Tactical Planning

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Planning based on what one knows of the current game state.

Many games make players plan what actions to perform based upon which possible action is most feasible at the current point of the gameplay. This type of planning, which depends on the current game state and what the game state may be within a couple of gameplay events, is called Tactical Planning.


Perfect Information Games, ranging from the ancient games of Chess and Go to more modern examples such as Hex, Hare and Tortoise, and Hive, all require Tactical Planning. This is not to say that Imperfect Information Games do not need Tactical Planning; Advanced Squad Leader, Stratego, Agricola, and Amun-Re are all examples of such games that require extensive Tactical Planning.

RoboRally requires players to plan five moves for their robot to perform while racing and fighting several other robots in an environment where various machinery at regular interval provide deadly effects. Ricochet Robots does not have a dangerous environment, but players need to think several steps ahead and make use of the current and possible future positions of other robots to get one specific robot to one specific square on the game board.

Both the board game and computer game versions of Space Hulk require players to under time pressure plan how space marines should move and engage in combat against genestealers. The board game allows players to move the marine one at a time but since they need to support each other the movements of the first must be done with thoughts of how the others should move; the computer version moves all marines at once but players can only give orders in a planning mode that one has time-limited access to.

Using the pattern

One a general level, providing the possibility of Tactical Planning in a game consists of letting players have a Freedom of Choice between some actions they can perform, letting the feasibility of those actions depend on local circumstances, and providing them with some time to choose between them. Common examples of how to provide a number of possible actions and a need for planning how to perform them based on the current game state include Action Programming, Budgeted Action Points, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Puzzle Solving, and Token Placement. More generally, situations where Solution Uncertainty exists typically requires players to engage in Tactical Planning. Privileged Abilities can also be used for this purpose but introducing them during gameplay increases the need for Tactical Planning since players then need to reconsider their Freedom of Choice.

Tactical Planning can also be created by having Risk/Reward or Trade-Offs associated with the possible actions. A general way of doing this is combining Evade and Overcome goals since this means players have to decide at any given point if they want to be defensive or offensive. The presence of Combos, Delayed Effects, and Development Time are all also examples of Risk/Reward or Trade-Offs that need Tactical Planning, as is the threats of Turnovers. Ammunition that are Limited Resources or require Downtime while reloading show how this can be applied to Combat besides Combos, as do have Enemies that have Vulnerabilities or Achilles' Heels towards certain Weapons or Powers (and the two require more planning when combine). Achieving Capture through Bidding or Investment actions is another example of activities that typically require Tactical Planning, as can Stealth goals in changing environments.

Many aspects of gameplay environments can encourage Tactical Planning. Placing Environmental Effects, Power-Ups, or Destructible Objects that can function as Traps are ways of achieving Tactical Planning based upon how players can interact with game elements in Game Worlds. So is using Capture goals that depend on Movement or giving Units the ability to extend a Zone of Control. Sniper Locations encourages Tactical Planning, both in how to make use of them and in how to overcome Enemies using them. Flanking Routes and Laning creates need for Tactical Planning since they let attacking forces have alternatives whose merits depend on the current situation, as does trying to defend locations to which Flanking Routes exist. Reconnaissance goals inspire Tactical Planning in the sense that any new information gained by performing these give players an updated awareness of the gameplay situation.

Tactical Planning can be modulated by Limited Planning Ability, either in restricting how much information is available about the game state or how much time players have to make use of that information. Perfect Information does not restrict information but modulates Tactical Planning nonetheless in that it lets players focus their planning on how they believe other players will behave or how Algorithmic Agents function. Imperfect Information, e.g. through Fog of War, make it necessary to work with a less than perfect understanding of the context although this may be modulated further through Game State Overviews, Near Miss Indicators, and Traces. A special case related to Fog of War is Surprise Attacks, the possibility of being the target of one can cause players to engage in Tactical Planning but so can also the opportunity to set up one. Time Limits and Real-Time Games can make Tactical Planning more difficult since one has limited amount of time to do the planning within, but Tactical Planning can also be added as a part of gameplay in Real-Time Games to make the overall gameplay more difficult. Both cases show how Tension can make Tactical Planning and other ways that can evoke this in players can have the same effect. Algorithmic Agents, Enemies, and other players in Multiplayer Games can create a Limited Planning Ability in several ways. They can make it a requirement to engage in Tactical Planning, modulate how easy it is to be done, and enforce implicit Time Limits on how soon players need to have made up their minds on what to do (the last way is not limited to Real-Time Games for Multiplayer Games since the other players can hurry decisions through Extra-Game Actions).

The use of Reserves in gameplay can promote Tactical Planning, but it players can be placed as Reserves this can also let them engage in Tactical Planning. Due to this, Reserves can cause Tactical Planning to occur in games in two different ways.

While Tactical Planning depends on specific game states, Strategic Planning is planning depending on general structures of the game design. Since these are likely to interact and influence each other during gameplay, it is advisable to consider and design the presence of both patterns in a game simultaneously.


The possibility of doing Tactical Planning to increase one's chances of succeeding lead to Stimulated Planning in a game design as well as Performance Uncertainty. Further, it can support players to have an Exaggerated Perception of Influence and have Cognitive Engrossment but this may also cause Analysis Paralysis in Multiplayer Games that are also Turn-Based Games. The Analysis Paralysis pattern may not occur in Real-Time Games or those with specific Time Limits but these instead can create Tension if Tactical Planning is required.

That Tactical Planning can be done implies that there exist a Freedom of Choice for players, and when gameplay depends on how well this is used the pattern of Tactical Planning can be the basis for Player/Character Skill Composites. This allow makes Tactical Planning a likely source from which the possibility of Gameplay Mastery can occur, and being able to notice positive effects from developing or engaging in Tactical Planning gives players one possible source to feel Value of Effort for what they do in a game.

In games with Imperfect Information, players wishing to engage in Tactical Planning are likely to give themselves Gain Information goals to have better grounds to make that planning on.

When Tactical Planning is possible in Multiplayer Games it shows that there must be a level of Player Unpredictability.


Can Instantiate

Cognitive Engrossment, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Freedom of Choice, Gameplay Mastery, Performance Uncertainty, Player/Character Skill Composites, Player Unpredictability, Stimulated Planning, Value of Effort

with Imperfect Information

Gain Information

with Multiplayer Games

Player Unpredictability

with Multiplayer Games and Turn-Based Games

Analysis Paralysis

with Real-Time Games or Time Limits


Can Modulate

Real-Time Games

Can Be Instantiated By

Action Programming, Algorithmic Agents, Budgeted Action Points, Combos, Delayed Effects, Development Time, Enemies, Environmental Effects, Flanking Routes, Freedom of Choice, Laning, Multiplayer Games, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Power-Ups, Privileged Abilities, Puzzle Solving, Reconnaissance, Reserves, Risk/Reward, Sniper Locations, Solution Uncertainty, Stealth, Surprise Attacks, Token Placement, Traces, Trade-Offs, Turnovers, Zone of Control

Achilles' Heels together with Powers or Weapons

Ammunition together with Downtime or Limited Resources

Capture together with Bidding, Movement, or Investment

Destructible Objects together with Traps

Evade together with Overcome

Vulnerabilities together with Powers or Weapons

Can Be Modulated By

Algorithmic Agents, Enemies, Fog of War, Game State Overviews, Imperfect Information, Limited Planning Ability, Multiplayer Games, Near Miss Indicators, Perfect Information, Real-Time Games, Time Limits, Tension

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.