In The Game, you run your own medieval village. Mold it, shape it, grow it according to your whims. But be careful. Every decision you make has both immediate and long-term consequences. Will your village remain small and quaint, or grow? Will it become a trading center, a font of art and culture, or the seat of a new empire? What will it be known for? What sort of society will you create? Will your people adore you, like you, tolerate you...or turn on you?
Note that this game will have fantasy in it (magic, deities, nonhuman races, etc.). Think Second Edition D&D or Greyhawk/Forgotten Realms and you've got it about right (not the system and game mechanics, mind you, just the overall flavor of Gary Gygax's creation). While some of the decisions may have sexual themes (this is basically a simulated slice of political life, and sex is a part of life, political and otherwise), there will be no graphic sexual acts depicted in The Game.
Unlike some political sims, The Game will have a military/combat element. In other words, you will have to pay attention to martial matters...or your village could end up attacked, sacked, or even destroyed.
How it works:
Every turn, you will be presented with two decisions to make. Decisions can cover topics like:
What new building to construct
Resolving a political or other quandary
How to allocate resources
Staging events, festivals and the like
Building a military
Each decision you make has its effects on your village, for all time. Some of these effects will be obvious, others less so. There are no "right" or "wrong" choices...only your judgment as to what will help to shape your village into the kind of society you want. Some decisions open the door to future events and options. If you construct a building, it is a part of your village and can be involved in future decisions. If you take steps to increase your village's resource base, that can likewise enable options down the road. Some of the connections will be apparent, and some will be less obvious.
Through statistics and description, you will be able to "see" your village. Watch the numbers and the description itself change as time goes on!
How do I win The Game?
There is no "winning" scenario. You select your own goals (think the Sim games) and you are the judge of how well you attain them.
How can I lose The Game?
1) Your people stage a successful revolt and depose or assassinate you.
2) Your village is conquered and razed.
Note that these are not going to just sneak up and bite you without warning. You'll get clues in Events and the village description that warn you when the potential exists for these outcomes. The first 12 turns are also a "starter" period during which your village cannot be attacked. You also cannot be deposed or assassinated during this time.
Statistics and their meaning: I shy away from using dry, empirical numbers to describe your village. That would reduce this to a numbers game. My goal is for players to feel like a mayor-cum-demiurge, not accountants. I have largely confined statistics to vitals like demography, and some economic data. In the world of The Game, the primary units of exchange are the piaster and the guilder. Piasters are copper coins, guilders are gold coins. Each guilder is worth 100 piasters.
How are Economics Handled?
Commodities your village has access to are informally divided into two categories: food, and things other than food. The quantity and variety of food determine your village's health and growth rate. Things other than food give your village additional options. For example, if your village somehow procures a load of Fine Marble, this could unlock additional options (like building a shrine or improving a building). A cartload of Iron Ore could be crafted into tools or weapons. You can't decide exactly what you want to do with a commodity, but the presence of the commodity unlocks more options. The most ubiquitous non-food commodity is money, which for the sake of simplicity is abstracted into Guilders and Piasters.
The more productive activities your villagers can engage in, and the more resources your village has access to through gathering, production and trade, the better your village's economy will become. Many Buildings also serve as economic "force multipliers" and themselves unlock additional options and contribute to economic growth.
To get richer: focus on resource procurement and the construction and upgrade of Buildings that enhance construction, engineering and trade.
How are Militaries Handled?
Your village begins with no standing army. It is assumed the villagers themselves will take up arms (well, whatever they can make into weapons) and defend the village if it is attacked. This is fine for dealing with disorganized ruffians and highwaymen, but in time you may find your people threatened by more numerous, and better armed and equipped enemies. Or, you may wish to expand your domain by force! In either case, you will want to improve your peoples' fighting ability. You do this through constructing Buildings that have military functions (like a Butts to train archers, or a Smithy to forge weapons). As you construct these buildings, you will see military options begin to appear. You will also notice the village Description changes slowly over time to reflect your population's increased martial abilities. You will also eventually gain some options to make policies to train a more formal army.
To get more military power: construct and upgrade martial buildings, iron and woodworking buildings, equine buildings, and procure wood, copper and iron
N.B.: The militarization of your people does carry a price if taken too far. People like a Leader who pays attention to security concerns and builds the ability of the Village to protect itself, but they also tend to dislike excessive adventurism. Also, Villagers made into full-time soldiers are not available to harvest resources and build things. They also pay no taxes. This exerts a drag on your village's economy. There is also the opportunity cost: turns and decisions are limited, and every time you build a martial building or take a military action, that's a development, economic, cultural or religious action you weren't able to take.
How is Religion Handled?
Each Village has deities known to its people. Most Villagers believe in these deities, to an extent anyway. Among the building types you will have the option to construct are religious facilities. Building these tends to increase the level of belief and devotion amongst your population to the deity in question. This improves culture. As you build upgraded buildings, you begin to gain the option to send missionaries to spread a religion to other Villages. If you can get another Village to follow one of your Village's deities, relations between the villages will improve. Or, you can use religion to try and sway the population in a rival Village to sow discontent with its existing rulers! Of course, other Villages and forces can use the same strategy on you...
Constructing several Buildings, or repeatedly upgrading Buildings, devoted to a deity can also bring favor from that deity, resulting in rewards.
To develop your people spiritually and gain the favor of deities: construct and upgrade religious buildings devoted to the deity in question, and take other opportunities to pay homage (festivals and other events, sacrifices, etc.).
How is Popularity Handled?
One way to lose The Game is to have your people stage a successful revolt. Obviously, you want to keep a weather eye on your popularity to prevent this from happening. It is hard to please all the people all the time, but you need to keep at least part of the people pleased most of the time to stay in power. The best way to do this is to meet your population's needs and at least a few of their wants.
To a large extent, your Villagers follow Maslow's "heirarchy of needs." Food is the most basic need. People who are well-fed tend to be at least content unless other things are going seriously wrong. On the other hand, if your villagers are hungry a lot of the time, you'll find keeping them merely content to be a full-time chore that will require pulling a lot of other "levers" to accomplish even serviceably well. Another core need is security. People who feel vulnerable are likely to be unhappy. People confident that they and their leaders can protect what is theirs against outside threats derive satisfaction and sleep better at night from this.
Next comes culture and entertainment. Religious and cultural venues, art, leisure, a place to knock back some brews after a hard day's work--these things also contribute to the happiness of your population. Knowing they are in the good graces of the god(desse)s boosts morale among the people.
Civic virtue also influences happiness. Your Villagers like to feel as if they are part of something. Collective achievements (i.e., Buildings newly constructed, battles won, achievements) provide at least a short-term boost to public morale and, hence, happiness.
Lastly, your economic prosperity (or lack thereof) influences happiness. Wealthy people tend to be happier than poor ones--but not by as much as you might think! You'll find that increased wealth makes your people happier for a time, but the effect decays by about three-fourths over time.
To give new players a break, people will tend to be happy for the first several turns. Also, there are 12 turns of "newbie protection" during which you cannot be deposed or invaded.
To get/stay popular: focus on the factors above.
How Come I don't See the Option I Want?
Several possible reasons. Sometimes an option in the "sphere" you wish to build on (i.e., religious or cultural) simply doesn't appear in a given turn. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your Village become a great power overnight. If we figure a human generation is 20 years, and a turn is one season, that's 80 turns to pass through one generation of game time. Patience, young grasshopper!
Some options require a specific Building. For instance, if you wish to trade much beyond the occasional summer caravan, you need a Market Square.
Remember, too, that you have to build small things before you can build medium-sized things, and medium-sized things before you can build large things. And most achievements are going to require a synergy of buildings and resources. Say you want to train the best archers in the land. You can't just build a Grand Academy of Master Archers. That would be unbalanced, and not very realistic when you stop and think about it. You start with a Butts, and then a Muster Field. You'll notice in the Description that your people start to favor the bow in combat. Then don't neglect your peoples' woodworking skills--you'll want at least a couple levels of carpentry structures, not to mention a supply of wood. Then upgrade to an Archery Field. This should unlock a Fletcher's Shop within a few turns. After you build that, likely the option to train good-quality archers as a standing force will present itself.
You can use synergies to achieve excellence in most any field. For example, if you want good farmers, develop your farms, your building skills, and develop ironworking capability to build tools for farmers. When opportunities come to buy new seed, take them. Raise horses, too. Getting into the good graces of an agricultural deity wouldn't hurt, too.
Lastly, some options require a certain population. For instance, a village of a few thousand people cannot build the Great Pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall of China.
Does the Description of my People (i.e., "Hardscrabble" or "Spiritual") Mean Anything?[/b]
Yes, it's more than flavor text. "Hardscrabble" people tend to keep up morale a little better during trying times (poverty, hunger, etc.) than most folks. Conversely, they are less impressed by wealth. "Hard-nosed" villagers tend to pay more attention to security, desiring a strong village militarily. "Spiritual" people value the good graces of the cosmic Powers-That-Be more than most people, and expect their Leader to pay attention to spiritual concerns.
Note that these characteristics can change, though slowly, over time.