Since the last post, I have taken a break from design, as I wasn't sure the best way forward. I've done some play testing, and while results were mostly positive, there were some aspects of the game that clearly needed work. In no particular order:
- The game moved from the early game to the late gate far too fast.
- Easily-constructed Destroyers were a problem compared to more risk-intensive strategies like drawing cards, even against larger ships.
- Deckbuilding was not ideal for the type of game this was turning out to be.
Many changes have happened since then, most of which apparently weren't written down. I'm still working to update the latest rules based on my memory, but some of the core changes:
The game now uses three standard decks, one per domain. The intent is to simplify as much as possible without harming the core of the game. This was originally introduced in 7.1, but has been solidified in 7.2 and 7.3. While deckbuilding is fun, collecting is not, and can be expensive. Further, it creates a strong barrier between established players and new players (which was evident in testing).
Version 7.3 has all players drawing from the same three decks (one per domain). These 40-card decks can be drawn from for 3 credits during your command phase. Also of note, drawing cards is no longer free, ever. Any cards must be paid for. Players do start with a small hand of cards from the domain of their choice, but any cards after that must be purchased.
As a note, planets are also no longer included in the decks. They belong in their own Planet deck, and are dealt out at the start of the game face down. As systems are explored, these cards are flipped over. They never need to be drawn or played during the game itself.
Rather than focus on pure combat to defeat an opponent, victory points have been added as the win condition. In version 7.2, the goal was to have 15 victory points. In 7.3, you need twice as many as any opponent, with a minimum of 10. This is still needing testing to confirm, and will probably change. The intent is to focus the game on building your own empire, rather than just tearing down your opponent's.
Victory points are primarily gained from improving systems you control. When you explore a system, you can take control of it for 1 credit. Place a counter on the planet for you; that's your victory point. Then, for twice the number of counters on a system, you can upgrade it (place another counter). So to get from one to two, pay 2 credits. To get to three, pay 4 credits. And so on. This encourages expansion into the game board, while allowing players to invest in particular systems.
At the start of your turn, you gain credits for each development you have on the board. So the system with 3 developments gives you 3 credits at the start of your turn. Nice! However, if an opponent captures the system, it loses all of its developments, and they get to put one down for free (part of conquest).
Another method is a Science technology that grants you victory points in return for discarding 3 cards. Considering that no cards are free, this is likely 9 credits for 1 victory point. But at the end of a game, this could make all the difference.
Ships have been removed from the domains. Rather than drawing ships, players may build ships (in their home system or a system with a Shipyard or similar effect) from a list of standard designs. Part of testing revealed the power of the Destroyer, which was mainly because it could always be built. Players who relied on drawing cards had to pay the cost of a destroyer just to get a card, then an additional cost to build the ship. This turned Industry, supposedly the aggresive domain, into the only option for solid defense. Reducing the cost of building ships was the only option.
No longer. Ships have been fully removed from the domain decks, leaving stations, commands, maneuvers, and technologies. As most of the ship mechanics were unique, they have been removed as well. This includes Fast, Long Range, Contract, Disable, and the Science combat tricks. While these were all very cool, and will probably be brought back later, using a set list of ships should help balance the game between an offensive and defensive player. Drawing a card from a given deck should be about what you want to do, not what you have to do. And not being able to play the defensive cards from Politics and Science because you need to reduce the cost of ships for defense is no good.
Standard ships require certain numbers of victory points to build, so you can't start off by building battleships. They are:
- (req: 0 vp) Scouts cost 1, have 0 attack, and 2 hull.
- (req: 2 vp) Corvettes cost 2, have 2 attack, and 1 hull.
- (req: 4 vp) Destroyers cost 3, have 1 attack, and 3 hull.
- (req: 6 vp) Battlecruisers cost 4, have 3 attack, and 4 hull.
- (req: 8 vp) Dreadnoughts cost 7, have 4 attack, and 8 hull.
This has yet to be fully tested, but removing most if not all ships from the domain decks is a trend that will continue.
There are many more changes coming as development progresses. Also, I'm hoping to start work on a virtual platform now that the game is getting further along, which will allow for faster testing and development. I look forward to sharing more as time allows. Have a good one!