Thursday, April 02, 2009

Terra Prime: Finishing touches

I don't think it's time to break the full news story just yet, but information will be forthcoming... in the meantime I'll note that Terra Prime is indeed being published!

Aside: I'm really excited to have a game published... it's been a goal for some time now. I'm not sure why it's such a big deal for me - maybe it's pride in seeing my name on a box in the store, or affirmation that I've done something that somebody else feels is good enough to publish, or the potential satisfaction of bringing other people joy by creating a fun and interesting game. I'm sure it's some of each of those.

As such, I am in the process of putting on the finishing touches, tightening up the loose ends, and deciding once and for all exactly how I want each of the parts of the game to work. People are coming over tonight and tomorrow to play the game with me, and I hope to try a couple different versions of a couple of different aspects in order to choose what I think is the best. Here are some of the things I'm going to try out to see if I like them better than the current rule:

1. Since players now receive a reward for building a colony and for removing hostile aliens (a reward tile from the Game Timer supply) - usually cubes - I want to increase the number of cubes needed to diplomatically defeat the aliens. Thematically it's a trade now, rather than a payoff, since you get cubes back.

  • Instead of 1 cube per alien symbol, it costs 1 cube plus 1 per symbol

    If I don't like that, then I will keep it 1 cube per symbol, but maybe disallow Brownium - but I think this rule will work fine.

  • 2. There's been a sentiment that you should be able to discard a colony marker from the ship in case you find yourself lugging one around with no place to put it. This can happen, especially to a new player who is late in the turn order. The thing to do is either to find an Asteroid field or something to drop it off, or else fly back to Terra Prime and unload the marker. The problem is that you probably can't carry goods if you do that, which means you just wasted a lot of time picking up a colony marker, flying around with it, then flying it back home. The current rule is that you can jettison resource cubes whenever you want to, but you cannot jettison colony markers - those are people, you can't just dump them in space to die!

    On one hand it's intended that you should not pick up a colony marker unless you know what you're going to do with it, and so if you end up getting screwed that's kinda too bad and it should be a harsh punishment. On the other hand, the punishment for accidentally picking up a marker when you shouldn't have is very harsh if you have to do nothing for a couple of turns to correct it. One possible solution is to mirror the resource rule and allow the colony marker to be discarded at any time. Thematically it can be programmed to fly home on it's own or something. But as I said, it's supposed to be harsher than that, so maybe it takes an action (you have to prepare the marker for travel and program the autopilot). Maybe you lose leadership for it. Or maybe you can do it as an action at any colony, and if it's an opponent's colony, they get a point (like any time you use an opponent's colony).

  • As an action at a colony, a colony marker can be removed from your ship and returned to the supply. An opponent gets a point if you use their colony this way.

  • 3. Red colonies have evolved over the course of the game. Originally they were just like Yellow, Green, or Blue colonies - they made Red resources, and you could buy Modules at them. But based on the game's geography and development pattern, it wasn't useful to have red colonies sell things, and there wasn't time in the game to really benefit from delivering red resources, so instead red planets became like Big Buildings in Puerto Rico - they just added extra points to a colony. As a result, it's good to have a red planet in your colony, but there's no benefit to colonizing ON the red planet itself. Thematically that was OK because Red planets represent planets with civilized alien culture, and they don't allow you to rape their planet for resources - but you get a lot of leadership for making friends with them.

    There's been a sentiment among some players that it sucks to have to go all the way back to Terra Prime to rebuild your shields if you get beat up by asteroids and aliens while exploring. To me that was the point, you make trips to and from the base, and if you pimp your ship out right, you can make more efficient trips - and at the end of the game you build up for a big trip in which you either come back with a big load of goods to deliver, or you don't come back because you're endgame is fighting big, tough aliens or else dropping off high scoring colonies. It's been suggested that Red colonies allow you to buy shields, or that any colony allow it so that you don't have to go all the way back to Terra Prime. Last weekend Jeremy suggested that Red colonies act exactly like Terra Prime. Thematically, you make nice with the alien civilization that lives there and they let you build a base. They have the technology needed to teleport your goods back to Terra Prime and to build a satellite scanner, bu upgrades, buy and charge shields... and maybe you can even pick up colony markers (maybe they're Alien colonists) there. Honestly I'm a little skeptical about picking up colonists, but the rest sounds like it would be fair, it would give you a reason to colonize on Red, and like any other colony - if someone else delivers to your base, you get a point.

  • Colonies on Red planets are called Bases, and work exactly like Terra Prime.

    I worry a little about someone colonizing Red, picking up a colony marker, then colonizing red again right next door, etc. Jeremy suggested that that would be really hard, and in the end comparable to fighting alien after alien. I will try it with the red colonies being just like Terra Prime and I'll try to break it by going for such a colonization strategy and see if it works. If I don't like the game that way, maybe Red colonies could be mini Terra Primes, where you can buy and charge shields, scan, and maybe deliver resources - perhaps for just 1vp apiece, or perhaps there could be a Red pile of demand cards again, which indicates what the Aliens want.

  • 4. Asteroid damage is only maybe, and it's a 50-50 chance per asteroid. I wonder if that's not scary enough. This morning I thought maybe the Asteroids should ALWAYS damage your ship, making stray asteroids that much more dangerous, and making the Asteroid Fields have a bigger impact on the route planning in the game. If this resulted in having to really plan better routes and more interesting tile placement, then that's great. If instead it just makes people feel like they have to buy shields on turn 1, then that's less good. In concert with this I was thinking that the command ships should start with a wimpy built in shield that holds 1 energy cube. That way people can still go exploring and don't have to fear the single asteroid fields in the green zone (though really, you never HAVE to fly through an asteroid field).

  • Command Ships have a built in shield (1 Energy). Asteroids and Asteroid fields in uncolonized sectors inflict 1 damage per symbol.

    Another thought is that instead of automatically damaging your ship, the asteroids just hit more often - a 3+ instead of a 4+ on the die for example. That would make them scarier, but could still result in people lucking out because they didn't get hit- a sentiment that some players complain about.

  • 5. If making the Asteroid Fields more harsh, I wonder if I shouldn't also make them score some points - 1vp per symbol would be fair I think.

  • Asteroid Fields add 1 Leadership Point per symbol to the value of a colony.
  • 1 comment:

    Rick Holzgrafe said...

    1. Shrug.

    2. I'm in favor of a certain amount of harshness in a game, but I think dropping colony markers at colonies sounds reasonable. It's thematic, and gives players more flexibility.

    3. This one worries me. You've got a good design here, and you're close to publication. It's a risky time to introduce big changes. Bases on Red planets sounds like a big change. It might be a good change, but will you have time to thoroughly test it?

    4. and 5. Not sure about this one. Probably worth testing. Doesn't sound like a big, destabilizing change.

    Oh, and congratulations on publishing Terra Prime! I definitely want a copy.

    I agree with you about all the reasons to want to be published. We all know we're not in it for the big bucks, but the validation, the pride, and the joy of making others happy are all big draws.