Archive for the 'Heads of State' Category

Interregnum: Another Short Game about Tyrants

December 20, 2011

This is a preliminary draft, inspired by Heads of State, which Mark Vallianatos and I will collaboratively develop into a one-page or one-spread dedication to his anthology. It still needs some work, but the core seems solid.

Your homeland has recently joined the modern world, throwing off the shackles of colonialism and/or the clutches of a dying monarchy, becoming not a kingdom or protectorate but an independent nation-state. Or, at least, that was the plan. In practice, no single leader or coalition exerts complete authority, despite various claims to a mandate to rule. Instead, each player represents a warlord, strongman, party chief, dynastic heir, puppet ruler, soldier of fortune, or foreign military governor. The game ends when one player has consolidated their rule and suppressed other challengers, at least for the time being.

Take an index card and write the following on it, in consultation with the other players:

  • Your role in the glorious and successful national liberation movement, which may include your relationship with the other players. You may not have actually fought on the side of the revolutionaries, serving the dying monarchy or foreign occupiers instead, at least at first.
  • 2-3 ways you seek to improve your country’s lot, either domestically or internationally.
  • 2-3 values you seek to uphold as a political leader, proving that you are better than the jackals and vultures who have ruled this land for so long.

Find or create a map showing the former borders of the dead empire or colony that you have inherited. First, mark the boundaries of any neighboring states or colonies, ensuring that at least one — during the chaos of the glorious liberation — has claimed territories traditionally a part of your country. Then, each player should claim their own area of control, adhering to or ignoring boundaries previously drawn by the other players as they please. Any territory claimed by multiple players or neighboring states is considered “contested”; shade those portions to indicate that no one is fully in control of those areas.

Take turns. On your turn, describe a single “move” you make, using your authority as a political leader. This can by anything you like: conducting a military campaign, levying taxes, redistributing land, freeing the serfs, nationalizing industries, holding an election, etc. You are obviously involved in multiple efforts, but this is the highlight of your activities this year.

If no other player resists your effort, it happens. As the person with the power to make it happen however you want, you decide what the results are, but every other player proposes a possible consequence of your actions (violence, economic issues, personal crises, etc.) and you must pick at least half of them, rounded up, to actually occur. If these consequences violate your goals and principles or your heroic legacy as a liberator, adjust those written descriptions to match the person you have become. You must maintain consistency, at least in your own written understanding of yourself, though you’re welcome to lie to others and yourself out loud, obfuscating what really happened before the next player takes their turn.

If one or more players resists your proposal, through their own political might and resources, each player involved rolls a six-sided die and the winner carries the day. Each player must then accept a number consequences — proposed by the other players, as described about — equal to the number they rolled on their die. If there is a tie between sides, a stalemate occurs, as the competing parties clash to no clear resolution, creating consequences but making no real progress.

At any time, instead of changing the goals, principles, and heroic legacy on your sheet, you can rip up your card and retire from political life, typically through exile or death, but there might be other options, depending on the fictional circumstances. Optionally, you can give up your own card and join the team of another player, maintaining your own turn and making your own choices, but being limited to following their written goals and principles (not the image they describe aloud) and helping build their legacy. If you have joined someone else, you can only leave the game if a player — including yourself — spends their turn arranging your death or disappearance and is successful.

The game ends when the players agree on who will ultimately be the undisputed ruler(s) of whatever remains of the old empire, even if their rule is still currently challenged.