I am a strategy weenie. Who else lacks guts?

So I like to play strategy games once in a while. Even turn-based ones. I was quite into the original GalCiv. Alpha Centauri was a kick. (Yeah, I’m more into the science fiction than the historical, though Civ 4 is tempting.)

But the thing is that I’m a total weenie weak-sauce gutless wonder, because I don’t like to lose.

See, in FPS games, or even RTS, or whatever, each level / episode / sequence lasts only so long. In FPS or action games, it’s basically minute-to-minute victory or failure – if you’ve survived what the game’s thrown at you so far, then you’re golden. A bad move might kill you, but if you reload, you might only have to replay a couple of minutes. Even RTS games, a whole level might take up to an hour to play (well, unless it’s Total Annihilation or something), so if you get partway into it and realize you’re hosed, then you only need to rewind maybe 10 or 20 minutes.

But your typical mega turn-based game can last hours. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. You can get deep into a game, have your whole strategy ticking along, then realize that somewhere hours ago you made a mistake in not asking that one race to ally with you or going down a technology path that didn’t work out, and whamo, you’re doomed. That game’s unsalvageable. Time to start all over again and learn from your mistakes.

…except you’ve got a bunch MORE mistakes to make, and each of them will take hours!

Basically, I guess I’m lamenting the replayability of turn-based games. I’d like to think I’m a strategic master, a modern-day Patton or even Eisenhower. But I’m just not that good. And I don’t get much time to play games (especially nowadays – I can count my gaming hours per week on the fingers of one hand), so I don’t have that much time to spend getting my ass kicked!

I pre-ordered GalCiv 2. Maybe I’ll just turn the difficulty down a lot so I can be guaranteed the illusion of strategic studliness, without the depression of repeated prolonged soul-crushing squashings :-)

Anyone else as much of a wimp as me?

I seem to get that way playing civ4, seems everytime I start fighting I lose by default.
Still in other games, like Cnc I usually fight to the last man unless my entire base got routed and I got 3 guys left.

That’s pretty much me. I really like strategy games. I am also very bad at them. I like the Nippon-Ichi games, because if my strategy is incompetent, I can powerlevel and come back later.

My forte is flight sims but I like to venture into 4X strat games every now and then. Civ4 is a fantastic game, but I too am a total weenie weak-sauce gutless wonder when it comes to trying to win a game on Noble :{ I had doubts about buying GalCiv2 because of it but I went ahead anyway.

As long as the game isn’t one of those where it’s impossible to come back from a losing position, I’m ok. But it IS something that affects me with other people - I refuse to play multiplayer strat games unless it’s co-op vs AI. I just can’t stand the idea fo spending that long losing… and that extends to all RTS games (except for Dawn of War, where the games are nice and fast).

Yeah, I’m with JM. If the game allows for comebacks from mistakes I’ll play it forever. Because a mistake or a bad event doesn’t mean “you’re an idiot for not having read the GameFAQ” it means “here’s an exciting turn of events.”

I don’t even mind losing games if the actual gameplay is narratively strong enough (lots of changes of fortune and interesting turn of events) to keep me rivetted.

Generally speaking I’d always rather play against a good AI than a player simply because the AI more often is working within the spirit of the rules, like me, rather than trying to push all the insta-win pellet levers. And I get the biggest kick out of strategy games where the fun comes from just that.

With Civ4, I made a commitment to stop doing reload thing. It was hard but I found it added a cool little story like dimension to each game. Instead of “Frumple’s hegemony of doom rains nuclear fire down on all pointy stick weilding interlopers” game after game, each game became a little epic story in of itself. In the end, if I could come away with a story and an understanding about how I won or lost I considered the game time well spent. I even got around to reading Guns, Germs, and Steel because of it!

The potential of needing to replay 2 to 6 hours of a game is strangely and horrifically appealing to some 4x fans (myself included). I started a Civ 4 Noble difficulty game February 3 and have probably played through it about 8 times (3 to completion, 4-5 losing strategies where I stopped 3/4 through).

Once I feel confident with a game, I’ll do the “no reload” thing, but I love trying out different strategies. I have less time these days, but the fewer cities in Civ 4, relative to earlier versions, makes it easier to save an incomplete game and re-orient yourself quickly a few days later.

I’m unsure why anyone would want to play a strategy game if they won every time. It would seem to defeat the purpose? I want an AI that challenges me to actually use strategy, that puts my tactics to the test. As long as I learn from the experience I find that I enjoy the times I lose and it makes each game a different experience - that’s part of the appeal of the TBS genre for me and why they have so much more replayability than any other single player game (aside from my flight sims). It’s also why once the AI is no longer challenging I’ll go play against real people. Unfortunately too many good TBS games are let down with crappy singleplayer AI; Combat Mission, Dominions 2, Space Empires 4 etc

I dunno, I guess it’s just a different mindset… but it’s a bit like, I don’t play Go or Chess just to win every game either.

Well, that’s certainly an excellent point, and it kind of gets to the heart of the matter in a way.

Many computer game genres (pretty much all action games, and arguably all RPG’s) are essentially unlosable. (is that a word? It is now!!!) The only way to lose is to quit. You may die over and over but every time you can reload and get past where you died, and keep on going to the end. So in a sense, your losses are only ever temporary, and ultimate victory is always assured. I guess this is because there’s a single plotline and a single set of experiences in the game, and once you’ve seen it all and conquered the foozle™, then You’ve Won and That’s It.

Strategy games of course aren’t that way – you play them many times and each time is different, and each time may be a win or a loss. They’re iterated games.

I certainly have had my share of fun losses – and fun reloads and partial-replays and alternative-strategies and all that. I like that stuff. The main problem with it for me these days is that I’m a tech lead at a startup company AND I’m a new father, both of which are immense consumers of time and energy. (I worked until after 1 am three nights in a row last week, and then got up each time at 6 am to give my sweet baby girl her bottle.) So I just don’t have the energy to spend hours losing, even if each loss is a learning experience. It might take me three or four nights just to finish a single game, and how many games will it take to get really good?

I guess for me right now, the time-to-new-experience ratio of strategy games isn’t quite high enough. I have a huge backlog of other games I haven’t touched yet, most of which are unlosable games. In a way, the replayability of strategy games is a negative for me right now – I want shorter games, not longer ones!

Someday I’ll have more time, and THEN maybe I’ll get serious about strategy.

“But no. Just another few bucks down the chute. You bastards!
… No. Calm down. Learn to ENJOY losing.”

  • RIP H.S.T.


Same here; I get the most enjoyment if I lose around 40-60% of the time, or even more often if there are more than 2 players. Losing is only bad if it means you’re forced to repeat the same stuff over and over, like in a limited save console platform game, or if you’re forced to wait until an inevitable loss, like in some multiplayer games.

Winning all the time is only good if there’s something on the line, like poker. ;-)

I agree too, in fact I would go so far as to say that a 4x or wargame that doesn’t allow that is a bad game. The point of ‘strategy’ is that it’s an overall thing, the side with the better overall strategy wins. There are very few wars in history that were won or lost with one battle and the ones that were tended to be so one-sided from the start that they wouldn’t make good material for a balanced strategy game.

In my opinion, the best thing about Civ IV is it brings the strategy to the surface, makes the consequences of your choices less opaque than many other games, and it gives you a multiple methods for winning. Here’s an example from a recent game (on Noble):

-it’s 1925 and the top four cheese are

Arabia (me)

…with Mongols, Germans, and French fighting over the scraps (America, Russia and i share a common border). i’ve been in second place since about 100 A.D. and have been 250-300 points behind America for all that time. so, it’s 1925 and i’m having serious doubts about my ability to catch the Americans. they’ve got an huge Culture advantage over me, and i can see them whizzing along our border in their shiny new tanks and sparkling mechanized infantry. i have…er, well, i’m not too sure what i’ve been doing with my time - trying to catch up my Tech to them i think - anyway, i have nothing really; no oil, so no tanks, no artillery, no earth shattering kaboom. i’ve got some pissed off looking archers in my border cities; that’s about it. maybe i have a swordsman (sic) or catapult laying around playing cards; it’s pretty grim.

-what i do have is a pretty good tech lead on the munkees in third and fourth place, and a paucity of morals. so, i begin feeding the Russians and Persians technology; literally giving it away. after a few rounds of this i dangle a prized piece of tech and suggest they go to war with America for it. they both do, and now America is beset on two of the three borders she shares. i watch, and wait, and continue driving my tech, which i now re-direct to <cough> the Manhattan Project; merely as a detterent, you understand.

-as i watch, America’s score begins to stagnate and i begin to gain on them. quite quickly. i find i’m 100 behind; then 50; and then, sweet mother of machinations, i’m only 30 points behind! then the Greeks sidle up to me and say Hey! We’re fighting the Americans; why don’t you join in? HORROR! join in with what?

-but i’m worried that if i don’t join in, both the Greeks and the Russians will wonder what the hell they’re fighting for and pull up stakes; so i declare war on America and pray that America is too busy with her eastern and southern fronts to notice all the narcoleptic archers in the north. teeth are now chattering; limbs are vibrating with tension. Sula comes home and finds me halfway down the stairs, paralyzed with stress. i can’t bear to watch the AI turns play out so i keep running out of my office and back in when it’s my turn. agony. heavy American war vehicles keep rumbling up to our border and then heading off in another direction, as if they just remembered they had to be somewhere. a bombing campaign begins, and i start to lose mines and resources, but i can’t get into a fight; i have no army.

-i am now ahead! by 30 points. for the first time in the game, i have the lead. an American unit i’d never seen before, i think it was a S.E.A.L., crosses the border and heads for my capital. all they have to do is peek over the wall, see it’s full of very old, very drunk troops, and come right on in. i complete the Manhattan Project and start building a couple of ICBMs, merely as a deterrent, you understand. the S.E.A.L. team has stopped off to smash a farm to bits. 100 points ahead now! i dial up the American President and ask what it would take for a peace treaty. he says Damascus, i say bugger off and we settle for about 2500 gold. sweet heavenly peace!

…and, he’s still fighting the Greeks and Russians.

-anyway, i ended up winning a Timer Victory, by about 500 points. everytime the three of them made peace, i’d wait a decade or so, and then stir it up again through the back channels. the Americans never regained their balance, and the Russians and Greeks never got strong enough to challenge me because i wouldn’t give them anything they could really hurt me with. they both started building spaceships, but i wouldn’t give them the tech for the Stasis Chamber, so the ships sat empty on the launch pad, and by night, the owls made of them an echoing throat.

-sooper fun! i’m so impressed that the game lets you play Machievelli, if you have the inclination.

[p.s. I never did drop those nukes. I just needed something to make them think twice about driving on my flower beds.]

Was thinking about this whole “unlosable genres” concept, and realized it’s not quite so.

Compare and contrast:

  • spending hours on a strat game (Civ 4, GalCiv 2, whatever) and finding out your strategy was hosed hours ago
  • spending hours on an RPG and finally getting to the Big Foozle battle and finding out you didn’t level up the right guy enough hours ago


  • playing a strat game trying to get the technological victory, when last time you tried to get the conquest victory
  • playing an RPG as a whizbang mage, after playing it through the first time as a hyperbuffed warrior

Seems like big, relatively open RPGs actually have more in common with strat games than you’d think – multiple ways to play, multiple ways to win, even if the game is mostly the same each time (i.e. most of the content comes up again the second time through).

The other thing they have in common is that I don’t have time to replay RPGs either – one play-through is all I’ve EVER done on any RPG. Do strat replayers also replay RPGs?


Maybe that’s also what I need, is more examples of comebacks. As a relatively weenie strat gamer I tend to feel like if I fall behind then I’m doomed. And game recountings like the GalCiv 2 story in my first post don’t really help :-)

Brad et al., post a bunch more stories of challenging comebacks in GalCiv 2 games please! That’ll be inspiring and will give me ideas about how to not roll over the minute I lose the first big battle or two…

In fact, ALL stories of comebacks under pressure welcome! Maybe I’ll start another thread for that if this one doesn’t take. (Thread management is an art unto itself. Heck I spend more time here than gaming these days :-O )

Well, unless the RPG has trapped you all in the Big Boss dimension, you can rewind time about 5 minutes and continue leveling up in the final dungeon.

Whereas if you make a “mistake” in a strat game it may be hours before it comes to fruition, and rewinding 5 minutes won’t change a damn thing.


I think Rome: Total War really suffered from the unlosable thing. Once you became one of the biggest nations on the map, you never had to worry about another nation wiping you out, or winning the game. Yet at this point of the game, you’d have many, many turns left. You can only lose if you don’t win the game in the alotted turns.

Well said, and true. Although the AI often cheats a bit, I find it easier to accept.

One of the reasons I stopped playing Civ IV is that I can’t seem to find the right difficulty level for a weekend warrior such as myself.

One thing about Alpha Centauri was that I could intuitively grasp the various personas of the other Civs and play accordingly. So I knew when I ran into Sister Miriam (despite Tom’s weird love for her) that she was batshit insane and that I should take her out early or starve her for tech until I could take her out, because she would turn on me at the drop of a hat and try to kick my ass. I played SMAC to death.

I never got a feel for the Civs in Civ3 to that extent, basically because there are so many of them and I would try out new ones without doing all the book learning about them. Also that early game land rush was a pain in the ass.

When I got GalCiv it seemed like every game I played I would still be exploring the universe, finding crappy planets, and then I’d run into the Drengin who had already taken up 2/3 of the map and were much further along the tech tree than I was. I then had a choice of sucking up to them so they would let me live, or standing up for myself and getting pummeled to dust. After the third game where that happened, I gave up.

Yesterday I finally loaded Civ4 and played through the tutorial to a domination victory. Yeah it was me against Ghandi, on super baby difficulty, in a small world, but I got a feel for how the cities were built up and improved without having to worry about military stuff at all. So I played a 4.5 hour tutorial, and now I feel familiar enough (though still not quite clear on the religion thing) to actually put together a game. The feeling of Civ4 was quite a bit more like the intuitive feeling of SMAC than either Civ3 or GalCiv, so I’m hoping it will consume my life for the next 6 months.

Oh, and RTS’s are unplayable without pause and issue orders, and then the couple times I’ve gone online I’ve totally gotten my ass kicked. I think I’m a turn based strategy gamer.

Wait until you meet Isabella, she’s 10 times better looking than Miriam, but also 10 times more psycho.

The Civ leaders do have ‘personalities’, all will dislike you for having a different state religion and all will push you around if they are a lot stonger, but Ghandi and Mansa Musa are more likely to be tolerant of you than Isabella and the Japanese guy whose name I always forget. Surprisingly Chairman Mao is one of the more peaceful, friendlier types.