An enlarged Kingmaker game board (4' x 5'?) used at Conception 2009
One of my favorite wargames with a focus on politics is Kingmaker from Avalon Hill (originally from 1974, though I have a 1976 rules printing currently). Even the basic game has enough complexity to warrant a good deal of replayability. For those unfamiliar, this game allows players to recreate or re-envision the political struggles during the time known now as the Wars of the Roses. The designer, Andrew McNeil, writes in his designer's notes, "The start of the game has been fixed at about 1453—the year of crisis in which France was finally lost, Henry VI went mad, and the birth of a son to Margaret shattered Richard's hopes of succeeding to the throne peacefully." Henry VI was a weak individual who became King of England on the death of his father, Henry V, when Henry VI was eight months old. A council of regents governed during Henry's minority and the wrangling that went on between them and between many more throughout the reign of Henry VI and just after, are what fuel this classic game.
A group of gamers at GaryCon II in one of my events
A traditionally-sized board for the three player game at Chicago Gameday 26 at Games Plus
But, you may ask, what specifically do we take from the one and migrate to the other? It's a fair question and to claim I have a definitive answer just at this moment would be to deny that I am still mulling over many possibilities. Some of the ideas are setting-oriented and best handled in the Grymvald Gazetteer at some later date but of the mechanics I can say that there needs to be some system for quantifying political strength beyond sheer force of arms available. Some notions that are occasionally visited in rules, sometimes only as optional rules, such as Reputation, Fame or Renown, Honor, Diplomacy, Legitimacy, circumstances of birth, all have a place in the mechanics of a Medieval Fantasy ruleset. I've been noodling around with the possibilities and will revisit this discussion prior to publication but for now, let's be clear, part of what I perceive as lacking in many games, that gets shrugged off as too complicated, is to my mind merely a matter of creating the right set of guidelines so that such matters can be more smoothly handled during gameplay. I have been putting this to the test for some time and I further believe that such quantification will serve both an RPG and a wargame, and especially a game that unabashedly wears both monikers.
My regular gaming group in a six-player game as they gear up for a
politically-charged MF WARS - Grymvald campaign