Here's the story of last night's 3-player game of Leaving Earth. The space agencies: OKB-1 (Soviet), NASA (American), and CNES (French). The missions (medium difficulty):
- Venus Lander (11 points)
- Mars Lander (7)
- Venus Survey (6)
- Lunar Survey (4)
- Artificial Satellite (2)
This was a very odd set of missions -- not a single one required bringing anything home to Earth, and not a single one required manned spaceflight. This meant that all the spacecraft in this game could be smaller than in most games. It also meant that many of the advancements wouldn't be needed. The game ended in 1965, which is quite early.
1956: Early Planning
NASA decided to aim high and head for Venus. After a bit of planning, they decided they'd need three types of rockets: Soyuz, Atlas, and Juno. They researched and began testing Juno rockets.
CNES didn't talk about their plans at the time, though it turned out they were thinking of doing the Lunar Survey mission. They started working on Atlas rockets. Their first one exploded, but they corrected that flaw.
OKB-1 decided to go for Venus as fast as possible, knowing that it had a decent chance of being impossible to land on. They researched Soyuz rockets and bought one, along with a probe. Having $5 left over, they lent it to CNES in exchange for a promise of $6 in the near future.
CNES spent the $5 on an Atlas rocket.
OKB-1 bought three more Soyuz rockets.
NASA fully tested their Juno rockets.
CNES fully tested their Atlas rockets, which they sold to NASA in exchange for $5 and NASA's Juno rocket technology.
1958: Launch for the Moon and Venus
NASA tested a Soyuz rocket, then bought a few small items for later.
CNES bought the remaining parts needed, then launched their lunar surveyor, completing the Artificial Satellite and Lunar Survey missions in a successful fly-by of the Moon. This looked threatening to the success of the other two nations, who provided an extra $20 in funding to OKB-1 and NASA. The Moon turned out to be a barren rock. With a little money remaining, CNES started planning for a mission to either Venus or Mars using the Atlas and Juno rocket advancements they had worked hard to acquire. They repaid their loan from OKB-1.
OKB-1 bought all the Soyuz and Juno rockets they'd need to head for Venus immediately. Without doing any testing, they launched as the world watched. All five Soyuz rockets fired successfully, launching the craft off Earth and towards a transfer to Venus. They spent the rest of their money on Soyuz rockets to head to Mars, assuming that their Venus lander would be successful.
NASA spent the rest of their money on Atlas rockets, planning to go to Mars and fearing that the Soviet lander would reach Venus successfully.
1959: Misfire by Venus, Launch for Mars
OKB-1's probe arrived at the point where it would have to fire its untested Juno rockets to reach Venus. The first one misfired and was damaged. That left two more Juno rockets -- enough to do a fly-by of Venus, but not enough to actually reach the planet. They spent the rest of their turn buying Soyuz rockets.
NASA bought a few more Atlas rockets and launched a spacecraft -- a lander, headed for Mars. All stages fired successfully (since they were all fully tested) and the lander was on its way to Mars. Of course, NASA hadn't actually figured out how to land on a place like Mars, but as it was going to be three years till the lander reached Mars, they figured they had plenty of time.
CNES researched Soyuz rockets and successfully test fired one.
OKB-1, having seen NASA send a probe to Mars, decided it was now or never, and launched their own probe on its way to Mars. At this point, OKB-1 had fairly high confidence in their Soyuz rockets, having fired quite a few successfully, but not 100% confidence, as they still had three outcome cards on their advancement.
1960: Catastrophic Failure
OKB-1 began testing how to land, launching a probe into Suborbital Flight and bringing it back down to Earth without using parachutes. The probe crashed into the ground and was destroyed, but they figured out what they were doing wrong, improving the advancement.
NASA also began testing landing on Earth. The first two tests went smoothly, but the third crashed and destroyed the probe.
CNES saw that their chances of success in the game were diminishing. OKB-1 had a probe on its way to survey Venus, and both they and NASA had a lander en route to Mars. The only potential they saw was to send a lander to Venus, in case OKB-1 surveyed the planet and found it to be a landable place. They had several rockets on hand from earlier, so they bought a few more and had a craft that could (potentially) land on Venus. Having done almost no testing of their new Soyuz rocket advancement, this was going to be risky, but if they didn't do something soon they were going to lose the game. They launched their spacecraft -- and the very first stage fired exploded, destroying the entire vehicle! It looked like the game was over for CNES.
1961: Venus Survey
OKB-1's probe made its fly-by of Venus. Surveying it revealed a planet with oceans of liquid water, an easy place to land. This meant that a Venus lander was now OKB-1's top priority, so they bought another Soyuz rocket. Just to be sure their Mars lander would work, they tested landing on Earth once more, successfully.
NASA finished testing their Landing advancement, then tested another Soyuz rocket.
CNES tested two more Soyuz rockets, finding the same explosion problem again, but fixing it this time.
1962: Mars Lander
The two Mars landers arrived in Mars Orbit. NASA landed on the planet, completing the lander mission (along with discovering native plant life on Mars). They finished testing their Soyuz rocket advancement, then bought two more Soyuz rockets.
CNES bought some more rockets and assembled a Venus lander spacecraft once again. They attempted to launch, but the first stage misfired and was damaged. Luckily, they had a spare Soyuz rocket, so they disassembled their craft and reassembled it with a new first stage. They attempted to launch again, and again the first stage misfired. They decided to leave it till the next year.
OKB-1 bought a few more Soyuz rockets and assembled their overly-large Venus lander spacecraft, then launched it towards Venus.
1963: Race for Venus
OKB-1 felt fairly confident that their lander would reach Venus successfully. As the Venus Lander mission was the last one available, all they had to do was sit back and watch. In the meantime, they tested their Juno rockets a bit more, just in case. They successfully fired the mid-transfer burn on their spacecraft headed for a Venus fly-by.
NASA bought a few more Atlas rockets and assembled their craft to head for Venus, which launched successfully.
CNES fixed their last remaining Soyuz flaw, then launched their craft for Venus.
1964: Final Approach
CNES fired their mid-way burn towards Venus.
OKB-1 realized their mistake -- they had chosen a slower, safer path to Venus by doing a fly-by, rather than heading straight for Venus Orbit. Their craft was going to arrive at Venus at the same time as the French craft.
NASA fired their mid-way burn towards Venus.
With two players tied for second place, a die roll was needed to see who would go first. This usually isn't very tense, but this one round was an exception. CNES won the roll. Their craft splashed down on Venus, collecting an additional 11 points and winning the game.
Thanks for the session report!
While reading it I thought: Why do you use such a rigid mission system? It would be much more interesting for players (I think), if the findings on missions could generate follow-up missions. E.g. if you survey a celestial body and it turns out one could land there, why not bring samples home or bring humans there? This might work for any location you want to go: earth orbit, moon, mars, venus etc.
By the way, if you know that e.g. you cannot land on Venus, would a bit of venucian atmosphere count as a sample?
Keep the news coming, please!
Last night's game was surprising. I had never imagined a game that was entirely outbound, with nothing coming back to Earth.
Having the missions be known from the start of the game gives each game its own character -- and it helps make it so there's no one strategy that wins every time.
Still, to have the future goals change as you discover things sounds very interesting. I'll be thinking about that one for a while.
Thanks, really interesting read. Can you believe this is the only multiplayer report with a year-by-year breakdown?