Strategic Primer: Distinctive: Competent subordinates

There are several features that distinguish my strategy game, Strategic Primer from other strategy games I know of, even those that influence it. One example is that in Strategic Primer, the player has competent subordinates.

Every strategy game I know of (except perhaps AI War, which I haven’t played enough to become the slightest bit competent) presents only a single level of subordinates to the player. For instance, each campaign in real-time strategy game Galactic Battlegrounds (a Star Wars themed Age of Empires) has the main character rising from a low-level commander to something approaching commander in chief, but all through the game the units are the same, just with some not available yet at the beginning, and from beginning to end the player has to micromanage every single unit.

In games with advisors, such as SimCity and the recently-released Sid Meier’s Civilization V, each advisor advocates his or her own pet project or agenda without any regard for the facts. (In SimCity 2000, for instance, the transportation advisor screams at you if you reduce transportation funding by even 10%, even if other critical priorities are running at less than half their requested budgets and the city is bankrupt.) The closest thing to a sensible advisor I’ve seen is Sid Meier’s recommendations in Civilization IV, but even that is rarely in touch with the real state of affairs.

Not so in Strategic Primer. In the campaign (and this is planned for the computer version, though it’s obviously not there yet) you start with a rather small operation, and a chain of command grows to lighten the commander’s administrative burden. In future campaigns (though for the most part not this one) the player’s aide-de-camp will even present possible strategies for the player’s approval. In other games subordinate commanders are invisible extensions of the player, who has to make all the decisions himself or herself; in Strategic Primer the player can for the most part trust his or her staff to carry orders out.

Once the player’s command has grown from one fortress and no more than a few dozen men to many fortresses and masses of men, though, the player’s generals may grow ambitious—not of him, since there is no provision in the game for revolt, but of each other. And as they become more skilled and experienced they will have their own ideas about the way things should go, and may take somewhat … creative interpretations of their orders. And sometimes they may be right, and sometimes wrong. But that’s the mark of a competent (if insubordinate) commander. And competence (aside from competence at obeying micromanaging orders) is not something any game I’m aware of has portrayed in any character under the player’s command. Until Strategic Primer.

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