Last week I described one distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today I’d like to tell you about another distinctive feature of the game: as a player, you can lead your scientists and engineers to heights limited primarily by your imagination.
As far as I’m aware, most if not all strategy board games, tabletop wargames, and the like severely limit the players’ choices for production, if they allow unit (or other) production at all, and similarly restrict the possible composition of their armies. The production limits make sense for simulations of individual engagements or even single campaigns, and the other restrictions are needed for historical realism or for game balance (the extreme example is chess). But when what kind of forces you will be leading, and what kind of forces you will be facing, is set by the rules, or agreed on before-hand, or determined by luck, it sometimes feels like something is missing.
Strategic Primer provides that “something.” While all players start with identical scientific knowledge and equivalent natural resources, where you go from there is entirely up to you. Unlike any other game I have ever heard of, if you can describe a scientific or technical advance well enough that your scientists can grasp it, reproduce it, and build on it, then you get it, and you can use it starting the next turn, or sometimes even later that turn.
In the history of science and technology, there have been a lot of false starts, red herrings, wild goose chases, and other diversions from the ideal track. Many discoveries were made by luck, by people looking for something else or not looking for anything at all. In Strategic Primer, you can short-circuit that painful process, pulling your people up by their bootstraps into a more advanced age.
The other way in which the possibilities are nearly unbounded is that these scientific or technical advances do not necessarily have to lie within the bounds of currently known science. The game includes fantastical elements from the beginning, and players are welcome to lead their followers past the cutting edge into science fiction, so long as the requirements and implications are thought through and do not conflict (too badly) with the player’s previous knowledge.
All this is in the campaign version, of course. This would be impossible to implement in a computer version. But in its place I plan on adding some mechanism for the player to help his or her scientists along by bringing together unexpected elements, and if I make it as a commercial rather than free-software game I’ll give players who suggest good new advances free copies of the expansion packs in which those advances appear, or something like that.
But in the campaign, your imagination truly is the most restrictive limit.