Strategic Primer: Beginnings

Strategic Primer, my strategy game (I’m still looking for players for the current campaign!), began many years ago as the apparatus for my eighth grade science fair project.

When I began that first campaign, I really knew very little about what I was doing. I had originally intended it to be played on a physical board, and so had printed out a large map and some tokens to represent units, but quickly abandoned that when I realized how much trouble it was going to be to keep track of. The game as first conceived was very different from its present form:

  • There was a universal currency rather than individual resources.
  • The basic elements were units, fortresses (which alone remain basically intact), and improvements. I was clumsily adapting from Civilization: Call to Power, which I had recently acquired and begun playing; the only difference was that improvements could be made to units as well as to fortresses.
  • Units were for the most part much larger than at present: most units in the starting package were fifty men, with the catapult (crew of eight) the notable exception.
  • The rules reflected that: combat (and lots of other things) were decided based on dice rolls against a table of random chances, largely stating what happens when two battle lines crash into each other, but also including the chance that a moving non-complex (i.e. foot) unit could get out of formation, slowing it down and hurting its chances in any combat.

And so on. On the other hand, somehow from the very beginning the two most distinctive and worthwhile mechanics of the game were present from the very beginning: First, the strategy-submission and results-return mechanic, which distances the player from the action and requires more pure strategy and deliberation than the tactics and quick thinking required even by most turn-based strategy games I’ve played. Second, the as far as I know unprecedented idea of allowing the player to discover any advance he or she can describe to his or her scientists. But these, the map, and some of the starting-package advances are pretty much all that remain from that first campaign.

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