Strategic Primer: How I run a turn

We’re now in the middle of the ninth turn of the current campaign of Strategic Primer. But it’s occurred to me that I still haven’t explained how I run each turn. I’ve been remiss, and today I’d like to correct that omission.

I apply approximately the same process for each player, beginning with the AI players. (I don’t prepare a strategy separately from the results for the AIs, but that makes very little difference.)

First, I determine the results of any parts of the strategy that are comparatively simple to run: woodcutting, building projects where I’ve already determined the rate of production, food consumption, mining, farming, and so on. This used to include other food production like hunting, gathering, and fishing, but since I began using the new encounter model it now provides a somewhat more realistic but much more time-consuming approach for those.

Once I’ve “picked off the low-hanging fruit,” so to speak, I turn to one more complicated section of the strategy at a time: new advances, exploration, population growth, skill advancement and scientific research, and anything I don’t have a rule or mechanic for yet. The order I do these varies, usually based on what I estimate will take me the most time and thought.

For new advances—that is, when the player gives me a design—I first determine whether the player’s description is detailed and clear enough. If so, I look to see whether the advance is already in my database, and if not I write a description and add it. Then I decide whether the player’s scientists and workers have enough of the prerequisite knowledge to understand and implement the advance, and if so I add the advance to the player’s file and note this in the results.

To run exploration, I used to edit the player’s map file by hand, copying the tiles the explorer went through from the main map to the player’s map one at a time in a text editor. For each one that contained an “event” (in the old encounter model), I’d look in the table for what the event was and roll to see whether the explorer discovered the event; if so, I would copy the tile, the event description, and the discovery check roll to a file listing the events the player had discovered. Now, with the new encounter model, I use the viewer application to copy the tiles from the main map to the player’s map, which automatically runs encounters for those tiles. (I later edit the player’s map to remove superfluous “events”—“Nothing of interest,” for example—and things the explorer would not actually have encountered.)

Calculating how many newcomers join the player’s population is comparatively simple; generating those newcomers is also simple but for now very time-consuming. I use PCGen to create them, but this is more than overkill for mere workers and it gets really slow with the “party” size each player has by now. A more suitable program is on my list of helper applications to write.

I explained skill advancement earlier on this blog; scientific research uses the same mechanic. This is another area where I need, and intend, to write a helper application so I won’t need to edit the file and make the relevant die rolls by hand.

Other cases come up often, things I didn’t anticipate or had put off designing. In the first turn, this was farming. Later, it was exploration, then mining. These are now (except for exploration, which I’m still improving) pretty simple parts of the strategy to run, but first I had to come up with how I would determine the results. The ability to think outside my box is one of the distinctives of the campaign version of Strategic Primer.

Once the results are complete—for everyone, since for example one player’s explorer can pass by another’s fortress—I send them to the players, declare the turn over, and call for the next turn’s strategy.

Any thoughts?

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