I've been doing some thinking about a game mechanic that doesn't have the player having unlimited vision and control over all his units on the field, meaning the player must make use of scouts and runners for the most part. I read through both game threads, and I don't think this was adequately addressed. This is just in the thought experiment stage, but I'd like some input on whether anyone thinks this kind of game could be fun. Of course, I'm using Erfworld mechanics as a basis.
Each unit can only see what's in his own hex, meaning a view of the board that only includes what you can see now would look very boring. One could have an interface that allows the player to look back at all the previous turns, presuming that when a speaking unit returns, he tells you everthing that happened to him, essentially merging what they know about the dealings of the previous turn. Units could then be given simple orders, like "go there, and come back." If the unit comes back, they say what they saw (if they can speak) and what battles they participated in. Of course, if they lost the battle (or somehow Turned), they would never come back. The player also have an overall view, which fills in the map as best it can with the current information, turning spaces we don't know as much about various shades of gray. Following is an example (with reduced move, to reduce my work), in a spoiler tag for your scrolling pleasure.
This is the beginning of the turn. A scout had returned the previous turn, after running away from an enemy on the other side of the field.
We have ordered one of our scouts to see if anybody is out ambushing us from the side Nobody is.
We have ordered our other scout to look at the hex directly below the remembered enemy, and then come back. Since that scout didn't have enough move (has 4, needed 6) to do that in one turn, we expect him to come back next turn to tell us what he saw
We moved ourselves to the space in front just to check it out
We ended our turn. All the information we had from previous turns became stale. Also, we can't give commands to any unit except ourself, because there's no way to communicate with them
We moved back to our original square, which now has the scouter that we sent away the previous turn, having already expended its 2 move to return. Now he can tell us what he saw, and we can tell both of them what to do.
We probably would couple this view with a turn-by-turn account, which may or may not have shades of gray.
This core mechanic could be altered by magic items or spells, of course. Essentially, if a warlord has an eyebook, the player can directly control him, because the warlord will tell him what he saw, and the player might give new orders. Thinkagrams would perform the same function, but for one turn. Hats and bats might only work one way. The turn before the first turn of the example above could have had a bat getting killed by that enemy.
One problem here is player communication. There's a reason talking is a free action in D&D. One could have players randomly assigned to sides, so the players don't know who is whom, and trust them not to talk about it, but that seems doomed to failure, especially because one would want people to be excited enough about your game to talk about it while they're not taking their turn. One could instead just assume that each overlord has a direct link to all others. This takes away one aspect of the messenger mechanic, but I'm not sure if it could be helped.
The other issue to tackle is how to tell warlords what to do. If we were doing a GM'd game, then you could just give English instructions to all your warlords, and the GM would take the warlords' moves. This solution is easiest for the players, but creates a lot of work for the GM, and may result in him having to make strategic decisions against himself. Alternately, you could provide several different AI scripts, and even allow user-submitted ones for your warlords. This, of course, means that the player has complete control over the warlord's personality, which is probably okay. This game would have more to do with strategy than internal politics. I'm sure if the game became at all popular, there would be lots of well-vetted AI scripts available for warlords.
Okay, I think that's it for me, for now. Thoughts? Feelings? Ad hominem attacks?