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Subject: Science fiction wargaming in the 21st century - what would you like to see? rss

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Daniel Berger
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After playing Fifth Frontier War I started wondering the same thing. It's a big, operational wargame in space set in the Traveller universe. IMO, the game has some issues, but nothing that isn't fixable. Even with those issues addressed, you still have a long playing time.

I like 4x games, and I own Space Empires, though I haven't tried Eclipse. I think the 4x genre has gone about as far as it can go, mainly because of the issues inherent in the 4x genre itself.

I would definitely like to see an operational or strategic wargame in a science fiction setting. Perhaps a variant of Fifth Frontier War set in one of the other innumerable quadrants of that universe, if not an update of the original game. Or a CDG of Succession Wars, which has a ton of source material to draw on for possible events.
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Erik Nicely
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I've done a lot of SF miniatures gaming but not so much on the hex and counter side, with Ogre being the stand-out for cardboard-only. Ogre 6th edition will be out this year and while I wasn't initially enthusiastic about it I was sold when I saw some display prototype components in person. I'll buy it and hopefully play it.

Abaddon will also be out this year but from what little info is available this could end up being too light, too abstract, too kid-friendly. I'll have to read some reviews after the game's release to see whether I'll play or not.

As far as what I'd like to see, some tactical non-miniatures SF wargames would be nice. Not solitaire, not co-op. I really don't know if there's a potential market for anything like that though since there's miniatures games of every flavor that fit the SF tactical bill that are produced by bigger publishers. How cool would a new hex and counter game of Hammers Slammers be? Pretty damn cool but it's probably not going to happen.

Still any SF board wargame (like Space Empires: 4X)seeing success today is cool. It reminds me of the 80s when you could walk into the average toy store and see games like Starship Troopers, Stellar Conquest, StarForce 'Alpha Centauri': Interstellar Conflict in the 25th Century and those were pretty good times for SF wargames.
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Erik Nicely
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usrlocal wrote:
Yes, I would also put the larger-scale games set in the Traveller universe in the sub-genre. Which leads me to ask another question -- would the modern successor of such games be better off having an original backstory? Or would a generic exploration-based game with random generation of stars and planets work? The latter is leading back more towards 4X. The sort of game that I'm thinking about would need to come with a compelling backstory and established game universe. The Starforce Trilogy excelled at that.


I would love to see revisions of the Traveller wargames. Not too long ago an RPG publisher put out a bunch of revamped Traveller books and it was lucrative enough that they kept up with it for a while. The old school Traveller fans aren't dead yet (not all of them anyway) and it might be an old setting that would have moderately successful wargames today.
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Daniel Berger
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usrlocal wrote:
Or would a generic exploration-based game with random generation of stars and planets work? The latter is leading back more towards 4X. The sort of game that I'm thinking about would need to come with a compelling backstory and established game universe. The Starforce Trilogy excelled at that.

I think ideally you want to use a universe with an established fiction. People can relate to it better and are more likely to express interest in the game. Plus, it's easier for a potential designer to get started. The downside is acquiring the rights.

Random sector/star generation leads you back down the 4x path, and I definitely don't want that. In Traveller the galaxy is explored, the tech level of the systems are known, and the major players are established. The scope of Fifth Frontier War, with its weekly turns, made the whole tech-tree concept found in many SF games an unnecessary component, too.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
I think ideally you want to use a universe with an established fiction. People can relate to it better and are more likely to express interest in the game. Plus, it's easier for a potential designer to get started. The downside is acquiring the rights.


So true.

Most of the fictional backstory stuff created especially for a game is, speaking frankly, second-rate crap.

At least the second-rate crap put out by Hollywood is familar and already has an audience.
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I'd like to see a game series built around Orson Scott Card's ENDER'S GAME storyline. Have a small module based on fights in the Battle Room at Battle School...another module on the Bug Wars. And maybe something more done based on the sequels. I could see RPG aspects (you can be Ender, or Petra, or Bean) as well as more conventional hex and counter applications.
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Pete Belli
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Subjects that might be fascinating...

Antarctica

Insurgency in space with assymetrical forces

Reverse 4X... an established galactic civilization is under extreme pressure from an incredibly powerful enemy. Save all you can.
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Richard Diosi
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Peter you should really look at Starfire New Empires.

This campaignizes (is that a word?) the http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Starfire_Series and gives you a very in-depth treatment for space and ground combat, research and development, maintenance costs, etc. It is actually too in-depth but can be scaled.
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Daniel Berger
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pete belli wrote:
Reverse 4X... an established galactic civilization is under extreme pressure from an incredibly powerful enemy. Save all you can.

I think Struggle for the Galactic Empire sorta fits that, though it's solitaire.
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George Haberberger
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djberg96 wrote:

I would definitely like to see an operational or strategic wargame in a science fiction setting. Perhaps a variant of Fifth Frontier War set in one of the other innumerable quadrants of that universe, if not an update of the original game. Or a CDG of Succession Wars, which has a ton of source material to draw on for possible events.


Dark Nebula is a lighter version of Fifth Frontier War, part of GDW's series 120 games.

You can buy a CDROM from Marc Miller at Far Future with Fifth Frontier, Imperium, Dark Nebula, Azhanti High Lightning and the classic Traveller books and adventures for around $20.
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I think calling Eclipse a 'gussied-up Eurogamer' is not accurate. Gaming system are, for the most part, genre-neutral; using variations of gaming systems that originated in Eurogames for other ends does not make a game a Euro. Eclipse encourages direct player interaction of the most violent, direct sort, and has a theme which is integral to the workings of the game and not simply a tacked-on afterthought; its genius is that, in using some Euro-derived gaming systems and small wooden cubes, it's managed to dupe a lot of gullible Eurogamers into believing they are playing a 'serious game'. I'd hope wargamers would not fall for the same trick.

That said, I feel you. Eclipse's theme is fine - the worldbuilding, however, is less than stellar. Like it or not, but Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) has some great worldbuilding; the backs of the player race cards, for instance, but almost any other game to shame in this regard. Like you, I think, I'd like to see this attention to setting married with some more detailed and nuanced wargame mechanics. I'd love to see a Culture War wargame, and a grand strategic Battletech wargame covering the Inner Sphere, and an updated game based on the Starship Trooper novel, or Scalzi's 'Old Man's War' universe. I'd be just as interested if gaming companies invented their own settings, so long as those settings are relatively deep, interesting, and presented artfully.

It really is an untapped segment of the market and could bring together ATers and wargamers in the same way that games like Chaos in the Old World and Eclipse manage to bring together ATers and Eurogamers. I've been pondering a few game designs of my own, and they are all squarely in this particular balliwick.
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TI3 is a euro/AT hybrid. There's a lot of action in these
realms for SF - and we're seeing things like Space Empires 4X
and Struggle for Galactic Empire testing the toe in the water
again, for the sci-fi wargaming community. I don't feel they're
adding much new - but rather seeing if momentum can be built
TO put out something more innovative.

Personally, I'd like to see something capture the flavor of an
Empires in Arms in space - take a nice big rich pure space wargame
(like Federation & Empire) and overlay it with a diplomatic system
which allows for the 'nations' to operate in somewhat less constrained
ways (hell, maybe F&E managed this in its later incarnations).

I'd also like to see something akin to SE4X, where you really build
your own race, as one did in some old PBEM games - purchase/randomly
generate lines of technology which eventually can turn into match-ups
which are unbalanced, where a race has to pick up the idea of how to
defend against some new weapon by experiencing the tech they've not
seen. This might be done with a random set of cards dealt out, which
indicate what you know enough about to buy - and then lead towards
other techs. I guess what I'm thinking here is something like the
situation which arises in the early Lensman books - each side coming
up with super-weapons that the other side doesn't know how to counter.
Enough choice to make it almost impossible to predict what you need.
Doing this though would require a production cycle fast enough (and
warfare soon enough) to allow moving building capacity onwards. SE4X
probably (like Stellar Conquest) gives a framework that can allow this
- but the direction of the first expansion doesn't have me convinced.
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I would be interested in what the mechanics of scifi gaming could include:

Space based: More representation three dimensional battles with gravitational effects, practical limitless force projection, true space-ground/ground-space combat.

Alternative history: Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South is a great example. AK-47s are time transported to the Confederates in the ACW with surprising results. This genre though seems to get the best treatment in both RPGs and wargaming. There are some fine free PNP ones right here on the Geeklists.

Multidimensional/Multiverse: This would arguably be the toughest since
it's hard to imagine the mechanics of instantaneous, quanta based ( think beyond nuclear) warfare. Quantum computers and robots controlling
inter-dimensional warfare.

Xenobiology: How surprising would a weapon be that you didn't even know was a weapon? How would you even know something was intelligent enough to make a weapon that would kill you until it happened? We're not talking intelligent carrots with rayguns here.

The possibilities are limited only by imagination.And if it can be imagined there's a good possibility it can be gamed.

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calandale wrote:
TI3 is a euro/AT hybrid.


This is exactly what I was talking about re: Eclipse. There is absolutely, positively nothing Euro about TI3. Nothing. Yes, the one of the mechanics was inspired by Puerto Rico - when I play PoG, I move playing pieces around a board. Does this make it a Family Game/Wargame hybrid because Monopoly and Candy Land introduced that mechanic first?

Mechanics are, for the most part, genre-neutral.
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wow Marine 2012 While it looked as "if" it'll become the "Commie Chinese" instead... robot
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Mike Windsor
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I like a good space themed game, but let me offer a thought that has bothered me about games and a good many sci-fi novels. It seems like most sci-fi games and novels are essentially WWII (or WWI, depending on your view of the future) just redone in space. Ships and "aircraft" battle over what are essentially islands in a sea of space. Space marines use rifles and tanks of some sort to battle one another. There are some exceptions like the games from Ad Astra, but I just feel like most sci-fi games are the same old thing with new pictures and names, and weird technology trees. I'm not just knocking the games, many of the novels sure read like they could be about ship captains, fighter pilots, and combat soldiers.

I guess I wonder what a new sci-fi game would offer that is really unique.
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Andy Cowen
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Rather than coming up with something new, I'd like to see a pimped out version of Starship Troopers with cleaned up rules and the DYO variants that have been published/posted over the years. It is a great asymmetric, thematic game. Also, maybe a Warhammer 40Kesque board game, so I don't have to spend a fortune on figures and an eternity modeling and painting. Oh, and maybe a tactical space fighter sim, based on Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, like the old computer game X-Wing...Black Cross / Blue Sky in space that would be cool.
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Mike Windsor
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You might look at this discussion: What makes a science fiction wargame science fictional?
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Iden Hill
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usrlocal wrote:
idenhi wrote:

Space based: More representation three dimensional battles with gravitational effects, practical limitless force projection, true space-ground/ground-space combat.


Banks' Culture novels touch on that. The scale over which space combats are fought, and the use of 'grid energy', is truly jaw-dropping.



Thanks for the heads up. I'll add that to my reading list.
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mwindsor wrote:


Thanks for the link
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usrlocal wrote:


I'd recommend starting with Consider Phlebas, which deals directly with the Idiran-Culture War and is the most military-oriented one I've read so far. Followed by The Player of Games and Use of Weapons.



I suppose a wargamer might prefer the other two, but I'd strongly recommend starting with 'Player of Games', myself, as I think it's the best introduction to The Culture.

For another take on a far-future post-post-post-scarcity society, I'd also recommend Walter John William's 'Aristoi', which is excellent.
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I would like to see a Here I Stand style game in David Weber's Safehold. For that matter I wouldn't mind the same style game in his Honor Harrington universe.
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I'm not sure how interesting an (Ian M Banks) culture based was game would be; given that the culture philosophy is to retreat until the enemy is exhausted/overstretched trying to fill empty space; then counter-attack. But if one was ever made, I'd certainly be willing to help play test it ;-)
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wolvendancer wrote:
calandale wrote:
TI3 is a euro/AT hybrid.


This is exactly what I was talking about re: Eclipse. There is absolutely, positively nothing Euro about TI3. Nothing. Yes, the one of the mechanics was inspired by Puerto Rico - when I play PoG, I move playing pieces around a board. Does this make it a Family Game/Wargame hybrid because Monopoly and Candy Land introduced that mechanic first?

Mechanics are, for the most part, genre-neutral.


It FEELS like a giant overbloated euro.
Same kinda decision making, same lack
of real tie to whatever might be supposed to
be going on.

Take the role selection mechanism out, and it still would.
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calandale wrote:
wolvendancer wrote:
calandale wrote:
TI3 is a euro/AT hybrid.


This is exactly what I was talking about re: Eclipse. There is absolutely, positively nothing Euro about TI3. Nothing. Yes, the one of the mechanics was inspired by Puerto Rico - when I play PoG, I move playing pieces around a board. Does this make it a Family Game/Wargame hybrid because Monopoly and Candy Land introduced that mechanic first?

Mechanics are, for the most part, genre-neutral.


It FEELS like a giant overbloated euro.
Same kinda decision making, same lack
of real tie to whatever might be supposed to
be going on.

Take the role selection mechanism out, and it still would.


Unless you provide some concrete details and try to back them up, I'm going to have to believe that your parents shouldn't have allowed you to drink out of all of those leaden cups when you were a child.

It's hard to imagine a game more AT than TI:3. You draw action cards, which all have specific events tied to them. Tons of plastic pieces representing different units, many with individual stats. Tons of races. When you attack - and you do attack other players - you throw tons of dice. Seriously, man, have you played TI?
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