Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Under The Influence…

How To Connect NPC ‘Public Reaction’
To Legitimate Player Choices

I noticed that there was a session at the conference concerning ‘influence’ in a game environment? Whilst this is a – potentially – giant subject, I thought I would mention an ‘extension’ to my Balkan Wars non-megagame family of systems which has a direct bearing and could be added to a toolkit.

Certainly any game featuring (most of) the Roman Empire should have a ‘mob appeal’ element. My own humble 2nd Punic Wars megagame at SELWG had this, and I recall having to inform players that – after losing yet another fleet – the Senators had perhaps not go home this evening ‘cos of all the shouting outside…. However, as those with good memories may recall, the Balkan Wars had three systemic elements one of which was the internal team/political game, a three-sided slugfest of double-dealing as well as running the war and foreign policy! What I always thought was the weakest element was to link the choices and actions of the teams (the three leading factions of each national government) with the overall barometer of public expectation, which were a critical factor before, during and after the war(s). Indeed, so important was it that not only did it help to determine ‘policy’ during the negotiation phases (pushing Bulgaria to alienate, err, everyone else), but also led to several assassinations by the dissatisfied!

Okay, enough history – system?

Well, one of the team game features was to collect and – possibly – play ‘advantage’ cards, obtained by economic sacrifice, foreign deals etc. These would help the poor smucks in the field and/or adjust their standing in parliament. There were some ideas about generating same, but I have now settled on having ‘mini packs’ of said cards – say, 5 per pack. Now, any faction in a team may decide to choose a pack at random from the ‘national’ pile, or ‘trade-off’ one of their abilities to act to ‘buy’ a pack from one of the Great Powers. The mere fact of obtaining a pack of said cards then ‘ramp up’ the public expectation level which has to be mollified by battlefield successes and eventual wins at the treaty table. Any degree of perceived under-achievement would have dire consequences (both personally and perhaps for Europe…).

Now, those who know me would also realise that I couldn’t leave it there…

I am still playing with how the cards are distributed, because it was critical that everyone – at the top – got a perceived share of the pie, otherwise they could start to forment trouble with the patent ‘Boundy Option’ to create crises rather than fix them (bad news for the team in power). So currently the other two factions pick one of the cards at random, leaving the ‘prime movers’ with three. Each pack would have, say, three average/good cards, one very good card, and one crap one (“Swedish Govt signs herring quota export deal” etc etc), and this semi-random split keeps everyone on their toes. Finally, trading off a pack from one of the Great Powers also ups their ‘success’ table which also can, if too out of kilter, suddenly tip Europe into Big War…. Nah, no-one is that daft……….

Nev displays the important “Gain 200 Spitfires; F*** Poland Card”


  1. Terry Martin

    interesting article Peter, though I am not sure why “Swedish Govt signs herring quota export deal” is a crap card. Herrings are very important up here!!! 🙂

  2. Peter Merritt

    Sorry, I’m rather hard of herring these days…

    Actually it seems that Romania & Serbia were the ‘pig kings’ of Eastern Europe from the early 19thC on into the 20th. So important was this huge trade that it affected one of the Austro-Hungarian attempts to intimidate said states (short of outright warfare). The Hungarians (big players in the pork field) demanded that the Imperial Govt back-off!

    So the Balkans certainly provided lots of bangers for their bucks…

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