Today I received some feedback from Mike and the guys at the Royal Steamwork Society about Stellar Underworld. Here are some of the main points I pulled from it:

Rules Clarifications

Can contraband assets be delivered in multiples?

Yes. This will have to be explicitly stated in the rulebook. Contraband assets are different from other assets in that they don’t require any contracts to score them (because contraband is always in demand). This leads to some extra rules in dealing with them, and I guess this area had some confusion.

When can a sector ability be used and how often?

For the most part they are used during the docking bay ability phase. I will need to clarify this a bit more. I also plan on adding a glossary for each sector to answer any specific questions.


Is acquiring henchmen too powerful of a strategy?

There are two methods of scoring points in the game: recruiting henchmen and completing contracts. It has been suggested that taking a strategy of heavy recruitment is the best way to go. I know that henchmen are important because they not only score points, but also provide the manpower to activate abilities. I don’t believe you can win by ignoring them, or by solely focusing on them, but I need to test this out.

Test: Play a test game where one person only scores via henchmen.
Test: Play a test game where one person does not recruit any more henchmen.

Are warehouses necessary?

An interesting occurrence happened during the blind playtest: In their second game, the players completely ignored one feature of the game because they deemed it too weak for its cost. The feature is the warehouse. The warehouse allows you to move assets around more effectively, keep them safe from commandeering, and set up more efficient scoring. The cost for loading an asset into the warehouse is one henchmen. You also have to pay the cost for unloading too. In all of the other playtests, everybody used their warehouses. I am always on the lookout for dominant strategies, but I failed to look for utterly weak ones. Maybe the warehouse is too weak. I haven’t really thought about it, but I will need to investigate more.

Play a test game with one player does not use his warehouse.


Players don’t feel like they own their ship

In the game, each player has one ship and there are two neutral ships. Owning a ship means that if someone tries to commandeer (steal) it, you can defend it and try to stop them. Other than that, owning your ship means nothing. In real life, owning an object really means nothing either except that you feel like you would need to defend it (by force, lawsuit, etc.) if someone tried to steal it. That was my reasoning, but it doesn’t seem to come across to well in the setting of a game. Especially in a game setting where stealing is an everyday occurrence.

Possible Solution: I think that stripping out the idea of owning a ship is the way to go. I have an idea on how this would work, but would like to experiment with it first.


The board is too small for some components

The board is a map of a space station with a space in the center for the “bank” of henchmen and contracts. I underestimated how many of these things there would be and it does look cluttered.

Solution: This one’s easy! I think I can just reduce the number of pieces or make the board bigger where it needs to be.

Frustration Points

Replenishing no assets or no Contracts at a sector

Frustration: The production system in this game uses a random method that could result in the sector gaining no contracts or no assets. Having no contracts at a sector means that you can’t score points there, and having no assets at a sector means that when you arrive there you’ll have nothing to ship back on the return trip. Statistically, it shouldn’t happen that often, but when it does, it is really frustrating. I have yet to determine if this actually hinders the player or if it is a psychological issue.

Possible Solution: I need to add more flexibility to this system, but I’m not sure how to do this just yet.

Having limited end game options

Frustration: The game uses a system where each player has an identical set of cards. Each turn you play one card a turn until no players have cards. This system inherently causes the end game to have limited options.

Possible Solution: Make the end game occur before the players reach their last card, possibly third to last. This will still give players choice on the last turn. Of course, this solution will cause a new frustration: player wanting to play the rest of their hand!

Not being able to ship directly from sector to sector

Frustration: The core idea of the game is that you always have to stop at the space port when traveling from sector to sector. There is no direct route. If there was a direct route, there would be little reason to use the space port (the whole point of the game).

Possible Solution: Give each player one or two Direct Route Cards to allow this to happen. It should appease player frustration enough, and answer that question “Why can’t I just go from here to there?” The best “abilities” in games come from easing player frustration.

Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image