A common way of balancing play in Video Games
is to classify units, attacks, and skills into several distinct classes, with each class having a clear advantage and disadvantage over other classes; in other words, the classes interact with each other like a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors
. This helps encourage different playstyles by making the effectiveness of a given class slightly context-specific, and encouraging the player to utilize a variety of classes, rather than relying on a single strongest one
is a common Sub Trope
if the relationship is specifically limited to special skills or magic (with regular skills/attacks classed as Non-Elemental
), but the tactical use of Rock-Paper-Scissors
relationships can in concept be extended to any aspect of any game.
For example, in strategy games:
- Ranged units (i.e. Snipers; Tanks; Battle-Copters; Cruisers) defeat fast units
- Fast units (i.e. Infantry; Jeeps; Fighter-Jets; Submarines) defeat siege units
- Siege units (i.e. Heavy-Infantry; Artillery; Bombers; Battleships) defeat ranged units
Or in fighting-games, beat-em-ups, and hack-n-slashers:
- Defending blocks attacks
- Attacking interrupts grappling
- Grappling cuts through defending
Or in Platformers:
- Fast/hovering characters excel at horizontal platforming stages
- High-jump/flying characters excel at vertical platforming stages
- Strong/heavy characters excel at combat/boss battles
Or in RPGs
- Warrior's weapons/armor beats/disrupts mage's magic
- Mage's magic beats rogue's stealth/cunning/evasion
- Rogue's stealth/cunning/evasion beats warrior's weapons/armor
Or in shooters:
- Handguns beat heavy-weapons
- Heavy-weapons beat rifles/snipers
- Rifles/snipers beat handguns
It is important to note that sometimes Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors
can be applied separately to an individual units's offensive and defensive potential, which makes the Meta Game
more complicated because the relationships are twofold. For example, tanks may have an advantage against infantry in general
, but equipping said infantry units with anti-tank rocketry can level the playing field by creating a Mutual Disadvantage
, where both units get an attack boost against each other (especially if the quicker infantry gets to shoot first). Likewise, tanks armed with anti-tank cannons or rocketry won't necessarily have their usual advantage against infantry as would tanks armed with machineguns
, and machinegun-toting tanks will also be at a disadvantage against other tanks with cannons or rockets.
In Strategy games specifically, Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors
provides an easy discouragement to the Zerg Rush
, as a player building a massive swarm of identical, low-cost and moderately-powerful units (hoping to wipe out enemy forces with sheer numbers alone) may suddenly find themselves annihilated by a small number of unit exploiting their army's common vulnerability.
To a limited extent this can be Truth in Television
; there are plenty of examples of, say, medieval heavy cavalry getting skewered by pikemen, who would in turn be meat on the table for a bunch of men with crossbows — who would themselves be easily trampled by said cavalry before they could load their next shot. But the rock-paper-scissors relationship is often much more explicit, and much purer, in games.
can sometimes be used to enforce this relation.
Bladed Weapons Triangle
Ranged Weapons Triangle
- Sword beats Ax
- Ax beats Spear
- Spear Beats Sword
- Direct-attack weapon (such as sword) beats ranged-attack weapon (such as bow)
- Magic beats direct-attack weapon
- Ranged-attack weapon beats magic
Some games reverse the ranged weapons triangle. "Straight" and "reversed" were picked arbitrarily, please don't be offended.
Reversed Ranged Weapons Triangle Examples