Matrix Gaming Rules
CREDITS AND LEGAL STUFF
The idea of matrix games was concieved by Chris Engle. He gives permission
for people to use and modify his ideas in whatever way they see fit.
I have quoted some material from "Campaign in a Day: A Matrix Game"
c. 1992 by Chris Engle by permission.
WHAT ARE MATRIX GAMES?
Matrix games are a way of resolving "critical events" in a campaign
through the use of "arguments". Each argument consists of an ACTION,
a RESULT, and three REASONS. Subsequent arguments in a turn can modify or
contradict previously presented arguments. Dice are then rolled to see if
a given argument is "IN" or "OUT". In the event that
an arguement is contradicted or modified by another argument, all the players
involved must "roll off" against each other until only one argument
remains in. Successful arguments are added to the "Matrix" and
can form the basis of subsequent arguements.Any player can argue for any
side or force, within the limits of common sense or the "rules"
of the campaign. Other players can modify a previous argument (or its chance
of succeeding) in several ways.
Since any player can argue for any side, it is likely that an argument will
be modified (or perverted!) by a subsequent argument in the same turn.
In one variant various types of modifications gave different modifiers to
the die roll.
"Yes, ....and" arguments added an extra result to a previous
argument and gave +1 to the die roll.
"Yes, ..but" arguments changed the effect of an action.
"No, Actually..." arguments contradicted both the action and
the result, but gave -1 to the die roll.
In one variant of the game, a player can come up with few than three reasons,
but each reason less than 3 gives a -1 to the die roll.
The King marches on the enemy capital and besieges it.
1. His army is well equipped and supplied
2. The road to the capital is open
3. The capital is only 20 miles away from the king and his army.
These reasons could be anything that is logical in the context of the campaign.
There are many reasons why the same reason and action could result.
EXAMPLES OF COUNTER-ARGUMENTS USING VARIOUS MODIFIERS
"Yes, the King marches on the capital but he is ambushed on the way"
1. His army doesn't have good scouts
2. The enemy are expert guerrilla fighters
3. The enemy peasants hate the invading army.
"Yes, the King marches on the capital and he besieges it, and disease
breaks out in his army"
1. Armies have always had poor sanitation
2. The capital is in a hot, humid swamp, ideal disease conditions.
3. Disease often breaks out in besieging armies.
"Yes, the King marches on the capital and besieges it, and captures
1. The King is cunning
2. The citizens of the capital are demoralized
3. The capital garrison is tiny.
No, actually the King marches to the South
1. The enemy is in the south
2. The king wants to defeat the enemy
3. The king's knights demand an open battle to bring them glory.
In a roll-off all of these arguments would have to compete against the
STRONG, WEAK AND STUPID ARGUMENTS
After every player has presented their argument, the other players can declare
arguments weak and player who presented an argument can declare it strong
if nobody else says that it is not strong. When a referee is present (or
by the consensus of all the other players except the player who presented
the argument) an argument can be declared STUPID if it is grossly unfair
or violates the spirit of the campaign.
A weak argument gets -1 to the die roll. Any player can declare any argument
weak, unless the presenting player declares that it is strong. Then it is
A strong argument gets +1 to the die roll. The presenting player can declare
his argument to be strong, if nobody declares that it is not strong.
A stupid argument is thrown out and the player who presented itdoesn't get
another argument to replace it (at least unless the referee rules otherwise).
A stupid argument is rare and is obvious. (Things like "I win",
or introducing elements into a campaign that the referee and the other players
don't want -like magic or dinosaurs into a historical Napoleonics campaign,
or Eldrich horrors into a magical world that doesn't have them.)
An argument that is neither strong or weak is normal. It is in on a roll
of 1-3 on 1 six-side die. It fails (is out) on any other result.
In another variant of the matrix game (only suitable for 3-5 players) each
player "votes" if he agrees on an argument. Each "vote"
gives +1 to the die roll (all argumenents start off at 0, it is assumed
that a player will at least vote for his own argument). This gives a result
from 1 (a very weak argument that no-one else agrees to) to a 6 (unanimous
agreement with six players.)
USE OF CARDS
Matrix games can be speeded up by making cards with standardized reasons,
actions and results on them. For a military campaign, these cards are:
Normal March (x2)
Wild Card (x4)
Tactical Advantage (x2)
These cards can be "reversed" to have the opposite meaning, and
can be modified by a clever player. When using cards, each player rolls
a die. The highest scoring player (re-roll ties) chooses his card first,
and so on until all players have chosen their cards.
Each player choose one card to be his action, one card to be his result,
and three cards to be his reasons. He then verbally elaborates on his reasons
So the example "The king marches on the enemy capital and besieges
it" could be represented by the cards Normal March and Open Battle
(or Halt, or Tactical Advantage). Three reasons could be produced from
virtually any cards in the deck, if the player is clever. Essentially, they
add color and rationale to the player's argument.
1. Supply Lines - The army is well equipped and supplied
2. Tactical advantage - The road is open
3. Normal March - the capital is only a day's march away
In some cases, the action is the result, especially if other menas are used
to determine the outcome of combat or figures are being moved around on
LISTS OF PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS
For some games it might be useful if the players make a list of people,
organizations and institutions that they can make arguments for. This makes
a handy list of important forces in the game. Of course, players can make
arguments that new people and forces appear and these are added to the list.
The list depend on the sort of game you want to play. A medieval game might
have the peasants, the merchants, the church, the nobles, the king, etc.
A Space-war game based on Star Trek would have The Federation, the Romulans,
The Klingons, The Organians, The Orions, etc.
LISTS OF PREVIOUS SUCCESSFUL ARGUMENTS
Since previous successful arguments affect future arguments they should
be written down, so they can provide rationale for future arguments and
basis for negotiation with other players over whether an argument is strong
USE OF MATRIX GAMES IN BOARD GAMES AND MINIATURES GAMES
Matrix games can be used to quickly generate campaign events and move armies
on a campaign map. Then, when an interesting tactical situation develops
a tactical board or miniatures game can decide the outcome of the battle.
Matrix games are very good at quickly settling morale and supply problems
andfor generating political and weather conditions. Since each player has
an agenda for his own side, but can attempt to argue for any side, your
opponent can attempt to strengthen his position by having your forces do
stupid things! This nicely simulates "fog of war", misunderstood
commands, and "friction", without recourse to complex and time-consuming
USE OF MATRIX GAMES IN ROLE-PLAYING GAMES
The actions of various important NPCs and the PCs during "down time"
can be quickly established, and players have a hand in shaping the campaign
world. For RPGs all the players should get several arguments. One arguement
can only be used to influence the politics and activities of the campaign
world. The other arguments can be used to flesh out or improve the character
(possibly replacing experience points or time spent in training). The GM
is free to modify these arguments or argue against them, if he wishes, and
can arbitrarily designate arguments as strong, weak or stupid. Essentially,
MGs can act a campaign events generator.