I’ve written at some length about how different the first campaign of Strategic Primer (circa 2001) was from the present game, including the technology I used to help me run the game and what kinds of advances players could discover.
I tried to run a second campaign the year after that, but it never got off the ground. By the end of my senior year I had gotten enough interested players that I got and ran a few first-turn strategies, but it went no further. (This is why I call the current campaign “the second campaign.”) I think there were several reasons for this, but one major reason was that the rules, and even the very nature of the game, were in a great deal of flux. For instance, I was playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in that period, and decided that units should be D&D characters. And I read an analysis (in Game Design: Theory and Practice) of Myth: The Fallen Lords, which made me decide to remove unit construction from the game, except for the rule that the player got a free prototype of every new unit he invented, but I still allowed the players to build unit and fortress improvements. On the other hand, even with all the changes I was considering, Strategic Primer was still basically just another strategy game; players had to give orders to each unit individually, and nearly all kinds of units were nearly identical, distinguished only each kind’s constant statistics, my idea of all units being D&D characters notwithstanding.
Even though my two attempts to start a campaign in high school failed, several important innovations began in this period. First, the idea of units being characters with their own individual strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and motivations, originally borrowed from role-playing games. Second, the ability to change a unit’s equipment, prompted by the planned removal of the ability to build new units at all. Third, the growing complexity of fortresses, from just a label marking a tile as giving units on it a defensive bonus and allowing the player to produce units there, to a collection of resource-gathering apparatus and defenses, to a structure that has to be designed. And fourth, the gradual improvement in the coherence of advances.