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Asymmetrical Strategy Games
Why hasn’t anyone made an asymmetrical strategy game? We’re all familiar with symmetrical strategy games like Risk, Civilization, and Panzer Blitz. In these games everyone has roughly the same goal and power is measured in roughly the same terms for everybody. It’s usually easy to tell who has more money, power, territory and technology and, unless something really crafty is going on, they are probably going to win. This is something that has always frustrated me about strategy games.

What do you mean “asymmetrical”?
Currently the US is engaged in a War Against Terrorism. There’s no more asymmetrical conflict than that. The USA has the ability to move huge numbers of troops and weapons anywhere in the world almost instantly. Al-Queda has limited military power, but doesn’t have territory to defend and has a cadre of dedicated agents who are almost impossible to infiltrate. The goals of both parties are very different, but they can’t achieve them without thwarting the other.

You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting such an idea!
A war game has been made out of almost every conflict ever fought, not to mention fantasy and science fiction games. There’s even a line of games based on declassified plans for military actions that were never carried out but might have if history had unfolded differently. It’s true that it may be in bad taste to make a game out of a real-world conflict that’s causing death and suffering right now. But the War Against Terrorism isn’t the only asymmetrical conflict that ever was or could be.

This issue has been hotly debated around the Holistic Designs RPG Afghanistan D20.

So, like give me some examples.
I submit that any sufficiently complicated strategy game becomes asymmetrical. If it’s possible for people to take different enough paths and pursue different enough goals, the game will become asymmetrical. Role-playing games are my primary example here. No two players or campaigns have the same goals, and for PCs to face foes whose goals match their own is the exception rather than the rule. So here are a few examples:
  • A strategy computer game where the sides have different strategic capabilities and methods. This could be based on the War Against Terrorism, the American War of Independnce (with a diplomacy and intrigue aspect), an Illuminati game, or even a fantasy or sci-fi setting.
  • An immersive game where players are given an environment and let loose to do as they please. There are a few games like this already appearing, for example, The Sims Online and Game Neverending. For this, I dream of a game where I can choose to play a government, a corporation or some other group in a large persistent world.
  • A play by email game where each player takes the role of guiding an alien civilization that's just beginning to explore the universe. The be sufficiently complex, the game would have to be a gamemastered game. Each civilization would have wide open options as to their goals, methods, the kinds of technologies they develop, how they react to contact with other civilizations and so on.