My first professional game design project was Persian Incursion, a simulation of a hypothetical Israeli air campaign aimed at Iran's nuclear program. For a lifelong military enthusiast it was a dream project, especially since I got to work alongside Larry Bond and Chris Carlson, two masters of the wargaming field.
The prototypes I came up with at the beginning of the project were quite different, but the basic concepts were there: support from various countries provided political, military, and intelligence points, which could be used in turn to pay for cards that let players gain additional support or receive some other benefit related to the air campaign.
The attitudes of various regional and world players were tracked on the game map using a series of attitude indicators, nicknamed "Happy Tracks." Since the game simulated a relatively short air campaign, I could get away with using these simplistic scales- in this scenario neither Israel nor Iran cares if there's a backlash to their actions in three months, as long as they get what they want this week.
Balancing the game meant making sure both players had a chance to influence all the Happy Tracks in the game. This is one of the many spreadsheets I ran, drawing hands with macros until I was satisfied neither player would be locked out of any of the tracks...which meant neither player could be secure in their control of any of the tracks.
Persian Incursion also included a briefing book with detailed information about all the actors involved in the scenario, the targets Israel might try to hit, the hardware they would use, and how Iran might try to stop them. Analyzing Iran's oil infrastructure to find the bottlenecks Israel might break was one of the most fun parts of the project for me.