It’s Not A Megagame, its a…

What is a megagame?  This one crops up on the Megagame Makers Facebook group every so often, and elsewhere.  So I’ve talked about the elements of a megagame before now – particularly in this post.

I have described a megagame in other ways in the past too.  “It’s like a board game, but not a board game. Its like a wargame, but not a wargame.  It’s like a role-playing game, but not a role playing game”.  Recently, someone said to me … “Ok, but what does that mean?”.  Fair point.  Here goes.

A megagame is like a board game because it often has a playing area (a map or game board), its has game components such as counters, cards, and tokens.  And it has rules of the game that the players follow.  It is not like a board game in that the rules of the megagame game are not immutable – the Control team can, and will , modify the game as it goes along to enhance player experience or respond to the emerging narrative.  Megagames are also not like board games in that they rarely have fixed victory conditions that must be achieved to ‘win’.  In fact ‘winning’ in the trivial sense is something that megagames cannot include by virtue of their size, scope, complexity and social nature.  You cannot ‘win’ a megagame any more than you can ‘win’ going to a movie or ‘win’ attending a dinner party.

A megagame is like a wargame because it often has adversarial situations, and fighting or some sort of conflict represented.  And by the formal definition of a wargame, most megagames are wargames.  A megagame is not like a recreational wargame in that it will usually be much more fast-moving (certainly than most recreational wargames) and the rules and procedures much more broad-brush – effectively a synthesis of the main features of the tactical or strategic situation.

This means that the megagame contains a lot less technical detail – something anathema to the traditionally detail-hungry historical wargamer.  Megagames tend also not to be merely two-sided, or zero-sum games.

A megagame is like a role playing game in that the players in it take on roles, often with specific characteristics and their game experience feels in many ways similar to a role playing game where they are playing a President or a General or an Alien Invader.  A megagame usually differs from the more usual role playing game in that, like the wargame, there is a lot less character specific gamification (character statistics, experience points, skills development etc).  This is usually because in the time available it is hard to make those aspects of the role playing game meaningful in the game situation.  Players in a megagame often have less freedom around the scope of their role than in a normal role-playing game.  So in a megagame, the players are given a situation briefing which tells them what their objectives are (though obviously exactly not what they should do to achieve them).  This contrasts with conventional role playing games where the players are in a more flexible situation and can pretty nearly freely choose how to develop their character , attitudes and objectives within their game theme.

A megagame is like a LARP (very like a LARP) in the same way it is like a role playing game above.  In megagames there is also the opportunity, that some take, to dress up for the part.  It is with some reluctance that I generalise about LARPs but the main difference, it seems to me is that LARPs require dressing up and total immersion in a way that megagames do not and that the LARP follows a more pre-determined narrative structure, often with a clear ending or denouement.  The creation of clear ending / grand finale aspect is quite literally impossible for the megagame – which is all about emerging gameplay – in a megagame the ending that emerges might be a single dramatic and memorable event, or it might be a collection of small events that contribute to the overall narrative.

Naturally, it is easier to say what a megagame isn’t.  But sometimes that helps us when describing what it is.

The key thing for me is related to expectation management.  Those who have not yet been exposed to a megagame can find themselves in difficulty because they join the game with the expectation that a megagame is, for example, merely board game with a few more people in the room.  My experience over the years is that this isn’t the case – for me there is definitely something different that happens when a large bunch people get into a room and start playing a megagame.




Prevarication is Under-rated….

So one of the things that when game design is in its most intense phases, is the urge to do something unrelated.  This week I have been working a lot on two major projects – a serious game on Housing Policy for the University of Stirling, and the  ‘A Very British Coup’ Megagame.

So naturally I have had to take breaks from the creative process.  The first was to play with the idea of Stone Paper Scissors… (inspired by a cartoon I saw a few years back)…

..and then, a day later I couldn’t resisit taking the joke a step further…

I’m not going to complete the set with ‘paper:paper:paper’ – someone else can take a stab at that!

Today, the very silly idea of Megagame Top Trumps came to me for no good reason.  So I designed the first 9 cards of the deck.

The idea will remain in this state I think, unless or until:

a.  I get the inspiration and energy to make the rest of the pack – there would be about 100 cards in it I would guess – though I don’t have data on every megagame I know about so some of the stats would be … gasp … made up!

b.  Some card-making genie would take the idea and create a whole bunch of better looking cards –  (cough)TomMouat(cough).

There is a serious point here as well.  The creative parts of game design cannot be forced.  When they are, the end product is at risk of just not working – so my practice is to work in spurts of creating new things, interspersed with boring admin and making things (like lunch).

And recharging the creative energies by doing something pretty much unrelated – sort of.

Once More into the Breach…

Its been a while since my last post, last Summer, so this is a sort of catchup to bring things up to date.

Last August I was talking about the 2018 Programme for Megagame Makers.  And this is now well underway, with a full programme of games for the coming year.  And much to my delight I’ll be running the fourth iteration of my pirate-themed megagame Blood & Thunder (more on this later).

In September last year, Rex Brynen and I ran our new ‘Dire Straits’ megagame – themed on multiple, multidimensional crises in East Asia, and developed specifically as an icebreaker for the annual professional wargaming conference CONNECTIONS UK.  It was especially interesting in that this was the first time we had a megagame that was subject to close scrutiny and analysis by professional defence analysts.  And not just one group, but three different and independent teams of analysts studied the game and wrote reports on it.  A truly terrifying experience.

Rex reported at length on his PaxSims site.

From the point of view of megagame design it had some interesting challenges:

  • it was designed for over 100 participants, only a handful of which knew what a megagame was,
  • there could be no pre-briefings,
  • team allocation would happen on the fly on the day,
  • The control team had to be small.

It all worked on the day, though interestingly the ‘professional wargamer’ audience had relatively little actually face to face game experience, and the environment made them, I think, a good deal more timid in their game play than recreational gamers tend to be.

We were able to put this to the test by re-running the game in a more recreational environment, at McGill just a couple of weekends ago. The participants were a mix of McGill students, local recreational gamers, and a smattering of ‘professionals’ from the Canadian military and DRDC.

The action was a good deal more dynamic with a greater inclination to take risks, and even an attempt to re-unify China by force!  The game design contained the usual elements of master map and military resources and capabilities, with the addition of two sub-games on internal politics, one for the USA and one for North Korea, simulating (perhaps controversially for some) the effects world leaders have to take into account an internal political narrative that is not always transparent to the rest of the world.

Autumn Wars

October I had a brief outing to run a small megagame based on the battle for Arnhem (using the OpCom core system).

Then a trip to Cambridge to run Exterminator War, a science fiction political-military megagame based on a long-running role playing game I have been involved in.  This was an interesting experience of translating a rich fictional universe into a game that would accessible to players without them having to read lengthy background briefings.  It worked passably well, but a lot of lessons were learnt (or re-learnt) – mainly:

  • A megagame looks like a role playing game but it isn’t a role playing game.  You cannot build in the narrative subtleties in the time available.
  • Putting communications delays into a game (there was a one-turn delay in comms between different quadrants) is very challenging for players.  Though I would do it again!
  • An implacable robotic enemy has feeling too – especially if they are players and not being managed by the GM.

I had a bit of a peak megagame experience when I went to the CONNECTIONS NL conference in Rotterdam.  My presentation on megagames gave me the opportunity to run an ad-hoc megagame for 50 conference attendees lasting about 90 minutes, which was improvised on the spot.  All that was required was

  • a couple of skilled facilitators
  • the willing participation of the players
  • setting it in a well understood and well know scenario and region.

The idea was to illustrate multiple interactions and how a narrative emerges from this.  I think everyone got something from the experience as well as had an entertaining break from ‘death by powerpoint’.

It was all over by Christmas

The last part of 2017 had little in the way of new megagaming action for me, as I was absorbed in some professional wargaming with the Royal Air Force on Exercise Eagle Warrior.  As this wasn’t a megagame, I’ll say no more here.

No More Games

… for 2017 anyway.

20160525_131535.jpgI have no more megagames coming up on the Megagame Makers Schedule for the rest of 2017, though I do have three megagames on the go over the next few months, one for Connections UK in September, one for Crisis Megagames in Cambridge (Exterminator War) and one for a private group.

But we are fast-approaching the time when the Megagame Makers designers get together and decide on their programme for 2018.  So I’ve been thinking about what I want to do in 2018, if anything, and turning to my list of ‘back burner’ projects, which I thought I’d share (for no good reason really).  At the moment I’m considering doing no more that one megagame in London next year (to make room for all the other keen designers with games in their knapsacks).

I’ve broken my list up by the level of development –

  • ‘Cooked’ is a game I’ve done before and want to return to or a game I’ve not yet done but is nearly completed.
  • ‘Half-baked’ – a game that I’ve messed about with but still needs lots of development.
  • ‘Unbaked’ – just a twinkle in my eye at this stage (but with an idea of how to do it).


War In Binni – the game of chaos and civil war in a disfunctional dictatorship.

Dungeons of Yendor – Army-level dungeon crawl.

New World Order 2035 – global international politics, technology and power plays in the near future.


Blood & Thunder 4 – A role-playing megagame of high adventure and shipboard shenanigans.

Adlerangriff – A real-time Battle of Britain 1940 air defence megagame.

The Next Musketeer – daring deeds, bravado and flashing swords in the 17th century.

Warriors for the Working Day – Rapid-play tactical campaigning in WW2

Watch The Spies – the megagame of International Espionage

Rokuwara Valley – power struggles, rebellion and honour during the sengoku-jidai.

Nightmare in Detroit – Historical megagame of crisis, riot and insurrection in a US city 1967.


The Haunted Forest – myth, magic and Samurai

Catching The Bear – 21st Century international crisis megagame set in eastern europe.

Congress of Yendor – political megagame about resolving unresolvable inter-species enmity.

Great Minds – megagame of ‘evil’ genius and consipiracy building.

Invasion of Hell – er … well the title says it all really…

Who knows? These might all see the light of day eventually.


Urban Nightmare : Megagame of Chaos

DSCF7352.JPGThe zombie apocalypse trope is well established in literature, movies, computer and board games. And in megagames too, with the first series of Urban Nightmare megagames played in 2012.

As a megagame, the Urban Nightmare games explore the higher level decision making during a major, potentially existential, crisis. In the movies and other games the zombie trope generally focusses on the individual or on small groups of survivors, but rarely explores how the world gets to that state. It all just happened and got out of control.

In a megagame we can really look at how things get that far out of control. Or not. In the emerging gameplay of a megagame the outcome is entirely open to the consequences of player decisions and their interactions.

In the previous version of the game, the focus was on just one city – Romero City – a place beset with many mundane problems of its own even without the outbreak of a terrifying pandemic. In the recent megagame Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos (Played on 1 July 2017), we extended the perspective to explore what is happening across the whole state. Five cities (of which Romero City was the largest) are therefore being played out – struggling with their own troubles and turning to the State Governor and the National Guard for help.

Key to the unfolding gameplay is the question – will state-based resources be enough? or will the state Governer have to sacrifice valuable political capital to declare a State of Emergency and go, cap in hand, to the Federal authorities and the President for Federal help.

So far so good.  But int his game I also wanted to use it as a test bed for an idea that had been mulling around for a while.  Connecting up multiple megagames in multiple locations simultaneously – into a so-called ‘Wide Area Megagame’ or WAM.

So – of course – there is more than just one state in America. What if the crisis being played out in the megagame is cropping up in more than one state? This seemed an ideal starting point for the WAM Eperiment.  Together with partners all over the world we were able to organise multiple megagames, each megagame representing a different state of a fictionalised America and each containing different cities.

DSCF7503The individual megagames both stood alone as individual megagames yet were in touch with each other, and are played in exactly the same time frame on the same day.

So, for example, Governors of neighbouring states were potentially able to confer with their counterparts – pass on what they had learned about the crisis, or warn of cross-border threats.

And to cap it all there there were a set of overall Federal teams (The White House, The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security  – effectively a small megagame in its own right) who were in touch with all the games and able to allocate important resources such as military, FBI, aid etc, in real time, to where they are most needed.

This was a massive experiment in intercommunication between games.  Huge amounts happened – far too much for me to recount.  Fortunately I don’t have to because those stalwarts at Last Turn Madness not only reviewed the game and interviewed some of the organisers of the other games, but also interviewed me and give me a chance to mull over (at length) how it went.

A lot easier than typing it all up, so the links are here!

Episode 7 : Review and interviews of other UNSOC organisers.

Episode 8: Interview with the game designer.

Thanks To

Given the Epic Scale of the WAM, I must thank those without whom the project could not have happened… in no particular order…

John ‘columbo’ Mizon (owner of the famous ‘Mizon Tower’) – (Southwest Megagames) for organising the Bristol game of the State of Ouisconsin [Wisconsin]

Zane Gunton – (Diversionary Games) for organising the Southampton game of the State of Ilinewek (that’s ILL-Y-KNEE-WEK, Zane) [Illinois]

Pieter Chielens and Hans De Ceuster (Megagame Makers Belgium) for organising the Brussels game of the State of Adirondack. {New York State]

Marc Seutter and Jurrien DeJong (Megagame Makers Netherlands) for organising the Nijmegen game of the State of Susquenhannock. [Pennsylvania]

Darren Green and Bob Faulkner (Crisis Megagames) for organising the Cambridge game of the State of Wabash. [Indiana]

Tim Campbell (Pennine Megagames) for organising the Leeds game of the State of Ahao. [Ohio]

Paul Howorth (Pennine Megagames) for organising the Birmingham game of the State of Shawnee. [Kentucky]

Rex Brynen and Tommy ‘Danger’ Fisher (McGill) for organising the Montreal game, representing Northland. [Canada].

Brian Stacy and Stefan Salva (Ironmark Games) for organising the New York game of the State of Kanawha. [West Virginia].

DSCF7392.JPGJeff Quick (Megagame Texas) for organising the Austin Texas game of the State of Powhatan. [Virginia].

Brian Cameron (Megagame Makers) for running the London game of the State of Mishgamaa [Michigan] – the largest of the state games.

And, of course, to Becky Ladley (Pennine Megagames), the Media Queen for her massive effort to create and to keep the Badger News network running accross all games in circumstances that can best be described as ‘challenging’.

And to all of those who helped in Control roles all over the world, and especially those who gave me a constant flow of suggestions and support during the development.

And finally, my home team at Past Perspectives – Viji Szepel-Golek who managed her own personal WAM keeping all the organisers in touch and fielding the admin in the six-month run up to the game and Angela Schütz who built the vast majority of the game components we needed.


Urban Nightmare:State of Chaos was a massive, spawling exercise in confusion and intercommunication.

I’m pretty convinced that the concept works, and would recommend groups currently designing and running megagames seriously consider ways they can link up with other megagamers (at least in their time-zone) – though would caution against trying an 11-game WAM for their first go.

Not for the first time, I have rightly been accused of being over-ambitious!



There have been loads of After Action Reports – here are a few:

The Megagame Report

Becky Ladley’s Blog



Confessions of a Megagame Control

PaxSims review

Pete Ess’s megagame blog

If you have any AAR links I’ve missed, just post them into the comments section.



Press in Megagames – No news isn’t good news

A critical part of many megagames is a Press or Media role

It seemed to me worthwhile to say a little about what being the press in a megegame entails and why it is probably the most involving and coolest roles of all (after being on the Control Team, that is).

First a bit on the game function of Press in games. The press are there to create an atmosphere of challenge for players – especially thDSCF3761ose playing political roles. It is easy for players to stand up and announce how well they are doing or make some entirely self-serving announcement – but as in real life, if their spin or dissembling is too far from the truth it must be challenged, otherwise game communications and public statements become meaningless nonsense pretty quickly – and therefore detract from the gameplay experience for everyone else as the other participants are having to listen to players who merely like the sound of their own voices. It is a waste of the limited time we have in a day of gaming.
So a key aspect of the press/media team is to challenge these statements. They do this best by producing a new-sheet or a blog post or twitter headlines (or whatever technology is being used for the game) which asks questions and expects the political players to justify, and provide evidence for, their pronouncements.

Some have suggested that this could be a Control role, and indeed it can, but Control are not at all well placed to perform the press function because:

a. they know too much about ‘reality as it is’ and are often sorely tempted to use that information – thus creating unintentional leaks and spoilers – and potentially harming the players’ experience of emerging gameplay.

b. players are often suspcious of Control-run press because of fears of being railroaded. There is a very real risk of players seeing control-generated press as ‘instructions’ of what they must do in the game.

c. Control cannot ‘go for the throat’ and publish a political hatchet-job on a player or team where they have messed up being caught out lying (or whatever). Control will feel they have to be impartial and ‘fair’ in a way a player-run team does not. This dangerously dilutes the impact of the press.

d. Control has no game objectives (other than to ensure the smooth running of the game) whereas players can be given their own agenda, and they can fully and wholeheartedly engage in wheeling and dealing with political players. And can be influenced in a way that Control never can be.

So, the flow of news about what is going on the game world being represented has tremendous influence.

In many games, positive or negative reporting in the game-media has direct game effects as part of the game system, or perhaps reporting has direct feedback into individual player objectives. Where the press are at their best is where everyone really needs to ensure their image in the media is sound.

Press Teams in Action


Typically we organise the press into teams (we have had amazingly capable individuals play the roles, but like so much in megagames – the team is the thing).
Functionally, they are at their best when they are able to divide up tasks and work properly as a team – with some team members perhaps writing the next articles on a laptop whicle others are out and about around the game news-gathering, interviewing or evesdropping on conversations to get a story. They also get ‘leaks’ from Control from time to time.
We have found that the press teams that get out and about have the most fun and the most impact. Player teams are always trying to get their carefully prepared press releases published verbatim in the game newsheets – and the best press teams generally ignore them (other than to perhaps pull something quoteworthy out of the release) because otherwise their entire game is just typing in press releases – something neither useful in the game or interesting.

Being active and asking awkward questions is really what it is all about.

Reporting Style

It is fairly easy to run the press corps using tabloid-style ‘shock-horror’ reporting. And whilst this might seem hilarious and is very easy, it isn’t necessarily the best way of reporting.

The role of world media in public opinion forming runs well beyond this, and we always encourgae the press players to report more in the style of the BBC’s Newsnight programme or a serious newspaper rather than the tabloids.

The reason for this is simple. The more outrageous the reporting style, the more the players can just laugh and dismiss it. And to be a role worth playing the press need to be taken seriously as opinion formers and reflecting the view of the (non-playeed) general public.

Serious reporting cannot be so easily dismissed, and will have an effect (via Game Control or game systems) on informed popular opinion – which in turn will impact on some players’ objectives

Serious reporting also gives the press players more influence as reporters when speaking to the players – it really matters to the other players what is said and reported.

Typical megagame newsheet

Why Be On the Press Team?
The press role might seem like its a lot of hard work.
There may be something in thus but nothing is hard work if it is fun, and being on the press team is a lot of fun.

Not only is there the opportunity to be a key influener on game outcomes, but the press team get to see more of the game than any other role (including Control).

They gain a better sense of the emerging narrative and all the weird and wonderful events that crop up during a day of intense megagaming.
True there is some pressure in producing multiple news-sheets or blog posts during the day- but there is pressure on all teams in a megagame – this is not unique to the press role.

And the sense of satisfaction (and appreciation from your fellow megagamers) at the end of the day is palpable – and I say that as someone who has played press roles myself and thoroughly enjoyed them every time.
Writing the news give you a chance to be witty, to make a point, to point out injustice and deceit and to have a laugh at the discomfort of pompous politicians.

What’s not to love about that?



Origins of Megagames

The early prototypes of what were to become megagames started with Paddy Griffith in the later 1970s and early 1980s. As a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Paddy ran large multiplayer wargames for the students and my early involvement with Paddy and large, multiplayer multi-team games was being invited to take part as a member of the control teams.
The first game actually called a megagame was Paddy’s ‘Memphis Mangler‘ Vietnam wargame played in April 1982 with about 30 players, though both Paddy and others (such as the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group in South London) had been running games that would by our modern definition qualify as a megagame these days. It was Andy Callan who coined the name, saying something like “this isn’t just a wargame, it is some sort of … MEGA-game”

Megagame Control Team – Army Staff College, Montgomery Wing in the early 1990s

From the outset, for recreational wargamers, the whole idea of these large multi-player games was both startling and very exciting. At that time There was nothing else like it outside the military training environment (and even in the military training environment they were a lot less open to emerging game-play), and those early games by Paddy and, later, Andy Grainger were exceptionally inspirational and really started the development of megagames as we now understand them.
There has, of course been mainstream hobby wargames involving lots of people – but these generally lacked the hierarchies and the team interaction that characterises megagames. Wargames with large numbers of toy soldiers with two sides playing a simple game on the table top (or floor) facing each other would not generally qualify as a megagame.

Through my contact with Paddy I was able to not only see his idea of large wargames put into practice, but also I was invited to help him run operational wargames for cadets at the Sandhurst Academy, and to help Paddy set up and run a wargame for Southern TV’s series Invasion Road in 1979, where we ran a fictitious Warsaw Pact / NATO wargame using the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall as a venue and memorably with the late Brigadier Peter Young as the NATO supreme commander!

The early 1980s saw a series of imaginative, sometimes quirky, sometimes astonishing megagames run by Paddy, with the help of others. I thoroughly recommend Paddy’s book, Sprawling Wargames for an insight into his philosophy of larger wargames with multiple players. Paddy’s games covered a wide range of historical subjects the French Revolution (in a game called ‘Sans Culottes‘). the 1918 Kaiserschlact Offensive, the Peninsular War (in a game called ‘Tajo‘), the convoy war in the Atlantic (‘Western Approaches’), the Franco-Austrian war (‘Novi‘ in conjunction with myself), and the opening moves of WW1 (‘Guns of August‘). Paddy brought a professional historian’s attention to detail and a truly creative instinct for games to his megagames.

These early games inspired Andy Grainger to turn his own highly respected and thorough research skills to the genre, and he produced a very successful series of well-written and structured world war two historical megagames, based around the Battle of Kirovograd.

Megagaming at the Army Staff College, Montgomery Wing, in the early 1990s

Andy’s example proved the final inspiration for me to start running my own games on the same scale and my first megagame “Blood & Thunder” – a huge 60 player piratical naval /role playing game – in 1987. This was historical, and loosely based on Morgan’s fleet raids on the Spanish Main. It had perhaps a higher degree of role playing and plot than previous megagames, and was built around the team concept, with each team representing a ship’s crew. The main action was using model ships on a huge floor model in the Woolwich Hall in Sandhurst.

This kicked off a long run of games that continues to this day.

The early 1990s saw the first properly collaborative game design, with a megagame called Springtime for Hitler, and the creation of the loose association of megagame designers, now known as Megagame Makers. Springtime was 180 player game about the campaign in France and the Low Countries in 1940. Graham Attfield, Brian Cameron, Andy Grainger, Steve Hale, Terry Martin, and myself put together a large and complex military / political game, and set the scene for future collaborations in megagame design.
We established that it didn’t necessarily need a single talented and enthusiastic individual to produce a successful game, and that notion probably encouraged many of today’s designers to take the plunge, at first, in collaboration with others.

Other Influences

Of course, in the professional wargaming field (in government and defence circles) the multi-player political / operational game has been in existence for decades or longer . There were (and are) many elaborate wargames played by the US military and the RAND Corporation during the late 1950s to the 1980s, and these were (and still are) used to inform policy within government.
I was fortunate, in the 1980s, to be able to access quite a lot of the literature of those games through the Ministry of Defence library.
In addition there have been political and crisis games run in many University politics departments, and these routinely form part of the study programmes.
Many of our megagamers (and some designers) have had experience of these and bring that experience to their game designs.

In the UK hobby wargames world, the megagame concept came about about as a cross-over from Dr Paddy Griffith and some members of the group he founded in 1980, “Wargame Developments”.
The initial idea was to use the techniques of the military command post exercise (CPX) in playing hobby wargames. Paddy experimented successfully with the multi-room wargames using closed game systems, and ran a number of games for non-military audiences – most notably his game of ‘Sealion‘ and his NATO / Warsaw Pact game for the 1979 TV series ‘Invasion Road‘ for Southern Television.

Although the detail and the way these were put into practice has altered over the years – the basic tenets form the key central characteristics in many of the modern megagames.

Operation Market Garden WW2 Megagame in 1988

Board game designs have been influential too – particularly where political and economic factors are in play. The growth of the commercial board games over the last decade has been meteoric – particularly the popularity of euro games. And this, coupled with the expansion of social board gaming has created a demographic of ‘game literati’ who form a large proportion of the present population of megagamers.

Also Kriegspiel has been important Bill Leeson’s involvement in bringing the modern Kriegspiel back into the light, and the natural similarities between the Kriegspiel and the operational megagame.
The original Reiswitz Kriegspiel has much in common with the modern operational megagame – they both involve maps gaming, and the movement of units over time, hidden movement and command and control structures. Players of kriegspiel often migrate easily to operational megagames because the feel is very similar.
Computer games and especially Real Time Strategy (RTS) games have been influential for a number of games. The computer game has massively altered from its early pixillated simplicity on the BBC, Commodore 64 or Spectrum. Even then, the classic game ‘Arnhem’ game by SSI for the Spectrum was the initial inspiration of the early operational world war 2 megagame ‘Operation Market Garden‘.
Modern computer games have many of the features that can be found in the megagame – once you get behind the photo-realistic graphics. Games which encourage multiplayer interaction in particular team play – for example famous MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft – have encouraged team-based play and even hierarchies of command and control have evolved, though this is not a central tenet of the game design.
Familiarity with cooperative play is growing, and the best example of this is Artemis, the starship bridge crew simulator. This creates, over a computer network, an excellent real-time simulation of a starship bridge with players operating key control stations and who must communicate and cooperate to run their ship. The system even allows up to six ships to cooperate, necessitating a hierarchy and an admiral and/or squadron commanders.

And, of course, most recently, the well-known Watch the Skies series of megagames was inspired by the 1994 classic game UFO Enemy Unknown developed by Mythos Games and MicroProse.

Game Theory has had its place too. As the megagame idea developed, so designers started to draw in ideas from game theory – not just the mathematical aspects, but more qualitative ideas concerned with the psychology and sociology of game play.
This has been supplemented by ideas drawn from more recent literature on game design that has arisen from the growth of game design as a subject taught at university (on the back of the explosion in the computer games industry). Academic professors of Game Design are, as professors do, writing about their subject in extremely interesting, and entertaining, ways and the literature is growing daily.  I particularly like Rules of Play  by Katie Salen   and Eric Zimmerman.. Also recommended are The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses and A Theory of Fun for Game Design.

‘Final Frontier’ SF Megagame – 1989

Management theory has also been an influence. There are vast mountains of books on management theory, and life would be far too short to have read them all, let alone apply them to megagame design. However, a number of ideas have been influential – in particular the very effective communications theories of MIT Professor Fred Kofman in his book ‘Conscious Business‘.  Don’t be put off by the ‘business’ look of the book, it is, for me, one of the best books on interpersonal communication out there.  And megagames are all about interpersonal communication.

Some basic ideas on the operation of hierarchies, team formation and even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs have been applied in the design of megagames.

Leadership and communications theory has been influential too. Megagames are about leadership. It will come as no surprise that theories of leadership have been influential in developing and designing game briefings and setting the challenges for players leading teams (even though they might not be aware that in playing what appears to be a fairly simple game role is in fact giving them access to valuable practice for leadership.)