Strategic Primer Distinctive: Real Diplomacy

A few weeks ago I described a fourth distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today I’ll describe another distinctive feature: real diplomacy.

I’ve already talked about this somewhat before, when I warned players they need to consider it in their strategies, but not as a distinctive of the game, which it is.

Real diplomacy is a hallmark of many board and tabletop games, and understandably absent from all computer games per se. (LAN parties notwithstanding.) But in board games the scope for diplomacy is severely limited by the small number of possible actions. In tabletop role-playing games diplomacy generally places the players as ambassadors, not the parties sending ambassadors. And tabletop strategy games—wargames—there’s usually little call for diplomacy within the game except to negotiate terms of surrender, because they generally model single engagements or at most single wars.

Strategic Primer is different. In Strategic Primer each player takes the role of the commander of a military outpost on an imagined world, and is the “supreme commander” of his or her country’s forces on that world. But relations with other players, and with the independent towns, need not be hostile, and certainly not a state of war, all the time. And because players can do the unexpected, their “bargaining chips” are similarly not limited by what I thought to include in the design and rules of the game. If a player wants another player to train her engineers, that should be possible, and is in Strategic Primer even though I just thought of it now; if a stronger player wants to demand a weaker player send him hostages, that’s possible too.

And unlike every other game I know of where diplomacy is not the central focus, unilateral and bilateral diplomacy are not the only possibilities. While arranging true multilateral diplomacy (at least with other human players, not “AI” players) would be difficult, it’s certainly possible, and arrangements like “I’ll supply you with gunpowder if you’ll persuade Napoleon to declare war on Attila the Hun” are also possible.

So if your inclination is toward diplomacy and statesmanship rather than thoughtless aggression, Strategic Primer should suit you better than any other strategy game I know of. But diplomacy is only one of the game’s distinctive features; Strategic Primer is designed to appeal to many different kinds of players.

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