In all strategy games that I’m aware of, whether board games or computer games, the player has instantaneous access to knowledge and instantaneous control of entities under their control. There may be a fog of war, occluding areas out of sight of the player’s units – but what any unit sees, the player also immediately sees. Similarly, there may be a limit to the number of actions a player can take – whether the extreme limit, of one a turn, in chess, or a de facto limit, as in real time strategy games where the limit is imposed by the player’s human reactions – but if a player controls a unit (or a city, production unit or similar) the player may instantly move it.
For much of history, however, the world wasn’t like this. Before the rise of effectively instant communication, news travelled slowly, albeit faster than an army could march. By the time Caesar had heard that the Persians had invaded Asia Minor, they might already be in Greece – or perhaps in Judaea, or have already retreated across the border. And by the time his orders had reached the local army commander, they might be somewhere else again. Science fiction stories, set in the far future, can sometimes have the same effect, in universes which postulate faster than light travel without faster than light communication. As in the ancient world, news can only travel as fast as it can be carried, with fast scout ships taking the role of the galloping courier of yesteryear.
I would love to see this mechanic implemented in a game. It would have to be a computer game – a board game simply would not work, due to the necessity of hidden information. But on a computer, the mechanics would be relatively straightforward, though the gameplay might be more challenging.
In essence, the game would have to be carried out at a strategic level. The player would make decisions about where to raise troops, where to despatch armies, what fortifications to build and what orders to give generals, whilst recognising that the exact way in which battles would play out would be out of their control. If this sounds uninteresting, think again: it is no different from a football manager game, where a player might make purchase or transfer decisions, select the squad and determine the tactics – but ultimately does not control the match. Long-term thinking would become essential, as the player would need to think several turns ahead about where resources might be needed, and would need to carefully weigh their risk appetite to either cover all eventualities or take a gamble on a decisive manoeuvre. Feints and bluffs would be critical, as misdirection, if successful, could result in an army being dispatched out of position and unable to be recalled until far too late – though misjudging a true attack as a feint would have equally dire consequences. And the game would have a natural balancing mechanism, with the losing player having shorter communication lines, and therefore be able to react faster to events than the player with the upper hand.
To my knowledge, a game of this nature doesn’t currently exist – but perhaps one day someone will make one.