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Subject: Session Report - The war against Major Failures rss

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Andreas Hellström
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Played a game last night. A custom hard game with 2 easy, 3 medium and 3 hard missions. I chose specifically the Phobos Sample Return mission and set Phobos to be hollow and metallic, so I could get back two free advancements. I want to valuate if those free techs are worth going for. I also chose Man on Venus(32) as one of my hard missions, because after 12 plays I still haven't completed that mission. Now it's time!


The rest I randomized according to the rules.

Missions:




After planning I came up with three main expeditions:

1) Apollo 21: This will go to Venus and back with an Apollo and two astronauts in a 45 mass payload craft. Since Venus always contains Supplies (if it's landable) my plan is to only bring supplies enough for the trip there. The supplies for the return trip can be snatched on Venus, plus delievered to Inner Planet Trans by a second "rescue ship".

This is a 5 year expedition (4 year travel, 1 year on planet) so I need to start from Earth Orbit in 1971.

2) Centauri One. This is a combined Mars and Phobos expedition, to pick up Mars Survey(5), Mars Lander(7) and Phobos Return(12), plus my rigged two free advancements. Two probes will go to Mars Orbit powered by an Ion engine. There one probe is decoupled for landing on Mars (and stays there), the other one picks up two samples from Phobos, and returns them to Earth (one Ion is just enough to do the Mars Orbit to Earth Orbit maneuver with 2 samples!). The samples need to be on Earth around 1970, so I can get the advancements at the start of next year and fuel my Venus mission. I'm thinking of Saturn and Atlas as my choices, but we'll see.

3) Eagle. The last mission is just a simple moon landing to get the Lunar Lander (6) mission.

I did not plan for the Mars Sample missio. I realized midgame that I actually forgot about that one.

Okay, now you know what I'm up to, let's start the report!

1956
Research Soyuz advancement, Ion advancement and buy 2x Probe (-$24)

1957
Buy 3x Soyuz (-$24)

This is a start I've been using in my latest games. I like it. If the Outcome cards come out well I can have a fully working Soyuz tech, 2x probes in orbit, and an Ion engine on earth all by the end of 1958.

1958
Assemble a probe on Soyuz and launch -> MAJOR FAILURE (-$5 to remove) Probe and Soyuz explode on the launchpad..
Assemble a new craft: Probe number 2 on Soyuz number 2, launch again -> Another Major failure! (-5$ to remove). The financial manager here at NASA starts to worry as he sees another 8 million dollar rocket exploding on the launchpad...

EDIT: Buy Ion (-$10)

The research team fixes the malfunction (it was a software glitch, a division by zero error) and convinces everybody that the bug has been fixed and that it will work this time. So despite the two recent failures, at the end of November everybody is once again standing in the control tower watching a third Soyuz on the launch pad, more anxiously than ever. EDIT: This time, the Soyuz has an expensive Ion engine as payload... "Three, two, one, ignition!" The Soyuz lifts off in a enormous cloud of smoke, goes a 10-20 meters something straight up in the air before it starts to turn, uncontrollably, turns back to the ground and crashes in a giant explosion just close to the Vehicle Assembly Building.... (Major Failure, a third one!! WTF!! -$5 to remove it)

The whole research team gets dismissed a minute afterwards, and leaves the NASA complex to never return again.

The year ends in sadness and disappointment, and the boss cancels the promised Christmas gifts to everybody...

1959
The new year starts with new hope and a lot more positivsm, as a new research staff is hired, and they turn out to be quite competent. A new Soyuz (the fourth...) is purchased, together with an Ion thruster and 2 new probes (-$24). The whole year is spent researching and improving this Soyuz software, in order to not have the last year's fiasco repeated.

1960
Buy Soyuz (the fifth) (-$8).
Assemble the Centauri One craft, with an Ion thruster, 2 probes, and 2 Soyuz rockets to launch it to orbit. Now it's time again! These new improved Soyuz rockets are standing on the launchpad. Launch -> SUCCESS (auto-success, but the team didn't know that. ;-) Everybody cheers! The ascent to orbit is successful, and now the Centauri One is in orbit around Earth!

The transfer window to Mars is open, and NASA remotely fires the Ion thruster for a 3-year maneuver to Mars Orbit. Major Failure! (Are you kidding me? Four Majors in a row!? And this is not tennis majors we're talking about, these are bad... -$5 to discard it) The Ion is damaged, but luckily the probes are unharmed.

NASA has several meetings about how they are going to proceed. The Phobos expedition is inevitably delayed one year. They check their papers and see that they actually launched a year early, so this delay does not jeopardize the mission. The free techs can still be delivered in time for the huge Venus mission. With this joyful information they research Rendevouz (-$10) and tries to decouple the damaged Ion from the craft. It is a success! The Ion is separated and landed back on Earth, to be repaired by the engineers at end of year.

1961
Now it's a critical year, the Centauri One really needs to start it's journey to Mars Orbit this year, otherwise it will not make it in time. And that has to be done with an untested Ion thruster, that the previous, now sacked, research team was totally in charge for....

Buy Soyuz (-$8), assemble repaired Ion on it and launch to orbit.
Try dock with Centauri One -> SUCCESS.

Now comes the moment... Fire Ion. To everyones amazement it is a success (-$10 to remove)! Centauri One is on it's way to Phobos! (Solar Radiation was revealed, level 1)

Mike Collins, a skilled medic astronaut is hired to start his training here at NASA, and a new probe is manufactured (-$7)

1 hourglass token removed from Centauri One.

1962
Buy Atlas adv (-$10), Landing adv (-$10), 1x Atlas (-$5)

1 hourglass token removed.

1963
NASA remembers that they need to test Landing for the upcoming Mars and Phobos descents! And Ion as well (one outcome card left).
Buy Soyuz and Ion (-$18)
Launch Ion to orbit
Fire Ion to 2 year maneuver to Mars Orbit (one year faster, double the difficulty) - SUCCESS (free discard)
Buy Atlas, Probe (-$7)

1 hourglass removed from Centauri One (all gone)
1 horglass removed from newly fired Ion to Mars Orbit

1964
Centauri One has arrived in Mars Orbit! Now we must decouple a probe from it, the probe that will land on Mars.
Try decopule probe -> MINOR failure (-$5) (Gaaah... Why can't anything be easy this game?!) NASA decides to damage the Ion in the failed separation, because another Ion is on its way.
Try decopule probe again -> SUCCESS (pheew.... keep the card)
Now the probe can land on Mars. But first, let's actually test landing!
Assemble Probe on Atlas, launch to sub-orbital -SUCCESS (keep)
Test landing -> SUCCESS (-$10 to remove). Probe lands unharmed back on Earth.
Assemble Probe on Atlas, launch to sub-orbital -> MINOR FAILURE (-$5) Atlas is damaged, but will be repaired.
NASA can't wait for the repairs though, it's faster to order a new one. Buy another Atlas (-$5). But we're out of the yearly budget so they still have to wait for next year to continue testing.

1 hourglass removed from Ion to Mars Orbit (none left)
Atlas repairs (two Atlases now on earth)

1965
In Mars Orbit we now have one craft with just a probe (that was separated previous year), and another craft with a damaged Ion and a probe (to land on Phobos, but we need a working Ion for that). And a working Ion has just arrived! So now we need to do a couple of another risky, untested rendevouz maneuvers...
Try separate probe from damaged Ion -> SUCCESS.
Try dock this lone probe to working Ion -> SUCCESS (yes, finally something went my way!)
Land probe+Ion on Phobos (takes 1 year)

Ok, back to test landing on earth..
Assemble one Atlas with probe, launch to sub-orbital -> SUCCESS
Land Probe -> MINOR FAILURE (-$5, this is good actually). Probe damaged on Earth.
Assemble second Atlas with second probe, launch -> SUCCESS
Land Probe -> MINOR FAILURE (-$5). Probe damaged.

Landing now 100% tested!

The lone probe in Mars Orbit can now land on Mars without risk. Reveal Mars -> planet is ok. (contains minerals). Mars Survey(5), Mars Lander(7) achieved. NASA doesn't have time for celebration though, as time starts running out for the planned Venus expedition. They research Life Support, and manufactures an Eagle capsule and buys 1 year of supplies (-$15).

1 hourglass removed, probe and Ion lands on Phobos.
Probes on Earth repairs.

1966
Centauri One collects two samples on Phobos.
Separate Probe from samples -> SUCCESS
Ion lifts off from Phobos with 2 samples (1 year to Mars Orbit)

NASA plans for another launch to Earth Orbit, and spends this years budget on purchasing 2x Soyuz, 1x Atlas, 4x Supplies.
A craft consisting of 1 Atlas, 1 Eagle, and 2 Supplies is launched successfully to Earth Orbit.
Year ends. Test Life Support (Eagle capsule) -> MAJOR FAILURE (no money to remove... sucks!).

1 hourglass removed from Centauri One (arrives in Mars Orbit).

1967
Centauri One immediately starts its 3 year long journey back to Earth Orbit.

Now NASA realizes that there is a mission Mars Sample Return (16) available. The staff at Mission Control had totally forgot about that! Some intense calculations during overtime nights with pizza and beer starts at the NASA facility, and the team believes there is not enough time for a Mars Sample expedition. "We don't want to put our more important manned Venus expedition in jeopardy!" If we claim the Venus missions instead we will get much more world-wide glory and reputation, we will get a lot of chicks, fancy cars, etcetra etcetra... Everyone at NASA agrees on that priority, and decides to screw the Mars Sample and dedicate all their efforts and focus for a manned trip to Venus from now on!

They start right now, by spending 24 million on three new Soyuz rockets.

End of year, test Life Support (Eagle capsule) -> MAJOR Failure again (and no money again to remove it... I really don't like this...)

1 hourglass removed from Centauri One.

1968
NASA now research some new badass rockets in order to lift everything needed for the Venus craft: The mighty Saturn! (-$10). And they immediately manufactures such a rocket (buy Saturn, -$15)

End of year, test Life Support (Eagle capsule) -> SUCCESS

1 hourglass removed

1969
Buy 1x Saturn, buy 1x Soyuz (-$23)

I really need to buy 1 saturn each year now, I need to have 4 by the year 1971.

Test Life Support -> SUCCESS

1 hourglass removed

1970
Centauri One is back in Earth Orbit! NASA decides to make a risky decoupling maneuver (Rendevouz isn't still 100% tested) to leave the Ion in Earth Orbit, and just land the 2x samples.
Try decopule Ion -> SUCCESS (keep the card, I need the money). The Ion circulizes in Earth Orbit.
2x Samples lands on Phobos.
Buy Saturn (-$15)
Buy Valery Bykolski (medic) to join Mike Collins in the training camp. These are the two heroes that will travel to Venus.
End of year, test Life Support -> MAJOR FAILURE (Yes, excatly what I wanted. Now I have the money to remove it! -$5)

1971
The NASA engineers and research team examines the samples that Centauri One has returned from Phobos, and it turns out the samples can be used to really accelerate NASA's research! They immediately get the Saturn fully tested (discards Minor Failure, Success, Success), and learns the new advancement Re-Entry completely. This is celebrated with beer and big Saturn V Burgers with extra cheese from their nearest burger place.

Launch year for Apollo expedition to Venus!! Buy the last needed Saturn rocket (-$15)

Everything is set, Mike and Valery have completed their training, life support is well tested, everyone is fed and drunk from their burger meal and beers, what can go wrong? "Oh, wait a minute, we're missing our capsule!" Mike suddenly says. A few seconds silence, then the chief engineer giggles, puts down his beer and points at his phone. "That's okay, I can just order one now from eBay!" Everybody starts laughing, and the new intern spills out his non-alcoholic beverage over the important mission plans. But the mood is so good and their spirit so high and everybody's so drunk, so nobody cares to notice. "We're off to Venus, yeeyy!! We're gonna get chicks!"

Buy Apollo capsule (-$4, ordered from eBay and assembled by the intern)

Assemble the Apollo craft: Apollo and 4 Soyuz. The rest (1 Atlas and 2 Supplies) is already in orbit since 1966. Put 1 spare probe on as well just because we have the thrust to do it.
Payload = Apollo, 4x Soyuz, 1 Probe = 40
Two Saturns can lift 40 payload to orbit

Mike and Valery experience no issues during ascent (reveal manned mission hazard, nothing)

Combine the craft that should travel to Venus by the following rendevouz maneuvers:

1) Decouple the probe (we don't need it for Venus) -> SUCCESS
2) Decouple the Atlas and 2x Supplies from existing craft in orbit since 1966 (success) and couple those with Apollo-craft (success)

Fire two of the four Soyuz for a 1 year manuever to Inner Plan Trans (135 thrust needed, 160 thrust provided)

In the cramped space in the Apollo capsule, Mike and Valery start to realize with fear that they're going to have to spend 2 freaking years in just these two seats...

In the considerably more generous space in the NASA complex on Earth, the engineers start preparing for Mike and Valery's rescue mission. They begin designing a craft that will bring one Supplies and one Atlas to meet up with them in Inner Planets Transfer. Buy 1x Atlas (-$5).

End of year, test Life Support, both on Eagle capsule in Earth Orbit and Mike and Valerys Apollo. I choose Mike and Valery first. -> Major Failure. (For real!?! You gotta be kidding me...) Mike and Valery panic as they realize the food has rotten and they are going to starve to death. They send a message back to NASA with the terrible news, and then eject themselves out from the capsule into outer space, for a peaceful death...

Really frustrating end to this game session... I can't believe that I got so many failures (Life Support had two major, I thought I was safe after discarding the first one). If I only had choosen to run Life Support in the Eagle capsule first, then Mike and Valery would have been safe. (the last outcome card was a success, I looked at it after the end).

Well, this is what I love about the game. This outcome card mechanic is terrific!

So, I didn't make it to Venus this time either. Crap.


Here is a picture of the outcome cards I got. A lot of failures I think.



EDIT: Year 1958, forgot to write that I bought and launched an Ion thruster.
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Josh Zscheile
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Thanks for the report!
You did either not always spend all the money you could have (1958, 10$ remaining) or you did forget to write that down.
3 MaFs on your first, expensive rocket (Soyuz or Saturn) is harsh.
I don't get the whole predicament of what you wanted to do with your custom start. It seems to me it would be more interesting to go determine the Phobos location if there was no mission rewarding you additional points for that. Also, I'd ńever play that you can bring home multiple samples from there for more advancements. 1 sample per player per location max is my way to go.
Your start is pretty good, since Soyuz and Ions are both things you need (alternatively Saturn and Ion, but I do not like the Saturn start; too expensive, slow and risky), but I like Soyuz - Juno more, since you can always spend all your money, and a Juno in Orbit is next to never wasted. A Juno each could have brought your craft to and from Phobos without needing a year each, and transporting them to Mars Orbit in the first place would have been easy with the mission you already brought there (one Ion Thruster can bring 4 2 payload over there in 3 years...)
Next buying the Saturn advancement was a huge misplay imo. Depending on what you want to send, Soyuzes, Ion Thrusters or a combination of both could possibly have sufficed. You had your start set up so that you would get Saturn for free from Phobos, and you did not use it to its full potential.
That all sounds pretty harsh, but it is not intended to. I just wrote the major points of what I would have done differently.
Still got to finish my own custom rules game of OP. Someday...
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Andreas Hellström
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Dagar wrote:
Thanks for the report!
You did either not always spend all the money you could have (1958, 10$ remaining) or you did forget to write that down.

I see that too now.. I checked my game notes, and can see that I did buy a Ion for those $10. And what I also did (and forgot to write in this report) was that I wasted that Ion by putting it on my third Soyuz launch. After two major failures I felt rather confident that I would not get a third one. But as it turned out, I was wrong.


Dagar wrote:
A Juno each could have brought your craft to and from Phobos without needing a year each, and transporting them to Mars Orbit in the first place would have been easy with the mission you already brought there (one Ion Thruster can bring 4 payload over there in 3 years...

You're completely right. I really should have brought 2x Junos with me. That would have saved me 2 years. I maybe should have gone Junos instead of Atlases. Because as you say, Junos are also excellent for spending all the money each year.


Dagar wrote:
That all sounds pretty harsh, but it is not intended to. I just wrote the major points of what I would have done differently.


Not harsh at all! Thanks for your response, and for giving me some great tips! I still have a lot to learn to get really good at this game.
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Magnus Berglund
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Quote:
3) Eagle. The last mission is just a simple moon landing...


Sometimes one loses perspective

Anyway, nice session. I'm still struggling with...everything really
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David DeStefano
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Love the Session Report, makes me want to break out the game!
 
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Andreas Hellström
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tufduck wrote:
Dagar wrote:
A Juno each could have brought your craft to and from Phobos without needing a year each, and transporting them to Mars Orbit in the first place would have been easy with the mission you already brought there (one Ion Thruster can bring 4 payload over there in 3 years...

You're completely right. I really should have brought 2x Junos with me. That would have saved me 2 years. I maybe should have gone Junos instead of Atlases. Because as you say, Junos are also excellent for spending all the money each year.


Actually Dagar, I believe what you're saying is not possible. Now that I sat down with the game and tried this, I think one Ion thruster cannot bring 4 payload to Mars Orbit in just 3 years. The maneuver Earth Orbit -> Mars Orbit is difficulty 5, so 4 payload and 1 Ion thruster (mass of 5) needs 25 thrust, which one single Ion cannot produce in 3 years. It will take 5 years, thus making me loose those 2 years I would have saved in landing and launching on/from Phobos with Junos.

And the outher route, via Inner Transfer, is out of the question. That would have taken me as long as 7 years total. 3 years to Inner, and than 4 years Inner -> Mars Orbit.
 
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Josh Zscheile
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Ah, you are right there, I do not have the game here and somehow assumed the maneuver would be diff 3. So a single Ion can bring 2 payload over the maneuver, so for two probes and two Junos it would have been 2 Ions, which were untested at the time - risky.
 
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