What is a 'megagame'?
A megagame is an activity for upwards of around 25 people, usually in teams and featuring both cooperation and competition amidst an historical or fictitious scenario. Gameplay is open-ended, without pre-determined outcomes, leading to the development of many experiences and stories. This is driven by player briefings and objectives, large amounts of interaction within and between teams and pressured decision-making, all facilitated by simple mechanics. The rules are often flexible, requiring adjudication in a game where confusion is common due to its size. Everyone, many or none may achieve their objectives during the course of the day. People talk a lot. This last point is important.
Participants enjoy megagames for many reasons. These may include:
- Immersion in a character or role, which can include roleplay
- A deeper understanding of historical events and decisions
- Intrigue and finding creative solutions to problems
- Mastering rules
- Trying to make sense of a situation when information is in short supply
- The opportunity to explore alternative historical scenarios
- Dressing up as part of theme (this is not an expectation, but many do so)
- Acting as part of the ‘Control’ team who adjudicate, moderate and facilitate the game.
Types of megagames
Political-Conflict games – these make up the majority of games and allow players to choose from a variety of roles. This means that different interests can be catered for and there may be a number of sub-games to engage in.
The politics could be within a team in which different individuals have their own objectives, or it could be between rulers, leaders and diplomats. Conflict could be between armies, traders competing for money, colonists vying for resources or the living versus the undead.
Games have encompassed a wide variety of scenarios, including historical, modern day, fantasy and science fiction. Players should consider the game setting and reality when being creative, as the Control team will act the part of non-played characters (NPCs) and rule on anything which is not covered by the rules.
Within this style of game there is a minority of purely political games. Examples could be the Congress of Vienna or the Washington Conference.
Operational Military games – in these, which generally focus on a historical scenario, politics is very limited if present and players generally represent military commanders in a hierarchical structure. This means that players should be prepared to give and follow orders, or face the consequences.
The game may be a ‘closed map’ one (e.g. Chosin Reservoir) in which simple orders are given to a Control member who resolves activity on a hidden master map, before reporting back. This is an excellent way to simulate the ‘fog of war’ and encourages commanders to focus on realistic decisions rather than learning rules, but needs lots of Control players and there can be delays in getting accurate feedback.
An open map, as used at the A Very British Civil War game allows commanders to see the whole map. It reduces the need for Control, but players at the map do need to understand how the rules work, although that may be less of an issue for higher command.
Some games, such as the Jena campaign use a closed map for movement, but when a battle occurs, players conduct that between themselves on a battle board.