Assorted minor updates

Just posted a minor update to the Logistics branch rules. Also added notes on the maps page as to how many play­ers each map is for.

Other than that, lately I have been work­ing mostly on pieces for Empire. Well, by “lately” I mean I did a bunch of work last spring, and then dusted it off again this week to work on it some more. I still some­times toy with the idea of set­ting up a play-​​by-​​email (PBEM) game, and of course some kind of dig­i­tal pieces are a pre-​​requisite for that. So by pieces I mean some­thing dig­i­tal, that could also be printed out and used on cardstock.

Being a font per­son, the first step that was obvi­ous to me was to start by fig­ur­ing out icons/​visuals, and then put them in a font. That’s com­ing along. I have nearly 40 counter designs done, plus graph­ics lined up  for another dozen. However, the game will require at least twice that. I think one could rea­son­ably not bother with coun­ters for “Whoopies” (con­sumer goods) but even so, there are many more pieces needed.

It’s been an inter­est­ing exer­cise. I went with tra­di­tional wargame/​military sym­bols (NATO APP-​​6) for land mil­i­tary units. Naval units were going to be hard, until I dis­cov­ered that the Soviet Union had some nice sym­bols for those. Those might be arguably from a dif­fer­ent era, but they are a start.

For air units I started out with some kind of goofy sym­bols sup­pos­edly used by NATO and west­ern coun­tries, but I am not sure I will stick with them… they are awfully clut­tered and fid­dly look­ing. I think I can see why wargames mostly do not use them.

Most of these I drew from scratch, but at a scale to be com­pat­i­ble with Tom Mouat’s MapSymbs fonts.

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Spring Cleaning

I just deleted a ton of spam-​​type users and installed some secu­rity on user reg­is­tra­tions. I tried to save the hand­ful of “real peo­ple.” If you were a real user and got deleted, I’m sorry about that, you’ll have to re-​​register.

Currently work­ing on a font of sym­bols for Empire pieces. More soon!

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More history transcripts

I’ve just added three more tran­scripts to the “History Resources” page:


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Wiki & Forum

I just installed some Forum infra­struc­ture. I have yet to cus­tomize it, or set up any sec­tions within the forum, but it is there and should be work­ing… look under the Community menu in the nav bar. (I guess you know where that is if you’re read­ing this blog post.)

I have yet to decide on a Wiki, but one thing at a time.

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Rules & survey

As men­tioned last post, I have been hard at work on a new ver­sion of the Logistics branch of the rules (v 4.0 alpha 3). I posted it at the bot­tom of the rules page over the week­end. I am pleased because I think I may have finally ironed out the last of the egre­gious issues I cre­ated when branch­ing and “improv­ing” in the first place, while keep­ing some gen­uine improve­ments (like the glos­sary and reor­ga­ni­za­tion). This descen­dant of the clas­sic rules is nearly ready for prime time.

One thing I am look­ing for is some more feed­back on a few remain­ing rules issues, and towards that end I posted a sur­vey. If you have played Empire before, or have some stake in these new rules, please check it out!

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Blog launch & site news

Maybe this won’t be a last­ing fea­ture of the site, but since we’re using WordPress for con­tent man­age­ment, and it is first and fore­most a blog­ging sys­tem, I thought I would go ahead and use the blog.

First up, I was think­ing of imple­ment­ing a Wiki and/​or a forum as well for any­one who wishes to con­tribute to the site. The pur­pose of the wiki would mostly be to define game con­cepts or write up his­tor­i­cal game inci­dents. The pur­pose of a forum would be more for per­sonal rem­i­nis­cences and chat­ting. If you would con­tribute to one or both of these, please com­ment on this post as to what you want to see. Not much point in doing either unless there would be enough peo­ple using them.

Also, if you want to help and you are a web developer/​designer, a for­mer Empire player who has seri­ous mate­r­ial to con­tribute, or some­body who wants to make new Empire mate­r­ial (maps, game pieces, what­ever), please get in touch. The more the merrier!

Also, though there are but­tons on the bot­tom of every page to “like” that page on Facebook, there’s also a Facebook page for Empire. Feel free to go there and become a “fan”… once we hit 25 fans we can get a cus­tom URL, as the cur­rent one is kinda lame: http://​www​.face​book​.com/​p​a​g​e​s​/​E​m​p​i​r​e​-​t​h​e​-​b​o​a​r​d​-​g​a​m​e​-​f​r​o​m​-​R​e​e​d​-​C​o​l​l​e​g​e​/​1​9​3​8​1​2​4​2​7​3​0​8​847. Though I admit, some­thing about ask­ing for fans, which of course requires peo­ple to go use Facebook, feels vaguely unsa­vory to me. It’s like there’s some sort of pyra­mid scheme involv­ing encour­ag­ing Facebook users to spend more time there.

In other news, yes­ter­day I had lunch with Andrew Nisbet, whose name is all over this site as the main keeper of Empire lore, knowl­edge and rules since the late 1960s. Not only did we have a nice meal, but he con­tin­ued to enlighten me on a vari­ety of things which of course will all be reflected here.…

Thanks to our dis­cus­sions, in the past 24 hours or so I have added sev­eral para­graphs to the Detailed History, mostly about pieces and such. Here is what’s new:

Over time, the usage of pieces ver­sus records in Empire changed sig­nif­i­cantly. In the late 1960s, there were pieces for every­thing in Empire, includ­ing even some immo­bile things such as fac­to­ries. Of course, a city held too many things to keep them all in one space on the board, so play­ers used a set of egg car­tons to con­tain the con­tents of all the cities. You could take them out as needed dur­ing the turn, and at the end of the turn you would dump all your city con­tents back into them.

Eventually records reduced the need for hav­ing quite so many pieces, and keep­ing so many on the board. City sheets tracked every­thing in a city at the end of the turn, and so did away with the egg car­tons. Had-​​Used-​​Produced (HUP) sheets allowed you to track what you built. That being said, there were still pieces being used all the way up to the end of the clas­sic Empire period (the mid-​​1980s), but by then play­ers just pulled pieces out of a box, used them dur­ing their turn to fig­ure out their moves, and then put them away after updat­ing their record sheets at the end of the turn.

One of the lim­it­ing fac­tors within the game was the avail­abil­ity of worker units (known as “coolies”) to move key resources from their pro­duc­tion sites to fac­to­ries and between fac­to­ries. The intri­cate move­ments with work­ers mov­ing things from one place to another and free work­ers com­ing back to replace them became known as “coolie shuf­fles.” Whether because of com­plex­ity or temp­ta­tion to cheat (in the face of lim­ited numbers/​locations of work­ers), some play­ers would end up doing shuf­fles that were not in fact pos­si­ble within the rules. “Checking people’s coolie shuf­fles became a rit­ual pas­time,” says Nisbet. If look­ing at another player’s records revealed a shuf­fle that seemed implau­si­ble, if you were not your­self a vet­eran player, doing such check­ing involved get­ting an expe­ri­enced player to see if they could come up with a way to repli­cate the same change from start­ing posi­tion to an end­ing posi­tion for the turn. If not, a chal­lenge might be made to the player’s records for them to demon­strate how they got from their start­ing point to their end­ing point for that turn.

I also cor­rected some info on the maps page, notably the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and attri­bu­tion of two of the maps. I had man­aged to mis­la­bel Ackerman II as the long lost Ackerman I, and the map I was call­ing Ackerman II was in fact a map by Andrew Nisbet. Oops! All fixed now.

Next I will be back to edit­ing my rules variant/​descendant, the “Logistics branch” of the Empire rules. One thing I have been focused on is the “func­tional delta” between those rules and Andrew’s. By this I don’t mean so much the reor­ga­ni­za­tion and clar­i­fi­ca­tions, or adding a glos­sary, but the actual func­tional changes that I put in. There is one thing that is arguably a good idea in the­ory, but incom­pat­i­ble with pre-​​existing maps, is get­ting rid of sub-​​squares (the ones cre­ated by geog­ra­phy, not those inside cities). But most of the changes had side effects that I didn’t fully grasp with­out hav­ing played more. So I’ve been iden­ti­fy­ing those changes and rolling them back, try­ing to get to the point where the Logistics branch is not so much an arbi­trary vari­ant, but mostly a more detailed/​complete/​reorganized ver­sion of the clas­sic rules, that incor­po­rates clar­i­fi­ca­tions and addenda that came up since. It is get­ting there, one step at a time.

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