“The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand” wrote Sun Tzu in The Art of War. Fortnite, like any war or competitive engagement is won before stepping onto the battle field or dropping out of the Battle Bus and into the arena.

When starting a new game of Fortnite Battle Royale, there’s statistically a 1% chance of victory. If I play a hundred games of Fortnite, there’s a mathematical probability that I’ll win at least one of those first hundred games. Except I didn’t. What are the inputs to Fortnite that increase my likelihood for success above and beyond 1%? That’s what we’re exploring today, viewing Fortnite Battle Royale through the lens of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

The essence of the book is to strike when the enemy is weak and to evade when the enemy is strong. Fortnite is won or lost by developing a series of strategies, tactics, habits and healthy amount of muscle memory. The game’s meta changes week to week, but certain strategies persist. And, with the passage of time new strategies emerge, elevating seasoned players from newer ones. However, “good,” “bad,” and “great” lie on the same continuum. Those new players that may be not so good on that continuum can take the steps to find themselves on the “great” end of the continuum. If Sun suggests that we strike when the enemy is weak, how can we possibly know that in real-time in a Fortnite match?

Fortnite is won or lost by developing a series of strategies, tactics, habits and healthy amount of muscle memory. The game’s meta changes week to week, but certain strategies persist.

Strength is Situational.

First, we must assess what we know about our opponent. At face value, there’s little we can definitively know about any opponent in Fortnite; however, in the game’s current meta we can make some assumptions. These assumptions can help us determine what actions to take.

  • The individual is the approximately the same skill level as you +/- 20%, as Fortnite does skill-based match making. If you’re a new player, this means lots of bots. If you’re a seasoned player this means lots of sweats.
  • Players that land in certain locations have a higher probability of being better. A player that lands in Lazy Lake is more likely to be better than a player that lands in Coral Castle.
  • Better guns make different noises. Better equipped players win more engagements. If you hear the purple shotgun, run away (unless you have one yourself)
  • Highly active, mobile players means that the player is likely better than average. Medium to low skill players have a tendency to linger in one place or sometimes even stand completely still. High skill players love to fidget for fear of getting sniped and to keep their concentration.

As Sun says, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” The more we can discern about our enemy, the better our efforts to defeat them will be.Surprises go both ways

Sun goes on to say “If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” The silver lining in knowing that we can’t know everything about our enemy and we can’t control the rng is that if we master ourselves (which we can control), we can still be victorious. As nice as it would be to win every round of Fortnite, I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t sometimes suffer an unfortunate drop, accidental grenade, sneaky crouch-walking surprise, or a surprise snipe.

The level of tactics your able to employ will be a function of your time spent playing or researching the game and your interest in doing so.

Sun goes on to say, “if you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” We must know ourselves. We must try to know our enemies. Additionally, there are certain tactics within the context of the game that it helps to be aware of and employ as the situation dictates. The level of tactics your able to employ will be a function of your time spent playing or researching the game and your interest in doing so. If you play Fortnite as an escape or to zone out, maybe you don’t care. But, if you play Fortnite to win, then for every battle at every stage of the game there are different inputs to consider to get the outcome you want (that sweet, sweet vic roy).

Use the element of surprise.

Every decision in the game has cascading possible decision paths starting from the time and angle at which you decide to exit the battle bus. All these variables affect your real time probability for success. The following are just some of the many inputs.

  • Where to land?
  • When to land? (early = hot drop, late = lonely drop)
  • Which route to take?
  • Whether to chase the storm, to gate keep or to play keep away?
  • Whether to engage with an enemy or when to run? ( On this one Sun says “if he is superior in strength, evade him.”)
  • Is there a third party opportunity? (“Attack him when he is unprepared. Appear where you are not expected.” -Sun Tzu)
  • Is that enemy to far away to engage? If they are, they’ll likely build to protect themselves before you can finish them off (“The worst strategy of all is to besiege walled cities.” -Sun Tzu)

Patience Pays.

Considering The Art of War was written thousands of years ago, it’s remarkably relevant today in life and in Fortnite ecosystem. Internalizing Sun’s wisdom will increase your chance of getting to the end game and increase your chance of winning the game. (Don’t confuse getting to the end game with winning, even potatoes are capable of getting to the end game. You won’t win too many games as a potato). “In war, the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won.” Sun advises that to win the war and not just the engagement, you must have high strategy. I’m not talking 500 IQ, but it helps to do your research. There are multitudes Fortnite strategy on the internet available in heaps. Sun Tzu’s wisdom persists through to today and serves as a great foundation for tackling your next game of Fortnite and any engagement in life. Fortnite doesn’t have to be a massively entertaining time suck. It also has the potential to be the creative engine inspiring us to craft strategies to solve all different kinds of tactical challenges.Patience pays

Let’s end with some advice that Sun summarizes nicely in his guide to consistently winning at Fortnite Battle Royale. Sun describes five essentials for victory:

  • 1) “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” You don’t have to engage every team you see! Engaging every team won’t increase your chance of victory any more than picking and choosing your battles. It likely will decrease it!
  • 2) “He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.” When you get a sense for how good someone is there are different ways that make sense to engage. You pick up on this through observation.
  • 3) “He will win who’s army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.” Team work. (Somewhere Ted Lasso is smiling and nodding in agreement).
  • 4) “He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.” When you’ve got that purple pump and an enemy depleted from a recent engagement, that’s your time to strike!
  • 5) “He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” I interpret the “sovereign” as “the current meta.” In the current iteration of the game, the f***ing UFOs. Use the meta to your advantage.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to hop on the Battle Bus, hot drop at Misty Meadows and apply some of what I learned from this exploration. If this piqued your interest, I highly recommend picking up Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and reading it for yourself.

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