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Designer Preview: Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity

Tom Lehmann
United States
Palo Alto
California
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Board Game: Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity
Terminal Velocity expands Jump Drive to five players and adds new worlds and developments, optional goals and start worlds, and Eric Kaminsky's five solo campaigns.

Adding New Content

As Jump Drive's game cards form a web of interlocking references to each other, it's actually a tricky game to expand.

On one hand, you want to add lots of new content, but if you add too many new cards without adding duplicates of existing cards, then this web of references falls apart. You must either add lots of duplicates of existing cards alongside new cards — which isn't very exciting — or add new content in other places.

My solution was to add new content in three separate areas: start worlds, goals, and new game cards.

New Game Cards

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The 21 expansion game cards (of 55 total cards) have just two duplicates of existing cards among them.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

They include references to icons, keywords, and various world colors as well as card names.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I also added a mechanical "sub-theme" around having different colors of worlds:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

This provides a new strategy that connects disparate worlds, which helps combat the larger deck's increased sample variance.

A Fifth Player

Twenty-one game cards, plus a sheet of VP counters, allowed me to add a fifth Survey Team and a fifth player, along with another preset hand (E) in case all five players are new.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

By making Start Worlds and Goals optional, players can add the game cards and a fifth player to the existing game and begin playing without having to learn any new rules.

Start Worlds

Twelve start worlds — six military and six non-military — are provided. Each player is dealt one from each group, then after examining all their dealt cards, they choose their five initial hand cards (from seven) and then a start world that begins in play (returning the unused start world to the box).

From gallery of W Eric Martin

My first attempt at start worlds involved New Sparta providing +2 Military and Gene Experimenters providing 1 income plus an additional 1 with a Genes world in tableau. This was far too powerful in a game where everything scores for all prior cards!

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I then drastically toned down the start world powers.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

These powers may seem minor, but starting with a card in play — especially when given a choice after seeing your initial cards — is surprisingly strong and adds an interesting new decision to the game.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Goals

Depending on the number of players, 3-7 of thirteen goal cards are available for players to claim during the game by being the first to meet a goal's condition:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

For example, being first to have four chromosome icons; three Rare worlds (of any mix of military or non-military worlds); one world of each color; or a development of cost 6 or more in your tableau.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Generating interesting goal conditions was relatively easy. The design issue was what should the benefit of being first to satisfy a goal be?

In Race for the Galaxy, Roll for the Galaxy, and New Frontiers, goals vary in ways appropriate to each game.

In New Frontiers, a game where most information is known, choosing a goal for all players to score gives a player both selection and a bit of hidden information.

In Roll for the Galaxy, with its distinctive dice allocation, satisfying a goal gives that player 2-5 "one-shot" wild dice counters (worth 1 VP apiece if unused).

In Race for the Galaxy, where large VP gains often occur in the final rounds, we provided both "first" and "most" goals, where the latter can potentially lead to 10 VP swings if one player catches, then overtakes another in a most goal's condition.

In Jump Drive's mid-game, players often struggle to acquire enough military to conquer a high-defense world or to have enough income to place a costly development or non-military world. Could making this easier be an interesting goal benefit?

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Being first to claim a goal gains those player(s) a goal marker which can be spent for +2 temporary military or a discount to place a card.

If unused at game end, each goal marker is worth 5 VPs but doesn't count for triggering the game end; they just add to a player's final score.

Goals increase the number of VPs in a game, so playing with them increases the game end trigger from 50 to 60 VP chips.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

While claiming a goal is "friendly" when several players do so on the same round, it prevents other players from claiming it on later rounds. This adds some nice player tension and interaction to Jump Drive.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Goals add another factor to start world choice as a given start world can often give a player a boost towards a goal in play, such as how Alien Research Team accelerates you toward getting six explore icons.

Goals and start worlds are optional; players can use one, both, or neither of these play options.

Solo Game

Eric Kaminsky (BGG user Epyo) designed a popular solo variant for Jump Drive, which I admired. I invited him to help me add it to Terminal Velocity.

In Eric's variant, a solo player plays four successive games, each time needing to fulfill a different one of four win conditions.

In the first game, all four conditions are available. In each successive game, one fewer condition is available so that a player's options reduce with each successive win. If a game ends and the player can't satisfy any of the remaining conditions, then they lose the campaign.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Five different solo campaign cards are provided. A dedicated solo player can even attempt all five solo campaigns in order: twenty games to be won without ever losing! Good luck!

Eric's variant, of course, was designed with just the base game. For this expansion, we wanted it to work not only with the new game cards, but also with goals and start worlds.

With goals in the solo game, we faced the problem of no player competition for them, which meant that some goals became "gimmes". Eric's solution was to add solo round restrictions to three goals so that if the player doesn't claim that goal by the listed round, it ceases to be available.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

For example, the VP chip goal must be claimed on or before round 3 and the 4+ developments goal must be claimed on or before round 5.

Since solo games always last seven rounds and have no player competition for goals, we also had to boost the listed VP thresholds for solo games with goals by +20, not +10, VPs.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

While we were happy with start worlds possibly giving a player a boost towards certain goals (as going for a goal is not a guaranteed victory in a multi-player game), this felt "too easy" for certain solo win conditions. For the solo game, we added a restriction to a few win conditions that a start world could not count toward satisfying their non-VP conditions.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In an Influential Victory, a military start world will not count toward satisfying its five military worlds condition. (No start world is a Rebel world, so they have no effect on that path.) In a Distant Victory, a start world does not count towards having 12+ cards in your final empire.

Eric spent many hours testing the solo game with the expansion to make sure everything worked well. He was great to work with and provided valuable feedback and assistance on the entire project. Thanks, Eric!

Finishing Touches

Mirko Suzuki provided new graphics and did all the production work. Claus Stephan and Martin Hoffmann not only provided a striking cover illustration and cool logo, they also touched up some of their earlier Race for the Galaxy illustrations, often with an eye toward further increasing their diversity.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I've been working with this art team for over fifteen years, and they are a pleasure to work with. Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games, as always, was supportive and encouraging. Ken Hill helped secure the print dates and proof the rules. Thanks, guys!

Originally, I thought that Jump Drive's expansion was Race for the Galaxy. I've come to realize that Jump Drive has its own audience (with a sizable overlap) and that they would appreciate more variety.

I'm grateful that with Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity we were able to expand the player count in both directions, add interesting new game cards, and provide optional content with goals and start worlds for very little added complexity. Enjoy!

Tom Lehmann

Board Game: Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity
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