Friday, June 08, 2007

Comments on Rick's game Spatial Delivery

Spatial Delivery general thoughts and comments
I was happy to get the chance to play Spatial Delivery, a prototype by Rick Holzgrafe, at KublaCon last weekend. The game is about collecting resources at earth and then setting up trade routes and delivering them to planets in need. The resources come in 4 flavors: Medical, Science, Robots, and Culture- each planet wants one of them. The game is played in 6 rounds, each round consisting of the following phases:
1. Draft – Players draft Resource and Exploration cards until they have a hand of 5 cards.
2. Action – Players take turns building or moving and selling the resources at various planets to get VPs

So in general you get the resources you want to trade based on their value and the route you plan to take to deliver them. Then you get VPs for building Trade Stations (which cost Exploration cards) and for dropping off stuff at planets – only 1 trade per planet per round is allowed.

I liked the basic structure of the game, and how your draft picks hep drive where you want to go on the board, then where you establish trade routes on the board help drive what cards you want to draft. I think there’s some really good ideas in there and the game has the potential to be quite good!

Spatial Delivery specific thoughts and comments (mostly for Rick)
I liked all the basic aspects and the basic skeleton of the game:

- Players “get stuff” (in this case via draft) in order to deliver… so the stuff they want to get is driven by what they want to deliver, then later their network dictates what they want to get. I think this is good, and probably fairly standard.

- The reward structure is good, more points for trade stations at ‘better’ locations, more points for further away – rewards the extra work done to build those stations and make those deliveries.

- I’m beginning to like the ‘competitive draft’ more – I’m still not altogether fond of it though. I think it can work, but it needs some help from what we played (I’ve got some ideas on that, below)

The things I didn’t like can all be fixed, I think, and the game seems to have plenty of potential. I didn’t like the way spending your challenge token to protect your card didn’t really protect your card. I didn’t like the amount of time and effort that went into the draft. I didn’t like the stalling out, waiting for someone else to build. I didn’t like breaking up trade routes with other trade stations (as I believe Rick didn’t either). I didn’t like how different Exploration cards were from goods cards, and how different in relative value they could be. But as I said, I think all these things can be fixed. Here’s how I’d probably try it:

1. Modify the draft. For starters, perhaps if you challenge for a card and get denied, you shouldn’t get a chance later to draw a card to replace the one you didn’t get now. I.E. there should be exactly X rounds of drafting, not just ‘until everyone has X cards’.

2. When challenging for a card, you give the player one of your Rocket tokens (put it on the card to indicate the challenge). It should cost 2 challenge tokens (maybe just 1 in light of comment #1) to deny the challenge – the defender would give the 1 (or 2) tokens to the challenger, and the card would be protected from theft. In effect, challenging a card should be like trading movement points for that card (see next)… so if you ever lose a card in a challenge, you get movement points in return, and if you ever keep a card in a challenge it should basically cost you movement points. Note, based on #1 above, challenging costs you your turn, and if you get denied, you get movement points instead of a card. In general, if you challenge for a card you’re really just offering to trade your movement points for their card. Maybe you should be able to challenge with as many tokens as you want, and to defend they have to give you that number of tokens.

3. Challenge tokens should take on additional meaning. I think they should count as Rocket cards... that is to say you can spend them to move or build trade routes. If you challenged for cards, then you’ll have fewer of them to spend (and the person whose card you took will have more). If you defended then you’ll have fewer (and the person you defended against will have more). I think there could still be rocket cards in the deck, as players will need (or maybe want) them… but they wouldn’t need to be 50% of the deck. Maybe 20% would be fine.

4. Change the costs for building and add a cost for moving. Cost for building should be 1 Rocket card per trade route segment (stick), and trade stations should cost 1 card per adjacent planet, of the type the planet wants. I also think you should be able to build track without having to build a station. Cost to move should be 1 rocket card to move from station to station along a single colored route. So if there’s a long Red route, and Yellow splits it with a trade station, you could fly along the red route, PAST the yellow station, to the red station. I suppose you could stop at the yellow station if you like. Alternatively, make all routes the same color and don’t allow stations to break them. Remember, challenge tokens can be spent as rocket cards for moving and building routes! So each turn players get an income of rockets in the form of challenge tokens, and they might ‘barter’ for more via challenges.

5. I might suggest with these changes that you try laying out the whole board at the outset… that might be alright, or it might be like you found before that players simply want to jet straight out to the boonies. Not sure about that.

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