Strategy vs Tactics

CliffNotes:  Sometimes it's a good idea to examine what we think we know.  If you want the bottom line to all this talkie-talkie, just read the lines in BOLD.

I believe that in all areas of life, and if I have a strength it's an almost overwhelming self-awareness... which I earned the hard way.

Don't worry, I won't bore you with the theory; that's my profession and I'm sure the concepts doesn't excite others the way it does me.  Point is, we don't know ourselves or our ideas as well as we think we do.  A good way to test your understanding is to say it out loud or to try to explain it in new terms to another.

Here's an example taken from my neuropharmacology class.  Mike May was blinded at age 3 but a surgery repaired his eyesight.  He can 'see' but can't recognize his wife.  Sight is now a tool for him, "...like my cane or my dog."  Got it?  Now explain it on a neuronal level.  What happened at age 3?  What's happening now?

If you can do it, you know the material!  Obviously that's a pretty extreme example, but I find the story of Mike May fascinating and wanted to share it with you.  Here's some links:
Moving on, I had an entertaining conversation with Stelek yesterday... don't worry, it's not drama and there aren't hurt feelings.  I don't deal in E-Drama anymore.  But I had the opportunity to dust off my understanding of Strategy and Tactics.

Stelek said, "(Brent) When I read your tactical articles, I wonder about you as the things you say confuse me greatly."

I'll admit, that stung.  Disagreeing with an article is one thing, and I get that a lot, but blanket statements are an opinion on everything you've ever done!  The only thing worse is damning with faint praise.

Still, I recognized it wasn't personal but rather he was speaking out on the issue as he saw it.  When that happens in life, we may not like it but it's important to acknowledge the difference.

As an aside, I think that distinction, which is hard to make - especially in a media-poor communication tool such as chatting or typing - is at fault for the vast majority of hurt feelings and arguments that have occurred on Yes the Truth Hurts.  Stelek is a blunt person; I don't think he's a mean person.

Still, one thing in all that stuck out.

I don't actually write Tactics articles.

I never have; that was a deliberate decision for a few reasons.
  1. Others do it better.
  2. People disagree about tactics.  I didn't want to turn readers off.
  3. Others do it better..!
  4. Tactics can change.  What works today won't tomorrow.  I didn't want to invalidate past opinion, especially when I post using my real name.
  5. I don't find them useful.  In general, people only really learn these concepts through playing the game.
  6. Others do it better!
  7. It's hard work.
Strategy and design are more my thing, but even then I rarely write these types of articles, certainly not on Strictly Average.  Why?  'Cause others do it better!  There's really only a handful of armies I can speak on as an expert, so why confuse the audience?  I strove to make Strictly Average a Personality Driven Hobby Blog.

I think I've succeeded.

So, with that in mind, I assume Stelek is talking about my generalist, strategy articles, which I only really write for Bell of Lost Souls.  My first thought was, "He can't possibly have read all of them!"  My second thought was, "I'd better not make that mistake again!" 

Anyway, all this lead to a conversation about the difference between 'strategy' and 'tactics.'  No need to repeat it here - this isn't really a right or wrong thing, since we may be saying the same thing in different ways.  Let me just say my research validated my understanding of what I thought I knew.

Strategy is a generalist approach, associated with army-wide aims.  Tactics is battle-specific, most commonly associated with maneuvers.

When I say I write Strategy articles for Bell I mean just that, an overall, generalist approach and understanding designed to improve a player's success at the table.  When I say I don't write Tactics I mean just that, because the specific action of units on the table is best learned by playing games.

That last is opinion, of course.

Still, I've said before Bell of Lost Souls isn't the place for an in-depth analysis of of the armies and their potential.  What it does do it does better than any other site on the net!  I still think the best place on the net for that is Yes the Truth HurtsClosely followed by 3++ is the New Black.  Stelek's name is loaded, but love him (we'd like to give him a squeeze!) or hate him I think it's important to acknowledge his contribution to Ye Ol' Blogosphere.  He's been on a roll lately, so I wish him continued success.  He's best when he avoids the E-Drama like he's been doing.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and Gropings?


Chumbalaya said...

Well, I like your stuff Brent and I officially cannot wait for November.

I agree re: strategery and taktiks. Strats are important, general ideas of how you want things to go down. It shows up most readily in army construction, but something as simple as "Tyranids want to get into assault" is strategy at its most basic. Tactics are much more specific, focused on the army, game, turn even phase at hand.

It's tricky to get in depth on either since they vary from person to person, so broad strokes and discussion ends up the way to go most often.

Is it November yet?

Evil Homer said...

simply put strategy is what happens before the game. In 40k, Strategy is more list building than anything else. There's more to it, figuring out what you want an army to do, and thinking about match-ups and such bt once models hit the table we are in the realm of tactics.

In my I simply think of Strategy as pre-game and tactics as during the game. Drinking beer of course is post-games.

Honda said...

Actually, I tend to think of the words like this:

Strategy: What you want to do

Tactics: How you are going to do it


Strategy: I want to control that bridge and prevent the opponent from crossing the river

Tactics: I am going to deploy three drop pods containing two tac squads and a dread on my side of the river

My two yen...

Lamenter said...

In the old days I used to think of strategy of being the domain of Fantasy and tactics that of 40k. Generally Fantasy would be won on the basis of good strategy and 40k on a strong tactical awareness.

With more recent editions of both games that distinction has blurred a little but I thought it worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

Any word on the Podcast webpage? I think that would be good for america!

Xaereth said...

Heh, I think it's a valid distinction. Lots of times its tough to talk about tactics, because they're all so situational that you usually can't cover all your bases unless your post is extremely long- and then who wants to read it?

I talk about strategy in my blog a lot- building lists, what my army is supposed to do, how it supports itself, etc. I leave the tactics for battle reports, when I can actually show people what I'm doing in-game.

Mark Andrews said...

Hi Brent,

Nice blog and interesting article.

I think what I wrote on BOLS would warrant interest here but in a very short summary. I think you are talking about Grand Tactics and Tactics. I think Strategy is at a higher level in terms of what we are talking about in gaming, and but it is certainly required in campaigns if you want to win a campaign.

For example you wish to enter a Tournament and win the Cup for the best W40Ker. Great you have just defined your strategic goal.(you = not actually you but we. Hopefully you get the gist right?).

How will you achieve this goal? You selected the Blood Angels as the army to obtain that goal, out of a possible 16. Great you now have the strategic resources to pursue that goal. Next you create the army list to achieve this. I believe we step into the Grand Tactics here as when you define your list you are thinking about how it will manoeuvre on the battlefield, the strengths and weaknesses of each unit, how it will do against opposing forces.

You arrive on the day and you are the last game in heat 1. Whilst waiting to play (or after your game has finished or you take a peep during your game etc), you manage to obtain intelligence about who you are playing next or who has got through to the next round etc This I would classify as strategic intelligence.

When you see the terrain and the scenario is defined, you formulate a plan for your army - this is Grand Tactics.

When you actually deploy the army - this is Grand Tactics as well.

When you actually manoeuvre individual units and shoot, run, fight etc - this tactics.

I think it is very important to distinguish between what is strategy and what is tactics. Understanding the difference can / will help you in your careers.

I am putting something together that should illustrate pragmatically what is the difference between Strategy, Grand Tactics and Tactics and put it into actual 40K battles that I have fought and won!

Mark Andrews
Twitter @DadXtraordnaire

Brent said...


Thanks for visiting mate!

There were a number of great comments on that article, so much so that I decided to cover some of it in the next article...

...your stuff included!

I'll give you credit, of course, but I'm a thief I am.

Still, if you have a passion for the material and want to write the article, I'll see it finds a place somewhere.

Shoot me an email if that's something you want to consider.


Mark Andrews said...

Hi Brent,

emailed you at brent@strictlyaverage.com



Herr Fernseher said...

"The difference between today and over two years ago (the time before his surgery) is that I can better guess what I am seeing. What is the same is that I am still guessing."

I've wondered if my auditory cortex is puny because I began ignoring tone of voice at around age 5 (self defense). I'm feel like I'm guessing all the time when it comes to speaking with humans. (Talking to myself, God, plants, and animals still seems to work just fine--I just get funny looks from the humans.)

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