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Subject: non-realtime Space Alert (i.e. no cd / no timer) rss

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Adrian Pirciu
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Hi

Although I love a lot about this game, I have a hard time playing it in my gaming group (social interaction problems). It seems that sometimes we cannot get over the stress during the mission, or the mistakes that the
others do that ruin everything. It's also hard when we have somebody that is a born leader (and a bright chess player), because he usually thinks deeper and faster and also starts telling everyone what to do, taking much of the fun (eveybody starts doing what he tells them to do which gets frustrating over time, even if he's right most of the time).

So today I had an idea of making a variant that brings this "special award for new gaming words" game to a more familiar but maybe more boring cooperative game "red november" style, without the time limit or robots announcing hell on earth (and pretty much without the key element that made space alert a hit, the real-time action part). I played 3 games today with my wife and already have a draft for this variant which I'm gonna explain below. Please, PLEASE, don't start throwing stones at me for ruining the main original factor of the game, maybe some of you will
find this variant to be a good idea for some gaming groups. And of course, this variant was created in about 2 hours talk + 3 test games, so don't expect too much from it.



So here we go:

Main stuff: almost all things are the same (weapons, shields, rockets, battlebots, etc). Some things changed (computer maintenance, looking out the window). There will be no more "planning" and "resolution" phase. All stuff (well, almost) happens the moment somebody plays an action card. Generally the new rules follow the original ones with some modifications. There is a new deck of 12 event cards that will need some printed cards or something, that has a special way of building. Each game is played over 12 turns and there is the special 13th turn at the end like

in the original game. Each turn has the following steps:

1. draw event card (can be a threat, or another action) - event deck explained below
2. action phase: each player in order may play an action card and do what that cards says.
3. attack phase: calculate damage from all attacks
4. threats are closing in + hitting X,Y,Z points.

The 13th turn has only the attack phase (for a final rocket if one left in round 12) and the threats closing phase.

I will generally comment on the 2 players (+ 2 androids = 4 pilots) case, since this is what I tried today. I think it will not be hard to modify stuff for 5 players for example. As always, androids:
- are not controlled by a specific player (any player can play an action for an android)
- have a specific order which is maintained all the game, but they always play after real players.

setup:

1. the action cards are shuffled and each human player takes 5 cards. As soon as a card will be played, a new one will be drawn (memoir style).

2. the android receives a heroic action. every human player can play this card for the android, at any time, but only on that android.

3. a deck of 12 event cards is needed. to build this deck we need:

a1) 12 cards that announce an external threat (2 normal red, 2 normal white, 2 normal blue, 2 serious red, 2 serious white, 2 serious blue)
a2) 4 (or 5 ? I didn't make up my mind yet) cards that announce an internal threat (2 normal, 2 serious).
b) 2 "communication breakdown" cards
c) 1 "time distortion" card
d) 1 "computer maintenance" card
e) 2 "trade" cards
f) 1 "heroic action" card

The following procedure is done in order to distribute the threats (there will be 2 threats in rounds 1-4, 2 in rounds 5-8, 1 in rounds 9-12). here it goes:

- shuffle a1) and a2) to get 16 threat announcement cards (int + ext)
- draw 5 threats, FACE DOWN.
- make 3 piles, first one with 2 threats, second one with 2 threats, the third one with 1 threat.
- shuffle the cards from b), c), d), e), f) and then draw cards and fill each of the 3 piles to 4 cards (add 2 cards to the first pile which already has 2 threats, add 2 cards to the second pile, add 3 cards to the third pile).
- we now have 3 piles of 4 cards each.
- shuffle each pile separately
- put pile 1 over pile 2 over pile 3.

We now have our event deck. From this deck we will draw one event AT THE START of each round (the game starts with an event card by the way since this is the first step of round 1). The cards are explained towards the end.


Setup is done now.

Quick example:
- round 1 - step 1. draw and resolve event.
- round 1 - step 2. each player may play an action card and immediately resolve it (move, push button,etc).
- round 1 - step 3. player draws a card to replentish the deck again to 5 cards (or the number it had before)
- round 1 - step 4. the others do the same step 2 and 3 (for them and/or for the androids).
- round 1 - step 5. compute damage after player attacks
- round 1 - step 6. threats are closing and may trigger attacks, etc (X, Y, Z)

- round 2 - step 1. draw and resolve event
- round 2 - step 2. each player may play an action card.............

Other rules:
- each time a threat is drawn in the event phase, every human player draws an action card then chooses a card from his hand (possibly the one just drawn) and discards it, so that the no. of cards in hand is the same as at the beginning of the round. (this rule may dissapear)

- one can use the window in lower white area for some bonuses:
a) if only one player in a round looks out the window, he can draw 2 action cards, choose one and discard the other. from now on, he will have +1 card in hand.

b) if 2 players look out the window in the same turn, they can discuss together and choose a round from those that are left (not the next one !) and flip the event card face up. We now know the event that will come in that specific round and may prepare for it

c) if 3 players look out the window in the same turn, one of them can look at the next event and decide to leave him at current position or move it on the last position (it will become 12th round event in this case).

d) if 4 players look out the window in the same turn, they can discard one random future event card !! (so the last round will not have an event at start)

e) if 5 players look out the window in the same turn, turn face up all event cards left. Their position will be left unchanged, but everybody will now the future events. the "looking out the window" action is resolved at the end of action phase. these actions can be repeated as many times as needed (though there shouldn't be much time for this). Example: in round 5 green player comes and looks out the window: he gets 2 action cards, and discards one of them. the next turn, he, the blue player and the red player all look through the window. One of them will check the next event and decide if he will leave it at current position or move it to the last round. After another 2 turns, the green player look out the window again, alone, so he draws 2 cards, etc etc.





Explanation for different events:

1) communication breakdown: when this event is drawn, the whole current round will be played is silence ! The players WILL NOT talk about any strategy, ideas, recommendations, cards, anything. I figure the only things needed should be "your turn now" or "you cannot do that because of the rules" (if somebody tries to do something illegal). If somebody does something legal but strategically bad, nobody can say anything, or scream, smile, cry, shout, etc

:) This silence is kept until eveybody takes his action and the game moves to the attack phase. Now you can shout at the others for not being able to understand your marvelous plan and act accordingly :)

2) time distortion (untested yet): I really like (It also always frustrates me but that's another story) when somebody fires a weapon that has no power, or fires a weapon that already fired the current turn, etc. The non-realtime version was not normally fit for this because everything happens .. well.. as it happens, but I integrated the idea in the "time distortion" event. When you get this, a crack in space-time continuum appears and you are transported in the future, you do some actions there (think about it as "planning") and then return without touching anything on the board (cubes, etc). You plan 2 rounds in the future (like in the original game but with no time limit) and then you return to the current time (current round). When you get to the planned rounds, you cannot do anything other than resolve the actions you planned.

Example: round 5 starts. First phase, we draw an event: "time distortion" (for now there is only a version that moves you 2 rounds ahead in time and makes you plan 2 rounds). This means that IMMEDIATELY you move in time to round 7 and you will plan rounds 7 and 8. Only the action phase is planned (the event cards will be drawn in the "normal time" when we get to these rounds, attacks as well). So each player plays a card in front of him for the future round 7, and when everybody finishes playing an action, everybody starts playing the second action card, for round 8. When this happens (and thus every pilot has 2 action cards face up on the table) we are transported back to our normal time, where round 5 just began. Everybody plays round 5 as normal (ignore the face up planned cards), then everybody plays round 6 as normal (draw event, actions, attacks, etc). After finishing round 6, round 7 starts. We draw and resolve an event and then start resolving the action phase using the face up cards that we planned previously. This happens also in round 8. Starting with round 9, everything goes back to normal.


3) "computer maintenance": when we get this event, a gray cube is placed at the beginning of round X+2. You have 2 rounds (the current, X, and the next, X+1) to use action C in upper white area, like in the original game. If you do, remove the gray cube. If you don't (e.g. at the beginning of round X+2 the cube is still there) then for the WHOLE duration of round X+2 no button (A, B or C) works !. The pilots can move, can use gravolifts, can use battledroids (to launch interceptors or fight internal threats) but cannot play any A, B or C action, anywhere on hthe ship.

4) Trade: when the "trade" event comes (I will call it "information exchange" i think) everybody can exchange one card from his hand with another player. The transfer is always mutual, but not mandatory. First player starts by requesting or offering a card. After the transfer (if any) the next player requests or offers a card. There can be only 1 exchange between 2 human players (of course androids cannot participate in trade). Example for 3 players: Player A offers a card and player C accepts the exchange. Player B makes also an exchange with player C. It's C's turn: he cannot exchange anything with A or B (he already did, with both) so his event is resolved.

5) heroic action: each human player draws a heroic action. It will count as a supllemental card in his hand (a player will have 6 cards at this point: 5 dealt from the start + heroic).


there are details that should be fixed, but for now the above info should be enough.

wow.. quite a long post, hopefully there is someone that will read it all and give me a feedback. Thank you for reading.

bye
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Adrian Pirciu
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Summary if you get bored reading :)

The variant removes the timer and the CD, turning the game into a turn based cooperative survival action game (RPG like but without the role playing stuff :) ).

there will be a new event deck (created as stated above) that will containt 12 cards (for the 12 rounds of the game). Among them you will get 5 threats (distributed throughout the game) and other events (like a communication breakdown that will prevent anybody from speaking a whole action turn !). An event is drawn and resolved at the start of each of the 12 rounds.

every human player will normally have 5 action cards in hand at beginning of game, and each time he plays one he draws one (you play a card to do an action on your pilot's turn or on the android's turn). Same target: survive until the end.

I think the events look quite interesting (read post above) and missions can be added too ! (for example "planetary missions" from another thread, which look very nice).

Phase order for each round:
1. draw (and resolve) an event
2. action phase: in order (first human-controlled pilots then androids) each pilot may take an action. That means:

a) play (discard) an action card
b) move pilot/press button/ use battlebots, etc according to the card
c) draw a new card to replentish the hand card number.

3. calculate damage for external threats (the other actions are resolved on phase 2, but for this, we have to add all human attacks, which is done in this phase)
4. threats move closer (if they hit X, Y, Z, they do their action)

rinse, repeat..

hope it's clearer this way.
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B. Perry
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adixor wrote:
It seems that sometimes we cannot get over the stress during the mission, or the mistakes that the others do that ruin everything.


I can easily see how that would happen with many group. It's understandable that removing the time component would largely limit this problem.

adixor wrote:
It's also hard when we have somebody that ... starts telling everyone what to do, taking much of the fun (eveybody starts doing what he tells them to do which gets frustrating over time, even if he's right most of the time).


This I don't understand. Removing the time element would seem to make this problem worse. To me, this is one of the main reasons to have the time element--when things get busy, the head "leader" doesn't have time to micromanage everyone.

It's actually a big problem in cooperative games in general. To be successful, a coop game must have a way to minimize the Bossy Leader Syndrome (BLS).

Quote:
Please, PLEASE, don't start throwing stones at me


No stones. Just curious if/how this solves the second, bigger problem. My game group doesn't mind losing, but the BLS can ruin any coop game.
 
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Adrian Pirciu
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Kayvon wrote:
adixor wrote:
It seems that sometimes we cannot get over the stress during the mission, or the mistakes that the others do that ruin everything.


I can easily see how that would happen with many group. It's understandable that removing the time component would largely limit this problem.

adixor wrote:
It's also hard when we have somebody that ... starts telling everyone what to do, taking much of the fun (eveybody starts doing what he tells them to do which gets frustrating over time, even if he's right most of the time).


This I don't understand. Removing the time element would seem to make this problem worse. To me, this is one of the main reasons to have the time element--when things get busy, the head "leader" doesn't have time to micromanage everyone.

It's actually a big problem in cooperative games in general. To be successful, a coop game must have a way to minimize the Bossy Leader Syndrome (BLS).

Quote:
Please, PLEASE, don't start throwing stones at me


No stones. Just curious if/how this solves the second, bigger problem. My game group doesn't mind losing, but the BLS can ruin any coop game.


Indeed the BLS is a common problem (and hard->impossible to fix).

I realized that in my group, the BL is FAR more frustrating and annoying when you have an alarm sounding and the ship is falling apart. He is a BL also in the other coop games (pandemic, shadows, battlestar galactica) but he does his best to eliminate the syndrome or at least reduce it. During the tense moments of Space Alert, his "protection" does not function anymore (he basically can't stand shutting up and not telling everyone what to do), and unfortunately this is coupled with our desperation and screaming and .. let's just say that it's a good thing that the kitchen (and the knives) are far from the gaming room :) The BL has also the "I told you to to X" syndrome in the resolution phase...

It seems that this is not your group's case, but there is a little something that my variant adds: 2 of the 12 events in the game are called something along the lines of "communication breakdown". So, for 2 turns, you can be happy that the BL will have to shut up (he's gonna turn red or change colours multiple times I guess during these rounds, when people do something that he thinks it's not ok :) ). Of course, the idea is taken from the timed original version, when the communication is interrupted for a little while.



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Dan C
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Quote:
The variant removes the timer and the CD, turning the game into a turn based cooperative survival action game


I think I would rather play something that was originally designed as a turn based cooperative action game.
 
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niels s
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Personally I wouldn't want to play this variant because I like the original too much. But I think it is a well thought out variant that could work for more gaming groups. I appreciate your creativity, keep up the good work. Maybe one day there will be a deck of action cards to go with this variant
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Adrian Pirciu
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adixor wrote:

I will generally comment on the 2 players (+ 2 androids = 4 pilots) case, since this is what I tried today. I think it will not be hard to modify stuff for 5 players for example. As always, androids:
- are not controlled by a specific player (any player can play an action for an android)
- have a specific order which is maintained all the game, but they always play after real players.


According to official FAQ:

Quote:

Q: In the Rulebook, it is written you can choose any position for Androids, in Handbook, it is written they play after the players. What is correct?

A: The Rulebook is correct. After the final testings, we decided to let the positon of androids up to the crew; unfortunately, the Handbook does not reflect this change.


So I am also changing the rule: the androids can be played whenever the players want.
 
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Glen Graham
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Actually, I think this variant would work better with my group, since they like more easy-going games. I'll try it and let you know.

Thanks for your efforts - I like how it sounds!
 
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Darrell Pavitt
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Isn't this kind of like playing monopoly without money?

Hmm that sounded a bit negative. Your variant looks like it would work well, but Space Alert doesn't have an awful lot of interest even with the CD/ timer....
 
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Adrian Pirciu
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I will try to catch up with the answers:

@wolver: thank you for your kind words. the possibilities, as you all know, are endless. Time .. is not :)

@Jethrone: I played it last weekend and it worked great. There are some small modifications that I will post soon (hopefully today).

@nyhotep: I agree that much of what makes Space Alert unique (or maybe not unique, just great and original) is taken away. Still, the "new" game is ok for me and my group (better than the original, though, ironically, the original gameplay made me buy the game). And if it is ok for me and my group and helps at least one person on this forum, then it's great :)

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Darrell Pavitt
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Actually, I like the change of emphasis from "real-time" to "strategy", as it might be called if it were a computer game.
 
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Cameron Chien
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My solution would be to not include the Bossy Leader player when you want to play cooperative games.

If everyone else enjoys playing Space Alert as it was intended, then one guy who can't keep his mouth shut needs to learn some manners and how to be considerate.

Shouting during a game of Space Alert is understandable, but the "I told you so" attitude is not welcome at my gaming table. That's just being an arse. Maybe Bossy Leader player should try playing some board games by himself. Then he might be motivated to try and get along with others.

Cameron
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