A Brief Analysis of Mega-Alliances
By: Charles Mosteller
1. Definition - What constitutes a Mega-Alliance?
A Mega-Alliance is a collection of kingdoms that share singularity of purpose and unity in actions, which can take the form of formal or informal game alliances, to such a degree that game balance is threatened.
2. Negative Implications of Mega-Alliances
a. Disproportional threat to regional or global game balance.
b. Unchecked concentrated power and advantage.
c. Irreversible momentum achieved.
d. Disregarding of established game goals, objectives, and criteria.
e. Establishment of unnatural or unholy game alliances that contravene established norms of respective race, nationality, or kingdom history of the offending parties.
3. Positive Implications of Mega-Alliances
a. Useful for combating concentrations of power that exist in singular or collective forms.
b. Provides a tool for development and enhancement of coordination, communication, and cooperation skills of players.
c. Provides a tool for the development, refinement, and implementation of advanced and complex tactics and strategies on a multinational level.
d. Provides a mechanism for emulation of "good versus evil" scenarios to play themselves out on scales of epic proportion.
e. Provides a mechanism whereby restoration of game balance can occur.
4. Why do Mega-Alliances form?
a. Destruction of enemy forces.
b. For the sake of convenience.
c. For the sake of efficiency.
d. For the sake of distribution of perceived workload.
e. Out of a desire to communicate with other players.
f. Out of a desire to cooperate with other nations.
g. Out of a desire to explore what is possible within the framework of a game's mechanics and structure.
h. Out of player boredom with the established status quo.
i. Because someone else has already formed a Mega-Alliance.
j. To emulate and recreate a Mega-Alliance formed by a peer in another game.
k. Just to see if the player can pull it off.
l. Just to piss off some other player in the game who they know hates Mega-Alliances.
m. As an extension of role-playing by one or more players.
n. To protest a game's perceived broken victory points distribution scheme.
o. For the mere Hell of it.
p. To gain advantage over other nations.
q. To instill disadvantage upon other nations.
r. To break from the arbitrary restraints of a nation's history in pursuit of new destiny for the nation concerned.
5. Proposed Methodology of Handling Mega-Alliances
Tailor the game's mechanics, structure, and rules to account for as many of the above items as possible, feasible, and practical, in such a way as to avoid attempting to address a complex problem with an overly simplistic solution, via incorporation of a complex system of checks and balances that manifest themselves at all levels of game play.
To successfully achieve such, one must first determine what constitutes "ideal game balance," on both regional and global levels.
6. General Comments
If you approach Mega-Alliances as an evil or as a disease in need of obliterating or curing, rather than as a tool that players choose to make use of from time to time, then I think you will ultimately be as likely to do far more damage to game balance than by simply letting things run their normal course of action.
To me, there are keys to understanding and dealing with Mega-Alliances, whether from the perspective of forming one, opposing one, or from being the game's designer and moderator.
Mega-Alliances, in my considered opinion, are exceedingly misunderstood creatures. Much of the fear or undue concern surrounding them is due to ignorance or misunderstanding of the nature of the beast that a Mega-Alliance is.
There exists no way, whatsoever, to completely eliminate the threat of Mega-Alliances forming. If you think that there is, you suffer under a self-created delusion. You could make it so that no player address or e-mail addresses are disclosed to any other player, and this won't work, either. Even implementation of a rule whereby you set an arbitrary limit of 3 or 4 friends joining the same game won't work, because the friends can simply split into two or more groups for game entry purposes, and simply not tell the game moderator that they all know one another.
Once you open the game to the play by the public, friends of existing games will eventually find out about it, and will eventually team up, either before or during a given game(s), and voila! - Mega-Alliances are born once more!!
Mega-Alliances are notoriously dependent creatures. This dependency permeates the creature in question, and understanding of this is vital to finding a viable solution to the problems that Mega-Alliances can, but do not necessarily always, present in a given game. They can be monsters of the first magnitude, or they can be paper tigers. They can even devour the hand that feeds them.
I honestly believe that you cannot solve the problems associated with Mega-Alliances by placing arbitrary limits on kingdoms, such as limiting formal alliances to two kingdoms, or any other number of alliances, for that matter. Under such an approach, you are treating the wrong patient. Mega-Alliances aren't about kingdoms nearly so much as they are about players. Until one learns and accepts that fundamental and basic fact, then you are, in my opinion, extremely unlikely to address in a satisfactory manner the problems and dilemmas that Mega-Alliances can pose in a game.