Approaches to Strategic Primer

There are several approaches that a player of Strategic Primer might take. Today I’ll describe several that I’ve thought of, which I divided into three categories.

(I note that these are not all mutually exclusive, and that they are generally orthogonal—only indirectly relevant—to the player’s dealings with other players, independent towns, and villages.)

The first category for which I thought of possible approaches is the defense of the player’s territory, fortresses, and people. I came up with four ideas.

First: camouflage and “security through obscurity”. The goal is that an enemy “could pass through and never even know they’ve been here”, or to at least never be, or leave a trace, there when a potential enemy arrives. How you’d go about this could vary, and would depend on the terrain, the available resources, and the skill-sets of your workers—in a forest you could (after inventing the necessary technology) live in the trees; in plains you could move from temporary fortress to temporary fortress, never building anything permanent and always leaving the land as you found it. But there are a number of other ways. This approach is probably one of the most difficult, but I can see great results if a player managed to pull it off.

Second: enforced isolation. Much like Japan before Perry negotiated its opening, or Lothlórien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, you could simply firmly deny any untrusted outsider access to your territory. In extremis, this will necessarily boil down to treating deliberate trespassing as an act of war, and this would require a great deal of manpower (more and more the larger the territory) to police the borders and the interior and (unless you want to become totally isolated, or only send trade or diplomatic missions but never receive them) to ferry goods and messages to and from your few open ports, but every one of the approaches I’m outlining today carries its own costs.

Third: layers upon reinforced layers. Walls upon walls, and more than walls. The idea here is that if one defense fails, or one wall falls, the enemy may take some small part of the territory, but the next level is more likely to hold—particularly once it’s reinforced by the survivors of the fallen defense. The main downsides to this approach are the sheer quantities of resources needed to build and maintain all the walls and other resources, and the labor needed to build and man them.

And fourth: watchmen and fields of fire. With this approach, you’d eschew walls almost entirely; instead, you’d build large towers and man them with watchmen and (as needed) archers and other ranged weapons. The towers would be placed not too far apart, enough that they couldn’t be used against each other if one was taken but close enough together that getting to them, let alone by them, would be prohibitively expensive for any enemy. The reason for avoiding building walls is, of course, that they would just get in the way—there’s no sense in building cover for one’s enemies.

The second category is “economics”—which includes, well, you’ll see. These can probably be combined better than the military ones, for the most part, but here I’m thinking mostly of emphases. I had five ideas on this front.

First is technological bootstrapping. In this approach, you’d conclude that most problems can be addressed by sufficiently advanced technology, and so focus on advancing your tech level as quickly as possible to build the tools necessary to build the tools necessary to … This approach would only work well for a player who knows what technology he or she wants to use to solve the problems, and what intermediate steps are needed to get it, but (it would seem) has its advantages for such a player.

Second: “Build, borrow, or steal.” (I mention this approach for the sake of completeness, as it’s one an “AI” villain “player” might use but I hope no human player would.) Instead of buiding infrastructure, applying available labor to the fields, or otherwise trying to solve problems directly, a player could train his people as soldiers and send them to his neighbors to demand tribute or steal their resources and technology.

Third: Bottom-up or pyramid development. In this approach, you apply resources to the problems that most directly limit you (food production in the beginning), on the theory that the surplus you thereby produce will provide sufficient margin to tackle the next problem. This seems to be a popular approach in the current campaign, though it should be less necessary in future campaigns as they’ll provide each player with a stable position to start with.

Fourth: “A city on a hill.” You could try to make your single fortress as glorious, advanced, powerful, and large as possible, so that it can never fall, and its “shadow” spreads across the land.

Fifth: “multiple redundancy.” Contrariwise, you could build lots and lots of fortresses, allowing none to grow all that large or more powerful than any of the others. Some of the fortresses might fall to an enemy, but a few fortresses wouldn’t be any great loss if you had many fortresses, especially if you had replacements for their functions ready to take their place in your system immediately.

And the third category is priorities. Each of the four priorities that I identified is important, but any resources spent on one can’t be spent on the others.

First: “Keeping up with the Joneses.” In other words, economic growth. There are hard limits in place on how quickly your population and economy can grow, at least at first. (You can only harvest so many acres in a turn …) To “keep up with the Joneses,” you would try to stay as close to that limit as possible each turn.

Second: “securing the borders.” In other words, the military. Each player is, after all, the commander of a military outpost, which is why I call them “fortresses” rather than “towns”. But (at least in the current campaign) the military position at the beginning is not very good; only the knowledge that everyone else began in the same position makes you secure from immediate danger. On the other hand, improving this position through intensive training wouln’t be all that difficult …

The third priority is technology. To improve your situation, technological advancement is crucial, but some players consider it more important than others.

And the fourth priority is morale. (See my previous posts about morale and culture, which are being added to the game.) Too low morale could ruin your position; high morale can make things easier. And some players simply like thinking about it.

Are there any approaches I’ve missed? Or any other questions or comments?

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