EMPIRES - ALLIANCES & DIPLOMACY
Some of the suggestions on this page were actually put forward for other games (Star Chase in particular) but seem at least as relevant in European Empires (probably more so) and I prefer to try new rules in one game at a time. Some of the discussion is concerned with introducing a system of formal alliances between the players, and some with using something similar to enable the players to interact with non-player countries.
MARTYN WILLIAMS - REPORTS
In the Roundup I prefer the new option of showing the total number of armies and ships on the map as well as the number in reserve, rather than just showing reserve as before. I like your idea about showing the LARGEST army, not sure whether this should be instead of the total as it is shown now, or as well as? Maybe I'm just after too much info, but it's the same for all players...
Not my idea, although I've lost track of who it was that suggested it, but I added the report of the largest army and largest fleet to the roundup already. Fairly simple to do, obviously, and I think it's a relevant piece of information.
DANNY SLAVIN - ALLIANCES
Alliances might be tougher to handle, but you could start with the non-player empires offering a non-agression pact of say 3/4/5 turns and you accept the terms offered with an ACCEPT action (that I've just made up!) and then it won't attack you for that period. The turn sheet could keep a running commentary of how long the alliance will last and a warning the turn before it's going to run out.
Maybe, to add an element of risk, the offer is to put up a number of treasury BPs that you hold in storage (and can't spend), but that you keep if the other side breaks the deal. Maybe you could do a similar offer to the comp with a PACT (also madeup!) order specifying the number of turns and BPs to be held as collateral.
MARTYN WILLIAMS - ALLIANCES
I think a formal alliance structure in this sort of game is important, although that does limit the ability to back stab people - one reason I like it but no doubt a reason why others wouldn't!
Also (and this applies to short-handed games of Starchase etc as well) a formalised alliance structure to enable players to interact with non-player positions would be good, even if it was just to agree a time period of non-aggression or, in the case of Starchase tech trades as well.
I like the idea of being able to trade/lend supplies and armies to other nations and the ability to allow forces from different nations to combine for attacks would definitely enhance the game.
The ability for the major powers to place troops in minor powers or countries to help strengthen their defences could be interesting, could even result in major powers using lesser nations territory to fight each other...
In Dark Age it's already possible to place troops this way, but no-one ever does it. Except when they do it accidentally, and complain that the software shouldn't have allowed it (which is why you can't do it in Empires).
LESTER LEE GAYTON - ALLIANCES
One problem at present is there's not enough incentive to contact other players and it would be better if alliances and peace treaties between players could be recognised. It is so annoying you talk to another player agreeing not to attack each other and the next thing you now both your fleets have moved into an empty area and met each other and engaged in a battle!
I have a cunning plan, as cunning as a fox just made professor of cunning at Oxford University. There could be two actions PEACE and ALLIANCE and probably for you it will be extremely difficult for you to organise but as I tell everyone I am an ideas person not a doing person. I say go to Mars - just don't ask me how to get there.
Or how to make the equipment work once it's arrived...
In fact you don't actually get more diplomatic contact when there are rules that require it. You just get a lower standard of play! Barbarians at the Gate is a case in point. The Roman and German player positions are locked together in an alliance structure and co-operation is mandatory. You've effectively got two empires (one Roman, one German) divided between several players. What actually happens is the players bleat about their kingdoms being unplayable. They're only unplayable if the players insist on trying to play without talking to each other, but that's what they've done in both games so far.
LESTER LEE GAYTON - PEACE ACTION
The PEACE action would have to state a country and would cost say 2 BPs (the cost of diplomats etc). Once done then the two empires could move fleets freely in sea areas controlled by the other player without changing who ownership. The don't fight when they meet, but visiting ships don't help defend the area if it's attacked by someone else, either.
In the diplomatic status report the PEACE action makes the two empires friends but if no treaty is agreed then they should be neighbours and not either in friends or enemies.
Two problems are what do when the visiting ships fail to leave, and when there are visiting ships in an area when the peace is broken. I'd prefer a system that made is possible to skip through an area owned by an ally or a friend, but didn't break the current rule (only one fleet per area). Much simpler, especially if it was limited to moving to areas that are either empty or owned by the player making the action. Otherwise people will get attacked by fleets from areas that aren't adjacent (that they can't see, or move to themselves). Even so, there's a risk we'd end up with navies leap-frogging each other all round the ocean.
In Dark Age there is already an action that allows troops to pass through an area held by another player. It's never used, so I removed it when I created Empires. Most of the time you can move troops by using RESERVE actions, and there are actions that allow you to do the same with ships (although these are now restricted to naval bases). So it's only necessary when you want to attack something that's not adjacent to areas you own. How often does that happen?
I'd say that "peace" and "friends" are the default status of all countries that have dealings with each other. If peace means someone can move through your fleet and then declare war afterwards, then maybe the through-move should be allowed only for allies, and not for empires that are merely friendly.
I'd like the cost of these actions to relate to the previous history of the countries involved. Agreeing a treaty when you've been fighting tooth and nail is a lot harder than if you've been getting along peacefully anyway, and the cost should be reflected in the rules.
LESTER LEE GAYTON - ALLIANCE ACTION
ALLIANCE actions would have much more useful effects. The cost would be more (say 4 BPs) this and give the same benefits of peace but would also allow players to loan each other armies, supply trains, aid in naval battles, move into an allies territory. ATTACK actions would not be allowed while allies (an attempt becomes a failed action, the same as attacking your own territory).
The advantage of ALLIANCE is also it is historically accurate. Napoleon had allies in Saxony, Poland the German states in general and he got them to help defeat his enemies and to attack Russia.
There would need to be a CANCEL action to end an alliance, as well.
I'd prefer to see all diplomatic actions apply the turn after they're made, since that's going to intensify the action. The rules and restrictions apply for the current turn, and you're safe from having them change in mid-turn, but in between turns you have to worry about the meaning of any changes in status. You see the change, nd that means you have to think about what it means. If diplomactic status can change in mid-turn, then it doesn't really mean anything and there's not much point having it.
BORROW & LOAN ACTIONS
In Barbarians at the Gate we already have rules for loaning troops between empires, but the rule doesn't get used. In the most recent game, even when the Persians cracked the eastern frontier not a single legion appeared from elsewhere in the Roman Empire, even though it meant the game would end and the Persians would win. Not a single player bothered to send troops to fight them. They just wimped out and gave up.
The rules could be adapted quickly for Empires, though. And I think we'd see the rules used more often in Empires. It'd be a powerful incentive for diplomatic efforts to gain control of the non-player countries.
ALLIANCES & DIPLOMACY
Any rules we develop for Empires could also be useful in Spaceplan, Star Chase, Dark Age and Barbarians. Any relating to interaction with NPCs, especially. In past games I've used three different systems for players interacting with non-players, viz:-
In "Intimate Diplmacy" you have some points to bid with, and you bid directly for control of the non-player countries. You get complete control, except that you know the other side could outbid you next time. If your ally is very strong or in a very important position, then your opponent will bid a lot.
In "Two-Plus Diplomacy" you have diplomats that roam the board and fight each other under the same rules as the armies. That has the advantage that you get regional domino effects. A country whose neighbours are your allies will probably come over to you as well.
In "Africa" there's a more complex system dealing with Political Influence (PI) and Internal Stability (IS). Instead of bidding directly, you spend you points to move the PI and IS values up and down. Different levels of the two combined allow for different levels of control. A country with low stability can't do much at all so there isn't much point having any influence, so your rivals will often attack the internal stability of a country to render it ineffective.
I'd want different levels of influence to be required for different diplomatic actions, moving relations between "enemy", "neutral", "friendly", "allied" and "controlled. Some actions would allow you to spend BPs on repairing relations.
I'd also want an option to restore countries to the map after they've been eliminated, since a player with good relations with a country might do very well to help reconstruct it. Equally, you might reconstruct a country that had a history of being a nuisance to someone else.
A controlled non-player country would allow you to submit orders for it directly. I'd leave it so that you only get the same report as you do now, making it quite inefficient to undertake major operations - because you'd have to place watchers or send your spy along to generate reliable reports of what's happening. That seems an easy way to limit the scope of the alliance.
When attempting to increase your influence over another country, I'd add a bonus for being a friends of a friend or an enemy of an enemy. And there'd be a penalty for being a friend of an enemy or an enemy of a friend.
The question would be whether to use treasury BPs for diplomatic actions or to create another separate tally of (Diplomatic Points) for the purpose. I'd issue the points (either DPs or treasury BPs) according to the number of countries you have "friendly" (or better) relations with. I think I favour using treasury for the purpose, because it's simpler and it would make for a tradeoff between troops, supplies and diplomacy.
GRAHAM S WOODS - FRIENDS & NEIGHBOURS
In the Neighbours list to the game report, all neighbours are shown as either
friends or enemies, with nothing in between; at present the only change that
can happen is that "battles make enemies".
I'd like to see a third state, neutrality, which would be the default at
start of game, and more ways of changing the relationship: for example, way
back in turn 7 Castille and I both sailed into an unoccupied sea area,
so our fleets had a battle, making us enemies; we still are, even though
we've had no contact in the nine turns since then.
I'd like to suggest the following mechanism:
If two nations who were enemies, say, five turns ago have had no battles since then, they become neutral: i.e. they cease to be enemies, but do not become friends. Alternatively, to add a slight random element, make this part of the Census Turn processing, so that if two nations who were enemies at the last Census Turn have had no battles since then, they become neutral.
If two nations who were neutral "then" (i.e. five turns ago, or at the last Census Turn, matching above) have had no battles since then, they become friends. If you do decide to introduce the concept of Alliances, that would be another way for nations to become friends, and they should not be prevented from doing so by the automatic rules I've suggested above. In the opposite direction, would also there need to be a way of going from "friend" to "neutral"?
It probably wouldn't be too difficult to do, but I'd prefer a system that was action driven rather than time driven. Otherwise, if the diplomactic status of two countries actually has any meaning the GM is going to be fielding a succession of complaints along the lines of "why did such-and-such change when I didn't order it".
The first thing to do is going to be to decide what information to record, and start keeping track of it. I would guess we want to keep track of the scale of the fighting and how long it was since the last clash. Those would be important in how difficult or expensive it should be to terminate hostilities. And we also want to keep track of how much effort has been spent trying to mend relations since. I'd guess the diplomatic data could also include some sort of value for the reputation or trustworthiness of each country, that would penalise the ones that do horrid things to their allies.
The second thing to do is to decide what should be the effect of each state: what you can and can't do, and what you do or don't get.
I don't think the initial status would be "neutral" since the normal relationship between most countries is to trade to mutual advantage, which is what I call "friendly". Also, in a game with a historical scenario there's scope for different countries to start with different relationships. At present I think we're tending towards changing "friendly" to "friendly neutral" since people seem to be assuming that "friends" means the same thing as "allies". Neutrality is itself a bit of a cop-out. Strict neutrality is usually a fairly hostile stance: countries take up "strict" neutrality because it actually favours one side or the other.