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Subject: Star Trek Borders - PnP Micro wargame design rss

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Michael Ptak
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Hi all! A long while ago I was struck with the sudden motivation to make a really fast-playing Trek wargame depicting the two-day "War" between the Federation and Klingons in the latter's first appearance: Errand of Mercy. The guiding idea is that if the Klingons only have two days to claim as much space as possible, they can try before the organians interrupt this short war. The Federation is poised to stop them.

I also wanted to make the game deliberately lite, distilling individual ships down to strength counters between 1-3, and making combat just about having the larger numbers with a small element of chance.

The result is a game I'm calling Klingon Border. Since it's free, I don't think there will be conflict with ADB's ship wargame of the same name:



Gameplay uses hidden deployment, one-turn actions, and card draws.

After the units are placed in friendly territories, starting with the Klingon player, the player activates one territory. Every piece in that territory may move to an adjacent space. If combat results, combat is resolved by tallying the total strength there and adding a D3 result to the total. The loser discards strength of ships equal to the difference and retreats to a friendly space containing the fewest friendly tokens in it.

The goal of the game is for the Klingons to gain a high score by seizing as much as they can, overcoming Federation opposition, before the Organians interfere. The disputed area is valueble, but penetrating into Federation space is a valid strategy also.

After the Klingon makes his move, the Federation player responds. After this round is completed the players draw the top card of a four event card deck and play it out.



Yes, the game can end as quickly as turn 1, making that first turn move and counter-move potentially game deciding!

I dug out the game recently and after some tests and tweaks the results have been surprising when I test it against myself (random deployment by dropping reverse-faced tokens into territories). I feel I've done enough for the game and it deserves exposure to the wild for others to test and try as well.

The link to the "full" game is here.


Rough spots
The combat mechanic is on something like iteration 3. This was the simplest and I think the fairest for combat resolution.

I have tested this games for exploits (such as all ships in one particular territory) but it didn't shake out to be too imbalanced. The Klingons need to land-grab as much as they can in case the Organians intervene at the end of the turn, forcing them to split. If the Feds know this they can counter-deploy, but won't be able to reach all of the territories from one area.

Future:
There is a Romulan border version with cloaked ships. However I want to see how the basic mechanics of Klingon border go before moving forward with Romulan Border and its mechanics.

There is also a third "expansion" connecting the two borders with a Federation middle ground, turning this lite game into something a little heavier as the Feds have to survive several turns fending off both invading powers AND the Tholians.
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Michael Ptak
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I posted in here because I'd like to hear your thoughts and feedback. Is it fun? Are there any imbalanced features of the game? Any questions that I need to address in the Rules?
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Questions:

-- The ship counters are doublesided, are they meant to be deployed face down?

-- If they are deployed facedown, might it help if you had zero-value ghost/decoy ship counters?

-- If they are deployed face up, you might need rules that the numbers be kept visible (prevent players from arranging the counters to obscure their strengths).


Other feedback:

-- the region names face all different orientations.... not that the names matter, but it doesn't look right to me.

-- Four event cards ... one of which ends the game, two of which give a surge to one player. It feels extremely random. I would have expected to have guaranteed 3 rounds of jockying for position, and then the end might come in the last 3 rounds.

-- Why use a D3? I think you can easily adjust the ship values and then use a regular D6? I know you're trying to reduce the variance of the combat, but it just seems odd to need a D3. Perhaps if the ship values were 2, 3, 5?

-- I would actually suggest having the ship counters "stand up" like paper tents, their combat value visible to you. That would also make it easier to move around... small flat paper counters are so hard to pick up in a Print and Play.

 
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Michael Ptak
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+ I did think of including a variant where deployment was random. For this version of the rules, the reverse sides are merely cosmetic.

+ The orientation of the region names makes it easier for a player sitting on that side of the board to read them. It was a cosmetic design choice.

+ The intent was that the game could end after the first move for it being so random. I could consider adding more cards, but I like the design choice to enable the game to end at any time beyond the player's control. This motivates the Klingon player to try grabbing as much as possible instead of trying to play a long game.

I also wanted the game to last in the 2-5 minute range.

+ I have experimented with a D6 in the past, but as I recall that ramps up the casualties significantly. Testing with a D3 on both sides seemed satisfactory to me.

+ If others like to do tent standees I can certainly do that. It's another cosmetic, not gameplay change.

Thanks for the feedback Sturv!
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Michael Brettell
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Norsehound wrote:

Thanks for the feedback Sturv!


... which I'm going to completely ignore.
 
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Michael Ptak
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I still appreciate the feedback, whether or not it reveals serious changes I need to consider.

I mean, there are two gameplay changes I can implement. Adding more cards to make the game longer, or increasing the dice to D6 base instead of D3s. Neither goes along the lines of what I would like to do to the game, at least at this time.

Of them, I can try going back to D6 combat scale and see how much damage that does to the respective sides. The first question I have after that change is how badly the game can snowball in favor of the first player to knock out a large portion of the opponent's fleet. I want to say that's why I made a bunch of custom D3s for this game.

Struv's other remarks are cosmetic. Sure I can implement them, but they don't stop players from playing the game as-is now. In fact I could also go full color for a large professional and over-designed experience as well, but right now I'm happy with this barebones version to start with.
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Dimitri Sirenko
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Norsehound wrote:
+ I did think of including a variant where deployment was random. For this version of the rules, the reverse sides are merely cosmetic.

+ The orientation of the region names makes it easier for a player sitting on that side of the board to read them. It was a cosmetic design choice.

+ The intent was that the game could end after the first move for it being so random. I could consider adding more cards, but I like the design choice to enable the game to end at any time beyond the player's control. This motivates the Klingon player to try grabbing as much as possible instead of trying to play a long game.

I also wanted the game to last in the 2-5 minute range.

+ I have experimented with a D6 in the past, but as I recall that ramps up the casualties significantly. Testing with a D3 on both sides seemed satisfactory to me.

+ If others like to do tent standees I can certainly do that. It's another cosmetic, not gameplay change.

Thanks for the feedback Sturv!


i think you could come up with a better way to create incentive for the Klingon player to grab as much as possible other than ending game randomly with one card. If anything all it does is creates incentive for players to never want to play Klingon. I feel like this part of design could be thought through a lot more and agree with Sturv on this one.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Well, I gotta admit, it does encourage a "Klingon" aggressiveness, due to those 4 random cards.

And yeah, the game is super short if 2-5 minutes is the goal. I honestly can't say I'd enjoy that for a game like this... Wargames have always meant a certain level of strategy, planning, and decision making.


For what it's worth, if it's a short micro wargame, the game I'd pull out is Coin Age. So I'd suggest that game is one of your "competitors".
 
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Michael Brettell
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Norsehound wrote:
I still appreciate the feedback, whether or not it reveals serious changes I need to consider.

I mean, there are two gameplay changes I can implement. Adding more cards to make the game longer, or increasing the dice to D6 base instead of D3s. Neither goes along the lines of what I would like to do to the game, at least at this time.


I don't think its just to make the game longer - its to add more strategy, and remove potentially a big luck impact - if the Klingon reinforcement card comes, then the game ends, won't the Terran player feel a bit unlucky?

Norsehound wrote:

Of them, I can try going back to D6 combat scale and see how much damage that does to the respective sides. The first question I have after that change is how badly the game can snowball in favor of the first player to knock out a large portion of the opponent's fleet. I want to say that's why I made a bunch of custom D3s for this game.

D3s are unusual, I think is the problem. If you doubled all the ship values and used a D6, wouldn't that give exactly the same effect as the current strengths? So long as players have to at least destroy sufficient ships, so e.g. a '1' point victory would still destroy a '2' point ship. But you need a rule for that anyway.


To explain my facetious comment: you obviously have a pretty fixed idea of what you want your game to be, which is as it is now.
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Dimitri Sirenko
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ohh and i also do not like the direction change of the writing on the pieces. If you want to do that, why not create polygonal pieces that people can rotate to their liking without changing the setup of the board.
I think making the text face people can only work nicely in this way:
lets say you have 3 players
each player has a piece in front of them facing themselves. So think 7 Wonders for example. And obviously that is a completely different game and game design but i feel that the idea of making text face each player works best for that type of design and not necessarily what you have designed.
 
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