Galactic Battlecruisers Part 10 – Update after a while
by Diego Beltrami
The game was going great, each playtest revealed things to work out. There were two main issues now: First the game was too lengthy, dragging at the end and then the game felt too random due to the way attack and defense rolls were resolved. I tried several things to solve those problems, most of them were patches, putting more stuff on top of the existing systems instead of resolving the issues by reevaluating the core mechanics.
As for length at one point I tried a “jump meter” to constrain the game to a certain length. I set it up as each turn a player would advance his jump meter one point. Then jump points would become another resource, letting a player do more actions or get more tactic cards, and to make things more “interesting” I added a mechanic that upon a successful attack a player could choose to reduce the enemy jump meter instead of damaging the ship. This caused the jump meter to have the opposite to the desired result as players would forever get the other’s jump meter down instead dragging the game down forever.
I ended up scrapping the jump meter completely as the solution was much more simple than that, I just reduced the damage a system could sustain from three points to two. This speed things up a lot more without having to add any new mechanic on top.
In trying to solve the problem of randomness It was important to me to retain some of it, as I feel that’s where some of the emergent narrative comes from. That system that seemed impervious to damage, that gun that never failed to hit, those kind of stories are born from randomness and I didn’t want to lose it, but player needed to have some degree of control, otherwise the game wouldn’t be decided by the player choices but by the dice rolls, and that’s boring for everyone involved.
I had a few mechanics I wanted to try in order to solve the randomness issue. Most of them were about adding some kind of modifier that skewed things in favour of one type of roll. I had a mechanic where you had to assign your “XO” to a system and you’d get a bonifier to the rolls associated to that system. I never got to test that in a playthrough because reading some articles I stumbled upon the solution. I was reading about transmogrification and the solution presented there was so elegant that I had to try it. Instead of dice rolls the players would have a hand of cards with random values from one to six. This would mean that while the values in their hand would still be random there would be some layer of choice in what card to use and when.
This was obviously the path to go but now I had to adapt the rest of the game to it. I didn’t want the player to have two different hands of cards so tactic cards and “energy cards” (as I called the roll cards at first) had to be merged. I removed most of the penalizations and negative effects of the tactic cards and instead assigned each a value, the greater the value the better the special ability of the tactic. If you use a high level tactic like a jump for example, you have a big drawback, you are doing this awesome maneuver that can save you in a critical moment, but you’re sacrificing a six that is a sure hit in an attack or a pretty high chance of defense. So now the system has even more choice and consequence as using a tactic means sacrificing some points. This helps to make the game more interesting just by mashing two mechanics together.
The energy cards had a further impact in game mechanics as now I’m thinking that I need to give a use to the low level cards besides tactics. So I let the theme take me to the logical next step. Movement requires energy too, so do most of the actions you can use in the game. In fact the action board is an energy management panel, so why not mash those too? I can use energy cards to give all the kinds of orders not just attack and defense. Movement would consume energy and I can use the low power cards for those kind of orders. So now instead of defining how many orders you get per turn I just leave the amount of cards in a hand to define it. A player can give as many orders as he wants as long as he or she has the energy to do so.
Of course this meant that players need to replenish their hands, they get two cards per turn but they can take no action during their turn and get two extra cards instead.
One of the nice side effects of this system is that the game can end when the energy deck is exhausted, giving the game a natural ending if it’s taking too long.
And just like that there were lots of small changes in order to accommodate the new system.
So by changing dice for cards I managed to combine many of the game mechanics into the same system, giving the player more meaningful choices during play.
I think that with this the core of the game is pretty much wrapped. That doesn’t mean that the game is even closed to being finished. Now there’s a lot of balancing, reevaluating and testing to be done.
On the to do list there is:
Make torpedos great again, but not op like before.
Balance tactic cards and check if their powers are interesting/useful
What if the ship were three cells long instead of four?
Testing new Captains and see if they add something to the game
Introduce XO mechanic to see if it adds value to the game
And for the future, possible expansions:
Three and four player modes (new ships)
Secondary objectives and events (which would introduce points into the game so that would have to be reevaluated.