Game Culture, Gaming How To's, Play

Gaming Terminology Primer: Strategy games

I was originally introduced to the world of PC strategy games by way of Command and Conquer and spent many an hour on my mother’s computer playing it. Today, I hope to teach you a bit about my second video game obsession —

Strategy Games: A game genre where the player acquires resources or territory, and manages their base and units to defeat the opponent. Typically, the player has an overhead view of the map or world they are playing on, similar to a board game. 

 More than any other type of video game, I feel that the strategy game best bridges the gap between the virtual world of video games and the physical world of the tabletop game. To me, there is something really cool about that. I think it’s because strategy video games can look so much like a strategy board game, making them different ends of the same bridge between two different worlds of gaming. That bridge can allow someone who’s never played a video game to find an experience that is similar to a tabletop game, or give a video gamer a way to find that tabletop games can be just as fun and exciting as a video game.

Let’s dive into some of the different types of strategy games there are out there.


RTS: Real Time Strategy
A Real Time Strategy game typically involves gathering resources, building a base, the player expanding their area of influence on the map, and finally, defeating their enemy or enemies as the case may be. All of this occurs in real time as the genre title suggests. This means the opponents are doing all of these same things at the same time as one another. A very fun but demanding type of game to play. It requires a great deal of multitasking, the ability to think on one’s feet, and quick reflexes.

Examples: The Command and Conquer series, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series


RTT: Real Time Tactics
This genre of strategy game is also played in real time, however, it takes place at the tactical level rather than the strategic level. This means that the players do not engage in base building, or resource gathering. Usually they pick some units or are given some at the beginning of the game/map and use those as efficiently as possible to win.

Examples: The Commandos series, The Mech Commander one and two


TBS: Turn Based Strategy
A style of strategy game that distinguishes itself from RTS by having the players act in turn. This slows the game play down and allows the players to think about their actions before committing to them. TBS games still consist of base building, resource gathering, and expansion, but just at a less frenetic pace than an RTS.

Examples: The Civilization series, Age of Wonders series


TBT: Turn Based Tactics
Just like RTT games, the turn-based tactics game is dealing with combat at the tactical level. And just like the TBS games, it is turn-based.

Examples: Most of the XCOM series, the upcoming Warmachine: Tactics


Tower Defense
Tower Defense games are different from the above genres of strategy game. Where the above genres have a mix of offense and defense in their game play, tower defense games are all about protecting something or keeping enemies out. In this style of strategy game, the player erects defensive weapons, traps, and/or barriers to try to keep enemies at bay.

Examples: Defense Grid One and Two, Dungeon Defenders, Plants vs. Zombies



APM: Actions Per Minute. How many times per a minute a player interacts with a games user interface. Typically used as a measure of expertise in RTS games where better players will have higher actions per minute.

BO: Build Order. A planned order in which a player will build their buildings, upgrades, and/or units.

Expansion: The act of expanding one’s area of control. This can improve the player’s strategic standing by giving them access to resources, or denying an opponent those same resources.

Harassing: Using a small, quick force to disrupt an opponent’s resource gathering or building.

Micro: Short for micromanaging. The ability of a player to control every unit individually in a conflict.

Teching: Short for “teching up.” A strategy where a player creates the minimum amount of early game units so that the can devote the majority of their resources to upgrading their base and units.

Turtling: Derived from the word turtle. The strategy of building up one’s defenses and keeping their units in and around their base for defense. Based on the idea of a turtle defending itself by withdrawing into its shell when attacked.

Zerg: To overwhelm one’s enemy with a force of quick and cheap units. Derived from the Zerg faction in the Starcraft games.


It can be said that all genres of video games have strategy behind their styles of play, and this is very true. However, I think that strategy games often times bring a deeper experience to the use of strategy in gaming — this experience, in my opinion, can only benefit a gamer. This is a good reason to give a them a shot.

Who knows? You might find that you actually like them.

Regina and Rhonda recorded a podcast on Tower Defense games. Check it out here.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or contact me at, or on Twitter @MarsUller.

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