CONDOTTIERI:
A SITE FOR PLAYING MACHIAVELLI

by Josť Antonio Martin Prieto


In the vast and old empire of Diplomacy, maybe Machiavelli is but a small city-state populated by people who like just a bit of randomness, but open to newcomers that might get an unexpected success against veteran generals, through a timely plague or a well placed bribe. Through the years, probably almost all Machiavelli players have played Diplomacy too, but the Italian variant of our beloved game has never been so popular. It's not strange that, while there are many Diplomacy PBM judges, and some great sites to play online (like http://www.playdiplomacyonline.com or http://www.playdiplomacy.com), Machiavelli judges are unusual, and sites for online playing didn't even exist.

Two years ago, Condottieri came to fill this gap, making it possible for nostalgic players to enjoy this game again, and attracting new, inexperienced players. Condottieri was born in Spain, as an amateur project. Surprisingly enough, there are some dozens of Machiavelli players in Spain, most of them busy adults who find it really difficult to gather some friends for half a day to conquer Italy. So the site got a few players in its first weeks of existence both from Spain and from other countries. Since then, the community has grown to almost a hundred active users, of whom more than half use it to play simultaneously. This community is composed of veteran players, face to face players, and others who have learnt to play on the website.

At first, Condottieri supported only the basic rules of Machiavelli — the advanced and optional rules, along with some home rules, were added over time. Most of the rules are optional, so any player can create a game precisely as he likes it. Also every game may be created with some custom parameters, like the turn length, the number of cities required to win, whether the players are anonymous, or the kind of press allowed. A user who wants to play only with his friends can create a private game. Also, team games are a funny, different way of playing. As for the home rules, maybe the more interesting ones are the variable home country, taxation, or fog of war rules.

The site started with the official scenarios and then new ones were added. Eventually, the site introduced a system that allows players to design their own scenarios. The result is that there are now almost a score of scenarios, a couple of them set in the Napoleonic Wars. But not only new scenarios are supported. Some months ago a brand new variant was designed, set in the Thirty Years War, with new countries and new home rules, like trade routes or religion wars.

Condottieri has a "Hall of Fame" to show each player's achievements and some statistics. Players get many points winning games, and some points if they keep some cities when the game is finished. However, these points are devaluated with time, so that new players have a chance to be in the highest places of the Hall of Fame.

Also, a karma system measures the grade of commitment of each player. A player who always sends his orders in time will have a high karma, and more time to give his orders. By contrast, a player who uses to be late will have a low karma, less time to give his orders, and a poor reputation as a player. Even so, the biggest problem of this kind of game is when a player leaves in the middle of a game. To somehow relieve this problem, Condottieri introduced the concept of "revolutions", that allows a third player to take the place of someone who has not sent his orders in time. This way, when someone leaves, the game is not totally broken.

As it couldn't be otherwise, the site has a forum where fellow players ask or answer questions, and make suggestions to improve the game. The good atmosphere among players made it possible to hold a Christmas tournament last year (the winner got a boardgame as prize) and, hopefully a new one will be organized this year.

It's worth to mention that Condottieri is open source software and its code is available on the Github site. The obvious advantage is that users can improve the game themselves, or help to fix errors. As an amateur project, there are always errors to fix, and things to improve. Not least, users can translate the interface to their own language (currently English, Spanish, German and Catalan are supported).

In summary, Condottieri is a nice, small site with a community of users that will delight any Diplomacy or Machiavelli player.



Josť Antonio Martin Prieto
(Follow me on Twitter)

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