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The Three Spheres of Strategy Gaming

Hello all. Son of Adam from MasterCraft Gaming here again with another article on fundamentals; the three spheres of game strategy.

     In section number one of the Art of War(hammer) the three spheres of game strategy are presented:

3. The art of war(hammer), then, is governed by three constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations when seeking to determine the methods for victory.

4. These are: (1) List building; (2) Deployment; (3) Method and game play.

5. List building is the art of predicting what pieces your will need in order to take the victory conditions from your opponent.

6. Deployment prepares the army you have taken to achieve the victory conditions, and to disrupt your opponent from doing so.

7. Method and game play comprises of the strategy, both micro and macro, that bring your plan into effect to achieve the victory conditions.

8. Not one of these spheres is more important than any other. Success is found with their cooperation.

     None of these rules are absent from the first two. Again these may seem a little basic, but they are fundamentals after all. They will become the language and framework with which we will learn how to better discuss and learn the game. Let’s check them out individually.

     Rule #5; list building. Sometimes you can nearly win or loose depending on your list. What you bring to the table versus what your opponent brings to the table in light of the given victory conditions for the mission being played really sets up how the rest of the game will be played.

List building is important, but poor deployment and gameplay can keep you from victory. Don’t ignore the other spheres!


     When approaching this we first have to remember rule number one. How do we plan an army based on achieving the victory conditions? Well there are a couple of things to consider. First what is the setting of your tournament/game? That is, finding out the points level, mission types being played, any key changes to the rules that would change what in an army is appropriate to achieving those victory conditions, what you can expect other armies to look like, and what kind of terrain to expect (amount/type). Second, how will your army, with its separate parts, work together.

     We are not going to get too deep into the real particulars of this here. This is just a description to highlight what types of things to consider, and to lay out other, more specific, things to discuss in the future.

     Next up is rule #6; deployment. Often the overlooked stepchild, it is certainly what controls the rest of the game. Deployment is your starting moves in chess. You can control where the game goes with it. For example, if you overload one side of the table your opponent is forced to react. If your army deep strikes, outflanks, infiltrates, or scouts then you can force your opponent to respond. Again this is more of a description than a tactical discussion, but be familiar with the very real power that proper deployment can have, and check out the other articles that we have on the different ways to manipulate the deployment sphere of game strategy. Take your time and consider how you can deploy in order to achieve the victory conditions or force you opponent to fail to achieve his.

     There are many ways you can do this, and some of them are particularly irregular and potent. The following is an instance that will give a more real life example of the types of creativity and their relative strength in deployment.

     In one particularly satisfying game back in 5th edition, I played the puppet master using deployment. The game was kill points and I was playing eldar against my buddy’s nids. He had four squads of genestealers in his list that he declared to be infiltrating. Then I knew his primary deployment tactic would be to infiltrate them within 1st turn charge range of whatever was vulnerable. So, instead of trying to play against this I appeared to play into his hands by placed two of my very delicate transports in very vulnerable positions to that tactic. He, quite predictably, placed all of his genestealers in the best positions to get that 1st turn charge. After reminding him that I had Eldrad in my list and reminding him of his divination power, (friendly game and all that it was) I then proceeded to use that power and move both of those juicy transports one inch back making it impossible for him to get the first turn charge.

     He was then forced to do one of two things with the stealers, given their new found, and very deliberately, dangerous position. First he could try to find a defensive position during his first turn, or just charge forward hoping to overwhelm my fire and survive; both very dangerous and ultimately game ending moves.

     In this instance you can see that the game was essentially won simply by manipulating the second sphere of strategy gaming. I determined his deployment tactic, countered it with a bait and switch, and the game was won. Never underestimate how much of an impact that deployment can have. There is more to come on this subject in future posts.

     Finally we have rule #7; method and game play. This may seem like the most obvious and most important part of the game, if not the whole of the game itself. It generally has the most strategic discussion about it, but I must stress that this sphere has the same amount influence on the game as either of the first two spheres and no more. If you have a poor army and terrible deployment when playing against a good opponent, your chances to win are minimal regardless of how talented a player you are. However, as many veterans know, with good play you can overcome the odds of a match to defeat your opponent (sometimes this is the most satisfying way to win a game).

     There are two different ways that we will talk about this sphere as we go forward; macro and micro. Macro method and game play refers to strategies for moving around your dudesmen on a table-wide scale, something like an alpha strike; whereas micro refers to the minutia of details involved in every little part of the game like using a squad as bait.

Understanding macro and micro gameplay is vital. Adjust your tactics to maximize your army’s potential to increase your chance for victory.

     Here is just one quick side note on this sphere. It is important to predict how your opponent is planning to execute this sphere as well. Sometimes your opponent won’t be following rule one and their method and game play will be to kill stuff. If you recognize this while they angrily charge forward with some death-star unit, eager to swallow whatever poor and helpless models have the misfortune of being near it, you, being aware of rule one, can take some (or many) different units and throw them near this squad, but in positions that are irrelevant to the game. More concerned with killing things then boring objectives, your opponent may take this bait and chase/kill these units while moving themselves into useless positions and winning you the game. So remember to try and figure out what your opponent plans to do on the table in order to better figure out your own strategy.

     Thanks again for reading. If you have any comments, criticism, or questions post them below. If you find these useful and are interested to hear more check out some of the other articles and find some of our videos on youtube.

If you don’t get the reference to the Art of War by Sun Tzu go buy a copy and read it. It’s good stuff.