EMPIRES - REVIEW
Having started out to write a page for the discussion of possible rules changes and future development in Empires, the task seems to have grown - so I've tried to separate it into several strands. There are also a few items that don't seem to fit in any of these strands, so I've kept those here on the main page. My thanks to everyone that's been writing and emailing with ideas and opinions. Let's keep it going and see what we can produce between us.
Rules for Alliances & Diplomacy would deal with formal alliances between players and allow players to interact with non-player countries. These might apply in any game but in the first place would probably apply only to Empires. There's doesn't seem any reason to restrict which version it applies to.
See also the Empires Rules Update for changes that are already in place.
BRUCE HUNT - DATES & WEATHER IN EUROPEAN EMPIRES
Perhaps a time of month of the year might be introduced in the European games and updated as we go along. After all, at least two would-be word conquerors have failed to make due allowance for the severity of Eastern European winters and paid the price.
This suggestion comes up from time to time. Given the probable game length I think that making each turn a season, rather than a month, would probably work best. It would make for extra complications in a game we're trying to keep simple. Different times of year have different effects in different terrain and different areas of the map. And we'd have to think about exactly what effects to apply. The obvious thing would be to mess with the supply rules, so that supply chains don't work in winter in Eastern Europe, and troops actully need to be eat their supplies during winter (and spring, to a lesser extent).
LESTER LEE GAYTON - SPIES
Spies are far too powerful with the SABOTAGE action destroying an army without any difficulty, I think this is impossible. No one man or spy in history has destroyed an army (that I know of) but many spies have sent false information and delivered vital information at the right time bringing countries to war and convincing the enemy to place armies in the wrong place.
No argument from me. The current rule is concerned with practicality and simplicity rather than realism. I've thought for a while that SABOTAGE should be changed from killing an army to dispersing it. So the army gets to miss whatever battle it should have been in, because it's busy doing something else, buts gets collected back up and redeployed afterwards. That'd make more sense, and have exactly the same effect at the critical moment.
I still fancy have spies mess up supply lines or be able to destroy supply trains, in games where those rules are in play, but although that's even more sensible I think it would make them too effective. You could blow out a whole turn or make a complete mess of a position that way, rather than just tipping the balance in a battle that's already going to be very close.
MARC RIVOIRA - SPIES & SABOTAGE
I don't think that Sabotage is too powerful. In general language terms the phrase "a spy destroys an army" does indeed make a spy sound too powerful. In terms of what those objects are in your game, how much they cost, and the effort to get a spy in place to destroy an army, then no it isn't a massive effect. Late game, armies are cheap and wasting a minimum of 2 actions to destroy one army is not worth the effort. Early game then the sabotage action is more useful, both for attack and defence, but the cost of a spy is relatively higher.
Also, remember, that using sabotage is the only real way you can get an opponent out of a sea area to plant your own ships (or it was under the old naval rules).
In fact, under the current rules spies don't have any effect on ships in Empires (although they still work that way in Dark Age and Barbarians at the Gate) but with the naval rules as they stand it's no longer relevant. Meantime I've gone ahead with changing "destroy" to "disperse" for sabotage actions in both Dark Age and Empires.
For some reason hardly anyone seems to have worked out what to do about single-area empires. Using conventional methods it's difficult to eliminate the last area held by an empire as it can spend most of each turn on TAX, SUPPLY, FORTIFY and RESERVE and will usually build up a substantial army.
I think the solution is to put the RAID action back in the rules. It's not actually needed, as "ATTACK FROM TO 1" does the same thing, but maybe it'll be more obvious if there's an explicit rule. The effect is that each army you send (and lose) eliminates one fort, one supply train and one population, reducing income and causing the armies to disperse. You can do it more than once per turn if you need to, and you'll soon flatten the defences.
MARTYN WILLIAMS - ARMY LIMITS
I agree that a top level for how many armies can be raised and/or deployed would be good.
BRUCE HUNT - ARMY LIMITS
The actual number of troops/armies should be limited, relating to the populations of each area in a suitable period (say 1812). If there are different troop types then the limits for each could be different for different countries (eg. the Russians get lots of Cossacks).
A simple rule would be to restrict the ARMY action according to your total armies and population. I wouldn't restrict LEVY and MOBILISE, which have their own penalties, but I think you'd need the same restriction on FLEET actions (you can build any number of ships you like: it's manning them that's difficult). I think the rule would be that ARMY and FLEET would work only if your total population was more than the total of your armies and (active) ships.
I don't know if the change is wanted in other variants of the game (at present I think we're assuming this aplies only to European Empires). It's appropriate in later periods, where the armies are large relative to the total manpower if your empire. In earlier periods armies are quite small in relation to your total population. The core of a medieval army might be only a few hundred knights, so the limitation is the cost of the equipment, and the training, not the population of the kingdom.
PAT WILTSHIRE - TROOP TYPES
I think that cavalry, artillery and infantry would give the game a much better feel.
BRUCE HUNT - TROOP TYPES
Armies could be divided into divisions of infantry, cavalry, artillery, sappers, supply corps, HQ, sick and missing.
This applies mainly to European Empires. In other versions the possible troop types would be different. It's important to consider exactly what, at a strategic level, is different about the different troop types, and to have rules and actions both for ordering them separately and for ordering them all together. There's no point having different troop types unless they actually do something different.
An easy example is light cavalry. When a move or attack is ordered, and it's not the whole army that's under orders, then the first unit to move should be light cavalry, and then the first unit left behind should also be light cavalry. If there's more than two light cavalry then I guess they'd alternate between which force they're placed in. That's the function of light cavalry, to spread out and handle scouting and screening duties. So a rule would be that you get no scouting report from an area containing more cavalry than the area doing the scouting.
Light cavalry does have a second function, in pursuits and rearguards. Otherwise it's not actually that much use on a battlefield.
What about other troop types? Some could inflict higher casualty rates, or suffer reduced rates themselves. They could can extra in decivisive battles (eg. count extra in the "one third of the difference" part of the battle routine). Or they could inflict their losses BEFORE the main engagement (it's a bigger change, but we could add skirmish and bombardment phases to the battle routine, so the current land phase would be the "contact" or "shock" phases).
The main problem is that this involves a lot more rules and a lot of software changes. We've already get rules like this in Spaceplan, and many players struggle with controlling their mix of forces. We don't want to make the game too difficult to get into.
One simple alternatives is to distinguish between "garrison" troops on the map and "mobile" troops that exist only by being attached to given field armies. A field army always moves as a whole force. That makes the ordering system a lot simpler, although it's a lot less flexible.
Another is to keep the current system, where every army is a force of all arms. But different empires could have a different mix of forces, and we could break the armies down into their different troop types in the battle routine. The French might have proportionally more artillery and skirmishers, for example, while the Russians have a lot of light cavalry and very little light infantry.
Changing your force mix would change the mix all across the map at the same time (unrealistic, but anything else would be unworkable) but maybe the cost would depend on the nubmer of armies, how widely they're spread out, and how well they're supplied (with extra dispersals being the penalty for armies you can't easily reach).
At the end of the battle routine the whole armies could be reconstructed. Any incomplete ones could be dispersed into your reserve to regroup and collect reinforcements. Another effect might be that battles would be a lot less predictable, especially if different empires weren't obliged to have the same number of divisions per unit.