“A game of military strategy”

Several “turn-based tactics” games have deeply influenced the design of Strategic Primer—even the terminology I sometimes use can attest to that. Players have referred to them in describing what they would like the game to be (suggestions which I am open to, particularly since the current campaign is a “prototype,” intended to refine my design ideas in the crucible of actual play). And the long-range dream, to allow each player to “play any part” from infantryman up to commander-in-chief, will of course eventually require it to include “tactics” features. But Strategic Primer is “a game of military strategy,” not tactics.

As I’ve mentioned before, Strategic Primer began as the apparatus for my eighth grade Science Fair project. In my post explaining that origin in detail, I mentioned that the question I posed for the “experiment” was: “What effect does age have on the ability to succeed in a game of military strategy?” From the beginning, I intended to isolate the player from the details of each battle’s tactics.

Many strategy games—especially, but not only, those that are “real-time”—heavily emphasize tactics. Superior forces arranged in superior ground using a superior plan may still be defeated by clever tactics, especially if the commander micromanages his units by commanding each one individually every few moments. Perhaps this is because so-called “artificial intelligence” can be far better at real-time tactics than at grand strategy; I don’t know. But this is the very thing I intend to isolate the players from.

This is not to say that tactics are irrelevant in Strategic Primer, nor that a player has no influence in them. Tactical techniques, like technological ones, can be discovered by a player’s workers or researchers, and so they can be taught by the player directly to short-circuit that process. Once learned theoretically (i.e. discovered), they can then be taught to (and drilled by) the player’s subordinates—commanders or common warriors—who may face enemies in battle, so that when the battle comes they can apply what they have learned and practiced.

The main thing isolating the players from the tactical level of each battle is data lag. At this point in the campaign, information must be carried by messengers for the player to know if it. Technology will eventually alleviate that significantly, but even when communications are instant this will not allow the player to micromanage a battlefield as real-time “strategy” games generally require.

In Strategic Primer, I’ve sought to bring all the various threads that “strategy” brings together—traditional strategy, logistics, infrastructure, technology, equipment, training, and (yes) tactics—so that each player can make plans and see them unfold on a somewhat lengthy scale. I aim to let insight, foresight, and knowledge produce advantage, rather than quick wits.

What do you think?

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