Re: "Simultaneous execution" vs. phases-and-points

Ed Bailey (
Fri, 23 Sep 1994 15:52:21 -0500

Rich, I may use some analogies from Game System Incorporated's
Middle-Earth game. [The other "empire" PBM with which I have
more-than-passing-familiarity.] Feel free to ask questions if
my references are nonsensical.

Rich Skrenta <> writes:
> My question is:
> Do you consider "simultaneous execution" to be a significant,
> desirable and/or essential feature?

Simultaneous execution is one of the most charming and endearing and
"best" features of Olympia. Olympia would be a much worse game without

> And if so, why?
> Apparently many people think so, and I'm trying to figure out just
> what it is about simultaneous execution that's so great.

It models the "real world" much better. And it allows for a much greater
variety of order priorities and options.

A phase system binds you into a particular order of events. Attack, then
transfer items and troops, then economics, then recruiting, then this, then

What if I want to "this, then that" one turn and "that, then this" on the
next? In Oly, it's no problem. In a "phased" system it's impossible.

Also, with "days" you can do things in the middle of the turn. I can
move one provence, cut wood, move another, catch horses, move into town,
buy & sell, etc. I *can't* do that in a phased system.

> Now I chose simultaneous execution because it seemed more realistic,
> and less game-like to me. But now it seems to me that atmosphere is
> its only advantage.
> Consider the advantages of phases-and-points:
> o Order failures don't cascade.

Order failures wouldn't "cascade" because you wouldn't have the same
depth of action available.

Failures also cascade because Oly doesn't have an IF-ELSE construct
(and shouldn't, or Oly becomes a programming contest).

Also, many failures can be dealt with by careful order design. This is
probably one of the *largest* advantages that experienced players have
over newbies.

> o Since points may be allocated differently for different
> commands, it's easier to tune the system.

I don't understand this comment. You could do the same thing in Oly
by changing the number of days it takes to complete a command.

> o None of this confusing priority, who-goes-first,
> what's-the-timing-on-this-order-going-to-be-stuff.

It's not that confusing once you get bit by it once or twice and realize
"hey, this is important, I should pay attention.

> Consider STUDY. Instead of varying the amount of time a study order
> takes, let's say we charge study points for the various skills. A
> 1 week skill in Olympia would cost 1 point, etc. We give players 5
> study points to start with, and an extra point each turn.

Right now, there is a major tradeoff in when and how much to study.
Early studying gets you the skills you want *right*now*, but spreading
out studying is more efficient.

Seems that this suggestion would eliminate tradeoff, since you could
study just ... whenever.

Also, if STUDY points accumulated, they would eventually become a joke.
There are only *so*many* skills that a noble wants, but this might
encourage people to get arbitrarily large numbers of skills.

> If a player misses a turn, and consequently misses his chance to study
> that turn, he hasn't really lost anything, since the study potential is
> tracked as points.

"If a player misses a turn", he should be in trouble. You're eliminating
a penalty for people who are not interested in playing the game.

> Confusing issues such as "what happens to my study orders while I've
> moving, or on a ship?" go away.

The solution is simple: better player education, not dumbing the system.

Also, it might be good to make simple, easy to remember rules and put them
in FAQ/rules/game-intro/play-hints/whatever. Something like "Moving takes
all a noble's time and he can do nothing else while moving.
Trust me, these are the kinds of mistakes that players make twice. :)

> So phases-and-points is easier to tune, makes player turns more robust,
> and is generally more flexible to work with than basing everything on
> time (note that even in Oly II we had to resort to "points" for one
> thing -- nobles. I used only time and gold in Oly I, and I couldn't
> tune it.)

Personally, I see noble points as a "constant" -- the extra one or two
that you get isn't enough to make a real difference. It's kind of like
a bonus prize for staying the game. :)

In summary, I like Olympia just the way it is.

Ed Bailey
OS&S, ip9

Ed Bailey                | Voice: (512) 471-4198   Fax: (512) 471-6715
Inst. for Fusion Studies | Internet: bailey@{hagar,ziggy},
Univ. of Texas at Austin |, or
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