Created By: Thecommander236 on July 21, 2013 Last Edited By: Thecommander236 on August 21, 2013
Troped

Strategy Versus Tactics

A tactician is differentiated from a strategist in story.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
In war, there are many different things to take in consideration in preparing for it, waging it, and winning it. You have to have the equipment, which means good logistics, you need to have good engineering skills, you need to have political power, and you need to have a good strategy and a lot of tactical knowledge. The problem with the latter two is that many people don't understand the difference between the two in and out of media.

Strategy comes from a Greek word that means "general" and involves setting and achieving a goal while tactics refers to a plan, procedure, or expedient for achieving some end. Basically strategy is the goal you want to achieve in the long-term in peace and war time while tactics is the military science to help achieve short term goals that are supposed to help achieve the overall strategy's goal. In business, strategy is a company's long term goal to building their brand in the long-term while tactics include things like advertising to help achieve that end. Most people forget about the long-term and go straight for the short term.

Everyone who focuses only on the short-term usually end up screwed in the long term except in media where it is often ignored. However, there are some media that makes the distinction between tactics and strategy and make it a major part of the story. For more detail, close tactics are how to fight a squad, grand tactics are how to fight an army, operations are how to run a campaign, strategy is how to run a theater of operations, and grand strategy is how to fight a war, which is just below policy which is how to decide for a whole nation.

Often, this comes in the form of An Aesop along the lines of "he won the battle but lost the war" (or the other way around). Related to Won the War, Lost the Peace. Also, compare Hollywood Tactics which shows unrealistic battle plans that, logically, should fail but don't. Strategy itself is often dealt with by The Strategist who may or may not also be proficient in tactical thinking.

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku is a master fighter and one of the best. He succeeds by overcoming his limits and learning about his enemies on the fly during combat. However, several times he needs help from people like Kami, King Kai, and Vegeta when it comes to figuring out about bring back the dead, defeating enemies that are stronger than him, and returning things to normal after everything is all set and done. In fact, at one point, Goku's goal was to have Gohan go SSJ 2 and defeat Cell, but he didn't take in consideration Gohan's mental limits or the effect it would have on his son. Picolo calls him out on it. This action almost doomed the planet and got Goku killed when Gohan berserked and started toying with Cell which is also an example of Gohan's lack of strategic thinking. They got better as time went on... well, besides in GT where Goku got worse.
  • Code Geass has the tactician versus strategist conflict at its very core. The Magnificent Bastard Lelouch is plotting the downfall of Britannia, but is frequently foiled at individual engagements by the ace pilot, Suzaku. Lelouch mentions the conflict by name during his first internal meltdown, expressing anger that the ace pilot made him lose the battle and thus made him delay the next steps of his larger strategy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • Nightwing is a masterful tactician, but not much for long term planning or politics. In the DC Universe, he's considered THE Leader archetype, when it comes to uniting any heroic army (no matter how large). This is often contrasted with Superman, who is very politically savvy and diplomatic, but is more comfortable inspiring than commanding. In the end, Nightwing really looks up to Superman--following his example more than Batman's--and Superman often steps aside to let Nightwing take command when needed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • Robb Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant tactician who is able to score sound victories against overwhelming Lannister forces. However, he strategic decisions are not as good, and several characters comment that it is probably due to his youth.
  • At Mindouas in the first volume of Belisarius Series, the title character is rebuked for putting tactics before strategy in fighting a successful but seemingly needless battle with the Persians. In reality the reason was that he needed to gain an armistice as quickly as possible because a new enemy was looming on the horizon.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Sports]]
  • In Professional Wrestling, the tag team of Pretty Boy Doug Somers and Playboy Buddy Rose are versed in different fields. In more than one promo, Rose claimed that they were unbeatable in part because he was a master of strategy and Somers was a master tactician.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In Dead Space, specifically, Dead Space 2, Nolan Stross comes up with a good long-term goal and got Isaac back on track by telling him necessary details. However, he only ever talks about destroying the Marker and fails tactical thinking when he fails to get it together and fight back due to the Marker driving him slowly insane and letting his guilt consume him. If it wasn't for Isaac's and Ellie's tactical thinking, the plan would have failed miserably.
  • Pick an RTS game, any RTS game. You have general goals (objectives and missions) which you have solid tactics to win.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir and Arl Eamon Guerrin are the tactician and the strategist, respectively. Loghain is an excellent general in the field, but his abrasive personality and heavy-handed, tyrannical leadership leave him with few allies where it matters most, and the country is fragmented in the face of the Blight. Eamon, in contrast, is well-spoken, courteous, and diplomatic, but nothing is spoken of his skill as a general. The Warden's quests for him in Denerim before the Landsmeet are focused on acquiring political support for Alistair's campaign for the throne, and Eamon is mainly concerned with ending the civil war as quickly as possible to deal with the Blight, which demonstrates his ability to see the big picture.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
  • In Erfworld, Stanley the Tool is a genius when it comes to battle. He is an expert fighting and rose from the rank of piker to Overlord of his side. However, he is not a strategist and, though he had success in the short-term, he failed to have a grand strategy and he was very close to being killed by his enemies. That is until Parson was summoned.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • In the Punic Wars, Hannibal was an amazing tactician who defeated Rome armies with ease and slaughtered their forces. The Romans were unable to compete with his brilliance, but they didn't give up. You see, Hannibal had sacrificed his siege equipment to avoid a large battle. Without them, Hannibal was unable to breach the thick walls of major Roman cities. The Romans simply began a war of attrition and cut off Carthage's supply lines to Hannibal using sea vessels that Hannibal could not counter (the last Punic war ended with an agreement that said Carthage had to give up its fleet). Hannibal rushed to his country's aid, but was defeated at the Battle of Zama. He is now one of the best examples when discussing the importance of strategic thinking used in conjunction with tactical thinking.
  • In The American Revolution the British could usually win engagements by their greater tactical skill. However the Americans figured out that they could win strategically just by continueing to exist until the British got tired of it.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • July 21, 2013
    Koveras
    Often, this comes in the form of An Aesop along the lines of "he won the battle but lost the war" (or the other way around). Won The War Lost The Peace would be related.

    • Robb Stark in A Song Of Ice And Fire is a brilliant tactician who is able to score sound victories against overwhelming Lannister forces. However, he strategic decisions are not as good, and several characters comment that it is probably due to his youth.
  • July 21, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Added.
  • July 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Professional Wrestling: The tag team of Pretty Boy Doug Somers and Playboy Buddy Rose. In more than one promo, Rose claimed that they were unbeatable in part because he was a master of strategy and Somers was a master tactician.
  • July 23, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Added.
  • July 23, 2013
    CrimsonZephyr
    In Dragon Age Origins, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir and Arl Eamon Guerrin are the tactician and the strategist, respectively. Loghain is an excellent general in the field, but his abrasive personality and heavy-handed, tyrannical leadership leave him with few allies where it matters most, and the country is fragmented in the face of the Blight. Eamon, in contrast, is well-spoken, courteous, and diplomatic, but nothing is spoken of his skill as a general. The Warden's quests for him in Denerim before the Landsmeet are focused on acquiring political support for Alistair's campaign for the throne, and Eamon is mainly concerned with ending the civil war as quickly as possible to deal with the Blight, which demonstrates his ability to see the big picture.
  • July 23, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Video and Tabletop games include both tactics and strategy. Tactical games focus on a relatively small group of fighters that the players try to maneuver so as to defeat their opponent. Strategic games are considerably larger scale with players commanding entire nations and deploying entire units to fight battles whose results are often determined semi-randomly.

    In short: Tactical = one battle in great detail, strategic = several battles in one game in little detail.

    Real Time Strategy games are somewhere in the middle.
  • July 23, 2013
    KingZeal
    • Nightwing is a masterful tactician, but not much for long term planning or politics. In the DC Universe, he's considered THE Leader archetype, when it comes to uniting any heroic army (no matter how large). This is often contrasted with Superman, who is very politically savvy and diplomatic, but is more comfortable inspiring than commanding. In the end, Nightwing really looks up to Superman--following his example more than Batman's--and Superman often steps aside to let Nightwing take command when needed.
  • July 24, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Sorry been busy. I'll add them later tonight unless someone wants to add them for me.
  • July 24, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Any ways, added, added, and King Zeal's paragraph was put in the description.
  • July 30, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Any improvements this needs?
  • July 31, 2013
    CrimsonZephyr
    This looks fine. Just need more hats. Any takers?
  • August 1, 2013
    jatay3
    In between is operations: Tactics is how to fight battles, operations is how to fight campaigns, strategy is how to fight wars.

    Or if you want to get really detailed, close tactics are how to fight a squad, grand tactics are how to fight an army, operations are how to run a campaign, strategy is how to run a theater of operations, and grand strategy is how to fight a war, which is just below policy which is how to decide for a whole nation.
  • August 5, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Added details to description. What else we need?
  • August 5, 2013
    jatay3
    Actually I only intended that for interesting detail. To be honest I didn't think it would be put in the trope definition.

    I remember those levels from a wargame guide I read a long time ago, however I could not find it in my room. I tried to look for coorberation on the net but it gave me little-though one source puts it at minor tactics rather then close tactics. Most sources are satisfied with tactics, operations, and strategy.
  • August 5, 2013
    jatay3
    In wargames the distinction is usually represented by how large of a unit each counter represents, how large a space in each hex and so on. Victory in the Pacific is a strategy game, Panzerblitz is operational, Squad leader tactical. Most people won't remember those games though.

    It is common though to mix things up. Master Of Orion which is about grand strategy and policy, has tactical phases albeit somewhat subliminated. Most of the Silent Hunters are tactical like most naval games but they have strategy and operations mixed in when you are voyageing around the ocean in search of prey.
  • August 5, 2013
    jatay3
    Ok, the book I was looking for is The Complete Book of Wargames by the editors of Consumer Guide. It doesn't distinguish between Grand Strategy and Policy but it does use the term Close Tactics. I believe I remember seeing a pentagon manual or paper or something that also had a similar list somewhere. Sorry to bug everyone.

    There is no need to change that paragraph. I just needed to be sure I got it right.
  • August 6, 2013
    jatay3
    • At Mindouas in the first volume of Belisarius Series, the title character is rebuked for putting tactics before strategy in fighting a successful but seemingly needless battle with the Persians. In reality the reason was that he needed to gain an armistice as quickly as possible because a new enemy was looming on the horizon.
  • August 8, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Added.
  • August 8, 2013
    CharacterInWhite
    • Code Geass has the tactician versus strategist conflict at its very core. The Magnificent Bastard Lelouch is plotting the downfall of Britannia, but is frequently foiled at individual engagements by the ace pilot, Suzaku. Lelouch mentions the conflict by name during his first internal meltdown, expressing anger that the ace pilot made him lose the battle and thus made him delay the next steps of his larger strategy.
  • August 9, 2013
    jatay3
    bump
  • August 11, 2013
    jatay3
    In The American Revolution the British could usually win engagements by their greater tactical skill. However the Americans figured out that they could win strategically just by continueing to exist until the British got tired of it.
  • August 21, 2013
    Thecommander236
    I forgot I had this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=3jm2ybpmuuwfdj65wekauiyi&trope=StrategyVersusTactics