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