10 Megagame Concepts

June 12, 2016

Here are ten concept outlines for different megagame scenarios. Some are revamps of games I have run in the past, others are new. I am posting these so I can get a sense of what sounds interesting to potential players, so expressions of “like” and “dislike” would both be useful.

I am also making a decision to “pivot” and “rebrand”. In the past I have called these “Grand Strategy” games, often shortened to “Grand Strat” by the Buckets of Dice crowd. The world wide success of Jim Wallman’s Watch the Skies game leads me to think I should adopt what appears to be the global brand name, in order to boost recognition and hopefully attract a few more players.

1. Warring States

This is a historical scenario, set in the Warring States period of Chinese history, from roughly 320 to 220 BCE. I once ran a play-by-mail game of Diplomacy set in this period of history, so I have done some of the needed research in the past. During this era seven major kingdoms competed to be the first to unify the land that became known as China. It was a time of great development in literature, philosophy, technology, economic and military affairs. At the start of the game, armies would be small and based on chariot borne nobles supported by poor infantry. As the game progresses, cavalry, crossbows, iron weapons, and mass conscript armies would be developed.

EN-WarringStatesAll260BCEKey elements of this game:

  1. Combat resolution will be inspired by Sun Zi’s Art of War, i.e. it will rely strongly on psychological factors and bluffing.
  2. Kingdoms will have to make tradeoffs between trying to expand the territory they control, and trying to develop their Kingdom – the surplus from the rice harvest will only go so far
  3. At the start of the game, changes to the map state can only be done by the King (team leader) but only if one of their advisors (other team members) recommends the move. As the Kingdom develops, new developments will allow more options for map interactions. For example, developing professional generals will allow advisors to move armies on the map.
  4. Diplomacy is crucial to success.

2. Sun and Starship II

This is a revamp of the 2012 Buckets of Dice game, and on a theme I have used several times before. It is a space opera scenario in which noble houses in a great space empire compete for power, wealth and glory, while pirates and warlords gnaw away at the borders of the empire. Most (80%) of the players will be nobles organised in teams and some (20%) will be independent “raiders”. Noble team goal is to gain control of the empire, all players are trying to get the most wealth, and glory (from combat victories).

2000px-Spaceship_and_Sun_emblem.svgKey elements of this game:

  1. universal basic income – every player gets $1 of game currency per minute of game time
  2. to represent the decadence of the Empire, whoever is currently Emperor (and a few of their friends) will have access to a table of food and drink
  3. nobles will alternate between time in committee meetings, team meetings, diplomacy and the map, raiders will spend nearly all their time on the map or diplomacy
  4. rather than one committee, there will be seven committees with the following broad functions: Justice – $ fines for nobles. Trade – creates new movement and trade routes on the map. Colonies – appoints/recalls sector governors. Intelligence – determines which “Black Swan” events occur next. Atomic Power – provides the atomic power that makes Dreadnoughts awesome. Defence – appoints/recalls fleet Admirals. Apparatus – screws around with the other committees.
  5. combat will be based on a “bucket of dice” resolution: Battleships roll 1d6 each. Dreadnoughts roll 1d12 per point of atomic power spent. The side with the highest score wins. Battleships with matching die rolls in your fleet are eliminated as casualties (yes, this hurts the stronger side more). Dreadnoughts are never destroyed – they just go to the repair yard for a length of time based on battle damage.

3. Fall of the Elder

This is a new fantasy scenario with teams of elves, dwarves, humans and individual dragons. The different Kingdoms are competing for magic, gold, and land. It is based on the 1970s boardgame “the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. The elves and dwarves start with all the good farming land under their control and control most of the ancient fortresses. Humans start in the miserable wastelands, where the dragons also dwell.


Key elements of gameplay:

  1. 20 minutes of gameplay represents roughly twenty years of gametime
  2. the elves score points for accumulating magic power (and not using it)
  3. the humans score points for gaining land and breeding more humans
  4. the dwarves score points for accumulating gold (and not spending it)
  5. Dragons score points for eating elves, dwarves and humans, stealing their stuff and destroying anything they can’t eat or steal. You can think of them as 100 ton vultures.
  6. heroes are important, Elves train heroes with magic, Dwarves buy heroes with gold, Humans find heroes when they are defeated, and Dragons … well, they are more anti-heroes.

4. Operation Unthinkable

This is a new alternate history scenario based on the actual British plan to attack the USSR in July 1945, following the defeat of Nazi Germany. Teams are based on the combatant nations at the time (USSR, USA, UK, and France). Most (80%) of the players will be military officers working at the Army level with the other players filling political, naval, or air command roles.

Marcia_nel_fangoKey game elements

  1. this will be a double blind map system, i.e. the teams will have maps in different rooms, and will have limited information on enemy dispositions (fog of war)
  2. the game will last from midsummer 1945 to early winter 1945
  3. army officers will have one of three roles: logistics – making sure the army has enough supplies, intelligence – team communications, command – making attack/defence decisions
  4. air command chooses between battling for air superiority, ground support, or strategic attacks on logistics
  5. yes, the allies will get the nuclear option (at a cost of VP)
  6. the game will focus primarily on the front in north Germany, other theatres of operations (e.g. Italy, Japan, Greece, Iran) will be handled in an abstract manner.

5. The Crescent Stars

This is a new space opera scenario, set in a future where humanity has colonised the stars but is just as disorganised as it was on Earth. The main teams are the Solar Union Colonial Committee, the trading Combines, and the Comitas (the free traders). Independent players are the mercenary captains and the system Dictators. The Solar Union tries to maintain peace and stability while encouraging free trade, while everyone else is trying to make money and gain power over the booming sector trade.

Artist’s_Impression_of_a_Baby_Star_Still_Surrounded_by_a_Protoplanetary_DiscKey game elements:

  1. rather than trading cards, trade deals require the signatures of the players who control the systems the trade route requires. Each trade deal is worth a fixed sum of cash, split between the signatories in an agreed way. Each trade deal has a time limit within which is must be successfully negotiated.
  2. As the game develops new movement and trade routes appear
  3. universal basic income (see above)
  4. the combat system will involve very small numbers of units (not more than a dozen tokens per side) and a conflict between two systems should be resolved in under ten minutes through a card play system
  5. technological research.

6. The Colossus of Atlantis II

This is a bronze age steampunk Cthulhu mythos fantasy game, first run in 2010. At the start of the game the players are all members of an Atlantean noble House, as it starts to use its superior technology to conquer the world. Atlantis being Atlantis, corruption will set in and eventually doom will fall on Atlantis.


Key game elements:

  1. robust Athenian style Greek politics (this time we will make sure the democratic constitution cannot be destroyed by the players at the first assembly meeting)
  2. profiting from trade routes, using the negotiation system outlined in Crescent Stars (see above)
  3. universal basic income (as above)
  4. technological research with the goal of building the best giant bronze colossus to smash your way across the landscape
  5. occult research with the goal of summoning the best eldritch horror to devour your enemies with.

7. Pax Victoria II/Flower Power II

SAMSUNGThese are retro-future grand strategy battles for fantasy worlds with World War I to World War II technology. The main change from earlier games is to greatly reduce the number of units, for each player on your team you should only have 2-5 units to keep track of, and to place more of an emphasis on sea power.

Key game elements:

  1. alliance diplomacy and coalition warfare
  2. making tradeoffs between importing off-world technology or mercenaries, and developing you economy or expanding your own military.

8. Crusades II

Revisiting a scenario last used in the 1990s, its a medieval holy war to liberate/defend the sacred sites of several major religions. Within each broad coalition of coreligionists are smaller teams that have their own goals and hidden agendas.

Key game elements:

  1. diplomacy and arguing about religious doctrine
  2. trading spice and sacred relics
  3. rare and relatively important battles, as big armies are fragile
  4. lots of sieges and raiding
  5. limited information about where the enemy armies are (so lots of opportunity for selling information and double crossing).

9. Revelations

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

A modern day apocalypse with the armies of Heaven and Hell fighting it out over what is left of humanity. Humans can pick a side or go it alone. Did I mention the zombie hordes? Yes, there will be zombie hordes. Learning from the 2011 Apocalypse America game, the economy will not collapse in turn one and leaders should be able to feed their armies for a while.

John_Martin_-_The_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath_-_Google_Art_ProjectKey game elements:

  1. as much gonzo pop culture kitsch as we can cram in
  2. resource scarcity, supplies are unreliable and will be fought over
  3. the map of Earth will be global, but the landscape will have been altered by various disasters and calamities
  4. the number of combat units will be kept at a manageable number (2-5 per player)
  5. to represent the scale of mundane, divine and infernal powers, a polyhedral dice pool “roll and keep best two” combat system will be used, e.g. if ordinary three human armies roll d6s and two Angels roll d12s you might roll a 3, 5, and a 6 for the humans and a 2 and 12 for the Angels, so you keep the rolls of 6 and 12 for a total of 18.

10. The Cold Stars

…the cold stars shone in mockery… – Mary Shelley

This is a bleak post-apocalyptic space opera. Humanity colonised the stars, but then something happened to sweep away most of human civilisation. The survivors hide in deep space or hidden outposts, because they know they are being hunted.

Alcyon_(star)Key game elements:

  1. isolation – this is a limited information game, with different teams being placed in different rooms
  2. exploration – if you make contact with other human survivors, you can start talking with them again, if they don’t kill you first
  3. hidden information, while the broad shape of the map will be clear, small boxes will be used to conceal information
  4. trade – everyone has a clue in the great puzzle, and everyone has something useful for survival, but every trade you make increases the chance that the hunters will find you
  5. the combat system is based on avoiding combat – whatever is hunting humanity has more advanced technology and outnumbers humanity a million to one.

Pax Victoria – Naval Combat

February 6, 2013

Naval Zones


Map Progress

Some more work done on the map today: borders and cities added, railways and ocean zones, nations have been named with suitably English themed names.  All nations except Midland have three cities, Midland has four.  All nations have some kind of rail network, except Lumbria. Midland is the only nation with a good rail network, and there are definitely places that are barren of railways.  Before the game starts player teams will have the opportunity to build some more railways and cities (or to increase their standing armies and fleets).

Naval Framework

One lesson I have learned for rapidly adjudicating combats for control of zones is to avoid having stacks of a dozen or three dozen units. It takes a long time to count them.  So one big step for navies in Pax Vicky is that each nation will have a small number of Fleet units, perhaps 3-6 each depending on pre-war options.  Each Fleet will have a strength of 6-9, representing various squadrons of battleships and support ships (and strength will depend in part on pre-war options).

So on the Pax Vicky map I have around 27 sea zones, each with a name and a control box.  This is less than the number of fleets the nations will have.  While some sea zones will fall naturally into one player’s sphere of influence, others will be hotly contested.  Midland has one of the worst naval positions, having three different areas of naval operations, and no easy way to transfer forces between them.  All nations are within 2-3 sea zones of the Crown Lands, the uncontrolled territory at the start of the game.  Any nation or coalition of nations able to control the Crown Lands and maintain a convoy route there will gain a considerable economic boost in the game.

You control a sea zone if you have units in the control box.  If you don’t control a sea zone, your naval counters are placed anywhere in the sea zone, outside of the control box.

Some cities are located on the boundary lines of sea zones, this is deliberate and will allow fleets based there to project forces in either sea zone easily (or at least get repairs more effectively).

As well as the main battle fleets players will have some supporting naval units:

  • Merships (Merchant Ships), contribute towards gaining trade cards.
  • Naval HQs, allow naval movement, essentially a coaling station or squadron of colliers
  • Cruisers, escort Merships
  • Raiders, raid Merships.

Naval Combat Theory

There are two main approaches to steam age naval warfare with bloody big battleships: seek decisive battle, or avoid decisive battle and raid the enemy where they are weak.  You generally try and seek decisive battle when you have a superior battle fleet  or if you are pressed by circumstances to gamble.  Mahan’s advice here is to “never divide the fleet” (i.e. if you split your fleet up and send it in different directions, its likely to be defeated in detail).  When you are weaker, a sound strategy is to hide your fleets in safe habours, emerging only when the situation changes.  Meanwhile, smaller vessels are sent off to raid the enemy shipping lanes, sinking ships, disrupting commerce, driving up insurance rates, and so forth.  In the 20th century this was largely done with submarines, although to keep things simple for Pax Vicky I am assuming raiders to be light cruisers, with the endurance to sail a long way away from home bases.

The strategic objective of naval combat is control of the seas.  In Pax Vicky there is a bonus to be gained from being able to trade, and a massive penalty for being blockaded (having no sea zone that you control adjacent to a friendly controlled port).

Naval Movement

Naval Forces have infinite movement through sea zones where naval HQs are present.  Movement stops if you enter a sea zone without an HQ, and only Raider unis can move from a zone without an HQ into another zone without an HQ (all other forces have to go home and refuel).

Naval Combat Decision

Naval combat is optional.  The oceans are big and easy to hide in.  If a player does want to fight they can choose to either raid, or seek decisive battle, but not both in the same turn in the same sea zone.  Naval forces can only fight once per turn.  If you control a sea zone, with a fleet, and no other fleets are present, you can automatically assert control and force all Cruisers, HQs, and Merships controlled by other players to leave that zone.

Naval Combat Step One – Interception

Draw a card for the attacking player.  The card will have a number from 1-10.  If this number is greater than the enemy fleet strength, then they are not found and no battle occurs.  If the enemy fleet is found, draw a card to see if their scouts spot the attacker.  This happens if the card number is equal or less than the attacker’s strength.  If the attacker is not spotted, then the defending fleet has been ambushed.

Naval Combat Step Two – Battle

Draw two cards for a Fleet that is stronger than an enemy Fleet.  Draw one card for Fleets of equal or weaker strength.  Draw a bonus card for an Ambush.  Note that there is a strong advantage in favour of the stronger fleet which is difficult to reverse except through luck or attrition over time.

A card “hits” and does damage if the number on it is equal or less than Fleet strength.  Otherwise the card “misses” and does no damage.  A small number of cards have symbols for critical hits and inflict two damage if successful, otherwise damage is one per card.

Each hit on a Fleet reduces its strength by one.  Mark this by placing a counter on the Fleet.  Any Fleet with five or more damage counters is no longer capable of remaining at sea, and retreats to the closest controlled port.  Damage counters persist until repaired in a logistics phase.

Naval Battle – Outcome

A Fleet loses the battle if it is forced to retreat from five points of damage accumulation. If a Fleet misses with all cards when its opponent hits with at least one card, it also loses.

If both Fleets score at least one hit, fight another round of combat.  Repeat as necessary until a winner is determined or both fleets are forced to retreat.

Note that five points of damage will take a long time to repair, possibly as many as three naval logistic turns.

Naval Battles – Cruisers and Raiders

This is similar to Fleet battles, however the Raider is attempting to intercept the Mership, while the Cruiser is attempting to intercept the Raider.  So a Raider always ambushes a Mership, and a Cruiser always ambushes a raider (if they manage to intercept at all).  All these units have a nominal strength of 5, although a Mership cannot damage a Raider.  Any damage done to a Raider, Cruiser, or Mership forces it to retreat.

Pax Victoria Map Design

February 6, 2013

Pax Victoria Nations

You may have to click on the image to see the headings clearly.

I am yet to commit to firm boundaries and city placements on the map, mainly concentrating on where the nations will go, and how many other nations they will be adjacent to. The Fallow Lands zone is some empty space for the players to squabble over, and a major reason to contemplate building a long range amphibious capability.

As a rough rule of thumb for geopolitics, the more states your state is adjacent to, the more likely you are to find it difficult to defend yourself.   Terrain can modify this (such as mountains, rivers and fortresses).  So on the whole those states listed as Peninsula Powers have only two land neighbours to worry about.  The obvious strategy here is to ally with one against the other.

The Canal Power will control a route through the narrow isthmus of land that permits Naval forces to move swiftly between the “interior” and “exterior” oceans. Possibly influential, but it has long coastline that is hard to defend against landings, and four neighbours to worry about.

The Island Power, by dint of having no land neighbours, will probably be a strong naval power like England.  Its controlling players could choose to build a lot of land units, but its not going to do them a lot of good.

The Small Power is the potential Switzerland of the map. It has short borders that could be completely fortified by a defensive player, but the key to its success would be skillful diplomacy.

The Central Power is the hub of the main continent, especially as all the railway networks will connect up in its cities, giving it a strong logistic base and the ability to move armies around on interior lines.  It does have to worry about the Land Power though.  The Land Power is big and has only one obvious route for landward expansion.  I may make it harder for it strategically by giving the offshore island to another nation and possibly giving a strip of its southern coastline to another player as well.

The Medium Power will be weaker than the two largest powers, but stronger than the other powers. Its interesting diplomatic challenge is going to be steering a course between neutrality or alliance with the larger powers.

Starting Forces

Before changes are made by players, each state will have an existing army and navy that is based on its geography. Naval strength will be based on length of coastline, number of ports, and the number of sea zones the nation is adjacent to. Army strength will be based on the number of controlled hexes, number of cities, and the number of adjacent nations.

Nations are likely to have around 10 units per player on the nation team, but some will have stronger armies than navies, or vice versa, and not all units will be available at the start of the game (i.e. reserve forces will be built during the game).  Its going to be impossibly for most nations to garrison their entire land border (the small and island powers are an exception) so that feeling of vulnerability is going to encourage diplomacy and surprise attacks.

Next Steps

Naming the countries and drawing definite borders. Then the cities and railways need to go on the land mass, and the sea control zones on the oceans.

Pax Victoria Mechanics

August 14, 2012

Last weekend I sent the outline of Pax Victoria off to Saga for consideration for BOD in 2013.

I also spent some time looking at the old Flower Power rules, and what worked and what didn’t.

A key design goal for Pax Victoria, is for player teams to design a grand strategy before the convention, so the night’s game is more about the success or failure of executing that grand strategy.

Game Options in the Pre-game

So, ten teams.  Three players per team.  Plan is to have each player submit one build option for their state each day for ten days leading up to BOD.  So 30 options per team.  If a player goes AFK, I’ll substitute a random choice.  The team also has to select their objectives.  Objectives could be chosen from the following:

  • maintain the status quo
  • largest army
  • best army
  • largest navy
  • best navy
  • gain control of one or more sea zones
  • gain control of Shuttle Island
  • gain control of Blood Stone harvesting areas
  • gain control of the straits
  • conquer other states.

The more objectives you select, the harder it will be to “win”, so I will be giving states with Napoleonic ambitions some bonuses.  I’m still thinking about the math on this one, and I may hide the formula from the players, but a team that wants to play like Germany in 1914 is going to have a much better army to play with than a team that wants to play like Belgium in 1914.

Some options grant absolute rewards, i.e. they result in fixed and predictable changes to resources.  Other options grant relative rewards, i.e. the benefit gained depends on the options selected by the other teams.

A partial list of options:

  • Monument: increase the victory value of a controlled city (possibly useful for a defensively minded team)
  • Fortress: an immobile combat unit placed in a specific hex, useful for defending key objectives like cities, ports, and terrain choke points.  The earlier it is built, the stronger it will be.
  • Railway: expand the railway network, building one hex of rail links for each option phase remaining (so if chosen as your first option you get ten hexes of rail, if chosen as your ninth option you get two hexes of rail), railways are critical for strategic movement of units and logistics.  Building rail will also stimulate the economy, allowing the construction of some additional cities on the game map
  • Factories: produce logistics, which are needed in the option phase to build some units (maybe, will need to do some math here), and in game play to resupply exhausted units.  The earlier you build factories, the larger your stockpile of supplies at the start of the game.
  • Canal: not sure about this, but I might build some narrow land areas where a canal mega-project could be attempted, it would facilitate naval movement.
  • Merchant Ships: factories of the sea, again, not sure if the complexity is needed, but it may add another reason to engage in naval warfare.
  • Army HQ: acts as a rail hex for the purposes of moving supplies, can resupply adjacent units (so if you don’t build any you will lose any war you fight in as your units are slowly destroyed, and if you want to invade a region that lacks railways you will need a lot of HQs to avoid a Retreat From Moscow situation, one per three hexes of hostile border is probably good).
  • Fleet HQ: one is required for each sea zone you have naval units in (so most players need a couple, and anyone going for control of the oceans needs more)
  • Marine HQ: acts as a supply rail head on beach/port hexes (limit one per 10 other HQs, essential for amphibious warfare)
  • Army Training: increase the relative quality of the Army
  • Army Expansion: increase the absolute size of the Army
  • Naval Training: increase the relative quality of the Navy
  • Naval Expansion: increase the absolute size of the Navy
  • Build Elite Unit: converts an existing unit into an Elite unit (as they get an action token of their own, everyone will want a few, plus players can add chrome by giving their elite units special names)

That is probably more than enough options!

Teams also get to choose how liberal/conservative they are.  Liberal states will generally start with larger armed forces, while more conservative states will start with higher quality armed forces and a lower chance of mid-game rebellion.

Combat Mechanic Outline

General philosophy with mechanics is that ground combat is hex positional and attrition based, while naval combat is area based and more decisive than land combat (i.e. the losing side takes more damage).

Each state has two action tokens per map: Regular and Elite.  In a regular action token, all units can move/attack.  In an elite action token, only elite units can move/attack.  I will also have one “Big Push” action token per map, which is sold each game turn to the team bidding the most logistics points.  The Big Push token is a Regular action token with a +1 bonus on all attack rolls.  Action tokens are resolved in a random sequence.  Each time one is pulled, each player on that team can resolve one move/attack.

Each unit has a strength value, an average number for a rested unit is 11, with elite units being 12-13, and weaker units on 9-10.  An exhausted unit generally has half the strength of when it was rested.

When you attack, you roll 1d6 for each unit adjacent to the hex being attacked.  Elite units add +1 to their roll.  Artillery units can contribute with a ranged attack.  The attacker must “flip” counters with a strength value equal to their roll.  You must try to match the required strength loss if at all possible.  If a reduced strength unit is “flipped” it is removed from the board (to be rebuilt later if you have the logistics for it).  The Defender does the same, except they can use terrain to negate die rolls (lowest dice first). So mountains, cities, rivers, forts, etc make it easier to defend.

So you want to attack weak units, or units that can be flanked from multiple hexes.

If you do enough damage to eliminate a unit, then Cavalry units can exploit through the gap.  Otherwise if the defender is weakened, and the attacker has a full strength unit remaining, the defender retreats one hex (towards nearest HQ or city).

Note: due to the slow nature of this combat system, states will be relatively small – the distance from a border to a capital is likely to be three hexes on average.

Naval combat – terrain has no effect at sea, roll 1d6 for each unit in the fleet.  High roll wins control of the sea zone.  It’s unwise to engage if heavily outnumbered.  I may have to develop some kind of “raid” mechanics to allow hit & run attacks by small forces.

Pax Victoria

June 7, 2012

A bit of 2000AD influence here, but the concept for Pax Victoria is an isolated colony world, where a trillionaire businesswoman has established herself as Queen-Emperor Victoria II for a couple of centuries.  Funded by a monopoly on sales of Blood Diamonds harvested from fearsome leviathans of the ocean deeps, Victoria II has established a romanticised neo-Victorian colony world.  The upper tier of aristocracy have access to galactic technology, imported from off-world and maintained by the “Butler” class.  The other colonists are restricted to pre-1900 technology, except for a few educational and medicinal facilities.  So the colony is mainly steam-powered, save for the shuttle port (which galactic regulations require to have modern facilities for dealing with lost and damaged starships, so it has a small atomic power plant).

Victoria II has had a long reign, and through life extension technology she has celebrated a 200 year jubilee.  From time to time she has taken lovers as Prince Consorts, before plunging into decade long bouts of mourning following the consorts tragic early demise.  Her children, the darling princelings, have grown into administrative duties as they have matured.  The local natives are convinced of the divine origins of the off-worlders, and have signed a number of unfavourable 999 year leases, but nothing so bad as to trigger the anti-slavery clauses in the Galactic Constitution.  So while some rebels do strike from the jungles, the Sepoy units of the Imperial Army are usually sufficient to defeat them, and if not, the Imperial Guard has the Maxim Machine Gun 3000, and they do not.

Sadly, the beloved Victoria II has died after a decade long coma.  Tragically, she has neglected to name any of her children as her heir.  The Parliament she established so she could preside over ceremonial openings and closings has little power, although it is seen as a means for the common voter to express their will, all attempts at reform have been crushed by the conservative Lords.  So as the Queen lay dying, her children began plotting their own path to power…

Sequence of Events

Two weeks before the game night, I want teams to be determined and players mailed the background information and first set of options for team decision-making.  I want the teams to be making decisions in three areas:

  1. Their victory objectives for the game.
  2. Their stance on political issues relating to the status quo or societal change.
  3. Their preferred options for force build up.

Victory Objectives

The minimum goal players can select is an inherently defensive one – preservation of their sovereign independence and the territory they control at the start of the game.  Ambitious players can select stretch goals, which could include:

  • build a navy, army, or air force that is stronger than adjacent states/any state/any other two states combined
  • gain control of one/many/all the Blood Diamond harvest zones
  • gain the submission of one/many/all other states
  • capture capitals, forts and other key locations (individual hexes)
  • gain control of all ports in the inner/outer/all seas
  • gain control of the full length of the continental rail networks
  • gain control of disputed territory.

For each stretch goal, you gain an extra option point, but also acquire a victory point penalty (i.e. if you go for Napoleonic world conquest and fail, then you will lose the game of grand strategy, while someone choosing a Switzerland approach may find their goals easier to obtain).  I will describe these in qualitative terms, I will keep the maths hidden until the end of the game.  I would probably have some threshold effects, such as gain +1 action token per additional state you conquer so that world conquest is possible (if not exactly probable) so that players choosing that gamble should at least have a fun time executing it.

Political Issues

The players are Lords.  They run their states like petty fiefdoms.  This does not make them popular, but the players can choose between political stances that will increase or reduce the stability of their states.  Stability will change the chance of either the natives rebelling against the humans, or the common humans attempting a revolution to take power of their own.  Some stances may also change the number of option points available.  The final set of political stances will also determine how many victory points it costs to ally with other players (the greater the difference in stances, the higher the victory point cost).

Some of the stances could involve tradeoffs between:

  • secret police or free newspapers
  • votes for natives
  • independent centres of education
  • maintaining horse cavalry or building an airforce
  • conscription or volunteer armies
  • free trade or protective tariffs
  • allowing free industrial development or maintaining central economic planning
  • supporting the World Empire or balkanisation of the colony.

A stable state may not be as powerful, but it will not be home to the first rebellion/revolution (which is how I can respawn into the game any players whose states are conquered by other teams early in the game).


Options represent an investment of energy, leadership and labour in preparing for the end of the Pax Victoria.  Most of the options are things players will want to do, but it will be impossible to do all of them.  The teams will each pick an option every day in the lead up to the game night (hopefully by consensus, if they disagree I would pick one randomly and reduce state stability).  The earlier a team picks an option, the more powerful it will be for them in the game.  For example, setting up a spy agency early on gives you a lot of spies in the game.  Setting up a spy agency as your last option gives you a small, pitifully underfunded agency.

Options could include:

  • building up the size of the army, navy or airforce
  • artillery or tanks
  • fighters or bombers
  • building up the quality of the army, navy, or airforce
  • spies
  • building various elite units (Guards, Marines, Airborne)
  • expanding Blood Diamond harvesting operations
  • completing railway/canal engineering mega-projects
  • fortresses and other static defences
  • naval bases
  • improving logistics, HQ staff

The goal would be to minimise the chance of one option being a clear game winner.  Ideally at the start of the game the different teams will have a mix of forces and abilities that avoid them being carbon copies of each other.


The design intent is to make Naval power much more important than it was in Flower Power.  The idea is to borrow and adjust the Circle Sea setting from Andrew Vallance’s epic play-by-mail game of yesteryear.  So imagine an ocean on a water world.  Now imagine a comet smacking into the world.  The crater that is left behind leaves a dimple island in the middle, with an outer circle of the crater wall.  Have a couple of straits eroded in the walls and you have two long crescents of land.  Each of the two continents have five teams of players on it.  Each team has at least one land neighbour, and usually 2-3, and has naval ports bordering on two oceans.

So players have some big choices to make.  It will be impossible for any team to have both a superior inner sea navy and an outer sea navy, and an army/air force superior to all of their neighbours.  Each state will be weak somewhere.  This should encourage diplomacy, alliances … and betrayal.


Ground combat will be attrition based in outcomes, resulting in small amounts of positional movement and army losses.  As long as a state has selected options that allow them to train and equip replacements faster than they take losses, their army will remain solidly on the field (unless backed into a corner and forced to retreat, or if being attacked by more than one player at a time).  Ground combat is at the Army level, with elite corps sized units.  Each Army has around ten tokens, which are placed in hexes to represent “front lines”.

The airforce will play a role in supporting army/navy combat, unless a state decides to spend a stupendous number of option points developing a strategic bomber force.

Naval combat is based on having superiority in a sea zone, and is much more likely to result in a decisive battle than ground combat.  Outnumbered naval forces will tend to hide in fortified naval bases, only poking their heads out to do raids.  Naval combat is at the squadron/fleet level.

Turns and Actions

We probably have two map tables for land operations, and a third map table for naval operations.  Assuming a 20 minute turn and 30 players, so 10 players per table, if turns can be executed in 30 seconds, players can be allowed four actions per turn.  If they take a minute to complete, then two actions per turn.  To help focus players, we probably make it hard for states to have more than three combat units per player.

Using a HAT system, each state gets a number of tokens equal to its number of players, plus some tokens based on options.  The default token is “Hasty Assault” (i.e. extra casualties for the attacker), but depending on how the state spent options it may get different, or additional tokens such as “Supply”, “Prepared Defence” (i.e. reduce defender losses if attacked, increase attacker losses) and “Prepared Assault” (i.e. bonus for artillery).

Exhaustion: once an army has attacked, it is exhausted.  It cannot attack again until either the next game turn starts, or some logistic resources are expended in a supply action.  It also suffers a penalty if attacked.  This should make players less frantic to be the first to move … so when a team is called up for an action, they have a few seconds in which they can choose to pass and wait.  In some ways, executing the last move can be advantageous (so the end of the game turn may be 20 minutes +30-120 seconds at random).


Anyhow, that is one possible scenario for next year’s Grand Strategy game.