In types of strategy games I listed categories for existing strategy games. AFAIK, there is no game that implements a nation based strategy game.

In many strategy games that have a world or larger view there is some attempt to create the feeling of a history. A prime example of this is the game Civilization. In that game, or similar ones, you run a country and basically try to take over the world. How many times has this feat actually been accomplished? Never. So the goal of world domination isn't something that should be easily accomplished.

Another problem with most strategy games is that after you destroy another player that country is completely destroyed forever. In Alpha Centauri there is some resistance for a few years, but basically once you've been militarily defeated, it's over with. There are many examples in history that this isn't the case for a nation. A great example are the Jewish and Palestinian nations. The Jews start off by smashing the Palestinians in Canaan. They later basically break up themselves and are decimated during WWII. Then they somehow manage to form a very strong country that defeats their enemies in only six days. The Palestinians are controlled by Israel but now they are still, somewhat succesfully, fighting for autonomy. No strategy game allows for these sorts of circumstances.

So, how should a nation based strategy game work? Instead of being in charge of a country, you would control a people, or nation. The goal of the game wouldn't be world domination, but rather just building the greatest nation you can. Much like the goal of most Maxis games, like SimCity and The Sims. At times you may control vast amounts of land, or no land at all. You might have other nations under your thumb or might be oppressed yourself. The game would have to have a very strong diplomacy system, and also a system for the morals of your people, and other people, to stop you from simply killing everyone. It should be farely difficult to either completely win (ie, kill everyone else) or completely lose. Circumstances (resources, disasters, etc.) should create an environment where some nations rise to great power while others flounder. Over the course of time, under good management, you can raise your nation to greatness though. I think another good aspect of the game would be to have different leaders and governments come to power. Even though you would have control, you would still have to work within the limits of the current leader/government.

Of course, there are several major obstacles here. What's to stop you from just committing genocide whenever you could? What's to stop a strong nation from stopping a small one to gain any power? What motivation would there be for a player to allow another nation to continue to exist? I'm pretty sure a game like this could be created, and be just as addictive and fun as SimCity and Civilization combined. If I ever come up with an implementation (or even the faintest notion of how to do this) I'll make sure to node it.

In Sid Meier's upcoming Civilization III there will be more elements of a nation based strategy game. He is implementing the concept of "culture". So you can have a French culture, for example, that can actually spread and take over other cities. A strong culture will also resist takeover. This seems to be a step in the right direction.
Update 5/24/2004: I've now realised the scheme described above is rather incorrect. The whole idea of "Nationalism" has only existed for several hundred years.

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