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Eclipse» Forums » General

Subject: Designers' Notes #5: Exploring the Galaxy rss

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Touko Tahkokallio
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One important X in any 4X game is exploration. Generally speaking, exploration is fun and exciting! In addition, it can increase the replayability of the game tremendously as the map unfolds each time differently and therefore forces players to adapt.

However, exploration comes with its own challenges from the game design point: how to make sure that no one gets screwed in the game by simply because they were unlucky in the exploration? This is especially important if the game is a longer strategy game, like Eclipse (which takes approx. 30 min / player). Of course, you can guarantee the non-screwage by making the map more or less similar wherever you go, but then again the whole concept of exploration is kind of pointless. So how we tried to tackle these challenges in Eclipse? Let’s first see how the exploration works mechanically.

Down the Spiral

A game of Eclipse takes a place in a Galaxy. The Galaxy is mostly uncharted in the beginning of the game - only the starting hexes and the galactic centre hex are placed on the board in the setup.



Around the galactic centre, the rest of the galaxy is divided to three regions: Inner Systems (I-ring), Middle Systems (II-ring) and Outer Systems (III-ring).



For each of these regions, there is a corresponding stack of hexes. These stacks are are shuffled and placed face down on the table in the setup. During the game players explore the Galaxy by placing hexes on the table. These hexes have star clusters (among other things) and players may inhabit these star systems right after exploration.

You explore the space by choosing the Explore action (see Designer Note 3). First, you pick a spot on the board that you want to explore. This spot must be empty and next to your hexes or one of your ships. After choosing the spot, you draw one random hex from the corresponding stack and may place it there (you can also discard the hex, if you want to). You may choose the orientation of the hex which affects how the wormholes will connect. Wormholes restrict the movement of the ships on the map... but we’ll get back to it in some other preview!

Tao of the Galaxy

One of my favorite design principles is the following one: it is always better if there are no major random events in a game that are better in every way compared to some others. It is OK though, if the circumstances give you some gray hairs, but there should always be a possibility to find somekind of upside to it.

In the case of exploration in Eclipse, we wanted to keep the hexes varied, but balanced enough. The hexes have different attributes that can be varied: type and number of different habitable star systems, the number of Ancient ships, the victory point value and the number of wormholes. In addition, each hex may have a Discovery tile and an Artifact on it. For example, the best star systems have an Ancient species dwelling there which you have to first exterminate in order to take control of the hex and inhabit the planets. The empty hexes always come with a Discovery tile, which can be quite valuable (Discovery tiles grant you a special one time bonus, Alien ship part or you can alternatively keep them as victory points).



Yet not everything is in complete balance. As said, the Galaxy is divided to three Explorable areas: I, II and III. The inner galaxy (ring I) has the best habitable star systems, the most valuable hexes but also the most Ancient dwellers. The Middle regions (ring II) have a bit less valuable systems and the Outer Regions (area III) even lesser ones. The Outer Region also contains more empty (or almost empty) hexes with Discovery tiles. Also, inside each region, there is certainly some variance how valuable the hexes are, but nothing game breaking.

The wormhole density also drops as you move further from the galactic centre. The more hexes you take in control of the Inner Galactic systems, the more probable it is to get lots of neighboring civilizations and therefore also possible conflicts. For more 'turtling' strategies it might be wiser to expand your empire to Outer Regions, where defending is easier, but in this case you may have to settle for second class star systems.

Next time Sampo will tell you about the Ancients and one of the alien species, the Descendants of Draco.


--- -- - -
Previous notes:
#01: Preview of Eclipse
#02: Terrans and the Orion Hegemony
#03: Resource management and action system
#04: Player board design and Terran Federation
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Lizbeth
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Sounds awesome. One thing that strikes me as missing a bit is a reason to attack the enemies outer ring (assuming you reach there) due to the lack of good systems etc. Is this intentional to keep the game centred? Because I'd love a reason to go take stuff from an opponent's deep empire rather than border conflicts.

In addition to this, are there any tile features past:

wormholes
systems (resource slots from what I gather?)
ancients
discovery tiles

Because even though it might cause a key word muck up, I'd love a tile which becomes connected to the back of someones empire somehow. I think it'd drive conflict and give an impression of a more interlinked galaxy (I think Interspace did this concept with the 'other region' tiles)
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Zenjoy
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I do recall hearing of technology that creates Wormholes. I assume that will allow you to attack deep-territory and not just perform Border-Conflicts.
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Mikko Saari
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When I tested the game, there was a wormhole generator that lets you pass through where there are no wormholes.

Believe me, my territory was very deeply violated in that game =)
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Lizbeth
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Oh the dirty puns to make out of 'my territory was very deeply violated' but no, I'll be mature. Promise whistle

And cool, not quite as large as a huge hop but I guess you could in theory use it tohit where they don't expect.
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Touko Tahkokallio
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Elizabeth Robson wrote:
Sounds awesome. One thing that strikes me as missing a bit is a reason to attack the enemies outer ring (assuming you reach there) due to the lack of good systems etc. Is this intentional to keep the game centred? Because I'd love a reason to go take stuff from an opponent's deep empire rather than border conflicts.

There are good hexes in the Outer Systems as well, although best of them are inhabited by Ancients at first. And yes, it is intentional to keep the game a bit more centered. I will come back to it in my next preview. But I think the way the map works, gives players real possibilies to defend their empire and also make room for diverse strategies. After all, if enemies could attack anywhere your empire, it could be quite difficult to defend yourself...

Elizabeth Robson wrote:
In addition to this, are there any tile features past:

wormholes
systems (resource slots from what I gather?)
ancients
discovery tiles

All the tiles have a vp-value that is granted for the player who has the control of the hex at the end of the game. Also, the hexes that have artifacts are more valuable (+combines with certain tech).

In addition after discovering the corresponding technology, players may build orbitals and monoliths to boost their systems. Orbital is an artificial constructed living environment that you may inhabit. Monoliths grant the owner of the hex victory points at the end of the game. These megalomanic structures stay on the hex even if the hex changes the ownership (you can build only one per hex though). For some reasons, players tend to build these in the outer rim of the galaxy...
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Lizbeth
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cool cool, and it's less attack you anywhere as much as exploration turning up at the opponents back door. Mainly because I doubt players use a huge force near their backs whether exploring or just developing and it could create an interesting tension as if either of them try to invade eachothers rear it'd take resources away from other things.

That and monoliths sound good for flashpoints of conflicts, but curious that they score the same no matter where they are. Feels to me as if you could create more tension by just ruling that the closer to the centre they are the more points they're worth. Sure, adds a bit to end game scoring, but encourages some good fights.
 
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Geoff Hall
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Please stop making me want this game, I can't afford more games right now
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Antti Koskinen
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Elizabeth Robson wrote:
Sure, adds a bit to end game scoring, but encourages some good fights.


There's some serious fighting going on in the last round without any encouragement.

Actually scoring encourages in fighting since the victory chips differ in value and only way to get them is to fight. But scoring probably gets thorough presentation in the coming articles.
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Touko wrote:
Around the galactic centre, the rest of the galaxy is divided to three regions: Inner Systems (I-ring), Middle Systems (II-ring) and Outer Systems (III-ring).


shake Tsk-tsk-tsk, typical inside-the-susiraja thinking...
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stu ma
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Makes sense. Usually its better zu have more connections to others in order to win. Even though it might seem not logical. In games like Starcraft, you usually have better chances to win if you connect with other planets, rather then going for the turtle-tactic... hope it'll be the same in Eclipse. The inner ring is obviously more attractive and and the same time you can choose the facing of the hex, so this it where my thought go, concerning the turtle tactic.

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Dillon Littlefield
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Are there just enough inner/middle systems to fit in the board?

In other words; are the hex pieces going to be the exact same ones each time. Even if they are in different arrangements, I think it would be a bit stale if I knew exactly what the last inner system I "explored" would contain beforehand.
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Jonathan Ramundi
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Dillosaur wrote:
Are there just enough inner/middle systems to fit in the board?

In other words; are the hex pieces going to be the exact same ones each time. Even if they are in different arrangements, I think it would be a bit stale if I knew exactly what the last inner system I "explored" would contain beforehand.
Agreed.

But fear not, according to the draft copy of the rules, there are 37 hex tiles for players to place throughout the course of a game. I'm willing to bet that the divisions would looking something like: 12 Inner, 12 Middle, 13 Outter. *shrug* In any case, I'm confident the developers will be giving us a lot of variety in this area.
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Antti Autio
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Jotora wrote:
Dillosaur wrote:
Are there just enough inner/middle systems to fit in the board?

In other words; are the hex pieces going to be the exact same ones each time. Even if they are in different arrangements, I think it would be a bit stale if I knew exactly what the last inner system I "explored" would contain beforehand.
Agreed.

But fear not, according to the draft copy of the rules, there are 37 hex tiles for players to place throughout the course of a game. I'm willing to bet that the divisions would looking something like: 12 Inner, 12 Middle, 13 Outter. *shrug* In any case, I'm confident the developers will be giving us a lot of variety in this area.

That's correct, there are more hexes than "needed" to ensure variety.

The actual breakdown is: 8 Inner sectors (there are of course only 6 spaces on the inner ring around the centre hex, so the only way to see all eight during a game is for two exploring players to discard a hex and explore again later), 11 Middle sectors (of which a maximum of 6-10 will be placed during a game, depending on the number of players - the Homeworlds are also on the II-ring), 18 Outer sectors (all of which will be used only for the 6-player game; a stack of 16, 14, 10 and 5 will be randomly built for a 5-, 4-, 3- and 2-player game respectively).
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