9 Feb 2013

This Just In: Strategy Gaming helps with...Strategy?

   No, it's not really news - I made that up; but it might be news to some people - but I've found through personal experience that playing digital strategy games periodically has really helped foster my knowledge and skills in the tabletop war-gaming realm and could be an invaluable tool for many players.
   My game of choice is Starcraft 2 - a game that, to the outsider is unbelievably competitive and difficult to master, with many complex systems and a lot of hardcore micro - play - which is what most outsiders would say about Warhammer 40,000. To date I am a Top 25 Gold Player on the SEA servers in 1v1 multiplayer and a top 8 Platinum in 2v2 multiplayer with my dedicated gaming partner - this puts me above the average player by a decent margin, but I am by no means one of the best - in fact, I lose quite often.
   As my skills at Stracraft 2 have progressed and I've moved up the leagues, with a lot of hard work and practice, I've found my understanding and strategy and tactics in a general sense has increased and am now performing much better in my Warhammer 40,000 games - so the question is, how can this help you?

   Whether we like it or not, video games are becoming the primary and premier form of social entertainment in-and-outside of the home - the sheer amount of units shipped dictates that this is a growing form of entertainment and many hobbyists - whether they admit it or not, are playing video games these days. Personal experience shows that a large number of hobbyists are quite happily droning their way through the multi-player component of the latest Call of Duty game, which while fun - has no real use other then to entertain. As most of us currently make use of computers, we do have access to video games that are both enjoyable and help educate us in the arts of war; this can only help the budding commander to become better  in their tabletop endeavours.
   The strategy genre of games is a vast, complex beast that I have years of experience in - the range of differing games is immense, with some quite closely mirroring a game of Warhammer with their turn based mechanics, fixed army sizes and digital dice rolls - other's are much more chaotic and require quick reflexes and extensive knowledge of hotkeys in addition to tactical acumen and strategic analysis.
   I'm aware that SC2 is not for everyone, it is a daunting game for almost any sane person and is, by definition, extremely difficult to master - it does do a good job of training you with the challenge missions, but applying that knowledge in the online space is an entirely different beast. It gets even scarier when you consider things like this:
   There is a lot of information to process, much less to apply in - game; so what are my recommendations to help you get started in the world of digital strategy games? Well, the obvious answer would be Dawn of War 2 - the game features no complicated resource mechanics, is fairly simple to learn how to play and most importantly: will be familiar to most typical WH40K players - Space Marines fight and die like Space Marines, Orks can smash things in combat and Wraithguard are just as devastating from afar as you'd expect. The game is also immensely cinematic and enjoyable, and is a nice compliment to your tabletop sessions; there is even an army painter tool that lets you customize the appearance of your units to some degree. The game is available for $20 USD on Steam and will run fairly well on most PC systems.

Insanity Wolf!
   The real advantage of these kinds of games is they allow you to learn & practice all on your own without needing to travel to your local gaming club, store or to a friends house to gain experience. Although these games are at best a loose analogue of the table-top games we love, they will help you understand the finer points of strategy and tactics such as; hard counters, micro - management, army composition, positioning and tactical choices such as where to attack and when; these are general skills that can be applied to any form of strategic environment and with a bit of thought can be adapted easily.
   If you're still unsure about the value of strategy games, why don't you try any of the Total War games - these games provide a semi-realistic representation of historically accurate military units in simulated battlefields - the games Rome: Total War and Medieval 2: Total War are both excellent games that are sure to stroke your interest and sell for $13 and $20 USD respectively; both of these games have pre - built period specific scenario battles that will help train you in strategic thinking.
   This advice is general advice only, and is not meant to work for everyone - if you already play video games on your PC, then why not try a strategy game to help with your tabletop war-gaming; it definitely can't hurt!
  As always feel free to leave your critiques, responses, suggestions and share your own experiences in the comment section below, or message us on facebook, twitter, email or find us in the forums of your favourite wargaming site.

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