Subject: Re: Alterra
Status: ON 32768
Mailed To: (email address omitted to protect the correspondant's privacy)

I have read through Alterra, but only once. There are a few questions, a few typos and some really great stuff there. I especially like the idea that players can be corporations as well as nations!

Thanks. I'm pleased with the concept (if not the execution) myself.

The system seems a bit incomplete, though. I assume it hasn't been through much play-testing. Also, some game mechanics could be simplified without loss of realism, I think.

Actually, it hasn't been through _any_ playtesting. I'm looking for comment from anyone interested in giving it; after a suitable time and whatever modifications seem warranted, I'd like to try a playtest. I have no schedule for all this, though. There are unfortunately many other things clamoring for my attention these days.

Two questions from the top of my head (or whatever that idiom is): Which points are area-specific? The rules are a bit unclear, especially about TRA points. Also, the rules governing internal transports aren't clear.

POP, AGR, RES, and IND are area-specific. TRA points aren't localized, but represent transport capability (highways, rail lines, and airports in addition to trucks, trains, and airplanes, plus the energy production needed to fuel it all). As in [7.1], all the appropriate points are added together, and the sum is divided by 10. That gives the number of TRA points needed that turn to assure that all needed goods are distributed properly. Any remaining TRA points can be used for external trade. I notice just now that there's no mention of the effect of not having enough TRA points to distribute all your points; I'll have to address that.

Can new IND points be bought?

Yes. In [6.2], it is confusingly explained. To build an IND point requires 3 RES points, any combination of 3 POP and/or MEC points, and 2 M$. And of course, a preexisting IND point to allow the production.

In a few days I'll be back with a more complete list of questions and rules suggestions. I think it's a good system that may need a little tweaking to become great. As I'm only an engineering student, take all my economy suggestions with a grain of salt. Do you have any experience with economics?

I took some courses in economics in school (many years ago). That's all my experience, unless you include trying to raise a family. Now there's economic experience for you!

2.0 The text says that MEC points are equal to POP points in all respects except when it comes to food, consumer and resource expidenture. Is it possible to have a nation occupied only by machines instead of people? I'm not trying to raise a philosophical question here (althogh the subject is interesting), rather trying to get a better understanding of the rules. If POP points are required for something else, that should be written in section 2.0.

[6.1] requires at least one POP point per area be allocated to agriculture. [6.21] requires each producing IND point to have at least one POP point assigned to it. No, you can't have a nation without people, as interesting as that would be.

6.2, 6.21 Do IND points need POP points to operate or will MEC points do just as well?

After the required one POP point per IND point is allocated, either MEC of POP points will do the same thing.

6.3 Are there both renewable and non-renewable resources on the map? If so, it should be made clear. Also, I think exploration would be more realistic and easier to handle if ALL resources are placed on the map from the beginning, but some are unknown and have to be found by exploration. As it is now, what you can find is a function of what you already have (as I understand it). Also, can resorces run out, and what happens if they do? After a century or so of game time, the game may turn into a bitter fight over dwindling supplies, eventually leading to a 100% agricultural economy.

You're right, it's not clear that both renewable and non-renewable resources are located on the map. I'll fix that. The game starts with some resources being known about. The exploration rule is intended to allow players to increase the resources available to them, although not without some effort and cost. We could plot all the resources at the beginning of the game and slowly reveal them as players explore for them, but I don't see what advantage that method has over randomly assigning the resources to an area when they are discovered. Besides, as needs become more acute, previously uneconomical resources (ones that cost too much to process to be worth developing) often become cost-effective. This would (lazy me) be very complicated to properly model, I think. Better to abstract it. And yes, if a player doesn't keep an eye on his or her resources they could run out. Then there's trouble. It's unfortunately fairly realistic in that respect.

7.21 (Surplus food and resources cause loss of production.) What is the reason/rationale for this rule? Isn't it a bit harsh?

When there's too much of a product on the market, the value of each added increment of that product goes down. As it becomes less profitable to produce the product, marginal operations go out of business, and larger ones furlough or lay off workers until the surplus is reduced. It's harsh, but on the whole realistic, I think.

7.3 Is unemployment area-specific?

No. Since population can be moved as needed, that didn't seem necessary.

8 What do players know about each other from the beginning and what do they need intelligence to know?

Players know the initial setups (number of various points, technology levels) of the other players, to an accuracy of 90%. This means that there's a very good chance that any specific piece of information you have on another country or agency is accurate, but that it's almost guaranteed that a few of your numbers are wrong by up to 10%. As the game progresses, any new knowledge is found through intelligence-gathering, voluntary sharing by players, or paying others to do the intelligence-gathering for you. And of course, there's never more than a 90% chance it's accurate _then_.

8.22 Do force multipliers resulting form military intelligence affect all of a nation's divisions/wings/task forces? How long does it last?

Currently yes, but I'm open to influence that it should be branch-specific, meaning separate ratings for divisions, wings, and task forces. It's a trade off between realism and playability. It lasts permanently, at least for the course of the game. I don't think the game will often go over 15-20 turns.

8.25 Military units can destroy TRA units, but if TRA aren't on the map, how do you know if they are in the same area as the military unit?

Boy, did I have a hard time finding the answer to that one! I'll have to rewrite that section to make it much clearer. TRA points carrying goods for external trade can move 10 areas per turn [8.231]. All moving units expend 1 movement point, then they all expend a second point, etc., until all units have moved as far as desired. If opposing units ever occupy the same area, combat ensues. If two countries have task forces in the same sea area, and one has TRA points also, if the one without the TRA points wins the combat, it can destroy the number of TRA points equal to the strength difference between the two sides [8.27]. Otherwise, a country with MIL units in an area with TRA points belonging to an opposing country can destroy as many TRA points as there are MIL units in the area [8.25].

8.28 Shouldn't it be possible to completely assimilate a conquered area, so guerillas disappear? Are the guerillas there for the rest of the game?

Probably. The Palestinians have been fighting a guerrilla war with the Israelis for at least 25 years. Besides, in this game guerrillas only appear in occupied areas. If a country is beaten badly and is forced to cede an area to the victor, there aren't guerrillas in the ceded area anymore.

9.14 What is the definition of "invaded"? Does invasion end when hostilities end or when all lost land is reclaimed?

Foreign troops on your soil is my definition of invaded. If you kick them all off the invasion has ended, although the hostilities may not have. Also, if they leave as part of a negotiated settlement the invasion is over.

12 Different victory conditions, great!! This way there can be several winners. But why not make it possible that everyone can loose too? After a game, nations can be given a rating, from one to four.

1.Achieved nation-specific victory conditions
2.Achieved general victory conditions
3.Didn't achieve any victory conditions
4.Nation is in considerably worse shape than at beginning of game

With these ratings, cooperation can be more constructive and longer-lasting than the double-dealing of Diplomacy, just like the REAL world. Nigeria cooperates with the US because they know they will be worse off if they don't. If Nigeria refrains from cooperation it's NOT because they worry about US 'winning' the game of world dominance. With ratings you can also include nuclear weapons. A nation at current rating 3 will probably sink to rating 4 if they unleash a nuclear holocaust. The 'if I loose everybody should loose' behaviour is discouraged. Also, powerful nations may not want to drive weaker ones into the ground (rating 4), as that MAY cause acts of despair. Just like in the real world.

This bears thinking about. Could you come up with some possibilities for me (and anyone else who wants to) to look over?

Note: Martin never did come up with anything along this line, but I did rough out some rules for "weapons of mass destruction" that I think could simulate a Cold War style arms race (everybody has to have them, but everybody's afraid to use them). I haven't added these into the base rules yet due to sloth on my part.

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