Sun and Starship Playtest

October 19, 2014

Managed to get a playtest done for my boardgame design on Friday night. After a last minute cancellation due to health, we had three players, and completed the game in four and a half hours.

Some things worked very well, especially the Dreadnought construction mechanic and the way it interacted with the Decline & Fall of the Galactic Empire. Combat mostly worked, although there was an issue with “pure victory” not giving enough of a benefit to the winner. The game flow was about what I expected, early expansion, combat when the empty space for easy expansion ran out, a pause, then further fighting, a pause for a round of monument building, and then a quick descent into the abyss of the endgame.

Housewar Playtest 002

The Blame/Decadence mechanic did not work well. Partly due to an early Rotten to the Core event that removed Blame from Corruption in the Atomic Power collection phase, and partly due to there not being enough sources of Blame. So next playtest I will add more options for acquiring and manipulating blame.

The players mainly stayed with 10-15 Glory points of each other, which seems to justify a high glory score model, and they reached Glory scores of 50-60 by the time the End Game was triggered.

The players collected 197 Atomic Power during the game, and spent 53 Atomic Power on Dreadnoughts (roughly 27%). Only two of the 14 Dreadnoughts built in the game were destroyed prior to the endgame.

The Fall Track was at 12 after the second turn, 10 after the third turn, 6 after the fourth turn, and the endgame was triggered in the 5th turn.  So it declined at about the expected rate.  Atomic Power inflation did occur, and this makes the later turns slower, so I may think of reasons to have big power sinks to speed play a little. The playtest did show that becoming powerless was a bad move, running out of power before the other players made you quite vulnerable to raids on your territory.

Housewar Playtest 015

The endgame was a three way civil war, largely fought between a coalition of Blue and Yellow versus Orange (which included the Purple Imperial Battleships). Orange fought quite well, but really couldn’t outlast the determined attrition of two players. At the end Blue had two Dreadnoughts left and Yellow had three Pirates. In a four player game, it would have been much riskier for two players to go all out against the Last Emperor, as the fourth player could sit on the sidelines.

On the whole, the design feels very promising. I’ll be making some tweaks and trying to get another playtest done in the next few weeks.

Back to the drawing board

June 15, 2014


So the last version of Housewar was taking 4+ hours to play.  It was fun, but not as quick as I want (sub-two hours with 5 players), so back to the drawing board we go.

Some changes to the map. Part of the design is to have only 20 areas on the map (and then using a rough rule of thumb from Diplomacy of only having infrastructure tokens for 2/3 of the map areas (13 in this case, which is a flavourful number for a Decline & Fall game).  The other is to see what happens when I surround the central Glory point territory (Core Sector) by exactly ONE sector (the Heartland Sectors on the above map).  In past versions of the map there have been 4+ sectors adjacent to the Core, but it was always liable to end up being controlled by 1-2 players, excluding other players from scoring opportunities.  So I am thinking this version of the map might see players contesting the approaches a little more.

I also got to experiment with the function of the art package that lets me draw text along a curve easily. Once I do a test print to see if I have the dimensions right, I can tidy up this package.

Overall conceptual change is to just the player locus from being powers within the Empire, to being Pirates from outside the Empire. Over the course of the game the Pirates gain recognition (i.e. Glory) within the Empire, and at a certain point the player with the most Glory becomes the Last Strong Emperor. This triggers the endgame, where the Emperor must defeat all of the other players to win the game.

For the initial game flow, I am borrowing the power generation mechanics from Cthulhu Wars.  So the early game is about expanding as fast as possible to capture territory and build Bases to increase power income. All the power is used each turn on game actions.  The mid-game is triggered when people start building Dreadnoughts, expensive units with special powers.  Each Dreadnought is generated randomly, by drawing two random technology counters. Its a bit like the civilisation tiles in Vinci. So one counter might be “Move +1” and another counter is “Repair damage as a free action”.  Each counter will have a cost of 1-6 power, combining for a total Dreadnought cost of 2-12.  Each time a Dreadnought is built, all the existing combinations that were passed over get a cumulative one power discount to purchase.

I have found a pack of ~144 plastic spaceship models, in eight types and six colours, which sells for around $10 on Ebay/Amazon (plus shipping). So I will have lots of cool tokens to represent the Dreadnoughts.  They should hopefully turn up in a couple of weeks.


I also grabbed a couple of packs of old Silent Death fighters (upper picture below) and some space ship tokens from a Buck Rodgers boardgame (which will provide the “popcorn” Pirate and Battleship units).

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In past versions of the game, the Decline was usually based on random event cards, or capture of the Core sector.  This could be too random (too slow/fast) or too easy for the players to stop altogether.  This time around I am going to try linking Decline to Dreadnought construction, i.e. linking it directly to an action the players will all really want to do.  So the Decline marker starts on the zero box of the Decline and Fall track, while the Fall marker starts on the 13 box.  Each time a Dreadnought is built, move the Decline marker up the track by a number of boxes equal to the power spent on the Dreadnought.  If the Decline marker reaches or passes the Fall marker, reset the Decline marker to zero and shift the Fall marker down one space.  When the Fall marker hits zero the endgame is triggered and the player with the most Glory becomes Emperor.

The Empire defends its territory. Borrowing a mechanic from an old 1970s kids game with a WWII Pacific theme, Hit the Beach, each time a player eliminates Imperial units, they get to place those units in a sector of their choice that the Empire still controls. So as the Empire shrinks its gets a little tougher, but you also get to place units to try and slow down the growth of other players.

How to get Glory:

  • Decadence: spend power equal to the Decadence Track value and score Glory equal to the Decadence track value (the track value reduces by 1 each turn, and increases by 1 every time someone is decadent), I plan to start the track at a high value (i.e. costing more Power than the players have in turn 1) so the initial turn order is not advantageous to some players
  • Monuments: you must own a Dreadnought to do this action, score one Glory for each Base, Dreadnought, and Monument you own, build one Monument as part of the action. All players score one Glory for each Monument they own. Costs power equal to the number of times Monument actions have been done, so it can only happen 13-14 times per game.
  • Winning battles (possibly one point per battle and/or one point per Dreadnought destroyed)
  • Reigning in control of Core sector (one point per action)

For the Endgame, your Glory is converted into Power, and this is your only source of power for actions in the final turn of the game. So all players will want as much Glory as they can get.

Blame mechanics: last few versions of the game had Glory resetting to zero, what I want to do this time is to reset it to one point below the lowest player (which could be yourself).  Blame comes mainly from rolling Skulls in combat, or from being Corrupt to try and increase power income.

I have also splashed out and ordered some plastic game markers from LITKO Game Accessories


These ones will be good for representing Bases in the game (I already have some Parthenon style plastic markers for Monuments).  The ones below could be used to represent sectors devastated by combat involving Dreadnoughts (Nuclear hazard marker) or the Power income tokens (atomic power symbol).  These were not cheap, but they should make the game a bit more fun.

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