Tactical RPGs – strategizing a few spaces at a time

I’ve really got into Tactical RPGs (TRPG) recently specifically X-Com 2 since it was free on PlayStation Plus and Shadowrun Returns as it came free through Humble Bundle.  More on those two later, first what on earth is a TRPG and how does it differ from other RPGs?

In a TRPG you will usually control a squad or a party of characters like in other video game RPGs, usually as they set out to save the world from.some terrible evil.  The thing that makes TRPGs their own genre is grid-based combat system they use.  Maps will be divided up a little bit like chess boards (though they can be hexes, squares….any interlocking shape) and there may be varying types of terrain, heights, cover etc. per space.

In XCOM boundaries show the limit of your movement, and if you go behind objects like desks or walls you automatically take cover by crouching which will protect you slightly.

The chess analogy works really well for these games as much like the pieces in chess each unit type can move differently and attack differently from others.  A unit may be able to move 10 spaces but can only attack enemies directly next to them.  Or maybe they can move only 2 or 3 spaces but their attacks hit a large area or can be targeted at distant enemies.  As such there’s often a large selection of unit ‘classes’ and abilities and you need to pick the most suitable units for the battle ahead.

Combat is turn based, often having a movement and attack phase.  So you move your units then attack with them.  Though some games have an action point system so you can move or attack on your turn, choosing to just move or just attack or a bit of both.  There is often a choice of which direction your characters face at the end of a movement, or cover they can go into which will determine how vulnerable they are to incoming enemy attacks.

In Final Fantasy Tactics there are a huge selection of classes, each of which has different abilities that can turn the battle to your favour.

The whole game style is all about strategy, which unit type is most effective in this situation, do I go for the kill and risk being vulnerable if it doesn’t work?  You are constantly weighing risks against rewards in every decision you make.

Like any RPG the story is usually very well written and in TRPGs it will specifically take you from combat zone to combat zone and interactions outside of combat are mostly done in set scenes where you are effectively scrolling through menus and choosing what items and abilities you want your squad members to have in the next combat. It won’t have the large maps to explore or villages to root through like other styles of RPG.

However, the exploration is often done through interesting conversations with None Player Characters (NPCs) or with Party members which do a good job of making the game world come to life.

An example of a the selection of answers you could give from Shadowrun Returns

In some games there is a feature called permadeath.  If one of your units dies then that’s it, they’re gone for good.  This leads to constantly replaying levels to find the best approach so it is teaching trial and error.

In Gloomhaven you choose 2 cards per turn using the top ability of one and the bottom of the other, these decide how quickly you’ll act, where (and if) you’ll move and what action(s) you’re going to take.

There are also board games that use similar rules, the game ranked number 1 on Board Game Geek – Gloomhaven, is one of them.  This huge game sees you going through a variety of dungeons, with all the abilities and movements based on the grid that’s on the maps.  It’s great fun and hours of play, but you need a dedicated group to play it.

Image courtesy of Freepik

Questions to explore character:

  1. Which is your favourite class/unit type?  Why?
  2. Do you prefer rushing in with your units or staying back? How does it feel when the game makes you do the opposite?
  3. How do you feel when a character dies?
  4. Do you find yourself planning how you’ll approach things in real life with the same care you do in this game?
  5. What’s the story so far in the game?  Has it made you wonder about anything in your life?
image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures

Links to Faith

Each of the units/classes in games like these have certain abilities that are unique to themselves.  They each have something’s they are gifted at. We’re told in scripture that each of us have our own gifts.

God has given me a special gift, and that is why I have something to say to each one of you. Don’t think that you are better than you really are. You must see yourself just as you are. Decide what you are by the faith God has given each of us.Each one of us has one body, and that body has many parts. These parts don’t all do the same thing.In the same way, we are many people, but in Christ we are all one body. We are the parts of that body, and each part belongs to all the others.We all have different gifts. Each gift came because of the grace God gave us. Whoever has the gift of prophecy should use that gift in a way that fits the kind of faith they have.Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach.Whoever has the gift of comforting others should do that. Whoever has the gift of giving to help others should give generously. Whoever has the gift of leading should work hard at it. Whoever has the gift of showing kindness to others should do it gladly.  

Romans 12:3-8, ERV

If we have gifts we should use them.  In the games the more you use a character the better their abilities become.  The same is true of us, the more we use our gifts the better at using them we become.  God wants us to use the gifts He gave us, I wonder what gifts you have?