Strategic Primer: Mid-Campaign Retrospective

The current campaign of Strategic Primer nominally began in January, 2009. (Though practically speaking, it really got underway later that spring.) While I’ve looked back over my posts about the game (in my various retrospective posts), I haven’t done any real retrospective of the campaign so far. Today’s a good time to rectify that. So … let’s look back.

I began by having the idea of a “quick” campaign during Interim sometime during Christmas break, 2008. I wrote several posts trying to attract players (without much success). The idea was to have one turn a day during Interim, but I didn’t get my first tentative agreements until well into the term. In hindsight, this was almost certainly a good thing—that Interim was nearly disastrous for me even without the additional drain this would have been on my time, and since the point of Interim is to compress a semester’s learning (and thus work, reduced to what the professors are willing to grade) into about three weeks, the campaign could not have gone well. Instead, I should have used the different schedule of Interim to recruit players, and then begun once things slowed down when the normal schedule resumed.

Then, compounding matters further, I and my few players kept not answering each others’ emails—mostly attributable to either busyness, procrastination, or passive-aggressiveness, I’d guess, knowing our temperaments—and when we eventually did reply, misunderstandings added further delays, so it took until October for us to close out the first turn. I should not have procrastinated so long in running the turn, and I should have done a lot more preparation (including creating a few AIs and running their first turn) before I started recruiting players, so that I wasn’t so caught off guard by the way the game went from the beginning and by the need to research things like agricultural statistics. And so that I wouldn’t have to announce a rule change in the first turn’s results.

But after that, things went somewhat more smoothly for awhile. We completed six turns in 2010, somehow, and complexity increased fairly slowly. Then this year, we only completed three more turns, between the complexity catching up with us—especially with me, having to run four “AI” strategies every turn in addition to the human players’—and all of us becoming far busier.

Much of the trouble is that, in retrospect, I started out trying to make the game at once too large-scale and too detailed. (Though the latter problem was compounded by players’ expectations being different from mine.) And while we will continue more or less as we have begun, in retrospect I probably should have gone with a map based on regions, subdividing as small as gameplay made necessary and no smaller, instead of keeping track of a dizzying number of tiles.

Over the course of the campaign so far, I’ve adjusted the rules several times (especially making up new rules to cover aspects I hadn’t thought of before), and come up with quite a few more that I won’t change in this campaign but would do differently in a hypothetical next one. Let’s take a look, in no particular order:

As I noted last turn I should have included a less extravagantly ample supply of resources to players to build their first fortresses with, I should have tracked more “maintence” requirements than merely food from the beginning, and my model of agriculture leaves much to be desired.

I should have thought of players wanting more results from their explorers than mere terrain, and prepared suitable data beforehand. And, especially, once this came up I should have put together better solutions than either of my firt two attempts (at most one “event” to discover per tile, replaced by world-wide encounter tables).

I should have guessed that players would demand a story to explore, and thought of ideas for one before I began the campaign. And I should have anticipated players’ desire for some way of “keeping score” and for cultural elements of the game.

I should have better planned how to integrate “independents” into the game, and should have planned on villages from the beginning.

The scientific/technical advancement model has some significant flaws, as I described last August.

Among other things.

But enough looking back for now, I think; next week we’ll look forward, as I discuss what I’d like to see in Strategic Primer in 2012.

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