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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Xericor's Tactica: 'Toss out a brick to get a Jade Gem'

Toss out a brick to get a Jade Gem
(or how much would you pay to dictate your enemies actions)

Have you ever been in a conversation where you have said something funny or witty, only for a reply to come that turns your humour on its head and makes you the butt of the joke? Yes, me too. The common phrase is often used 'you walked right into that one'.

But what if we could do something about it, like predicting the future, what if we knew the response, would we still leave ourselves open for the riposte? Probably not. Unless, of course, we had something to gain, or it was part of a cunning plan...

There is a ancient Chinese essay called the 'Thirty-Six Stratagems', similar to the great book of Sun Tzu, that describes a series of strategies to be employed in war, politics, or similar interactions. In this article I will look at one of these stratagems and how we can apply it to our game play.

The stratagem 'Toss out a brick to get a Jade Gem' comes in Chapter 3 of the essay, and is part of the 'Attacking Stratagems'. In its simplest form it means to teach the reader to give up something in order to gain a more valuable asset. Its a kind of sacrifice but with the aim of gaining a more valuable reward. How can we use this in our games? The idea of giving something up, of voluntarily sacrificing our forces is often hard to grasp, nobody likes to lose anything. But consider in a game that uses 'Points Values' for troops. Who wouldn’t sacrifice 100 points of troops to inflict 110 points of damage on the enemy? In a FPS game, where Kill/Death ratio counts for victory, you can die 15 times as long as you kill 16 times.

When we look at it like that, in simple terms, it works very well. In practice however its a completely different matter. Which brings me back round to the 'you walked into that one' conversation at the start. We need to give before we receive, but when we can say in no uncertain terms that the enemy will take us up on the offer, we are already one move ahead of them. We know the outcome, we effectively can see the future. The only questions that remain are how much are we willing to pay for this and how can we maximise on this knowledge.

Play like this, and as long as you don’t give up to much, you will always be dictating the course of play, and you will always be winning. The icing on the cake is knowing that the enemy thinks HE is making the good plays, until, its far to late...

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