Today we have a guest post by Matteo Perlini. He can be contacted at
matteoperlini [at] gmail [dot] com.
In a post from August of last year, Nathan Alexander Sears wrote about a simple game he designed that teaches students about IR theory. Based on Sears’s idea, I created “Perpetual Anarchy,” a two-player game where the goal is to maximize the wealth of one’s state. Unlike Sears’s game, mine does not eliminate players or involve diplomacy.
“Perpetual Anarchy” requires a standard deck of playing cards and paper to record points scored and technological advances. The complete rules of “Perpetual Anarchy” are at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/273757/perpetual-anarchy.
First Strategic Level
Each state must choose an action every turn: defense, attack or
production. The choice of attack starts a war with the other state. Defense
allows a player to better resist an attack by the opposing player. Production
is an entirely peaceful action that helps increase wealth. The game has weak
intransitive preference orderings: it is usually preferred (but not always!) to
play defense against attack, attack against production, production against
Defense vs. attack: as in the real world, defending is easier than
attacking, so the defender has a bonus in the war (higher probability to win
the war), but attacker must pay reputation costs for her belligerence.
Attack vs. production: attacker has a bonus in the war (higher
probability to win the war) but she must pay reputation costs for her
belligerence. By contrast, if the producer wins, she earns points without reputation
Production vs. defense: both states score, but only the defending state
has reputation costs, so the producer generally scores more.
The game is not strictly intransitive because the final outcome depends
also on the second strategic level.
Second Strategic Level
States must choose how to allocate their budget across two dimensions: war/peace and long-term/short-term. A player must decide whether to give more prominence to one of the following strategies:
Short-term war: armament allocation helps the player win an urgent war,
but the player will not use this allocation in the future.
Short-term peace: wealth allocation helps a player score points during
Long-term war: military technology allocation does not increase the
likelihood of winning an actual war, but increases marginally the player’s military
Long-term peace: civilian technology allocation does not increase the actual
points scored by a player, but increases marginally the player’s production efficacy
As an example, a player who chooses a short-term war strategy will be more likely to win if a war occurs and will also prevent the opponent from capitalizing on long-term strategies, because the opponent loses any technology allocations in that turn.