State of my thinking on the Buckets Grand Strategy game for 2012.
Players and Teams
Players will have a choice of playing with the large team, in a small team, or solitaire.
The large team is the Imperial Dynasty, a group of immortal clone princes/princesses. The clone schtick means they can be assassinated, but back in the game five minutes later after their memories have been loaded up into a detanked body. Goal wise the Dynasty wants to preserve the status quo (they rule the Galactic Empire), so that victory is based on Status. Team size, about a third of the players.
The small teams are the Noble Houses, and the Enemies of the Empire. Team size, 3-5 players.
Solitaire roles need to be handled carefully. Some people could be observers (journalists/historians) with a social role outside of the main game system – perhaps with some ability to influence Status. Any solo role with real power, however, is going to have to be able to deal with the fact that for the entire game the team based players will be either (a) attempting to suborn them into their faction or (b) attempting to eliminate them. A solo player with a fleet is vulnerable in a way that a team fleet admiral is not, because they have no one else to back them up and resupply them if they get unlucky (or I make the games rules massively favour solo player recovery from disasters).
I am thinking that rather than having player pirates, we could have NPC pirates/aliens/etc. have a new fleet spawn each turn on the maps for the players to deal with.
All players should have at least one role in the mechanics of the game. Novice players should stick to one role, experienced players should choose two roles. A player could choose more, but they will run into the issue of being required in multiple places at the same time. So while they may get to do more stuff, they will not be as good as players with one or two roles. There is some scope for people to volunteer for GM NPC roles in the game.
Admiral: command a force of warships (map game).
Merchant: can trade commodities in the Trade Pit.
Senator: can vote in the Senate and take part in Senate Committees.
Agent: can do espionage, status games.
Governor: can administer territory (map game).
Leader: for a team.
A team should probably try and have at least one of each role covered by a team member.
This time around, I am going to avoid giving people special power cards. I’m not convinced they worked well in my last few games. I am still thinking about how to have an assassination mechanic that doesn’t suck.
Cash: banknotes held by the player. I’m thinking of having two currencies, a game map one, and a player one, with game currency being convertible into player currency, but not vice versa. This allows me to have player gambling, without it risking the map game being broken.
Status: these are victory point chits held by players and can be traded between players, with some mechanics allowing players to take them from other players.
Loyalty: this is chosen by the player when they register for the game. A high loyalty indicates that it will be difficult for the player to refuse orders from the Emperor, or to rebel. A player with low loyalty, will have more freedom, but might also be executed or forced to rebel early in the game.
The senate will do a very limited number of things:
(1) Ratify bills from Senate Committees.
(2) Confirm membership of Senate Committees (5-7 players).
I am tempted to make the secretariat role for the Senate a GM/NPC role, in order to get Senate business done without filibusters. So what are the Senate committees and what do they do?
(A) Treasury: proposes the budget for the other Senate Committees, but does not directly spend any funds itself.
(B) Trade: can regulate the conduct of traders and trade in commodities
(C) Colonial Affairs: can regulate the conduct of governors and the administration of sectors
(D) Military: can regulate the conduct of Admirals and initiate EMOs (Emperor Mandated Offensives) that allow Core Fleet ships to be used in the outer provinces.
(E) Security: can investigate loyalty, and punish players not following rules established by other committees (i.e. its up to the players, not the GMs, to enforce all imperial regulations).
A limit on player/committee action here will be a finite number of forms released for use every twenty minutes by the Imperial Civil Service (another GM NPC role).
Will be diceless. The intent behind this is to speed map play up. Combat resolution requires the GM to consult a chart. Each map table will have a different set of charts, with a new chart being used every twenty minutes or so. The combat process will be something like:
(1) Player A declares they are attacking Player B in Sector Y with Fleet Z.
(2) GM grabs the Combat Results Chart (CRT) and counts down to the row for this battle (i.e. the first battle uses row one, the second battle uses row two, the tenth battle uses row 10, and so on).
(3) The GM reads across the chart columns until a column entry determines a win. This could be determined by:
- Fleet Type (a paper-scissors-rock matrix)
- Most Battle Ships (Usually greater than to win, but sometimes x2 or x3)
- Most Atomic Power (as above)
So on one row victory may be determined by checking Fleet Type then Ships then Power, the following row could be Power then Fleet then Ships, and the third row could be the same or a different combination again. We will want to use clip boards with flip open covers for the CRT, so its hard for a player to accidentally read the CRT (our players of course would not deliberately look at the CRT…)
(4) The GM reads across to the Winner/Loser columns, and applies the outcomes there to the two sides, and any damage to the sector.
A couple of things I plan to do with the charts. First, the more combats in a Map each turn, the greater the damage to sectors caused by combat (disruption of trade, etc). Second, as the game progresses, the combat results grow more hideous for all participants (representing the absolute trend in warfare towards a final conclusion).
Looking at imitating the classic Civilisation boardgame system. So most trade goods are useful, but there will be some bad cards no one wants to be holding at the end of each trade round.
Is there some sort of player versus team victory? Or at least, a source of player versus team conflict in the Imperial team?
WRT currency, a single currency is fine, so long as gambling doesn’t inject money into the war economy — the house should always win. But a player might be motivated to gamble if it will net them Status.
The senate looks superficially good, ie it can create and rescind rules but can’t really break the game. The senate committees could start with established sets of rules to hint as to what they can be used for.
The combat tables want to be cards. These are a more time consuming game prop to produce, but they provide the illusion of chance, and almost entirely eliminate the risk of prescience. (Actually, the tables want to be *software*, but that requires each map table to have a computer. OTOH, anything with a web browser will do.)
A general problem with these sorts of games is the time it takes to learn the game — not just the rules as written, but the emergent consequences of the rules as they’re played. Six roles effectively means there are six sub games running at the same time, each of which influence the others. You’re going to need to describe how all the other games affect each of the sub games so people can get their head around it all.
Player versus team: mostly an issue with the Imperial team. Other teams may be too small to have that trade-off.
Rules: hoping to have them on the website much earlier in the process, and have players read rule summary during their character registration.
Senate and subcommittees would have fixed rules. Goal is that execution of political mechanics is will only be done on specific game actions, such as “Move 2nd Fleet to Proxima”, “Grant Viceroy of Syntax 10 Budgetary Units”, or “Investigate James Glover for Treason”.
Numer of roles: is fluid still, but I think at least one role that is map focused (Viceroy-Admiral), one role that is purely political/talking (Prince-Senator) and one role that is an interface between the Senate and the Sectors (Agent-Merchant). I could have all the Agents also be merchants (its their “cover”). Having fewer roles also makes team composition simpler.
I guess my only concern is accidentally having a role that’s balanced for the team game, but especially good for a player victory game. If players pursue status, and the Agent is good at getting that, for instance.
Balance is going to be hard. I may need to have a different award for “best player” of each major game role.