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Subject: Can RftG Produce a Story? rss

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Robert Fox
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I played a game today where I looked at all the cards after the game was over and realized it may combine to tell an interesting story. I'm not much of a story teller, but here's how the game unfolded.

The while hiding out in the main Rebel Cantina, the leadership for the rebels decide their movement has strengthened to the point where they can now step up their moves against the Imperium. The plan: continue to grow their influence in the financial pillars of the galaxy, start making their plea directly to the people, and attempt to research a way to bring down the Imperium once and for all.

Meanwhile, it has become clear to the Imperium Warlord that the Rebel's will not simply die out on their own. Their attacks have been growing in both number and magnitude. He decides it is time to squash the upstarts before the situation gets even more out of hand.

The rebels send out an Expedition Force to collect supplies for the upcoming conflicts. Out on the fringe of the known galaxy, they come across a Dying Colony. In exchange for helping the settlers by bringing in regular trade, the settlers give the alliance the majority of their only surplus commodity, fuel, and also allows the alliance to set up a Rebel Fuel Cache on the second of their moons. This will be a excellent place to stockpile supplies in an inconspicuous and little watched part of the galaxy.

The Warlord acts quickly and with force. He dispatches his elite Space Marines to take over a unpopulated planet defended by a mysterious technology. The losses are heavy, but some of the marines manage to break through to the planet surface where they are able to disable the defenses before the entire invasion force is wiped out. In the weeks that followed, they find a Damaged Alien Factory. Although it's not in pristine condition, they are able to get it running enough to produce a decent supply of advanced small arms weapons. The Imperium uses these to arm bands of Space Mercenaries. They are ordered to spread out into the galaxy and find the Rebels. The first to pinpoint the leadership of the rebellion will be rewarded with more credits than each man could hope to spend in their lifetime.

The next few months have proven fruitful for the Rebels. Sympathies in the general populous have been running high. Instead of the terrorist organization the Imperium has painted them as, they are now being seen as a defender of the poor and disenfranchised. Galactic Advertisers blanket the galaxy with news reports of their exploits and of upcoming movies that glorify their movement. Sympathizers in academia form a type of Pan-Galactic Research organization that instructs the Rebels how to more effectively tighten their grips on the foundations of the New Economy. Soon the Rebels are siphoning money from all sectors of the galaxy. The first sympathetic planetary governor is elected on New Earth , they are able to fund a massive effort and turn a resource rich planet into their own Mining World, and they even now run the hyper wealthy Gambling World.

For the Imperium, one of the more organized bands of mercenaries catch wind of a rebel presence on a nearby research planet. They immediately invade the main city and institute martial law. Although no rebels are found, they do find a Clandestine Uplift Lab. After months of research, Imperium researchers find that the lab was on the brink of a major biological breakthrough. The lab was the main hub of a much larger underground effort into breaking the Uplift code. They were decades, if not centuries ahead of the most advanced research the Imperium had discovered to this point. Encouraged that this breakthrough would finally bring to fruition the Warlords dreams of unbeatable super soldiers, he almost spends the Imperium into bankruptcy supplying Investment Credits into the military effort to squash all resistance to his dreams of a galaxy encompassing empire.

The growing armies of mercenaries and space marines find and manage to capture a Lost Alien Warship, which instantly becomes the capital ship of the Imperium fleet. With the ears of the Imperium all over the galaxy, they eventually get some reliable intel about a Rebel Underground base on a distant moon. The Rebels never saw the marines coming, and the base falls quickly. Through "enhanced interrogation" techniques, the Imperium gets the piece of evidence they have been searching for ... the location of the Rebel Homeworld. The might of the Imperium falls upon the planet within the month. They put up a valiant fight, but the advanced weapons combined with the unheard of strength of the Alien Warship's bombardment systems eventually cause the planet's defenses to fall. The Rebel Homeworld is no more.

News of the planet's destructions sends shockwaves through the galaxy. The passions of both the Imperium loyalists and the Rebel sympathizers harden. An open Galacic Federation forms in support of the rebels. A mid sized Imperium fleet is sent out to intimidate this new body of governments, but their resolve is underestimated. They had spent weeks coming up with New Military Tactics. The Imperium fleet is caught off guard and is roundly defeated. In the meantime, using the cooperation of the new Ferderation's scientists, they manage to get an Alien Robot Scout Ship that had been found decades earlier operational. The speed of which the scout ship sends back information astounds the scientists. The last communication they have with the scout is the most terrifying ... it finds an Avian Uplift Race that has undergone recent modifications. Who has been able to restart the Uplift research trials from the forgotten Aliens that came before???

News of the Imperium loss at the hands of the federation embarrasses the Warlord. Measured responses can no longer be risked. The galaxy is on the brink of all out warfare and the funding for the Rebels has many heads that regrow faster than they can be cut off. As the Warlord contemplates his next move, the minister of technology comes busting into the room. He informs the Warlord that their dreams have come true. They have broken the Uplift Code, and while more research needs to be done, they are a mere few years away from perfecting genetic manipulation. Within his lifetime, the Warlord will have his army of superbeings. He smiles. His only response is, "Schedule a press conference for tomorrow".

During his speech, he declares that the Rebel terrorists have finally gone too far. A few days ago, they openly attacked a diplomatic envoy to the new Federation brutally killing the diplomats and leaving no survivors. It has become apparent that this new Federation, by siding with the Rebels, has declared war on the peaceful people of the Imperium. As the Imperium is at war, he assumes new and broad reaching powers so that he may protect the Imperium and defeat their new enemy. He institutes a New Galactic Order that will recruit the largest army that the galaxy has ever seen with which to squash this threat once and for all.

Research into the superbeings begins in earnest, with the focus being on the Reptilian Uplift Race. Wishing to send a message with his first battle of the new war, he bypasses a number of fringe worlds of the Federation and strikes directly at the massively fortified Rebel Stronghold, reducing it to ashes within days.

Although the Imperium seems to have everything going for it in this new war (they won on VP 65 to 57), the Imperium will soon start to see it's tax revenue dwindle to a drip as the Rebels use their deep rooted connections to bring the Imperium's economy to a standstill. The Federation's military is smaller, but they've proven to be more flexible and creative in combat ... and while the Imperium may be but a few years away from the unbeatable superbeings that writings from the long extinct Alien race describe; the Warlord does not know that the Rebel's are onto his plan. With sympathizers heavily embedded in the galaxy's academia, the final outcome of this advanced research cannot be foreseen.
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In a word, awesome. Thanks for the write-up.
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Holger Hannemann
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Hi Robert,

thanks for the write up. I started doing the same thing with all my RftG games. It makes it more interesting playing against the robot, and it's worth the invested time even when I lose (which happens very often). I guess I just miss playing RPGs
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Robert Fox
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Thanks for the kind words. Just about every game I've played of RftG I never really thought about the theme. It was just an interesting game of gaining VP's. Once I stood back and looked at a completed game for a few moments, I saw that you COULD construct a galaxy on the brink of war story out of the cards if you wished.

Although it's rather boring and straight forward, my favorite card in the game is New Galactic Order. It's effect of giving you VP's for growing the military for military's sake seems appropriate and thematic for the card. Usually, there wouldn't be much need to get more than 5 or 6 military ... but if you have New Galactic Order why not just keep building? 10 military? Nah. 15 military? Pfffft. Go for 20! It's all worth it!
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Joshua Gottesman
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Very entertaining read. I see Tom Lehmann has thumbed this. I'll guess he's sitting here saying "Yes! This guy gets it! Its about the epic story!"
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Robert Fox
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Woohoo! Now all I need is an "I've been thumbed by Tom Lehmann" microbadge.

Err ... on second thought, maybe not.
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Tom Lehmann
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
Very entertaining read. I see Tom Lehmann has thumbed this. I'll guess he's sitting here saying "Yes! This guy gets it! Its about the epic story!"

I thumbed it because I both enjoyed the read and do believe that RFTG is, at a fairly abstract level, fairly well themed.

I understand that abstracted themes may not work for some players, depending on whether they "get" the abstraction. For example, Race's produce/consume is really about macro, not micro, economics and some players simply can't wrap their heads around this. (Agricola's accessibility is, in part, because of the extreme specificity of some of its theme -- fences, a cow, a bushel of grain, etc. -- despite the huge abstractions it makes in other areas (time, weather, and so on).)

For Race, I started with the theme and grew the game from there. Every card in the base set and most of the expansion cards were generated title first, then powers. Here's a concrete example:

I knew from the get go that in addition to having a universe with both humans and aliens, that there would also be a long-lost, very powerful ***Alien*** race that had mysteriously vanished, leaving behind just a few puzzling artifacts that contain extremely advanced technology. So, a world that contained a valuable "decoder ring" or "Rosetta stone" should exist, which allows players to settle and exploit other ***Alien*** worlds and space stations easier. This led to the -2C/+2M vs Alien and produce on Alien windfall powers and the card title "Alien Rosetta Stone World". This world should also be intrinsically more valuable, so it got an extra VP (for its cost). All this occurred before any playtesting was ever done.

Similarly, the Star Nomad Lair and Pirate World were both conceived before any playtesting was done. Since it didn't make sense that these worlds would increase the value of all Novelty goods in an empire, I came up with the "this world" distinction to reflect the notion that these worlds come with caches of stolen goods.

Cut to the first expansion, designed a year and half later. There, I knew I would need another "Alien strategy helper card" (because the deck was growing in size), so I took the -2C/+2M power and put it on a cost 1, 2 VP gray world and called it "Deserted Alien World". This is an example of an expansion card that came from mechanics, not story.

The Alien Toy Shop, on the other hand, came because I liked the notion of ***Alien*** toys incorporating advanced technology that was commonplace among the vanished Aliens (as reflected in its low cost), but extremely valuable to the new empires. And, when deconstructed and understood, these toys would, in turn, set off a craze for Alien toys (the consume 2x power). However, not all Alien goods would consume so well, so I reused the "this world" distinction to restrict the consume power to just Alien goods on this card. This is an example of an expansion card that comes from story, not mechanics.
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Tom Lehmann
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FuManchu wrote:
Woohoo! Now all I need is an "I've been thumbed by Tom Lehmann" microbadge.

Err ... on second thought, maybe not.

How about quietly forgetting this idea and having 15 GG to buy another microbadge ;-)
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Keith M. Sandler
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One of my favourite quotes seems to fit the bill here-- enjoy:

"There is certainly competition in a game, as each players seeks to win by opposing his adversaries and countering their actions—but the competition is not the entire essence of the game. Instead, it is only one of the means at the disposal of the author to create excitement which will attract players to the small world of the game, creating the tension which will rivet them there.
A game should also create a complete story—a script with actors, a setting, plot developments, and an ending." --Bruno Faidutti




--kMs
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Andrew
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The ability to tell stories from the progression of the game is one of the things that first held my interest in Race (apart from it being a very well-made, tightly balanced game).

I love the way trading Novelty goods to a Distant World brings in a great big bonus, while the world itself produces Gene goods.
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I've played a slew of RftG games and it happens very regularly (more often than not) that I see an interesting story unfold in my tableau - you only need look for it to see it. I really enjoy that about the game.
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Robert Fox
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Thanks Tom! I think the microbadge choice was obvious.
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Shawn Woods
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Race for the Galaxy is such an excellent game for designing a story with. I love the symbolism and art, it paints a picture in my imagination every game. I find myself sitting and going the cards sometimes, one after the other. It feels like there must be a full story somewhere that Tom based this off of. Great job!
 
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Linda Baldwin
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I've only played RftG once, and didn't have a particular desire to go back to it.

Until now. Thanks for giving me a reason to look into this game again!
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Iain
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Robert,

I just came across your post which I have too say is one of the best that I have read in a long time

I bought RftG when it first came out but never found anyone to play it with

So I gave it to my FLGS for them to make use of in their games library.

I thought that was that as far as RftG was concerned however I recently came across posts for the expansion on BGG, specifically the solo game which gave me an idea to give it another go. Your post has now moved this from an idea to a purchase asap, so I hope you are proud of yourself making me spend all that money

Seriously, excellent post, exactly what makes this community so great.

regards
iain
 
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Robert Fox
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Thanks for the kind words again!

The solo game is interesting. You need to learn how each "robot" gains points and try to craft a way to leech off of their success. I think on of the best things about the robot is it really teaches you how to play faster. By play faster, I mean get your points out quickly; because of this I do think the solo game has some tension a lot of solo games don't have.

It also scales well between 2-4 people. I haven't played with more. I've also had success introducing RftG to people new to games. Most skeptical people are willing to try a card game ... and I've found all the symbols aren't that daunting if you make it clear up front the link between the rounds and the symbols on the cards. So for phase one, ONLY the symbols next to the number one on the card will take place.

So, the next time a friend or two is around, ask if they'd like to play a card game and say it'll only take 15-20 minutes 45 minutes for the first few learning games. Most people will at least try.
 
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Serge
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FuManchu wrote:
So, the next time a friend or two is around, ask if they'd like to play a card game and say it'll only take 15-20 minutes or so. Most people will at least try. :)
Careful, 15 minutes to teach it yes, but to teach+play the first game takes about an hour.
 
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Robert Fox
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True, the first game will take longer ... I guess if there's more than three it could take an hour, but I don't think I've ever had a game go longer than 30 minutes.
 
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Anders Olin
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I still remember my very first game of RftG:
First game: angry * * shake
Second game: * surprise
Third: * arrrh
Fourth...:300th: cool *
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Rob Arcangeli
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Brilliant post!

I always find a story developing in my Race games. I still remember one my earliest games where I was playing with a peaceful, economic strategy and I settled a primitive planet to produce genetic goods to be consumed on my plague planet and genetic labs.

It only dawned on me later that I had been selling hapless cavemen to worlds experimenting with diseases and genetic manipulation in order to fund my "peaceful" civilisation.

I still feel guilty about that one.
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Richard Linnell
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That's one phenomenal session report, you should definitely write more of them. Plus, I always find it nice to get a little inside look from the Designer. While I don't always come up with a story like this from playing this game (I also normally play with 4-6), I do feel that the theme is very well integrated, and that it would be possible to come up with some coherent fiction from the backstory and cards.
 
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