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Subject: WIP - Wormhole, a mind-bending game of territory acquisition for 2 to 4. rss

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Adam Blinkinsop
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EDIT: This has gone through several iterations, read through the thread for more information. The current version is basically Cosmic Encounter meets Ra meets a modified Power Grid network, but that could all still change.

Background: I'm working through Challenges for Game Designers, which I just picked up off Amazon. One of my dad's favorite games is Risk, so I started there and ran with it.

Object of the Game: Control the most systems at the end of the round when all systems are controlled.

Components:

* A 6x6 map of circles (systems) for this game, with enough space between the regions to draw arbitrary paths (the titular wormhole). This map could be on a whiteboard (for reuse), or just a large sheet of paper.
* Small tokens (ships) for each player, with some distinguishing feature -- colored plastic gems would work well.
* Writing implements to draw paths on the game board.
* At least 10d6.

Setup: Ensure the map is created and no wormholes have yet been drawn on it. Have each player choose a starting system and place three ships in it.

Play: Each turn consists of three steps:

1. Draw new wormholes.

Wormholes are bidirectional paths between two systems, drawn as a simple line. There are only three restrictions for these paths:
a. A wormhole may not link a system to itself.
b. Two systems may not be directly linked by more than one wormhole.
c. A system may not have more than four wormholes out of it.

In this part of your turn, you must (if able) draw one new path from each system you control (on your first turn, you'll only control your starting system).

2. Attack.

You may attack from any and all systems you control, over any and all wormhole paths out of those systems, any number of times. To attack, choose a system you control (the attacking system) and a wormhole out of it (the attacking path). If the system at the other end of the attacking path is empty, move any number of ships there from the attacking system. Otherwise, combat occurs.

In combat, each side rolls Xd6, where X is the number of ships they control in the battle, but no more than 10. (That is, if I attack with 15 ships vs. the defender's 8 ships, I roll 10d6 and they roll 8d6.) Each die that comes up a 4, 5, or 6 is a hit, removing ships from the opponent. If the attacker has ships remaining while the defender does not, the attacker moves all such ships into the new system.

Possible Variants:
* The attacker may choose a smaller number of ships to send into battle, reducing the number of dice they roll, but minimizing possible casualties.
* The defender may retreat: roll no dice and take all casualties, but then move remaining forces out of the system to a connected, uncontrolled or friendly (controlled by you) system.

3. Reinforce.

For every two systems you control, you get an additional ship (minimum 1, maximum 6), which may be placed in any friendly system.

Possible Variants:
* The map could have colored systems (four colored red, four colored green, perhaps some colored with multiple colors), and controlling all the systems of a single color could provide bonus reinforcements, like continents in Risk.
* Controlled systems could provide dice to roll for reinforcements (the same system as combat), but I think this'd be more complicated than it's worth.
* Reinforcements could be based on the number of ships you currently control (exponentially decreasing as you approach a ship limit).

Game End

A round consists of all players taking a single turn. Before the first player takes their next turn, check for a win:

* Are all systems controlled?
* Does one player control more systems than any other?

If both are true, the player with the plurality of systems wins the game. Otherwise, play another round.

Possible Variants:
* A player must have a majority instead of a plurality.
* A player must hold their lead for two rounds.

----

Meta

My thought is that the game can be played simply, with paths being drawn to spacially-close systems, making it easy to visualize. Once players are more comfortable, they can mess with the topology of the board by drawing paths all over the place. The variant with colored systems could reward this kind of behavior by coloring far-away systems the same.

Please let me know what you think! Should be easy to draw up a quick board for a playtest, but I've had no time yet.

Also, many parameters here may be tuned:

* 6x6 board -> bigger? smaller?
* 3 ships to start
* 4, 5, 6 hits on dice
* 10d6 max
* 1 - 6 reinforcement limits
* 1/2 reinforcement/system ratio
* 4 wormhole max
* ship maximum (unstated)

These are just numbers off the top of my head that seem good. If any of them seem way off, just comment.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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The thing that turned me off was the necessity for a whiteboard, or large pieces of paper. Reading thru the rules, I realized something: the drawn paths don't matter at all (right?) ... all you really care about is where the two ends of each wormhole are.

So, here's a suggestion. Eliminate the whiteboard and the need to draw paths. Instead, add in a bunch of Wormhole Tokens -- numbered or lettered or otherwise labeled in pairs. For example, you'd have two tokens labeled "Alpha-Lambda-Three", and those would be the two ends of the wormhole.

I think that change may make it more "realistic" (as if we have any real experience to draw upon!) ... since I've certainly never seen any sci-fi fiction describing wormholes as visible paths in space. So analyzing the wormhole map with only the wormhole tokens as a guide would give some flavor to the game.
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Meaker VI
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I'm a fan of space-based games, and of wormhole/hyperspace maps. Almost every single hyperspace map I've seen links systems that are connected by 'wormholes' or gates, or space lanes, or whatever with lines as you've described (they aren't described as visually being paths in space, although they are represented as paths in space - since they connect two or more points in space); however it's a valid point from a play perspective that drawing lines on a board is kinda lame. For PNP it works great, fewer components and easier setup, but for production it's not an elegant solution.

Unfortunately, placing tokens on a board makes it really difficult to visualize connections as well - you probably would run out of shapes (because you're looking at 144 unique possible connections!) and you can't use colors (because of the color blind - even non-color blind players will have trouble with that many colors), and I don't like the idea of hunting for alpha-numeric combination on disks. Maybe if you used one set of large letters (so you can have familiar, repeating shapes) coded with a limited number of basic colors (so you can have more than ~20 shapes, depending on the alphabet you use) that would work, but I'd experiment with it. Of course, if your game never gets to the point that every system ends up with 4 connections, then it's not as big of a deal.

I'm not personally a fan of your combat system - it feels entirely random. I've been thinking about using a system where each player throws a die, and that number is the number of ships they will expend to kill whatever the opponent's number is (i.e.: I roll a 3 and you roll a 5, I spend 3 ships to take out 5 of yours). There is still some randomness, but I can choose whether or not to engage at those odds, placing more of the battling in the hands of the player.
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Oliver Kiley
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What about if you create a map with tons of lines/connections (max of four per your rules?) that are connected to blank placeholders on the board. Then, instead of drawing lines, players place the system tiles/hexes/whatever on the board, so you can only travel to connected systems.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Hold on... I just realized something.

It's a 6x6 grid of systems, right? So that's 36 systems?

So you'd only need 36 "symbols" or whatever. If those systems have names, then put the names on the Wormhole Tokens

The limit of wormholes is 4 per system. So you'll need 4 Wormhole Tokens for each system.

When it comes time to "draw" the wormhole, you would be choosing the two systems where the wormhole-ends are. Let's say you have a wormhole connecting System Wolf 359 and Eridani Epsilon. So you take a Wormhole token marked "Eridani Epsilon" and put it in the Wolf 359 system; and you take a Wormhole token marked "Wolf 359" and put it in the Eridani Epsilon system.


Easier? I think it's even easier than drawing the lines!
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Meaker VI
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Stormtower wrote:
Hold on... I just realized something.

It's a 6x6 grid of systems, right? So that's 36 systems?

So you'd only need 36 "symbols" or whatever. If those systems have names, then put the names on the Wormhole Tokens

The limit of wormholes is 4 per system. So you'll need 4 Wormhole Tokens for each system.

When it comes time to "draw" the wormhole, you would be choosing the two systems where the wormhole-ends are. Let's say you have a wormhole connecting System Wolf 359 and Eridani Epsilon. So you take a Wormhole token marked "Eridani Epsilon" and put it in the Wolf 359 system; and you take a Wormhole token marked "Wolf 359" and put it in the Eridani Epsilon system.


Easier? I think it's even easier than drawing the lines!


Brilliant, that makes everything easy. And that way, you don't end up with a spider-web of lines (as star charts can easily become). You could keep the tokens for a system on that system too, for easy access and indication of how many links it has used. Systems could also be named based on grid coordinates (A1, B4, F6, etc for your 6 x 6 grid of circles).
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Alright; sounds like we've got the wormhole tracking issue licked.


Next ... space fleets. Much like the game of Risk, those tokens can quickly eat up the space on the game board. Making for a lot of clutter rather than a game about ... well ... space! The "partial" solution in Risk (and in later editions) was to use tokens of various unit "denominations". So one token might mean 1 unit; and another token means 5 units.

As for battle mechanics ... I'm not sure why you didn't use the system that inspired you in the first place. I actually like Risk's dice mechanics. It even inspired me to expand it to this: Mechanics: Dice-v-Dice Fest ... which led to a diceless game: (QPnP Entry) Mice 'n' Men : Winter 1584 (A colonization/survival game for 1 player (2 player optional); 60-90 mins)

I'm not saying that the current mechanic of "4,5,6 on d6 = 1 hit" is bad. I've seen other games use that, and it's passable, I suppose.

It just feels so strange that a skill test of hitting someone else is essentially a coin flip; and it has no regard as to how that other person performed. So I've recently been more inclined to games that compared the skill levels (with or without random modifiers) of the two opposing sides, and determined some relative measure of success or failure.
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Meaker VI
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Stormtower wrote:
As for battle mechanics ... I'm not sure why you didn't use the system that inspired you in the first place. I actually like Risk's dice mechanics. It even inspired me to expand it to this: Mechanics: Dice-v-Dice Fest ... which led to a diceless game: (QPnP Entry) Mice 'n' Men : Winter 1584 (A colonization/survival game for 1 player (2 player optional); 60-90 mins)


I would also agree with this. I like Risk's combat mechanic a whole lot more than a 50/50 mechanic. As to your determining you maximum number of dice, the number of dice you allow will (partially) determine the size of attacking fleets. If you allow 10 dice per player, the optimum number of attacking units will be more than 10 (because the defender will also need 10, and if it's 50/50 then the attacker will need 20 to take the defender out). In Risk, the nicest thing about the current mechanic is that it favors the attacker- but only slightly (53%, 58%, and 66% on 3v2, 2v1, and 3v1 battles, respectively) if the attacker is using greater numbers.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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I appreciate all the comments!

First, results of a playtest:

The lines were workable, even on a small piece of paper, but intersections often made things complicated. I love the idea of tokens representing each system, that'd make things much more straightforward.

Along those lines, a 6x6 universe ended up actually being too large -- not enough player interaction early on in the game, and there was enough to go around, system-wise. Reducing it to 5x5 (dropping the number of systems by 11!) and keeping the 3-wormhole limit intact means 75 tokens are needed, max. Hm. Probably easy enough to work, but needs testing.

I added "continents" to the map, to provide some early goals for players. With the 6x6 map, this made the early game much more interesting, and provided lots of opportunity for strategy. With the 5x5 map, use the four in each corner (2x2 squares) as different continents, and the remaining cross is four continents of two systems each, with the center square as a "shared" system (automatically connected to adjacent systems, which drops us by another three tokens).

With this system, the first two turns will generally consist of taking your local continent, and then proceeding to fight over who will be able to grab the central system. Not completely sure about this configuration though, seems to provide very little options besides combat after the initial continent. Again, needs testing.

We ran into a problem midway through the playtest -- without tons of planning, you can end up getting stuck with all your systems already maxed out on wormholes, making you unable to expand. This caused a major revision: "Action points" during the wormhole creation phase.

This change means that X controlled systems gives you X "wormhole points" to spend, on one of three actions:

* 1 WP = create a new wormhole, as before.
* 3 WP = destroy a wormhole if you control both ends.
* 5 WP = destroy a wormhole if you control a single end.

This adds a *bunch* of new tactics, allowing you to infiltrate another player's systems and make a mess of their supply lines (so to speak). It also allows a player to get "unstuck" relatively easily, but not without cost.

(Geez, going over my playtest notes, and a bunch of problems are solved by the token change -- thanks!)

Another problem that came up was actually a good tactic: lock out all but one of your systems (by maxing them out on wormholes) early, and concentrate your force on this "front" system. Use it to attack, keeping your home systems safe.

This is a problem because it wins against anyone not using the tactic, making the game pretty one-sided. The fix we came up with was to allow small strike forces to go "behind enemy lines," so to speak, requiring people to hold extra forces in reserve for defense. Strike forces would be limited to three armies, and it would cost 8 WPs to create such a temporary wormhole (which would also not allow a retreat -- these forces are committed).

Note that a successful strike force is safe for at least a turn, while the defender amasses reinforcements in the area, but doesn't have enough power to push out (nor enough time to destroy wormholes) until the attacker's next turn.

As for the combat mechanics, I'm not attached to them too much, but I like their effect in RPGs like Shadowrun and Burning Wheel. My problem with the Risk dice mechanics is the possibility of extremely long combats, and the (admittedly low) probability of one side winning without losses. I'd like a mechanic that allows for attrition to play a major role in combat, and for combat to be quick.

I'll give the Risk mechanics a shot in my next playtest. After this test, I ended up dropping the maximum number of dice to six, to give less weight to large numbers, but we didn't have much combat anyway (as noted above).

Thanks again for all the comments!
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Lizbeth
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what could be quite interesting is if you adjusted combat to give each empire a tiny tech progression of sorts that they can spend wp on. So there's buildings and stuff in systems... blah, probably over complicating it, but tiny thematic advances like that could help solve the combat mehness AND add alot to the theme.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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No, I was thinking about it! Glad that it's come up with other people, too. That was the reason for the combat being a dice pool -- lots of tech options for modifying a dice pool. I figured that tech could follow an army around and remain until the army was wiped out, perhaps.

It'd actually be pretty cool to have different races with alternate tech progressions, to modify how each player starts the game and approaches conquest.

Any ideas for tech?
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Meaker VI
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I've got all sorts of ideas; it just depends on how hard/soft of a theme you're going for. If you're going for 'hard' sci-fi, you usually want all realistic items and technologies and I can point you to this website for examples. If you're looking for 'soft' sci-fi, anything goes; but most of the biggest ones showed some kind of restraint against breaking rules (Star Wars and Star Trek don't necessarily use FTL drives in normal-space, for example. They use Hyperspace and Warp to go FTL, and for all appearances fly at normal speeds in normal space. Nearly all Sci-fi films use some kind of artificial gravity so people can stand upright rather than float around). This thread is currently looking for examples of really out-there stuff (Dyson Spheres, Steller-forming).

Your current setup (wormholes, hyper-gates, whatever) lends itself well to either; since many sci-fi examples of both varieties use those methods to travel when it's convenient to the story.
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Lizbeth
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What I was thinking is that you could have one upgrade for every worm hole in a system and they cost reinforcement points to place, so a really basic one might be just a defence platform that can't move but gets 2 dice.

Then you could have tech equal to however many tech buildings you have, so there's no turtling because they can be raided and the move worm holes,the more tech you can get.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Quote:
a really basic one might be just a defence platform that can't move but gets 2 dice.


I like it. Other possibilities:

* A spacetime stabilizer, to allow an extra wormhole exit.
* A gravitation perturbance device, which reduces attacker strength by 2 dice.
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Jessey
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Some ideas for combat mechanics that aren't "tossing coins":

Cyclades combat: both sides roll 1 dice that is numbered [0,1,1,2,2,3] then add the dice result to their forces and the larger number wins and destroys 1 opponent.

This system favours smaller sized combats (Cyclades gets up to maybe 5 at most 6 units in a fight) and grants a huge edge to the side with 1 more unit (in a say 3v2 fight the player with 2 must roll a 2 just to have a 50/50 shot at winning). It also allows for retreating to save your precious units (you would want to make units harder to come by as it were).

Dice games: If you want to go with tech here's an idea:
Each player has a Race card that depicts their races special techs, which amounts to battle tactics and technology they use to fight. Here's an example:

The Exemplar
Sequence (1-2-3-...): Destroy one enemy unit for each dice in the sequence
*Pair (1-1, ..): Re-roll any one dice not used in the pair
*Three-of-a-kind: Your opponents dice pool is reduced by 4 for the rest of this combat

When you begin the game with The Exemplar you only have Sequence and so as the Exemplar your goal in combat is to roll sequences - more dice makes more sequences. As you gain tech you get access to new uses for dice, the ability to turn Pairs into rerolls perhaps, and later still the ability to sever your opponents ability to fight (* indicates that it must be 'discovered').

Another race might look totally different:

Harruk-Tor, People of the Void
Even Sequence (2-4-6): Destroy a Unit for each dice in the Sequence
Odd Sequence (1-3-5): Prevent a Unit of yours from being destroyed for each dice in Sequence
*Snake Eyes (1-1): Trade these two dice with two that your opponent rolled.
*Double Six (6-6): Add 1 to your Dice Pool next round of combat.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Candi wrote:

Dice games: If you want to go with tech here's an idea:
Each player has a Race card that depicts their races special techs, which amounts to battle tactics and technology they use to fight. Here's an example:

The Exemplar
Sequence (1-2-3-...): Destroy one enemy unit for each dice in the sequence
*Pair (1-1, ..): Re-roll any one dice not used in the pair
*Three-of-a-kind: Your opponents dice pool is reduced by 4 for the rest of this combat

When you begin the game with The Exemplar you only have Sequence and so as the Exemplar your goal in combat is to roll sequences - more dice makes more sequences. As you gain tech you get access to new uses for dice, the ability to turn Pairs into rerolls perhaps, and later still the ability to sever your opponents ability to fight (* indicates that it must be 'discovered').

Another race might look totally different:

Harruk-Tor, People of the Void
Even Sequence (2-4-6): Destroy a Unit for each dice in the Sequence
Odd Sequence (1-3-5): Prevent a Unit of yours from being destroyed for each dice in Sequence
*Snake Eyes (1-1): Trade these two dice with two that your opponent rolled.
*Double Six (6-6): Add 1 to your Dice Pool next round of combat.


That's genius. For powers that depend on particular die rolls, I think that most of them should be based on the [1,2,3] numbers, so re-rolls are a major decision (do I re-roll this hit to potentially use my tech? do I re-roll part of my tech to get a hit?). At that point, I could use [5,6] as auto-hits (basically, global tech), and each race could use [1,2,3,4] for race-specific awesomeness. (Or, each race could have it's own hit values completely!)

I'm liking this idea more and more. I think that the important things to determine are the exact mechanics used for "tactical die rolls." How does rolling work? How does re-rolling work? Perhaps you can lock-in results, and must lock at least one per roll, or perhaps you get a max of three rolls, and particular results are auto-locked...

Deserves some thought. I'm super-glad I didn't decide that my idea should be a secret!
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My advice to you is to sit down and make up some quick race cards like I did, grab a fist-full of dice and start rolling them. Try different methods, see which is fastest, which is slowest and which feels the most satisfying.

Thinking and dreaming is great, but I find where possible the absolute best approach is to roll them bones

Also I do recommend having universal hit values - that makes it easier to assess how your opponent is doing roll wise at a glance "oh crap he rolled 3 6's... panic panic panic" and also lowers the learning curve of picking up a new race. You *know* 5,6 (or maybe just 6) is a hit and at first that's all you need to know, race specific goodness comes later when you purchase it.

So yea, imagine you have two races that have:

[5,6] Hit
[2+2] Race Power 1
[1,2,3] Race Power 2
[4,5] Race Power 3

VERSUS

[5,6] Hit
[3,4] Race Power 1
[1,2] Race Power 2
[1+3+5] Race Power 3

And play out some combats with 1 reroll, up to 3 rerolls, and toy with forcing you to assign 1 die each roll and not forcing. See how it pans out
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Jack Neal
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The only addition I would add...

Make combinations escalate to better ones... but make bad things happen with some combinations.

For example:
- Death Star (set of 4) - kill opponent, win next 45 games.
- Reactor Malfunction (set of 3) - kill self, lose next game.
- Photon Torpedo (set of 2) - inflict some damage.

Same could be done for runs of 5 and 3, but penalize 4.
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Jack Neal
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With the different race setups though, you could have a pool of, say, 24 dice, and let the players draft what they want.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Quote:
Thinking and dreaming is great, but I find where possible the absolute best approach is to roll them bones


Agreed.

As for the tech levels, I think that the common tech should probably be:

1. 6s are hits.
2. 5s are hits. (+racial ability)
3. 4s are hits. (+racial ability)
4. 3s are hits. (+racial ability)
5. 2s are hits. (+racial ability)

The early game is exploration and (free) territory acquisition, so having just 6s as hits isn't such a big deal.

Using WPs to grab tech, at that point, gives interesting choices. Do I grab another territory this turn and lock up a path, or do I improve my chances in a fight?

Costs will need to increase down the tech levels (don't think it should be a tree, but could be convinced). WPs could also be used to build system-specific tech (as described above), which would be chosen from some face-up cards always visible (sort of a draft mechanic, perhaps?), or a race-specific deck.

Defensive Race:
1. 6s are hits.
2. 5s are hits. Pairs of 4s reduce attacking opponent's hits by 1.
3. 4s are hits. Pairs of 3s remove an opponent's rolled die (their choice).
4. 3s are hits. Three 2s transform an opponent's rolled die (your choice) into a 2.
5. 2s are hits. Three 1s make you immune to damage for this roll.

Aggressive Race:
1. 6s are hits.
2. 5s are hits. A run of 3 or more (ex. 1,2,3) is another hit.
3. 4s are hits. A run of 4 or more (ex. 1,2,3,4) give you another die.
4. 3s are hits. Three 6s are hits and may be re-rolled.
5. 2s are hits. Four of a kind count as an extra hit and may be re-rolled.
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Meaker VI
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blinks wrote:
...
Defensive Race:
1. 6s are hits.
2. 5s are hits. Pairs of 4s reduce attacking opponent's hits by 1.
3. 4s are hits. Pairs of 3s remove an opponent's rolled die (their choice).
4. 3s are hits. Three 2s transform an opponent's rolled die (your choice) into a 2.
5. 2s are hits. Three 1s make you immune to damage for this roll.

Aggressive Race:
1. 6s are hits.
2. 5s are hits. A run of 3 or more (ex. 1,2,3) is another hit.
3. 4s are hits. A run of 4 or more (ex. 1,2,3,4) give you another die.
4. 3s are hits. Three 6s are hits and may be re-rolled.
5. 2s are hits. Four of a kind count as an extra hit and may be re-rolled.


I think these ideas are pretty solid, however I would give one major recommendation to the roll-of-the-die mechanics: Make absolutely sure that the odds of any (matched) ability are equal. So having 6's be an automatic hit is fine, but giving one race a hit on a 5 plus 2 4's and a reduction in damage is/might be better than giving another race a hit on a 5 plus 1,2,3 and an extra hit. It should either be that both races have the same rolls to get their ability (+/- one unit if they roll double 4's) or balanced based on the odds (I haven't calculated this, but one gets a save as above and the other gets +3 kills if he gets his roll, or whatever the odds demand).

You can find this by extensive play testing or calculating it all out. There are some psychological leanings to consider too (3 additional kills may be to good regardless of the fact that it technically balances out exactly), even if the odds do actually balance out, so you'll need testing anyway.
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Lizbeth
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I'd give players the ability to pursue both tech paths in a game, with each lab being placed physically on the map to attack/defend.

I'd also have labs remain in place, so if I take your attack lab I go up one attack level.

The final adjustment I'd make is to make them cost reinforcement points, worm hole points don't seem to measure up against that kinda power in the end game. (though, maybe it does, I haven't played yet )

Oh, and I'd add a 3rd tree of some sort, maybe the one related to various powers? You know, like the stealth attacks, or making many worm holes or in some way bending the travel rules.


EDIT:

Two tech progression ideas for you:

stealth:
1: can launch one stealth mission a turn with 3 ships total
2: can launch 5 ships total
3: can launch 2 missions a turn with 5 ships
4: can launch 7 ships total
5: can launch 8 ships total
6: 3 missions, 9 ships

worm hole control
lets you have more worm holes open, reduces the cost of opening and closing worm holes, and even lets you remotely do so, shifting your opponents chanels of attack

these 4 together could open up some great combos

suicide bombing attack.stealth

area denial defence/wormhole

harrassment stealth/wormhole

traditionalist attack/defence

and so on.
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Just an idea...

There was a japanese railroad game that uses STRINGS for rail lines... You could do this for worm holes. Heck you could draw a string, end up with a short one, and have worm home to empty space to either keep and upkeep, or just abandon... or something.
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Louis Perrochon
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This sounds like the game that is next on my agenda to design. Here are my thoughts. I am definitely interested in playing such a game, for testing, or once it's published...

Here are some differences to what I was thinking. Maybe some would add to your plan?

Worm Holes Topology Do you want them to be public? In my game, they would not be publicly known, at least not until ships come out of them... You can achieve this by putting new wormhole tokens face down first, until they are actually being used. You may have to give up the 4 worm whole per system limit, or handle it differently.

Transition time In my envisioned game, worm holes are not instant. You send ships in, but it takes some time until they come out, e.g. a few turns, depending on the size of the ships, or the distance, or both. So you have to plan quite a bit ahead.

Races I wanted races, too, but haven't thought of how to do it. This thread has great suggestions. Love it.

Drawing on a map It's not lame... I didn't plan to draw a map, but I played some European train game this week (couldn't find it on BBG) where players draw lines with a crayon and then run a train on those lines from city to city. I actually thought it was a great game, and it's very clear what goes from where to where, much clearer to grasp than tokens. I bet any space commander would create a visual map based on the known worm-holes, as opposed to looking at tables...
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drawing on a map in and of itself is not lame, I suspect the issue came from how many lines would be needed/erased througout the course of the game creating alot of visual clutter that could be much better done via tokens.

As for face down tokens, I dunno, I guess? Could make for some fun if it didn't result in contiually having to check where your systems are connected and so on.

Transition time, well, obviously yours is a more detailed game this isn't hard to do, you just put 'travel' boxes, next to where you put the worm hole tokens for one, two, or three turns and have a simple set of rules dictating where fleets are placed, sure, it's alot of book keeping but it should be fine if it's intentionally detailed.

Races are simple and in a game of this style (which is tottaly growing on me as something to try) it's pretty okay for races to be unbalanced because due to the fact that players can gang up on eachother, it can create a nice diplomacy effect.
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