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Subject: TETRARCHIA in the Game & Puzzle Design journal rss

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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: Tetrarchia, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
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mb CONTEXT

I didn't want to write a review of one of my games, and in fact I haven't. However, I have recently written an article for the Game & Puzzle Design journal (vol. 2, no. 1), about "Elegant Combat in War Games". Here you can find the content of the issue and a preview of the different articles:

http://gapdjournal.com/issues/

In mine, as you can see in the preview, I have described the evolution of combat algorithms towards the, in my opinion, more elegant schemes that have replaced the combat results tables of the time. The article takes 8 pages, and I go through some selected examples: Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Bonaparte at Marengo, Commands & Colors: Ancients, Tetrarchia, Hellas, Popular Front, and Friedrich. Being my opinion, I have used many games I enjoy to illustrate the different points, and one of them is Tetrarchia.

Once the issue is out, I thought I could share here the section I dedicated to the game, since it expresses, in a very compact way, what I feel about it. In the following, I will quote this section and add between [...] some notes relating it to the rest of the article.

mb THE ARTICLE

[After section 1 Introduction, available in part in the preview, I started the discussion with section 2 Block Games, using Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, then 3 Battle Cards, using Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, followed by 4 Blind Chess, using Bonaparte at Marengo, and 5 Restricted Command, using Commands & Colors: Ancients]

6 Support Chains: Tetrarchia

In the next two sections, I will turn to the lighter end of the scale and discuss games that use generic tokens in a more abstract way, but which still depict wars and use a combat mechanism.

The first example is my latest design, Tetrarchia (2015), a cooperative war game in which the four Emperors, or Tetrarchs, that ruled Rome from 293AD to 305AD must preserve the Empire against internal and external threats. The 3rd century saw a progressive deterioration of the Roman world. Revolts and armies (led by usurpers or enemies) triggered each other in a dreadful spiral towards disintegration. Diocletian, by sharing power with the three other Tetrarchs, reversed the tide through extensive campaigns requiring pacification of the provinces in the area and close cooperation in order to defeat the armies.


Figure 7. Constantius and Maximian face Barbarians marching towards Rome in Tetrarchia.

Revolts are handled by placing control tokens and removing revolt tokens, but when Emperors and armies meet a battle takes place. Combat is resolved by rolling a pair of dice, Roman and Barbarian (see Figure 7), and the historical aspects of pacification and cooperation are implemented through territorial support, inspired by Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, in which armies on friendly provinces get more combat cards, and through combined attack. Barbarians add to their roll the number of revolt tokens linked to them in a chain, Romans do the same with their control tokens, and the result is doubled if there are other armies or Emperors linked to the two combatants.

The Emperors only have a few tokens, and need at least six on their Empire's frontiers to win the game. Meanwhile, armies advancing towards Rome lay a trail of revolt tokens along their path. Players should thus attack those armies early before they gather support, or cut them from their base to have a chance to beat them. The system forces players to plan traps along the Barbarian paths in order to link several Emperors to the army when combat triggers.

The arithmetic of battle is simple – add tokens to a roll and possibly double it – which resolves combat quickly and promotes strategies associated with the geometry of the board. The result was a very pleasant example of design for effect.

[At that point I move on to other lighter games in order to illustrate the 'iceberg' principle in section 7 Hidden Reserves, using Hellas, Popular Front, and Friedrich, then a summary 8 Elegant Combat, and finally the article conclusions that follow]

9 Conclusion

Elegance in simulated combat is not a tradeoff for realism. Pushing pieces on a board has little to do with war, and no games simulate the real experience, otherwise few would want to play them. However, the designer should aim to provide some feeling of what it was like to be in that situation. The examples presented in this paper transform perfect information puzzles, with the sporadic tension of dice rolls, into games in which hidden information and limited command increase tension and encourage bluffing. If real commanders were asked, I believe that they would choose the latter games as better recreations of their wars.

Tradition is a heavy burden, though. However innovative or elegant new mechanics might be, veteran players often raise their shields against novelty. The war gaming hobby needs new and younger members to survive, and the designs that are now emerging show how alive it is. By making combat resolution more elegant, especially the implementation of the fog of war, modern designers simultaneously reach back to the roots of Kriegsspiel and ahead to new players, showing that 'war game' is not just a synonym for complex calculations and tedious checks of tables and charts. As war game designer Richard Borg points out: You should fight the player in front of you, not the rules!

mb CONCLUSION

I hope this piece of text has conveyed my design philosophy for Tetrarchia. While abstracting many things (that make it easy to learn and remember, and fast to play), it leads to session reports that sound like the real events, and illustrates perfectly the notion of design for effect. Even if not a detailed simulation, the game will let players understand why Diocletian took the extreme decision of sharing his power, the only choice that could save an Empire in its darkest moments.

If you want to read the whole article, and/or read the other articles in the issue, it is available on the journal link above. Thanks for reading!
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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In the article I dedicated a longer section to Commands & Colors: Ancients:

[5 Restricted Command: Commands & Colors: Ancients]

I reported about it at the game page, so if you want to read it you can find it here.
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
France
Caen
(from Valencia, Spain)
flag msg tools
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: Tetrarchia, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
Avatar
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And this is another 'almost review' of Tetrarchia, by user russ:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/204605/item/5142709#item5...

Thanks!
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