For whatever it’s worth, here are a few thoughts on the game concept that’s being proposed.
The concept is ambitious, and it would no doubt appeal to players who enjoy free-for-all A&A variants in which all the players play against each other; such variants don’t appeal to me personally, but that’s just my own taste, and the free-for-all idea has certainly been mentioned enough in previous threads on this forum to indicate that some people do indeed find such variations enjoyable.
My main comments aren’t about the free-for-all element but about something else. I initially didn’t know how best to explain those points, but I eventually thought of doing so by making reference to two works of science-fiction which provide useful parallels: Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 future-history novel “Last and First Men”, and the various mirror-universe episodes of the Star Trek franchise.
The game, as described in AandAClassicDude’s posts, would start in the year 1900 and would run until the year 2000. If I understand the concept correctly, the world depicted at the start of the game would correspond to the world as it existed in 1900 in terms of its borders, in terms of the major and minor powers of the time, in terms (presumably) of its background rulers and politicians, and in terms of its military technology. As a starting point, this is fine. What I’m wondering is: as the game progresses over the course of a century, to what extent do these things remain the same and to what extent do they change? And as far as the changes go, to what extent do they deviate from the course of real history and to what extent do they correspond to what actually happened in the real world? And if they do correspond to what actually happened in the real world, what makes them (in terms of the game’s fictional scenario) correspond to it?
To expand on that last point, here’s one specific example. WWII happened (at least in its recognizable form) to a large extent because of the outcome of WWI, which among other things led to rise of the Nazi party during the interwar years. If, let’s say, a game which is played starting in 1900 happens to result in a WWI whose outcome is different from the historical one, or happens to result in WWI not happening at all, how does WWII end up happening in a recognizable form? Does WWII happen at all? Does it happen in a radically different form? What causes it to happen?
As far as I can tell, there are two basic possible answers to the above questions, and in my opinion each one is problematic in its own way. The first possible answer is that the game makes no attempt to replicate real history – meaning that the further away it gets from its 1900 starting date, the more it veers into the realm of historical fantasy. Personally, I wouldn’t find that appealing…and this is where Olaf Stapledon’s novel comes in. I read it a long time ago, and as I recall it starts out in a recognizable version of the late 1920s. From that point onward, however, the first chapter or so provides a future history of how a series of political and military crises plunge the world into a global war then ends up destroying most of civilization. Reading it from the perspective of the 1990s (of thereabouts), I found this part of the novel to be ridiculously unconvincing, antiquated and naive. It probably didn’t sound that way in 1930, but my point is that I was reading it from a late-20th-century perspective, not a mid-20th-century one. So I’d probably have trouble relating to a fictional game history of the 20th century extrapolated from the world as it existed in 1900.
The second possible answer is that the game scenario somehow makes the game stick more or less to the actual course of the 20th century (for example: WWI followed by WWII followed by the Cold War), for the sake of recognisability. That would solve one problem, but it would introduce a new one: providing a credible explanation for how the game manages to stick to the actual course of history, regardless of what the players do. And that’s where Star Trek’s mirror universe comes in. Several Star Trek series have had episodes set in that mirror universe, covering a span of about two centuries. What’s (in my opinion) completely non-credible about those episodes is the fact that, no matter which series is involved, no matter what century it’s set in, and no matter how radically that universe differs from the normal Trek universe in terms of its history, those episodes invariably include characters who are exact (though inverted) counterparts to the ones on the regular show. This perpetual correspondence across the centuries is never explained – or at least not in the shows themselves, though perhaps the novels have tried to rationalize it in some manner. Perhaps such an explanation could be devised for the game scenario in order to make it convincing; offhand, this would suggest a fair amount of game scripting, which actually runs counter to the concept of the game being a free-for-all (unless I’ve completely misunderstood it).