Technology Rules for The Struggle of Nations

Copyright 2016 by M.E. Brines – all rights reserved.

The descriptions of tech levels are meant to describe nations on the cutting edge, say a TL7 nation in the 1860s. For backward nations, items of two TLs lower than the highest world TL are commercially available, although they will be increasingly rare the lower the actual productivity of the region and may be found only in wealthier households.

Players may support research projects and scientific expeditions of their TL or lower by expending research points (RP), generally thirty unless another amount is specified. RP are a form of production representing engineering and scientific talent and if not allocated by the government will be used by the free market. Players may not allocate more production as RP than their R&D limit (.3% of their production) and may only allocate to projects of their TL or lower. Countries that develop a technology can “share” it with others, reducing by half the RP required.

The first nation to achieve a particular scientific expedition gains a propaganda bonus. In the event multiple nations attempt the same expedition the same turn the missions occur in order of RP budgeted, highest to lowest, with the highest budget getting there first.

TL1 – Metalworking

This tech level is roughly the way the Human Race has existed since metalworking was developed until the late Medieval period. Armies are equipped with swords, spears, bows and other traditional weapons.

TL2 – 16th and 17th Centuries

The development of gunpowder weapons in the 16th and 17th centuries changed the face of warfare while making little difference in everyday life. Infantry are equipped with harquebus muskets, pikes and a smattering of crossbows. Cannon are deployed in support. Cavalrymen have swords and wheelock pistols.

TL3 – 18th Century

The awkward harquebus develops into a flintlock musket. The detachable bayonet eliminates the need for pikemen. Elite troops are known as “grenadiers” and employ little, round black bombs when assaulting fortifications. Artillery calibers are standardized and pre-measured charges introduced. Ships-of-the-line have 64 or more large cannon on multiple decks. Heavy siege guns demolish the remaining castles. The first hot air balloons take flight.

TL4 – Industrial Revolution

At this TL (circa 1815) steam power becomes more widespread. Canned food is invented. Artillery now employs flintlock percussion lanyards and spherical case shot (shrapnel) ammunition. Chemists discover a method to synthesize hydrogen gas allowing tethered observation balloons to stay aloft indefinitely.

TL5 – Steam Power

At this TL (circa 1830) steamships and trains are developed. Other notable inventions include matches, mechanical reapers and percussion caps. Artillery employs explosive shells to devastating effect. Warships add auxiliary steam power to augment sails.

Arctic Expeditions become possible.

TL6 – Ironclads (circa 1845)

At this TL armored warships become practical. Photography, anesthesia, sewing machines, revolvers, nitroglycerin and electric telegraphs become commercially available. Minie balls make rifled muskets devestating giving them a rate of fire like a smoothbore musket with the range and accuracy of a rifle. Field guns now fire improved explosive shells. Often guncotton is used as a propellant. Broadside ironclads make unarmored vessels obsolete.

Steam panzers with large iron wheels or self-laying track mechanisms are slow and break down a lot. But they are terrifying and armored to resist small arms and shell-fire.

Coast defense submarines are propelled by crank, armed with spar torpedoes, run awash (not fully submerged) and lack any substantial range. At higher Tls they're steam or gasoline powered and come equipped with self-propelled torpedoes.

Railroad networks cost 13 RP. Railroad networks can be built in any region lacking one except Canada, Manchuria, Siberia and Vladivostok. Regions that achieve TL 7 automatically gain a railroad network at no cost.

The Canadian Pacific Railroad requires 39 RP.

TL7 – Circa 1860

Notable inventions include brass cartridges, hypodermic syringes, storage batteries, antiseptics, cold storage, ice machines, Gatling guns, primitive internal combustion engines and the Bessemer steel process. Pressurized cylinders make chemical warfare possible, although not practical. The firepower of rifles has made cavalry charges suicidal. Cavalrymen with single shot carbines are really little more than mounted infantry. Central battery ironclads are low-slung heavily armed ironclads with their vitals protected inside a heavily armored citadel. Low freeboard and lack of supplies make this vessel only suitable for coastal defense. Monitors can’t be deployed on the high seas or for long overseas journeys. Invented by a swede, they quickly spread to America, Russia and many other navies.

Chemical warfare can be developed for 30 RP giving the player the ability to purchase chemical depots and chemical defense battalions. Engineer units, airships and aircraft can employ cylinders of chlorine gas in battle, releasing clouds of poison gas upwind of enemy positions. (Better hope the wind doesn't shift or blow too hard) employing a number of chemical ammunition depots equal to their LR in addition to their usual supplies. A similarly equipped enemy will retaliate in kind. Chemical defense battalions count as ten units for loss purposes for chemical warfare.

TL8 – Electricity (circa 1875)

Notable inventions include underwater torpedoes, dynamite, bicycles, color photography, typewriters, pressure cookers, telephones, phonographs, the microscope and electric lights. Improved ironclads with a few super-heavy guns mounted in armored barbettes or rotating turrets become available. Torpedo boats, tiny speedboats armed with a few infernal torpedoes and a machine gun or two, have short range and no endurance and can only be used for coast defense. Their threat prompts development of the first escort vessels: torpedo boat destroyers.

Land Ironclads (or land dreadnoughts or super-heavy tanks) weigh in excess of a thousand tons and are armed with battleship weapons and heavy armor. Very slow, they break down a lot. They cannot be used in amphibious landings. 300 RP

Human torpedoes (30) are larger than standard size torpedoes with controls for divers/frogmen used for suicide attacks or as “chariots” to allow special forces to attack ships in harbor by attaching magnetic mines to the hulls of anchored ships.

TL8 Scientific Expeditions & Technical Achievements

Amur River Line establishes a railroad network in Vladivostok. Requires 2 years and 39 RP.

Channel Tunnel requires 100 RP over eight years to connect England and France by railroad.

Chinese Eastern Railway completes a rail network in Manchuria for 13 RP. As long as Manchuria is Russian-controlled Vladivostok is also considered to have a rail network

Cross Greenland by sled requires a previous arctic expedition.

Discovering a North East Passage across Siberia to the Orient requires two previous arctic expeditions.

Explore the Yukon requires 30 RP.

Kiel Canal allows the controller of Germany to transit to and from the Baltic freely. It requires 78 RP and six years.

Trans-Siberian Railway requires 390 RP and 7 years to build a railroad network for Siberia.

TL9 – Autos & Airships (circa 1890)

Electric lights become more widespread. Notable commercial innovations include steam turbines, diesel engines, automobiles, airships and recoil-operated machine guns. Real submarines are developed, short-ranged submersible torpedo boats suitable only for coastal defense which can’t be deployed at sea or for long overseas journeys. The new fully submersible submarines aren’t terribly effective but neither is anti-submarine warfare. Maxim’s new weapon uses recoil to reload the weapon, a true machine gun. Quick-firing recuperating artillery pieces, typically of 75mm caliber, dominate the battlefield. Modern battleships mount paired 250mm (10”) guns fore and aft in armored rotating turrets with an assortment of smaller caliber weapons for defense against torpedo boats and the torpedo boat destroyers that now mount torpedoes of their own.

Airships cost 100 RP to develop. They have 800 km range and can be used for ground attack. Players who possess airships or air transports can then develop paratroops (30 RP) and Special forces (30 RP).

Armored cars (30 RP) with machine guns allow formation of reconnaissance regiments.

Motorized infantry (30) ride into battle on trucks.

Rotating cannon batteries (30) are large-caliber Gatling guns, typically 40mm (2-pounder) with explosive shells. Often called pom-pom guns from the noise of their firing.

Zalinski's pneumatic cannon (30) uses air pressure to shoot packets of unstable dynamite or nitroglycerin.

Discovering a North West Passage across Canada to the pacific requires 3 previous arctic expeditions and costs thirty RP.

To be the first to winter over in Antarctica requires 4 previous arctic/antarctic expeditions and 30 RP.

TL10 – Radios & Airplanes (circa 1905)

Notable commercial products include wireless telegraphy (radio) heavier-than-air craft, motorcycles and motion pictures. Anti-submarine warfare develops hydrophones. Chemical weapons include tear and mustard gasses. A cure for Yellow Fever is developed along with effective treatments for malaria and other tropical diseases. Infantrymen with bolt action magazine rifles have machine-guns and trench mortars in support. Modern “dreadnought” battleships with eight or more 300mm (12”) guns mounted in multiple armored rotating turrets dominate the seas. Long-range submarines make commerce protection difficult. Airships have 1600 km range. Aircraft are short-ranged and fragile, often with two or even three wings.

Research programs include: air cushion vehicles, aircraft carriers, air transports, the Paris Gun, and long range bombers. 30 RP each.

Biological warfare (also known as “public health in reverse”) costs 100 RP to develop a deliverable weapon, and thirty each turn you wish to employ it. Biological attacks can be made by aircraft, missile or special forces units, typically against the enemy's population.

Cruise missiles are unmanned aircraft programmed to crash a payload into a target. Given technical limitations, before TL14 the target has to be something very large like an enemy city or industrial complex. Cruise missiles are not units but allow long-range bombers, and short-range missile regiments the ability to make attacks with an 800 km range. Cruise missiles, being small aircraft, can be defended against by tactical aircraft and anti-aircraft units.

Mustard gas permits artillery units to use a number of chemical depots up to their LR to make chemical attacks. Engineers replace their unreliable chlorine cylinders with mortars firing gas shells. Must have chemical warfare to develop mustard gas.

First to reach the North Pole requires 5 previous arctic expeditions.

First to reach the South Magnetic Pole requires 6 previous arctic/antarctic expeditions.

First to reach the South Pole requires 7 previous arctic/antarctic expeditions.

Building the Panama or Central American Canals links the Caribbean with the Pacific Ocean and requires 403 RP over a minimum of ten years.

TL11 – Motorization (circa 1920)

Commercial radio stations begin broadcasting and airlines begin operations. Plastics become commercially available. Tanks and armored vehicles become military essentials. Sonar is developed to hunt submarines. Auto-gyros (a weird hybrid between a helicopter and an airplane) are invented. Anti-tank rifles are large caliber sniper rifles with armor-piercing ammunition designed to penetrate light armored vehicles. Modern battleships mount eight or more 350mm (14’) guns in multiple armored rotating turrets. Capital ship aircraft carriers carry between 60 to 90 aircraft. Tanks with light armor mount 37mm to 50mm guns. LRB have 1600 km range.

Auto-giros, a weird airplane/helicopter hybrid useful for hunting submarines or providing ground support, can be developed for 30 RP.

Heavy Cruisers. After the First World War the Washington Naval Treaty limited battleship construction leading to development of heavy cruisers. Cruisers are suitable for commerce raiding or protecting commerce from enemy cruisers. They can't really stand up to enemy battleships. 10 RP

Pocket Battleships are just super-heavy cruisers armed with a few large battleship-type guns but with cruiser armor and speed to theoretically outgun anything they can't outrun. (Kind of like a junior battle cruiser.) Requires heavy cruisers plus 5 RP.

TL12 – Rockets & Radar (circa 1935)

Atomic theory has advanced to the point atomic weapons become technically possible. Air defense systems begin experiments with radar. Rockets capable of reaching space become possible. Helicopters are invented. Anti-tank weapons typically include 50mm to 75mm artillery as well as light rocket launchers or anti-tank rifles for infantrymen. Tanks mount 75mm guns and heavier armor. Field artillery weapons range from 105mm to 155mm. Modern battleships mount eight or more 400mm (16”) guns in multiple armored rotating turrets. Aircraft carriers dominate naval warfare. Tactical aircraft have 800 km range. Drop tanks can double the range of tactical aircraft if the bomber fanatics in your air force allow their use. Long range bombers have a 3,000 km range.

A 3-stage rocket such as the Saturn-V requires ICBM development plus 100 RP.

Atomic Weapons (300 RP) allow one long-range bomber unit to drop A-bombs on enemy targets. The amount of production lost depends on the number of weapons used. One will destroy 20pp. Primitive atomic weapons are much too heavy (ten tons) to be used as a missile warhead.

Death ray (X-ray lasers or particle beams) are huge, immobile air defense installations requiring vast amounts of power. They also function as a missile defense system. 300 RP.

Die Glocke Projekt attempts to develop a time displacement device but fails, inadvertently discovering a way to open portals to alternate dimensions, leading to development of the jump drive after a further cost of 300 RP

Dirty bombs are standard high explosive bombs seeded with radioactive waste. These require no RP to develop if you already have atomic weapons or thorium reactors. Any aircraft can attack with dirty bombs. These do no additional damage, only poisoning the target area for years with radiation. This is widely viewed as a criminal atrocity.

Establishing the first permanent antarctic base requires 8 previous expeditions. Maintaining one takes 1 RP per turn.

Heavy lift launch vehicles (HLLV) are mega-size booster rockets larger than a Saturn-V. They require 3-stage rocket development plus 100 RP.

High pressure pump guns are too big to move. They're built in place and can attack large enemy targets such as cities up to 160 km away.

Intercontinental-range missiles require IRBMs and 100 RP, allowing the purchase and use of ICBM regiments.

Intermediate-range missiles requires short-range missiles and 100 RP, allowing the purchase and use of IRBM regiments and development of ICBMs and missile submarines.

Missile submarines require IRBM and 100 RP.

NERVA atomic rocket engines require 100 RP plus ICBM and either atomic weapons or a thorium reactor. They count as an HLLV.

Rocket plane interceptors (30 RP) are designed for air defense, not ground attack. They're considered TL13 jets for air-to-air combat purposes.

Short-range missiles (300 RP) allow purchase and use of short range missile regiments with a 320 km range and development of longer range missiles.

Space shuttle is a reusable ground to orbit transport that can also be used as a “antipodal bomberwith global range. Development requires ICBMs and 300 RP.

Tactical nuclear weapons require atomic weapons and 300 RP. By ramping up plutonium production and developing smaller weapons, any aircraft, artillery, battleship, destroyer, submarine, engineer, missile or special forces unit may employ tactical nuclear weapons. Tactical nuclear attacks destroy enemy units but also inflict production losses through fallout in the regions they are detonated in.

Heilobeam “sun gun” is a giant mirror in space that concentrates solar energy in a tight beam devastating to entire regions. Requires an existing space station plus the same cost again in RP.

Hydrogen bomb requires atomic weapons and 300 RP, allowing any long-range bomber or missile units to employ fusion warheads. Fusion bombs reduce production but can only be delivered by long-range bomber or missile. The damage per weapon depends on the number of weapons detonated in a region and decreases the more weapons used at the same time. (Eventually all you do is make the rubble bounce.) A single one megaton bomb destroys 200 production.

Hundred megaton bomb requires hydrogen bomb + 30 RP and is mostly a propaganda stunt demonstrating (when you test it) that you have the biggest bombs.

Orion Project (fission pulse engine) requires tactical nuclear weapons and allows construction of space ships on the earth at the standard production cost of a regular naval vessel of the same class if you don't mind the fallout of a surface launch. (Estimated to cause one death by cancer per launch or landing.) Or build them in orbit with a space station paying in RP a cost based on your most advanced rocket booster.

Philadelphia Experiment attempts to develop a way to make warships invisible to enemy radar but fails spectacularly, leading to development of the jump drive after a further expenditure of 300 RP.

Thorium reactor (100 RP) allows generation of atomic power without making atomic weapons possible. (Thorium reactors don't create plutonium.)

Unmanned space exploration missions

Orbital satellite requires an IRBM.

Animal in orbit requires 1 previous satellite mission.

Weather satellite requires 1 previous satellite mission.

Communications satellite requires 1 previous satellite mission.

Radiation probe requires 1 previous satellite mission.

Lunar probe requires an ICBM & 3 prior satellite missions.

Venus probe requires a previous lunar probe mission and a 3-stage rocket

Mars probe requires a previous lunar probe mission and a 3-stage rocket.

Jupiter probe requires a previous successful Mars probe mission.

Mercury probe requires a previous successful Venus probe mission.

Probe to the Outer Planets requires a successful Jupiter probe mission.

Manned Space Missions

Manned sub-orbital mission requires an IRBM + 3 previous space missions.

Manned orbital mission requires an IRBM + 4 previous space missions.

2-person capsule requires 6 manned missions.

Spacewalk requires 3 manned flights and a 2-person capsule.

3-person capsule requires a successful spacewalk.

Docking requires a successful Spacewalk

Orbital Spacelab requires a 3-stage rocket or space shuttle + 3 previous docking missions

Space Station requires an Orbital Spacelab + either HLLV +60 RP -or- space shuttle +150 RP -or- 3-stage rocket +180 RP -or- ICBM +3,000 RP. A space station can be built as an orbital weapons platform equipped with nuclear warheads.

Maintaining a space station requires 30 RP a turn.

Lunar Orbit mission requires 3-stage rocket and a 3-person capsule + 3 previous docking missions -or- HLLV and 15 previous manned missions

Building lunar landing craft in orbit requires space station and 30 RP + 3-stage rocket, space shuttle or HLLV. A lunar landing craft can be used once.

Lunar Landing requires either 3 previous Lunar Orbit missions, a lunar landing craft or a deep space scout vessel.

Establishing a moon base requires HLLV, a previous Lunar Landing and 100 RP.

Maintaining a lunar base requires 30 RP a turn.

Building a deep space vessel in orbit requires either a space station -or- a Bifrost Bridge. A deep space vessel has an cost based on your most advanced boosters. LR is always half the cost. Cost is always in RP unless you have a Bifrost Bridge when you can use regular production.

Deep space vessel type

Best booster is...ICBM

3-stage rocket

Space Shuttle


Bifrost Bridge

Scout, escort, gunboat, missile boat, monitor, or transport






Colonial transport












Mars landing requires a lunar landing plus a deep space vessel.

Establishing a base on Mars requires a Mars landing + 300 RP.

Maintaining a Martian base requires 30 RP per turn.

Locating & surveying a habitable world orbiting another star requires jump drive and a deep space scout vessel plus 30 RP.

Colonizing a habitable world requires jump drive and a colonial transport, which is expended establishing the colony.

TL13 – The Atomic Era (circa 1950)

Notable innovations include jet aircraft, the maturity of television and the growth of suburbs and highways. Historically nuclear weapons became developed as well as atomic power reactors. Infantry are equipped with assault rifles combining the firepower of sub-machine-guns with the range of a rifle. Recoiless rifles make light artillery man-portable. Tanks are equipped with heavy armor and 90mm guns. Surface to air anti-aircraft missiles and helicopters become commonly available. Fuel guzzling jet aircraft have 800 km range.

Aerial refueling requires 30 RP and gives long-range bombers unlimited range.

Beamed power requires 300 RP and allows a new social program: free beamed power.

Doomsday device requires 30 RP plus salted warheads and the hundred megaton bomb to produce vast clouds of radioactive fallout designed to make the Earth uninhabitable.

Nuclear attack submarines require 30 RP and either atomic weapons or a thorium reactor.

Salted Warheads seed normal hydrogen bombs with cobalt or other elements designed to maximize fallout. They require hydrogen bombs plus 30 RP.

TL14 – The Computer Age (circa 1965)

Regions of this tech level have technical abilities similar to the US during the late 1960s and 1970s. Notable innovations include the development of computers and lasers. Infantry now field grenade launchers and body armor. Anti-tank guided missiles make recoiless rifles obsolete. Tanks with heavier armor now mount 105mm guns.

Anti-ballistic missile defense systems allow defense against enemy missiles and warheads, typically with 80% effectiveness meaning it takes two or three to guarantee a kill on incoming missiles.

FOBS warheads are launched into orbit and then remain there until deorbited on command. An ICBM regiment can place 50 warheads in orbit as a regular attack, but re-entry and detonation can be delayed indefinitely.

MIRV warheads allow one missile to strike multiple targets. As the multiple warheads are much smaller than a single large warhead, this is only an advantage if used against enemy missile silos, where one missile can now guarantee destruction of an enemy silo where in the past it required two or three.

TL15 – Guided Munitions (circa 1980)

Regions of this tech level have technical abilities similar to the US during the historical 1980s and early 1990s. Notable innovations include the development of personal computers and laser-guided munitions. Tanks mount 120mm guns.

Improved cruise missiles have 2500 km range.

Neutron bombs allow use of tactical nuclear weapons with greatly reduced fallout.

The Bifrost Bridge laser launch system uses advanced lasers to project capsules into orbit very cheaply. With it you can build spacecraft in orbit for the same cost as standard naval vessels of the same class. 300 RP

Strategic Defense Initiative allows deployment of missile defenses in space (OWP) for 300 RP. SDI unit cost depends on the best booster available: Bifrost Bridge=2, HLLV=4, Space shuttle=10, 3-stage rocket=12, ICBM=200. Upkeep is half this. OWP units are 100% effective against attacking missiles.

TL16 – Stealth (circa 1995)

The Internet becomes commercialized.

Project Thor (also known as the “Rods from God”) are tungsten rods the size of telephone poles placed into orbit with computerized guidance systems. Upon command they can be deorbited, striking the surface with the force of a tactical nuclear weapon but without any fallout. They can't be stopped by missile defenses. With IRBMs or any more advanced space program a player can place rods in orbit at a cost of 1 RP each.

TL17 – Drones (circa 2010)

Advances in computer technology allow smaller and more capable robots, which soon become ubiquitous in society. Autonomous cars reduce road accidents. Tanks become automated, initially piloted by an operator in a secure location but becoming more autonomous as technology becomes more trusted and capable. Larger warships are equipped with mass drivers (electromagnetic cannon) having such high rates of fire they virtually eliminate missiles and manned aircraft from naval warfare. Electronic deflector shields make tanks almost immune to missile attack. Laser air defense weapons make manned aircraft obsolete.

Jump drive (300 RP) allows spacecraft built with a grid of rare earth alloys embedded in their hull to transit into an alternate universe where locations correlate to those in our universe but distances are much smaller. The ship moves a short distance there, then jump back to our universe having covered a vast distance, making faster than light travel possible without actually exceeding the speed of light. Spacecraft can now reach other star systems in weeks rather than millennia, permitting exploration and colonization of the galaxy.

Fusion power can be developed, becoming commonly available as TL18 is reached.

TL18 – The Cusp (circa 2025)

The relentless advance of technology places Mankind on the cusp of The Singularity which takes an unexpected form. The widespread expectation of computer AI proves to be a fantasy. Computers continue to grow in complexity but never become self-aware. However, the development of medical science makes humans essentially immortal (if they can pay for the treatments) but Man's philosophical (and moral) deficiencies remain. Evolution comes to an abrupt and unexpected end with no god-like, enlightened non-corporal beings, just flawed but non-aging humans moving out into the galaxy, clashing with similarly technically advanced but morally handicapped alien civilizations.

Space Travel

A Heim hyper-drive (or Heimer drive) consists of a net of rare earth wiring embedded in the hull of a spaceship. Charged with power, it jumps the ship into Hyperspace, another dimension that correlates to our own but is much “smaller” so that distances moved there equate to much longer distances here. Ships in hyperspace move normally and can detect, encounter, and even fight other ships there. However, stellar objects there are microscopic compared to our universe and cannot normally be seen, let alone landed upon. After traveling a short distance there, the ship energizes its hyper-drive and jumps back to normal space, having moved a vast distance. Hyper-drive allows spacecraft to move vast distances without violating the light speed limit. Its main limitation is that ships cannot make jump to or from hyperspace within 100 diameters of a gravity well. So, for example, this means no ship can jump within 800,000 miles of Earth, a 32-hour journey at escape velocity. Typically, spacecraft have to break orbit, and travel a day or two away from a world before they can jump. No ship can enter normal space within the same radius. Since most movement occurs in Hyperspace, picket boats could be stationed there along your frontier to give warning of approaching fleets. Battles could occur in either hyper or normal space.

On unexplored or frontier worlds, Orion or NERVA ships are designed to land in the sea, taking advantage of the water to carry away any radioactive fallout. On developed worlds, space shuttles or a Bifrost Bridge are generally used to reach the surface.

Colony ships are designed to land colonists on the surface and then be broken up for building materials. The ship's reactor is re-purposed to power the settlement and a Bifrost Bridge.

Ship weapons are generally missiles with nuclear warheads, with small lasers or mass driver guns for point defense or close range attack. Scout ships are optimized for reconnaissance and survey. They're armed with a laser for point defense and a small shuttle or landing craft for exploration. Transports are unarmed but can transport 5 LR of military units. Gunboats mount rail or coil guns with nuclear shaped-charge shells. Missile boats mount the maximum missiles generally in external mounts for the greatest size volley. Monitors mount a particle beam for the maximum damage at short range. A battleship mounts massive generators and one very large laser array designed to swat enemy warships up to a few light seconds range (500,000 km), well outside the range of guns and missiles.

While direct hits by coil or rail gun mass drivers can only damage spacecraft, a casaba cannon or nuclear-tipped missile (often armed with an x-ray or gamma ray bomb-pumped one-shot laser) will obliterate a ship even with a near miss.