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Subject: WIP - Shadowstar Corsairs rss

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Ryan Wolfe
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Main BGG Entry: Shadowstar Corsairs

Rules Overview: Two Minute Summary (slide show)
Example of Play: Half-hour Playthrough (video)
Post-Playthrough: Two minute Wrap Up (slide show)


Complete Rules: 24 Page Rulebook (PDF)
Reference Page: One Page Rules Summary (PDF)



Shadowstar Corsairs is a space-themed, medium-weight strategy game for 2 to 5 players that takes about 30 minutes per player for the base game. The playing pieces include detailed starship miniatures as well as small solider-like crew figures and a variety of tokens, cards, and cubes. The modular board represents the Shadowstar Expanse and is usually laid out in a 3x3 arrangement of sectors (like Zombicide). In addition to ship movement and combat mechanics, there are strong area control & resource management (with some pick up and deliver) elements.





As independent captains granted letters of marque by the ConFederation, the players vie for control of a dangerous but lucrative area of space known as the Shadowstar Expanse. Though a Corsair enters the Expanse with but a single old ship and a handful of loyal crew, they may eventually command up to three customized ships, a trio of cargo shuttles, and more than a dozen squads of seasoned soldiers. Ships can be upgraded, territory claimed, and rivals fought both in space and on the ground. Conflict with other Corsairs is likely as each attempts to increase his or her reputation by demonstrating political influence, technical savvy, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to secure the Expanse.
During his or her turn a player will move their ships and choose an action, - deploying troops to hold territory and positioning resources where they are most needed. Potential combat is resolved and then the next player takes a turn.



•The ultimate goal is to earn enough Commendations to be declared the new governor of the Expanse
•Technology, Politics, and Contract Cards have various game effects and also earn the Reputation needed to win Commendations.
•The cards are gained by spending resource tokens harvested from the board and by fulfilling a contracts.
•Employing their ship(s) and crew, the a player must to secure enough resources or complete enough contracts to propel themselves to victory, while hindering (or destroying) the competition.




Components

There are four varieties of player ships (favoring attack strength, cargo capacity, speed, or a balanced approach) in addition to the smaller cargo shuttles. A given player can use any of ship types in any combination. The advanced game adds two non-player ship types: ConFed Cruisers and Alien Scouts. These may help or hinder the efforts of the Corsairs (somewhat like the NPC ships in Merchants & Marauders). The ships are the main focus of the game, though the “crew” (Combatant / Resource-Extractor / Worker) pieces are critical for holding territory. Below is an image of the plastic pieces (ships, shuttles, crew, and flight stands) for a four player game.



Each ship on the board has a corresponding ship mat. This displays the stats for the ship and is a place to track cargo and damage as well as customizations and upgrades. One side is the basic version of the ship and the other is an improved (and more expensive) version. Each player has a player mat on which to track resource levels, display Commendations, and store additional cargo. This is also where cards are placed after being played but before being turned in for a Commendation (the “victory point” of Corsairs).



Politics and Technology cards require a certain resource level to play and are worth a set amount of reputation (1 to 3 as denoted by the lit stars on the right hand edge). Some have ongoing effects while others are instant. Contract cards list a condition and a reward gained when that condition is met. Players are given one private contract card for each of their ships. One is also turned up as a public contract that anyone can fulfill. Like the Politics and Technology cards, Contracts are also worth Reputation and accumulated in the stash next to the player mat until a Score action is used to turn them in.



The game board is made of sectors, each divided into a grid of 5x5 squares. The squares are used for ship movement and also help define Locations (where resources are generated) and Hazard/Forbidden Zones (which hinder or prohibit movement). A player’s resource levels are determined by the icons in the Locations he or she controls. Higher resource levels allow for more effective actions and let more powerful cards be played. A player controls a Location if they are the only one with a ship or crew piece there.



There are four basic resources in the game and each is associated with a particular area of development. With the appropriate action, these are generated at Locations with the corresponding icon.



Politics is about the governing of colonies. This icon generates Tribute tokens - representing the taxes, data, and legal documentation used to negotiate political influence.
Technology concerns the salvage, reconstruction, and activation of alien and human hardware. Parts tokens can be collected at these locations.
Personnel deals with enlisting recruits, training them into useful Crew, and deploying them across the Expanse. Recruit tokens are created here.
Finance handles monetary matters. Darkmetal is mined and refined to buy various items. This icon is a place where Metal can be harvested.

Other cargo includes kiloCredits (kC), bombs, and fortifications. All of these are represented by cardboard tokens. They have the same backing and can be turned face down to conceal what is what.

Turn Structure

In a turn, a player may move all of their Ships and Shuttles, take an Action, transfer cargo, and conduct combat.

Movement

Each turn, a player may move any or all of their ships and shuttles. Each has a speed statistic (typically in the 2-5 range) which is the number of squares it can move. To keep Pythagoras happy, the second and fourth diagonal moves cost double. Movement can be done either before or after the Action for the turn. Sometimes a player will want to claim a little more territory before taking their Action, other times they may want to use the Action (perhaps to buy, repair, or arm a ship) before moving things around.

Action



Also each turn, the player selects and resolves a single Action. There are thirteen to choose from, but its not as complicated as that because they divided into logical groups and work in a similar fashion. The Action Table displays all of the available Actions.

Each area of development (Politics, Technology, Personnel, and Finance) has three actions associated with it. One generates the basic resource (Tribute, Parts, Recruits, or Metal). The next spends that resource to get something more useful (Politics Cards, Technology Cards, Crew, or kiloCredits). The last action in each area uses this converted item for some game effect. Cards are played, crew deployed, and money spent to buy ships, weapons, and other items. A 13th action, “Score” is used to turn in the Reputation from previously played cards to earn a Commendation – which is what eventually wins the game. Five Reputation earns one Commendation (with extra being wasted) and a typical game is to four Commendations.

The effectiveness of an Action is directly related to the player’s matching resource level. For example, if a player controls Locations with a total of four Tech/Parts icons, then they have a Technology Level of 4. This means that they can generate 4 Parts tokens with one low level Tech Action. They could instead buy up to 4 Tech Cards (with the mid level Tech Action) or play up to 4 Tech Cards (with the highest level Technology Action). The other three areas work in a similar fashion.

Transfer

Cargo can be loaded or unloaded to or from adjacent Units or Locations. Ships have limited cargo capacity but the player mat has an unlimited storage space representing a spacious cargo bay on the ConFederation HQ station in sector 5. There is also a Transit System capable of moving small amounts of cargo rapidly about the expanse. Players start with a single transit berth but can purchase more during the game. Transfers are unlimited can be done at any time prior to combat. They are most often done to move basic resources from their point of production into a ship or the HQ station as these are the only places that resources can be converted into Cards, Crew, and money.

Combat

After all movement, transfers, and the Action is done, each of the player’s units has the option of conducting one round of combat against an adjacent rival unit – whether it be a ship, shuttle, or outpost (crew, cargo, and fortifications planetside). Combat is meant to be quick and straight forward. Ships and outposts have a specified combat strength which is the damage they will inflict. Both the attacker and defender roll a die to modify their combat strength by plus or minus one. Bomb tokens and some cards can further modify the damage or cause other effects. Damage inflicted kills or injures recruits and crew or is applied to the ship – destroying it if enough is taken. In the advanced game there are additional options like putting ships at battle station or raiding for cargo instead of to inflict damage.

The combat process does not repeat and so it will typically take two or three attacks across multiple turns to take out a ship. Repairs are possible. Player elimination is not – a new, basic ship is given to those Corsairs who lose their last vessel so that they may attempt to redeem themselves. It’s possible to lose Reputation but once a Commendation is earned it cannot be taken away. This means that progress towards victory can be delayed but not reversed.



Conclusion

That’s it for the overview of the game. There’s a lot going on and a lot of parts but, taken individually, they are not too complicated. I will be posting more about Shadowstar Corsairs, it’s history and future, in the days ahead. I am planning to bring it to Kickstarter in mid to late February (2015). While most of the work is done, play testing will continue as long as possible and I always welcome feedback, constructive criticism, and questions. Thank you for taking the time to browse through this.



Note: the game's original working title was "Darkstar Corsairs", so you may still see that referenced occasionally.
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TTDG
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Re: WIP - Darkstar Corsairs
My 30 second reaction was: add a video and a review and this is ready for KS.

Slightly longer (not yet following any links) I think, shiny, okay, art could use a touch here or there maybe. I'm concerned that some of the detail is too small to appreciate. I wonder, why are you sticking with a grid? It drives you to force the player to deal with extra math upkeep. So, why not hexes?

Is there tile laying during exploration, or is that set at startup? It may make a difference on whether tiles are optionally rotated, or even flipped to their other (dual) side, all of which potentially adds to replayablility.

How will this be different from Xia: Legends of a Drift System or other games in this genre whether set in space or in the islands somewhere? I do see you mention the possibility of running multiple ships and shuttles, which may or may not be okay (it makes a turn longer, but you feel bigger). And I see this interesting action table, but again, it may come down to how well you use that integrated with all of your other gameplay.

Also, if your hot pictures are all CGI, people will be able to tell. You want at least 1 quality prototype, I think, before heading to KS. I also recommend that you have a playthrough video ready to go as well. People need to see that it is played, has been played, and how to play it, including some of the mechanics and player interaction.

So I started all drooling, and now I know I need to sit back and wait.
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Jake Staines
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Re: WIP - Darkstar Corsairs
My first reaction, on the other hand, is: are you aware of DarkStar?

Having another game around with a very similar name could potentially be a problem for you when you start marketing your game for KS; since I didn't see anything in the brief writeup which ties you to that particular name, it may be worth considering a different one before it confuses anyone.

(Leaving aside potential player confusion, Klaude Thomas may also be able to pursue a trademark-infringement case against you if he felt so inclined; your game covers very similar ground to his, and certainly when I saw the thread title I wondered whether he was working on an expansion or sequel. I doubt he'd bother since I doubt there's nearly enough money in board games to make it worthwhile, but you never know - and I also doubt it's worth engendering bad blood.)


A few other random thoughts from a skim through:

The theme seems a little bit in conflict with the gameplay; so far as I can tell the players play as private agents conquering an area of space in the name of the same sponsoring government, and yet that government is effectively content to reward them for fighting each other counter-productively? I did see the section on reprimands, but without playing the game it seems a bit weird still. Is there no way that the game could be re-framed to make player-on-player conflict more setting-friendly?

I'm sure you'll re-lay-out the rules once you've finished stuff like the missing examples, but there's a couple of layout issues at the moment which make it harder to read, e.g.:
- In several places you use two different types of bullet points at the same level, dots in some places and arrows in others. Since you've already called out the star bullets as special, this makes me wonder whether there's some significance distinguishing the other two, but I didn't see any such meaning noted anywhere.
- Orphan headers 'The Transit System' and 'Action' on page 14, 'Utilization Actions' on page 15.
- Overlapping action table and paragraph text, and 'Harvest Actions' header and leading line on page 15.

(I mention this stuff because you've obviously put a lot of time into the layout already... and the layout almost makes these issues harder to read over than they would be if the document were in a draft no-fancy-formatting form.)


You talk about a ship called "Grendle" in the rulebook; this doesn't appear on the summary card - is it the Akita Inu? Or did the Akita Inu get renamed (two dog ships might be a bit much!) and the summary sheet not updated? (Not to mention: if you're talking about the monster from Beowulf it's usually "Grendel". I notice you've run a previous KS campaign using the correctly-spelled name for a similar-looking ship.)




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Ryan Wolfe
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Re: WIP - Darkstar Corsairs
Thank you for the feedback! I'll address all of the issues but the Big Thing I need to deal with first is the name. I'm not sure how I missed the preexisting Darkstar game when I googled the name way back when, but I agree that the overlap could be problematic (and just plain rude). Luckily, it's not too late for me to change. "Corsairs" is the important part of the name anyway, so I'll find another adjective to put in front of it. Darkstar was probably my 5th or 6th choice (the rest being taken as well) so going with number 7 or 8 ("Shadowstar Corsairs" or "Darkstorm Corsairs") won't break my heart - though it will mean updating a LOT of text and art.

I'll change the thread title as soon as I figure out if I can do that.






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Re: WIP - "Darkstar" Corsairs
You should be able to, I've changed forum thread titles before by going to edit my first post and changing the title there - hope this helps
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Ryan Wolfe
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Ok, it's updated now. I guess it just takes a while for the change to propagate. Thank you.

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Ryan Wolfe
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ThroughTheDeckGlass wrote:
My 30 second reaction was: add a video and a review and this is ready for KS.

Slightly longer (not yet following any links) I think, shiny, okay, art could use a touch here or there maybe. I'm concerned that some of the detail is too small to appreciate. I wonder, why are you sticking with a grid? It drives you to force the player to deal with extra math upkeep. So, why not hexes?

Is there tile laying during exploration, or is that set at startup? It may make a difference on whether tiles are optionally rotated, or even flipped to their other (dual) side, all of which potentially adds to replayablility.


I have a video preview booked with Dice Tower and am looking for a second option as well. Making prototypes (20+ hand cast miniatures) is very labor intensive. I'll only have 2-3 extra to send out so I want to make sure they end up in good hands.

The grid works well with the sector tiles. Hexes would be possible but don't fit (or stay) together quite as well. The board is also supposed to be reminiscent of a large video table in a command center - perhaps with shadowy figures pushing little ship and troop figures around with sticks. Grids seem to be the standard for such things, probably because it make coordinates easy. Really though, I just like the way a grid looks and since ships rarely move more than 4 squares in this game, having the second diagonal count double isn't much of a burden. If I were dealing with speeds of 8 or 12, then I probably would have done something different.

The board is laid out at the start of the game. There is a standard layout and rules for a random layout - which allows for tile rotation as well. And of course people can always just build the board they want. My plan is to include 12, two sided (8x8in)sector tiles in the game.

ThroughTheDeckGlass wrote:
How will this be different from Xia: Legends of a Drift System or other games in this genre whether set in space or in the islands somewhere?

Commanding more than one ship is a big difference and the area control aspect is another. The play is a mix of what you would find in something like Xia, Merchants & Maurauders, or Firefly and a light war game (like the army/combat part of Clash of Cultures). My hope is that this will add depth and additional strategy beyond what a straight-up sandbox game would offer.

ThroughTheDeckGlass wrote:
Also, if your hot pictures are all CGI, people will be able to tell. You want at least 1 quality prototype, I think, before heading to KS. I also recommend that you have a playthrough video ready to go as well. People need to see that it is played, has been played, and how to play it, including some of the mechanics and player interaction.
.


I'll post more "real" pictures soon and I definitely plan to have a how-to-play video ready for Kickstarter.


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Ryan Wolfe
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Bichatse wrote:
The theme seems a little bit in conflict with the game play; so far as I can tell the players play as private agents conquering an area of space in the name of the same sponsoring government, and yet that government is effectively content to reward them for fighting each other counter-productively? I did see the section on reprimands, but without playing the game it seems a bit weird still. Is there no way that the game could be re-framed to make player-on-player conflict more setting-friendly?

Your read is correct in that the authorities turn a blind eye towards, or even reward, player vs player conflict. Blowing up a ship or two (especially beat up old merchant ships) just isn't a big deal to the navy brass since whomever is eventually granted the governorship of the Expanse will be able to raise a "real" fleet of actual warships. The goal with this contest isn't so much to pacify the area as to prove which Corsair is the toughest and most effective in the face of adversity. Killing a rival may hurt the war effort a bit (though again the loss of a civilian merchant captain isn't a big loss), the reputation gained by the victor will make him or her a more effective leader. The setting is supposed to be gritty, harsh, and almost post-apocalyptic; more Firefly than Star Trek. The Corsairs are little better than pirates to the administration and so they'll only protect them if they have no other choice. Hopefully I'll have room in the manual to make that clear with additional flavor text.


Bichatse wrote:
I'm sure you'll re-lay-out the rules once you've finished stuff like the missing examples, but there's a couple of layout issues at the moment which make it harder to read, e.g.:
- In several places you use two different types of bullet points at the same level, dots in some places and arrows in others. Since you've already called out the star bullets as special, this makes me wonder whether there's some significance distinguishing the other two, but I didn't see any such meaning noted anywhere.
- Orphan headers 'The Transit System' and 'Action' on page 14, 'Utilization Actions' on page 15.
- Overlapping action table and paragraph text, and 'Harvest Actions' header and leading line on page 15.

(I mention this stuff because you've obviously put a lot of time into the layout already... and the layout almost makes these issues harder to read over than they would be if the document were in a draft no-fancy-formatting form.)

You're right that I should either explain the dot vs arrow bullets, or just use one type. Getting a little too fancy for my own good there. I'm not seeing the formatting issues you mention. I wonder if it's a difference in PDF readers or some such. Luckily the actual rule book will be on paper and so software inconsistencies won't be an issue.

Bichatse wrote:
You talk about a ship called "Grendle" in the rulebook; this doesn't appear on the summary card - is it the Akita Inu? Or did the Akita Inu get renamed (two dog ships might be a bit much!) and the summary sheet not updated? (Not to mention: if you're talking about the monster from Beowulf it's usually "Grendel". I notice you've run a previous KS campaign using the correctly-spelled name for a similar-looking ship.

The ship class was originally Grendel (because it was like an ugly version of the Free Trader Beowulf of Traveler fame). I recently decided to change it to Akita Inu, but am still updating text and art.

Thank you for all of the comments. I know there's a ton to read and I really appreciate the time you took to wade through it.
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Jake Staines
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Re: WIP - "Darkstar" Corsairs
0 hr wrote:

The Corsairs are little better than pirates to the administration and so they'll only protect them if they have no other choice. Hopefully I'll have room in the manual to make that clear with additional flavor text.


Well, hopefully it'll make more sense with the extra fluff. The feeling was just the juxtaposition of "it's OK if these guys just kill each other all the time" with "the aliens are getting a foothold in this area of space so it's critical that we establish our authority", for what it's worth; if taming the "wild west" space frontier is important, why leave it to people you consider beneath your contempt? Each privateer ship which gets sunk in petty bickering is another ship that can't be re-asserting the dominion of the ConFed over the lawless expanse, after all.

Firefly was definitely the closest Sci-Fi analogue that came to mind, though!

0 hr wrote:

I'm not seeing the formatting issues you mention. I wonder if it's a difference in PDF readers or some such. Luckily the actual rule book will be on paper and so software inconsistencies won't be an issue.


The overlapping could potentially be down to PDF viewer, sure. The orphaned headers are cases where the header is at the bottom of one column/page and the text it relates to is at the top of the next; it'd be a good idea to add a forced break just before the header so that it flows onto the same page as the body text it relates to, in those cases.

(EDIT: I still get the overlapping of the "Harvesting Actions" header in the Adobe PDF viewer, though.)
 
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I'll work in some more text explaining the situation.

I've also added a bunch of explicit column breaks to the manual. Hopefully that will help keep the text where it belongs until I get it onto paper.
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ThroughTheDeckGlass wrote:

Also, if your hot pictures are all CGI, people will be able to tell.

Here are some "real" pictures to show that the game (and the miniatures) exist as physical objects.




The little blue soldier above is from a RISK game (because hand casting that many tiny figures is beyond me). The similar figure below is the model I created for my game.


Note that all of these are hand cast resin models. The pieces in the game will be injection molded plastic. Detail should be similar and they will lack the bubbles, flashing, and flaws visible in my casts.



I posted a picture from Corsair's first public playtest above. Here is a picture of another round of testing at a local convention here in Pittsburgh.

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I've created and mailed two prototypes out for review: one to Dice Tower and one to Undead Viking. Below is an overview of everything that went into the box.

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Just saw this for the first time. Looks very interesting.

I generally would prefer a hex based layout to prevent the 2nd/4th move point rule, but it wouldn't be a show stopper in terms of possibly backing (I really wanted to like Firefly, but meh).

Any idea of the approximate retail of this when it's released, and the KS levels yet? Or will we just have to wait and see?

 
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I'm still waiting on final quotes and working out the math, so solid numbers will have to wait. Ballpark though, my expectation is to be about the same as Xia: Legends of a Drift System in terms of goals and pricing. Cody's campaign is what inspired me to do this.
 
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As a backer, and one of the biggest fans in the world of Xia, I will be watching the progress of this game.
 
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0 hr wrote:
The board is also supposed to be reminiscent of a large video table in a command center - perhaps with shadowy figures pushing little ship and troop figures around with sticks. Grids seem to be the standard for such things, probably because it make coordinates easy. Really though, I just like the way a grid looks and since ships rarely move more than 4 squares in this game, having the second diagonal count double isn't much of a burden. If I were dealing with speeds of 8 or 12, then I probably would have done something different.

I'm OK with a grid but it might be worth doing something graphically to emphasise the command table/display look. Real military do NOT use hex gridded maps.

I'd probably disallow diagonal movement for simplicity. In practical terms very little movement would occur EXACTLY on a diagonal so I don't think it should matter so long as you have some kind of infiltration/stealth movement to allow ships to pass through an enemy occupied space.
 
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I'll be launching the Kickstarter campaign in a couple of days and have opened the project preview page for last minute feedback.

EDIT: Updated preview link:
http://tinyurl.com/SsC-KS-Preview

If you care to look it over, feel free to leave a message using the form on the page. I've been staring at it and the videos for so long that I've probably become blind to even blatant errors.


Speaking of video, I put together some new art for the KS video. Here's one of my favorites bits: a composite of existing pieces with a new wireframe render. In the video, the three pictures appear one at a time.




 
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Link does not work.
Edit: But if I quote your post, and cut and past the link directly, it does work. So, this seems like some wierd BGG truncation thing.
 
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Initially, without watching all of the videos, your KS page looks good. I do think you are missing a few opportunities though:

Offer a pledge level(s) for multiple copies at a slight discount per copy. 2 and 6, for $118 and $348, or similar. This may let a game store buy in bulk, or people band together.

Consider whether to offer some limited number of signed copies for whatever additional $ amount you deem necessary (may include extra shipping).

Consider offering a 'con delivery' level, if you'll be attending a con in the future and could save a few people shipping.

What, no super expensive ($1000+) single 'meet the designer' level?

Anyway, these are some extra pledge levels I see in other projects, and maybe there is 1 or more of them worth including in yours. I do like that you are attempting to keep the options focused on the game and less confusing, but KS backers may expect what they've come to expect.

Edit: Main video: Pronounced Mark or Marque (Markay)? (Well, I learned something new.) The part that cuts to you in the middle appears a bit poorly lit.

Edit: Are the sector tiles double sided? Since the ships are double sided, where can I see the front and back of all of the ships side by side? I'm a bit confused why there are 3 copies of each ship mini, when you'd have up to 4 players in the base game. I could stand to see a text reminder of how many players the game is for, and maybe how much time the game is estimated to take. I really liked your action chart here, but on the KS I have to watch a video to see it. I recommend a picture of it there.

Include a link to your BGG game entry page!

 
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Thank you for the feedback, I'll do what I can to address those issues.

I've updated the preview link, though it will only be valid for another half day (and I'll be making changes throughout that period most likely).


The sector tiles are double sided, with the same planets etc. in a different arrangement and a different amount of resources (for a game with fewer players).

The ship mats are double sided, with the back being the upgraded version of the front. There are 4 types of ships and all three mats for a given type of ship have the same statistics. Only the art is different.

There are three of each ship because a player can have at most 3 ships in service at once. That means 12 ships maximum could be on the board at once. There are 4 types of ship, so 3 copies of each type to get an even dozen.
If a 5th player is added, then 3 more ships will be needed.

Sorry about the lighting in the live video. I had nine lights pointed at me and it's still too dark, but I'd rather go to the dentist than watch myself on video. So I may have decided "good enough" a bit earlier than I should have.
 
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TTDG
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During your playthrough video, could the upgraded Kestral have used its special power to avoid one of the damage it took, or did the crew count as cargo?
 
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Ryan Wolfe
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The crew do count as cargo. So does money, which is a little odd I know; but the nature of the Expanse makes error-free electronic transfers impossible and the local physical currency is ingots of a super-dense neutronium precursor called Darkmetal.
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