<Now called Open Strategy Games.>
When I picked up the Matrix Games Handbook, there was one article that REALLY stood out as for the “how the heck to run these things.” And then someone posted that same article on Discord for all to see. Read that one if you want to design or run your own matrix game.
I’m also in Chris McDowall’s Sunrise Expansion matrix game, but not as an Actor. I’m not one of the “Big Players.” Instead, Chris was generous enough to create a bonus role for a handful of us called a Consultant. As a Consultant, I get the option to ask the referee one question each turn. That’s it. And it’s VERY open-ended.
If you were running the game with more players than Actors or say you were running a matrix game on Twitch, you should make use of Consultants. They’re an additional role that includes more people into the process. It gets them involved. I’m certainly more involved than if I were just an observer.
We’ll call that role “Extras” here.
With this idea of Extras in mind, here are three recent concepts for matrix games:
It’s your Mad Max, your Walking Dead, and whathaveyou. Pull out your copy of Apocalypse World for this baby.
Each Actor is a faction fighting over resources. It’s not just “eliminate the others” but “how do we get the most stuff?” There could be a group of thugs for hire, or a baron that sits on the coveted water supply, or the manufacturer of machinery, or the gal and her cronies that secured the remainder of the communications tech. Lots of potential here.
The Extras would play THE HORDE. Made of zombies, or wild refugees, or crazed Reaver-eque beings, THE HORDE would all scream their actions for the turn as a numbered list, each Extra adding their idea for what to do next BUT ONLY IN ALL-CAPS. Oh, and no repeat actions. There is no voting in THE HORDE.
- “OVERRUN THE BULLETEERS”
- “FEED ON THE CARNAGE IN THE HIDDEN VALLEY”
- “CONTACT THE BEYOND”
- “RAZE THE DIVIDING WALL”
The Ref would then randomly choose one (or two) actions for THE HORDE to take. It’s chaos, but such is the way of the mob…
I think Twitch Plays Pokemon did something like this… Ish.
This could be Greeks or Romans, Egyptians or Warhammer. The Actors are the gods, scheming somewhat with and somewhat against one another. They’re basically one big family which with their own aspects: “god of water” “god of trickery” “goddess of beauty” “goddess of wisdom.”
What’s cool here is that the goals would be fairly straightforward. The matriarch is trying to keep the family of deities together, the war god is trying to start, well, a war.
The role of the Extras would depend on the problem:
In one scenario, the Extras could play as the Inhabitants of the World, voting for which god receives their love and affection. Or their fear and worship. Who do they sacrifice to? Who receives their adoration?
In another, more in-depth scenario, they could play the demigods and monsters, going about their mortal business, ready to be interfered with by the gods. You would be Hercules and the Minotaur and Medusa and Jason, doing quests and lurking in lairs.
A third one that I think could be awesome is what I dub “The Trojan War” scenario. The Extras are split into two warring parties. These parties elect a leader among them. Each turn, the leader suggests exactly three plans of action and the members of that team vote which they want to do. Plurality rules. The gods then have their own goals for this conflict, weighing in and using their divine powers when necessary.
Final scenario idea is the most generic and has the most broad application. You are the government. But don’t limit yourself to history or real-life: do it in Electric Bastionland or the elven kingdoms or even the space bug council.
Each Actor is a representative of a different party, making promises and saying what is necessary to win favor. With the timescale of each turn being a single voting cycle, Actors are always up for re-election. They need to deliver on those promises.
The twist here is that the Extras are the electorate. They vote and decide who gets to be in power for the next turn.
How will Actor X solve the problem of monstrosities emerging from the Underground? How will Actor Y preserve our woodland ways? ZYGPYKE AUCTOR Z WETCM K’KLACKICON ALIEN INVAZION?