These are some notes for the design of a play-by-email-style game I'm thinking
of developing. Comments and suggestions welcome.
In Espionage, each player controls a race of beings which wars with
other races for control of territory. A race gains superiority by
developing weapon and defense technologies and spying on other races to
discover their strengths and weaknesses and steal their technologies. The
struggle continues until one race emerges as the victor and all others
are obliterated from the universe.
Espionage - a Multiplayer Strategy Game
The game is played on a hex grid of territories. Each player begins
owning one territory, and the rest of the territories are unclaimed.
As the game progresses, territories are claimed and change hands until
all territories are owned by one player, who is then the winner.
Each race has a set of available technologies, each of which has
an associated technology level. Each technology also has a corresponding
and counter-technology level. Each race is considered to have a
unique variation on each class of technology, and a corresponding variation
of counter-technology is required to oppose it.
The classes of technology are:
At the beginning of the game, each race has Level 1 of each of the following
There is a set of weapon types, fixed before the start
of the game. Not all races necessarily begin with all weapon types, but
they may acquire other races' weapon technologies as the game progresses.
For each race and weapon type there is a defense technology
which counters it.
Each race has an encryption technology used to create
ciphers for encoding attack orders.
For each race's encryption technology there is a decryption
technology for breaking their ciphers.
Each race has espionage techniques for obtaining information
about other races' technologies.
For each races's espionage techniques, there are counter-espionage
techniques for catching and interrogating spies.
Their own version of some subset of the weapon types
Their own Encryption technology
Their own Espionage technology
Counter-technologies to all technologies possessed by other races
Play progresses in turns. At each turn, each player decides what
he will perform during that turn, without seeing any of the planned actions
of other players. When all players have decided on their actions, the actions
are carried out in parallel, and then the results of each player's actions
are presented to that player.
At each turn, each player has a number of action points to distribute
among the available actions. The number of action points per turn is equal
to the number of territories owned by the player. Unused action points
are lost and do not carry over into the next turn.
The possible actions are:
A player may attempt to colonise an unclaimed territory which is adjacent
to one of his own territories. If no other player attempts to colonise
the territory in the same turn, the claim is uncontested and the territory
becomes owned by the colonising player. If two or more players attempt
to colonise the same territory in the same turn, their forces withdraw
and the territory remains unclaimed.
Colonisation requires 1 action point (whether successful or not).
A territory owned by an opposing player may be attacked if it is adjacent
to one of the attacking player's territories. An attack is carried out
using a specified:
Number of action points
Encryption technology for encoding the orders
The outcome of the attack depends on the relative technology levels of
the weapon being used (Tw) and the opponent's defense
to that weapon (Td):
If the encryption technology level used to encode the orders is less than
or equal to the opponent's corresponding decryption technology level, the
opponent intercepts the orders. In that case, the element of surprise is
lost and the effective values of Td and Ns
are increased by 1.
If Tw > Td, the attack succeeds.
If Tw < Td, the attack fails.
If Tw = Td, the outcome depends on
the number of action points allocated to the attack (Na)
and the number of supporting territories (Ns).
A supporting territory is another territory owned by the opponent which
is adjacent to the attacked territory.
If Na > Ns, the attack succeeds.
If Na <= Ns, the attack fails.
A player may devote action points towards increasing the technology level
of any technology available to his race, subject to the constraints detailed
below. When researching a technology, the action points allocated are added
to a count of research points for the technology. When the number of research
points reaches the current level of the technology, the technology level
increases by 1 and the research points counter is reset. Thus, a technology
at level T requires T research points in order to increase
it to level T+1.
The constraints on research are:
A race may always research an improvement to any of its own technologies.
A race may research an improvement to a counter-technology (Defense, Decryption,
Counter-Espionage) for another race's offensive technology (Weapon, Encryption,
Espionage), but only up to the highest level of that offensive technology
that has been used against it so far.
A race cannot research an improvement to another race's offensive technology
(Weapon, Encryption, Espionage).
A player may spy on another race to gain information about that
race's technology levels and to acquire technology from them. Spying
is carried out using a specified:
Target technology area
Number of action points
The target technology area can be a general technology class or
weapon type, or it may refer to a particular technology of a particular
race. The goal may be one of:
Whether or not the spying succeeds depends on the relative levels of the
espionage technique used (Te) and the opponent's corresponding counter-espionage
technique (Tc), as well as the goal of the spying.
Attempt to find out what level of technology the opponent has.
Attempt to steal the specified technology.
If the goal is Gather Intelligence, the spying succeeds if Te
>= Tc. The spying race gains knowledge of the level
of technology (not the technology itself) possessed by the spied-upon race
for up to Na technologies covered by the specified
target technology area, where Na is the number
of action points allocated. Information already known by the spying race
is not included. If there are less than Na pieces
of new information available, only the number available is returned (but
action points are still used).
If the goal is Acquire Technology, the target technology area must specify
a particular technology of a particular race, and success requires that
Te > Tc. If successful, the spying race gains access to the next higher
level of that technology from the one it already possesses (or level 1
if it did not previously possess it), provided the spied-upon race has
at least that level of the technology. Whether successful or not, 2 action
points are required.
If the spying fails, the spy is captured an interrogated, and [...what?]
A player may send an informal, free-format text message to another player.
Players are also permitted to communicate by any other means outside the
game. Because of this, sending a message requires no action points.
A player may trade technologies by agreement with another player. The trading
process takes place in three phases over three turns:
Since offering a technology for trade betrays the fact that a player possesses
that technology, players may find it advantageous to begin negotiations
using informal messages before making a formal offer.
Player A selects a set of technologies to offer for trade to Player B.
Any level of technology can be offered, up to the level currently possessed.
Player A may optionally attach a message indicating what sort of technologies
he would like to receive in return.
Player B decides whether to reject the offer, in which case the trading
process goes no further, or to make a counteroffer by selecting a set of
technologies to offer in return.
Player A decides whether to accept or reject the trade. If accepted, the
technologies offered by each party become available to the other party.
[Should trading require action points?]