Strategic Locations

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Areas in game worlds that are advantageous to control or have access to.

Strategic Locations are place in game environment that are important to control, have access to, or being aware of their status. They focus gameplay to certain parts and allow players to make long-term plans based on their specific characteristics.


The player who controls the center of the game board in Chess, especially with officers, has a significant strategic advantage. Similarly, controlling corners in Go are strategically important in the beginning of game instances. In other Strategy Games, controlling locations that produce valuable resources make them Strategic Locations. In Diplomacy only a few locations provide players with armies and are therefore vital for winning the game, while controlling cities in the Civilization series are of long-term strategic value. Besides the resources produced and the population of locations, Europa Universalis 3 makes some locations more strategically important by providing benefits to players controlling them, e.g. trade income bonuses for controlling the Bosporus or increased amount of yearly missionaries and prestige for controlling Jerusalem as a Christian or Muslim state.

Not only the location of weapons, power-ups, vehicles, etc. are Strategic Locations in First-Person Shooters such as Quake and Unreal Tournament series, but also where players spawn, good sniping positions, and where choke points exist. For the Battlefield series and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars gameplay typically revolve around controlling certain goal areas which also are Strategic Locations.

While all positions for villages and cities in Settlers of Catan can produce resources, some are better due to what resources are produced and the likelihood for them to be produced.

Using the pattern

Strategic Locations may be created either explicit by the presence of game elements or implicit deriving from the relationship between the location and other locations in the game. Game elements that can create explicit Strategic Locations include Spawn Points, Resource Generators, Resource Locations, and also Location-Fixed Abilities such as those provided by Chargers, Controllers, Installations, Safe Havens, Secret Areas, and Self-Service Kiosks. Bases often make sense to built near Strategic Locations but can also make places into Strategic Locations by their presence; thus, they can both create and modify Strategic Locations.

Somewhat more abstract but still explicit ways of creating Strategic Locations include Check Points or providing beneficial Environmental Effects when they are controlled or owned. To ensure players' awareness of Strategic Locations, they can be set to stand out through Diegetically Outstanding Features. Implicit Strategic Locations may be intentionally created by the arrangement of explicit Strategic Locations nearby, or they may be emergent features due to Randomness of Resource Locations. How players can move between different parts of Game Boards, Game Worlds, or Levels can also make some places into Strategic Locations, for example by being Arenas, Choke Points, Flanking Routes, Galleries, Sniper Locations, or Strongholds.

Strategic Locations quite naturally need to have positions in Game Boards, Game Worlds, or Levels, but for games using Tiles the individual Tiles can be considered Strategic Locations depending on what they contain. Games using player constructed boards from Tiles, e.g. Carcassonne, allow the players to modify the value of explicit Strategic Locations by placing them in positions where their relationship to other Tiles increase or decrease their usability. Similarly, Tiles with no inherent value can be made Strategic Locations by connecting them to other Tiles in certain ways.

Strategic Locations can be used as the targets for explicit Game World Exploration goals.

Real world locations can be Strategic Locations in games which make use Pervasive Gameplay or otherwise use players' positions as game input (e.g. through Player-Location Proximity or Artifact-Location Proximity).

Interface Aspects

For games using Mini-maps, Strategic Locations can be shown on these to help players locate the locations even when they cannot be directly observed through the main game interface.


Strategic Locations gives players the possibility of Memorizing valuable locations in Game Boards, Game Worlds, and Levels as Strategic Knowledge, e.g. to help Game World Navigation or make the best routes in Races. This is especially true for Strategic Locations that depend mainly on the topology of the surrounding Game Worlds for their values, rather than on the explicit presence of valuable game elements. An example of how topology dictates that value of a location is the value of the central area of the board in Chess. For those with the Strategic Knowledge, Strategic Locations supports Strategic Planning although this may need to incorporate Risk/Reward decisions. Given that Strategic Locations provide benefits in some way, they can negatively can affect Player Balance unless countered by providing all players with these through Symmetry.

If players know that Strategic Locations exist but do not know where they are, this leads to Game World Exploration goals, and these can be used explicitly to create Smooth Learning Curves by introducing new gameplay elements through these locations. Known Strategic Locations leads to players having Traverse goals to reach the locations, which may become Races if several Agents are competing to reach them. Camping and Guard goals can occur when Strategic Locations have been reached as a way to deny other access. If the locations can be owned in games, i.e. they support Territories, Strategic Locations also give rise to Gain Ownership goals achievable through Area Control or other actions that provide Ownership of parts of the Game World.

Knowing Strategic Locations can also influence Spawning, if players have control over which Spawn Points to use.


Can Instantiate

Camping, Game World Exploration, Gain Ownership, Guard, Memorizing, Risk/Reward, Strategic Knowledge, Strategic Planning, Traverse

with Game World Exploration

Smooth Learning Curves

Can Modulate

Game Boards, Game World Navigation, Game Worlds, Levels, Races, Spawning, Territories

Can Be Instantiated By

Arenas, Artifact-Location Proximity, Bases, Chargers, Check Points, Choke Points, Controllers, Environmental Effects, Flanking Routes, Galleries, Game Items, Inaccessible Areas, Installations, Location-Fixed Abilities, Power-Ups, Player-Location Proximity, Races, Resource Locations, Resource Generators, Safe Havens, Secret Areas, Self-Service Kiosks, Sniper Locations, Spawn Points, Strongholds, Tiles, Tools, Vehicles

Randomness together with Resource Locations

Can Be Modulated By

Bases, Diegetically Outstanding Features, Mini-maps

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Player Balance unless the Strategic Locations are placed using Symmetry


An updated version of the pattern Strategic Locations that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.