A Proposal for What Happens on the Boundary between Economic and Military Timescales
Well, we have had extensive discussions on how a "realistic" whole-history game can work. I'm not going to go over all the arguments that have led to our (me, Harli, korn469, and I think Krenske) tentative conclusion. If you want to see those you can check in a variety of recent threads including "Clash Scales", "Mil Model discussion thread", and various references therein.
A very terse summary of where we are is...
1. Everything that involves combat or strategic troop movement should all keep to the same "military timescale". To do otherwise would virtually guarantee completely unrealistic results some of the time.
2. The military timescale should be fixed over all time at one month of what could "really" happen. This means that at combat movement rates task forces will generally not be able to go more than a few squares (a few hundred kilometers). This is important so that the player can change grand strategy, and some operational factors, as a result of new information on how movement is evolving, and how battles fought have been resolved.
3. After locking in the decisions 1 & 2 it is Impractical to run the whole of history at this scale. And yet we want the economic results to be crudely realistic also. This mandates that at least for much of the game the economic timescale and the military timescale for a turn will not match. For instance, in the ancient world we might have the result that the economic timescale is one turn = 5 years.
4. For a game that covers all of history, we expect that the economic timescale will change drastically as history progresses. We hope to achieve parity between economic and military timescales for the final century or so of the game. Whether this is practical needs to be determined in playtesting later.
5. The major weakness of this system is in the areas of overlap between the models. For instance, picture that we are using five-year economic turns. This is the time period over which one might expect decent city walls could be made. However, since military task forces are only moving during one turn at a movement rate characteristic of a month, we could have the absurd case of defenders flash-building city walls as the enemy's army rides into view. The same could be true of a defender building huge amounts of arms and armor. In order to avoid destabilizing the game, and generating clearly unhistorical results, we simply need to make some adjustments at the joints between the models.
Note: to some of you this series of decisions may seem rather strange. I think that actually it is essentially what is typically done in Civilization right now. The approach was just never stated explicitly. That is why movement rates are so absurdly slow for the amount of time that is supposed to be passing in Civ.
In the remainder of this post I am going to address what I think is a reasonable approach for handling the joints between the models. I am specifically concerned about the interconnections between the economy and military models. As far as diplomacy and technology, I don't think we have any big issues. For characters, we will just have to see what "feels" best. Opinions on my ramblings below are actively solicited .
First of all, I've come up with three categories for how to handle the between-model issues. I denote them as...
M Follows the military timescale, FE resupply of combat troops with ammunition should only cost what a month's worth of ammunition costs, since you are only getting a month's worth of combat effectiveness out of it. There may be better examples, I just can't think of them.
E Follows the economic timescale, FE I think feeding and paying the troops should use up food and money at the same rate as people in the regular economy. If the troops only consumed one month of food and pay per turn, it would be very easy to maintain unrealistically large standing armies.
G The geometric mean between between military and economic timescales. I think something like this is needed for those cases where using either M or E would result in a big "huh?" from the player. For instance, let's say we are in the ancient world with economic turns that are five years long. So military turns are, as always, one month long, and economic turns are 60 months long. Let's use the example of building military hardware, say to outfit a legion. To produce these things will simply require getting a certain amount of production points built. If we adjust the cost to match the economic timescale, this hardware would come out way too quickly. However, if we adjust the cost to match the military timescale, that legion might require Forever to be built. A crude example follows...
Let's say we are in a small Roman province that produces enough taxes per year to just barely outfit a legion in the "real world". (taxes equal 100 C, cost of hardware for a legion equals 100 C, C equals the unit of money) And say our economic turns are five years long at this point in the game. So if we use "realistic" production rates geared to the economic system, this province could produce 500 C over the turn, and so pop out the hardware for five legions in a single economic turn. As noted above, flash building a sizable army will destabilize the military system, and we have to avoid that. So what if we boost the price to match the military system timescale? We would need to multiply the price by a factor of 60. This province would have to concentrate solely for 12 turns to produce the hardware for one lousy legion! So clearly using neither the military nor economic timescales to figure the cost is appropriate, we need something in between. That's where the geometric mean comes in. If we call building hardware G, the timescale we would use is approximately eight (~60 ^ 0.5) times longer than the military timescale, and eight times shorter than the economic one. So how does this work out? In eight months using the "real" numbers this province could build two-thirds of a legion's hardware. This seems to me like a reasonable balance that prevents obscene flash-building of armies, and yet doesn't completely cripple the economy to build a few units. I'm not sure the geometric average is exactly the right thing to use, but I think it's a reasonable thing to start with.
The things that I have come up with that fall between the two models, and the categories I am recommending, are:
E Regular Supplies: food, replacement parts, fuel, etc. that is not directly related to combat
M Combat Supplies: those supplies used to replenish/repair consequences directly resulting from battle (munitions replacement, medical supplies, etc.)
G Training: especially training to bring new recruits "up to speed"
G Arms, Armor & Munitions production
G Building Fortifications
E Economic Productivity of demobilized or "National Guard" type units
Well, that's what I've come up with so far! Please let me know what you think.