Strategic Primer Distinctive: Real Diplomacy

A few weeks ago I described a fourth distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today I’ll describe another distinctive feature: real diplomacy.

I’ve already talked about this somewhat before, when I warned players they need to consider it in their strategies, but not as a distinctive of the game, which it is.

Real diplomacy is a hallmark of many board and tabletop games, and understandably absent from all computer games per se. (LAN parties notwithstanding.) But in board games the scope for diplomacy is severely limited by the small number of possible actions. In tabletop role-playing games diplomacy generally places the players as ambassadors, not the parties sending ambassadors. And tabletop strategy games—wargames—there’s usually little call for diplomacy within the game except to negotiate terms of surrender, because they generally model single engagements or at most single wars.

Strategic Primer is different. Continue reading

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Strategic Primer Distinctive: Story

A few weeks ago I described a third distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today I’ll talk about a fourth “distinctive feature,” one that came about by player demand: a story to explore. Continue reading

Strategic Primer Distinctive: Do the Unexpected

Last week I described a second distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today’s post is about a third distinctive feature of the game: the player’s ability to “do the unexpected.”

In computer strategy games, and board games, and the like, each player has only a limited number of possible actions. If the game’s designer didn’t think of something a player might want to do, the player can’t do that (unless a “house rule” changes the game). In contrast, tabletop role-playing games, another significant influence on Strategic Primer, provide a framework for any reasonable action a player might think of.

Similarly, in Strategic Primer (particularly in this phase that I call “prototype” because the game isn’t ready for publication yet) the player can take his or her strategies—and the game as a whole—in a direction that the designer never dreamed of. Continue reading

Strategic Primer Distinctive: Limitless Possibilities for Discovery

Last week I described one distinctive feature of Strategic Primer, my strategy game. Today I’d like to tell you about another distinctive feature of the game: as a player, you can lead your scientists and engineers to heights limited primarily by your imagination.

As far as I’m aware, most if not all strategy board games, tabletop wargames, and the like severely limit the players’ choices for production, if they allow unit (or other) production at all, and similarly restrict the possible composition of their armies. The production limits make sense for simulations of individual engagements or even single campaigns, and the other restrictions are needed for historical realism or for game balance (the extreme example is chess). But when what kind of forces you will be leading, and what kind of forces you will be facing, is set by the rules, or agreed on before-hand, or determined by luck, it sometimes feels like something is missing.

Strategic Primer provides that “something.” Continue reading

Strategic Primer: Distinctive: Competent subordinates

There are several features that distinguish my strategy game, Strategic Primer from other strategy games I know of, even those that influence it. One example is that in Strategic Primer, the player has competent subordinates.

Every strategy game I know of (except perhaps AI War, which I haven’t played enough to become the slightest bit competent) presents only a single level of subordinates to the player. For instance, each campaign in real-time strategy game Galactic Battlegrounds (a Star Wars themed Age of Empires) has the main character rising from a low-level commander to something approaching commander in chief, but all through the game the units are the same, just with some not available yet at the beginning, and from beginning to end the player has to micromanage every single unit.

In games with advisors, such as SimCity and the recently-released Sid Meier’s Civilization V, each advisor advocates his or her own pet project or agenda without any regard for the facts. (In SimCity 2000, for instance, the transportation advisor screams at you if you reduce transportation funding by even 10%, even if other critical priorities are running at less than half their requested budgets and the city is bankrupt.) The closest thing to a sensible advisor I’ve seen is Sid Meier’s recommendations in Civilization IV, but even that is rarely in touch with the real state of affairs.

Not so in Strategic Primer. Continue reading