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Subject: Commonwealth: A real-time space civilization game rss

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Jordan Sorenson
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Like many of the great interstellar conflict games of our time, the story centers around a war where one empire emerges victorious. The game of Commonwealth, however, immerses players into a universe where that war has already happened. In a galaxy not so far away from our own, the victor of this old war has endured for centuries after the last of their adversaries were completely extinguished. After some time though, the very heart of their species began to rot with the knowledge of their forefathers and the annihilation they had wreaked upon their galaxy. In penance, the children of the last race searched the stars endlessly for some form of redemption and reprieve from their ageless guilt.

And the day soon came when they found it. In the form of a small galaxy outside their own, they discovered several infant races untouched by hyperspace travel, and untouched by war. The Ancients came to our galaxy and swore they would protect its inhabitants from the same fate that befell their own. And so they introduced peace and order to the Milky Way, for only the Commonwealth could unite all the galaxy's races and prevent them from descending into the endless abyss of battle. If you remember, this is not a story about a great war. This is a story determining how the next age of our galaxy will unfold. Will you protect the Commonwealth and quell all rebellion, or will you dissent and usher in the next age of empire dominance?

Welcome to the Commonwealth universe where three to six players clash economically, politically, militarily, and even covertly in an epic conflict that rides upon the ground-breaking game mechanic of simultaneous turns. By choosing one of twelve unique alien races, you will create customizable fleets, explore the galaxy coordinate by coordinate, acquire powerful technologies, and launch secret covert attacks that even your enemies (or friends) can't originate. For the more politically inclined players, the in-game government provides a dynamic experience that will test your mettle as you try orchestrate a series of legislative masterstrokes to cripple or empower the Commonwealth.

All this to provide a real-time simulation of interstellar civilization and warfare at its finest.


This is a game I have been working on for a couple years now. It's been playtested and playtested and I finally believe its about time to unveil it to a broader public. Sure my friends like it, but we all know how far that really goes. So I am going to begin showing you all what I got. The main gimmick Commonwealth has got going for it is that the game is played in actual real-time. Not simultaneous action selection, but actual real-time. Think Twilight Imperium meets Civilization and Age of Empires.

I'll begin with unveiling some of the boards each player will be managing.



This is the Phage racial affairs board, one of twelve alien species you can select in Commonwealth. Each round players choose a focus that best suits their purposes. Focuses include Espionage, Politics, Warfare, Production, Technology, and Economics. Each focus can be chosen by every player if need be. On the racial affairs board you manage your homeworld population and labor output.



This is the generic economic management board. It is here you manage your space dock labor output (far greater capacity then your homeworld) and resource collection. (Alloy, Nanomatter, Organics, and Energy) A description of the game's infrastructure can also be found here.



This is the generic technology management board. By building more Research Facility infrastructure, you gain more access to more technologies. Each player only has 3 Research Facilities to build however, so more expensive technologies require the conquering of additional facilities or combined facility output with another player.

There are a few more boards yet to be shown still but I wanted to just start seeing some responses from the community.

Is this a game that appeals to you this far? I know I haven't explained a whole lot, but that is intentional. I have summarized the game, and if the pulls aren't enough to get you curious, then as a wannabe designer I'd like to know that.

If enough interest is generated, I will be holding a contest for those interested in receiving a free copy.

Thanks for the future input!
 
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Nathan Woll
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This sounds interesting to me. As a huge TI3 fan I really like these types of games (interstellar conflict) However it does appear to be very much like TI3 on the surface (different unique races, research tree, role selection, etc.) I would like to hear more.

Edit: I wanted to add that I was a bit confused by your back story. What exactly is the goal of the game?
 
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Philip Thomas
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I like the pictures. Other than that you haven't really said very much
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Richard Morris
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wouldn't a real time space game take, well, hundreds of thousands of years?
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Scott Arnone
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AnnuverScotinExile wrote:
wouldn't a real time space game take, well, hundreds of thousands of years?


Err.. you realize there are things called Real-Time Strategy games, where it takes like 20 seconds to build a tank, right? Real-time doesn't mean Actual-Time. It just means Not-Turn-Based.
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Jordan Sorenson
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nswoll wrote:
This sounds interesting to me. As a huge TI3 fan I really like these types of games (interstellar conflict) However it does appear to be very much like TI3 on the surface (different unique races, research tree, role selection, etc.) I would like to hear more.

Edit: I wanted to add that I was a bit confused by your back story. What exactly is the goal of the game?


The goal of the game is to have the most prestige (veeps) before one of the three end-game conditions end.

1. The 10th round transpires
2. The Commonwealth is destroyed
3. The Commonwealth is brought to full glory

One of the biggest differences between TI and Commonwealth is that there is no board. You discover other players' planets through a battleship-like guessing system. Once you know the location, you can open a hyperspace window there.

Another difference is the worker placement aspect of the game. For every population you grow, you receive one corresponding personnel token. Personnel are used to manage your actions, labor output, and resource collection.

As far as the real-time aspect of the game, most building happens in a separate phase outside the phase of real-time gaming. If a ship were to cost 4 labor, this building phase checks to see how much labor you've accumulated. If you look at the racial affairs board, the homeworld has a labor line of 4. That means by placing four personnel tokens there, it would accumulate four labor during the building phase.
 
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Jordan Sorenson
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This is the complete player area. Each player can manage everything about their empire from here. Planets, resources, their espionage program, legislations, fleets, you name it, all within a 28 inch by 16 inch area. And of course, because the boards are separate, you can customize your area to fit your preference or table size.

Because everything is compacted into one area for each player, real-time play becomes possible. To invade another player's planet, you simply open a hyperspace window there if you know the location. A 60-second sand timer is used to simulate this hyperspace travel. This way, a defender has sixty seconds to respond to the incoming window. They can beef up planetary defense a bit, or scuttle their important infrastructure so that the invaders won't gain control.

I'll be posting more features of the game periodically. Next up is the Legislation and Espionage mechanics.
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Meaker VI
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jss05a wrote:
... all within a 28 inch by 16 inch area...


Wait, so with 3-6 players, you'll need a whopping 1,344-2,688 square inches (9 1/3 - 18 2/3 square feet)? That would be a minimum of a 4' x 5' table, with almost no space anywhere on it for 6 players. For the minimum 3 players, a standard card table might suffice, but there would be absolutely no uncovered space anywhere. Dining tables range from 24-42" wide and 46-120" long, but the minimum to fit 6 players with no uncovered space is a 42x64," which is a table that should seat 6-8 for dinner.

I'd recommend shrinking or removing elements until you get that size down to roughly place mat size (~14x20") so that your 6 players are likely to find a place to play. Possibly allowing some of your great-looking pieces to be used by all players, rather than having one set for each would put you into that range?
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Richard Smith
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I'm very curious about this. Does each player have a sand timer? What happens if two people want to both open a hyperspace link in over lapping times?

From your description, I don't get any real feel of the game play.

Warm regards, Rick.
 
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Oskar Prytz
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Sounds very intriguing!
I really like how different this sounds.

I would love to see more on how the real-time aspect and sequence of play works.

Keep it up!
 
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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Were you inspired by Sins of a Solar Empire? The real-time aspect of your game sounds similar, where it takes time to travel the links between systems, so you know what's coming.

It would be nice to see which aspects of the game are real-time, and which aren't. And whether there are real-time phases divided by turn-based (or simultenous, non-real-time) phases.

It really couldn't hurt to post the full rules--nobody is going to take the time to develop the entire game based on just the rules, so you really don't need to worry about somebody else stealing your idea.
 
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Andrew Eveninger
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jss05a wrote:

This is the complete player area. Each player can manage everything about their empire from here. Planets, resources, their espionage program, legislations, fleets, you name it, all within a 28 inch by 16 inch area. And of course, because the boards are separate, you can customize your area to fit your preference or table size.


Slihtly too big

I see that you put everything that come to your mind into game - will it work?
 
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Jordan Sorenson
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The Real-Time Mechanics

The game is pure worker placement and with those workers (personnel) you must manage your production, resource collection, and action allotment per turn.

For instance, the current government of my race could be a Republic with a military action multiplier of 3 and an economic action multiplier of 1. That means by placing 6 personnel on my military actions, I would receive 2 military actions per turn. If I also had 2 personnel on my economic actions, I would receive 2 economic actions that turn as well.

The grand total becomes 2 military actions, and 2 economic actions per turn.

A game round consists of many turns. The real-time element comes into play when players decide at the beginning of each new turn if they would like to pay their turn cost to play another turn. (The turn cost above would be 4 money because they allotted for 4 actions total)

Once all players have decided either to pass or play, the real-time play commences with all players executing their allotted actions simultaneously.

The rule of thumb is only one hyperspace window can be opened in a system at a time. To resolve any other disputes of timing, players are awarded priority each round based on their order of passing in the previous round. The highest priority player is awarded all timing disputes.

When one player has completed his allotted actions, he immediately places his sand-timer in the middle of the table. When all players have placed their sand-timers in the middle of the table except for one last player, the game round will end upon the last grain of sand to expire. This way one player simply doesn't wait for all other players to move and then execute all his actions to dominate. These are 60-second timers so the final player will realistically only have time for one last hyperspace jump, since once the "armistice" timers in the middle of the table expire, the last player is permitted to finish an action he is in the middle of.

That is the real-time mechanics in a nut shell.

I have indeed cut the player area in half as well.

I have also never played Sins of a Solar Empire.

Thank you for the input.

Any other questions I can answer?
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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Why is the sand-timer mechanic better than one where players each do an action (or two or three) in player order, and then have a penalty or limit on actions performed after other players have decided to pass and perform no further actions?
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Jordan Sorenson
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Mainly because then you have a game like every other game out there. I designed the action system and specific actions to accommodate real-time play. For instance try doing simultaneous play for games like Twilight Imperium, Le Havre, Agricola, or countless other games that force players to take actions in turn order. Their game systems simply do not facilitate real-time play.

I am going for very specific results that only a real-time game created from the ground up can provide.

Those results being virtually no downtime, and a 6 to 8 hour level of game depth in a 2 to 3 hour sitting.
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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That's a good answer! I really didn't mean my question as a critique, just trying to push you a little on your design decisions. I hope you don't mind, but please say if you do! I have another question, then: why real-time actions instead of writing secret orders and revealing/resolving them simultaneously?
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Jordan Sorenson
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My apologies for responding in a seemingly offensive fashion! And I would take both the critique or push on my design decisions any day.

I guess the only good answer to your question is that simply the game doesn't require it! Faced with the decision for players to either execute their actions in real-time or write them all down first, I'm hoping players would choose the prior.

Also the secret orders prevents players from reacting to their every changing environment.

For instance here's a real game example.

A hyperspace space window has just opened over my homeworld. In real-time play, I have sixty seconds to respond before an enemy fleet enters the system. Taking a quick glance at the stats of the incoming fleet, I see that its invasion strength is 12. My homeworld's invasion strength is only 8, so I am going to lose control of the planet because of the simple planetary invasion rules (The most invasion strength wins). Luckily, I haven't taken any of my actions this turn and I happen to have 3 military and 1 economic action to resolve. One type of military action I can take is called "Raise Army", which allows me to increase a planet's invasion strength by one. Unfortunately, I only have 3 military actions so the max invasion strength I could muster would be 11. I am now faced with the reality that I am going to lose the planet. And once that happens, my enemy will gain control of all my planet's infrastructure. Another military action is called "Scuttle". This action allows me to destroy one ship, infrastructure, or fleet upgrade. At my homeworld there is a Space Dock and once my enemy enters the system, they can refuel and repair there at will. After any hyperspace jump, ship reactors are exhausted preventing them from making constant movement around the galaxy. If my enemy gains control of my Space Dock, they could refuel and continue their rampage across my empire. Real-time response allows me to make a hard but necessary decision. I am going to scuttle the expensive Space Dock for a military action to minimize future losses this round.

This is simply one variation of a common real-time decision that wouldn't be nearly as frequent if orders were secret.

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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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I was just worried that you might be offended, what you actually said didn't give any indication of it.

I can imagine there being situations in which no player wants to make an action, because they're waiting for their opponent(s) to do something first. For example, one player wants to attack, but if their target uses all their actions, the attacker would win. The other player would rather use those actions doing other things, but would repel the attack if possible, and is therefore waiting to see if the other player will actually attack. What then?
 
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Jordan Sorenson
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Upon completing your set of actions, you place a timer in the middle of the table. When all but one player has done this and each timer has expired, the turn is considered over and the last player is permitted to finish the action he was in the middle of but nothing more.

If all timers expire and there is more than one player still remaining, each remaining player loses one credit (the money of the game), and as I mentioned earlier, credits are what's required to pay your turn cost. Players who use this cold war strategy you've mentioned will find themselves very short on cash and actions.

Upon losing credits in this manner, passed players can then reset their timers for the same credit loss if 60 more seconds transpires again.
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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But what if nobody wants to complete their actions and set down a timer? I still think that's a possible scenario, particularly with fewer players. One player could finally cave, and the remaining two could still complete their actions within 60 seconds, incurring no penalty. Or, the cost to a player for finishing up their actions could be greater than the benefit of depriving other players of 1 credit each.
 
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Jordan Sorenson
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The game is very objective driven. The first player to pass will have highest priority to score prestige (veeps) at the end of the round. In the twenty plus games I have completed I have never witnessed a stand-off situation like this. Players simply can't win if they are last priority when scoring prestige.
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Andreas Krüger
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Do you know Space Dealer? OOP, unfortunately (AFAIK).

Quote:
This game is played in real time to a 30 minute soundtrack (or timer) with all players playing simultaneously. Players start at their own planet with a power generator and a mine. They race to generate goods and deliver them to each other (earning VP for both the player and the recipient) or to the neutral planets. They can also do research to improve their abilities, and bring new cards into play. Everything, from generating goods, to moving ships, to playing new cards, requires at least 1 flip of a timer. The catch is that each player only has 2 timers! At the start it seems like you have all the time in the world; very soon, though, it becomes a frantic race to make as many deliveries as possible!
 
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Jordan Sorenson
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Never heard of that either. It definitely seems board gaming has periodically flirted with the idea of real-time gaming but never have I seen it on a galactic domination scale.
 
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Andreas Krüger
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Yes, I think your concept is unique.

I thought you might want to have a look at the different use of timers. A similar idea, but a very different concept if you look at the details.

Good luck with your game!
 
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AnnuverScotinExile wrote:
wouldn't a real time space game take, well, hundreds of thousands of years?


(Deep Thought nods sadly) "And after all that time, the end result is still 42. Then you have to go and build a bigger computer. That lasts for several million years, and then just before the question is revealed, the planet gets smashed to pieces by the evolutionary biproducts of slugs, namely the Vogons (they already Vocame, they overVostayed their welcome, and then they Vowent). Isn't transgalactic bureaucracy wonderful? All it's lacking is an endlessly meaningless office party serving Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters from punch bowls. You can't imagine how much I've wanted to smash my brains out with a lemon wrapped around a brick after no one liked my 42 answer. Something to be said for carbon-based, rather than silicon-based, lifeforms. I wonder if there's any rehab service available for an obsolete computer running obsolete software. No, I don't want to be just like Marvin. I'm not *that* depressed."
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