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About jsnell

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  1. Episode 362: Alternate Histories

    That was a great episode. One game that came to mind during the last third or so was Rule the Waves. It is one of the rare games where it's clear whom the player is acting as, and why. You're not the abstract idea of a country. You're a very specific grand admiral, whose goal is to retire with as much prestige as possible. Why do wars happen? Certainly not because it's for the best of the country; any territorial gains from a war will be insignificant. They happen for three reasons. First, backing down when there are events raising tensions will generally lose you prestige, escalating will gain it. Second, there is a lot more prestige to be gained in wartime. And third, you spend a lot of time designing the perfect warships, but for that to be meaningful they need to see some action every now and then. The game has this total tunnel vision for what matters in history; the evolution of the modern battleship is the only thing worth really modeling. Anything else is just some kind of irrelevant mumbo-jumbo that can be simulated by pure randomness rather than any kind of coherent system. And the game also strips away massive amounts of agency from the player. You allocate the budget, play ship designer, and react to events. That should be miserable. But because you are so clearly playing a specific person with his own agenda, it evokes history much more vividly for me than any traditional wargame ever has. Something similar to the strategic layer of Rule the Waves seems like a great starting point for a wargame driven by personalities and internal politics. Replace some of the random events with an actual system of political actors who drive those processes. So instead of a totally random event that demands you build more cruisers, you need to deal playing the cruiser lobby with the torpedo boat lobby so that you can actually ram through your 15 inch gun development program. (Hmm... It might be time to reread Dreadnought).