Monday, May 21, 2007

Keep on Truckin' - or in this case Spaceshippin'

This weekend saw another 2 playtests of Terra Prime, incorporating some of the changes discussed in the last post...

Aliens: I had decided they were too easy to kill, so to make them "appropriately difficult" as well as to clean up some of the rules, I removed the "Fight back" retaliatory strike altogether. Aliens shoot at players 1 time at the end of any action, period. If a player wants to shoot at (or be diplomatic toward) aliens, they must use an Attack action. This being the case, there need not be any bonus associated with the attack action to make it "better than" the retaliatory strike. Also, I decided that ANYTHING (aliens, asteroids, people shooting at aliens) should hit on a 5 or 6, not 4, 5, or 6.

Along with this change, I've combined the Weapon and Shield upgrade tracks into 1 track. they were similar, and not used enough, and now for the same cost you upgrade both weapons and shields so maybe it'll get used more.

I like the way these changes have affected the game. it takes more actions to kill aliens, which is the intention, and they always get to shoot at you when you move into the sector... so they're more dangerous and more of a hindrance, but if you prepare for them you can defeat them without much worry.

Game end trigger: I'm not sure I like the Yellow tiles explored game end trigger, but it might be for a different reason. I'm not sure it does anything for the game. I'm still considering removing it altogether, but I still like it in some ways. Maybe it is fine as is.

The bigger problem is that there's not enough action in the Red zone. Someone suggested something simple - award VPs for exploring the Red tiles. Simply get 3 (?) VPs whenever you explore a Red tile. That rewards "explorers" for exploring the outer reaches on the board, and it gets red tiles into play. Red tiles are dangerous, which encourages "preparing" your ship to go out there, and maybe using scanners as well. I'd like to try that out.

Demand tiles: The demand tiles seem to be working just fine. I might just do away with the ones that require 1 green and 1 blue cube, as anyone can fulfill that with their base ship...

Tech upgrades: In addition to combining the Weapon and Shield upgrades, I also added the Cloaking device, which I like, though it hasn't been used yet. With vps for exploring I think it'll be a lot more enticing, as you can explore without fear of aliens. I'm still not thrilled with the cargo upgrade track... cryo-chambers taking 1 spot instead of 2 (so you could carry up to 6 if you buy Holds) is sorta bad I think, and the interchangeable holds is lame. An idea we discussed after yesterday's game was that the first upgrade changes your starting cargo hold from Blue/Green to Wild/Wild/Wild... other cargo modules are still color specific. then the second upgrade could be that a colony marker will fit into any single Wild cargo space (then clarify that they normally require a Green/Blue hold - meaning only your initial hold can take it).

I was going to remove any holds from the supply that are Green/Blue, but I just realized that buying a Blue/Green hold might be interesting if you can out a colony marker in it... and if it also turned into 3 wilds with the upgrade, because buying it means you can't carry Yellow. I'll think abotu that some more.

Finally, I thought it might be interesting to have an upgrade that gave you 10 extra credits per delivery. Since the 2nd row of the Engine upgrades isn't usually taken, I might add that to the +1 action per turn (like the Harbor in Puerto Rico)... then the Quick delivery player will want that upgrade more, more points per delivery and more actions to do it faster.

Balancing VPs: I have felt that Colony points are too high relative to delivery points. I did a lot of mathematical gymnastics trying to determine a reasonably accurate VP-per-action comparison of delivery points and colony points... I thought I had something figured out which would reduce the Colony points and increase the delivery points, bringing them both up to what I thought was a reasonably similar VP-per-action... but in practice I hated it! I'm going to go back to the colony scoring I had, and then I'm going to double the VP value of money (10 credits = 1VP) at the end of the game. This may leave deliveries at a smaller VP-per-action, but I think players have more chances to do it, so that might be OK. Plus there are bonuses for tiles, and the new idea for the "harbor" upgrade to increase that. Not to mention, a Delivery strategy might not need to spend as much money on other modules.

I'd like to try the game one more time before I go to KublaCon to see if I need to abandon any of these changes, but I think even if they're bad they're not so bad the game won't work.

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