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.

Feb 082008

Lately, our meeting schedule has been in flux, so last night when Ian and Marc came over, it was a nice treat.


Ian discussed his latest scenario for Taktika. It involves a special disk known as the Glyph of Protection. The rules were simple and straight-forward. We recommended that he publish it on the web.


Marc showed us some really neat looking rings that he is using for his game Coalescence. He has painted them in such a way that, depending on the number of players, the rings can be used as different colored player pieces.

Dice Game

Marc showed us a quick two player dice game that he whipped together. It had a hand drawn board that kept track of the score. The players rolled the dice simultaneously, then selected one secretly to withhold. Depending on the dice left over, you could claim a spot in a column on the score chart. The earlier you get into a column, the more points. I think he’s on to something here, and I applaud any new non-yahtzee-like dice games.

Space Port

Space Port has shed its placeholder name and now dons the title Stellar Underworld. It connotes the seedy side of space life and has a unique ring to it. Just be thankful I didn’t put Galaxy or Galactic in the title! We’ve had enough of those words in game titles these past few years.In this latest version, we used new sector cards. The sectors are now split into three distinct groups each with their own deck. This allows players to have access to the sectors of one particular group if they want to use it as a part of their strategy. This was initially done to allow guaranteed access to sectors that desired contraband. Since several other mechanics revolved around contraband (Black Markets, Inspections) I didn’t want players to have to wait for the luck of the draw to utilize it. Besides putting contraband-loving sectors into one group, I also distinguished the groups by tiering their production. Sectors now either produce two, three, or four cubes based on their type. Overall, I think this system work great.

This was Marc’s first game, excluded some earlier proof-of-concept mock up. He said that the game had a daunting feeling to it when he started. Every player is given the same 16 cards, and each can only be used once. He felt that is was a difficult decision to play any particular card since he wasn’t sure how valuable any given card was. Also, the first turn gives you so many options that don’t pay out until later turns. After his actions started getting him some points after a few rounds, he said it started to click for him.

In the end, the score was 10 (Ian), 11 (Dan), 12 (Marc). I was very pleased with the way the game was played. Everyone was into it until the end. I’m stoked!