fake it and have fun. You can’t fake a damned thing with Hearts of Iron, at all. Civ to HoI is a comic book compared to the national archives. There’s just no way you can wander haphazardly through a game of HoI with my Civilization-level of hack-involvement and a) get anywhere and b) enjoy it. I’ve tried several times, it just doesn’t work. Hence, the necessity for clambering up that learning curve o’ doom that so haunts my soul.

I like the idea of having someone walk you through it and I like the idea of a series of AAR’s geared towards getting new players up to speed even more (ie - someone do that for HoI3 please). That sort of thing might be what it takes to shove my lazy ass up the curve these games involve.

Still, as much as I want to like titles like HoI, I think there is a definite possibility that they are just not for me. I want to like healthy eating and exercise too, but I don’t.

It’s a really easy game compared to Blood Bowl. Just read the manual. The UI sucks, but the game is gold. I’d pay handsomely for a multiplayer version.

Of all the RTS games I’ve ever played, I think I did best in Total Annihilation. Probably because you could rapidly replace broken units. Man, I loved that game.