The Hands of the Many
Offside Report by Nick Luft of The Hands of the Many a game and discussion lead by Andy Hadley at the Chestnut Lodge Game Conference, Oct 2014.
The Hands of the Many
Andy ran a game based on the Peloponnesian Wars. I think he is intending to run a megagame on this.
There were four player teams of about 2 to 5 five players each. One team played Athens and were fighting the alliance of the other three Greek city state teams, led by Sparta.
Each full turn represented a year, in which we had three phases or seasons.
Andy had a chit based order system. Each team received (by selection or by chance) order chits at the start of the year. Then a team player went to the game map and laid the chits face down. Each team could place 1 or 2 chits at a time and would take it turns until all teams had passed or had played 4 chits. This would represent one of the seasons or phases of the game turn. At the end of the chit laying phase another player or the same player would implement the chits as orders to units on the map.
I liked how the order chit mechanic was linked to the political make up of each city state. The Athenians being democratic had to make unanimous decisions about the order chits to select, but one player was designated to lay the chits out, and another player was designated to implement the orders. The other tyrannical or monarchical city states could not chose their chits, but had to depend of drawing randomly. The monarchist had more freedom about who laid out and who implemented the chips. This neatly represented the greater power of decision making in a consultative democracy versus the more rigid and less flexible tyrant.
In the after game discussion, the tyrant teams suggested to Andy that they should have less randomness in the draw, as the Spartan team had drawn several ship counters in one turn. Perhaps their counter mix should represent more closely their States’ strategic predilections.
The chits were divided into the following categories:
- Army – move an army, fight a land battle, de/activate an army
- Navy – move a navy, fight a sea battle, de/activate a navy
- City – diplomacy, fight a siege
- Blank – dummy chits
Each chit could be used for one of the actions.
The number of chits available to us, the Athenian team, was determined by our success or failure on the battlefield. In the Athenian team we could buy a total of 12 chits, though 4 of these were already spent on actions from the start of the game: a long siege, and supporting an ally. The amount of chits we could select each term varied according to our progress on the map. For example when the hinterland of Athens was burnt by a Spartan army we lost three chits for a full turn. In general we had between 8 and 12 chits to select and then deploy.
Each team had gold. This was non-renewable. If we spent our gold we did not get it back, though you could get gold from looting. The Athenians started with 20 gold. We used our gold to buy more chits and also to bribe or resource a siege or any diplomatic campaign to recruit a city state as an ally.
Again this was a clever little mechanism to avoid teams building up large reserves and then spending them in massive lumps. Each turn your position on the board determined how many chits / orders you could have, based on annual renewable points. Gold could be used to buy more chits, but this was not renewable. Gold was hard to gain and easy to spend. I never felt we were over resourced and we had to take neat decisions about what to do and we could never everything we wanted in one year.
In the post-game discussion we talked about the ways we could invest our gold. This was part of the long-term strategies of the time. Each city state was investing in colonies during the war. There was no incentive to do this during the game, even though Athens in particular spent a lot of resources historically investing in colonies.
I enjoyed the game. I took a nicely passive role of treasurer, and relied on more active players to go up to the map and fight. We did not find too much inter-team bickering, as we were playing nicely (Rule 16). Andy said that in the full game he would give each player in a team a personal briefing to reflect the political divisions of the city state. He would expect more competition and in-fighting in the full game.
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