Strategic Primer History: “Lord Kalvan” game

Note: Strategic Primer is my strategy game—I’m looking for players for a new campaign—and my topic each Wednesday. Today, another look into the early history of the game …

Before Strategic Primer began as my eighth grade science fair project, I created one earlier game that was sort of a proto-Strategic Primer: a simulation of the events of the novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. I think I made it when I was in sixth grade. I’d pretty much forgotten about it until I found it while cleaning my room a few weeks ago. (And I’ve since mislaid it again, so all this is from my vague recollections. I intend to revise this with more accurate information if I find it again.)

My “Lord Kalvan game” was a pretty standard—if quite simple—wargame, though I hadn’t heard of that genre ever before. Each player, representing one of the princes in the book, started with a certain number of units of various kinds; these were represented by little folded slips of paper (as was the original, quickly abandoned, plan in the first version of Strategic Primer) and placed on the map.

Players had their units take actions—moving, attacking, bombarding, etc.—and rolled dice to determine (based on a table) the results of attempting those actions. That mechanic continued through the first campaign of Strategic Primer, at least for movement, but proved too simplistic for anything but movement for a game with more than a few kinds of units. I’ve been trying to produce a suitable, more robust, replacement ever since, but the single table would probably have worked well for this game. (It would have frayed significantly if I’d added units from the official sequels written after his death, or from the fanfiction I’ve read recently, but I didn’t know any of those existed until years later.)

I don’t think the game had turns, per se, but rather that each player could have a unit do something at any time the unit wasn’t already doing something, and each action took time. And there may have been something to prevent two players from announcing actions at the same time. This time-clock mechanic was supposedly the way Strategic Primer worked in its first campaign, too, but I was extremely lax in actually running it that way, and it got dropped thereafter. While for most things it’s far more trouble than it’s worth, I do intend to revive it for some things in future campaigns—at least once I’ve written programs to make running strategies that way easier.

In retrospect, my Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen wargame was a particularly inept creation. Besides being rushed in its design and (handmade) production, it’s quite obviously a first attempt at a game in a genre I’d never heard of. But it’s somewhat interesting as a precursor to Strategic Primer.


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