The simplest way to extend a strategy game is to add new pieces. Strategic Conquest already had an interesting set of land, sea and air pieces. In some cases, Paul and I toyed with extending the capabilities of existing pieces, turning the bomber into a general purpose air transport, for example. We also considered completely new pieces that would add a whole new element to the game, like spies and engineers. And we added structure pieces. One of our more interesting explorations was to consider the city not as static, pre-determined feature of the map, but as a playing piece, one that could grow by spawning copies of itself.
I also took a first cut at visualizing some of these new pieces. The idea at the time was to allow up to six players, and to distinguish mobile pieces, which had thick beveled edges, from immobile pieces with thin bevelled edges. I now view this attempt as rather crude, but it was a start.
This page of the exhibit is organized into land, sea and air pieces, plus a new section of structures. For each piece, I present the evolving descriptions and capabilities with citations from our eight-year dialog.
Armies, and only armies, can capture cities. One way to think about this is that the army piece represents a corps of officers of sufficent rank and resources to take command of a city and run it. For this reason I propose we replace the tank symbol with a flag (and maybe use the tank symbol to represent artillery). In all other respects armies should function as they do now, that is move 2 units/day over ordinary terrain, 4 units/day over roads and fight with strength 1. However, an army CANNOT be transported by helicopter OR bomber and so must travel to new continents via naval troop transport.
Journal: Engineers (1990):
I'm beginning to think that engineers should have an interface much like cities, that is, they should have a small repatoire of pieces they can produce, each at a given time cost. Just as cities produce armies, fighters, etc., engineers could produce bridges, roads, tunnels, explosives, canals, and maybe even landing strips. A landing strip could be like a city without fuel where air transports could land to load or unload things other than paratroops, like engineers and artillery, but probably not armies. Too wacky?
Engineers should be able to move across any terrain and one unit offshore. They should function like mobile cities, but must remain stationary to produce a product. Double-clicking an engineer should bring up a city-like dialog with choices like road, bridge, canal, fuel dump (for helicopters), radar installation, anti-aircraft gun, landing strip, timebomb (for destroying structures), minefield, etc. Multiple structures cannot occupy the same square (except for timebombs). Structures are protected by any piece occupying the same square; by the same token an unprotected structure can be occupied by the enemy. Enemy armies can use your road. They cannot capture a radar installation, but they can park an engineer on it and the engineer can then leave a timebomb.
Engineers are like mobile cities. They can move over any terrain and even onto water as long as they enter the water from a land coordinate. (Because of this rule, bridges will ordinarily only cover one unit of water, but can cross two adjacent water coordinates if and only if both water coodinates are adjacent to land; that is, to build a two unit long bridge the engineer(s) must build half of the bridge from one side and the other half from the other side. So bridges can connect two continents, but only if the strait separating them is no more than two units wide and only if engineers are already present on both continents).
Players use engineers by moving them to the desired location, choosing the product from a list very similar to the city production dialog, and then parking the engineer for the required number of days. If the engineer moves for any reason before a product is completed, the process must start over again from scratch.
All products produced by engineers are inanimate; that is, they cannot be moved. Only one type of product can be placed on a given coordinate (with the exception of mines; see below). Certain products, like fuel dumps and artillery batteries, can be placed on the same square more than once (this process produces a fuel dump with additional capacity or artillery batteries with additional range). Once the product is created, the engineer is free to move on. The player's pieces are free to occupy a coordinate containing an engineering product. Enemy pieces can make use of roads and bridges, but will destroy all other structures on contact. (Thus, the enemy cannot destroy a structure without first destroying all forces occupying that structure.) Structures can also be destroyed by bombs or explosives. Following is a list of currenly proposed engineering products:
Infantry would function just like an army except that it could not capture cities and could be transported by helicopter. I think only armies should be allowed to capture cities. In addition, the infantry is the only piece that can cover (and thus protect) an army.
Infantry move at the same rate of speed as an army and attack with the
same strength. They CANNOT capture cities. They CAN travel by helicopter
(and by naval troop transport) but CANNOT parachute from bombers. The
infantry is the ONLY piece that can cover (and thus protect) an army.
Thus a common ploy would be to attach an army to an infantry unit(s) when
moving against an enemy city; the infantry could fight off enemy pieces
leaving the army free to attack the city. Also infantry could be used in
combination with helicopters as a rapid deployment force or as a means of
quickly jumping across narrow straights separating two continents and
establishing a beachhead.
In response to your idea of camouflage I am proposing that paratroopers be camouflaged in much the same way that submarines are, that is, not seen unless they attack or get stepped on. A refinement that just occurred to me is that during the turn they detach (jump) from an air transport, paratroopers should temporarily lose their camouflage and be immobile and visible to ajacent pieces. This would capture the vulnerability of real paratroopers during their descent and landing.
Rangers replace paratroopers and are like infantry except that they can parachute from bombers, and (after landing) cannot be seen until they attack or are stumbled over (or uncovered by an enemy spy). I like your idea of rangers landing randomly near the jumpoff site.
Rangers also move at the same speed as armies and infantry and also attack with strength one. They can travel via naval transport and helicopter and, unlike infantry , can also parachute from bombers. The primary difference between a ranger and other land pieces is that rangers are camouflaged in much the same way as a submarine. That is, the enemy cannot sea a ranger until the ranger attacks or until an enemy land piece tries to occupy the same square as a ranger. Rangers can attach to (and be covered by) other land pieces; the only piece that can attach to and be protected by a ranger is a spy. If a spy is attached to a ranger it shares the ranger's camoflauge.
(If an infantry, army, ranger, and spy share the same square the enemy will see a single infantry marker. If the enemy destroys the infantry, he will see that underlying army. If he then destroys the army he will see nothing: both the ranger and the underlying spy are camouflaged.)
Parachuting works like this. The player first moves a ranger into the same city as a (grounded) bomber and attaches the ranger to the bomber. He then flies the bomber to its destination and detaches the ranger. The ranger appears on the land below the bomber or in one of eight neighboring cells. If the neighboring cell is water the ranger immediately perishes; otherwise the ranger remains frozen at that position for the rest of the move (the bomber is free to fly off, fuel permitting). During the enemy's subsequent turn, the ranger will be visible to any piece that moves adjacent to it; if attacked at this point the ranger will defend with half strength. During the players next turn the ranger is free to move like any other piece and from that point on it is invisible to adjacent enemy pieces (until it attacks) and defends at full strength.
I propose that ranger, infantry and armies should have the same minimal cost. Each has advantages and disadvantages that, I believe, are more or less in balance. Rangers are stealthy, but cannot protect armies or capture cities. Infantry can't jump out of bombers but they can hop via helicopter and protect other pieces. Because of their unique ability to capture cities, armies will always be in demand. I would tend to use ranger/spy combos for reconaisance and infantry/army combos for land battles on occupied continents.
Rangers should not be allowed to jump from airborne helicopters.
The spy is a piece that, when moved adjacent to an enemy piece or inside an enemy city, can recover the enemy piece's ID codes. The piece could then be marked, that is, given a name which would be included whenever that piece was spotted from that point onward.
The ID code would give clues about where the piece came from, how many pieces of that type are being manufactured, how many cities were located on the continent, what that city manufactures, etc. The information would be incomplete and possibly misleading, but that's how it should be. If the player using a spy scrupulously provides optional names every time a new code is recovered, future codes will begin to make more sense.
Thus if a certain enemy fighter has the ID "1421-02-015", the player can assign to continent 14 the name "Japan", city 1421 the name "Tokyo", and the fighter itself the name "Kamikaze Ken". If Ken turns out to be an ace, other fighters will be warned whenever they move adjacent to him. And the next time the spy recovers an ID code, the computer will automatically substitute previously labeled code-portions, so that the next fighter spotted will have the ID "Japan 19-02-003" or "Tokyo fighter 21".
The spy itself could come in land, sea, or air varieties, although a spy-plane would probably be the most common. A spy piece would appear to the enemy as an ordinary fighter/destroyer/army, put would have a special type code in the second part of it's ID number, so that a spy could be uncovered by an enemy spy (whenever two spies move adjacent to each other, each recognizes the other and reports back; it takes one to know one).
Spies are still a bit nebulous. I am concerned that attaching a spy to a fighter might make the fighter too powerful if this means that spy-fighter sees every square ajacent to the flight path. Instead I think the act of spying should be like an attack, an act performed by the spy himself and limited to once or twice a turn. To peek into an enemy city you could fly a spy next to it and then have the spy "attack" the city. In this way the spy would only see that one square, not every square he flew past.
One spy "attack" must be on either the air or the land grid, not both.
An airborne spy can only attack ground pieces when it's directly overhead. The reverse is also true: a spy on the ground only attacks planes directly above it. We *SEEM* to be in agreement on the more general case, that all "intra-level" attacks must take place between pieces directly above/below each other. True? Are we also in agreement to the even more general principle the an airspace is adjacent (for all purposes including movement, attack, and visibility) to only one land space, the space directly beneath it?
As I'm sure you know, radio transmissions, intercepted messages, radio silence, and code-breaking played a major role in that battle and throughout the war. I wonder if we could (or should) incorporate any of that kind of thing into Alexander.
Whenever we click and drag a piece, the game could automatically generate and store away a text "radio" message equivalent (e.g. "Battleship Potemkin procede SSW 20 knots" or "4th armoured division retreat to Carthage"). Messages would also be generated when enemy pieces were encountered ("Enemy sub spotted @ 23x47") or when cities produced new equipment ("Carthage reports carrier Ticonderoga ready for action").
These messages would be produced transparently and invisibly in the background and would serve two functions. First, they would form an ongoing log of the entire campaign that could be reviewed at any point during or after a game. Second, with the right kind of piece(s), they could be intercepted by the opposing player. There could also be some kind of mechansim to supress these messages (radio silence) at a cost: pieces running silently could not communicate or be controlled (until, under some pre-programmed condition, they "break" radio silence OR move adjacent to another friendly piece). Perhaps cities could be put in "black-out" conditions at a cost of reduced efficiency.
I'm not sure what kind of pieces would be involved in intercepting enemy transmissions. Possibly the spy piece would be required. It would be great if the interface could somehow plot *theoretical* positions of enemy pieces based on intelligence.
I still go back and forth on the nature of spies. But if we do implement all these "paths" and allow transports to issue orders to armies, etc. it would be possible to allow spies to overhear this information. Thus a player with a well-placed spy could see partial pathways appear on the map for some of his enemy's pieces.
I keep thinking about spies. My latest twist is that spies could attack any enemy piece or city with a fairly high rate of success. If they do succeed, they are actually attached to the enemy piece/city and the spy's owner gets to see anything the enemy could see from that vantage point. Thus, if a spy boards an enemy destroyer, it sails along with it as an invisible stowaway. Not only does the enemy destroyer stay on my rader screen, but I also get to see anything the destroyer sees (so I can let the enemy do my exploring for me). We might also want to consider seeing anything the destroyer has seen in the past as well, so that as soon as my spy boards an enemy destroyer I see a three-square wide path leading all the way back to its original port city.
Of course if my spy penetrates a city I would be privy to the production
schedule of that city. (Maybe a superspy would see the production schedule and
location of every city on the continent.) Whenever I move my spy to another
enemy piece/city I would once again risk destruction since every such move is a
form of attack. The opposing player would never be aware of any spy stowaways.
But perhaps if I move my spy onto a piece/city which (unbeknownst to me)
already holds an ENEMY SPY, my spy would be immediately detected and one
(both?) of the two spies would perish.
attachment involved carriers. But except for the possibility of adding optional radar capabilities, we did not propose any changes to the piece itself.
We could let the players make modifications... Maybe [turn] a submarine into an intercontinental ballistic missile submarine.
Subs could be undersea: powerful, invisible; sea-level: weak, visible, able to attack air and land targets, maybe necessary near entering and exiting ports, necessary picking up and dropping off engineers; in-city: very weak, visible.
How about allowing engineers, say, to be transported by sub?
Bombers should be restricted to one type of cargo at a time.
Allow bombers to exchange some of their bombs for extra fuel (extra range).
In my current mood I favor the increased use of radar as a force in battle. Therefore it seems worthwhile to resurrect the idea of a stealth bomber (and stealth fighter?).
Do current plans indicate an ability to carry multiple bombs
simultaneously? Then I like the idea of trading off bombs for fuel.
All aircraft will consume a minimum of 5 fuel units per day. This means that a fighter cannot hover for more than four days without refueling.
Aircraft hovering. It's interesting to compare ED's solution to this problem: Aircraft's movement is much lower that it's range, and complete movement must happen each turn. Fighters can stay out three turns, Bombers four. They can only move six and four units per turn, respectively. I *think* I like fast planes better.
...let the players make modifications, turn a fighter into a stealth fighter.
Helicopters can move 10 units a day and carry 10 units of fuel. They can carry ONE infantry, engineer, ranger, or spy and can also land on carriers.
I agree that helicopters should be able to transport 1 or
maybe 2 infantry/engineer/ranger/spy (not army or artillery) and travel
with range of 10/day and fuel capacity of 10. I also agree that when a
helicopter runs out of fuel it should not crash but should instead become
a sitting duck. By sitting duck, I mean that a grounded helicopter should
cover all land pieces occupying the same square (even infantry) but
should defend with strength 0. That is, if a helicopter is caught on
land, the enemy will see it regardless of any other pieces occupying the
same square and can always destroy it with a single shot.
Another player discussed in the documentary was the amphibious seaplane,
mostly used for reconnaissance and sea rescues. I'm not too enamored with
this idea, but it might be worth kicking around if you see any potential
Air refueling. Which of these three approaches most appeals to you? 1) a separate air tanker piece, 2) a gas tank that could be loaded onto an ordinary bomber (just like a bomb) that would convert a bomber to an air tanker, or 3) simply let bombers share their fuel with neighboring fighters?
We will treat refueling like an attack, that is, allow only two 10-unit
fuel transfers per turn, a full 20-unit refueling would prevent further
movement for that turn, etc.
Anti-Aircraft - All enemy aircraft passing over an anti-aircraft emplacement face a
fixed chance (30%?) of being destroyed.
Artillery Batteries - Fixed canons which can fire within a 90° arc
in a fixed direction for an extended distance. Multiple batteries
can be placed in a square to increase range.
My second Alexander thought concerns roads. I would still like to have roads, but I'm not convinced that under the pressure of war many players would take the time to build engineers and then send them out on lengthy construction projects. An alternative might be to dispense with engineers and let roads form *automatically*. Perhaps every time a tank moves off of a city or existing road, it leaves one unit of road behind it. In this way, roads would slowly grow in the direction of most common travel. If two cities were 5 units apart, and city A was sending a steady stream of tanks to city B, the first tank would create one unit of road, the second would travel on that one unit and then add a second, the third tank would extend a third unit, etc. After five tanks the road would be complete. The overall effect would be to automatically speed pieces to the front even as the front expands away from early cities.
We might want to extend this idea to the construction of bridges or even
tunnels (through mountains). If a player insisted on driving a tank into the
ocean or into the side of a mountain, the tank would be destroyed, but one unit
of bridge/tunnel would be created. This (rather expensive) process could
continue until a complete bridge or tunnel was built. We might also want to
make it possible for certain pieces to destroy a section of bridge or tunnel as
Alexander Cities will be able to produce additional city units in addition to the usual playing pieces. New city units must be placed on a square adjacent to the producing city. A landlocked city that expands to the sea will then be able to produce naval pieces.
Every undamaged city will possess a productivity rating of 100 man-hours per city unit. Thus, if an army requires 400 m.h., an undamaged single unit city can produce one army every four days. A two unit city could produce an army every two days. If a city sustains an attack, its productivity may fall with the result that it will take longer to produce new pieces. If productivity falls below 50 manhours, the city will fall. A damaged city will automatically regenerate itself until it regains full productivity.
Instead of choosing only one piece to be produced per city, Alexander generals have the option of dividing available manhours so as to produce several pieces simultaneously. A dialog box will allow generals to set allocations and view estimates of days-to-completion for each piece under construction.
New pieces can be placed in any grid within a multi-grid city. Mobile pieces can move from any part of the city to any other part in one day. They can also move from any part of the city to any grid adjacent to the city in one day. Since a one unit bomb will only take out a single city grid, the position of pieces within the city can be important.
Cities will play an important role in combat situations. Certain pieces, like fighters, may have their defensive rating reduced when "parked" in a city. Other pieces, like armies, may benefit when defending from within a city.
I am still a bit unclear about the rules of combat in a city. When a bomber obliterates one grid in a multi-grid city, what happens? Does that one grid go gray? If so, what is the procedure for retaking the grid? If not, how is the overall productivity affected? What if the grid bombed is the only grid adjacent to the sea?
When an enemy army moves next to a multi-grid city and fires, who gets hit? Can a defending army inside the city be hit even if it is not adjacent to the attacking army? If not, what happens when an enemy army fires on an unoccupied grid?
(One possibility: if the grid is occupied the defending army receives the blow and the city's productivity is unaffected. But if the grid is empty the productivity suffers. This scheme would make the process of defending a city more exciting, with the defender carefully positioning his armies and the enemy firing over the walls of the city without knowing if he is hitting an army or damaging the city itself. But questions remain. If productivity falls below 50% as a result of attacks on undefended grids, does the whole city fall, even if defending armies are present elsewhere in the city? What then?)
Is there any special procedure for capturing or retaking a multi-grid city? Does a multi-grid city, once formed, rise and fall as a unit, or can it be broken up?
A minor but interesting wrinkle could be added by
allowing for more flexible repair times. This inspired
by the story of the Yorktown which limped home after the
Battle of Coral Sea with an estimated repair time of
three months. Miraculously, the 1500 man round-the-clock
repair crew sent her to sea in only three days where she
played an important role in the Battle of Midway. We
could replace fixed repair times with randomly
fluctuating repair times or, perhaps even better, allow
players to channel a city's production into dramatically
improved repair times. Thus, if a damaged piece was
brought into a city, an option to speed repair could be
added to the menu of production options: army, fighter,
... , repair crew.
Fuel Dumps - Ten unit drums of fuel for use by helicopters. Multiple dumps can be placed in same square to increase capacity. Dump disappears when empty.
Although we could create yet another piece to service a downed chopper, a "fuel truck", I agree that the best course is to let engineers create a fuel dump. I suppose, then, that refueling would work like this. The engineer would move to the same square as the downed chopper (and would thus be covered by it). After, say, two days of sitting still the engineer would hatch a fuel dump containing ten units of fuel. The fuel would instantly be transferred to the helicopter which could then fly away during that same turn.
Incidentally, an engineer could also leave a fuel dump on any land piece not already holding another inanimate structure (such as a road or radar installation). Once such a dump was established it would be possible for a helicopter to land on it, fill up, and fly on, all in the same turn (just as if it was touching down in a city).
Like all structures produced by engineers the fuel dump could not be
moved once it was "laid," but perhaps the engineer could create multiple
ten-unit dumps on the same square, thereby producing dumps of 20, 30, or
more units of fuel. Any helicopter landing on a dump would automatically
fill it's tank; the dump would remain until the fuel was reduced to zero,
at which point it would vanish. If any enemy piece attacks or tries to
occupy a fuel dump (including an enemy helicopter), the fuel dump is
destroyed. What do you think?
Land/Sea Mines - Camoflauged explosives which do 1 unit of damage against ANY piece, friend or foe, which attempt to occupy the same square. The player who lays the mine can see it, but cannot ever enter the square without suffering the damage - mines can never be defused or moved. One unit of damage is enough to destroy all land pieces.
Because sea mines are laid by engineers, they can only be
placed on sea coordinates adjacent to land coordinates; a ship or
submarine striking a mine will be reduced in strength by one unit.
Only one mine can be placed in a square. Destroyers and spies can
see enemy mines from an adjacent square. A mine placed on a bridge
renders the bridge unusuable - it will destroy (that part of) the
bridge upon detonation.
Radar Installations - Automatically reveals all non-camoflauged enemy pieces within a given range. Expensive.
We had planned to allow radar sites on land. How about on a ship? For extra days of construction perhaps we could add radar capability to a carrier? A battleship? A destroyer? All of the above?
Radar sites. I've forgotten just what benefits radar provides, but radar on ships sounds reasonable. Presumably range would be greatest on land, smallest on the destroyer. Probably it shouldn't be allowed on transports, but what do you think?