The first four actions fell into place almost immediately. The attack action, however, underwent a lot of changes to get where it is today.
Here’s what it looked like on 2/9
Based on a playtester’s suggestion, we tested a secret version of the Attack option. It works like this.
- Current player (attacker) declares which planet they are attacking, and which of their planets will participate (paying 1 credit per planet).
- Each other player (including the defender) secretly indicates if they are attacking or defending, and with how many of their planets (e.g. A3 = attacking with 3 planets, or 0 = not participating at all).
- In turn order, players reveal their choices, pay for their planets, and decide which planets to use.
- If (the total military value of attacking planets) - (the total military value of defending planets) equals or exceeds the cost (not military value) of the target planet, it is destroyed.
If not, if it equals or exceeds the upgrade cost of the target (upgraded) planet, it is downgraded. The difference between the previous version of the attack action is that the decision of the supporting player is done in secret, without negotiation.
7/27 If you successfully attack an upgraded planet, it’s downgraded, not destroyed, correct?
One player observed that the hidden bidding during an attack was unlike anything else in the game, and didn’t seem to fit. But, I like this mechanic, so I think we need to fix the impression that it doesn’t fit somehow.
7/26 Fleet cards - Cards used in combat, like coins, are always discarded, regardless of the result of the attack.
7/25 When I explained the combat resolution (specifically the conditions under which you get your cards back), one player said, “Could you repeat that in English?” I used an example to clarify.
Can only attack
At one point, a player had upgraded all her planets (upgrade), had no cards in hand (colonize), and was at her credit limit (produce). The deck of cards was empty (explore). Well, she said, I guess I have to attack.
Battle Order (card, then fist, then next player)
As soon as a battle is declared, each player figures out what they want to do, and then jumps in. Like the follow action, players will require different amounts of time to make their decision, but I don’t want to reward the last player to act with the foreknowledge of what other players have done. So, I try to get them to commit in turn order.
Doing two rounds (first of cards, then with credits) exacerbates this problem. Instead, each player should (a) commit card(s), (b) commit money (show their first), and then (c) look to the next player to repeat this process.
Battle resolution as binary
At this point, defending players got their cards back after a battle if the defense was successful by at least half the margin.
Likewise (you’re going to think I have impatient and chaotic playtesters) (which may be the case), players don’t count up an exact total for attacking and defending. Instead, they immediately see, based on the coins in everyone’s hand, what the outcome is. Then they move on, throwing their money into the bank, congratulating the battle’s victors or commiserating with the losers, and deciding what they are going to do next.
“Wait, “ I cry, “exactly how much money did each person contribute?”
“What does it matter?” they respond, “We know the attack was successful.”
“But, we need to calculate the margin, and compare it to the sum of the cards used in the attack, and divide by two, and see …” By this point, they’ve moved on.
In essence, the rule about cards used in battle should be simplified. If the attack was successful, defending cards are discarded, and vice versa.
Players can contribute cards to the battle. If you win by enough that half of your fleet (basic planet’s military power) was not destroyed, you keep the card, otherwise, it’s discarded.
Calculate this once per side (attacker/defender). All cards used for that side are either saved or discarded.
Can you use multiple cards? Yes
Cards used count towards claiming the UR card.
7/20 (From Jason - creation of Fleet)
But if we added another value to the card, it could represent your fleet. In hand means in space. Your fleet could be added to battle and a loss means your fleet was wiped out and simply goes back to the deck for someone else to discover. In hand just means you haven't docked at a planet yet and is yet another potential path to victory
tracking stars from downgraded or destroyed planets.
7/15 - Why aren’t you attacking?
There are two reasons players don’t want to attack. (1) They don’t know what the outcome will be, and (2) if they spend too much money, they’ll be vulnerable to a counter attack. For some players, producing income is always more appealing than attacking.
So, how can I make attacking more appealing? I don’t mind leaving the second factor alone - just because it’s not wise to spend all of your money in an attack, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attack at all. If you do spend all your money in an attack, you should feel vulnerable (unless your turn is next, and you know you’re going to produce).
7/13 - At this point, players could put as many credits as they had into a battle.
One of the players felt logically eliminated from the game a few turns before it actually ended. He was stuck at 1 planet, while other players had 2 or 3. At the end, everyone agreed that the active player had more money than everyone else, and therefore just needed to attack to win. We didn’t bother doing this final attack, but just declared him the winner.
7/11 Defending: Currently, each player that defends (successfully) gets a free explore. What if it were only the player(s) who defend the best? Nah, a free explore isn’t worth all that much.
7/9 (at this point, attacking a planet destroyed it, even it was upgraded. Successfully attacking an upgraded planet destroys it. As the free explore rewards early defending, I’m expecting successful attacks to be toward the end of the game. This might be too devastating for the attacked player, but hopefully it won’t eliminate them from the game. Even if it does, the game should be close to ending by this point.
7/9 If you successfully defend a planet from attack, you get a free explore action. There was previously very little incentive to help defend a planet, unless the attacker was going to destroy their third planet. In that case, you might be better off attacking to steal the bounty planet instead.
7/9 Attacking a upgraded planet currently downgrades it. But, the attackers don’t get a benefit (there’s no bounty), and defenders do (if the deck isn’t exhausted). Maybe a successful attack on any planet should destroy it? Losing an upgraded planet is painful, but it does move the game to a conclusion.
Attacking is still too mathy
Attacking is still too complicated and mathy, although these players may be overthinking it. If you’re not involved in the battle, your thought process should be:
- Do I want a card? If so, let’s defend.
- Do I want to get the UR card? Let’s attack.
- Do I want to keep my resources? Let’s stay out of it.
Trying to figure out what everyone else is going to do and what the likely outcome will be is too difficult. It slows the game down.
Players reveal cards in turn order, which my playtesters *still* complain about. They want it to be attacker/defender, then everyone else. What if only the attacker and defender were allowed to use cards in a battle? That might simplify the math and speed up the process.
10/10 Players still complain about the order in which cards are committed. They want it to be attacker, defender, everyone else.
10/4 You are limited in the number of coins you can use. The limit is the fleet value of planets you control (regardless of whether they are upgraded or not), excluding planets that are directly involved in the battle.
- If you support the defense without contributing any coins or cards, and the defense is successful, you don’t get a card.
10/4 The Fleet number is sufficiently important that it might deserve its own icon. Or maybe its icon should be bigger/flashier.
- When you attack or defend with no other planets, you can’t contribute any coins.
10/3 Combat motivations
After both games, we discussed combat, specifically what motivations players have to support the attacker or the defender.
Early game, as long as there are cards available, you want to support the defender to get a free explore. Late game, once all the cards are gone, you want to support the attacker if you can contribute the most and steal the UR card.
However, what if there are no cards available to give you an incentive to support the defender, and you don’t have enough resources to acquire the UR card? Then you don’t really care what happens.
What if, for this case, we offered players an opportunity to be neutral? If you abstain from combat, you could get a coin, just like when you don’t follow an action. This would also provide an option for players that are struggling to decide if they want to defend or attack. This would also allow us to require attacking/defending supporters to use at least 1 coin.
9/30 Can you attack if you have no planets? Just using the fleet cards and coins in your hand? [No]
9/29 There’s a perception about attacking that one playtester described as “After you attack, you’re screwed.” So, either you attack, get the 6VP bonus, and win, or, if that doesn’t put you over the threshold for victory, you’ve lost.
[The playtesters] are experimenting with attacking because they don’t really have a good sense of what the results will be. I wish the benefits (and costs) of attacking were clearer.