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Subject: Idea for a rocket player mat - feedback needed! rss

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Timo Aho
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UPDATE: Added new images. Needs a printer-friendly version too. Also, if I end up using that image, I need to ask permission to use it (which I may or may not get).
UPDATE 2: Removed old stuff and added current version of printer-friendly and printer-hating rocket mats.
-----------------------------------------------------------

After playing High Frontier a couple of days ago, I realized that keeping track of what everyone is doing, myself included, is tricky because our rockets are nothing but a bunch of cards. I was wondering if it would be a good idea to give each player a rocket mat where they would assemble their rocket. This would make it easier for new players to see what components they currently have and what components they still need. It would also help see what other players are doing and adjust strategy accordingly.

This would be nothing more than a visual aid. It would not chance any game rules.

Placeholder rocket images by the talented William Black.

Printer-friendly version


Printer-friendly version with cards


Printer-hating version


Printer-hating version with cards


It will be in both letter and A4 paper sizes. It's still very basic, although I am planning on keeping it pretty basic so that it fits the visual look of the game.

Since I've played High Frontier only a couple of times, I decided to come here and ask feedback from more experienced players. My questions are:

1. Is this a bad idea?
Is there something I'm missing? Is there something that will make this idea terrible? Would using something like this only further complicate things without being very useful? Does this take too much space (no pun)?

2. How should I improve this?
What other things I should add here? Could I improve the visuals somehow?

If I ever finish this, I will add it to the download section.

Feedback is appreciated. Thanks for reading.
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Rich James
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It's an attractive mat and might add some chrome for some. But I have some concerns.

Would new players think they had to have a card in each position to have a functioning rocket?

Unless you have a large table space, this will be challenging to use in a four player game. The game already requires a lot of room.

My personal experience has been that players (including new) don't have confusion over what is in theirs and others' rocket stacks. So I don't see a gameplay need for something like this.

That said, my group plays a tricked out copy of the game, with custom pieces to add flavor. Your mat could be fun if you have the room for it.
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Martin
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I really like the idea of trying to visualize the different rockets better!

Of course, the ships might all look the same anyway since you mostly have the same kinds of parts as your opponent. Crew and Refinery might be what differs the most. Still, being able to tell at a glance if your opponent has a reactor or a generator (or both), or how many radiators would be neat. Keep in mind that you can carry more than one of each component though.

As for the art, have a look at some proper hard sci-fi spaceships for a good feel of what they might look like. Atomic Rocket has some info on what you might want to look for and I have this Pinterest board where I try to add any realistic spaceships I find. The image you're using now seem to be of the failed X-33 spaceplane that Lockheed were developing a couple of decades ago. While something similar to it probably flies in the High Frontier setting it won't take you any further than low Earth orbit.

To my mind, what we're flying in High Frontier is more something like these:







Looking forward to seeing how this turns out!
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Here's the current vassal module playmat. Print on ginormous paper.
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Erich Schneider
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This concept was actually part of a very early version of High Frontier - the tech cards had symbols on the edges, and one paired up matching symbols to build the rocket on the table. The concept was called "thermodynamic dominoes". It was removed from the game because of playtester complaints about the table and rules real estate required to support it.

Unfortunately, I don't know any more details, and the Yahoo group archives only mention the concept briefly. Perhaps Phil or someone who playtested the game back then could elaborate...
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Timo Aho
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Thanks all for great feedback!

arjisme wrote:
Would new players think they had to have a card in each position to have a functioning rocket?

Yes, this is definitely one of the main issues. I don't know a good solution for it because the space is very limited. One option would be to use plural like in that Vassal player mat posted my Drake Immortalis. So instead of "Robonaut" it would be "Robonauts". Not a perfect solution I know, but it could help a bit.

arjisme wrote:
Unless you have a large table space, this will be challenging to use in a four player game. The game already requires a lot of room.

Maybe, maybe not. At first I too though there would be a table space issue, but then I realized that even without a player mat, those rocket component cards still have to be somewhere, right? And if you have 4-5 of them boosted, don't they take up almost as much space as this player board would? I don't know.. any other opinion on this?

arjisme wrote:
My personal experience has been that players (including new) don't have confusion over what is in theirs and others' rocket stacks. So I don't see a gameplay need for something like this.

The way I see it, a player mat like this would help players to look at the situation faster. For example if I wanted to see if your 5-component rocket has both a robonaut and a refinery, I would have to read the type all 5 cards to look for those two types. But with a player mat, the placement itself tells me the component type, so I would find out the answer in less then a second. This is how I imagined it in theory, haven't yet tried it out.

Cogdiz wrote:
As for the art, have a look at some proper hard sci-fi spaceships for a good feel of what they might look like. Atomic Rocket has some info on what you might want to look for and I have this Pinterest board where I try to add any realistic spaceships I find. The image you're using now seem to be of the failed X-33 spaceplane that Lockheed were developing a couple of decades ago. While something similar to it probably flies in the High Frontier setting it won't take you any further than low Earth orbit.

To my mind, what we're flying in High Frontier is more something like these:

...

Nice. Thanks for the link.

And yes, I agree that the "rocket" I have there now is not that great. To me it looks like a 2-person fighter or something. What you posted is 100 times better. The problem is that finding a suitable image is not easy. The pictures you have there, would require me to rotate the paper to landscape mode. This is turn might not look good because for example most thrusters (card image) are vertical, I don't know. I was originally going for a "rocket ready to launch" look, but I guess "rocket in space" might work just as well. I will try to look for a good image.

erich_schneider wrote:
This concept was actually part of a very early version of High Frontier - the tech cards had symbols on the edges, and one paired up matching symbols to build the rocket on the table. The concept was called "thermodynamic dominoes". It was removed from the game because of playtester complaints about the table and rules real estate required to support it.

Hmm.. interesting. Good thing they removed it because that sounds like it would make things a lot more complicated
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Erich Schneider
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NoppaGames wrote:

The way I see it, a player mat like this would help players to look at the situation faster. For example if I wanted to see if your 5-component rocket has both a robonaut and a refinery, I would have to read the type all 5 cards to look for those two types. But with a player mat, the placement itself tells me the component type, so I would find out the answer in less then a second. This is how I imagined it in theory, haven't yet tried it out.


Something that helps for this particular use case is that you can determine a card's type based on its orientation and the color of the bar containing its name.
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Jeff Chamberlain
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This is a great idea if you have a large enough table to do it. It's tough to find the space though in a 5 player game, sadly. :-(

But I do agree, one of the biggest challenges in a table game is keeping track of what others are doing and this would help with that.
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Timo Aho
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I updated the images in the original post. Current version should better reflect the whole High Frontier theme. Any comments on this new version? Better or worse?
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chuck dunn
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The 'stack' is also used a lot to hide objectives in our games...though you are allowed to look through someone's rocket stack it rarely happens with so much going on...this allows one to slide in and claim a sight before another gets wise of your intentions... Clarity sometimes isn't an aid...
 
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Will H.
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Interesting point. Since the cards are played face up, we've always laid out our "rocket stack" end-to-end so the full face of every card was visible. Never thought to make it a true stack of cards, even though it's right there in the name!
 
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Timo Aho
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chuckdunn wrote:
The 'stack' is also used a lot to hide objectives in our games...though you are allowed to look through someone's rocket stack it rarely happens with so much going on...this allows one to slide in and claim a sight before another gets wise of your intentions... Clarity sometimes isn't an aid...

Interesting. I've never even considered that as a possibility.

I personally wouldn't like this rule though because I like a clear system where cards are either open information that is clearly visible to everyone at all times, or a secret. To me your way of playing sounds like cards are open information but you make it difficult to view that open information. But if it works for you, go for it.

---

I updated the first post with new images. Any opinions on white vs. black background?
 
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Paul D
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NoppaGames wrote:
chuckdunn wrote:
The 'stack' is also used a lot to hide objectives in our games...though you are allowed to look through someone's rocket stack it rarely happens with so much going on...this allows one to slide in and claim a sight before another gets wise of your intentions... Clarity sometimes isn't an aid...

Interesting. I've never even considered that as a possibility.

I personally wouldn't like this rule though because I like a clear system where cards are either open information that is clearly visible to everyone at all times, or a secret. To me your way of playing sounds like cards are open information but you make it difficult to view that open information. But if it works for you, go for it.

---

I updated the first post with new images. Any opinions on white vs. black background?


Love the idea. Love the progress.

I prefer the black. Matches the gameboard and feels more 'spacey'.
 
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Timo Aho
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prd1982 wrote:
I prefer the black. Matches the gameboard and feels more 'spacey'.

Yes, I agree. Only problem with black version is the amount of ink and printer margins. Printers cannot print the whole paper, so if I go with the black version, I'm not sure what to do with the paper size, margins, etc. It could look terrible with big white margins. Then again you could always cut out the margins, I don't know..

---

By the way here is a picture of the printer-friendly Rocket Mat in action.


One issue came up. Radiator slot should be portrait not landscape. Otherwise the Rocket Mat worked pretty well.

That other weird thing is part of a variant.
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