This is an After-Action-Report on my experience at the Watch The Skies 4: Global Apocalypse Mega-game. I’ve talked about Megagames and what they are before, so if you’re curious please refer to the linked articles in Part One. This is a very narrow account on how I experienced the game, and so a lot of details are missing – apologies, I find it helps the narrative when I write this way. Please do check out the ‘Megagames Makers’ Facebook page for other accounts on what happened during the day.

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I put everything in motion turn 7 or 8, and I yelled to our leader ‘Yo homes smell ya later!’

I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there, to sit on my throne as the DAFT Prince of Kenya(ir)

The Plan

With no real contact with any other DAFTers, and with no counter-ideas to the plan I’d come up with, the rest of my time was pretty much taken up with trying to make a Red Mercury Bomb in time for my coup around Turn 8. For that, I found out I needed an actual Nuke card, something that proved almost impossible to get.

Gavin, despite being the WORST secret deputy ever, did manage to get a lot of funding for me and was a real trooper in trying to get a Nuke, especially with the Chinese. In a past life the Chinese President and I had been best bros, so I was admittedly playing on an OOC relationship to get what I wanted. It didn’t work, but to his credit Matt didn’t rat me in, which I appreciated. Gavin had no such luck either.

Surprisingly, it was the South African guy who followed through spectacularly.

By Turn 8, I had no working nuclear device, but I had a note signed by control stating that I had bits and pieces that represented 30% of a device. I also had Red Mercury, and a captured GMIC NPC scientist who hadn’t been doing anything all game. So I decided to take a page out of Zimbabwe’s book. I bluffed.

Keeping control informed of my idea, I created a facsimile of a Red Mercury Bomb. I figured no-one would really know what one looked like anyway.

Meanwhile, I’d kept my South African DAFTatron informed of my goings on. He knew I needed a nuke. I’d tried a couple of turns earlier to get one out of North Korea, as they were going through a lot of political upheaval and turmoil – I failed and only got the 30%. I did get to witness the rise of Cthulhu while I was there though.

Turns out the SA guy, with the help of the Venezuelan chapter of DAFTpunk, managed to extract one. Legends! A Venezuelan SIF was on its way to Kenya to transport the nuke, so we could actually back up our threats.

Centre Stage

Even though my SA DAFTest contact had come through, I couldn’t wait for the nuke to arrive. Knowing what I know about WTS, turn 9 was likely going to be the last turn, and it was Turn 8. I had to act now if there was any chance of seeing any of it through. I’d learned by this point that there may be other plans in place, but I figured I could at least draw attention to myself to help my brothers-in-arms launch their own initiative.

Turn 8 came around, and Gavin looked at me. It was time – I took the two assassination cards I’d been ‘looking after’ on behalf of my government, and then killed my President and the Foreign Minister. The army then took control of the country and DAFT flags were flown everywhere. I deployed everything as a show of force and to stand a remote chance of defending against the back-lash. Control were informed.

During all this, the Nigerian General asked me what was going on in Kenya. I replied: “There is no Kenya any-more”.

My moment of triumph achieved, I was allowed to go up on stage (Thanks Jim) and declare DAFT and our intentions to the world. DAFT was here, it was real, and we would make the world feel our power.

Then I died.

The End of All Things

So yeah – not even a second after finishing my speech, an American player stepped up and assassinated me. I was a little peeved but I had accepted this probably would happen. I just thought I’d be allowed to return to my table first.

If I’d really thought about it, I’d have challenged the action with control – technically my announced was made from inside Kenya, and having just staged a coup I would have been surrounded by soldiers and several layers of protection. It’s highly unlikely someone could have just walked up and killed me in such circumstances. You know what they say about hindsight though.

With the President and Foreign Minister away taking a walk as part of them being killed, and with me about to join them, I grabbed my secret deputy. He was in charge, along with Joyce, our only other surviving team member.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan’s were trying to deliver the nuke to loyal DAFT forces. With me dead though, some of the loyalist Kenyans fought back and shot at the plane, causing them to drop the nuke… right over Nairobi. The city, our science facility, the captured scientist who hadn’t done anything all game… all consumed in a fiery ball of death, thanks to a really unfortunate case of butter fingers.

All this I learned much later though. When my victims and I returned, all we knew was that my Secret Deputy had turned traitor and denounced DAFT – causing the regime to instantly collapse. We knew Nairobi had been nuked by an unknown party, and we spent the last turn trying to rebuild our shattered nation.

Gavin had taken the role of President, and used his time to out and arrest the Senior Ambassador for South Africa. The Angolan DAFT member was assassinated not long after I was, and globally DAFT members were being hunted down and executed, from what I understood. The game ended on Turn 9 (I was hoping we’d get to 10 this time, since it was the last WTS), and that was that.

Final Thoughts

DAFT had made its presence felt, and I liked to think we made the world tremble, even if the glorious DAFT revolution was un-done in a few minutes. I’m not sure how well we achieved our aims, but the President of America was eventually assassinated, despite surviving four attempts on his life, as had been the Grand Mufti and the Pope by the end of the game. The Pope was killed in South Africa, by the SA Daft member, during the African games that SA was hosting.

On the other fronts, apart from kidnapping a GMIC scientist, I’m not we had much of an impact on the Corporation game. I’m not even certain they were told one of their NPC’s had been taken. The thing was, I needed them to sell me weapons first for my coup, so I wasn’t really in a position to do much to them.

According to our super-secret DAFT handbooks, our measure of success was determined by how hard the World governments worked to try and supress us.

I was assassinated, so I’m pretty sure that means I win, right?

Long Live DAFT!

Some Amusing Moments from the Game:

  • When Africa was quarantined, one of the UK Generals came over with one navy unit and said he was here to “Blocked” Africa. This was hilarious for many reasons because A: He was trying to blockade an entire continent with one navy piece. B – by coming over to the Africa Map, Control were seriously considering trapping him there because he was now infected. I think they let him go in the end.
  • In the last turn, after our newly appointed former-DAFT President ousted the SA Ambassador and got him arrested, I was tasked with going to the press to declare that Kenya had Saved The World. I turned up at their desk to discover they had relocated to space.
  • Sending Kenyan forces to retrieve some Alien Tech while also sending my own DAFT agent to retrieve it. No one asked in the end, but my story was that someone from something called ‘DAFT’ stole the tech from under me. Yes, I stole something from myself to give to me.
  • Whilst we’re here – the whole process of having to secretly do DAFT-things through Control was both tense and hilarious. My secret-backhand shake got really good by the end of the game.
  • The look of joy and relief on some of the cetacean’s player’s faces when they found out we could talk to them because we had Dat Card.
  • Having bought a Level 3 SIF from GMIC, only to discover later my Foreign Minister had sold it to the Chinese, and having to go buy it back. I needed it go steal a nuke, dammit!
  • Watching Cthulhu rise from the deep. What was more amusing was a great alien battleship skidding into orbit and only doing 4 damage with its death lasers.

 

This is an After-Action-Report on my experience at the Watch The Skies 4: Global Apocalypse Mega-game. I’ve talked about Megagames and what they are before, so if you’re curious please refer to the linked articles below. This is a very narrow account on how I experienced the game, and so a lot of details are missing – apologies, I find it helps the narrative when I write this way. Please do check out the ‘Megagames Makers’ Facebook page for other accounts on what happened during the day.

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Now this is a story all about how my game got flipped-turned upside, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the Daft Prince of Kenya(ir).

I woke up on March 19th, 202whateveritwas from a bad dream. In that dream I thought I was the Chief of Defence for Nigeria and that I’d just spent countless months cleaning up poo. I’d been having a lot of dreams like that recently – one where I was the Chancellor for Germany, and another where I was a Viking.

As the Chief of Defence for the glorious nation in Kenya, I did find it odd that I was having dreams of being other people, but having talked to my local shaman about it he put it down to after-images from a past life. My wife thought it was probably just stress.

We were dealing with a lot of things at the time – Aliens had been a thing for quite a few years now, and they kept trying to strip-mine Africa. We’d also recently discovered the existence of sentient whales and dolphins, and had been having tentative communications with them about Fish and cleaning the oceans. As a nation that lacked anything that resembled a navy, you can probably guess how well those early talks went.

As Chief of Defence, I was tasked with making sure our glorious army – all 1 militia unit of it – was in tip top shape and ready to deal with any crises, the first of which was that Zimbabwe was apparently building nukes. After a quick con-fab between the rest of the Kenyan government, we decided that we actually really wanted those nukes for ourselves to make up for our lack of basically everything.

At the same time, I’d discovered that the corporations had perfected the weapons manufacturing process to such a degree that not only were they able to upgrade my army, but expand it as well. In my past lives as a German and a Nigerian, I distinctly remember being forced to deal with the fact that a nation’s army couldn’t be expanded. It could be upgraded, but you weren’t physically able to build any more regular units. Unless you’re awesome like me, that is.

So, you can imagine how happy I was at this new marvel in corporate manufacturing. I ordered two, plus two upgrades. Kenya was going to get all the guns.

It was at this point, around about Turn 2 (in Kenya we mark the passage of time in ‘Turns’ rather than days, weeks or months. It’s more efficient), that I got the call.

DAFT beyond measure                    

You see, there was more to me than apparently even I knew. I was a member of DAFT – Democracy and Freedom Today – an organisation dedicated to the destruction of corporations, the dismantling of America, and the curbing of oppressive organised religion. I was being activated – there were others like me, but I didn’t know who they were. All I knew was that “living the dream” was the code-phrase used to identify ourselves.

This. Changed. EVERYTHING.

Well not really – as a team, we’d already decided to walk a bit on the wild side and be a dark horse in Africa. I was now just going to be an even darker, more secret horse. I immediately set two aims for myself:

  • To launch a military coup in Kenya and declare DAFT to the world.
  • Get a nuke so that people took me seriously.

I thought Zimbabwe having a nuclear program was going to make the second point easier than it actually turned out to be. Turns out they didn’t actually have a nuclear program and were just trolling everyone – typical.

Still, a military coup was very doable – As I grew the army, I bribed the **** out of them to make sure they were personally loyal to me. We had an empty, state-of-the-art research facility in Nairobi that no one was using (as we didn’t have a scientist), so I kidnapped an NPC GMIC scientist (who I was using to expanded and upgrade said army), to work at that facility. Early in my time as a DAFT agent I recovered some Red Mercury from the aliens. I didn’t tell anyone about it and my vague plan was to make a Red Mercury powered weapon. That sounded scary, right?

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Normally in a game like this funding become a problem. As one of the poorer African nations, we only got so much money in a turn, and I could only steal so much of it without anyone noticing (turns out that amount was a lot more than I probably should have been able to get away with). As a DAFT member though, I could claim 1 megabuck per 10 points in the regional terror track. I don’t know if anyone outside of Africa was paying attention, but it got pretty terror-fying over there. Suffice to say I was making it rain.

It was touch and go though – my plans took me away from the African map a lot – a lot more than I’d ever had to do in any of the previous games I’d played, and a lot more than a Chief of Defence with no back-up (one of our guys got sick and couldn’t make it) really should. The thing was, whilst I revelled in the terror and tried not to help or hinder the situation, I was worried at some point that it would all go horribly wrong and my country would collapse around me before I could do anything.

After Zimbabwe, Uganda kicked up a fuss and raised an army right on our border, which If I’d thought about it I probably should have been more concerned about – the U.N. sorted it though, since they were actually being useful for a change.

After that, there was a Zombie Virus out-break that Africa, collectively, hilariously failed to deal with. So much so it pretty much spread across the entire continent, spawning countless hordes and forcing Africa to be quarantined. South-Africa developed a cure early, but didn’t seem to do much to it other then sell-it to the player nations, including us. I was away from the map for a lot of this, although I had the presence of mind to mobilise the army to defend Kenya’s borders. I understand the Egyptians, Algerians and some Europeans did most of the zombie fighting.

There was also that one turn where literally every alien ever descended onto Africa, and no-one intercepted them. I didn’t because I was DAFT, but I don’t know what everyone else’s excuses were.

One big happy, anonymous family

It took me a while to figure out who the other DAFT Members were. As a military player in a game the size of WTS4 (and playing the nation that I was), I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to visit the other map. Early on in my DAFTness I recruited my friend who was in my team, Gavin, to the cause. It was his first game and he was feeling a bit directionless in his role, so I broke the rules and included him in my plot – sorry Jim/Viji!

Not long after though I discovered the Senior Ambassador for South Africa was also “living the dream”. We quickly started combo-ing our agent actions, and through him I found out that the United State’s team’s Ambassador for Africa was also a DAFT member. He was a weird one – I always got the impression through-out the whole game he never trusted me (having asked him about it afterwards, Ken said that he had this vague idea I may not have been DAFT. I was, but now that I think about it I never showed him my passport) – he wouldn’t talk openly with me about his plans, and whenever I would tell the SA guy something, he’d run off and tell the American and I was genuinely worried for most of the game that I was setting myself up for a big fail.

Apart from us four musketeers though, I didn’t encounter any other DAFT players. Apparently a big group of them met around turn 5 (including the SA player), but no-one told me about it. Not even Gavin! You really can’t get the staff.

Just before I made my coup, I found out one of the Angolan military players was also DAFT, but it was a bit late by then.

More to come in Part Two!

 

This is the third part in my report of the Come to a King Megagame. For more information, please read Part One.

The Spoils (or not) of War

Prince Owen and I returned as heroes from our foray to Ireland. Knowledge of how we were paid to leave, and the vast untapped richness of the land (the Civil Wars mainly ravaged the south eastern parts from what we heard) quickly spread across Scotland. Jarl not-Sigurd the Second was finally ready and eager to join in our grand enterprise. Even Lord Finlay of Moray was eager to get stuck in to something… it seems I was having a bad influence on my neighbours.

Only the Scottish Abbot opposed our venture, but only because he was generally against Christians attacking other Christians, and even then he did nothing to prevent our plans – he only stayed at home with the King. He did suggest we join in what was turning into a grand ruckuss down in Southern England, but I scoffed at the idea.

“You may know the ways of the Gods,” I said. “But I know the ways of War – you go where everyone ISN’T. And there’s no one in Ireland to defend their lands.”

No one except women and men in skirts, that is.

The King gave his blessing, troops were raised and ships were built. I once again tried to enlist the help of my compatriots in the Irish Sea, but they were committed. Wales would be theirs, or they would see it and the thrice cursed ‘King’ of South Wales burn. There was no-one else to ask.

Planning our actions and coordinating closely with the controls of both the Scottish and Ireland maps, our grand armada of six ships set sail. We were four Lords of War, A Viking, some Scots and a Welshman. It would be a glorious venture indeed!

We had 12 units in all for our invasion of Ireland – hardly a Great Army, but large enough considering there was still no-one at home. Just before we set-sail we learned that the High King of Ireland was slain in a duel, which would cause turmoil in the country. It was surely a sign from the Gods. We landed in Ulster, and were met by some local levies that had been raised that year to deter further raids, as well as another force raised by the same Bishop as last time.

(Jevan tried to convert me both times I was in Ireland. I admired his determination, if not his religion.)

We were asked if we would accept more money to go away, and we said we each wanted three gold.  There were four of us.

They said no.

Sadly, the invasion of Ireland ultimately achieved nothing. There’s no real way to narrate this – a combination of several things I don’t really want to get into right now hampered what we wanted to do. It was the only part of the day where I felt genuinely disappointed. We didn’t manage to seize any lands, didn’t get any money… we saw off the levies, but that was about it and we didn’t get anything from that either.

By this point the Lords of Ireland were retreating from England. Word of our invasion had spread, and with their leader dead there was no point in remaining in Wessex – they were coming home, and they were angry. With our own levies returning home and feeling disillusioned by our lack of success, we returned to our ships and sailed back to Scotland.

As it happened, the Queen who paid us off the first time rose to become High Queen and managed to keep the various Irish Lords in-line – she saw our return as a vile betrayal and swore bloody vengeance upon us. We planned our next move, not really knowing where to go at this point, (maybe we would go to England after all?) but we also had to consider a counter-invasion by Ireland.

Ultimately, we never found out what would happen, as the world ended at the end of the council phase that turn. Ragnarok was here.

I never did find a good women.

End of Part Three | Read Part OneRead Part Two

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And that, in a nut shell, was the epic saga of Jarl Gilli.

There are probably plenty of things I forgot about or miss-remembered, but the above represents the core narrative of how my day went. As mentioned right at the beginning, it also lacks a lot of context as to what was happening in the wider game, since there was a lot I just never interacted with.

I felt very much a fringe character, on the periphery of a game not really meant for the general idea Gilli represented. This was a game of Kings, and of people who could be useful in the great ‘Game of Thrones’ (sorry). I didn’t really feel like either.

Jarl Gilli had fairly poor stats and low fame, and with few ways to boost any of it I was always destined to be a footnote. Personally organising and leading the invasion of Ireland was about as good as it got, but that was me as a person as opposed to Jarl Gilli as a game element, and despite everything I ended the game with the same stats I started with, albeit richer.

I had a great time though – as mentioned above, there was only one instance where I was genuinely disappointed. The rest of the time I didn’t feel like I was wasting my actions, or not accomplishing things I wanted to do… even when I wasn’t sure what it was I was even striving for (which happened a lot).

My first raid into Ireland was probably the highlight of my day: Turn up, Get Paid to Leave. Looking at the game-rules as presented, there was no way to come away with four gold from just a single action given the circumstances. A huge success in my books, and I hope the real Jar Gilli would have been proud.

Some other primary thoughts:

Province/Land ownership was weird.

There seemed to be no mechanism to exert influence over lands not controlled by you directly in terms of resources and manpower. For example, If I had been made Lord of Argyll without seizing the other Land, I still couldn’t have raised troops or collected taxes from the other man.

(If this wasn’t the case then it was a miscommunication applied across several maps, as far as I was aware.)

The point is best presented by looking at my friend’s situation. As the Prince of the Sub-Kingdom of Strathclyde, he was technically a power unto himself on the Scottish map. And yet he still had to spend early turns physically seizing and taking possession over everything within Strathclyde to reap the full benefits of the province.

I also personally disliked the rule that you had to be physically in a province to tax it, as it meant owning land was pointless in general. You had to own the RIGHT province (so one with at least 2/3 Lands and a Town), and once you had that it didn’t really matter what else you owned. Even owning two like that seemed kind of inefficient because you’d have to spend actions repeating tasks in the other province. I witnessed an instance like this where Tim had to do a Tax action in Orkney, and then a Tax action in Caithness, even though they are just across from each other on the same map.

It gave considerable advantage to players who owned such desirable provinces, and mean’t anyone who didn’t was off to a slow start. I didn’t really mind not being able to do something on another map entirely though – that at least made some sense.

This makes me uncomfortable, but I feel some controls were definitely better than others on the day.

I respect each and every one of them for donating their time, and their patience in dealing with all of us and acting as GM’s. To be clear, I had positive dealings with every control I talked to, and everyone heard me out when I wanted to propose something and ruled fairly, in my mind.

However, local controls also tend to interpret and enforce the rules differently, and in different ways (which I’m not questioning their right to either). In this specific game though those fluctuations had a far greater impact on things than I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sorry to say, some seemed to do this better than others.

I never went to/organised a single feast.

They were costly, and only one person generally got the benefit so it was hard to justify said cost. That left them being used as one of two primary platforms for assassinating another character – which meant nobody wanted to actually go to a feast ever. Even when the King of Alba married his daughter to the newly crowned King of Northumbria, no feast was held because nobody wanted a Red Wedding.

I understand there was actually a Red Wedding elsewhere in the game, so my viewpoint is by no means universal, but most of the people I interacted with certainly were wary of holding feasts. Brodir of Mann went to a feast designed to betray the King of South Wales, who (surprisingly) didn’t turn up. It just felt to me it was a bit too obvious what would happen if you went to a feast.

It would have been nice if Raiding were a mechanically supported concept.

For fringe characters like myself, all we really do is get swept up in greater events or try and make a nuisance of ourselves. For a Norse character especially, the ability to ‘Raid’ should have been a thing that was easier to accomplish. As it was, our invasion of Ireland was working on the plan of seizing lands, and then taxing the crap out of it for maximum profit, and then leaving/moving on. It was the only way I could think of representing a ‘Raid’ within the rules as written.

I realise I had a conversation with Andrew regarding this on Facebook prior to the event, so I know why the game was set up the way it was. I imagine I wouldn’t even be making this point were I a King in Ireland, or a Saxon Lord in the South of England.

As I’ve alluded to above, I feel the main meat and potatoes of Come to a King wasn’t really meant for someone like Jarl Gilli. I really enjoyed playing as him, and I had a blast working within the rules to be an unruly, troublesome Irish Sea Viking and I accomplished everything I wanted to (although not, as it turns out, anything my briefing suggested I should work towards. I didn’t even get married!).

Thank you again to Andrew for putting on this game, and I hope you don’t take offence to my criticisms. I would definitely play again – I would personally like to see a few things fine-tuned, is all (or maybe play as someone more grounded in the setting, for contrast). 

This is Part Two of my report from the recent Megagame ‘Come to a King’. For more information please read Part One.

This is the longest part, so apologies in advance for the length.

Trouble in Wales & Afar

By this point, I think the Danish King who had taken the English crown from Athelred, had died somehow, which caused a lot of feuding in the south of England. At some point a massive mercenary army from Sweden also turned up and took London, but I never really spent much time around the two ‘England’ maps to really tell what was going on. I hear they switched sides because their leader – Thorkall the Tall – wasn’t being paid enough.

Ireland had pretty much sorted out its differences and decided to invade Wales, and there were also shenanigans taking place in Northumbria I think.

For me though, I only had one thought on my mind – revenge! No sooner had I started consolidating my control over Argyll that I glanced over at the Irish Sea map and saw someone invading the Southern Isles! Jarl Emachahachamach (not really his name) of Galloway, one of my listed enemies, had gotten bored and decided to take some land from the absentee Lord of the Isles. (I was busy, ok?)

Rushing back with my Huscarls and a local levy I’d raised from Argyll, I decided to land on Galloway to force the usurper off the islands, although at the time I didn’t realise he’d already seized them. Ecmach sailed back to Galloway as well, and we had a small skirmish on its windy shores, with neither party doing any damage. We were at a stalemate.

With the season coming to an end, our levies had to go home, and I retreated back to my old holdings on the Northern Isles. Meanwhile, Jarl Brodir of Mann (played by the excellent Matt Bambridge) had led an invasion into Gwynedd, with the view to make it his new seat of power and to form a new Kingdom that spanned North Wales and the Irish Sea.

He had succeeded in taking most of the Lands there, and was in the process of besieging the towns (of which there were two), but he was being opposed by the Prince of Powys. Holding his own council at the beginning of the next turn, he demanded both me and Echelech attend and make peace.

“I know what you both want” he said* (*I may be making this up, but the jist is true) “and I tell you now what you want is in Wales. I require your help, brothers, and there is glory and riches to be had in the mountains!”

Due to the nature of how the game worked, I was considering Argyll more and more my new seat of power, but being Lord of the Isles granted me certain bonuses, which I kept so long as I retained direct control over one of the two Island provinces. The Southern Isles were previously held by an NPC anyway, so as far as I was concerned there had simply been a change in ownership.

I recognised Ecclair’s strength and his right to the Southern Isles – the previous tenant had been feeble, and weak. But I drew a line in the sand with my sword:

“This foolishness stops here,” I said. “If you want the Southern Isles, have them! But if you try and take the rest I will return, and I will bring allies, and either you will be crushed, or I will die fighting you to the last. Let us not make this petty feud the thing we are remembered for.”

Emachelmore agreed. It was also at this point that we were informed of an extra rule/thing that wasn’t in the rulebook – Trading/Interacting with Foreign control.  James (playing Ecmachahaka) decided that there was probably more money to be made trading overseas, and so he spent much of the next year in Europe.

As for me, I agreed to help Brodir secure his place in Gwynedd. Raising the levy of the Northern Isles, I landed my forces in North Wales and together we faced the Prince of Powys on the field of battle. It was glorious! Being the more experienced commander, Brodir naturally led our armies, but I would dare say my troops made their ancestors proud. Our forces stormed their lines, burst through their shield wall, and even the Prince of Powys himself was mortally wounded in the fight. We didn’t see him die, but we heard he perished from his wounds whilst fleeing back into the mountains in the centre of Powys.

Sadly, our enemy wasn’t so numerous that we could all share in the fame, so my part in the conquest of North Wales remains largely unremembered, although I did get some loot out of it (Me and Matt got 1 Gold each, while Matt got the Fame from being the leader).

Meanwhile, the southern lords of Wales had united under one King of South Wales, and had destroyed the Irish invaders on the shores of Dyfed. We heard stories of that great slaughter, and I must say it even inflamed my Norse sensibilities. What a fight that would have been! I wouldn’t have even cared which side I was on either, but alas…

It was at this point that the story of Wales took a darker turn. With a power vacuum in Powys, and Gwynedd more or less secure (one of the towns was holding out I think), Brodir wanted to extend his dominion across the north and centre. The Lord of Dyfed, who supposedly tipped his head to the King In the South, came to us with a proposal – help him topple the King and he would recognise Norse dominion over the north, as well as formal recognition as the Lord of Gwynedd.

A noble of Gwynedd, who looked suspiciously like the recently deceased Prince of Powys (the guy had been given a new character), had risen to prominence during the Conquest, and had pledged his household troops to Brodir. He would be installed as the new Lord or Powys, giving fealty to the Lord of Mann. Since he was welsh himself it helped keep things in balance.

It was at this point that I departed the stage of the Irish Sea, never to return as it later turned out. My good friend Brodir was more secure in his new seat of power (sadly, he would never be formally recognised as the Lord of Gwynedd, which drove him to madness), and we made promises to go a-Viking soon, probably in England which was in turmoil.

I would need a time to consolidate, raise a war chest, and ready myself, so I returned north to Scotland.

A Grand Adventure

Much had changed while I was away campaigning in Wales. Prince Owen of Strathclyde ruled his province with an iron fist, becoming  the most powerful  of the Scottish lords (he was Welsh, technically), more powerful than the King of Alba himself.

Elsewhere, Ireland had become embroiled in a bloody civil war after the High King was slain in the failed invasion of Wales. Great armies clashed in the south of England as Danes and Saxons fought desperately for the throne of England. The fighting escalated to such a scale that England as a political entity collapsed at one point – undoing all the work of Alfred the Great and his grandson Athelstan decades before.

Hwicce, which bordered Wales, had declared independence first. Mercia also rose as an independent power for a time, and eventually Northumbria broke away to form its own Kingdom, with the support of the King of Alba. I never trusted the Northumbrians. The Danes of York were weak, and had spent too long under the yolk, and the Saxons were deceitful.

Despite having peace with Scotland, I never recognised their authority, nor their right to exist.

The worst news was saved for last, however. I returned to find that my good friend Sigurd had died in his sleep, and chaos reigned over the Orkneys. Norse influence in Scotland was weakening, and if it wasn’t for my timely return we may have been done away with altogether, and my lands in Argyll could have been seized.

Tim, now playing Sigurd’s son, had a bit of a rough time of it. No sooner did he try and take possession of his father’s lands, than someone from Control turned up and contested his right to the Orkney Islands. There was a duel in which Sigurdsson AND the claimant killed each other, so Tim had been through two characters in the space of a couple of turns. The Lord of Moray meanwhile had convinced the King of Alba to give him control of Caithness (one of Sigurd’s holdings) after the great Lord’s death. It was at this point that I was thinking of taking the Orkney’s for myself.

Sigurd had been a great ally, and while I was debating whether to keep my allegiance to his son (whom I’d had no real dealings with), once he died too there was little staying my hand. Tim came up to me however and revealed that his new Character happened to be a Grandson of the King of Alba – and heir to the Scottish throne thanks to a decision made right at the beginning of the game. I think he was part Norse (and to be honest I was Norse/Irish, so it wasn’t really a question of blood), which would mean a considerable Norse influence in the Kingdom of Alba should the current King die, so I re-affirmed my loyalty to Jarl whoever-he-was (I never did learn the names of Tim’s other characters).

I spent most of this year preparing – with my position more or less safe again I decided to take my huscarls and go abroad to Foreign Control – first on a trading run to Flanders, taking Scottish timbre and wares, although I only broke even. During my visit though I learned that the Holy Roman Empire was embroiled in a revolt from the Saxons in Saxony, AND in a war with Poland. Instead of trading, I decided to take my crew of experienced warriors (heroes of the Conquest of North Wales you know) and spend a season fighting as mercenaries. According to Foreign Control we didn’t do that well, but I still came away with three gold and no tangible negative effects.

(For someone like me, 3 gold for one action was really, really good.)

Upon my return, I found that the situation had changed once again. The Irish Lords, having finally chosen a new High King, had decided to lead a grand invasion of Southern England through the South of Wales and into Bristol and Hwicce. That left Ireland more or less defenceless.

I could smell it in the air – now was the time to go Viking. Unfortunately allies were in short supply that year – Jarl Tim the Third was busy consolidating his hold over Orkney, and my good friend Brodir of Mann had become obsessed with his ventures in Wales, dragging Emachabon aong with him. That left my old rival, Prince Owen of Strathclyde.

We had never been friends (despite Tom being my best friend) – it was Norse raiders who brought about Strathclyde’s demise as a British power, and me being a belligerent and unruly Norse Pagan meant that we were wary neighbours at best. Still, I’d never attacked him, despite his attempts to undermine me. The Northumbrians had formed their own kingdom by this point, which included the province of Cumbria, a historical possession of the old Kings of Strathclyde. He didn’t trust his neighbours to the south any more than I did, and perhaps it was that mutual hatred that finally united us.

On a whim I paid the Prince a visit while he was staying at Strathclyde’s principal Harbour. I was blunt – It was the season for raiding, and I would have someone accompany me on a grand adventure, even him.

Owen was restless – he couldn’t reclaim Cumbria whilst Alba supported Northumbria, fearing the Scots wanted the Bretons gone from Scotland once and for all and only needed an excuse. Breaking the King’s peace would provide that. Still, he was restless, and he was as itching for a fight as I was. He agreed, and we both took our household troops and sailed for Ireland.

That was a strange trip, but ultimately a successful one. Somehow the Irish had caught wind of our raid, and when we landed in the North of the country our scouts reported that an army of levies had been raised to confront us. We slipped away that night and went further south, guided, I thought, by the Gods, although I never voiced my beliefs to Owen, who was devoutly Christian.

(What actually happened was that I left my map at the end of Turn 3, only to turn up at the Ireland map at the beginning of their Turn 3, due to individual maps handling the progress of the action phases differently. It gave the Irish players an un fair advantage, since Moving is always done last so they shouldn’t, in theory, have been able to react to our presence that phase. Talking it over with control, we were allowed to change our landing point at the end of the phase ready for Phase 4.)

Our sudden disappearance and reappearance must have frightened the Irish witless though. No sooner had we run ashore and spread out into the countryside than an emissary came from one of the Irish Queens and the head Christian Priest.

We later learned that their levy had been raised by the Churchmen in Ireland, who claimed to have seen a vision of our coming. However, their God didn’t tell them we moved south, and so were caught completely out of position. By the time a new levy could have been raised and/or the first one rushed south, we would have done our damage and would be long gone. It was also nearing harvest season and it would prove impossible to keep the levies together when that happened.

The Queen in Ireland (I was never sure if it was a Queen or THE Queen, although that question was to be answered soon enough), and the high Bishop knew that, so we proposed a deal – Pay us, and we shall go away.

(We were paid two gold each, which was more than we could have physically achieved on our own had we just attacked the land.)

A very strange, but a very successful trip.

End of Part Two | Read Part OneRead Part Three

This is my report from the Come to a King Megagame that took place on Saturday, 14th November 2015. You may have read reports of mine from previous games – Watch the Skies 2 & Watch the Skies 3. This post will mainly focus on the narrative of my personal game, and so there will be a lot of context and wider elements missing.

Due to length, this will be split into three parts, with the final post finishing with some thoughts on the most salient points in terms of feedback.

Thanks once again to Andrew for putting on a great day, and thank you to Control and everyone else involved.

Come to a King was a very different prospect than WTS on many levels – it was smaller, for one thing, with no more than 50 – 70 people in attendance (I didn’t actually count so that’s entirely made up), and instead of teams representing nations, you played a specific character in 11th century England, a time that saw a lot of change and upheaval across the British Isles. It was down to you to make your own alliances and make your own mark in the world.

As a Lord, you owned lands that you could tax & invest in, raise troops from, and there were a number of other actions you could do as well, but you were limited to four actions a turn. Wars could be fought, Lands seized and Towns besieged, but high level play revolved around the politics of Titles and Kingdoms. There were several Kingdoms in existence at the start of the game, and many that could be created either through politicking or by the sword. Kings and other prominent Lords held councils, and it was down to everyone else to decide who to show fealty to.

The scene: two Kings claimed ownership over the throne of England – Athelred the Ill-Counselled in exile in Normandy, with King Swegan of Denmark having just usurped his crown. There was discontent in the North, which had always been rebellious and independent minded. The Welsh were at each other’s throats, as usual, and a massive civil brewed in Ireland as High King Brian tried to keep the Irish Kingdoms in line. King Malcolm in Scotland was trying to keep his modest Scottish Kingdom together, surrounded as he was by unruly Norse neighbours ( namely me), disgruntled Britons in Strathclyde and ambitious Lords from within.

I played Jarl Gilli, a Norse/Irish Viking Lord located mainly in the Hebrides in the Irish Sea, just off the coast of Scotland. What did I want? I was a pagan, clinging to the edges of a Christian world hungry for power, glory and a good woman to call my own. I had friends. I had enemies.

I was a Viking, Lord of the Isles, and this is my story.

Lord of Land & Sea

All I knew prior to the game was that I was Lord of the ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ Isles (an abstraction of the Hebrides and other island bits just off the coast of Scotland), and that I would probably have some kind of relationship with Jarl Sigurd of the Orkney Islands, who was my nominal superior according to the one piece of text that references my character.

When I arrived, I found that I was indeed Lord of the Isles, although I only had direct control over the Northern Isles as an NPC held the Southern Isles. Still, since I held the ‘Title’, I got a bonus gold each turn. Sigurd was indeed my ally and sort-of overlord, and my enemies were the Lord of Galloway, and Owen of Strathclyde (who was played by my best-friend, which scuppered all the plans we’d made on the train ride up). I also owned some land in Argyll, on the Scottish mainland, which was a pleasant surprise, although it did tie my destiny more to Scotland than I had anticipated.

The ‘turn’ is split into two parts – a Council phase and then a four successive action phases. The turn is meant to represent a year. Going to a council means you’re showing fealty to whoever is holding the council, but it also means you can benefit from whatever policies the King/Great Lord wants to enact for the year and it’s the easiest way to get lands, titles etc…

I wasn’t sure where to go first turn –a vague plan to start land-grabbing in Scotland meant that I couldn’t attend the council there (otherwise I would be penalised by the game), and there was no council local to the Irish Sea, my official starting location. I decided to attend the Rebel Irish council just to feel out the situation there, and because Sigurd, my boss, historically helped the Rebel Irish and Danes fight the High King.

It was a bit bleak since I was only person to turn up, but we had a nice chat and I bid him good luck when all was done.

Back in Argyll, it turned out I shared the province with an NPC who owned the other bit of land. I wanted him to recognise me as his overlord and pay me dues, but a conversation with control determined that the only way to really make the most of this was to seize his lands for myself, which I did. This got some of the other lords of Alba (the primary Kingdom in Scotland) a little bit concerned; however Jarl Sigurd (who was tied to the King of Alba through marriage) managed to convince them that if they gave me what I wanted I wouldn’t cause any more trouble.

I cared not who sat on the throne of Alba – I was Viking! I took what I wanted, but I was also smart enough to jump through some hoops where necessary. Next turn I showed fealty to the King and swore to keep the peace, and in return he formally made me Jarl of all Argyll, something that had specific in-game benefits. There were grumblings from Strathclyde, who neighboured Argyll and was played by my friend. We were enemies, so he was playing up his role and trying to be a dissenting voice.

The Abbot for the Scotland map, whose name I forget, also objected since I was a Pagan, but I said I would let Christian Priests walk freely through my land. I wouldn’t convert myself, as my faith was my own, but I wouldn’t stop people choosing freely either.

It was handy having Jarl Sigurd as an ally in Scotland, and Tim was generally a really nice guy. It would be awkward when I came to betray him, as my briefing suggested I should eventually, but for the moment we were allies and we plotted the fate of Alba together while we prepared for the coming year.

End of Part One | Read Part TwoRead Part Three

Hey Sports-fans,

So last week I posted about my experiences in Watch the Skies 3, which was hella-fun. Now, having had some time to reflect, I’d like to talk about three key tweaks I’d like to make to the game.

This post might read a little weird as I’ve essentially pasted the email I sent to the admins, as they need the feedback too and I don’t want to re-write.

Thoughts are appreciated!

Press Interaction

Idea: To split the Paper (layout-wise) into two distinct halves – Regional News & Headlines. In the Regiona News section, Press have a quota of one story per continent with players. Headline half is the same as always.

Thinking: I don’t have a problem with the press game, and if this idea is rejected it’s not going to ruin anything for me, but I do believe it can be tweaked to make the… relationship between Teams and Press a little bit fairer for everyone involved.

I’ve already spoken to Becky about this idea for some feedback from her end of things, and she said she was on board with it.

Essentially, in a game with 300 people all collaborating and being smart and doing *things*, many, many teams are going to lose out in the press game. It’s just a fact – too much going on, not enough spaces in the paper.

That’s fine – but It’s one of those things where between Nations doing things and the presence of Aliens and talking whales, a lot can get lost in a game, and yet as human national (and corps) teams, we’re still told to court the press, to try and get good coverage to boost ourselves. But not all of us get to interact with the aliens and whales or do something crazy like blow up a Eurovision team. As a specific example to Nigeria:

  • We bribed FIFA to hold the 2030 World Cup in Nigeria. To be fair, Becky said she was going to print this but she forgot about it due to technical snafus, so that was bad luck.
  • Nigeria cleaned up the ocean several times. We were specifically told by local control to go to the press and tell them, but the press didn’t report on it so we didn’t get anything.
  • Nigeria bribed a whole American Old Tech Corps to their side. A reporter came over to ask a few questions, but nothing went in the paper.

Now – I’m not upset by any of this. We had a great game without the press boosts. Like I said: someone always has to lose out because it’s a competition for the news slots.

My only concern is that as a nation it’s hard to just make something up that’s newsworthy, as that’s not in the spirit of the game. It’s not something you can force, or engineer – either something interesting enough happens or it doesn’t, depending on how your game unfolds. Random chance and ‘reasons’ also don’t help a nation’s odds of getting featured, and then it’s really easy to lose out to an exotic story. This tweak allows nations to compete in two ways – on the regional level for a ‘local’ story, and then if their game is particularly interesting then there’s the global headline stage as well.

My resoning for wanting to make this fairer is BECAUSE it’s something we’re told to interact with, and get rewarded for. I’d like to think I’m not fundementally changing how the press works, just that they give more consideration to regional stories as well as their headlines. Boring stories will always be ignored, but interesting stories that arn’t quite as interesting as aliens or whales stand a better chance of featuring.

To use real-world precedent – many global news services have regional sections that fill up news from a specific international area, separate from the headlines. There’s always something going on so these sections can always get filled, and even if nothing interesting happens that turn in a region… well, welcome to real life. You ever read a local newspaper? They still have to report news, even if that news is just a cat getting stuck in a drainpipe. Besides, there are enough wonderfully creative people in a region that something is bound to happen, so it just means the regional reporter has to try a little bit harder to find out what it is.

Permit Cards

Idea: Expand Permit Cards to other areas of the game that rely heavily on controlled interaction or specific pre-requisities. Save Control a lot of work.

Thinking: The talking language permit cards worked wonderfully well. Helped keep the player base honest I think and focused a lot of interaction around seeking out one of these cards.

I personally think this should be expanded to other concepts – such as travelling up into Space. I know you had to stop people going upstairs who didn’t have a spaceship, so perhaps this could also be controlled by cards.

So to go up to the alien balcony, you’d need either:

  • An alien player with you.
  • A ‘Travel to Space’ permit card, (Or a ‘Spaceship’ card) which you get when you collect some pre-requisite techs or something. Or be with someone who has that card.

I think it’ll help keep the player-base honest again, save you from having to act as a bouncer, and again prove a focal point for interactions.

Terror Track

Idea: Evauate Terror Track’s purpose, influences, and how that fits in with how the game is evolving from an ‘Enemy Unknown’ to a ‘Enemy Known’ situation.

Thinking: Again, I don’t really have a problem with the terror track. I wonder if it needs evaluating though for WTS4?

Basically – the Aliens are known about in WTS3. In our region, a few nations even actively encouraged them to come down, do stuff on the operational map… and yet the terror track still went up. The operational game almost goads you into shooting down UFO’s because if you do you get Good Stuff(TM), if you don’t your regional terror goes up and then Bad Stuff™ happens. But you don’t really want to shoot them down as you want to have a dialogue. Which requires them to come down to Earth. Which puts the terror track up.

It’s possible I missed something important behind the scenes, but from where I was sitting there seemed to be a genuine disconnect between the Operational and Diplomatic/Politica portion of the game in this regard. Our own national policy was to not shoot down UFOs, something all Africa agreed on and many African nations had working Alien relations. Yet turn after turn I had to watch the regional terror track go up every-time a UFO turned up, and I found myself wondering why that was happening and what I could really do about it.

The terror track was perfect for WTS1 & 2 – aliens were unknown, strange events kept happening, and people naturally freaked the hell out. Nations had to balance between trying to open a dialogue with these visitors, and keeping their skies clear and their people happy.

In the WTS3 and I imagine even more so in WTS4, the game has changed, evolved. The Aliens aren’t an unknown force anymore, so what does the Terror Track represent now? What factors influence it’s rise and fall? Depending on what WTS4 is going to be about (it’s called Global Apocalypse?), I can see a terror track being needed, but does it need to evolve as the game is evolving? Do you need to make players more aware as to it’s changing nature and what influences it? Otherwise a team’s default policy might as well be “Shoot Everything” and know your public will love you for it, because terror is an Important Thing(TM).