Double-Blind play aids for Imperium, Stellar Conquest, and The Company War
GDW's Imperium and AH's Stellar Conquest are both great games which can be made even better through the use of refereed, double-blind play. To make the life of the referee a bit easier, I have created a play aid for each game. Both use basically the same system, with only minor modifications. [Note: I haven't done The Company War yet, but hopefully some day soon.]
OverviewEach aid (hereafter "card") consists of a laminated cardstock list of the map locations that forces might occupy. This card is about 2.5 inches wide by 11 inches long, meaning that three can be printed on a standard (American) size sheet of light5 cardstock. Each player marks the location where his forces are present, then passes the card to the referee. The referee compares the cards, marking locations where two or more players have forces. Those players then fight out the appropriate battles. Other players in multi-player games (e.g., AH's Stellar Conquest) know that two players are engaged in combat, but they do not know where.
Note that double-blind play serves to prevent all players from knowing the disposition of forces other than their own, except where those forces interact. In multi-player games, it more specifically prevents players from knowing the location of such interaction of other player's forces, unless "friendly" forces are also present.
Assembling the CardsBelow are files for the different games. Each is available in two formats, the original Microsoft Excel 4.0 for the Macintosh file, and as an Adobe Acrobat 3.0 PDF file. (Note that I have at least one data point indicating that when the Excel version of the file is opening on a Wintel box using Excel 5.0, the cell borders disappear.)
They should be printed on plain paper (although photocopying them onto cardstock would be very useful) and laminated. I find that clear packing tape is more than adequate for the task.
NOTE: In retrospect, for the Stellar Conquest cards, I should have included a column for the the color of the star (G=Green, R=Red, etc.), as this would make it much easier for the ref when assigning star information (see below). I'll make this change at some point, but it probably works just as well to use colored highlighters on the cards before laminating them.
- AH's Stellar Conquest aid [MS Excel 4.0 for Mac (35k) | PDF (24k)]
- GDW's Imperium aid [MS Excel 4.0 for Mac (12k) | PDF (20k)]
- Mayfair's The Company War [someday]
Using the CardsThe cards are used in the following way:
- One card is given to each player, who may also be
assigned a number (in multi-player games).
- The players plot out their moves on individual maps.
They then put a check in the OP box for any system in
which they have an outpost, and a check in the TF box if
they have a ship or task force. Note that the referee
does not need to know (or care) what forces are
present in a system.
- The players then pass these cards to the referee, who
then puts the number of any opposing players who have
forces in the same system in the "?" column. (Note that
in the two-player game Imperium version, a
checkmark is sufficient.)
- The players then fight out any combats that may
arise. To preserve the secrecy of the location, players
in multi-player games may wish to fight them out in
alphabetical order if there is more than one.
- In the Stellar Conquest version, the referee must also record the system card number for any newly-discovered system in the "#" column. (Each player should have a list of the system cards as a reference -- say, perhaps, this SC System Chart, which is available as either an Excel 4.0 document or a PDF file.)
VariationsIt makes sense that in certain situations (e.g., Stellar Conquest and stationless Company Wars jump points), players that enter a system after a battle may discover information of relevance, such as the debris from the battle. Referees might therefore want to write down which systems had ships destroyed in them, and provide this information to the other players. This information could be in the form of simply a notice that a battle had taken place, or that debris from a ship of known or unknown origin (depending on other player encounters) had been detected. Space is big, though, so it may make sense to only make this information available on a die roll.
At Company Wars jump points occupied by stations, on the other hand, information regarding any such battles would probably be relayed to incoming ships as soon as they entered the system. In addition, such information would be relayed to other systems as merchanters carried the word to other stations. It would therefore be reasonable to announce to all the players that a battle had taken place at a particular location the turn after it occurred. Of course, non-Military players may not have accurate information, so the exact details could be kept vague, at the referee's discretion.