Feb 262008

Tonight we will be able to continue with out weekly design meetings on our regular night and regular time. I’m stoked!


I have been playtesting Stellar Underworld at my local game store and with other gamers here and there. At one of those playings, I had one especially “thorough” playtester who offered more advice than I expected. I knew we were in for a rough game when he questioned my decision to include almost every aspect of the game. Why do we start with two of these? Why not three? Why not have an ability to do this? or that? Now keep in mind, a lot of these comments were before I was even finished explaining the rules. I was getting frustrated pretty quickly, but once the game got going, it settled down a bit. After the game, and after I had a few days to think about his comments, I realized that there were a lot of kernels of truth in what he had to say. The thing that stuck with me the most when he rolled his eyes a lot when I explained certain rules. To be more precise, it was the exceptions to those rules that were the problem. Thats when I realized that my game was full of exceptions.

For example:

  • You can use one henchman to transfer a cube into your warehouse, except for the first one each turn which is free.
  • You can use one henchman to trade a cube with the black market, except for the first one each turn which is free.
  • The starting sector is just like every other sector, except you can only take two cubes from it, it doesn’t replenish, and it starts with two cubes per player.
  • Cubes next to your ship as considered aboard your ship, except when your ship is at a sector where they are considered available for pickup.
  • Abilities can be used any number of times, except for the cantina ability which you can only do once, and certain sector abilities.

There are probably more, but these are the ones that jumped out at me. Exceptions are ok in small numbers, but in larger quantities it makes the game more difficult to follow for new players. My goal now is to weed out some of these exceptions, while retaining their original purpose. So far, I’m having luck at some of them, but others are kind of difficult. It is a three way battle between simplicity, gameplay, and theme. Hopefully, they’ll all be winners, and I know the game will be better for me having taken the time to put this problem under the microscope.

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