Games of depth

Depth of strategy

When we think of depth, games like the Civilization series or Chess typically come to mind. We think of planning in advance, and how early choices have long term consequences. In a game like Civilization, we have to decide where to put a city in order generate the required resources to grow and expand. In Chess, we cannot think of moving a single piece, but a movement of a interrelated group of pieces. This is a type of depth, and I think of it as a depth of strategy. It usually involves a series of planned decisions with long-lasting, cascading effects.

This is also seen in some role-playing games (RPG). The skills we choose to train, the equipment we choose to outfit, and the composition of the party itself all have a lasting impact on the rest of the game. These decisions can influence how we fight and interact with the world in significant ways. The same can be said with building a deck in Magic the Gathering (MtG).

Depth of tactics

There are other types of depth, and they are closely related to depth of strategy. One is found in many smaller decisions that when taken together produce a major outcome, usually in shorter recurring contests. This is common in first-person shooters (FPS) and real time strategy games (RTS) like League of Legends in the video game world, and we see it in RPGs and games like MtG too. Tactics are most important when we have to be present in the moment and immediately respond to gain advantage.

Think about all the possible choices taking place in a FPS game. Ever so slight variations in position, aim, and timing all have a major impact on the outcome of a shot. In a game like MtG, we have to respond to the cards we draw and how our opponent plays their hand. How we respond in the moment determines whether we win or lose. This type of depth is tactical. The more meaningful decisions we must make in the moment to gain an advantage, or not fall behind, is a depth of tactics.

Depth of imagination

A third type of depth is that which engages the imagination. Games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and Fiasco compel us to engage the fantasy world that is being created. Rather than trying to predict the cascading effects of long term strategy or tactically react with speed and efficacy to immediate circumstances, depth of imagination requires we visualize and navigate a world with another set of rules.

For example, D&D not only has dragons but the dragons have physical characteristics, personalities, and even diets. Great games of imagination allow us to accept an initial premise, and then fully explore the ramifications of this premise. In Fiasco, once we accept our characters and motivations we use those rules to create outcomes.

Do you have any favorite games of depth that include one or more of these? Are there other types of depth you find engaging?

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