Galactic Battlecruisers – Part 1

by Diego Beltrami


This is an interesting game for me. Every one of us has their dream game. A game we build in our heads, that embodies everything we want to experience. Well, this is not that game, this is actually a boardgame I’m designing. It’s born from that dream game of mine but it can’t be it because… well, dreams are dreams, they do not gel well with reality.

Mostly it’s because my dream game is closer to simulation, but that’s impossible with a boardgame. My dreamgame is basically a Battlestar Galactica simluator. Centred on capital ship combat, with fleet and crew management. A lot of stuff actually. But I’m no coder so I can’t build that. What I can do is explore different aspects of that dreamgame from a board game perspective. And that’s what I’m doing.

Galactic Battlecruisers (tentative name) is a game about capital ship combat. The idea is to take this behemoths and pit two against each other to see who destroys the other first.

To do this I had to analyse what’s involved in capital ship combat and break it into useful parts. That’s when I came up with the three phase turn. You see there are three main elements in combat: Attack, defence and movement. They have to be tied to a resource of some kind and in space ships it’s always power output. That’s where the “energy management” system comes from. One of the fun things of space combat, ever since the X-Wing games (the main inspiration for the system) or Star Trek shows is how these three elements are balanced against each other. It adds a strategical element by letting the player focus on one kind of action over another, or just go for a balanced approach. The way this works is that at the start of every turn each player has the chance to adjust their power levels. A total of nine points can be distributed between the three systems, with a maximum of five and a minimum of one. So, if to a symbolic level, power output is the resource, in reality it’s the amount of orders each player has during their turn. This forms the core of the game. The balance between attack, defence and movement, and to keep things simple it’s important to tie all the systems to these three elements. Each action the player takes consumes one of these orders which can take different shapes according of what the player wants to do. For example the player can move forward a set amount of tiles or he can rotate the ship. Both of these actions consume one order each.

energy levels-01

Yes, that’s Spanish for you.

This system is advantageous in another way too. It breaks apart the turn flow in different stages. You have the movement phase, the attack phase and the defence phase. For the sake of simplicity and to add to the tactical layer you can’t mix these. You take all your movement orders together and all your attack orders together. Moving, attacking and then moving again would make the game harder to keep a track of and also it’d end in peekaboo attacks constantly going in and out of range in the same turn. Here you can choose to attack first and move second or move first and attack later. That’s the first tactical choice the player is faced after setting the “energy output” (the order amounts). Defence is a bit trickier and it’s subject to change with further playtesting so I won’t go into detail right now.

What I intend to do is to have every system in the game revolve around these orders. Either directly or as modifiers. The playtested version had a lot of systems that were independent of this and made the game cumbersome and hard to keep track of. So next version will address these issues, amongst others that I’ll leave for another entry.

Future entries will tackle each phase and explain how they manifest in the game.

There might be a game already in existence that does this, and perhaps it even does it much better. But even despite that I’ve found the experience extremely rewarding and an interesting way to approach design issues from a different place (remember that I’m an industrial designer, not a game one), and despite not having any formal training in game design I’ve feel that I’ve achieved an interesting system. We’ll see where this takes us, for now I’m feeling fulfilled thanks to this game and I’m enjoying talking about it, so more will come later.