A Brief History of Strategic Primer Strategy Formats

Over the course of the development of Strategic Primer, one of the constants in the way the game works is that each turn, each player submits a “strategy” and receives “results.” But what a “strategy” looks like, and how it is submitted, have changed over the years. Today I’d like to briefly look back over those changes.

In the first campaign, everything was exchanged in “hard copy,” on paper. Strategies were submitted using a form like this one:

Your strategy?

Page ___ of ____

Please place your code name and the name of your country in the upper-right-hand corner of this sheet of paper, as well as the date.

(Don’t worry if this piece of paper has something printed on the back.)

Unit name Intended action for today Intended action for tomorrow (if applicable—see rules)
     
     
     
     

In that campaign, players could direct orders to individual units or to groups of units, but not at any more granular level.

To learn more about typical orders in that campaign, you can read the annotated log of that campaign, if you like.

When the current campaign began, about five years ago, the “sample strategy” suggested directing orders to individual workers, and all the players at least initially followed that model.

The “advance” part of this sample is oversimplified, but was added to better illustrate what a strategy of the time might have contained.

[Player: Major General Stanley
Country: Penzance
Turn 0]

Proposed Advances:

A longbow is made from a five-foot-tall hardwood stave by removing wood from what will be the inside of the bow both above and below the bow’s grip until it bends uniformly through the whole length, then cutting notches at each end, attaching a bowstring, and gradually testing the bow with more and more weight, removing more wood where it is not bending enough, until it has passed at its full draw. Once the bow is finished, it is treated with a light oil and sanded until smooth.

Workers:

  • Isabel Garneis (Warrior 1, Farmer 0): Harvest peanuts
  • Pete Surrency (Carpenter 1, Farmer 0): Harvest peanuts
  • Holly Neely (Explorer 1): Explore surrounding area and return this turn.
  • Divina Orbell (Herder 1): Find animals to domesticate
  • Laurel Batten (Herder 1): Tend the elephant herd
  • Louise Whittier (Hunter 1): Hunt
  • Charlotte Siegrist (Farmer 1): Harvest peanuts
  • Peppi Swarner (Farmer 1): Harvest peanuts
  • Krystal Pawle (Farmer 1): Harvest apples
  • Lea Birdsall (Farmer 1): Harvest apples

This turn, the Explorer will explore the land immediately surrounding headquarters, mounted on an elephant, and will return before the turn ends.

Contingencies/Standing Orders

If an explorer (or other subordinate) outside the fortress encounters an opposing player’s unit or fortress, the explorer is to attempt to evade detection.

As the worker populations players had to deal with grew dramatically, this proved not to scale at all well; some players found it necessary to start assigning workers in groups by the time their populations had merely doubled, while others took only a few turns longer than that.

Some time after managing individual workers in a free-form “strategy” became unbearably tedious, I added “unit details” to the map format and finally implemented a worker-management app, which now can export a “proto-strategy” (so called because it doesn’t include any proposed advances or standing orders, or any more lengthy explanations that should go at the end of an “orders” section rather than immediately after the unit in question.

The more recent “sample strategy” I posted last November illustrates what a fairly typical “strategy” looks like now. I’ll post just a brief excerpt here, rather than reproducing that complete sample.

  • agriculture:
    • wheat farmers [Deven Rhodes (farmer 1), Cedar Larson, Ariella Jewell, Divina Orbell, Laurel Batten, Louise Whittier]:

    Plant wheat.

    • potato farmers [Charlotte Siegrist, Peppi Swarner, Krystal Pawle, Lea Birdsall]:

    Weed potatoes.

    • woodcutters [Bernard Merryman, Christmas Blunt (iron worker 1), Alma Sealis, Joanne Mench, Georgiana Dimeling, Kalyn Archibald]:

    Cut and split wood.

  • messenger:

    • messengers [Tye Lazzo (messenger 1), Paget Bode (messenger 1), Robbie Geyer (messenger 1)]:

    Keep HQ in touch with explorers, surrounding villages, etc.

We’ll have to adjust the format again once players start founding additional fortresses, I fear, but that may be awhile—and the current campaign may founder completely before then. And maybe I’ll figure out how to make an even more machine-generatable and machine-readable format, to ease the burden for me and players alike. We’ll see.

Do you have any thoughts about strategy formats, current or otherwise?

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